2012 Tour De L’Isle Luberon

Blackberry patch aromas dominate in the 2012 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle. It is as if you got stuck deep in a thicket where tangy berry scents mingle with dropped leaves, moist earth and dried herb fragrances. By simply sticking your nose into a glass of the 2012 Luberon, you will get that aromatic berry patch sensation without the threat of scratches, bee stings or poison oak. TWH’s partnership with Tour de l’Isle is a relatively new and fateful one. David had been searching for a new producer to import from Southern Rhone for some time but nothing seemed to fit. By chance, David was introduced to Tour de l’Isle’s 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape, first tasting and then buying the wine for the store. Some time later David met with Robert Rocchi who created Tour de l’Isle. After tasting through Robert’s portfolio and hearing his story, David knew that with Tour de l’Isle there was great potential for offering our customers wine with regional typicity, varietal correctness and deep value. Welcome Tour de l’Isle to The Wine House!

Robert Rocchi has worked in many capacities within the wine industry – from production, to distribution, to marketing and sales, to retail. In the early ’80s Robert opened his first wine store just east of Avignon. There he gained an enviable reputation for his tasting skills and was encouraged by several vignerons to start making wine himself. At Tour de l’Isle, Robert Rocchi makes wine at a few select wineries, each in its own appellation, with whom he partners to create wine typical of the region and styled to his palate preference. Though each of his wines accurately represent their respective appellation, there exists a common thread that weaves through each bottling which reflects Robert’s wine philosophy. He clearly prefers wines that emphasize texture and approachability. I will repeat myself yet again and assert that Robert Rocchi is not afraid to make wines that taste good. Too often with wine, power and structure are valued over impact and tastiness. Here I am reminded of T-Vine’s original winemaker and owner, Greg Brown, who would scoff at the topic of wine ageability, explaining that he made his wines to enjoy right now!

 

A Southern Rhone red is pure comfort to my palate. The warm, sweet berry fruit, Provençal spice notes and accessible structure can be irresistible. A fuller, more complex Southern Rhone like this 2012 Luberon is a wise choice for the table as we continue to enjoy late Summer’s bounty but are nonetheless heading towards cooler temperatures and thus cooking more stovetop. In much need of comfort, I’ll be bringing home a bottle of the 2012 Luberon for tonight’s dinner: grilled sausage from a local butcher and veggies, a last-of-the-garden tomato salad and tarragon aioli to dip everything into are on the menu. Baseball, a light-hearted film and a glass of Luberon should round out the evening perfectly.  Be well!

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2013 Lomas del Valle Pinot Noir

An associate of ours described what she was going through the past couple of weeks as “The proverbial duck on the water, calm on the surface, but paddling like mad underneath.” Turns out, that’s the way things are going on for all of us here at TWH right now. Transitioning to our new website is all you can imagine it to be. Hey, everyone’s got issues, so I won’t bore you with ours. Yet, we kindly ask you all to please bear with us as we paddle like mad during this transitional period. We’ve got a lot of new wines coming very soon, and we can’t wait to tell you all about them! You can rest assured that when the workday concludes and we all return home, having a glass of wine is a given. For me, the paddling doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. These days, coming to work offers a little less chaos than coming home does, if one can believe that. Not letting that get in the way of work, I was happily surprised by a vinous discovery this past week; the day I twisted off the cap of the 2013 Lomas Del Valle Pinot Noir.

 

You certainly don’t hear a whole lot about Chilean Pinot Noir. Sure there’s Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, both warm climate grapes. It’s been a long, long time since we even carried a Chilean Pinot Noir, there doesn’t appear to be that much available to the American market. From time to time, it gets poured for Anya during some of her many tasting appointments. It’s always a good sign to the traveling wine rep when Anya asks, “Can you pour a little more in this glass for our staff to taste?” A sign that she’s ready to pull the trigger. For me, it’s pretty hard to remember what we taste from those little glasses. We never see the labels, so there’s no visual imprint. I’ve been guilty several times asking about wines that I had previously tasted in that fashion. I do remember tasting the 2013 Lomas del Valle Pinot Noir. I remembered taking in the aromas which were correct for the varietal, and the palate which was medium bodied and balanced. When Anya told me the price, I was impressed. Since the film Sideways, there has been a flurry of new Pinot Noirs on the market, and there are enough poor examples of them to lead me to conclude that if that film were to take place in today’s wine world, Niles’ famous comment would have begun with, “If she orders Pinot …” The Lomas del Valle doesn’t fall into that camp. For the price, it’s pretty impressive! 

The Lomas del Valle label (and its parent label Loma Larga) is part of the holdings of the Diaz family, wine producers in Chile since the 19th Century. They planted their vines in cool-climate Casablanca in 1999, and enlisted the help of winemaker Cédric Nicolle, who hails from France’s Loire Valley. It’s the proximity to the Pacific Ocean that gives Casablanca the cool nights required for the lengthy maturation period producing fruit that is physiologically ripe. Pinot Noir thrives in this climate, and for an entry-level Pinot Noir, this one is a price for quality leader!

It was easy to grab a bottle of the Lomas del Valle on the way out the door, its medium body and modest price being the key in this equation. Served alongside my summer-stew (marinated beef shank with kidney beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery), the wine proved to outperform its price point by good margin! Briary raspberry, blackberry, and a hint of strawberry are the first things that hit your olfactory sensors. A second dip of the nose into the glass reveals an earthy backdrop with just a kiss of autumnal apple leaves. On the palate, the wine is light to medium in body, the berries back off and the bright acidity neutralizes any perceived sweetness, the finish reminiscent of red fruit and Asian spice. It really worked with the summer stew, so I anticipate I will have another go at this in the near future. It’s worth all, if not more, than that $15 price tag!

Okay, we’ve got a new website. Please do check it out from time to time, our work is nowhere near finished, and our goal is to make shopping online with us better than ever! As you know, we’re like a family here, a food and wine loving family who enthusiastically scour the wine world for the best to present to you, our customers. Don’t get me wrong, the wines are for us too!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Chilean Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, or English football: peter@wineSF.com

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The September 2014 Dirty Dozen

On we go, into the ‘ber months! Kids are back in school, the French are back from their holidays, and here in San Francisco, it’s time for our summer! For the occasion, we’ve sourced some special wines to make our September a memorable one. Six reds, one crisp Rosé, and five whites, all chosen for their versatility, are screaming values on their own. Pack them all in a box and knock the price down 35%? Magic. The September Dirty Dozen!

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Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2012 Falanghina Nina, Torre Quarto $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

Give it a chill, just not too much, otherwise the lovely melon fruit and fragrant aromas (look for that slight hint of pine) will be muted. Falanghina, an ancient Italian grape, is grown in the south – Puglia in this instance. Yellow-gold in color, this lush white has a round texture that complements seafood, fresh salads and cold entrées.

2012 Côtes de Gascogne Cuvée Jean-Paul, Boutinot $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

From southwest France, this dependable refrigerator door white’s beauty – a classic blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc – lies in its simplicity. Notes of lemon and citrus zest move into tangy grapefruit on the palate, leaving a refreshing, lingering lightness. Nothing complicated, but it’s oh so nice ice cold out of the fridge on a warm late summer’s eve.

2012 Pedro Ximenez PX, Cucao $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Pedro Ximenez is a varietal known mainly for its role in Spain’s sweet sherries, but this dry example is grown in the northern-most wine region of Chile – the Elqui Valley. Sunny weather ripens the fruit while the high altitude ensures freshness. A delightful blend of acidity and concentrated fruit; try with miso-dressed soba noodles or coconut shrimp.

2013 Ventoux Rosé l’Instant, Domaine Fondrèche $15.99, $12.79 reorder

This wine gets you at ‘hello.” Just look at that color! As pale as pale Rosé gets, winemaker Sébastien Vincenti blends 50% Cinsault with 30% Syrah and 20% Grenache and the wine is light, lean, crisp, and delicious. It’s a versatile little Rosé, textbook southern French style. Got a hankering for Salmon Étoufée? If you do, try it with this.

2012 Grenache Blanc/Rolle/Roussanne, Domaine de la Petite Cassagne $12.89, $10.31 reorder

In 1998, Diane Puymorin purchased this domaine and re-named it Château d’Or et de Gueules. TWH regulars know all about her and those wines, but Diane keeps it real and pays homage to the history of her property with this bottling. Here she blends three classic white Rhône varietals. It’s crisp, clean, and fleshy. Pair it with a seared tuna sandwich.

2012 Gewurztraminer Herrenweg, Domaine Ehrhart $21.99, $17.59 reorder

Gewurztraminer is known for its profound bouquet reminiscent of lychee nuts and rose petals. The Ehrharts’ single-vineyard, Herrenweg is a tad off-dry, and is rich and expressive, both aromatically and on the palate. Not for sipping, this one needs food. Especially spicy food. You must try it with a spicy curry dish, or spicy Cajun red beans and rice.

2010 Tempranillo Dauco, Bodegas Martúe $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder

Hailing from central Spain, this friendly Tempranillo has silky smooth tannins and rich cherry fruit. Outside Rioja, Tempranillo can show many faces, but here it shines as a versatile, charming red, reminding drinkers what makes Tempranillo just so darn delicious! Surely Paella works but so does Pollo con Arroz, Plov, or Tadig with kebabs.

2012 Malbec, Ecologica $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Argentian Malbec is unquestionably a favorite for those looking for value and quality in an everyday wine. Ecologica sources only organic fruit and is Fair Trade Certified. Medium-bodied with welcoming notes of green herbs, red plum and cassis fruit, the acids and tannins hold up well to heavily-seasoned grilled meats or a quesadilla with fresh Pico de Gallo.

2010 Dão, Proeza $11.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Looking for a full-bodied red that goes easy on the pocket book? Look no further than this voluptuous Portuguese red from Proeza. Loaded with big flavors courtesy of Touriga Nacional and Tinto Roriz, grapes traditionally made into Port, this dry red is grippy and broad-scaled. A lot of wine for the money! Hearty, rib-sticking meals would work best.

2010 Touraine Rouge, Domaine des Corbillières $14.99, $11.99 reorder

We’ve been working with Dominique and Véronique Barbou for two decades, their wines can magically transport us to the land of France’s most majestic chateaux. This blend of Pinot Noir, Côt (Malbec), and Cabernet Franc is marked by juicy fruit with an herbal twist. Drink it on its own or with anything you would want to pair with a cheerful red.

2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $14.59, $11.67 reorder

In the rolling hills just west of Firenze is the commune of Carmignano. Long before the days of the ‘Super Tuscan’, Cabernet Sauvignon was allowed to grow here, only to be blended with the native Tuscan Sangiovese. It’s a zippy little red table wine with another layer of complexity. Pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil is all you need with this one.

2009 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Tour de l’Isle $14.59, $11.67 reorder

Proprietor of Tour de l’Isle, Robert Rocchi acts as a negociant in the southern Rhône Valley who advises a handful of growers on improtant aspects of winemaking. The results in bottle are not only delicious, they are reflective of their places of origin. Or as Anya likes to say, “He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” Try this with a grilled steak.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Argentina, Carmignano, Costieres de Nimes, Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Ventoux, Peter Zavialoff, Portugal, Rose, The Dirty Dozen, Touraine, Uncategorized, Wine Clubs/Samplers

2013 Matthiasson Linda Vista Chardonnay

Last Sunday morning, I was awakened by an earthquake that caused serious damage to Napa and Vallejo, about 20 miles from where I live. After being certain that my daughter, husband, dog, and house were safe, I grabbed my phone to fire up Twitter. It didn’t take long for me to understand that many of the small, independent producers I follow (and I don’t mean just on Twitter, but as a wine drinker and wine buyer), were going to be hit hard. Matthiasson wines always have a presence on our shelves. Crafted with passion and with an adventurous spirit, it’s easy to understand why people quickly attach themselves to Matthiasson wines. The 105 year old farmhouse Steve and Jill Matthiasson share with their sons suffered structural damage … they lost a chimney. The house had been lovingly brought back to life by the couple and the surrounding land has been an important source for their winery and organic farm business. Their farmhouse, gotten to by way of a long driveway, is tucked in among tract homes along the Valley floor in what is known as the Oak Knoll District. What looks like their back yard, but is an adjacent property, is the Linda Vista Vineyard. On it grows Chardonnay, and in 2011 Steve leased the vineyard, allowing him to farm it as he sees fit thereby making a stand-out wine.

 

The 2013 Linda Vista Chardonnay from Matthiasson is styled for freshness and crispness. Only a small portion of the wine went through malolactic fermentation, something they opted out of doing in past vintages, but felt it needed to temper the sharp acidity of 2013. Aged and fermented in neutral barrel, this is an A-typical California Chardonnay in that it pushes forth vivacious citrus notes that don’t get muddled with too much oak, lees-stirring or other winemaking techniques that are implemented to bolster a full-bodied final wine. Instead, the 2013 Linda Vista Chardonnay is more comfortable as a pairing for oysters or light poultry dishes. I may cringe after I write this, but I do believe it is a fair analogy to make – think more Premier Cru Chablis and less big buttery Cali Chardonnay. At under 13% abv, Matthiasson’s 2013 Linda Vista Chardonnay is a welcome change.

 

My husband, a PE teacher, and my daughter, a 5th grader (yikes!) are sick with a cold … welcome back to school! Rather than heading north as is tradition, or visiting with friends at backyard cookouts, we’ll be staying home. No, no violins here needed because I am thinking ahead, making sure I return home today with supplies from The Wine House, including the dynamite 2013 Linda Vista Chardonnay. The plan is to serve it with some juicy prawns that will be grilled and doused with home-grown herb vinaigrette. If I can’t go to the party, the party will have to come to me. Here is to those that labor and to those that enjoy time with friends and family when not laboring! - Anya Balistreri

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Château Couronneau: 2013 Blanc & 2012 Rouges

Wow! Can it possibly be? Is Labor Day THIS weekend??!!?? That means that we are two weeks away from the landing of another container here at TWH. This container is carrying Bordeaux! In addition to the 2011’s on it, there will be a handful of petits chateaux, or value Bordeaux landing here as well. We look forward to telling you all about them when the time comes. In the meantime, from the container that just recently arrived, we are happy to present the latest releases from our pals Christophe and Bénédicte Piat and their Château Couronneau.

We’ve mentioned before that the Piats have been farming organically since 2001, and they have proudly sported the Agricole Biologique banner on the side of the driveway leading up to their chateau. In addition, Christophe and Bénédicte have been farming biodynamically for several vintages. I remember Christophe excitingly showing off his swirling fountains, bulls’ horns, and the like when I visited in 2011. One must practice this technique for several years before actual certification. The good news: Beginning with the 2012 vintage, they are now allowed the Demeter certification on their labels.

 

Okay. Why biodynamism? What exactly is biodynamic farming? For more on that here’s what our colleague, Tom discovered:
“Biodynamics is a form of organic agriculture proposed in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The core of biodynamics is creating healthy soils and a natural equilibrium between vineyards, the soil, surrounding environs, and even the cosmos. The most intriguing aspect of bio-farming is the mystical notion that natural timing and the rhythms of nature are the key to vineyard health. To accomplish this, biodynamic grape growers go beyond organic farming and feed the soil with complex organic preparations.

Key applications include horn-dung (manure packed in a bull’s horn and buried through winter) used as a soil spray to stimulate root growth. A second preparation, horn-silica, is made from powdered quartz (packed in a cow horn and buried in soil over the summer) then sprayed over the vineyard to enhance light and growth. Other preparations used in making compost aid the soil. Growers mix small amounts of the preparations in water to make these field sprays. Stirring, first one way and then another, creates a spiral vortex that takes in air and nature’s energy forces and is said to ‘dynamize’ the solution. These preparations are applied at different times of the year and at different times of the day and phases of the moon.

The amazing thing is, it seems to work. Biodynamic farming creates deep microbial life in the soil and fosters deep root growth. Deep, healthy roots absorb the minerals vital to strong vines and ultimately grapes with more flavor. Deep-rooted vines enable winemakers to express through their grapes wines with a sense of place.”

 

Okay, about the new wines: When I visited this past spring, Christophe told me that for his 2013 Bordeaux Blanc, 70% of the fruit underwent malolactic fermentation, resulting in a fresher wine with a little more nerve than past vintages. It’s a lively and expressive blend of 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, the latter providing the wine with roundness and body. Coming in at 12% alcohol, it’s an elegant wine; perfect for those who love a second glass of crisp White Bordeaux. For the 2012 Couronneau Rouge or “Classique,” it’s 100% Merlot, and is brimming with friendly, juicy fruit that speaks of its place of origin. Underneath the layers of red and purple fruit lie earthy tones and hints of forest floor. It’s an excellent example of the style of wine to expect from 2012 Red Bordeaux. Showing concentrated aromatics with juicy expression, the wines will provide pleasure early, yet have the structure to improve with medium term cellaring. For the 2012 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier, the Piats use fruit sourced from the oldest vines grown in limestone rich soils. The wine is inky purple, glass-staining, if you will. The aromas deep and lush with a little spice derived from time in barrique. On the palate, the wine is dense and concentrated, but has a silkiness to it that’s very pleasant. Definitely the prize of the Couronneau stable, the 2012 Pierre de Cartier is a people-pleaser for a very fair, direct-import price. If you’re planning to open it soon, decanting is advised. Otherwise, drink it over the next 10 years. – PZ

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Ouled Thaleb: Morocco’s Finest

The Wine House has been stocking the wines of Ouled Thaleb for nearly two years! Our reputation for carrying a vast selection of French wine may cause some to overlook the global wine selection at the The Wine House but we have wines from Central Europe, the Southern Hemisphere and beyond. The beyond part takes us to Ouled Thaleb, one of Morocco’s leading wineries established in 1923. The winery is located twenty miles northeast of Casablanca in the Zenata appellation. The Zenata AOG is prized for its coastal climate, sandy shale and gravelly sand soils, and high elevation. The history of wine production in Morocco is said to go back 4,000 years and has appeared and disappeared over the centuries. In the late 1880’s French winegrowers came to Morocco seeking new areas to plant while back home phylloxera was creating havoc and devastation. In 1923 Morocco became a protectorate of France and the cultivation of vines grew to over 130,000 acres. When France left Morocco in 1956 many of the vineyards turned fallow. However in the 1990’s French winemakers returned to Morocco at the urging of its king to lease vineyards and replant. I hope this very brief history lesson is not a total bore, but I find it helps to better understand why there is such a prevalence of traditional French varietals planted in Morocco.

 

Two years ago, a young Frenchman came into our store and asked whether we’d be interested in tasting wine from Morocco. I jumped at the chance to have a new wine experience. I remember tasting Moroccan wine years and years ago at a restaurant in the Richmond district called Mamounia’s – nothing impressive, but fine and drinkable. I’m sure in those days not much made it out of Morocco and even today, it’s extremely limited. Fortunately for us, this young Frenchman has a strong passion for wine and believes deeply in the potential for great wines from this area of the world. He poured me the entire portfolio from Ouled Thaleb. I was immediately captivated, not only because it was exotic and new, but because the wine tasted so good. The Moroccan White Blend is, you guessed it, a blend of the native varietal Faranah and Clairette. It is a bright, stainless steel fermented, citrus-laden, zippy white. Lots of clean flavors that encourage casual sipping or perhaps a seafood match-up. The Moroccan Red Blend (also a blend!) is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. A juicy, medium-bodied red that sees a short stay in oak barrel, flavors of red plum, ripe cherry dominate with hints of spice. The two Moroccan Blends are perfect everyday wines offering high value to price ratio. The Ouled Thaleb Syrah steps it up a notch, offering a dark smokey fruit profile, a dead ringer for a Northern Rhone Crozes-Hermitage.  Speaking of Crozes-Hermitage, famed vigneron Alain Graillot visited Ouled Thaleb some time back and was so impressed with their Syrah, he collaborated with them, creating his own “barrel-selected” bottling. I like to turn people on to Ouled Thaleb Syrah who express both interest in Syrah and enjoy the more finesse-ful side of the varietal.

 

So where did summer vacation go? School started up this week and it caught me totally unprepared. Granted my focus has been elsewhere, but I just wish I had a few more weeks to laze around in that unscheduled nirvana of summer vacation. The calendar is back up and filling in quickly with after school activities and all the other stuff surrounding elementary school. My consolation is that we’re entering prime tomato season! My own tomato plants had a surge of ripening a few weeks back and have tapered off due to the cooler nights we’ve had in the Bay Area of late. Thankfully the good folks at the Farmer’s Market travel far with their heat-soaked sweet tomatoes! I might take a cue from my own weekend write-up and put together a Moroccan-spiced eggplant tangine to serve with one or all three of the Ouled Thaleb wines offered here at The Wine House! Be adventurous with your tastebuds. Anya Balistreri

 

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Clairette, Syrah

The Winery Of Good Hope’s 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay

As someone who doesn’t travel nearly as often and as far away as I’d like, I find consolation in wine’s ability to transport the taster to its place of origin.  Sure, I’ve logged some decent miles for a bloke who doesn’t travel for a living, but I’ve longed for the road (and sky) since early childhood. I began collecting stamps in kindergarten, and by first grade could name every country in South America, including their respective capitals. While in second grade, my favorite thing to do was to accompany my Pop to the runway viewing area at SFO to watch planes take off. My wanderlust is serving me well, learning about the ways of life outside my sphere of influence. One of the mechanisms that I unconsciously have used to push myself to travel more is to collect guides and literature about destinations which I have yet to visit. It worked for Italy. It worked for France. It’s worked for the UK, Turkey, Russia, Denmark, and Austria. A recent glance at my travel lit bookcase reveals one, and only one, travel guide to a destination that I have not yet been: South Africa. In the meantime, while I await the day, I have the wines from Alex Dale to transport me there!

It being summer and all, let’s say that a glass of something chilled has a bit more appeal than a full-bodied, tannic red wine. If you’re a fan of Chardonnay, you might want to grab a seat because we’ve got a deal for you! For the rest of the month, we’re offering crazy prices on cases of Alex Dale’s Winery Of Good Hope 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay. Regularly $13.49 per bottle, full case orders will receive a 20% discount ($10.79 per bottle), and for orders of 2 cases or more, the discount is nearly 35% ($8.95 per bottle)!!! The Winery Of Good Hope is Dale’s entry-level label, a label for which he minimizes costs by not spending money on oak barrels, label art, or marketing. That’s right, NO oak barrels! It’s something that we hear every once in a while; some customers stay away from Chardonnay due to the usual toasted oak regimen. But right there on the label, and obviously in the aromas and on the palate, there is NO oak used for this wine.

Assisting Alex in making the wines is legendary former super-scout for Robert Kacher Selections, Edouard Labeye. In regard to the unoaked Chardonnay, Edouard had this to say, “This unoaked Chardonnay sets out to give you an easy-drinking yet classy wine at an excellent price. With more freshness, elegance and depth than commercial methods customarily permit. No sickly-sweet or artificial flavours. The wonderful citrus zest and mineral tang of its aromatics are bedded in the fruit and seductive texture characteristic of good Chardonnay. This is not a one-glass wonder, but a wine that you can enjoy by the bottle. For those of you who despairingly thought Chardonnay had to taste like butterscotch, this will restore your faith in the beautiful grape.” We have to echo Edouard’s sentiment. It’s a clean, balanced expression of pure Chardonnay. If you keep your expectations in line with its price, the Good Hope Chardonnay is the perfect white wine to load up on to get us through the end of summer (and maybe even to have around for crab season).

 

Wait. End of summer? Crab season? Yep, they’re coming. Illustrating once again that time is fleeting. Though I have no immediate plans to travel to South Africa, by virtue of the 2012 Good Hope Chardonnay, I’ll let South Africa come to me! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about traveling, South Africa, unoaked Chardonnay, the beginning of Football season, or Bordeaux: peter@winesf.com

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Filed under Peter Zavialoff, South Africa