Category Archives: Anya Balistreri

Santa Duc’s 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes

Santa Duc’s Yves Gras has ventured south from Gigondas to Vacqueyras where he uses two parcels to make an impressive, substantial red. The 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes showcases the grittier, rustic side of Grenache. In Yves’ capable hands, the signature Santa Duc garrigue-thing is preserved and at the forefront in his Vacqueyras. Sure the fruit is there, but before you get to it, you must peel back layers of lavender and dusty dirt. It is a bold expression of Grenache. A dark berry red color, almost purple really, fills the glass. Just as soon as you stick your nose in, you know you’re in Southern Rhone. No mistaking it for Priorat or New World anywhere. There is a black olive, dried brush aroma that reminds me of taking a hike just after a gentle rain. Aromatically speaking, there is a lot going on in this wine.

 

Yves Gras began to make domaine-bottled wine at Santa Duc in the early 80′s. 1982 was the first vintage bottled. Prior to that, as was customary in the southern Rhone, wine was sold to negociants. Santa Duc led the trend away from selling wine to negociants to making domaine bottled wine. Santa Duc’s Gigondas quickly became a collectable wine, garnering high praise and scores from the wine press.
Yves was always passionate about his work in the vineyard. It is nearly ten years ago that he abandoned methods such as chemical weed control, and naturally evolved to sustainable use of his farmlands and environment. More recently, Yves decided to make his pursuit of organic farming official by seeking certification from Ecocert, an organic certification organization founded in France. The 2012 vintage will have the Ecocert certification on the label.

 

I am five weeks into an ova-pescatarian diet. Though the benefits of eating more healthy are starting to be felt (less puffy, more energy), my craving for fatty protein is getting harder to quell. One way to curb the craving is to pour myself a glass of a meaty red like the 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes. The earth, fruit, ripe tannins and succulent acidity of the Les Aubes create a full-flavored wine drinking experience. And because Les Aubes is Grenache-based (20% is Syrah), I can easily match it up with a whole-grain entrée and not feel I am missing out. The other night I was oiling up some Farmers Market fresh, white and purple carrots to roast, when my daughter uttered a yum and commented to me that “roasted carrots are like corn dogs for vegans.” C’est vrai! - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Domaine Santa Duc, Rhone Valley, Vacqueyras

2012 Gavi DOCG from Ernesto Picollo

Day 4 at the new place: wine is finally making it to the sales floor. Priority number one? Stack up the 2012 Gavi DOCG from Ernesto Picollo! Why this wine? It is arguably our most universally preferred under $12 bottle of white in the store. I am not sure that the winery’s name, Ernesto Picollo, is what people remember but our customers sure know to ask for “the Gavi”.

The Gavi appellation is located in Italy’s Piedmonte region. The grape is Cortese, a variety cultivated in this area for hundreds of years. Cortese’s signature appeal is the white flower aromas, subtle fruitiness and lively fresh finish. Picollo’s Gavi precisely exhibits these attributes. Measuring under 13% alcohol, usually around 12.5%, Picollo’s Gavi is light on its feet so you can enjoy a glass before dinner without feeling weighted down. 

 

The Picollo family has been making wine for three generations, currently farming close to 8 hectares of vines in traditional fashion. The average age of the vines is between 25 to 30 years, though much of the newer vines go into the Gavi DOCG. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel, the success of this wine lies with the excellent farming, resulting in perfectly grown grapes with which to make wine.


Not only have we managed to move our entire store this week, but we also took in our first container! The container arrived from Italy with replenished stocks of Picollo’s Gavi. There was a slight lag between running out of the ’11 Gavi and getting in the ’12 Gavi. During this time, I was forced to bring home other affordable whites. I discovered new favorites, but I really missed my Gavi. The nuanced white blossom and melon flavors blanketed by a sea breeze fresh, mineral core is deeply satisfying. I love how it balances out salty snacks. Friday’s Fish Night menu at Taverna Balistreri is often a Meyer lemon topped, herby, bread-crumbed baked filet of Petrale. It is a delicate fish, therefore it needs something light and fresh to go with it. The 2012 Gavi DOCG from Picollo is the hands-down winner for this match-up. 

 

I was working at TWH when it moved from Bryant to Carolina Street. After that ordeal, I vowed never to do it again! Ha ha. The grueling work aside, I am thrilled to be in this new location. I must commend my colleagues who put in many, many extra hours/days to accomplish this task. Everyone did their part and then some, all the while making it fun with lots of laughter and cheery repartee. And now, sitting at our new workstation, I am feeling an even deeper appreciation for our customers. So many of you have already ventured to our new spot and have patiently waited as we scrambled around the warehouse trying to locate wine for you. Yep, the sales floor is not fully stocked … but it’s getting there! TWH customers are the best! Thank you… - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Cortese, Gavi

Classic Sancerre: 2012 Apud Sariacum from Raimbault

A second vintage of Philippe Raimbault’s Sancerre Apud Sariacum has arrived at TWH after a lengthy absence while monopolizing a spot on a very popular, wine-centric Los Angeles restaurant list. This L.A. restaurant is known for having an innovative wine-by-the-glass program, rotating in new items every few months or so.  Raimbault’s Sancerre Apud Sariacum remained on this list for nearly 3 years! All of our stock went to fulfill their orders.  When the sommelier called to tell us he was finally going to take the wine off the list in order to keep intact the integrity of their changing list, it was clear he did so reluctantly – probably because his customers were going to put up a stink for not having their beloved Apud Sariacum to enjoy by the glass! A true testament to the quality of the wine and to the wide range of palates that enjoy it. 

Phillippe Raimbault assembles his Sancerre Apud Sariacum from eight tiny parcels grown on steep slopes surrounding the picturesque village of Sury en Vaux, which up until the 12th century was known as Apud Sariacum. The soil here is part of a geological stratum formed during the second era of the Jurassic period. Fossils of sea creatures dating back 130 million years can be found in these vineyards. Phillippe has an impressive collection of these fossils which he proudly displays at his tasting room. These ancient soils really drive home the idea that dirt does matter and as such, Sauvignon Blanc grown along the steep slopes of Loire Valley’s Sancerre region does demonstrate a special quality of depth, weight and, yes, minerality.


The name recognition for Sancerre is far reaching and evokes a certain sophistication among wine drinkers. Even people who say they dislike Sauvignon Blanc will ask for Sancerre at our store. I chalk this up to the fact that most Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t share the verve and citrusy bite that Sancerre shows off in the glass. Grassy, yes, but not assertive or too pungent, just like the 2012 Sancerre Apud Sariacum which is chock full of fragrant citrus, juicy green melon, ending with a nervy, vibrant finish. Refreshing and offering something more than just a crisp drink. The 2012 Sancerre Apud Sariacum is a textbook, classic Sancerre!

Raimbault’s wife Lynne, who is a London transplant, runs a charming shop and wine bar selling Philippe’s wines and local products in town called Les Fossiles. Lynne visited TWH this past November. Regrettably, I was not at the store that day, but all the guys raved about her outgoing personality and easy charm.

So get this … TWH is moving in about a week and I’m going to Disneyland! I am abandoning my comrades to take a very short sojourn this weekend to the happiest place on earth. It probably wasn’t the best timing on my part, but when is it ever? I’ll be back soon enough, hopefully with plenty of stories to share, and ready to help move TWH into its new home. - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Sancerre

2005 Chateau de Malle: Priced to Move!

There is not much else I need to write other than this: 2005 Chateau de Malle on sale for $24.95 … and no, that is not for the half bottle!  Unbelievable, right? No wonder Pete keeps telling customers that our Moving Sale has wines at “never-to-be-seen-again” prices. The 2005 Chateau de Malle is delicious. Not a super rich or particularly unctuous Sauternes, it does, however, glide lightly over the palate with charming flavors of butterscotch, browned sweet butter and graham cracker crust. The 2005 de Malle is an elegant example of a medium-weight sticky that at this price will be making its way into my fridge often and regularly. Look here, there’s already a bottle waiting for me when I get home tonight. This makes me so happy!
Chateau de Malle is a stunning estate with manicured gardens and a museum open to the public. The estate dates back to the 16th Century and has remained in the same family the entire time. In the 1950′s the estate was taken over by Pierre de Bournazel, a man who would become an important figure in the viticultural world of Bordeaux. Pierre renovated the Chateau, replanted the vineyards and brought de Malle into recognition. Interestingly, Chateau de Malle straddles two appellations, Sauternes and Graves (about half of their production is for Sauternes). The composition is classic with 70% Semillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc and a small trace of Muscadelle. The vineyards are grown on undulating slopes upon a plateau of gravelly clay soil. The wine is aged in barrel between 20-24 months in a third new French oak after which the wine rests in bottle at the Chateau for 2 to 3 years before release.
Our Moving Sale is on!  Prices are slashed on wines ranging from everyday quaffers to top-tiered trophy wines with the caveat that they must leave our premises before we move! I will be moving some of the 2005 Chateau de Malle into my cellar to lighten TWH’s load. I can guarantee you that each time I pop the cork on this honeyed wine with its lingering flavors of melted brown sugar and sweet vanilla cream, I’ll be patting myself on the back for being such a clever, savvy wine buyer. A combo plate from Taqueria San Jose with an enchilada and a house-made chile relleno – pop open a bottle of 2005 Chateau de Malle! After a big meal with friends, no one wants dessert but a plate of crispy, buttery cookies served with a glass of 2005 Chateau de Malle- no one will pass on that! Your neighbor brings back a terrine of foie gras from Paris as payment for taking care of their cat – 2005 Chateau de Malle is a perfect, albeit conventional, pairing! At $24.95 per bottle, you can be as adventurous as you want with the 2005 Chateau de Malle. It’s a guilt-free, slam-dunk, smile-inducing, happy-making wine purchase. 

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Filed under 2005 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Gold Wine, Sauternes, Semillon

2011 Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!

Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 


With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!

So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 


Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri

Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$74.00
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Barsac, Sauternes, Semillon, Spicy food

Ca’Lojera’s 2011 Merlot

My go-to wine for 2014 thus far has been Ca’Lojera’s 2011 Merlot. Each time I serve it, my wine-drinking companions gush out “yum, what is this?” I am reminded of all the reasons why Merlot became so popular in the first place over twenty years ago. Tasting Ca’Lojera’s 2011 Merlot, you can’t help being charmed and delighted by its fragrant, sour cherry flavors, nuanced notes of green-tinged herbs, lightly forested aromas and the pleasing, soft tannin on the finish. It is enjoyable to sip while waiting for dinner to get to the table and it continues to impress as you dig your fork into the plate. How often do I hear people complain of heavy, over-bearing reds? Well, if you are one of them, check out the 2011 Merlot from Ca’Lojera for that taste of a Bordeaux varietal without all the heaviness. 


Ca’Lojera is located along Italy’s Lake Garda just east of Verona in the Lombardy region. The winemaker, Franco Tiraboschi, and his wife Ambra, who runs the winery, are a perfect partnership of opposites but united in bringing attention to the quality of Lombardy wines. TWH first imported Ca’Lojera’s Lugana in 2011, three years and four vintages of Lugana later, their wines continue to impress and gain favor with our customers, restaurant sommeliers and the wine press. With the success of the Ca’Lojera whites, we were encouraged to dip into their reds by first importing the Cabernet Sauvignon and now for the first time ever, their Merlot. Grown on the rocky hillsides overlooking the lake (unlike the Turbiana which is grown on the clay flats), the Merlot is fermented in steel tank giving it a freshness and fruitiness that matches its intensity. I applaud them for resisting the temptation to introduce any oak to this wine, as it would detract from the perky sour cherry flavors and bolster it in ways it doesn’t need. The 2011 Merlot is medium-bodied but not thin, it is fruity but not jammy, and it is quaffable but not simple. For years I have been erroneously predicting Merlot’s comeback, but poor Merlot simply cannot overcome its image problem and this is a shame. Believe it or not, I am not interested in drinking the “best-ever” wine each and every time I pour a glass. Generally and most often, I just want to drink something delicious and interesting for I am an everyday-glass-of-wine kind of gal and not a just-on-special-occasions/once-in-while kind of wine consumer. Therefore stocking up on a soft tannin red like this 2011 Merlot in my case of ok-to-drink-now wine is a welcomed find. 


I am not going to close here with some reference to how I plan on drinking the 2011 Merlot from Ca’Lojera because- let’s be honest- tomorrow I will be drinking beer and noshing on all manner of classic Super Bowl viewing snacks. Throughout the NFL season, I have tried to give my husband the opportunity to watch his games with few disruptions. In return, as my reward, he is making his famous wings for me tomorrow. It will probably be mid-week by the time I get the chance to prepare a proper meal. Then I will crack open another bottle of ’11 Merlot from Ca’Lojera to savor and take in the pleasure of the red ripe sour cherry fruit, peppery undertones and silky tannins. Bellissimo! –Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Lugana

Domaine Lafouge: 2010 Auxey-Duresses

Who wouldn’t want red Burgundy that is full of cherry fruit, pure, aromatic, ready to drink and costs under $40 a bottle? Looking around our store and reflecting back on our most popular offerings of 2013, it is obvious to me that TWH customers do! So here is another gem, newly arrived and unloaded off the pallet, the 2010 Auxey-Duresses red from Domaine Jean et Gilles Lafouge. It will satisfy your craving for red Burgundy that is bright with red fruit flavors with distinctive minerality and is not in any way rustic for $33.99 a bottle.

David, once again, gets credit for recognizing the quality and value of this charming 6th generation domaine in Auxey-Duresses. After visiting several times, with consistent notes indicating how much he enjoyed their wines and felt they consistently delivered quality Burgundy at a fair price, David placed his order for their 2010 reds and 2011 whites. To introduce us to Lafouge (and Dampt), David guided us through a staff tasting last week. Staff tastings are one of the great perks of working at THW! They are especially exciting when we get to taste wine from a new producer, then share our assessments only to see David’s pleased demeanor as we give praise to the wines. Domaine Lafouge is a welcome addition to our stable of quality,affordable Burgundy. 


My first whiff of Lafouge’s 2010 Auxey-Duresses revealed red cherry aromas-unmistakably Burgundy- and a dusty, mineral note that complimented all those fresh red fruit scents. Clear and vibrant in the glass, the flavors on the palate reflected what I was getting on the nose: succulent cherry fruit and a pebbly, earthy finish. Medium-bodied and fresh, the brightness of the fruit carried smoothly to the end. In this price range, red Burgundy can often be, well, rustic. Of course there is good rustic and bad rustic, but this 2010 Auxey-Duresses is neither. And because it is so elegant, it is a wine to drink right now. Will it age? Probably. But the point is, you won’t need to cellar this wine to smooth out any rough edges; it has none. The pleasure here is in the vitality of its youthful fruit.

Gilles, the son of Jean, is the winemaker, with his father acting as the consultant. Gilles explained to David that Auxey-Duresses has a cooler climate than its neighbor Meursault and as a result has a distinctive minerality. Of the 30 barrels of Auxey-Duresses red that he makes, only 5 to 6 barrels are new. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed. Gilles intent for the Auxey-Duresse is to make it approachable. If it happens to age well, that is a plus but not the goal. The 2010 Auxey-Duresses is not going to fall apart any time soon, but chances are you’ll drink it up way before you find the time to move the bottles from your kitchen to the cellar. It is that tasty! 

I spent a little time online searching for additional information on Domaine Lafouge. I came up with some good stuff: (a) they do not have a website and, (b) all blog entries about Domaine Lafouge make it a point to describe their wines as having outstanding quality and value. The takeaway here is that Domaine Lafouge’s reputation for making delicious quality wine at affordable prices allows them to easily sell through their production without having to sell any at their cellar door. This helps keep them under the radar and that is a good thing for Burgundy drinkers. 

This week a school field trip to Sonoma’s Mission San Francisco Solano got me heading out of the city and suburbia through wine country only to find the drought conditions severe. Typically you would begin to see light green cover crop in between vine rows. I only saw brown dirt and dried leaves. At home, showers are shorter and being shared with a bucket to trap wayward droplets. My plans for putting in landscaping around the house is going to have to be postponed yet again. This is life in the Bay Area. What else can I do? Oh yeah, drink more wine. Ok fine. How about the 2010 Auxey-Duresses from Lafouge for Sunday dinner with a slice of rare leg of lamb? Red Burgundy to the rescue! - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Auxey-Duresses, Pinot Noir

Wine From Croatia & Bosnia Herzegovina

Last month’s Dirty Dozen was a resounding hit in large part due to the inclusion of wine from Croatia, Hungary and Macedonia. TWH carries inventory of wine from Central and Eastern Europe regularly, as our own personal interest in these wines and our customers’ taste for something new supports delving into these lesser-known wine regions. The emphasis on indigenous varietals, preserving age-old winemaking traditions, and the overall quality of wine from these areas are the attraction for adventurous palates. For your consideration, I have selected one white from Bosnia Herzegovina and one red from Croatia; both newly arrived and absolutely delicious! 


The 2010 Žilavka Greda from Brkić is the first wine I have ever tasted from Bosnia Herzegovina. That alone, quite honestly, was enough to get me excited, but it was the aroma and taste that had me ordering the wine on the spot. This white is fermented on the skins, so the color is light amber. Not at all funky like some orange wines, the Gredahas a softness to it with notes of honey and bay leaf. The skin contact fermentation lends structure and depth. After fermentation the wine sits on its lees in large oak cask for two years! The 2010 is the current vintage. Low in alcohol, it can go it alone or it can be the perfect foil for a wide array of food match ups. The proprietor and winemaker Josip Brkić took over the domaine from his father who planted the vineyards in the late ’70′s. The vineyards are situated on the limestone plateaus of Čitluk in southern Herzegovina. The native Žilavka thrives in the temperate climate and limestone soils of this region. Josip Brkić has converted to biodynamic practices and uses only native yeast for fermentation. I find the combination of honeyed, nutty flavors, that whisper of bay leaf and tingling acidity a delightful tasting experience. 


2010 Brkic Zilavka Greda
White Wine; other white varietal; Other International;
$19.98
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Winemaker Frano Miloš is passionate about Plavac Mali, the indigenous red varietal that is commonly grown along the coastal vineyards of Dalmatia in southern Croatia along the Pelješac Peninsula. His family has been producing wine for over 500 years. Working only with Plavac Mali (a progeny of the ancient grape Crljenak Kaštelanski which is genetically identical to what is known as Zinfandel is the US), Frano Miloš takes this robust red grape that struggles to grow in the Dolomite limestone, battered by wind and intense summer heat and makes a complex, deeply fruited wine that is characterized by minerality and elegant tannins. Like at Brkić, only native yeast fermentation is used. The 2009 Plavac was aged in used large Slavonian oak barrels for two years before bottling. It is a youthful and powerful red that has the capacity to age. Plavac Mali can be described as having the intensity of fruit like Zinfandel, but with structure more like old world Gamay. It is a viscerally satisfying red wine that matches brilliantly with cold weather dishes like stews and braises. I have included a tasting note from the winemaker below that I can’t top. 


2009 Milos Plavac
Red Wine; other red varietal; Croatia;
$19.98
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“This wine is a pure reflection of variety and terroir from which it comes. It is typical for the Pelješac peninsula and our style of wine. It has a very thick aromatic profile with dark fruit, minerals, herbal notes with sage domination. Deep and slow to open. The flavor is rich and concentrated, balanced with soft natural tannins. Elegant and long living.” 


It is the first weekend of 2014. I am grateful I made it to this point, though I still have left one kid birthday party to throw for my daughter tomorrow and then a traditional Russian Christmas Eve /”real” birthday on Monday. Then, I pray, I can rest a bit. I have tossed out self-improvement resolutions in favor of New Year’s wine resolutions. For 2014, I will highlight more of our Central and Eastern European wine selections in newsletters, take time out to visit local wineries, and drink more aged wine from my cellar. Now THAT I have a good chance of accomplishing. Sretna nova godina!!! -Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Plavac

Sparklers from D’Orfeuilles

We will be open Christmas Eve, December 24 from 10 am – 4 pm. 
We wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season!


What is your holiday season marker? Stringing up lights around the eaves, getting that first card in the mail dotted with children mugging it up for the camera, or how about having a good cry while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life?” For me, it’s the display of fine Champagne and bubbles from around the world that gets stacked up at TWH. Oh how they twinkle, oh how they glow! So many to choose from, fancy or affordable, we have them all! To help you navigate through a few, allow me to highlight a TWH direct import, Domaine D’Orfeuilles from France’s Loire Valley. What at first seemed a novelty has taken off and captured our clients’ taste buds and desire for sparkling wine that is at once complex and sophisticated while much, much less expensive then anything you’ll find from Champagne. Made in the classic methode traditionelle (meaning that secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle just like it is done in Champagne) our two sparklers from Domaine D’Orfeuilles, one blanc, one rosé, are perfect options for end-of-year reveling. 


Domaine D’Orfeuilles’ grapes are grown on clay and limestone soil that have a significant amount of silex, or flint, that imparts an undeniable, unmistakable “flinty” character in their wines. The Vouvray Brut is made from 100% Chenin Blanc. It has under-ripe peach and apricot flavors, a hint of green, and a round entry with a chalky finish. I have said it before and I will say it again, this is one of the few sparkling wines that when I drink it, I am not wishing I were drinking Champagne! It provides me with enough complexity, richness and yeastiness to keep me interested, and looking forward to the next sip. Whether toasting sans food or with appetizers, you can confidently bring this Vouvray Brut to the table to continue the meal. The Touraine Rosé is also dry and made with Côt, what the folks in Loire call Malbec. Lots of raspberry and dried cherry red fruit with a tinge of herb pervades the palate. Domaine D’Orfeuilles store their sparklers in a large limestone cellar and therefore have the capacity to keep wine aging in bottle 3-4 years. This also means that there are slight variations from each bottling, just as you would expect from a grower/producer. The most recent Touraine Rosé boasts a jolt of pink color that can trick you into thinking it will be far fruitier than it really is; an optical illusion. The Touraine Rosé is fresh, bright and finishes dry. Perfect for spicier nibbles like ceviche or chili-flecked sausages; also amazing with fried chicken!

The bottle prices for these two sparklers have Anniversary Sale written all over them, but once again, to make it even more tempting a $125 full-case price is offered through the end of the year, or while supplies last. You might not get through a case by New Year’s Eve, but remember there is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and so much more coming just around the corner! So stock up and fill your wine closet/cellar/under-the-bed with two unique, delicious and excellent sparklers from Domaine D’Orfeuilles. 


Adrenaline shot through my body this morning as my daughter rejoiced over the fact that there were only 4 more days left until Christmas! Her advent calendar is almost devoid of chocolate; the star, the reindeer and the snowman have all been eaten. It must be Christmas. After a few deep breathes, I realized I was excited too. I can’t wait to get together with family. I wonder what Santa will bring me this year? Christmas Day I’ll be playing host. I can’t vouch for the food, but at least no one will go home thirsty. Happy Holidays! - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray

2009 Cesanese di Olevano Romano – Compagnia di Ermes

It’s hopping at TWH as our customers are taking full advantage of our 36th Anniversary Sale. So in between ringing up orders, answering phone calls, and re-stocking wine, I will do my best to put down a few short and sweet words for this weekend’s pick. The savings are deep in Bordeaux and in Burgundy, but do not forget, we sell wine from all over the world!  The 2009 Cesanese di Olevano Romano from Compagnia di Ermes is a relatively new acquisition. Originally, I had brought in the wine to include in our monthly Dirty Dozen, but we kept selling out before it made it into the sampler. It was obvious we needed to buy more; it was quickly finding a fan base. As the vintage came to a close, we swooped up all we could and are now offering it at an even more attractive bottle price. But since it is our 36th Anniversary Sale, we’ve added a bonus: A Special Full Case price of $100!!! 


$100 a case for a decent red wine is a good deal, but this is NOT an ordinary red. Cesanese is the name of the grape and the appellation. Cesanese di Olevano Romano is located in the hills just south of Rome, within the region of Lazio, and is a native varietal for the region. Historically, it was over-cropped, thus producing simple, humble wine. In 2003, three friends who are winemakers and vineyard owners from Lazio decided to pool their talent in order to elevate this unique grape and to make the best Cesanese possible under the name Compagnia di Ermes. The 2009 is full and broad on the palate. Though it sees no time in oak, the impression is of a wine that does, given its concentrated fruit. Flavors of plum and pomegranate dominate, with undertones of dried brush and herbs that drift in and out of reach. I’ve had many, many bottles of this wine and I have yet to really nail down that herb note…is it leafy, savory, or dusty? In many ways this Cesanese reminds me of dry reds from Portugal’s Dao district, but like so many native varietals that are given their due with careful growing practices, limiting yields and attentive winemaking, it displays a uniqueness all its own. 


I visited Rome once and it was memorable. I had avoided traveling there previously, foolishly listening to naysayers. Rome is an amazing city seeping in history. Plus, I had excellent meals, including many bowls of one of my favorite all-time pasta sauces, Amatriciana. What I wouldn’t give right now for a bowl of that tangy, porky, tomatoey pasta and a large goblet of the 2009 Cesanese from Compagnia di Ermes to wash it all down. It warms me just thinking about it sitting here inside our frigid warehouse. The hustle and bustle of end of year activity is in full swing. Keeping a case of this gorgeous red on hand will save you time and effort, allowing you to quickly grab a bottle as you rush down to meet the taxi cab on your way out to the next dinner party. Unexpected drop-ins? No problem, pull the cork, or two, on this unique red and not worry that you’ve blown your budget. I can assure you, I will be taking yet another case home with me! - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Cesanese, Lazio