Moroccan Dinner With Ouled Thaleb

Ouled Thaleb: Dinner Recap
A month ago The Wine House hosted a dinner at Mourad – Mourad Lalou’s swanky Financial District restaurant inside the newly renovated Pacific Telephone Building. The dinner was organized to introduce and feature the wines of Ouled Thaleb, Morocco’s oldest working winery. Though The Wine House has been stocking Ouled Thaleb wines ever since they became available in California, the wines are still relatively unknown to the larger wine market.

In a private room, seated around a gorgeous handmade wood table, diners were treated to a delicious multi-course meal accompanied by the wines of Ouled Thaleb. The energetic and charismatic importer of Ouled Thaleb, Didier Pariente, kept our attention focused on the wines, giving us quick tutorials for each one. Throughout the evening Didier shared stories and insights on the food, wine and culture of Morocco. He emphasized the relevance and importance of Morocco as a wine region and encouraged us to travel there.

I enjoyed tasting through Ouled Thaleb’s portfolio of wines in their proper context – with food. The cuisine at Mourad is inspired by the flavors of Morocco, transformed through a skilled chef to create a culinary language all his own. This is elevated food, and the wine kept in step. Three years ago I answered the phone and was greeted by a polite, French-accented man who asked me if anyone there would be interested in tasting wines from Morocco. I normally try to avoid biting on a cold call, but I was intrigued. I had an opening in my tasting calendar, so I said “Sure, come on over”. This is how I met Didier. I tasted the wines and felt them to be interesting and of merit on their own terms, not just a novelty. In other words, if the wines weren’t any good, there was no reason to buy them for the store. I continue to find Ouled Thaleb wines delicious and carry them vintage to vintage. They have a steady following among ex-pats, adventure seekers and wine drinkers looking to expand their tasting horizons.

Listed below are Ouled Thaleb wines that are in stock, along with some brief tasting notes. For the future, if anyone reading this would like to be notified of upcoming wine dinners, please send in your request to and we’ll add you to our list.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Moroccan Wine, Spicy food, Winemaker Dinners

2013 Mas de Guiot Grenache/Syrah

On my first trip to France with The Wine House, we visited Mas de Guiot. The winery is located in Saint Gilles, a village south of Nîmes, near the edge of the Camargue. The Camargue is a beautiful geographical region; a river delta where the two arms of the Rhône River meet the Mediterranean Sea. At the “mas” or farmhouse, I spied a rabbit tied up by its feet near the cellar door. After barrel-tasting, we were invited to ride through a pasture on a flatbed truck to view Les Taureaux de Camargue, the famed bulls of the region. At first it seemed a bit silly to me, but quickly it turned out to be a delightful outing into the gorgeous pastoral setting. Not your average tourist excursion. The whole experience left me with a deeper appreciation for how closely connected François and Sylvie Cornut, owners of Mas de Guiot, are to their land. This country living isn’t a lifestyle, it is their life.
I have always found wines from Mas de Guiot to exhibit a pleasant amount of funk. Yes, funk – the good kind, George Clinton-style- like in the 2013 Grenache-Syrah. The dense dark berry flavors snap with a black licorice note that gives it that unmistakable southern Rhône quality. The soil at Mas de Guiot closely resembles what you find in more prestigious Rhône regions like Chateauneuf du Pape, where smooth rocks, les galets roulés, dapple the ground like some sort of moonscape. The age of the vines range from 10-50 years old. The Cornuts pick late, partially de-stem the fruit and cold macerate the grapes for 24-48 hours before putting the wine in tank to finish fermentation.
A 40/60 blend of Grenache to Syrah, the wine is a vivid dark violet in the glass and has an alluring ripe fruit quality. Elevated French country wine? It has enough interest, a touch of rusticity, and rich fruit to make it enjoyable to linger over while you prepare dinner and it will also nicely carry over to the table. The 2013 Grenache-Syrah has a sale price of $8.95, but the deal gets even sweeter on a full case purchase of $99.

The intensity of this time of year has ratcheted up and to help combat all the busyness, I have gravitated towards classic comfort foods for dinner. Things like chicken enchilada casserole and pot roast with mashed potatoes have been on the menu at chez moi. Meals like these do not need sophisticated, complicated wine. What works is something simple, but impeccably made, like the 2013 Grenache-Syrah from Mas de Guiot.

Thanksgiving next week will find me with family and friends. I only need to bring a side dish, so I am hoping I will find a bit of time to relax that day. The Wine House’s 38th Anniversary Sale has had us buzzing around here and my daughter’s foray into musical theatre has been rather demanding with dress and tech rehearsals all week. Not to mention, I made a huge tactical error when I dropped off my daughter’s costume at rehearsal, only to be talked into staying to “help” with make-up. I am now the expert on doing make-up for Cinderella’s mice. Honestly, I love it. Those darling faces are so perfect, how could my ineptness at face-painting ruin their beauty! Wishing you all a bountiful and meaningful Thanksgiving.– Anya Balistreri

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Thanksgiving 2015: Some Pairing Ideas

All of us here at TWH were shocked to see and read the news of the tragic events that occurred in Paris on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the French populace.

Not such a pleasant way to commence this week’s Sunday email. Somehow, the topic I’ve had in mind to write about is applicable. Seeing that this is my last Sunday email before Thanksgiving, I will continue the tradition of giving thanks. A good friend of mine summed his feelings up pretty well on his Facebook feed last night. “Very sad day indeed. Could have happened anywhere. Give your loved ones a hug and be grateful for what you have.” A sentiment that I share with many is that giving thanks is an every day activity, not something to be saved exclusively for the fourth Thursday of November.

I’ve written about my early perceptions of Thanksgiving before. Most of my life, it was a holiday that I didn’t really celebrate. If I wasn’t skiing, I was bored. I didn’t care for any of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. It was always nice to get together with extended family and good friends, but that was it. Of course this all has changed now that I have lobster and Sauternes on Thanksgiving. I’m planning on doing this again, and the wine I’m choosing this year is the 2005 Château Clos Haut Peyraguey. Why? A pair of cosmic tumblers falling into place.

Tumbler #1 – The property was purchased by Bordeaux chateaux mogul Bernard Magrez in 2012. TWH was just paid a visit by a Magrez’s export director last Monday, and he commented on our having a couple of back vintages of Clos Haut Peyraguey in stock. We spoke about Barsac and Sauternes at length, and I’m pretty black and white about my feelings for the wines. I think he got my drift.

Tumbler #2: It’s a 2005, a fantastic vintage for the wines of Barsac and Sauternes. I can recall John’s excitement about the quality of Bordeaux’s sweet wines when he returned from the region in the spring of 2006. Ben went so far as to purchase some ’05 Clos Haut Peyraguey futures citing its geographical proximity to Yquem. Then there was the tasting of 2005 Sauternes that I attended in 2008, leaving me with quite the impression, especially for Château Coutet. I last had 2005 Coutet on my birthday back in September and it was showing brilliantly! 10 years has worked its magic on the wine which was revealing some bottle bouquet and secondary characteristics. It was still fresh and youthful, yet layered and intellectual. We are trying to get more. I’ll get back to you on that.

Back on Wednesday evening, I was invited to the home of a very good friend to celebrate the end of his six year quest for a particular certification. To celebrate he picked up a USDA Prime Tri-Tip, marinated it, and slow cooked it for hours. He finished it off in a pan and popped a 1993 Penfolds Grange. It was my very first taste of what is considered Australia’s finest wine. It was a great experience, and along with another good friend we discussed many of the finest food and wine pairings we’ve enjoyed over the years. He humbly dismissed the tri-tip/Grange pairing from being among the best (it belongs in the argument), and poured full praise for “The year you brought that magnum of Fleurie to Thanksgiving dinner.” There’s a lot to say in support for Cru Beaujolais at the Thanksgiving table. It’s light. It’s complex. It’s versatile. It smells like fall. As the holiday approaches, we have helped many customers with their “Beaujolais for Thanksgiving” orders.

As I stated above, giving thanks is something that should be done daily, and I have reason to be grateful for many people and things these days. 2015 has been a very challenging year for me personally, and I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in without the tremendous support that I have received from so very many. Giving thanks, BIG TIME! Happy Thanksgiving!!!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Beaujolais, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Gamay, Gold Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes

2010 Col del Mondo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

As The Wine House’s 38th Anniversary Sale gets underway, I’d like to kick off the celebration by highlighting a super bargain for a charming, medium-full bodied red with juicy fruit and unobtrusive tannins: the 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Col del Mondo. This wine will take you far this fall and winter, with its bolder character and supple flavors. Whether you are cozying up to a fireside dinner or are rushing out the door- late again!- to your best friend’s soirée, having a case of the 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Col del Mondo at the ready can ease some of the strain of the season.

Photo courtesy of winery’s FB page

The Montepulciano grape is widely planted in eastern Italy along the Adriatic Coast. Especially in the region of Abruzzi, Montepulciano proliferated as it adapted well to the climate, and could produce easy-going, drinkable reds. Historically, the intention here was to make a whole lot of good wine, not necessarily emphasizing premium quality wine. This thinking has changed dramatically in recent years as winemakers and wine drinkers have woken up to the great potential of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to make outstanding wine.

Photo courtesy of winery’s FB page

Col del Mondo is a winery that came together when three friends set out to change the perception of Abruzzi wine. It is widely noted that Abruzzi farmers are more grape growers than winemakers, so it was common and convenient to join a cooperative. Nowadays, winemakers seeking to produce higher quality wines in the region have set out on their own. Col del Mondo is a young operation with Fabrizio Mazzacchetti, the son of one of the partners, making the wines. The vineyards are extremely well placed in the commune of Collecorvino in the Pescara province. Hillside elevations with south/south-west exposures only 12 miles from the sea provide an ideal growing climate for producing aromatic, fresh and fruity aromas in the wine.

The fruit for the 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is grown within the desirable sub-zone of Terre dei Vestini. The wine is fermented in tank and then spends approximately 14-18 months in barrel. What makes this Montepulciano d’Abruzzo stand out is its suppleness. The flavors lean toward plum and blackberry with just a trace of leather. It’s juicy and plump with rounded tannins. Dark in color, you might expect an onslaught of heaviness, but for a big red it sits poised on the palate. I can easily savor a glass on its own as much as I enjoy how it handles a main course.

Photo courtesy of winery’s FB page

The $19.98 bottle price is fair, though the $16.95 sale price is certainly a better deal. The full-case price of $150 is more than a 30% savings…now that’s a super deal! We have a limited number of cases in stock as we took advantage of end-of-vintage savings. Once the 2010 is gone, it’s gone.

Yesterday at the shop I was trying to cram in a days extra work for I had been temporarily derailed this week with an eye ulcer…who knew that was even possible? Anyway, we were working on The November Dirty Dozen when Pete commented on one of my food pairings and mused why there hasn’t been an upscale revival of chili in this town? The conversation then turned to chili and wine pairing in general; I had suggested in the DD to pair Tempranillo with chili. As I began my research for this newsletter, I stumbled upon a headline: “The Perfect Chili Wine: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo”. It must be in the air! I concur that Montepulciano d’Abruzzo would be a clever choice for a meaty, tomato-y chili; spicy or not. Before we sell out of this beauty, I’ll have to squirrel away a bottle to do my own research at home with a bowl. As luck would have it, I made nearly 12 quarts of chili last week for Halloween dinner. Even after my guests had their fill, I had enough leftovers to send care packages to some neighbors and freeze some for dinner later. If only I could plan this well all the time! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under abruzzo, Anya Balistreri, montepulciano d'abruzzo

The November 2013 Dirty Dozen

Grab your coat and hat, it’s November! The chill in the air and the long nights make it easy to stay indoors and hang out with friends and family. And while doing so, why not have a box of twelve different wines, all chosen for their versatility, for one low price to choose from. Tick-tock goes the clock. Thanksgiving is almost here, and the holidays are right around the corner. The Dirty Dozen is a simple solution for all your vinous needs!

Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines

Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2014 Viognier Pays d’Oc, Grange des Rouquette $11.99, $8.79 reorder
TWH pals Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud produce this Viognier (85%) and Marsanne (15%) blend from the balmy VDP d’Oc. Its aromas are of Granny Smith apples, white peach, and apricot with a hint of white pepper. On the palate, it’s well-balanced and has a lively finish. If you want to go all out, pair this with grilled halibut with asparagus.

2014 Ventoux Blanc, Domaine de Fondrèche $16.59, $13.59 reorder
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a white wine from Domaine de Fondrèche. Not because we haven’t tried (we’ve begged them), but because so little is made, barely any makes it out of the Rhône Valley, let alone France. It’s a fancy tasting blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, and Rolle. Get the good stemware and serve pan-fried trout.

2014 Montravel Blanc, Château Calabre $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Just beyond Bordeaux’s eastern frontier, north of the commune of Ste. Foy la Grande is Montravel. Given its proximity to the vineyards of Bordeaux, the same grapes grow there. This fine, inexpensive copycat of white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle) is crisp and balanced. A roasted vegetable torte with goat cheese is perfection here!

2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Copain $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Winemaker Wells Guthrie was a “regular” at TWH long before he started Copain and became known for making some of the most lauded Pinot Noir and Syrah in California. Balance over power is the approach here, and this pink made from Pinot Noir reflects that delicate touch. Freshness, red fruit, and citrus abound. Try it with flatbread with olives.

2014 Chardonnay, Apaltagua $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This tropical fruit-laden Chardonnay is rich in the fruit department, yet finishes clean and crisp. No oak helps to keep this wine lively and bright. The grapes are grown in the San Antonio Valley, west of Chile’s capital, Santiago, and near the Pacific Ocean. Pair with a sandwich, panini, grinder, hoagie, sub, or po’boy.

2014 Pinot Gris, 99 West $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Pinot Gris is Oregon’s most widely planted white variety. This one hails from Willamette Valley in western Oregon. Spiced pears permeate the clean, subtle fruit notes on the palate. A versatile white that can be enjoyed by itself or with a wide array of cuisines. Try with pork tenderloin accompanied by quince paste or applesauce – yum!

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bliss Family Vineyards $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
A rarity: estate-grown California Cabernet Sauvignon for under $15! Grapes growers in Mendocino County for three generations, the Bliss family makes this spicy Cabernet in a straightforward manner, offering value and character. Black plum and berry flavors lead the way. Can’t go wrong with braised short ribs, lamb shanks or slow-roasted pot roast.

2012 Tempranillo, Ercavio $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
This is a crazy good value red for those who are looking for bolder, juicier flavors. Old vine Tempranillo grown on limestone and clay soils at elevations above 2000ft east of Toledo equate to a saturated purple color in the glass and flavors of black currant with a slight hint of licorice. Divine! This wine will stand up to spicier fare like chili or posole.

2012 Teroldego Rotaliano, Lechthaler $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
Teroldego makes its debut in a DD! A deeply pigmented varietal, Teroldego thrives on the flat plateau above Trento where the vines are trained on pergolas to limit vigor. Fruity and bursting with black cherry flavors, this red is fermented in tank and spends less than a year in barrel. This one would be lovely for the Thanksgiving table.

2012 Syrah, Domaine de St. Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder
When driving up to St. Antoine, one immediately gets it; it’s not a winery, it’s a farm. No fancy fountains, Ionic columns, or manicured hedges. Instead, there are green fields, tractors, and grizzled farm workers. But don’t think for a second that Jean-Louis Emmanuel’s focus is not on his wines! This Syrah is fresh and complex and drinks great with that pizza.

2012 Tradicional, Quinta do Alqueve $11.29, $9.03 reorder
Alpiarca, some 40 miles north of Lisbon is where you’ll find Paulo Saturnino Cunha and Quinta do Alqueve. For his Tradicional, he blends Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Trincadeira, and Castelao, and the result is one of the best bang-for-your-buck reds out there. Über versatile, you can pair this with all your favorite red wine dishes.

2012 Vinsobres, Tour de l’Isle $17.99, $14.39 reorder
Once part of the more general Côtes du Rhône Villages designation, Vinsobres has been able to label their wines as their own village since 2006; they’re that distinct. Deep aromas of red and purple fruit surround an earthy core in this medium-full bodied red. This will pair great with steaks and chops of all sorts and sizes.

Check Out Our Complete Inventory at

Reg. $161.62
On Sale $109.00

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Peter Zavialoff, The Dirty Dozen, Wine Clubs/Samplers

Working Saturdays & Bordeaux Barrel Samples – 2014 Château Sénéjac

We’re hoping that you all had a happy and safe Halloween, wherever you may be. We had a bit of a parade in the shop today with folks in costume; little and not so little alike. It got me to thinking. Earlier in the week, on my usual Wednesday off, I was finishing up a little business with some people whom I wasn’t familiar with, and was asked, “Do you always have a day off during the week?” I answered affirmatively, but explained that I work on Saturdays, which balances that out. But Saturdays are good days here at TWH; that’s the day that we receive the most foot traffic. More foot traffic means more interaction with more customers! A fairly regular Saturday customer popped in for another case of 2010 Château de Malleret (it wasn’t his first!), and as I helped him out, we got to chatting about it.

As anyone who has done so can attest to, bringing up Bordeaux with me will be met with much enthusiasm as well as a story or two. It started with the Malleret, and how pleased I was when I tasted it from bottle at a negociant’s office in Bordeaux. I explained to this gent that I was proud that I found such a wine that has been enjoyed so much by our customers (and staff) for such a reasonable price. I also pointed out that I probably don’t get to taste it if I just went to Bordeaux for the barrel samples. He then began to ask about the barrel samples and how one can appraise a wine not yet in bottle. This warrants a long story, so I’ll spare you that one. The short of it is, speaking for myself, you can’t. At least I can’t tell you what it’s going to taste like 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years down the road. I explained that a bottle of wine is a living thing, and that tasting a barrel sample and describing its complexity 20 years in the future is tantamount to pointing at an infant and declaring it to be a Senator. BUT – tasting a barrel sample does give you an overall impression of a wine’s potential structure, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and most important, balance. Taste enough samples from various appellations, and one gets an impression of the overall character of the vintage. I know, I know. It must be nice … It’s work. Trust me on that one.

Back in late March/early April, I was in Bordeaux for the annual tastings. I arrived on the Wednesday before the hectic week, giving me time to visit growers and negociants. The UGC tastings are important, as that is where many of the well-known chateaux pour their samples. But these days we know there aren’t any bargains at a UGC tasting; hence the negociants’ tastings. I’ve come in habit of hitting one major tasting of barrel samples (see above photo) on Sunday. Hundreds of wines; many of which are petits chateaux. I said it was work, right? With the 2014 vintage, I found many samples to my liking. I get particularly excited when I like one and I know that it’s going to be inexpensive. This year the barrel sample that packs the most quality for the lowest price for me is the 2014 Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc. Not being used to the current dollar/euro conversion rate, I was thinking $18-$20 in my head when I tasted it. I felt it worthy. My tasting note ended with “The right stuff.” Underlined. “Good, honest wine”, I called it. It had excellent weight, pleasant extract, the right amount of acidity and tannin, and most importantly, all in balance. When I got back and we crunched the numbers, we offered it as part of our 2014 futures. $13. Not a typo. $13. For a bottle of Bordeaux. Okay, not yet a bottle, but for a bottle in the future. $13. What?

Okay, one must have a modicum of patience when they buy Bordeaux futures. They take 3 years after vintage to arrive stateside. The 2014 Château Sénéjac will arrive here by the end of 2017. When it does, it probably won’t be $13 (if any is unsold in the first place). Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had to say about the 2014 Sénéjac:
“The Château Sénéjac 2014 has a fresh, lively bouquet, energetic blackberry and boysenberry fruit leaping from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied and tones it down a little. But there is commendable energy here, well-judged acidity and plenty of blackberry and raspberry fruit on the finish that linger long in the mouth. This comes recommended. (89-91 points)”

With Halloween behind us and November upon us, we will be unveiling our 38th Anniversary Sale very, very soon. Keep an eye out for that. For those of you who are experienced with buying Bordeaux futures, a six-pack of Sénéjac is a no-brainer. For those of you who have never bought them, here’s a low cost opportunity to partake in the exercise, which is actually quite fun and exciting once the wine arrives. Seriously, $13. Do you like wine? $13. Boom!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Haut-Medoc, Peter Zavialoff

A Taste Of Burgundy – October 2015

October 2015

For those seeking savings on two bottles of Burgundy; whether you’re a beginner, and want to learn more about the region, or if you know a little and wish to learn more, or even if you’re an established Burg lover, our bi-monthly Taste of Burgundy club is for you! Sign up today.

Basic Facts for those of you who are new to the program: Every two months we select two Burgundies, one red and one white. We include write-ups detailing the background of the grower, the vineyard source, and the wine. Finally we knock a significant percentage off the prices of the wines, making the Sampler price $89.98. If you would like us to add you to the Sampler Club and receive the wines regularly, please notify us in the comments field, and we will charge your card accordingly. If you would like us to ship faster than the standard ground service, please specify this as well.

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Vigne Blanche
Château de la Maltroye

Château de la Maltroye dates back to 1940 when the Burgundian property was purchased by current owner/winemaker Jean-Pierre Cornut’s grandfather. Jean-Pierre’s father, André worked at the château for 20 years before handing the reins to his son in 1993. Their holdings consist of 15 hectares planted to both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Premier Cru Morgeot Vigne Blanche vineyard lies in the southern part of Chassagne, along a contiguous belt of Premier Cru vineyards that wind down in a southerly direction from the château. Jean-Pierre admits that the quality of his 2013s was “a huge surprise”, as the cold, damp spring was a challenge for many growers. Though yields were lower than average, Jean-Pierre went on to say that his 2013s are, “very floral and elegant and I’m not sure that even 2010 was as transparent to the underlying terroir as is 2013.” The aromas are of citrus and spice with a floral overtone. The palate is powerful and concentrated, yet well balanced. A cellar selection, this will be at its best from 2020 to 2030.

2013 Fixin-Hervelets 1er Cru
Domaine Bart

Martin Bart and his nephew Pierre run this 22 hectare estate which has holdings in some prime vineyards in the northern Côte de Nuits. Of Fixin’s five main Premier Cru vineyards, three of them are monopoles, the other two, Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets are not. Wines that come from Les Arvelets can be bottled as Les Hervelets, but not vice-versa. This wine comes from a 1.5 hectare parcel that is literally split 50/50 between them. These two vineyards lie just north of the other Premier Crus on a gentle slope which is less rocky. The wines from these two vineyards have a reputation for being fine and elegant. Though in 2013, the wine bears a strong resemblance to a top-notch Premier Cru from Gevrey-Chambertain. Bart compares the 2013 vintage to the 2012, citing lower than average production, yet of excellent quality. The elegant bouquet is alive with violets and purple berries with a distinct earthy mineral framework. The palate is fairly sturdy with a round middle exhibiting the expressive fruit with its earthiness and a hint of rusticity. The finish is balanced and focused. This should hit its window starting in 2021 and last well over a decade.Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under A Taste of Burgundy, Burgundy club in San Francisco, Peter Zavialoff, Wine Clubs/Samplers