Every once in a while, a customer will ask us how we resist temptation, working in a place surrounded by bottles of wine from all over the world. The answer is: we don’t resist it; we like wine, so we drink it. Okay, we spend far more time here in the shop than any customer would, so from a time spent in shop per bottle purchased ratio, it may appear that we do resist temptation … most of the time. While stocking our sales floor this morning, it wasn’t a surprise to find several empty bins that needed refilling. Apart from their emptiness, the other thing these bins had in common were the orange sale signs; there are a solid dozen or so wines around the shop that I would consider outright steals now that they have been marked down. On the short list of the finest of these wines is the NV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Le Mesnil Sur Oger Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
For me, Champagne is one of those wines that I unfortunately don’t get to drink as often as I would like, but before the orchestra of the world’s smallest violins starts up, I will say that I do make a point to do so from time to time. For celebrations, it’s a given. To pair with fried chicken, it’s a must. To share a meal and some time with someone special, a toast with real Champagne makes it complete. Several years ago, I wrote about summer and Champagne, and heeding my own advice, I’m not going to let summer go by without continuing the tradition.
We’re all fans of quality Grower Champagnes in general, though we’re even bigger fans of the wines produced by Pascal and Laure Doquet! The wines have layers of complexity which have garnered the attention of esteemed critics and TWH customers who love Champagne. This non-vintage, 100% Chardonnay Grand Cru Champagne has expressive aromas of citrus blossoms, apricots, pears, and a sleek, stony mineral nerve. On the palate, one gets a hint of brioche in addition to the fresh fruit, mineral, and a hint of hazelnut. The finish is high-toned and perfectly balanced. It’s a stunning wine at a very fair price. Champagne isn’t cheap, but the sale price on this one makes it one sweet deal!
We’re one week shy of Labor Day Weekend, which for some of us comes with an extra celebration. Another TWH tradition worth mentioning is that birthdays for staff members are celebrated with something sparkling at the end of the day. I think we now know what I’ll have a hankering for next week: The NV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Sur Oger Blanc de Blancs Champagne. What temptation? – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments regarding sale wines, Champagne in summer, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
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 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perrières, Domaine Pernot-Belicard
Despite the challenges presented during the growing season, the bottled 2013 white Burgundies have proven to be of fine quality. Much like 2007, it’s a great vintage for those who enjoy sleek, crisp, snappy wines with balance and freshness. TOB regulars need no introduction to Philippe Pernot, grandson of Puligny legend, Paul Pernot. Marrying into a family of winegrowers with holdings in both Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, Philippe and his wife farm over 6 hectares of them. In Puligny-Montrachet, you can find Premier Cru Les Perrières along the same slope as neighboring Clavoillon. Continuing in a southwesterly direction, Les Pucelles comes next, followed by Bâtard-Montrachet. That is one special slope! The 2013 Pernot-Belicard Puligny Perrières is a racy, mineral-driven Puligny with fine lemon peel, wet stone, and spicy vanilla aromas. The palate is crisp and complex as the fleshy apple pie fruit stays in balance with the zesty freshness leading to that snappy finish. Drinking window: Now – 2023.
2013 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Boudriotte, Château de la Maltroye
Jean-Pierre Cornut couldn’t help mentioning his good fortune as his holdings were spared from the hailstorms that hit the northern part of the Côte de Beaune in 2013. And believe it or not, despite the overall reports of diminished yields from the vintage, Jean-Pierre’s reds came in as expected with very little sorting required! “The quality of the 2013’s was a huge surprise as I honestly didn’t expect it,” Cornut added. He also mentioned that he felt that the transparency of the terroir was more significant in 2013 than any recent vintage, including 2010. His Premier Cru La Boudriotte vineyard in Chassagne-Montrachet produced an outstanding wine in 2013. The nose is alive with fresh red berry fruit, earthy minerals, herbs and spice. The brambly fruit and earthy tones are concentrated mid-palate, with the zippy freshness holding the structure all together. There is rich complexity on the finish, suggesting the wine can be enjoyed in its youth, though we recommend you drink it from 2018 through 2029. – Peter Zavialoff
The new vintage of Sanguineti’s Cannonau di Sardegna has finally arrived at the store! The response to last year’s offer was so enthusiastic, we made sure to double up on quantities. That said, once it’s gone, it’ll be gone until the next vintage as we have only one shot at ordering this wine. The introductory 2013 vintage was delicious and I predicted it would probably end up being winemaker’s Antonio Sanguineti’s most successful offering. Sure enough, I was right. Antonio upped his production by securing more grapes from his friends on the island, those same friends for whom he works for as a consultant. So to those who bought the 2013 and loved it, I am confident the 2014 will not disappoint. As a whole, 2014 was a difficult vintage for red wines in Italy, especially in northern appellations where August rains caused havoc. However, these unfavorable weather conditions did not reach as far south as Sardinia and Sicily, where in fact the vintage is considered excellent.
Antonio in the forefront
Cannonau is the most widely planted red grape on Sardinia. The common belief is that Cannonau is the same grape as Spain’s Garnacha, though some purists and ampelographers aren’t so sure. After reading a lengthy article laying out a scientific argument for whether or not Cannonau and Garnacha are the same grape, I concluded that for most of the wine drinking population – who cares? What is important to note is that there is commonality in flavor profile between them and so it’s natural to recommend a Cannonau di Sardegna to anyone who is an enthusiast of southern red Rhônes and Spanish Garnacha or visa versa. Though I’ve heard from our customers on more than one occasion that for their palate, Cannonau di Sardegna is far more interesting and pleasurable than most Grenache they’ve tried. Again Mother Nature shows us that something planted here does not taste the same when planted over there – one of the many reasons why I find wine endlessly interesting.
Stocked and ready for purchase
Antonio sources his Cannonau grapes near the seaside town of Villesimius which sits along the southeastern tip of the island. Unoaked, this red is jam-packed with dusty berry flavors buoyed up by a complementary thread of acidity that keeps the flavors popping. The aromas are a mix of fresh and faded berry notes and some dried herb. Overall it has a smooth presence on the palate, making it pleasurable sipping on its own, though at the table is where it really sings. This is not a monster red, but it will stand up to beef and lamb. Fire up the grill!
This is how we do Paella! (no relevance to this newsletter)
School started for my daughter this week. It was a bit of a shock getting up so early for all of us except for the dog who remained snoozing in his bed. It probably wouldn’t have been as painful for me if I hadn’t stayed up so late watching the Olympics. It was well worth it. School might have started but summer is not over yet! I’ve got at least until after Labor Day, right? So far, this summer has been wonderful. Far less stressful than the last couple of summers and filled with family gatherings, visits with friends and excursions around Northern California. This weekend I’m going to lay low and catch up with household chores (mostly filling out and signing paperwork for school). A trip to the Farmer’s Market is a must as it’s SHOWTIME there with summer’s harvest in full swing. I’ll probably end up buying way too many tomatoes (not really, not possible!), squash and fruit. My husband will be grilling something on the Weber and the 2014 Cannonau di Sardegna from Sanguineti will be in my glass. Cheers to an endless summer!– Anya Balistreri
It sure has been an interesting week. On one hand, it’s the middle of August. Most of France is on holiday and I’ve always been under the impression that these waning summer days before school begins again are the official “dog days.” This perception needs updating. While having lunch at a restaurant the other day (still in search of the best French Dip in the North Bay), I overheard two people talking about school starting. As in this week! What??!! It’s August 14th! Anya confirmed this today as her daughter is less than a week from her first day. Seriously, where does the time go? It’s a good thing we have wine in our lives. Meant for pleasure rather than scrutiny; each bottle is a living thing made from a combination of elements including soil, grape variety, winemaker, and vintage. In the wine biz, we sometimes get caught up in only thinking about a wine region’s quality during a given year, but it also leaves us an opportunity to reminisce. This week, I am reminiscing with 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas.
To start, I must confess that I am a longtime fan of Gigondas. Back in the day, each night after my band finished practicing at Lennon Studios South of Market, we would pack it up and head over to Ruby’s Restaurant on 3rd Street where a friend worked as chef de cuisine. He always took good care of us, and would usually join us at the table after his shift. They had a reasonably priced Gigondas on the list, and it was our go-to dinner wine for years. It was probably around the 5th or 6th time we ordered it, that Mr. Ruby himself took a seat at our booth and inquired exactly how a group of 20-something rockers came to order Gigondas. “Michael (the chef) told me that you’re really into food and wine, but what makes this wine so special that you keep ordering it?” Ruby asked.
“It’s a food wine,” I replied. “There are all sorts of fancy wines out there, many of them are made to impress critics, and that provides no service for the diner. This Gigondas is balanced and elegant. It was made to enjoy with dinner. And you can’t beat the price.”
This seemed to put him at ease, and he agreed wholeheartedly. As we continued our patronage, Ruby would often sit with us for dinner and conversation. He would offer us tastes of the many other wines that he had on his list, but we would always drink the Gigondas with our dinner. Nobody complained. Ever.
When the first Tour de l’Isle wines arrived at TWH, I was excited to see that they made Gigondas, and was not going to waste any time waiting to taste it. I did, and that’s why I’m typing. At the helm of the Tour de l’Isle label is Robert Rocchi. Robert has been involved with the wines of the southern Rhône Valley for over 35 years! Rocchi works with a select handful of growers in the area and assists and advises them on how to produce the finest wine from their holdings. As Anya likes to say, “He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” The 2012 Gigondas is comprised of 70% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, and 12% Syrah, all aged in large foudre. The Mourvèdre gives it some gamey backbone, the Syrah some smokiness, but this is an Old World Grenache lover’s dream. It displays aromas of red and black fruit, spice and herbs, some forest floor earthiness, and a hint of iron. The palate is focused and layered, the elegant fruit persists long after the finish. No, he’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.
2012. Sure, I have opinions on vintage quality, particularly in Bordeaux, but also the southern Rhône Valley. But seeing this particular year on the label got me reminiscing about the year itself. Looking back, it was a pretty good one. For me, it was the year of the live show.I went to more concerts than I had in any other year, and by the time it ended, it was me back on stage after taking a few years off from performing live. It was a magical year for European Football as the club I support won club football’s grandest prize in dramatic fashion. A local baseball team did very well also! The trip to Bordeaux was a successful one, especially considering it was in 2012 when I was able to taste Château Coutet’s dry white, Opalie for the very first time. Shortly thereafter, the 2010 vintage of the wine was released to the world and The Wine House San Francisco was the world’s first wine merchant to offer it! So yeah, great year.
Well, it is mid-August. That’s a fact. I suppose just like any other time of the year, it means different things to different folks. Thousands of kids in the North Bay will be back in school this week, but the French will remain on holiday. My perception of the dog days will continue, as will my quest for the best French Dip. When I find it, it may be a good idea to have a bottle of 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas handy. After all, it’s a great food wine! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about summer’s dog days, French Dip sandwiches, Gigondas, or Bordeaux: peter@wineSF.com
“The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco” is famously attributed to Mark Twain, yet there is no evidence he ever wrote or muttered these words. Nonetheless, the quote holds true. San Francisco has been blanketed by a deep and chilling marine layer. It’s Summer in the City! Driving to the store this morning, I had to turn on my windshield wipers just as I passed through the Robin Williams Tunnel and could see the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh, how I love this view!
Shifting over to wine, there happens to be a winemaker, also named Twain, or more accurately, Morgan TWAIN Peterson, who has been delivering some of the finest Zinfandel in the state. I’ve been singing his praises from his very first vintage, and like a proud mother (Morgan and my daughter happen to share the same birthday – how sweet is that!), have been telling anyone who would listen to try his Bedrock Wine Co. wines. The series of wines he makes from old vine, field blend vineyards are not just delicious but are a way of honoring these historic sites. Regrettably, the economics of producing wine has all too often led folks to rip out old vineyards containing Zinfandel, and who knows what else, that were planted by immigrants wanting to create a taste of home. Morgan has worked diligently to identify, restore and preserve these sites by founding the Historic Vineyard Society.
2014 Old Vine Zinfandel
Lucky for us, Morgan makes an Old Vine Zinfandel that is on par with his heritage vineyard wines in quality, but is more budget friendly. Morgan writes that the Old Vine Zinfandel is “perhaps the most important wine we make” because there is more of it than the limited production and highly allocated, single-vineyard Zinfandels, and therefore acts as an introduction to the winery. The Old Vine Zinfandel is also “an invaluable tool” because a few of the vineyards that go into this cuveé were neglected, old vineyards that Morgan has nursed back to life that are not quite ready for individual designation. The multiple vineyard sources that go into the 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel include Bedrock, Papera and Pagani Ranch. Aged in French oak barrels, the 2014 Old Vine is a tremendous value for full-throttle, well-balanced Zinfandel. Though I think most people will end up drinking this wine sooner than later, Morgan writes that he is pretty convinced “that it will age gracefully for over a decade”.
Naked Ladies along the fence
Without looking at a calendar, I know August has arrived. The night-filling sound of chirping crickets that lull me to sleep is my first clue. The second clue are the naked ladies that line up along my driveway. Naked ladies? Yes, naked ladies, aka Belladonna Amaryllis, those gorgeous, lightly-scented pink flowers that erupt from the ground, unadorned by foliage. And the third clue is the market arrival of my favorite apples, Gravensteins – tangy, sweet and crunchy! I’ll be heading north this weekend to escape the marine layer and get a little wine country action under my belt. For Sunday’s dinner on the deck, I am contemplating grilled tri tip with the 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel. Now doesn’t that sound like a proper summer meal! – Anya Balistreri
If you’re a fan of summer fruits and vegetables, this is your month! There’s no peach better than an August peach, and visit to a farmers’ market this month can inspire the laziest of us to dust off the apron and whip up an array of fresh victuals. To help enjoy the fruits of your labor, may we suggest the August Dirty Dozen? 12 different wines, all chosen for their versatility, packed in a handy box with pairing suggestions for one low price. BooYah!
Reorder Special !!! 20%off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2012 Chardonnay HIP, Hedges $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
A fantastic value for domestic Chardonnay, this Washington State white is crisp and lively made in an unoaked, Chablis style. All of the fruit comes from the Dionysus vineyard, planted in 1973 on the east side of the Columbia River. Expect snappy apple flavors and a clean finish. Serve with grilled chicken, fried calamari or Baja fish tacos.
2013 Aligoté, Domaine Fichet $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Domaine Fichet broke away from the local co-op to make wine on their own beginning in 1976. Situated in Igé, just north of Mâcon, Fichet planted a bit of Aligoté in 1998. It is textbook Aligoté with its bright acid finish. Traditionally, Aligoté is used for making Kir. So if inclined – add a bit of Cassis – otherwise pair alongside oysters, prawns or fresh goat cheese.
2014 Côtes du Rhône La Source, Mourchon $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder
La Source is a classic blend of 6 Rhône varietals: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. The vines average 40 years of age. Flavors of underripe apricot and white peach dominate the palate. It works well with sushi, poke, ceviche and fresh spring rolls. A screw cap makes opening easy!
2014 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $15.99, $12.79 reorder
As summer’s bounty bursts to life at local farmers’ markets with dazzling aromas, colors, and flavors, we can’t help but feel the same for Ambra and Franco Tiraboshi’s Lugana and its panoply of expression. Fresh melons, stone fruit, orchard fruit, and a kiss of honey all linger on the palate. A great choice to pair with breaded flounder filets and fresh zucchini.
2013 Grüner Veltliner Liter, Hofer $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Once the darling of hipster somms everywhere, Grüner Veltliner continues to enjoy a loyal following of those of us who love dry, crisp, herbaceous white wines; especially in the summer! Keeping it real, the Austrians bottle some of these in full liter size with beer bottle caps. A fresh green bean salad with green goddess dressing would be great with this.
2014 Rosé, Grange des Rouquette $7.95 sale price, $7.55 reorder
Here’s one for the anti-wine snob folks. Rosé made from 100% Syrah using the saignée method, or the bleeding off of the pink juice during fermentation of red wine. Rosé wines made using this technique tend to be rich, intense, and long lived. It is perfectly acceptable to enjoy this with an ice cube or two as you mow through an order of hot chicken wings.
2014 Garnacha, Santo Cristo $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
This 100% Garnacha, aka Grenache, is a perfect example of why so many believe that the best values for wine in the world come from Spain. The concentration and depth of flavor here is head scratching when considering the price tag. Juicy, deep plum and blackberry flavors are uplifted with spice and dusty tannins. Try it with Santa Maria style tri-tip.
2014 Monte Reale, Garofoli $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Traveling east from Tuscany towards the Adriatic Sea, Sangiovese continues its dominance. In the Marche, Sangiovese is often lighter and fruitier. This makes for a pleasant, versatile drink. Monte Reale is entirely tank-fermented Sangiovese. Expect flavors of cherries, cherries, and more cherries. Pair with capellini tossed with fresh tomatoes and Genovese basil!
2015 Pinot Noir 375ml can, Underwood $5.98 net price, $5.38 reorder
A can of Pinot Noir? Sure, why not, we are not snobs! The innovative packaging is convenient for toting along on hikes, picnics in the park, floating down rivers, or any August activity that takes you outdoors. Inside the can is 100% Oregon Pinot Noir with its medium bodied cherry-laden fruit, soft tannins and notes of cola. Simply perfect with a deli sandwich.
2012 Ventoux Fayard, Domaine Fondrèche $16.99, $13.59 reorder
On a serious note, Domaine Fondrèche has the finest terroir in what was once called the Côte de Ventoux, on the eastern side just beneath snow capped Mont Ventoux. It’s half Grenache, all tank fermented. The other half is barrel aged Syrah and Mourvèdre which gives the wine depth, complexity, and texture. This calls for a dry rubbed beef tenderloin.
2012 Bergerac, Château Calabre $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Of course there’s a statue of Cyrano in Bergerac, but that’s not what the region is famous for. The red wines of Bergerac are composed of the same grapes one finds at the hallowed chateaux of nearby Bordeaux, but the pricing is much more appealing. This rustic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon comes in screwcap; great for a picnic!
2010 Château La Gorre, Médoc $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder
Speaking of Bordeaux, here we have a delicious, affordable Claret from the remarkable 2010 vintage. Full bodied with fine balance, the La Gorre outdrinks its price point considerably. It shows concentrated aromas of cassis, black cherry, and earthy mineral. When you see that perfect steak at the butcher, it’s great to know you have this waiting for it.
We interrupt this summer time to bring you … wait. It’s almost August. These are truly the dog days of summer. We all need to just chill. I don’t want to interrupt anybody’s summer. Relax. Have fun. Visit with friends. Visit with family. Travel. Repeat. This is what August is all about. No need for any deep thinking here. When I come home from work and start prepping dinner on a summer evening, I want something cool and crisp in my glass. Sure, I would love some Burgundy, but that’s special wine. Burgundy is better suited for company and more special an occasion than Monday night dinner prep. In order to have this bottle properly chilled by Monday night, I need to bring it home when I leave work on Saturday. The wine that I keep grabbing each Saturday so far this summer? The 2015 Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire.
Do you remember Domaine de Pouy? Many of us have fond memories of Domaine de Pouy and the affordable quaffability it provided. I’ve heard many customers romanticize about how it “got me through grad school,” or “just pairs with everything.” Anya even served it at her wedding and also informed me that it was the cornerstone of The Dirty Dozen, as it was a consistent component during the DD’s early days. The Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire is essentially the same wine as the Domaine de Pouy. Both labels are owned by the same family, formerly run by Yves Grassa, and are now in the hands of his two sons Rémy and Armin. Both wines are blends of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Gros Manseng. Both wines are delightfully light and crisp, and they both have that kiss-of-honey finish. They are the same wine.
Historically, the Gascogne region produces distillates, and the Grassa family’s bas-Armagnac is prized for its quality. The family thought high enough of the quality of their grapes to make wine from them as well, and what a service they have provided for us! Every now and then I peruse the wine selections when I’m shopping at supermarkets and grocery stores. In general, I haven’t found anything below $10 per bottle that give me any reason to revisit. That is why I’ve been leaving with a bottle of Les Tours every weekend. It’s a no-brainer white. It’s not an interruption; it’s delicious, inexpensive, and low in alcohol (10.5%).
Call it coincidence, but this coming Monday is the first of August. How kind of the calendar makers to give us back to back 31 day months in summer. However you plan to spend August 2016, we hope it is full of wonderful moments, great meals, your favorite people, and memorable wines. Please excuse this interruption. I tried to be brief. I could have just said, “2015 Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire. It’s $9.17 per bottle by the case. It’s light, crisp, and delicious.” Happy summer! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Domaine de Pouy, wines from southwest France, summer plans, or the upcoming football season: peter@wineSF.com