2014 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Blanc

Fondrèche Ventoux Blanc
TWH has been proudly carrying the wines of Fondrèche ever since Sébastien Vincenti joined his mother, Nanou Barthelémy, in making wine at the domaine in the mid-1990’s. Sébastien quickly gained recognition for making some of the finest wines from Ventoux, often scoring 90 points or above in many wine journals, notably The Wine Advocate. Early on, Sébastien became interested in the principle of sustainable farming. He farmed organically and adopted many of the ideas of biodynamic farming. Not one to conform, he recently withdrew his organic certification since becoming officially certified in 2009. Sébastien cited that in order to stay true to his philosophy of organic farming he can’t be restricted by rigid rules (if you want to learn more about it, click here).

Only 4% of the wine production of the Ventoux is white; I’d say that’s pretty miniscule. Fortunately, Fondréche makes a blanc using Grenache, Roussanne and a bit of Clairette and Rolle (aka Vermentino). I’ve been eyeing the 2014 Ventoux blanc, which arrived at the end of last year, wanting to take it home to see how it performs with a home-cooked meal. This week I bought a bottle because I was in the mood for a fuller white that would maintain minerality and was not Chardonnay (no offense Chardonnay – I remain a fan forever!). My daughter put in a request for oven fried chicken. I was more than happy to oblige because who doesn’t love super crispy skin and I had a hunch that the 2014 Ventoux blanc would pair well with it.

The 2014 Ventoux blanc has seductive roasted and smoky aromatic notes. It could lure you into thinking it is Chardonnay, as it did my husband, but once you take a sip, it’s evident that it is something else. The flavors are less apple/pear like Chardonnay and more peach skin and under ripe apricots. The saline finish keeps things fresh and vibrant. Though it paired nicely with the chicken, this wine has enough attack to pair with fish dishes. The Ventoux blanc was aged in barrel for six months which lends it a supple texture and adds complexity. The oak treatment is quite deft, leaving the fruit to do most of the talking. I’ve tasted Chateauneuf du Pape blancs with far less character and verve. The 2014 Ventoux blanc is a very strong value in the context of upper-level Rhône whites.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; so, yes, I’ll be watching Super Bowl 50 with friends at a party. I don’t have a horse in the race, so I’ll mostly be savoring the snacks. The Bay Area has been all a buzz with the impending game for obvious reasons, so to pretend that I can avoid it seems silly. My taste for football has waned in the last decade or so. I think it has something to do with becoming a mother; I can’t bare to see anyone get hurt. That said, watching an NFL football game brings out the worse in me in no time. Before I know it, I’m yelling “get him”, “smash him”, or worse! The adrenaline starts pumping and my normally pacifist self is ready for a fight. I am a much better, gentler person when I watch baseball. Don’t miss kick off!– Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Ventoux

2013 Marsannay From Domaine Bart


Burgundy Bonanza!!!
Domaine Bart

Martin Bart and his nephew Pierre have made truly inspired 2013s. They take a back seat to no recent vintage. Bart makes nine, count ’em, nine, different Marsannays. Normally I buy two or three of my favorites, feeling that there’s no reason to confuse everyone. In 2013 I bought eight of the nine. They’re all fabulous, in their own way, and if you value terroir in your Burgundy, you’ll be thrilled by any of them.

They’re all slightly different, each parcel with varying degrees of calcaire, clay, marl, and each with slightly different expositions, varying degrees of stems retained in the wine, very small variations in the amount of new oak (none have more than a third, most less than that), but all are farmed in the same manner, all are fermented using only natural yeasts, and all are bottled without fining or filtration. Several are micro cuvées – the Les Saint Jacques, for instance, was three barrels – 75 cases for the world. The Clos du Roy, just two.

Below are my tasting notes from my visit at Domaine Bart in November 2014, just before the wines were to be bottled. First, the Marsannays:


13ouzeloyOuzeloy – significantly more concentrated than Finottes, lots of black cherry, deep sandy soil, 15% new oak. This sure bodes well for the group. *
longeroies13

 

 

Longeroies – calcaire, marl, gently sloping parcel; intense fragrance, delicious, structured, very nice sweetness *+

 

13montagneMontagne – more rocky soil, nearly south facing slope, similar profile to Longerois, with maybe just a touch more plump middle. *+

13echezots

 

 

Echezots – more limestone on this parcel; good acidity, a bit closed down at first, but with air it sings. Both red and black fruits, very complex already. *(*)

 

13stjacquesSt. Jacques – 3 barrels; 1 new. Bigger scaled than all the others before it; needs time, but all the parts are there. This is serious wine. *(*)

13grvignes

 

 

Grandes Vignes – 20% whole clusters. Yes, it is “grand.” very concentrated, structured, deep, long, lots of black fruit and spice.**

 

13closroyClos du Roy – 50+ year old vines. same soil composition as Bonnes Mares – mainly calcaire 50% whole clusters. A step up, even from the St. Jacques and Grandes Vignes. This reminds me of 1er Cru Gevrey Chambertin; would love to sneak this into a Gevrey tasting.**

13salomon

 

Champs Salomon – Also 50+ yrs old. This has even more grip. That’s why he poured it after the Clos du Roy. Again, layers of dark fruit, with plenty of structure. The richest wine of the group. *(*)

These have the structure along the lines of 2005 or 2010. An incredibly impressive lineup.

 

Then, we have the glorious Grand Crus. These two vineyards came to Domaine Bart, as did much of their Marsannay, from the dissolution of the once-venerable Clair-Daü estate in the 1980’s. We get miniscule quantities of these, and they are worth seeking out!

13closbezeChambertin Clos du Bèze –5 barrels made from 1/2 ha. 40% stems, but impossible to tell. Incredible perfume – violets, black fruits, spice, and it’s plush and seamless on the palate. I could just smell this all day. Dense, but with no rough edges. Oh la la! ***

13bonnemares

Bonnes Mares – 10 barrels. Bart’s parcels are next to those of Comte de Vogüe. Bigger structure than the Clos de Bèze, quite a powerful wine. Gorgeous fruit quality that lasts and lasts, with a stony/mineral note; long, intense, so expressive. Wow. ***

These two wines will age effortlessly for two decades. Both are absolutely worth the price, and really, they’re bargains when compared with similar Grand Crus from other producers. Both are extremely limited. – David Netzer

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Filed under David Netzer, Domaine Bart, Marsannay, Pinot Noir

The February 2016 Dirty Dozen


The Dirty Dozen
It’s February, and for the first time since 2012, we get 29 days instead of 28! That means one extra day to taste some great wine. February comes with plenty of occasion to do such a thing; you know, Presidents’ Day, Valentines’ Day, and winer break are all very good reasons to open something nice … Oh yeah, then there’s that big pigskin game going on. All great reasons to grab a February Dirty Dozen today!

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



2014 Rosé, Domaine Saint Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder

True-blue Rosé lovers do not need a special season to enjoy the pleasures and versatility it offers us. This one from Saint Antoine is made from 100% Syrah and exhibits a red candied fruit nose. The palate is fruity and lively suggesting that one may enjoy this with a wide array of pairing partners. A warm bowl of chili or a spicy burrito will work well here.

2014 Costières de Nîmes Blanc Les Cimels, Château d’Or et de Gueules $15.99, $12.79 reorder

Comprised of 70% Grenache Blanc and equal parts Roussanne and Rolle (Vermentino), Les Cimels blanc lives up to its name which translates to “bouquet of fruit” in the old Occitan dialect. Orchard fruit, stone fruit, and citrus fruit nuances can all be picked up on the nose, and the palate is dry and crisp. Try it with seared scallops with an herb butter sauce.

2013 Pinot Grigio, Inacayal $13.99, $11.19 reorder

Pinot Grigio from 3000ft high vineyards in Argentina! The elevation keeps things cool at night, which is very important for white grapes to develop their acidity. Made more in the Alsatian style rather than that of Italian Pinot Grigios, the Inacayal has weight, displays a hint of earthy, mushroomy character, and finishes in balance. Fish tacos, anybody?

2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Bodhi Cellars $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

George Yount was the first white settler in the Napa Valley and the first to plant grape vines. The town of Yountville, home to The French Laundry, is named after him. Grapes are still grown here and this Sauvignon Blanc proves how delicious wines from this lesser-known Napa Valley sub-appellation can taste. Grassy, citrusy, and melon-like.



2014 “Free Run”, Upside Wines $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

A clever 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, the emphasis is on the fruit, so imagine flavors of ripe pear and peach with a touch of honeysuckle. Unbaked and vibrant, this soft-spoken wine would be perfect with roast chicken, braised winter greens, or Thai fish cakes.



2014 Chardonnay, Milou $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Milou made its DD debut over a year ago and ever since has been a staple, offering high quality at a value price. Grown on the plateau of Aspères in the Languedoc on soils similar to those found in Chablis, this wine is perfectly balanced between zippy citrus flavors and riper tropical notes like pineapple. Yummy with Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic.



2009 Pinot Nero, Isidoro Polencic $19.98 net price, $17.98 reorder

Italian Pinot Noir?? You betcha! This soft, elegant red has a delicate perfume and lovely fruity, earthy flavors. From Collio, a region that borders Slovenia which was annexed to Italy in 1918; wines from here are known for their pronounced aromatics and purity of fruit. Try it with risotto, prosciutto, or a long-braised goulash.



2014 Pinot Noir Le Versant, Foncalieu $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

This delicate and fruity French Pinot Noir is ideally suited for casual dining and simple fare. Fermented in steel tank, this Pinot Noir shows off the berry essence of the grape without any oak influence. The grapes are grown in Maraussan, a small village in the Languedoc, on chalky soils. Try with empanadas, dosas, steamed pork buns, or pirozhki.



2014 Heus Negre, La Vinyeta $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

This rugged, old-vine Spanish red is composed of Samsó (aka Carignan), Syrah, Garnaxta, and a smidgeon of Merlot. The vines for the Sansó and Garnaxta are over 50 years old! The grapes are hand picked and fermented in tank. Dark, tangy, and bitter cherry flavors dominate with pleasant cracked pepper and herb notes. Serve with Korean short ribs or bbq.

2012 Bergerac, Château Calabre $10.99, $8.79 reorder

Beyond Bordeaux’s eastern border, in the Dordogne, lie the communes of Montravel and Bergerac. TWH pal Daniel Hecquet farms Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon in his Bergerac vineyards and bottles this lovely three grape blend as a charming bistro wine. It has old-school character, so prepare for the herbal expression from the Cabernet Franc.



2012 Côtes-du-Rhône Les Boissières, Domaine Boudinaud $13.49, $10.79 reorder

The Côtes-du-Rhône has to be on a very short list of best red wine values the world over! They keep churning out delicious juice for a moderate price and we keep sippin’! Thierry Boudinaud’s CdR continues to charm us with its fruitiness, yet encourages us to pause and contemplate the complexity and weight. It’s the perfect meatball/pasta/pizza wine.



2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinum Africa $17.99, $14.39 reorder

Going all the way to South Africa for wine #12. UK expat Alex Dale is in charge of a few labels down there, and his Vinum Africa Cabernet Sauvignon is a quality-price leader. Sturdy and fuller bodied, the aromas have layers of earth and leather as well as the spicy Cabernet fruit. This would be great with a marinated skirt steak, frites, and the fixings.

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Filed under The Dirty Dozen, Wine Clubs/Samplers

A Sonoma Cab For Winter Fare: 2013 “E” From Enkidu


ENKIDU
Cold wintry weather, a warm cozy home, a delicious one-pot dish and a full-bodied red to share can add up to a magical night indoors. A good winter tuck-in is my favorite time to reach for a fuller, more loud red than I typically drink. One such red, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “E” from Enkidu, hit all the right marks for that distinctly new world, unabashedly full-styled wine. Big fruit, big aromatics, and yet still harmonious. If you’re in the mood for something less restrained, this Enkidu Cabernet Sauvignon is worth checking out.

Courtesy of Enkidu FB page

In retail, you must plan for the holidays. Keeping stock of the best wine in different categories at various price points is essential, but things can happen unexpectedly. All of a sudden, TWH needed a local Cabernet Sauvignon under $25, preferably from Sonoma or Napa but not necessarily, and, as we like to support the “little guys”, it had to be from a smaller producer. It was hectic around here and there was little time to be out searching and tasting new products. So I did what I often need to do in a pinch, rely on my relationships. I found a Cabernet Sauvignon I thought would fit the bill and asked the wine rep who sells it what they thought of the wine. If you’ve led me in the right direction before, I’m more than willing to listen to your advice. In this case, I was told that the wine I found was fine but what would better suit TWH is the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Enkidu. He explained the 2013 Enkidu Cabernet Sauvignon was well received and a hit at many Bay Area restaurants because of its fresh, rounded fruit. It’s yummy right out of the gate, er’ bottle.


On good faith, I brought in the wine. A sample was soon provided that was shared at a staff tasting. At first, I have to admit, I was hesitant and a bit skeptical; the label read 15.2% abv. That seems high to me, but I also know that numbers, especially in wine, can be deceiving. I was the first to try the wine and it put to rest any concerns I had upon first whiff. Deep berries, cocoa nibs, very expressive aromatics. The flavors on the palate mirror the aromatics adding notes of tangy fruit and seasoned barrel notes. It’s a delightful drink. Next up were the serious critics, my colleagues, and they too thought the Enkidu Cabernet Sauvignon was delightful. Even Pete, our resident Bordeaux Scout, found much merit in this affordable domestic Cabernet Sauvignon. We concluded that for customers who describe themselves as liking big reds, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, the Enkidu would be a great option for them! The price, at under $25, is an added bonus.

Courtesy of Enkidu FB page

Phil Staehle is the owner/winemaker at Enkidu. Phil cut his teeth at Carmenet Vineyards before starting his own business. The 2013 “E” Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County is sourced from a number of vineyards, mostly from the Sonoma Valley floor. An inclusion of 10% Petite Sirah from the Red Hills gives the wine girth and a touch of flamboyance. Phil writes in his tasting notes that he included a higher percentage of Moon Mountain District fruit which “raised the already very good quality of the “E” to the best yet of this bottling”.

I took the remnants of the sample bottle home. Curled up on the couch, watching the end of the Warriors game, I savored the rich, sweet fruit, delighting in the dark cherry, dusty cocoa, and brown sugar notes. Let me tell you, it sure was a pleasant way to end the day! -Anya Balistreri

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2013 Domaine des Corbillieres Touraine Rouge Les Demoiselles



Coming on the heels of our Top Ten Wines of 2015 list, I struggled while choosing a wine to write about this evening, as whatever I might choose would most likely suffer by comparison. But that’s okay. Top Ten wines are special. Special wines can have elevated price tags; that’s just how markets function, efficiently. If one is to incorporate moderate wine consumption into their lifestyle, the best recommendation that I can give is to be open and taste, taste, taste every wine that you have any interest in tasting. If you’re going to be tasting many wines over a shorter period of time, spit. Most wine tasting facilities offer spit buckets of some kind. So why exactly should we taste everything that we possibly can? Experience. No doubt we will taste wines that we really like, but we’ll also experience wines that don’t exactly hit home with our respective palates. Sometimes, we’ll even come across wines we do not like at all. That is all in everyone’s best interest. It’s important to try and understand why certain wines work for us while others don’t. This will make it easier to find wines to our liking in the future, not to mention unlocking the door to the treasure chest known as, “The best wine values!” A wine that certainly falls into that category is the 2013 Domaine des Corbillières Touraine Rouge Les Demoiselles.



Dominique and Véronique Barbou run the 26 hectare estate in the Loire Valley commune of Oisly, which is approximately 30 km east of Tours. Dominique’s great-grandfather, Fabel, purchased the property in 1923, and together with his grandson, Maurice, built the property up into its current form. TWH regulars are well aware of the tremendous value that the Barbou’s wines provide. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé are house favorites for many of us. Their Touraine Rouge Les Demoiselles has been one of my go-to reds for the better part of a decade. Usually made from Cabernet Franc, Loire Valley reds can be lighter bodied wines that exhibit distinct herbal qualites. Interestingly enough, the Barbou’s Touraine Rouge Les Demoiselles is made of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Côt (Malbec). For the 2013, the aromas are of lush, plump purple fruit which no doubt is the Côt’s influence. A second whiff reveals a brambly thicket undertone with hints of strawberries which we can attribute to the Pinot Noir. The palate entry is tangy and lively, with the woodsy Cabernet Franc coming into focus. The Côt provides a bit of weight on the palate and the Pinot Noir continues to express its aromatic complexity. The finish is crisp as the tangy mouth feel fades into the wine’s complexity. Being the sort of chap who usually reaches for white wine with his pork roasts or chops, I can easily build a case to pour this 2013 Les Demoiselles the next time I whip some up.

The 2013 Touraine Les Demoiselles isn’t going to make anyone forget about our Top Ten, but it has its place and will continue to provide food pairing pleasure to those who appreciate it. I still remember my very first encounter with a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I was perusing the selections at Mill Valley Market and decided it was time to taste a Chinon. I knew very little about Loire Valley wines at this point, as I was still regularly consuming domestic wines. Heeding my own advice mentioned above, I was on a mission to taste (and get to know) more wines out of my comfort zone. The wine was nothing like a rich, ripe, fancy oak barreled Napa Cabernet or the like. It was stemmy, woodsy, crisp and tangy. My palate was surprised to say the least. As I continued to taste more wines from different places, I weened myself from popular local wines and embraced the subtle differences of Old World wines; wines that were less fruit forward, lower in alcohol, which were particularly made to be enjoyed with a meal.


The best tidbit of wine advice that I ever received came from an old boss of mine many years ago, JT. He lived in Napa, collected wine, and knew personally many individuals in different facets of the wine biz. Shortly after hiring me, he learned that I was very interested in wine also. He then told me, “Don’t be concerned about critics and whether or not they like the wines that you like. If you like a wine and a critic pans it, it’s good for you! There will be more of it around and the price will remain low.” Sage advice. We remain friends to this day. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Loire Valley red wine, Bordeaux, Sauternes, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Loire Valley, Peter Zavialoff, Touraine

The Wine House SF – Top Ten Wines Of 2015


 

The Wine House SF
Our Top Ten Wines Of 2015

 

As we begin to settle in to 2016, we look forward to all of the new wines and new discoveries that await us. But before we head full-steam into the new year, a brief recap of 2015 in the form of a list of our Top Ten Wines is in order! Here at TWH, over the course of a year, we taste thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers. From all of these tastings, one can only imagine the difficulty in choosing which wines to import and/or to stock on our shelves. A very small percentage indeed. Taking all that into consideration, paring the list of those wines down to a neat Top Ten is quite the challenge. So many wines deserve a mention, but one important criterion consistent in each year’s Top Ten is this: A good story. After all, a bottle of wine is a living thing. And so are we. Good wine is meant to be shared, and that is the only tidbit of instruction that we offer to accompany this list. Life is short. Live a little. Share your wine. Smile. Repeat as often as you can.

For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wines from:

 


A few of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned on their merits. In no particular order, here are our Top Ten Wines of 2015:

 

2010 Domaine Sainte Barbe
Perle de Roche
Crémant de Bourgogne
We begin with bubbles. How can we not? With New Year’s Day festivities in our wake, it just makes sense. The 2010 Perle de Roche Crémant de Bourgogne from Domaine Sainte Barbe is very special indeed. In the day and age of mega-corporate Champagne producers flooding the market with their hundreds of millions of bottles, it’s refreshing to come across a small producer in Burgundy who cares for their Crémant like artisanal Grower-Champagne producers do. This fizz is dry, as only 4g/l of sugar are used, which is much lower than most wines labeled as “Brut.” Stony minerals are at its core, and its zippy nerve leads to a crisp, elegant finish. Winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland has not made this wine since his 2011 (which was produced in tiny quantities), and currently there isn’t any new Crémant in the pipeline. So what is left is all there is. For now.

 

2012 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Truly a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lovers’ CdP, Domaine du Pegau is a standard bearer for traditional, old-school wines from the wine capital of the southern Rhône. The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck puts it thusly, “Without a doubt, Domaine du Pegau is one of the top reference point estates for traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
He goes on to describe the wine, “One of my favorite wines, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is a classic. Beautiful on the nose, with notions of ground pepper, wild herbs, minerality and smoked plum and dark fruit, it’s medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and has plenty of tannin that comes through on the finish. Similar in style to a lighter-weight 2010, drink this beauty anytime over the coming 12-15 years. 94 points”

 

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache
On a field trip last summer, Anya paid a visit to the Scherrer winery during their annual open house. Having been on their mailing list since the winery’s early days in the 1990’s, she was very familiar with their various bottlings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. After another fine visit and tasting, as she was saying her good-byes, Fred Scherrer asked if she had time to taste one more wine. That’s a proposition that few wine geeks can resist, and Anya wasn’t about to buck the trend. He reached behind a barrel and revealed his 2012 Sonoma County Grenache. Knowing a bit about our selections of Grenache-based Rhône wines, Fred felt his Grenache would be a good fit with our customers. It is literally a single-vineyard bottling from Kick Ranch. Let’s just say that it went over so well that we are all in agreement about the wine’s ability to integrate the liveliness of southern Rhône Grenache with the juicy fruit expression of Sonoma County. We’re very happy to include the Scherrers in our Top Ten of 2015!

2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard Les Vaumuriens
It’s all in the family. Laurence Jobard and her sister, Miraille own Domaine Gabriel Billard. You may be familiar with Laurence from her 30 year tenure as oenologist at Maison Joseph Drouhin. The sisters now entrust Laurence’s daughter, Claudie with winemaking duty. Claudie has hit TWH’s Top Ten in the past, and does so again with this 2012 stunner. The domaine is a bit of a secret; they do not submit samples to any well-known publication or critic, and production is remarkably low.
After doing the research (delish!), and composing the write-up for the June 2015 Taste Of Burgundy, I asked David the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?” We popped a bottle at the end of a busy Friday during the Anniversary Sale/Holiday frenzy. I think Anya summed it up best when she said, “You know, I always love the inexpensive wines that we have in abundance here. I take a bottle of Gavi or a bottle of Côtes du Rhône home for dinner, and they always deliver, making me think, wow, what a goldmine. But then I taste a wine like this one and I get it. This is in another league; this is special.” The 2012 Pommard Vaumuriens is, for all intents and purposes, sold out. We do have a few bottles left of the 2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru Charmots, which is a qualitative upgrade from the Vaumuriens; but ultimately it’s about 2012 red Burgundy and the Jobard family magic!

2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s
The hits just keep coming! As the story goes, a sample bottle of the 2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s went out on a sales call to some fancy restaurants, and
when the remains showed back up in the shop after we closed that day, Chris and I were treated to more of that “another league” special kind of wine! Layers of all of the goodness a quality Côte Rôtie can provide, smoky, meaty, gamey, dark savory fruit, spice, and earthiness in a glass! It took every bit of willpower we had to not finish the bottle in order for Anya and Tom to get a taste the following day, and after they did, our euphoria for this wine is unanimous! The 2012 has sold out, but we still have some 2011 in stock, and 2013 on the way. I’m building a vertical of this one!
Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Pichat Champon’s, “Aged two years in 30% new oak, the 2012 Côte Rôtie le Champon exhibits gorgeous notes of black raspberry, sweet black cherry, smoked earth, herbs and dark chocolate. Pure, fine, elegant and layered, with medium to full-bodied richness, it too has a modern ting, but still has plenty of Côte Rôtie style. Drink it over the coming decade. 93 points”
And the 2011, “Comprised all of Syrah and aged 24 months in 40% new French oak, the 2011 Cote Rotie Champon’s exhibits a perfumed, complex bouquet of black raspberry, smoke, incense, saddle leather, violets and underbrush. This is followed by a medium to full-bodied, supple, elegant and pure 2011 that can be consumed any time over the coming 10-15 years. 92 points”

2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir
Sometimes you never know what might be coming your way; so it’s a good idea to be open to new things. Introduced to us by David through a connection made via one of his tasting groups, winemaker Matthew Iaconis visited TWH last year and introduced us to Brick & Mortar. By the time he left, we were all convinced that we were on to something. And that’s the beauty of small, family-style run wine shops – If you’re new and under-the-radar, have a good story, and bottle a quality wine, folks like us are approachable. We don’t need fancy marketing, big scores, or any other bells and whistles. If the wine is high in quality and represents good value, bam; everyone wins. Especially our customers! Speaking of which, I took a look at the list of customers who bought the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir, and it reads like a who’s who of Pinot Noir-centric customers who appreciate small production, off the radar, quality wines (a handful of which were in on Anthill Farms in the days before they caught on). We were delighted with the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir (and their other wines too!), and are looking forward to the next vintage!

2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole
The 2010 vintage for Barolo was an outstanding one. But hold on folks – Rather than gushing about the perfect conditions, we’d like to mention the challenges. First off, winter did not go away easily. Frosty conditions continued through March which delayed the start of the growing season. Temperatures remained cool throughout the spring and summer, and a fair amount of rain fell in June and October. Most estates harvested around mid-October which made for a long growing/ripening season. What we’ve got here is a modern classic vintage. Wines that will age very well and reward those with patience.
Giuseppe Vajra paid us a visit last year and poured some exquisite wines for us, including the 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole. Taking all that into consideration, this is yet another wine begging the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?”

2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna

Island wines. Who knew? We heard quite a bit about island wines in 2015. And when we purchased and subsequently offered the 2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna, we had no idea what was about to happen! First off, we sold through our stocks in record time. Then, we continued to receive inquiries in hopes that we could acquire more wine. Then, this posting received the most hits of the year on our blog. We ordered this wine on pre-arrival, so what was shipped to us was all there was going to be. The good news: All being said, we will be getting the next vintage soon. Stay tuned.

Cannonau is what they call Grenache in Sardinia. As written above, we are big fans of Grenache-based wines, both from the southern Rhône Valley and Sonoma County. Well, we can add another place of origin to the list as this island Cannonau exhibits wonderful round cherry fruit with layers of earth and herbs. Taking all of its quality into consideration, coupled with its value price, it’s no wonder that it was literally swept up in less than a week! Island wines? Now we know.

2012 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan Blanc

The 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc underlines one of our more important strategies when scouting for wines to import. Upon tasting Bordeaux’s 2012 vintage En Primeur in the spring of 2013, I visited negociants, the UGC Tastings, and had several appointments at some fancy chateaux. It takes a lot of concentration to not let bias and perceived quality differences distract from being in the moment and appraising what is in the glass at any given time. It is well documented that I am fond of dry white Bordeaux, though one can probably say that about all styles of wine from the region. Sticking with the dry whites, I usually taste samples of Haut Brion, La Mission Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, and several others; wines that will retail for close to $100. In the case of the first two I mentioned, it’s more like $700 per bottle. So yeah, the quality/price model is a bit out of whack here, so uncovering great value is a challenge. I vividly remember tasting the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc out of barrel at the UGC tasting at Château Olivier. It had the structure and balance that I look for in a barrel sample. In the back of my mind, I had an idea of what its approximate price would be, and had it on a short list of must haves.

Later that same day, I was sitting at dinner at my favorite chateau, when I was asked by the other guests to “defend” a wine. I mentioned how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated. Citing the tiny production, significant demand, the overall quality and ability to age well, I called out the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc as a dynamite value from a sector known for pricy wines. After the wine arrived here in our warehouse last summer, I was happy to read of The New York Times’ Eric Asimov’s endorsement of the 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc.This article, of course, helped the wine sell out. Last spring, I tasted the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc and I liked it every bit as much. With the stronger dollar, the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc is an even better value! Hmmm. Perhaps one of the Top Ten Wines of 2017?

2012 Château d’Issan, Margaux

Red Bordeaux. Margaux. The 2012 Château d’Issan. It’s funny. I never think about our Top Ten Wines list when I’m out tasting. But this one goes all the way back to the spring of 2013 and Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings. I tasted this at a large negociant tasting, as Château d’Issan does not participate in the UGC tastings. Tasting at this negociant’s can be quite overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of wines available. I try to pass on most of the wines that I will have other opportunities to taste in order to get to as many as possible. The barrel sample of 2012 d’Issan floored me. Using descriptors such as classy, silky, sexy, expressive, and nothing overboard meant this wine was a textbook example of a great barrel sample. My note ends with, “The star so far.” I was asked several times during this tasting by various members of the negociant’s staff what my impressions were and if I had any favorites. I pointed them all to the d’Issan and witnessed their happy reactions after tasting. When I returned from Bordeaux, I sat down with David to discuss the 2012 vintage. I told him that I liked the reds and whites from Pessac-Léognan, the wines from Barsac, Margaux, and Pomerol. David answered that yes, he had read about Pessac and Pomerol, but regarding Margaux, he said, “You’re kind of on your own here, because nothing I’ve read had anything great to say about Margaux.” Hey, what can I say; I taste what I taste. Maybe it was the d’Issan in particular, though there were other Margaux wines that I felt confident enough in to include the appellation among my favorites.

Fast forward to November of 2014. Augustin Lacaille from Château d’Issan visited us here at TWH and poured a few wines including the newly bottled 2012. My expectations were not in line with reality. Fortunately, neither was the wine. It’s off the charts! The best thing is that it isn’t off the charts when it comes to price. Bravo to the team at Château d’Issan for their outstanding 2012!

And there you have it. Another exciting year in wine has passed, another new year awaits. Well, we’re not waiting. It’s only the 13th of January, but we’re already out there tasting new wines to stock on our shelves. Trips to Europe are being planned, and of course, the Bordeaux UGC tastings of the 2013 vintage are set to hit the US at the end of the month. There’s no rest in the wine biz. All the best for a great 2016!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2012 Red Burgundy, Cannonau, Cremant de Bourgogne, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Pessac-Leognan, Peter Zavialoff, Pommard, Top Ten Wines Of The Year, White Bordeaux

Tour de l’Isle 2014 Luberon

Love, Love, Love This Luberon
The 2014 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle is a worthy successor to the equally enjoyable and delicious 2012 that I gushed over in a newsletter here. Fragrant aromas of blackberry and raspberry twirl around a core of spice and herbs. Yes, it smells divine. Not heavy- it rings in at 13.5% alcohol by volume – this Luberon has plenty of fruit impact, announcing its Southern Rhone pedigree at first sip. What is especially lovely about this juicy red are the soft tannins that help glide the flavors to your senses. Watch out though, it can go down quick if you’re not paying attention.

Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle

Tour de l’Isle is Robert Rocchi’s line of wines made at a handful of selected domaines in the Southern Rhone. Robert doesn’t hide the fact that he makes his wines at these various domaines. The domaine names appear on the back label as if to say these wines come from a specific place and are not blends assembled from multiple sources. For the Luberon, Robert uses fruit from Yves Rousset-Rouard, the proprietor of Domaine de la Citadelle. Predominantly Syrah, with additions of Grenache, Mourvedré and Cinsault, as I wrote above, this wine is so juicy and delicious it is hard to limit yourself to just one glass!

The Luberon appellation was established in 1988. The region lies east of Avignon and sits south of the Ventoux and above Coteaux d’Aix-En-Provence. I have never visited this part of the Rhone Valley, but by all accounts, it is particularly picturesque.

Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle

The Holidays are a good time to open special bottles. I understand the logic of doing so, but my contrarian nature kept me reaching to open simple, quiet wines like the 2014 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle. When emotions run high and there are lots of goings on, a dependable, built-to-please-many red can be a life-saver. On Christmas Eve, I did open a magnum of Napa Valley red that I had been cellaring for a long time and finally got the nerve up to pop the cork. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t help but be distracted by the table banter, the serving of the meal, etc. to really have enjoyed it. On Christmas Day, it was the 2014 Luberon that called out to me. As I nursed a glass while catching the last frame of The Christmas Story marathon, I asked my husband to describe what he liked about this Luberon. His answer was simple but precise “the fruit is there and the tannins are light”. Bring on the distractions! Happy New Year Everyone!– Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Luberon