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.
2014 Viré-Clessé Thurissey – Domaine Sainte Barbe
Jean-Marie Chaland founded Domaine Sainte Barbe in 1999. He farms 8 hectares in and around Viré-Clessé organically, achieving certification in 2006. He has old vines, as 75% of his holdings are over 50 years old. Chaland’s vines in the lieu dit Thurissey are over 90! Thurissey is a tiny vineyard, consisting of half a hectare facing due south. Jean-Marie makes a mere 200 cases of his showpiece wine, and no new oak is used. The vineyard has a reputation for producing wines that are rich in minerality, and we imagine the roots of Chaland’s old vines are deep into the clay and limestone subsoil. There’s no doubt that 2014 was an exceptional vintage for white Burgundy, and the 2014 Viré-Clessé Thurissey from Domaine Sainte Barbe is one special wine. Its aromas are of citrus blossoms, snappy apples, and stony minerals. The palate is rich and bright with a hint of a saline/mineral quality, and the wine intensifies at the mid-palate. It’s tightly coiled and ready to spring. Drink this from 2020-2030.
Stéphane Magnien is now the fourth generation winemaker at this domaine in Morey-Saint-Denis which dates back to 1897. He took the reins from his father, Jean-Paul in 2008, and farms 4.5 hectares in the Côte de Nuits. Though his holdings may appear small, they include some fancy locales. Stéphane’s Aux Petites Noix is actually a blend of his holdings in Premier Crus Les Greunchers and Clos Baulet, two tiny vineyards just east of the village. One doesn’t need to do much research to understand that 2010 was an exceptional vintage for red Burgundy, particularly in the Côte de Nuits. In general terms, the wines are teeming with expression and are structured sufficiently for a long life in the cellar. Magnien’s 2010 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Aux Petites Noix is in a beautiful place at the moment, showing aromas of briary red berry fruit, earthy mineral, and forest floor. It’s medium in body with great balance and expression. It’s open for business and can be enjoyed from today through the 2020’s. – Peter Zavialoff
As I was taking out the week’s recycling this morning, I couldn’t help notice that the four wine bottles going into the bin were all Italian! This doesn’t happen very often. Though we do import and sell wines from Italy, we have soooo much else to choose from, that the odds of each week’s collection of half-poured, taken home samples to all be from the same country are big. Though considering that this week pretty much was Italian week around here, it does make sense.
Italian week. Yes, Gambero Rosso’s annual tre bicchieri tasting took place this past Wednesday at Fort Mason. Our friends, Enrico Pierazzuoli and Gianlorenzo Picollo were in town for it, as Enrico’s 2013 Carmignano Riserva was included in the tasting. Before they arrived, on Monday evening, we all found ourselves in a tasting room with a lineup of red wines from a Sicilian producer for whom we had high expectations. This is one of the ways we decide whether or not to import/carry a producer’s lineup. You can’t learn to swim from a book; and the same can be said about a wine’s tasting experience. Well, expectations being the harbinger of disappointment and all, it was a shame that the wines weren’t up to our standards. After taking in the aromas, Chris decided to not even taste the last wine. That’s how it goes sometimes. But as we often say, “We taste a lot of bad wine (okay, that may be a bit harsh in this case), so you don’t have to.” Many of the half-poured sample bottles didn’t even make it to any of our homes that evening.
Then Tuesday came, and with it, two of our pals from Italy. We tasted through their wines and they were all showing very well. There were no leftover samples on Wednesday morning! We tasted a few more of their wines on Wednesday, and ditto, nothing was left behind. Not even Enrico and Gianlorenzo. They were off to the east coast on Wednesday evening. Thursday came and went without incident, and then on Friday, the expectation/disappointment paradigm went the other way!
Winemaker Tiziana Settimo of Aurelio Settimo fame suggested we taste a lineup of wines made by some friends of her’s. The wines were shipped from Italy via air freight, and when Anya pulled them from the box, she exclaimed, “Ooh. The whites are from 2016 – these folks mean business. I’m really looking forward to tasting these!” First, David and Anya went through the lineup, then Chris and I had our turns. The consensus? We like them. A lot. As a matter of fact, we love them. Not only did all the samples disappear from the tasting room, there was noticeable tension among us while taking turns choosing which wines to take home. You will hear about them someday, when they get here; but for tonight, a similar yarn about an Italian producer whom we hold in high esteem: Ca’Lojera from Lugana.
Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi’s Ca’Lojera was David’s discovery. And as Anya wrote about years ago, he is not the kind of man who jumps up and down and screams, “Read all about it!” That’s more of what we do. David happily signed Ca’Lojera to our roster, and the rest is delicious history. Samples were shipped across the country for our staff to taste, and back at our old location, after we closed one day, we tasted the wines. Our reactions were very much like our reactions this past Friday, we loved them and could barely wait for them to arrive! With 5 successful vintages under our belts, we are pleased to announce the arrival of the Ca’Lojera Lugana from 2015!
A reminder: Ca’Lojera’s Lugana is made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana, or Turbiana, as the locals call it. The vineyards are on the southern shore of Lake Garda, and the winery is located in the commune of Sirmione. (Um, if you search images of Sirmione, you may want to travel there soon). The 2015 vintage was a good one in the region, with healthy ripeness levels and well-balancing acidity. The 2015 Ca’Lojera Lugana has you at “hello.” Its fresh, clean aromas of rich yellow fruit, blossoms, and mineral greet you like a fresh breeze off a lake surrounded by orchards. The palate is harmonious and lively, the complexities abound, all threaded together by the buoyant acidity. The intertwined components all fade slowly on the crisp, yet somehow fleshy, finish. All in all, I have a lot of ideas as to what to pair this wine with. It seems to be as versatile as can be!
Well, Italian week has come and gone. We laughed, we cried. We tasted some wines with great promise, and we tasted some wines to which we will politely say, “No thank you.” We said, “Ciao,” more this week than we will over the next few months combined, and the thought of pairing Osso Bucco with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo will haunt me all day tomorrow. No matter what happens next week, I can be assured of one fact: there will be not one, but at least two bottles of Italian wine in next week’s trip to the bottle bank. For I am taking two bottles of 2015 Ca’Lojera Lugana home tonight to enjoy over next week! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Lugana, Sirmione, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
I am a bargain shopper. I love the hunt. In my personal life, I like to search on-line classifieds, scour local thrift and consignments stores and frequent estate sales. For me, it’s a sport. This need of mine to find the best deal also applies to my professional life. Nothing satisfies like when I find a wine I can say is a super bargain. These days it is harder and harder to find one from California, but we try and we do, which leads me to my wine pick of the week: 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir.
Wonderwall is a secondary label for Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones. Jones is a vine nursery fieldman who moonlights as a winemaker. He claims to have stood in almost every vineyard in the Central Coast. The guy knows the area and he knows vineyards. With Wonderwall, Jones focuses on Pinot Noir from cool climate sites. For his 2015 Pinot Noir, two vineyards were sourced for fruit: Spanish Springs and Jespersen. Spanish Springs is only 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, just northeast from the seaside town of Pismo Beach. The vineyard is at 900 ft elevation with temperatures rarely exceeding 80 degrees. The proximity to the ocean keeps the vineyard cool and free of disease and its favorable south-facing slope ensures long, ripening hang time. You might recall that Evening Land Vineyards used Spanish Springs for their single-vineyard program a few vintages back, receiving high praise and scores for it. Jespersen is also in the Edna Valley AVA. It is four miles from the ocean and, like Spanish Springs, enjoys a long, cool growing season.
Partially de-stemmed, the 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir was aged for 7 months in 100% French oak; only 15% of it new. I was struck by its joyous cherry fruit flavors and subtle notes of baking spice and brown sugar. The tannins are rather soft, so the structure suggests drinking this one in the near term. At $17.98 a bottle, the whole point is to drink and enjoy it right now! There is a similarly priced Pinot Noir out in the market that begins with “M” and ends in “i” that is wildly popular. This wine has a production of a quarter million cases. Now I’m not suggesting that wine can’t be any good, but consider the difference between making a few barrels of wine versus nearly a million cases! It’s like trying to make an intricate dish for 200 people instead of 4; something gets lost in the scaling up whether it is the execution, the ingredients or both.
I don’t normally comment on labels, but I have to this time. I think in some instances, customers have purchased a bottle of 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir solely for the label only to return a few days later because of its contents. The label has a famous photograph of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí holding his pet ocelot, Babou, on it. I admire Dalí’s work, I even have a signed lithograph of one his paintings hanging on my wall that I earned selling art back in high school – now that’s a whole other story! Overall, this is a delicious wine in a whimsical package made by a talented winemaker using excellent fruit for well under $20. A super bargain!– Anya Balistreri
Okay, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year, so six more weeks of winter are in store for us; if you believe those kind of things. With the winter weather still present, hearty meals abound in our kitchens … and most likely, your kitchen too! For February this year, we’ve chosen another Dirty Dozen which provides versatility, though this month’s sampler is big on wines that will suit those hearty, comfort foods.
Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2015 Pinot Grigio, Riff $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
This is the 9th vintage of Riff that TWH has carried. At Riff, the famed winemaker Alois Lageder pulls together quality growers from the slopes of the Dolomites to produce a top-notch Pinot Grigio for a song. It is crisp and snappy, with bright citrusy flavors. Try this perky Pinot Grigio with a lemony kale Caesar salad or Sole Meunier.
2015 Verdejo Rueda, Viña Oropéndola $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Northwest of the Spanish capitol of Madrid lies the Rueda appellation. Here the white grape, Verdejo, reins queen. Verdejo is known for making dry yet aromatic wine. This one comes from vines that range in age from 40-120 years old. Where else other than Spain can you get old-vine goodness for such a price? Serve with Pollo con Arroz or veggie pasta.
NV Manzanilla Sherry 375ml, Barbiana $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
In our continuing effort to bring exciting new wine experiences to the Dirty Dozen, this month we’ve included Sherry for the first time. Manzanilla is a Fino sherry that is produced and aged within the town of Sanlúcar de Barremeda. It is bone-dry, salty with notes of almond and citrus, and has firm acidity. Try with fried or grilled seafood and cured meats.
2015 Pinot Auxerrois Val St. Gregoire, Domaine Saint-Rémy $18.99, $15.19 reorder
Pinot Auxerrois is a different variety than Pinot Blanc, though in Alsace, it may be bottled and still legally be labeled Pinot Blanc. Confusing? Sure. Important? Maybe to some. What’s it like? Well, it’s dry, it shows aromas of apricots and white peaches, and has a fleshy medium body. It’s a great wine to pop if you feel you may be in a white wine rut.
2015 Ugni Blanc Blend Les Tours, Domaine la Hitaire $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Essentially a typical Gascogne blend of Ugni Blanc (65%), Colombard (30%), and Gros Manseng (5%), the Les Tours has enjoyed a loyal following at TWH for over a decade! What’s not to like? It’s fresh. It’s crisp. It delivers a kiss of honey somewhere on the mid-palate, which disappears as the finish dries out. Extremely versatile, serve with a smile.
2015 Entre-Deux-Mers, Château Ferran $10.99, $8.79 reorder
We continue to hear more and more about wines from Bordeaux’s somewhat overlooked “between two rivers” appellation. Their quality has improved greatly in past decades, and their price tags make many of them screaming bargains. The Château Ferran is a typical white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Seafood works great.
2014 Petit Siós, Costers del Sió $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
The appellation Costers del Sió is Catalonia’s most inland region. This region is harsh. It’s semi-arid with extreme temperature variation. And yet it can produce charming wines like this blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, offering up fresh berry flavors wrapped in smooth, firm tannins. Pair with slow cooked one-pot wonders.
2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Tiberio $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Tiberio is run by brother and sister, Antonio and Cristiana. In 2008 they took over the estate from their father and by 2013 were named “one of Italy’s Rising Stars” by Decanter magazine. Their old-vine Montepulciano grapes are vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks, creating a pure expression of the grape. Bold and spicy, serve with roast meats.
2015 Pinot Noir, Underwood $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Underwood Pinot Noir is a staple at TWH because even at this price point they consistently deliver quality. The key is they leave the fruit alone and allow it to shine through. Expect bright flavors of red cherry, subtle notes of dried herbs and soft structured tannins. Nothing complicated here, just darn good wine. Match up with grilled Panini or sloppy joes.
2014 Côtes de Provence Les Trois Frères, Domaine des Aspras $17.59, $14.07 reorder
From the all-organic village of Correns in Provence, this blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon is dark, full-bodied, concentrated, and earthy. Perfectly suited for the month of February, Les Trois Frères is definitely the kind of wine to break out with hearty fare, such as beef stew, cassoulet, leg of lamb, or a juicy T-bone steak.
2012 Bordeaux Supérieur, Château Castenet $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
Good, honest Bordeaux here; and it comes from Entre-Deux-Mers too! As noted above, we’ve noticed the quality of some of the region’s smaller producers’ wines to be on the upswing in quality, and this fine quaffer stuck out in a tasting of other inexpensive Bordeaux wines which didn’t exactly make the cut. Drink it on its own, or with grass fed beef sliders.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinum Africa $17.99, $14.39 reorder
English ex-pat, Alex Dale grows his Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch, where the variety enjoys its role as the appellation’s most important grape. He has witnessed some big money move in recently, buying up Cabernet vines, and making “Icon” (read “Ego”) wines, but he keeps his Cab in the “great value” level. Pop this with some dry Memphis ribs.
Whoa! How did it get to be February already??!! Seriously, the period after the holidays may be somewhat quiet for some, but around here it was hoppin’. I mentioned the parade of folks from Bordeaux passing through our doors the past couple of weeks; the UGC tasting of the newly bottled 2014’s was a week ago Friday. The wines are showing as well, if not better, than I anticipated after having tasted them as barrel samples. I’ve got more to say about them, but tonight’s exercise is more about what I like to call ye olde reliable, Côtes-du-Rhône rouge. Specifically, the 2013 CdR La Boissière from Domaine Boudinaud.
It’s funny. My memory is chock full of useless information. I don’t know why I remember some things (seriously, yesterday was my best friend’s from 3rd grade birthday), and not other, more important things. Like when and where and why did I taste my first Côtes-du-Rhône? It almost feels to me like it just always was a given. If I wanted a nice glass or two of delicious red wine without much expense, there is always Côtes-du-Rhône. When a new customer walks in to our shop and informs me that they like wine, yet aren’t very familiar with French wine, I tend to start here. With Côtes-du-Rhône, it’s tough to go wrong.
We have been working with Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud for well over a decade, and we just love their wines. For the 2013 la Boissière, Thierry blended 55% Grenache with 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Cinsault. The nuance of each variety’s aromatic profile is noticeable and the blend is quite harmonious. And what’s great about this wine in particular is that you can drink it on its own, with a burger, with steak, with a pork chop, barbecue chicken, and so forth. It is that versatile. Given its price point, it’s a super wine for a very fair price.I do remember how much we liked the 2012, and how my colleagues and I squirreled away bottles for ourselves when our stock began to vanish. When it finally dried up, the countdown began for the new vintage. Now that it’s here, our entire staff is enjoying it. One bottle at a time. And though $13.49 is already an extraordinary deal for a wine of this quality, the case price of $11.47 per bottle is what we call a no-brainer.
Wow. I’m at a loss for what to do for dinner this evening. As Anya mentioned last week, our staff had our annual holiday dinner gathering a fortnight ago, and last Saturday, I was lucky enough to join a supplier and representatives from three Bordeaux chateaux at The Battery for an incredible dinner. It was there that I tasted my very first grade A-5 Wagyu beef. I will not be forgetting about that anytime soon. I have a feeling that tonight’s dinner plans will be less extravagant and more about comfort food. What wine will I be bringing home to sip with my comfort food? Ye olde reliable, of course! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Côtes-du-Rhône, 2014 Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
Me: “So, what sort of white wines do you like to drink?”
Customer: “I love Sancerre!”
Me: “Ah, so you like Sauvignon Blanc.”
Customer: “Oh no, I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc.”
I have had this conversation with customers many times over the years. I don’t wish to embarrass anyone so I try to gently and respectfully explain that Sancerre is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. I’ve thought a lot about such conversations and have concluded that the reason why some people might not associate Sauvignon Blanc with Sancerre is that when Sancerre is made well, the super-assertive and super-pungent green flavors of Sauvignon Blanc that prevail out in the marketplace are absent. I for one get why someone would love Sancerre, but be less than thrilled with a sharply herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc.
I took a bottle of the 2015 Sancerre Les Godons from Philippe Raimbault home the other day. It also arrived on the most recent container, along with the many Bordeaux that Pete has recently written about. At my local market, I saw that they had large shrimp on sale, so I planned a shrimp and Sancerre match-up. After poring over a dozen cookbooks, I settled on going without a recipe. Essentially what I made was shrimp Scampi. At first, I sautéed shallots, instead of garlic, in olive oil left over from a jar of Chevoo Smoked Sea Salt and Rosemary goat cheese – waste not, want not. Then to the shrimp I added wine, lemon juice and stock. At the end, I tossed in fresh tarragon and a generous knob of butter. Piping hot out of a cast iron pan, I indulged on the shrimp which was made even more delicious by the lusciousness of the 2015 Sancerre Les Godons.
The 2015 Les Godons exhibits the sweet citrusy flavors of ruby red grapefruit. The citrus tang is there without any hint of harsh acidity. The 2015 vintage was looked upon favorably in Sancerre, but it was lower yielding than the bountiful 2014 vintage. 2015 produced for many a riper-styled wine, but Philippe Raimbault does not acidify his wines, so what you get in the 2015 Les Godons is what nature provided.
Les Godons is a vineyard uniquely shaped in a semi-circle above the village of Sury-En-Vaux. There is a pen and ink illustration of the vineyard on the label, so you can see how steep the slopes are. The vineyard is south-facing, so exposure to the sun is maximized. In some years there is a distinct tropicality to the Les Godons that I find irresistible. I would have thought in a warm vintage like 2015 that quality would dominate, but I found the 2015 to be rather citrus driven; pamplemousse, pomelo and sweet orange. Fragrant and lush, sipping this one on its own is perfectly acceptable and encouraged too.
Last Saturday The Wine House staff dined at Boulevard for our Post-Holiday party. Everything was great – the food, the wine, the company! In my opinion, Boulevard is one of San Francisco’s best restaurants – it’s a classic. The food is impeccable, the service is attentive and seamless, and the atmosphere is welcoming and warm. For our first course, we selected a couple of orders of Foie Gras to share. We drank 1988 De Fargues with it. Divine! The flavor sensors in my brain exploded! Of course, this being TWH Post-Holiday dinner, there was a second bottle of 1988 De Fargues because that’s how we roll. We love Sauternes and enjoy drinking it throughout a meal. There was also White & Red Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne too, but what a luxury it was to have a glass of Sauternes to taste with each course. Thank you Christian, Mrs. Moore, Mr. B, Chris, Pete, Mrs. Netzer and David for a memorable evening! -Anya Balistreri
A belated Happy New Year, all! I can’t believe this is my first Saturday evening email of 2017 – the flu hits hard, and I was recovering from the repercussions of said flu last Saturday. And now that it has passed, there’s no mistaking what time of year it is. The parade of Bordeaux personalities has begun to pass through our doors, and there will be more to come next week, culminating with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting of the newly bottled 2014’s next Friday! With so many folks passing through here, I am being constantly reminded to get a move on making my arrangements for early April’s En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux.A new container from France just arrived, and on it is a wine which also reminds me of one of the reasons I make this trip each spring – a super deal!
As I may have mentioned in the past, En Primeur week begins on a Monday and lasts through Thursday; with wine people from all over the world scrambling around in our rental cars frantically trying to make all of our tasting appointments on time! I like to arrive in the middle of the preceding week, giving me a few days to adjust to the time, cuisine, and language. It also allows me time to visit suppliers and taste several bottled wines, all the while seeking value. The value wine that took the gold during last April’s visit has now arrived, and we all just tasted it last week: 2012 Château Teynac, Saint-Julien.
Saint-Julien has the lowest average production of the five major appellations of the Médoc, yet it also has the highest proportion of classified growths, producing over 80% of the appellation’s annual output. So, with over 80% of the appellation classified, we must ask ourselves are there any non-classified Saint-Julien bargains out there?The answer is a resounding yes. It was at a negociant tasting last year where I tasted the 2012 Château Teynac, to call it a big hit would be an understatement. It showed aromas of black cherry fruit and cassis, with the signature underlying forest floor, chalky mineral, and hint of leather that I usually associate with nearby Château Gruaud Larose. The palate is medium bodied, and the acid component of the wine’s structure is bright and lively. There are some spice notes which come from a little oak barrel in the mix, and the finish is bright and complex. Impressed as I was with the tasting, I fully jumped on board after checking its price and hearing its story.
Château Teynac sticks out like a beacon on the main road that connects the village of Beychevelle with Gruaud Larose and Chateau Lagrange beyond that. The negociant mentioned that the vineyards lay between Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou and Chateau Beychevelle, though after I returned from the trip, I read somewhere that they were more specifically between Beychevelle and Gruaud Larose, which makes a lot of sense to me, as I was reminded of the latter’s aromatic profile when tasting the wine. This negoce also told me that the vineyards continue to be sought after by neighboring classified growths, but that Teynac’s owners, set with their “tech money,” refuse to sell. They enjoy their wine, so they keep a lot of it for themselves.
Since 2008, they had employed the daughter and granddaughter of Spanish winemakers, Diana Garcia Gonzalez to make their wines. Obviously, winemaking is in her blood. She set off immediately and went about improving things. New harvesting machines, stainless steel tanks (in order to vinify seperate parcels), and a new cellar were all brought in under her watch. Her magic touch extends beyond the winery, as she is a nurse and a bit of a vine-whisperer out in the vineyards. Diana was the winemaker for the 2012 Château Teynac, though has since joined Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol as Technical Director. She now goes by Diana Berrouet Garcia. Keep your eye on that property — we sure will!
A Close Up Of The Small Label Sign To The Left Of The Gate Above
In the excellent timing department, my health is back just in time for this evening’s festivities, for tonight is TWH’s Holiday Party. We can’t exactly schedule such a thing during the period known as “The Holidays,” due to high stress and other obligations, so we’ve had these events in January before. You can bet there will be wine from Bordeaux at this dinner; Chris and I even lobbied hard for a second bottle of Sauternes to be brought because, in his words, “I like the idea of having a glass of Sauternes in front of me to taste with everything that comes to the table.” That makes two of us! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Bordeaux, Saint-Julien in particular, the upcoming UGC Tasting, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com