Brick & Mortar is an exciting new wine project we are betting will be getting more and more attention once their miniscule production levels increase for wider distribution. But for now, only a few select places, mostly top Bay Area restaurants, are able to offer their wines – and we’re one of the lucky ones!
We were introduced to Brick & Mortar by way of one of David’s tasting groups. The winemaker, Matthew Iaconis, met with us at the store to share his story and pour his wines. By the time he left the building, David and I were conspiring to figure out how much we should buy! The wines are compelling and Matthew’s confidence and enthusiasm convinced us that he is a winemaker we want to get in with on the ground floor, so to speak.
Matthew, a native Californian, played football for UC Davis where he was studying Atmospheric Science – he wanted to be an astronaut! It was also at UC Davis that he took an introductory course on winemaking; this changed everything for him. After college, Matthew worked at wineries here and abroad. Most recently, he has worked with the Antinori family in Napa Valley. It is through this connection that he was able to acquire the fruit he needed to start his own project. Working with fruit from Cougar Rock Vineyard, a high elevation vineyard in the Atlas Peak appellation, Matthew achieves balance and finesse with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in what is typically thought of as Cab Country. The elevation and exposition of the vineyard allows for daytime sun and cool nights, perfectly suited for these Burgundian varietals. In addition, Matthew sources Pinot Noir from a vineyard on the other side of the Valley up on Spring Mountain.
The 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir is superb. It is quite delicate and subtle in the fruit department, yet the strawberry flavors of Pinot Noir come across. Using the saignée method of bleeding juice off of his two Napa Valley Pinot Noirs, Matthew then places half in stainless steel and the other in neutral barrel. It is a smart approach, preserving both texture and freshness in the wine. The pale, pale pink color, by the way, is divine. (55 cases produced)
The 2013 Chardonnay combines texturally rich fruit with a lifted palate feel. Neither overblown nor heavy, this is a composed Chardonnay that showcases sun-kissed fruit in a more discreet fashion. Barrel-aged, but only in a third new oak, this is a citrus-laden Chardonnay that accentuates acidity and stoniness on the finish. (260 cases produced)
Rounding out the trio of Brick & Mortar wines is the 2012 Pinot Noir. Put aside any pre-existing notions of Napa Valley Pinot Noir. This is mountain fruit – it has depth and reveals layers of flavors. The 2012 Pinot Noir is reflective of the character of Cougar Rock Vineyard. Matthew uses two blocks within the vineyard that run east/west. The soils are a mixture of gravelly loam and dusty red clay with extensive granite rock strewn about the parcel. For this wine Matthew put the grapes through an extended cold-soak with native yeast fermentation and then aged the wine in once used French oak barrels. His intention was to let the vineyard shine through the wine. We appreciated the soft, rounded texture and savored the deep, red berry fruit that was framed by earthier notes. Like the other two wines of Brick & Mortar, the 2012 Pinot Noircombines a pleasurable fruit presence with elegance. All of the wines sit lively on the palate. (110 cases produced) – Anya Balistreri
Forget what the calendar says, it’s springtime in San Francisco! Temperatures touched 80F today here in the city and around the bay. A customer who braved traffic to visit us today advised us to steer clear of Market St. as the traditional pre-St. Patrick’s Day Saturday Parade was well attended by a large crowd of revelers enjoying the weather and whooping it up. St. Patrick’s Day? Yes, Tuesday’s the day. What does that mean? Different things to different people. Now that I’ve toned down my part in the Paddy’s Day festivities, I think more of this day as an easy way to enjoy one of my favorite meals … corned beef and cabbage with potatoes. Anya and I had a conversation about this earlier this week, she said it’s no big deal, as she likes this dish way too much to relegate it to a St. Patrick’s Day-only meal. I understand her point, as I’m known to consume it year-round as well. It probably has something to do with the Eastern European background we share, but it just tastes like home.
As mentioned in our recent write-up about the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet (Pre-Arrival), I will be off to Bordeaux soon, this being my last stateside “Sunday Email” for a while. I’ve heard many things about the 2014 vintage in Bordeaux, but I will travel there with an open mind ready to see for myself what this new vintage is all about. I’m preparing to send, at the very least, and update on things a fortnight from tonight on location from Bordeaux, hopefully I’ll have some time to send more. I’m planning on sharing some photos and other things on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so if you follow us there, you’ll be in touch. But all things in good time; I’ve got an excuse to sit down with some corned beef, cabbage and potatoes … sign me up for a bottle of that Grand Cru Hengst! – Peter Zavialoff
When we unveiled the inaugural 2010 vintage, we pointed out how the dry white wines from Bordeaux can count themselves among the finest wines in the world. They have a committed following of in-the-know wine consumers snapping up what little is produced, and prices for the top echelon wines can be astronomical. The Opalie de Château Coutet is a truly unique white Bordeaux wine that at once encapsulates richness, layers of complexity, opulence, nerve, and texture in unwavering harmony.
With the 2011 Opalie, we again pointed out in what short supply these wines are in, and further praised their ability to age. If you’ve ever tasted a dry white Bordeaux with the additional complexity that comes with age, you already know what we’re talking about. These wines can age for much longer than most of us think. At TWH’s holiday party this past January, we poured a dry white Bordeaux from 1992 out of half-bottle with one of our dinner courses, and it blew us away! Are we saying that you should age your Opalie 20 years before you drink it? NO! It’s in a lovely place, drinking very well right now. But if you find the odd bottle or two in your cellar a few years down the road, you’ll be in for a treat.
So there you have it. Château Coutet’s one-of-a-kind dry white wine, the 2012 Opalie. Right now, the only place you can get it on pre-arrival in the US is here at TWH!
The time keeps ticking as Bordeaux prepares for its annual En Primeurs barrel tastings which commence on Tuesday, March 31. I will be representing The Wine House SF at the tastings, scouting the 2014 vintage (and more) for our customers. My appointment book is filling up with visits to growers, suppliers, and chateaux. I will continue to scout for lesser known wines that represent great values for their various price-points and it looks like I will be visiting some of Bordeaux’s most famous chateaux in addition to tasting at the UGC events. In keeping with tradition, I will take the time to visit Sauternes and Barsac in particular. There’s a very good chance that I’ll get to taste the 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet, and to that, I am looking forward. – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any specific requests in regard to tasting the barrel samples. Please know that time constraints will not allow for me to taste everything, but I will do my best to share my impressions of any particular wines you may be interested in that I do taste.
The wines from Claudie Jobard have a bit of an unfair advantage, or perhaps have reason to be held with greater scrutiny. Her mother, Laurence, was head enologist at Domaine Drouhin for 30 years! Her Pop, Roger, is a well known pépiniériste whose nursery has been influential in Burgundy for decades. It is on the land from her father’s side of the family that Claudie has her Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines, in the appellation of Rully. Rully sits in the northern sector of Côte Chalonnaise just south of the celebrated Côte d’Or. Decanter magazine reported in 2013 that some of Burgundy’s famous names are, and have been investing in vineyard land in Côte Chalonnaise in recent years, and even featured Claudie’s profile in their article.
After having tasted a few vintages of Claudie’s wines, David went for it and we began importing her wines with the 2011 vintage. Her 2011 Rully Blanc Montagne la Folie was a huge hit with our customers (and staff), making our Top Ten Wines of 2013. The Rully Rouge La Chaume wowed all that treaded there, charming those who take joy in expressive, balanced Pinot Noir in the sub $30 camp. David’s explanation is that the wines are stylistic. Claudie’s wines are impeccably balanced, with no hard edges, no over ripeness, with elegant expression.
Could it be that spring is on the horizon? Yes, indeed. The month of March has all sorts of wonderful things to deliver. Think about it. Spring training for baseball lovers, March Madness for fans of college hoops, St. Patty’s Day for amateurs, and the start of spring for those of us who long for warmer weather. This March, why not try out a Dirty Dozen? 12 bottles, all different, all chosen for their versatility, for one low price. The March 2015 Dirty Dozen. Yay!
Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.
2013 Chardonnay Viognier, Laurent Miquel $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Thank you Laurent Miquel for elevating the French country wine to such heights! Harvesting at night and fermenting in stainless steel tank make for a fresh, clean wine that offers up the sunny fruit of the Languedoc. Apricots and citrus fruit flavors abound. Chicken, lemon-stuffed and roasted or drowning in Mojo sauce, would do nicely here.
2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Colline Blanc, La Cabotte $12.48 net price, $10.78 reorder
La Cabotte’s vineyards are certified biodynamic and organic. A third each of Grenache blanc, Clairette and Viognier harmoniously blend together to make a classic white Rhône – stone fruit flavors prevail while the finish retains a striking minerality. The quality over delivers for price on this charmer! A brined and roasted pork loin would pair perfectly!
2012 Ranina Mea Culpa, Kogl $13.98, $12.58 reorder
A wine from Slovenia? A DD first! Ranina is considered indigenous to Slovenia. A wild crossing between some Pinot variety and an unknown parent, Ranina is often used for sweet wine. Kogl prefers to ferment their Ranina dry. White-fleshed fruit and subtle floral aromas on the nose combine to make a captivating, delicious white wine. A wonderful choice for heat-spiked foods and fresh water fish.
2013 Touraine Rosé, Domaine des Corbillières $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Now that the days are getting longer and the weather warmer, it just makes sense to have some Rosé handy. Ah, but this is no ordinary Rosé! Hints of citrus blossoms and red berry fruit are noticeable on the bouquet, yet the palate is crisp. Extremely versatile, one can be quite creative when thinking of pairing partners, though a sunny picnic will do.
2013 Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $13.99, $11.19 reorder
In the local dialect, Hors Saison means outdoor season. It is March, and around these parts, March is not just a verb. It is the time of year when windows open, blossoms appear, and fresh, easy-drinking white wines are fashionable. This blend of 85% Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon is light and refreshing. It is ideal to pour with macaroni salad with tuna and mayo.
2012 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto, Ernesto Picollo $16.79, $13.43 reorder
Direct-importation is responsible for this amazing wine to come to us for such a ridiculously low price! It’s all about the crisp dried yellow fruits and minerals here. If you can pair it with halibut puttanesca, you’ll be in Schaeffer City!
2013 Garnacha, Bodegas Filón $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
DO Catalayud is part of Spain’s Ebro River Valley region, where high elevation vineyards seek refuge from the dry, arid Spanish interior. Garnacha thrives in this region, producing sappy, rich reds with notes of mint. Bodegas Filón does a noble job at producing an open-armed, succulent Garnacha. Time to serve up some patatas al ajillo with chorizo!
2012 Peljesac, Dingac $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
An hour drive north of Dubrovnik, the Peljesac Peninsula juts 40 miles out into the Adriatic. In this part of Croatia, the native grape Plavac Mali is commonly planted. This Plavac Mali is fashioned in a locally popular style – the grapes are harvested late giving the wine the quality of sur-maturité. This super ripeness shows on the nose but not on the palate. Plummy flavors with dried herbs characterize the wine. Be adventurous – pair with Korean short ribs or fajitas.
2009 L’Artisan Languedoc, Laurent Miquel $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Predominantly Syrah, this is a full-bodied southern French red. Typical of the region, the Syrah impart spice notes of white and black pepper. A tiny touch of Grenache is blended in to give a fruitier dimension. Honestly, this one, because it has had time to settle in bottle, goes with practically any cuisine – all the edges have been smoothed out.
2011 Domaine de la Petite Cassagne Rouge $12.99, $10.39 reorder
Red Rhône wines have to be counted among the most consistent bargains of the wine world. For quality and price, it’s tough to go elsewhere. For this one, Diane Puymorin blends 10% old vine Carignan and 10% old vine Mourvèdre with Syrah and Grenache and the result is quite complex for a wine in this price range. Serve it with sautéed veal cutlets.
2012 Syrah/Grenache, Grange des Rouquette $11.99, $9.59 reorder
Speaking of red Rhône wines, Thierry Boudinaud uses a similar recipe to craft his entry-level red. His Syrah/Grenache receives the added benefit of a little Mourvèdre (10%), which gives the wine a little added complexity. It’s fresh and charming, no problem if you want to pour it on its own, but it will pair well with pasta in red sauce or a calzone.
2012 Pinotage, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder
South Africa’s signature grape, Pinotage was created as a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault back in the 1920s. Alex Dale’s Winery of Good Hope’s version is all de-stemmed and consists of only the free-run juice, keeping the fruit at the forefront. Serve it with a slight chill, and enjoy with spicy carnitas served on corn tortillas.
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Have you ever had one of those weeks where a seemingly innocuous playground accident turned into a three hour visit at the doctor’s office, then leaving with your child wearing a cast on her hand? The visit to the doctor, of course, had been further complicated because your husband’s truck was in the shop and had to use your car for the day, so you had to borrow a ride to get to the doctor’s office in the first place? It doesn’t end there – the truck doesn’t get fixed as quickly as promised, therefore you had to get ready even earlier all week so that there was enough time to drive your husband to work before dropping your child off at school and then try to make it to work on time? What about deciding to wake up extra early on that week’s Saturday so that you can take a long, peaceful shower and perhaps linger over coffee while reading the morning paper before heading off to work, only to discover that the dog had thrown-up in the kitchen as well as had pooped all over the floor of the shower? Ever had one of those weeks? I think you know what I am talking about.