The August 2017 Dirty Dozen Wine Club

The month of August is about as summer as summer gets! 31 days, no national holidays, okay, maybe a solar eclipse this year, and sure, there is always the Perseid meteor shower, but celestial shows are always better viewed away from cities – perhaps while camping? Why not? Well, however you spend your August, we’ve got your wine needs in this here box. 12 bottles, all different, all chosen for their versatility, for one low price. The August Dirty Dozen!

2015 Muscadet, Domaine Des 3 Versants $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Located in the village of La Févrie, on the banks of the Sevre River, this 4th generation family owned estate makes textbook Muscadet. Handpicked grapes are vinified in tank and left on the lees (sur lie) through the winter before bottling. Super crisp with a tonic attack, try it with raw oysters (the perfect pairing) or with a main course salad.

2016 Bianco, Isola Del Satiro $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
This is an appealing blend of Catarrato, a native Sicilian grape, and Grecanico, aka Garganega, the grape most commonly used for making Soave. Produced by Alcesti whose vineyards stretch over 30 hectares south of Marsala on Sicily’s west coast. Youthful, with vigorous notes of yellow fruit, pair with Arancini, grilled swordfish or stuffed squid.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Clifford Bay $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
In the heat of summer, a vibrant, grassy, sassy Sauvignon Blanc will often hit the spot. This Sauvignon Blanc is made with grapes grown in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, and they claim to have approximately 2400 hours of sunshine per year. The sunny, dry climate ensures full ripening of the grapes. Anything with goat cheese pairs beautifully here.

2016 Rosé Les Cimels, Château d’Or et de Gueules $14.59, $11.67 reorder
Fresh off the boat, and the first of our sextet of 2016 French Rosés to be included in The Dirty Dozen, the Les Cimels Rosé is a lively, dry offering. Made in the Provenç:al style, blending 40% Mourvèdre and 40% Cinsault (with equal parts Syrah and Grenache), one sip can whisk you away to the pebbly shores of France’s Mediterranean coast. Serve it with a bowl o’mussels.

2015 Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc, Château Ferran $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Another 4 grape blend here, (40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, 10% Muscadelle, 10% Sauvignon Gris) this white Bordeaux is all about great value! All tank fermented, one swirl and sniff results in clean, fresh aromas of acacia and citrus blossoms. The palate opens up to flavors of apricots and peaches and it finishes crisp and complex. Petrale Sole will work well with this wine.

2015 Bourgogne Aligoté, Domaine Verret $14.49, $11.59 reorder
Brand new among our roster of French imports, Domaine Verret is located in the Yonne department of Burgundy. Southwest of Chablis and southeast of the city of Auxerre, it’s a hidden corner of Burgundy. This Aligot´ makes for a perfect apèritif white. Notes of straw and leesy white fruit greet you aromatically and the palate is round with a fruity core. Crabcakes anybody?

2012 BioNoir, Tinhof $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder
Organically grown Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and St. Laurent are blended together to create a soft-tannin red that exudes aromas of red cherry and violet notes. Erwin Tinhof owns thirty five acres of vineyards in the northern part of Austria’s Burgenland region. Serve at a cool cellar temperature, so chill it if you need to – serve with pork & veggie brochettes.

2015 Rosso Conero, Marchetti $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Maurizio Marchetti is masterful with the Montepulciano grape. His entry-level Rosso Conero, the Castro di San Silvestro, over delivers for price, vintage to vintage. Aged in old Slavonian oak barrels for 14 months, this wine combines power with finesse. Brambly blackberry flavors are front and center. A smart choice for humble cuts of beef.

2015 Red Blend, Jordanov $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Winemaking in the landlocked Macedonian Republic can be traced back centuries. The Jordanov family makes wine from both indigenous and international varieties at their winery in Tikves. The Red Blend is a third each Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Vranec, a black-skinned grape native to the Balkans. Enjoy with cevapcici or sausages.

2014 Côtes de Provence Les Trois Frères, Domaine des Aspras $17.59, $14.07 reorder
“I like my red wines earthy and fuller bodied.” Say that to any of us, and we’ll put a bottle of the 2014 Les Trois Frères in your hands. 90% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; the farming is all organic here, and the wine dark and brooding with that dominant earthy aroma. It’s the perfect wine for those grilled steaks and truffled mashed potatoes.

2013 Agrippa, Grange des Rouquette $17.59, $14.07 reorder
The southern Rhône Valley’s dominant red grape has to be Grenache, though there is a healthy dose of Syrah growing there which is used in blends. So a 100% Syrah from the southern Rhône is a bit of an anomaly, though Thierry Boudinaud happily makes his Agrippa when the conditions are perfect. Pour it with a smoked brisket.

2015 Chianti Montalbano, Pierazzuoli $13.49, $10.79 reorder
And rounding out this month’s DD is our pal, Enrico Pierazzuoli’s 2015 Chianti Montalbano. When he was here back in February, Enrico regaled us with tales of the challenges of the 2014 vintage, though he was happy with the end result. His take on the 2015? “We could have just stayed at the beach.” Conditions were THAT good. A perfect spaghetti red.

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Muller Thurgau From Oregon

My wine o’clock choice for Summer sipping while sitting on the front porch, whether I’m checking in on my mom by phone or greeting neighbors as they stroll by, is typically something light, dry and white, and preferably something low in alcohol. The 2015 Müller-Thurgau from Oregon’s Anne Amie meets all of my criteria. In addition, it has a delightful fruitiness that runs the gamut from citrus to fresh pear. Bottled under screw cap, there is an effervescent tingle that dissipates quickly after opening. It is a wine that is so easy to like and so pleasantly uncomplicated.


Müller-Thurgau is commonly found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Slovenia and much of Eastern Europe. Invented by a man named Dr. Herman Müller in 1882, it is a crossing between Riesling and Madeleine Royale.Dr. Herman Müller was born in the Swiss Canton of Thurgau, hence the grape’s name. In Oregon, only a handful of wineries currently grow the grape. Anne Amie’s twelve acres of vines were first planted in 1979. Luckily, despite Müller-Thurgau’s lowly reputation worldwide, Anne Amie has embraced their old-vine plot to successfully produce a wine of distinction and charm.


It’s funny but true – I hear similar stories from winery folks all the time – aromatic varietals like Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Müller-Thurgau sell well in winery tasting rooms, but have a hard time making an impact on the wine market at large. I have a few explanations for this phenomenon. One is that after a day tasting one young heavy red after another, trying something fresh, aromatic and light on its feet is a welcome departure. Not to mention, not all occasions call for profound, contemplative wines. Sometimes the simplest wine is the most enjoyable one. Think of this 2015 Müller-Thurgau as the equivalent of the perfect Summer beach read – it’s easy to get and satisfying to consume.


There won’t be any tropical beach getaways for my family this summer. Instead we opted for three tickets to see Hamilton, An American Musical. After nine months of listening to the soundtrack non-stop, it was satisfying to finally see it performed. We surprised my daughter with the tickets, who was left speechless when she saw that they were for that evenings’ performance. This weekend there will be more musical theater shows to see. My girl is performing in a production of Les Miserables as one of the “lovely ladies”, aka Prostitute #3. I couldn’t be more proud! -Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, fish-fry wine, Müller-Thurgau, Oregon

Fronton And Gaillac – Rustic Charm


Just a few kilometers north of the city of Toulouse, lay the wine growing appellations of Fronton and Gaillac. These two appellations aren’t as well known as some others in France; perhaps this is due to their somewhat isolated location – either a two and a half hour drive southeast from Bordeaux or a three and a half hour drive southwest from Nîmes. They’re just smack dab in the middle of the country, just north of the Pyrenees.



Château Coutinel is owned by Vignobles Arbeau and is currently run by Géraud Arbeau (since 2002) and his sister, Anne (since 2005). Arbeau père et fils was founded in 1878 by the siblings’ great, great grandfather, Prosper. It was his grandson, Pierre, who graduated from the Superior Commerce School of Toulouse, who grew the company by expanding both wine activity and that of the family’s distillery. The property was acquired by Pierre’s parents, Jean-Louis and Cécile in 1920 and has been in the family ever since.

In Fronton the principle grape is Negrette, and the appellation’s decree is that each Fronton wine be at least 50% of the variety. It’s a lighter bodied grape which makes for spicy aromatics, a lively palate, and light tannin structure, similar to Gamay Noir. For the Fronton, they use 60% Negrette, 20% Gamay, 10% Syrah, and 10% Malbec. I found it to be a perfect match for a rotisserie chicken! If you want to try Negrette on its own, you’re in luck, as they bottle one of those as well.

Château Langlade has been in the Pagès family for more than 5 generations, and has been managed by Thierry Pagès since 1982. The grapes grown in Langlade’s vineyard are Duras, Braucol, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, and Syrah, and all the vines are over 25 years old. The 2015 Gaillac rouge consisting of near equal parts Duras, Braucol, and Syrah. The aromatics are alive with purple berry fruit, dried tobacco leaf, and earthy mineral. The palate is bright and lively, with the fruit and acid locked in harmony, the tannins are very light, and the finish is well-balanced. It has the rustic charm of a lighter bodied vin de table on would expect served at a café along some of France’s backroads. – Peter Zavialoff

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Classic Rioja – 75 Years In The Making!


Viña Ardanza, the estate owned by La Rioja Alta, is celebrating its 75th Anniversay this year with the release of their 2008 Rioja Reserva. The 2008 is the first vintage that uses 100% grapes grown by the estate. In years past the 20% Garnacha that was blended in with their estate grown Tempranillo was purchased from other growers. While purchasing grapes in and of itself is not problematic, it is clear from statements made by winemaker Julio Sáenz that having control over all of the grapes is a welcome improvement. Sáenz even compares the 2008 to the extraordinary 2001 Reserva Especial which also happens to be the only other Spanish red wine I’ve ever written about for a Saturday night newsletter – that was five years ago!
Though La Rioja Alta is considered a classic, traditional producer of Rioja, their winery facility is state-of-the art. What makes Viña Ardanza Rioja considered traditional is the winemaking and aging. After fermentation, the wine is put into barrels. The barrels are made “in house” in their own cooperage using only American oak that has been cured outside for two years. The wine does not go into new oak, but into used barrels. It is then racked, using gravity, every six months for 3 years (a little less time for the Garnacha). This extended racking method removes sediment from the wine and gently oxygenates it, which helps to soften the tannins and creates an opulent, supple texture. Nearly ten years out from harvest, the wine shows both maturity and youthful vigor. This contrast provides a complex tasting experience; flavors of fresh red cherries mingle with balsamic, herb, spice and cedar.

Most of the time, you will hear me banging the drum for small production wineries. La Rioja Alta is not a small producer. At any one time, they are said to have over 50,000 barrels and 6.4 million bottles stored- not all of it Viña Ardanza, of course. So for the consumer of Viña Ardanza, this means an opportunity to drink aged, classic Rioja at a very affordable price. At less than $35 a bottle, you can drink an aged, ready to drink red from one of the world’s great wine regions made by one of its most respected producers. I’d say that is real value, and a true bargain.


I played tourist with my husband, daughter and one of her friends on my day-off this week. We went to the Academy of Sciences, rented a pedal-boat on Stow Lake, had lunch at The Yellow Submarine and got a scoop of ice cream at Polly Ann’s. On the way home, driving north out of the city we marveled at the majestic fog ripping down the Headlands. We drove with the windows open so we could greet the fog and let it cool us. It was a very good day. -Anya Balistreri

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Textbook Loire Valley Cabernet Franc – 2015 Saumur, Domaine de la Paleine


I’ve got to get out on our sales floor a little more often! Funny, I work here 5 days a week, so there goes any excuse … Every now and then, presumably on my days off, newly acquired wines make their way to the floor without my noticing them. Here at TWH, we’re like a little family, constantly sharing food and wine tasting experiences, so it was not out of the ordinary when I arrived at work a few days ago and struck up a conversation with Anya. “Oh man, I popped into Picco last night and they’re pouring this delicious Saumur by the glass! It was great; light on its feet, yet with just the right amount of fruit, all framed with the classic herbal and earthy character one gets from Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I have a new go-to!”

“Who is the producer?” She asked.
“I don’t remember (I had more than one glass). Let me look it up, I bet it’s on their beverage list online.” At which point I surfed to said list and proclaimed, “Yeah, this is it. It’s the 2015 Saumur from La Paleine.”
“Yes, Pete. That’s a good one indeed. You know, it’s out on our floor right now.”
“This Saumur?”
Anya was chuckling now. “Yes. You might want to take a look around every once in a while.”
Talk about instant gratification …


The commune of Saumur is perhaps best known for its fancy chateau which sits on the hill above it. It’s also one of a handful of Loire Valley appellations which produces some of the world’s finest Cabernet Franc wines. Domaine de la Paleine is located in Puy-Notre-Dame, 20km southwest of the chateau, and the 32 hectare property is mainly planted to Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. The soil is clay upon limestone, and the tufa subsoil acts as a sponge, absorbing excess water after the rains, and releasing it slowly when the vines need it. Owners Marc and Laurence Vincent had sought AB (certified organic) status beginning in 2010, and were rewarded with the certification beginning in 2013. As mentioned above, the wine is well balanced with textbook Loire Valley Cab Franc aromas in seamless harmony. The palate is medium in body, with bright acidity and a round raspberry-like core. Loire Valley Cabernet Franc brings out the wine-geek in me, so I am more than thrilled that I can procure a bottle of this for around the same price that restaurants charge for a glass!

This is not the first time that I have tasted a wine at Picco, only to subsequently find it among our offerings here at TWH. I have to give a big tip of the hat to such a fine restaurant in which I have enjoyed countless delicious meals, great wines and company over the years. I have made many friends there, including many members of their staff, which is coincidentally like a little family. This takes me back to my very first professional interaction with a manager who worked there over 9 years ago. On a quiet evening, we were discussing one of her new wines for the list, and I was more than intrigued to try it. When she said we could all try it as long as we covered the bottle’s cost, I was the first one to pony up the cash for my share. After all, it was Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.Peter Zavialoff

PS: Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about summer, Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, Bordeaux, or great neighborhood restaurants: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Barbecue Wine, Loire Valley, Peter Zavialoff, Saumur

The July 2017 Dirty Dozen


The Dirty Dozen

Happy July, everybody! Believe it or not, 2017 is half over, but the better half is coming on! Summertime is always a great time of year for parties, picnics, barbecues, beach time, holidays, and vacations. For this July, we’ve chosen a case of 12 bottles, all different, all versatile, and all in harmony with summer. So this month, make it easy on yourself and your budget. Stop on by TWH and pick up your 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

2015 Minervois Blanc, Château Paraza $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
The Danglas family purchased the famous Château de Paraza ten years ago. In that short time, they have brought the property and wine back to its former glory. A blend of 60% Roussanne and 40% Grenache Blanc, this snappy white is full of delicate floral aromas and finishes with flavors of white peach; a great choice for fish tacos, ceviche, or Pizza Bianco.

2014 Pecorino, I Fauri $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder
Pecorino is found grown along Italy’s eastern coastal regions. Dry and minerally, this white has floral and citrus notes with a flinty aroma that borders on minty-ness. After tasting this with staff, the decision was made to double our order. We anticipate many reorders, plus we wanted to make sure there was enough stock for us too! Try with Fritto Misto!

2015 Jongieux, Carrel $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Jongieux is a named cru within the Savoie appellation. In this Alpine region you will find whites made from the Jacquère grape that are grown at high altitude. Low in alcohol, this Jongieux is fresh and zippy with flavors of ripe pear and citrus. Serve chilled as an aperitif or tote along on your next trip to the coast to have with some raw oysters.

2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Domaine Boudinaud $7.95 sale price, $7.55 reorder
TWH pals Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud have several irons in the fire in and around the southern Rhône Valley. This CdR Blanc is made from 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Roussanne, and it shows fleshy yellow fruit with a crisp finish. It’s an easy wine to just pop and pour. Put a nice chill on this and serve it up with a seared Ahi tuna BLT.


2014 Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder
This is 100% Chenin Blanc is from old bush vines planted in decomposed granite in the Helderberg area of Stellenbosch, facing the ocean. Those ocean breezes keep the fruit relatively cool and fresh, lending balancing acidity to the tangy, voluptuous, green apple-like fruit. So grab an ice bucket, head outdoors, and enjoy it over a long balmy evening!


2016 À Lisa VDP du Var, Domaine des Aspras $12.99, $10.39 reorder
The more we taste the wines from Domaine des Aspras, the more we love what is going on there. In brief, the family fled Germany in the 1930’s, and settled in Congo, only to flee once again, this time to Provence in the 1960’s. They quickly learned how to make wine, and with modern ingenuity, the next generation produces some of the best values in our bins.


2016 Rouge, Guilhelm Moulin de Gassac $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
A four grape blend from vines that range in age from 25-50 years old, this red is hearty and brimming with fruit. All tank fermented and devoid of any oak treatment, this is a humble wine made by the folks behind the legendary Languedoc winery, Mas de Gaussac. Take inspiration from any cuisine found along the Mediterranean Sea when pairing up this red.


2015 Pinot Noir, Wonderwall $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder
And just like that, our best-selling California Pinot Noir ends up in the DD. It’s a tremendous value from winemaker Andrew Jones who claims to have stood in every vineyard on the Central Coast. The grapes come from two vineyards with close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Strawberry and cherry flavors persist. Try it with lamb, pork, or turkey burgers.


2014 Zinfandel, Foxglove $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Brothers Bob and Jim Varner make this affordable and delicious Zinfandel from fruit grown in Paso Robles. Juicy and vibrant with brambly fruit notes, though not a wimpy wine, it is a tad less bombastic than most Paso Zins. If outside temperatures spike, don’t be afraid to give this red a slight chill to keep flavors popping. It’s magnificent with bbq ribs.

2015 Dolcetto d’Alba, Aurelio Settimo $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Barolo winemaker Tiziana Settimo worked with her father, Aurelio, for 20 years before taking over a decade ago. While Nebbiolo plantings dominate her family’s holdings, she continues to tend to her 1 hectare of Dolcetto. It’s juicy and grapey with bright acidity and easy tannins. Pour this with ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms smothered in red sauce.


2015 Ventoux Rouge, Tour de l’Isle $13.49, $10.79 reorder
No doubt, many of you have enjoyed wines from this negociant-like producer in the southern Rhône Valley. Robert Rocchi works with a handful of growers in the region and bottles each wine with his own Tour de l’Isle label. Rocchi is not afraid to make wines that taste good. Case in point this lovely Ventoux rouge. This has backyard bbq written all over it.


2014 Château Bellevue la Randée $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
Speaking of backyard bbq, this red Bordeaux wine comes from the stable of Jean-Luc Thunevin, one of the original Bordeaux garagiste winemakers, whose top wine can sell for over $200! But this is the DD, and this month, we include Jean-Luc’s entry-level red, which is also perfect for the outdoor grill. Spare ribs, steaks, and chops can be enjoyed here.

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Giving Back – La Cuadrilla!

What is now known as The La Cuadrilla program at Stolpman Vineyards began as a way for the vineyard manager to better train his crew. The idea was to dedicate a two-acre block, or cuadra, that the vineyard crew had to then cultivate, from pruning to harvest, without supervision. This training block was called the La Cuadrilla, in Spanish meaning the people of the block. To challenge the crew even further, this two-acre training block would be set up in another part of the vineyard the next vintage. Eventually the vineyard manager confided to owner Tom Stolpman the success of this training system. It was Tom who came up with the idea of making wine from that training block and giving those bottles to the crew as a way to enjoy the fruits of their labor. By 2009, the program expanded to include fruit from other parts of the vineyard so that La Cuadrilla could be sold commercially. Profits from the sale of La Cuadrilla are divided among the vineyard crew in the form of a year-end bonus. This is a creative way for all to benefit by incentivizing learning and taking steps to achieve sustainable employment. Bravo to Stolpman Vineyards!

Of course, in order for this program to really work well, the wine has to be good – this can’t be just a gimmick. The 2015 La Cuadrilla is a lively blend of Syrah with small additions of Grenache, some of it old vine, and Sangiovese. The wine is vinified in concrete tanks and then aged in neutral barrel. La Cuadrilla has a lot of brightness and tart red fruit. It isn’t heavy or over-ripe, but is dominated by red fruit flavors and a pleasant, earthy note. Because of its fresh palate feel, it’s a great choice for warm-weather food pairings like smoky barbecued meats.


Stolpman Vineyards is located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon AVA. Ballard Canyon is Santa Barbara’s newest AVA and sits between the Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon. Ballard Canyon benefits from warm days during the growing season and is protected from wind by the surrounding hills. Temperatures drop significantly at night. Some soils, like at Stolpman, have limestone deposits.


I won’t only be celebrating our nation’s birthday this weekend. I will also be celebrating my mother’s birthday and my own. Mother and daughter will be throwing a joint birthday party! My brother, bless his heart, suggested putting only one candle on each of our birthday desserts. I agreed, adding that we wouldn’t want to ignite a raging inferno. My birthday year was not a particularly good vintage for wine throughout most of world. No worries here because the party calls for youthful wines, so La Cuadrilla will make an appearance on the table. It should be another great family meal up at the dacha out on the deck beneath the Redwoods. Happy Happy, Everyone! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine, Grenache, Santa Barbara County, Syrah