Category Archives: Loire Valley

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

Container Highlight – 2015 Sancerre Les Godons From Raimbault

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

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, fish-fry wine, Loire Valley, Sancerre

Sancerre For Summer Sippin’ – 2014 Philippe Raimbault’s Les Godons

Sancerre Les Godons 2014
After three extremely challenging vintages, 2014 was a welcome and much needed respite for Loire Valley vintners. July and August did bring a bit o’ worry to growers as heat and rain ping ponged back and forth creating the perfect conditions for rot, but September came to the rescue with a string of glorious, sunny days. Throughout the region, you could hear a collective heavy sigh of relief. Philippe Raimbault’s Sancerre Les Godons encapsulates the best traits of the 2014 vintage, which is to say the best wines have ripe fruit in combination with enlivened acidity.

Raimbault Vineyards in Sury En Vaux

Philippe Raimbault farms close to 40 acres in three appellations: Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and the Coteaux de Giennois. He is one of the few non-negociants in the Loire to do so. Philippe comes from a long-line of winemakers dating back to the 1700s. Typically Sancerre producers use several parcels to make their wine, not just one contiguous plot. Hail is notorious for destroying crops is this region, so it is prudent to use grapes from several locations. For his Apud Sariacum Sancerre Philippe does just that – he uses 22 different parcels of vines which circle the village of Sury En Vaux. The Les Godons Sancerre is unusual as it is a single-vineyard that is south-facing and is shaped like an amphitheater. An etching of the vineyard is depicted on the label. Philippe’s grandfather purchased Les Godons in 1946. The exposition of the vineyard contributes to a unique microclimate. I find the Les Godons’ Sauvignon Blanc to be a little richer, a little more opulent, a tad more tropical than your average Sancerre.

Fossil Found in the Vineyard

The 2014 Les Godons has penetrating fruit flavors of mandarin, pomelo and passion fruit. On the nose it screams of Sauvignon Blanc but stops short of being assaulting. On the palate the ripe fruit flavors are escorted by a pronounced minerality. The Les Godons is energetic and, well, delicious. For an unoaked wine, it has superb texture and weight. The fruit Philippe is able to harvest from this special vineyard makes for a high-impact wine. It distinguishes itself from most Sancerre.

Pre-Friday Night Fish Fry Glass

Temperatures spiked in the Bay Area, even the inside of my house got sweltering hot. Except for the Thirst Gamay from Radford Dale, white wine has been the vin de jour all week. For our Friday Night Fish Fry, I was craving something that had complexity, had substantial fruit presence yet finished fresh and lively. I looked around the store to see what I should begin chilling in our tiny staff refrigerator so that after battling end of the work week traffic, I could cool down with a zippy white. My eyes landed on the 2014 Les Godons and I knew I found what I was looking for. I was not disappointed. With a glass in hand, sitting on the front porch, greeting neighbors as they strolled past, I savored the lush flavors of this special Sancerre. Though it tasted nicely with baked fish, I was thinking next time I would like to serve this with a Cobb salad, substituting the Roquefort for Humbolt Fog. A splendid idea!– Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, fish-fry wine, Loire Valley, Sancerre

Sparkling Rose For Brunch And More


NV Touraine Brut Rosé
Domaine d’Orfeuilles

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow back on the 2nd of February, and though we’re a long, long, long way from western Pennsylvania, we’ve had a strong indication this past week that winter may indeed be ending. Not to get carried away now, it IS still February, but there are signs that spring is on its way. In anticipation, while enjoying the still-winter sunshine, it’s easy to daydream about some of spring’s pastimes. Being food and wine people, we enjoy our meals in all seasons, but spring seems to be the best season for the Sunday Brunch. As fun and delicious as brunch in the springtime sun can be, one can turn it up a notch with the simple addition of one thing: bubbles. How about pink bubbles? Even better. Just in from a recent container is a new batch of our favorite value sparkling Rosé, the Domaine d’Orfeuilles Touraine Brut Rosé.

Of course, the Touraine Brut Rosé is not just for Sunday brunch, but it sure does the trick. This cuvée is equal parts Côt (Malbec) and Cabernet Franc, with 20% Loire Valley’s Grolleau. Mmmmm. Just daydreaming about some brunch favorites … Huevos Rancheros, Corned Beef Hash with poached eggs, Dungeness Crab Benedicts (fingers crossed that we’ll get some soon), or fresh scones with fresh fruit. All of these would be complemented with a glass of d’Orfeuille’s Touraine Brut Rosé. Its color is a remarkable subtle pink with salmon hues. While sparkling in the glass, it emits aromas of red berries, pink grapefruit, and apple blossoms. The palate is dry and crisp (it is Brut after all) as the hints of the white, pink, and red fruits provide fine layers of complexity. The finish is fresh and crisp, all in balance. It’s a great food wine – and I can make a case for pouring this with a nice salmon dinner, or better yet, fried chicken. Come to think of it, either of those would be fantastic! If you want to wait for supper to pop one, that’s fine. I just think that we’re entitled to one festive Sunday Brunch each spring, and considering place of origin, flavor profile, texture, and price, the Domaine d’Orfeuilles Brut Rosé belongs on that table!

I am so looking forward to that festive Sunday Brunch, whenever it may happen. In the meantime, with spring on the horizon, I am currently working on my favorite puzzle: my schedule for Primeurs week in Bordeaux. I will be off in a month’s time, along with the rest of the wine world, to check in on the 2015 vintage. I’m bracing myself for a lot of hype and unfortunately, rising prices. With that inevitability, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen, Pssst. Do you want very good quality Bordeaux for your cellar that’s priced right? 2014. Seriously, 2014 was a fine vintage with very fair pricing that was boosted by a strong dollar. We don’t know what will happen with the currency situation, but knowing what we know, the Bordelais are very happy with their 2015 vintage. That usually results in higher prices, and when that happens, watch for the 2014’s to disappear. Quickly. My schedule in Bordeaux does not allow for the festive Sunday Brunch, so I must wait until my return for that. You can bet I will have a couple of bottles of the Domaine d’Orfeuilles Touraine Brut Rosé stashed away for the occasion. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about sparkling Rosé, Sunday Brunch in springtime, the 2014 Bordeaux vintage, or the upcoming annual trip: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Peter Zavialoff, Touraine

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

2013 Domaine des Corbillières Touraine Blanc: Lush Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Domaine des Corbillières

I’ve been known to call Domaine des Corbillières’ Touraine blanc ‘the poor man’s Sancerre’. It’s a quick way to convey that this wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc, like Sancerre, and that it is full of attack, like good Sancerre, but because it says Touraine on the label and does not carry the same cache Sancerre does, it is less expensive. It is rightfully so that Touraine is not as prestigious as Sancerre for it is a vast region encompassing varied soils and climates, often producing underwhelming wines. However, as in every region, there are the exceptions, the stand-outs and one such winery is Domaine des Corbillières.

Harvest in Touraine

Domaine des Corbillières is situated at the eastern end of Touraine in the village of Oisly. Dominique and Veronique Barbou farm 16 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc that range in age from 13-43 years of age. The vines grow in sand atop deep clay subsoils. In 1923 Dominque’s great grandfather, Fabel, purchased the property and, legend has it, was the first in the region to recognize the benefit of growing Sauvignon Blanc in Touraine. The story goes that Fabel allowed a vine to grow alongside his home and he soon noticed how well it thrived in the terroir. True or not, that’s a pretty cool story!

Dominique & Veronique Barbou

The 2013 Touraine blanc is showing beautifully at the moment. Lots of pungent pink grapefruit and green melon flavors permeate the wine. It’s assertive without being assaulting to the nose and palate as too many Sauvignon Blancs can be in my opinion. There is enough texture to create interest in the mouth, but still manages to end with an invigorating finish. This Touraine is not only a stand-out for the region, as I wrote above, but it is a stand-out among Sauvignon Blanc.

The Domaine at sunset

My daughter wanted mac-n-cheese for dinner. Feeling motivated to cook something special, I made the mac-n-cheese from scratch. I used three different kinds of cheese, sautèed up some red and green bell peppers, and even steeped fresh herbs and garlic into the milk before making the béchamel sauce. I thought it came out pretty good. My daughter, on the other hand, was disappointed that the mac-n-cheese was a casserole! Huh? Unlike my homemade mac-n-cheese, the pasta in the boxed yellow-colored kind made stove-top does not bind together, rather it spreads all over the plate in an oozy orange-glow mess. She likes it that way better! Knowing I had a chilled bottle of the 2013 Touraine in the fridge at the ready helped me to feel more magnanimous towards her. I suggested next time I make homemade mac-n-cheese, she can make the boxed kind herself! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Loire Valley, Touraine

2012 Sancerre Rouge From Domaine des Buissonnes

2012 Sancerre Rouge
Domaine des Buissonnes

The 2012 Sancerre Rouge from Domaine des Buissonnes is yet another fine example of a light, medium-bodied Pinot Noir from a region of France more famous for their whites than for their reds. Its delicate frame carries with it satisfying fruit flavors of sour cherry and tangy raspberry. The gentle tannins play nicely with the chalky finish. There is a soil component to the wine that pleasantly keeps the fruitiness at bay. It is a refreshing drink for those who value character over brawn.

Domaine des Buissonnes’ Sancerre Rouge

In last week’s post, Peter described a staff tasting where a white and a red were tasted. Although the subject of his post was Raousset’s Beaujolais Blanc (he was not at all exaggerating our enthusiasm for the wine!), the red he referred to, but did not name, was Buissonnes’ 2012 Sancerre Rouge. Just like we dug the stripped down, mineral-driven crisp Chardonnay from Raousset, the Buissonnes’ Sancerre Rouge showed us another approach to vinifying Pinot Noir. The 2012 Sancerre Rouge has a transparent quality; it is as if the grapes had sponged up the soil they were grown in and was then squeezed back into the wine. Chris liked the delicacy and lightness of the Sancerre Rouge and Peter was reminded how much he likes reds with a hint of green in it.

Harvest in Sancerre © InterLoire

I don’t foresee this style of Pinot Noir overtaking the popularity of super ripe, super concentrated ones, but I think there is a large segment of wine drinkers who are ready to take on and experience a more nuanced expression of the grape. It is au courant to put a slight chill on this wine, especially in warmer weather, to accentuate the snappy, tangy fruit. The incredible lightness of being that the 2012 Sancerre Rouge evokes, makes it an excellent candidate for lingering over slowly, taking in all the soft-spoken fruit.

It’s been a strangely, and unexpectedly, emotional last two weeks as my daughter finished up her elementary school years. How is it possible for six years to buzz by so quickly? We walked to school on the last day, just as we did on her first day to Kindergarten. I remember thinking then how grown up the fifth graders looked in comparison to my little one, but in my eyes, my soon to be middle-schooler still looks little to me. I realize she’s growing up, but she’ll always remain my baby girl.

5th grade trip: Crissy Fields SF

So, in my invariably Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah way, I’m going to celebrate these life changes by, what else, cooking up some lovely meals and drinking some tasty wine. I’m envisioning a moment this summer, after a long day of nothin’, of firing up the grill for a cedar-plank salmon. The 2012 Sancerre Rouge from Buissonnes would be a perfect match, complimenting the sweet, smokey nuances of this type of preparation. I’d also like to see this wine match up with other types of fish or even grilled octopus sprinkled with smoked paprika. – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Loire Valley, Pinot Noir