Category Archives: Anya Balistreri

2014 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Blanc

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Ventoux

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


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

Courtesy of Enkidu FB page

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


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

Courtesy of Enkidu FB page

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

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

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Sonoma County

Tour de l’Isle 2014 Luberon

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

Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle

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

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

NV Cremant d’Alsace From Domaine Saint-Remy



At TWH, I know it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas when one out of every three purchases includes a bottle of bubbly. Our sparkling wine section has been relocated from the far edge of the sales floor to a beautiful, center stage, display – thanks Chris and Tom! It looks so festive! Each time I walk past the display, Carol of the Bells plays in my head. I am so ready to clink glasses with loved ones! But with so many delicious options, what to choose? For fine quality at an affordable price presented in a visually “giftable” package, my choice is Domaine Saint-Remy’s Crémant d’Alsace.


Domaine Saint-Remy traces its history as a winery back to 1725. It continues to operate as a family business with Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart at the helm with three generations of family working at the domaine. Seeped in tradition, the Ehrharts took the steps needed to become certified organic in 2010 and in 2012 became certified biodynamic. The Ehrharts are actively involved in the stewardship and preservation of Alsace’s viticultural heritage.


The Ehrharts visit us in San Francisco on a fairly regular basis. During their last visit in the summer of ’14, Philippe guided TWH staff in a tasting of several of his wines. As I pour over my notes from that day, I can’t help but notice the many stars and exclamation points after each wine. Philippe told us that they only use barrel for Pinot Noir and use no commercial yeasts. They like to use a slow, gentle pressing for the grapes. The last wine we tasted was the Crémant d’Alsace. They began making it in 1982 and limit production to a couple thousand cases. My notes read “quite sophisticated – fresh & lively, elegant”. My notes made no mention of the grapes, though I do know it is a blanc de blancs using Chardonnay (just like in Champagne). The grapes are grown on granite in the lieu-dit of St. Gregoire, west of Turkheim.


I’ve been given my orders: my brother, the host, said to bring sparkling wine to serve with appetizers at our Christmas Eve dinner. For a large crowd – there will be at least 22 of us – the Saint-Remy Crémant d’Alsace will work perfectly. The initial creamy tangerine and ripe pear flavors give way to a snappy green apple finish. It is elegant and fresh. There will be stuffed eggs (always the first to go at a party, in my experience), little roasted potatoes with sour cream and caviar and other tasty morsels. This Crémant d’Alsace is versatile and complex enough to do special occasion hors d’oeuvres justice. A few bottles will also make their way as gifts to friends and neighbors I know who enjoy a good glass of bubbly. I am happy to help spread the cheer!

And a special cheers goes out to all of you that support and patronize our independent, small business. As an employee of The Wine House, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to make connections and forge relationships with our customers. The Wine House is not my first job in retail, so I say this having years of experience….TWH customers are the very best! Happy Holidays! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Alsace, Anya Balistreri, Cremant