Category Archives: Anya Balistreri

Bestselling Sardinian Red Back In Stock – 2014 Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna


2014 Cannonau di Sardegna
Antonio Sanguineti
The new vintage of Sanguineti’s Cannonau di Sardegna has finally arrived at the store! The response to last year’s offer was so enthusiastic, we made sure to double up on quantities. That said, once it’s gone, it’ll be gone until the next vintage as we have only one shot at ordering this wine. The introductory 2013 vintage was delicious and I predicted it would probably end up being winemaker’s Antonio Sanguineti’s most successful offering. Sure enough, I was right. Antonio upped his production by securing more grapes from his friends on the island, those same friends for whom he works for as a consultant. So to those who bought the 2013 and loved it, I am confident the 2014 will not disappoint. As a whole, 2014 was a difficult vintage for red wines in Italy, especially in northern appellations where August rains caused havoc. However, these unfavorable weather conditions did not reach as far south as Sardinia and Sicily, where in fact the vintage is considered excellent.


Antonio in the forefront

Cannonau is the most widely planted red grape on Sardinia. The common belief is that Cannonau is the same grape as Spain’s Garnacha, though some purists and ampelographers aren’t so sure. After reading a lengthy article laying out a scientific argument for whether or not Cannonau and Garnacha are the same grape, I concluded that for most of the wine drinking population – who cares? What is important to note is that there is commonality in flavor profile between them and so it’s natural to recommend a Cannonau di Sardegna to anyone who is an enthusiast of southern red Rhônes and Spanish Garnacha or visa versa. Though I’ve heard from our customers on more than one occasion that for their palate, Cannonau di Sardegna is far more interesting and pleasurable than most Grenache they’ve tried. Again Mother Nature shows us that something planted here does not taste the same when planted over there – one of the many reasons why I find wine endlessly interesting.

Stocked and ready for purchase

Antonio sources his Cannonau grapes near the seaside town of Villesimius which sits along the southeastern tip of the island. Unoaked, this red is jam-packed with dusty berry flavors buoyed up by a complementary thread of acidity that keeps the flavors popping. The aromas are a mix of fresh and faded berry notes and some dried herb. Overall it has a smooth presence on the palate, making it pleasurable sipping on its own, though at the table is where it really sings. This is not a monster red, but it will stand up to beef and lamb. Fire up the grill!

This is how we do Paella! (no relevance to this newsletter)

School started for my daughter this week. It was a bit of a shock getting up so early for all of us except for the dog who remained snoozing in his bed. It probably wouldn’t have been as painful for me if I hadn’t stayed up so late watching the Olympics. It was well worth it. School might have started but summer is not over yet! I’ve got at least until after Labor Day, right? So far, this summer has been wonderful. Far less stressful than the last couple of summers and filled with family gatherings, visits with friends and excursions around Northern California. This weekend I’m going to lay low and catch up with household chores (mostly filling out and signing paperwork for school). A trip to the Farmer’s Market is a must as it’s SHOWTIME there with summer’s harvest in full swing. I’ll probably end up buying way too many tomatoes (not really, not possible!), squash and fruit. My husband will be grilling something on the Weber and the 2014 Cannonau di Sardegna from Sanguineti will be in my glass. Cheers to an endless summer!– Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Cannonau, Grenache, Italy, Sardegna

2014 Bedrock Zinfandel

“The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco” is famously attributed to Mark Twain, yet there is no evidence he ever wrote or muttered these words. Nonetheless, the quote holds true. San Francisco has been blanketed by a deep and chilling marine layer. It’s Summer in the City! Driving to the store this morning, I had to turn on my windshield wipers just as I passed through the Robin Williams Tunnel and could see the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh, how I love this view!

Pagani Ranch

Shifting over to wine, there happens to be a winemaker, also named Twain, or more accurately, Morgan TWAIN Peterson, who has been delivering some of the finest Zinfandel in the state. I’ve been singing his praises from his very first vintage, and like a proud mother (Morgan and my daughter happen to share the same birthday – how sweet is that!), have been telling anyone who would listen to try his Bedrock Wine Co. wines. The series of wines he makes from old vine, field blend vineyards are not just delicious but are a way of honoring these historic sites. Regrettably, the economics of producing wine has all too often led folks to rip out old vineyards containing Zinfandel, and who knows what else, that were planted by immigrants wanting to create a taste of home. Morgan has worked diligently to identify, restore and preserve these sites by founding the Historic Vineyard Society.

2014 Old Vine Zinfandel

Lucky for us, Morgan makes an Old Vine Zinfandel that is on par with his heritage vineyard wines in quality, but is more budget friendly. Morgan writes that the Old Vine Zinfandel is “perhaps the most important wine we make” because there is more of it than the limited production and highly allocated, single-vineyard Zinfandels, and therefore acts as an introduction to the winery. The Old Vine Zinfandel is also “an invaluable tool” because a few of the vineyards that go into this cuveé were neglected, old vineyards that Morgan has nursed back to life that are not quite ready for individual designation. The multiple vineyard sources that go into the 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel include Bedrock, Papera and Pagani Ranch. Aged in French oak barrels, the 2014 Old Vine is a tremendous value for full-throttle, well-balanced Zinfandel. Though I think most people will end up drinking this wine sooner than later, Morgan writes that he is pretty convinced “that it will age gracefully for over a decade”.
Naked Ladies along the fence

Without looking at a calendar, I know August has arrived. The night-filling sound of chirping crickets that lull me to sleep is my first clue. The second clue are the naked ladies that line up along my driveway. Naked ladies? Yes, naked ladies, aka Belladonna Amaryllis, those gorgeous, lightly-scented pink flowers that erupt from the ground, unadorned by foliage. And the third clue is the market arrival of my favorite apples, Gravensteins – tangy, sweet and crunchy! I’ll be heading north this weekend to escape the marine layer and get a little wine country action under my belt. For Sunday’s dinner on the deck, I am contemplating grilled tri tip with the 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel. Now doesn’t that sound like a proper summer meal! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine, California, Zinfandel

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

Get Your Geek On – Gamay From South Africa


Introducing: Thirst from Radford Dale

What is a geek wine? Among wine drinkers I know, a geek wine does not hold a negative connotation – quite the opposite. A geek wine is something that could be rare or less known, certainly not mainstream, and is most likely appreciated by a confident wine drinker (meaning someone who knows what they like and drink it). Thirst Gamay from Radford Dale is such a wine.

Where to begin? First, it is Gamay. Gamay as in Beaujolais, but this one is from South Africa. South Africa has only 32 known acres of Gamay vines. That is 0.0128% of total planted vines in South Africa. Leave it to super sleuth Alex Dale to find a vineyard with any Gamay. The Gamay Radford Dale sources were planted in 1984, so they are fully mature vines with naturally producing low yields. The vines grow on a low-wire trellis system which allows the grapes to grow underneath the canopy, sheltering the berries from direct sunlight, allowing for good retention of acidity and freshness.

Alex Dale Modeling His Shirt @ TWH

In the cellar, the grapes were fermented whole berry and whole bunch. A portion of the wine went through carbonic maceration. After 3 months in tank, the wine spent a short time in old neutral barrel. The wine is neither fined nor filtered and a minimal amount of sulphur was used. The alcohol content clocks in at a whopping 11.5%! Approximately 500 cases of this unique red were produced which means TWH has 4% of the production.

Ok, so what does it taste like? I first tasted the 2015 Thirst Gamay back in May when our stock arrived in our warehouse coinciding with a visit from the owner and founder of Radford Dale, Alex Dale. A visit from Alex Dale is always inspiring, entertaining, informative and motivating. Alex has a lot to say and I like what I hear. The emphasis Alex places on being ecologically and socially conscientious in the pursuit of making wine is honorable, to say the least. It is not just lip service with him. I found the entire line-up of his newly arrived wines the best I’ve tasted yet, but it was the new line, Thirst, that had our staff captivated. The Thirst Gamay is light bodied. You could say it is like a dark rosé, but I think it is better to describe it as a very, very, light red wine. The varietal flavors of the Gamay are spot-on and recognizable: lots of red berry fruit, a dusty earthiness and a perfumed green note of tomato leaf. The finish has an exhilarating dryness to it just as fine cru Beaujolais does. The tannins are present, giving structure to the wine, at the same time the low alcohol makes for a light, refreshing drink. As Alex told our staff, “all our wines are built on an architecture of acidity”, so that is there too, giving lift and freshness.

The Line Up with Alex Dale

The Thirst Gamay is best served chilled. Yes, it is acceptable to chill red wine, especially this one. On a hot summer’s day or balmy evening, when you are craving red wine but can’t bear to open one because you know it will be too much, too heavy, the Thirst Gamay is a very good option. Certainly the Thirst Gamay is fine on its own to sip before dinner, or to bring along on a picnic, but it is also suited for main course meals. You’d think it was intentionally designed for salmon, as it goes so well with it. Thirst Gamay is not a frivolous wine given its light body and low-alcohol. As Alex likes to suggest it is meant for wine consumers who are looking for a naturally produced wine with little intervention. He also points out that a wine like Thirst is difficult to make both from the standpoint of production as well as the costs associated. I’m grateful Radford Dale makes the effort.

Alex Dale & David Netzer @ TWH

I was finally able to spend a few days up at the River like I’d been hoping to do for some time. What made this trip nourishing and special was the convergence of three families under the guise of a wedding shower. Surrounded by this tribe, as we like to call ourselves, is where I am happiest! We don’t see each other often enough, but when we do, it’s like we’d never left each other’s side. Oh, and I discovered that my brother isn’t the only family member who reads my newsletters – thanks TH for reading to the end!– Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine, Berg River, Gamay, South Africa, Swartland

Galician Albarino from Granbazan


Granbázan Albariño Etiqueta Ámbar

Blank is the new blank, i.e. gochujang is the new sriracha, or poke is the new ceviche. You get the idea. Statements like these are everywhere, especially where wine is concerned. Allow me to give it a go – Albariño is the new … Sancerre. Albariño is a fresh, mineral-driven white wine full of attack just like Sancerre. And “Albariño” is fun to say just like “Sancerre”. But these types of statements can only go so far, so let’s dispense with the nonsense! Albariño is the name of a grape variety. In its native Spain (though Portugal can claim it as its own too), the grape is grown along the north Atlantic edge in the province of Galicia. In the early ’80s the appellation was named Albariño but was changed to Rias Baixas when Spain entered the EU (EU wine laws did not recognize DOs named after grape varieties). Almost all wine from Rias Baixas is white and of that most is made from Albariño.


A leader in advancing quality to the region, Granbazán was established in 1980 and today is spearheaded by the founder’s nephew, Jesús Álvarez Otero. The winery sits within the sub-zone of Val do Salnés, which is considered by many to be the best area for growing mineral-driven Albariño. The soils are mostly granitic. It is the wettest and coolest climate of any Rias Baixas subzone with an average annual temperature of only 55ºF. The gently sloping vineyards are susceptible to the maritime influence of the Atlantic, so the tradition is to grow grapes on pergolas. The pergolas can be as high as 7 feet and when the grapes ripen they are harvested by folks who stand on wine bins to reach the fruit. The visual effect of people walking beneath the green canopy of the grapes is extraordinarily beautiful, but it serves a purpose for the grapes. As the grapes grow high above the ground, air flows beneath preventing mildew and promoting even ripening. It amuses me to no end to see how inventive we can be when it comes to viticulture – wine will be made!


Granbazán makes a few types of Albariño. The Etiqueta Ámbar, my favorite, comes from their oldest vines which are 30+ years old. Only the free-run juice is used. The wine ages on the lees for about six months, giving the wine an exotic roundness and attractive softness to the finish. The intensity of the fruit flavors remind me of how free-run juice sets apart Montenidoli’s Vernaccia Fiore from their other Vernaccias. The combination of the free-run juice and lees aging, while it doesn’t take away from the inherent minerality of Albariño, does enhance the overall texture of the wine.


Its been two weeks since school let out and somehow my family is feeling more tired than ever. My husband, a physical education teacher, runs a summer sports camp for kids. My daughter goes to camp with him and is one of his “counselors in training”. It’s a lot of work for my husband and a lot of fun for my daughter. They both come home exhausted. We’re due for a quick jaunt up north to the family dacha. That bottle of 2014 Granbazán Etiqueta Ámbar chilling in my fridge should come along too. After a day of swimming and sunning, some grilled shrimp and Albariño should cap off the day perfectly. Gotta make it happen! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Albarino, Anya Balistreri, Rias Baixas

A White From Carlisle? That’s Right!

The Derivative from Carlisle
I like to boast about the fact that The Wine House started carrying Carlisle wines from the very first vintage when Mike Officer, then a customer of ours with a taste for Rhônes, began making small lots of Zinfandel. Eighteen vintages later, we continue to still stock Carlisle wines only now their repertoire has expanded to include several single-vineyard and appellation-designated Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah (to name a few) and of late, white wine too. The 2013 The Derivative is a complex blend of several white grape varietals from multiple vineyard keeping in line with Carlisle’s zeal for sourcing old-vine fruit.

Semillon at Monte Rosso Vineyard

The base of the wine is Semillon, about half of the blend, from the famed and historic Monte Rosso Vineyard. Monte Rosso Vineyard is named for its rich, red volcanic soils and lies on the last high flank of the Mayacamas Range. The Semillon grown here was first planted in 1890. To this Mike adds Muscadelle from three different vineyards, and Colombard from Mancini Ranch. At the corner of Piner and Olivet Roads just west of Santa Rosa, Mancini Ranch was planted by Lucca Mancini in 1922. The Colombard adds a significant acid component, adding lift and zip to the wine. Only the Semillon was fermented in oak and of that, only 20% was new. The rest of the grapes were fermented in tank. Phew, that was a lot of information I realize, but I find it interesting to know how the pieces fit together to make a harmonious, complex wine. The wine is golden-hued with honey, grapefruit and beeswax notes. It has firm structure and the acid is notable and pleasant.

Saitone Ranch

On a recent Monday morning, Peter said to me “guess what I drank yesterday?”. I of course had no idea, but my best guess was “Bordeaux”. Nope, he drank a glass of The Derivative with Sunday lunch at a restaurant. I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I asked what he thought of it. He told me he liked it very much and that it reminded him of White Bordeaux. Hmmm…that sounded intriguing to me. The winery notes on The Derivative specifically suggest that fans of White Bordeaux would find this wine “right up your ally”. I have to admit that when I took the wine home to try for myself, because of the percentage of Semillon, I had in mind a much different flavor profile. I expected it to be oily and round, but what I tasted was far more stealth and lively … like White Bordeaux. The grapefruit and spearmint flavors are followed by a slight oxidative note reminding me of the bottles of 1998 Domaine de Chevalier I polished off just a while back. In flavor and in structure, this wine suggests it will age quite comfortably. I would be curious to know how this wine evolves over time. For right now though, it is pretty delicious.

Mike Officer

I siphoned off a bit of The Derivative into a vial to share with the guys at the store. I served them a taste blind just to make it more interesting. Chris, David and Pete liked it immediately and with some deductive reasoning, Pete recognized the wine as being the one he had at Sunday lunch. Chris remarked that he wished he could taste the wine with food, thinking that it would perhaps show differently. I got excited by his comment because I knew it to be true. As the cliché goes, The Derivative is a food wine. The Derivative takes on a much broader flavor spectrum with food and its acidity cradles rich, creamy flavors to higher heights. I write this because I know – at home the glass I tried became far more opulent and showy when I drank it with my dinner.

2013 The Derivative

Over the last eighteen vintages, I have witnessed the evolution of a winery go from a small unknown to one widely recognized as being one of the finest producers in California. An online wine forum that I follow from time to time – they claim to be “The World’s Largest and Most Active Online Wine Community”- even has a thread that reads “Which Carlisle are you drinking”? The thread has over 6,000 posts. Not just any winery can command that much interest and devotion.

School’s out for Summer! Alice Cooper’s lyric looped inside my head as I drove my daughter to her last day of 6th grade. I think I may be more excited than she is about the start of summer. I am hoping to slow down the pace, go outside, explore. As someone wisely said in a movie I watched with my daughter (her choice) last weekend, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Mayacamas Range, Semillon, Sonoma County

A Little Bit O’ Zinfandel, Please – 2014 Poco a Poco

Poco a Poco Zinfandel
Zinfandel reached American shores approximately 200 years ago. Soon after arriving, Zinfandel travelled west to California where it flourished, achieved success and has become so respected and adored that it is now commonly accepted to refer to it as America’s grape. A true American wine tale. I understood its allure early in my wine life. Zinfandel makes a wine that is easy to grasp and appreciate. The flavors are bold and forward; the pleasure is immediate. For me the connection is Zinfandel + Russian River = family + summer + good times. That’s why to mark the unofficial start of summer, a bottle of Zinfandel will trek up north with me to the family dacha this weekend. What will I be toting along? Poco a Poco’s 2014 Russian River Zinfandel.

Winemaker Luke Bass
Poco a Poco is a line of wines made by Luke Bass of Porter Bass Vineyards. Luke sources organic grapes along with his own biodynamically grown grapes to make easy, immediately accessible, well-crafted wine at more than fair prices. Thinking about this now, I can’t really come up with too many other producers who are deliberately using grapes of this quality to make value-priced wine on a small scale. Maybe there is no glory in it or probably the economics don’t play out well enough. All this means is that this wine buyer spends a lot of time combing through offers, meeting with vendors and keeping her eyes and ears open to who’s doing what to find such a gem.

Luke and Son on tractor
The 2014 Zinfandel is sourced from the Forchini family that owns a 24 acre vineyard 1/2 mile east of the Russian River just south of Limerick Lane. The vineyard is farmed organically. Luke, as he does with all his wine, approaches winemaking by celebrating the grape. For this Zinfandel, he fermented the grapes with native yeast and aged the wine in neutral French oak. Pretty straightforward, if you ask me. The resulting wine captures the zesty berry burst of Zinfandel allowing the tanginess of the fruit to emerge. Not soupy or marred by oak notes, this is a resoundingly bright natured Zinfandel. The inherent acidity will play nicely at the table, especially with bold-flavored grilled fare and won’t shy away from American barbecue.

Hacienda Bridge
I called my mom to find out what was on the menu for the family get-together dinner. She said “the usual Zaharoff cook-out…Bulgogi, rice, fresh cabbage salad, bean sprouts salad and a bunch of other stuff”. For years growing up I thought the classic Korean Bulgogi was actually a Russian dish. It is not a far stretch to imagine how a Russian immigrant family came to adopt classic Korean dishes as their own and turning it into their American tradition, serving it on National Holidays at family gatherings. I am excited to see how the Poco a Poco Zinfandel will soak up the savory flavors of the rum-marinated beef and sesame seed oil seasoned salads. I think its going to be a sensational pairing. And yes, Kon, I really am bringing a bottle of this wine to the River! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Zinfandel

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