Category Archives: Anya Balistreri

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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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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The June 2015 Dirty Dozen

If one were to ask a hundred different people what their favorite month is, June would most likely top the chart. Any school kid would choose it, those that love to welcome summer would follow suit. June brides, Dads, and grads all have reason to put the sixth month first. Here at TWH, we’ve got a soft spot for June as well. The clock is ticking; summer is almost here! To get ready for it, why not pick up the June Dirty Dozen today? 12 wines, all different, all chosen for their versatility, one low price!

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Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2013 Domaine de la Petite Cassagne Blanc $11.99, $9.59 reorder

White wines from the Rhône Valley are some of the best bang-for-your-buck wines in the world! This one is a blend of 50% Rolle (some call it Vermentino), 30% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Roussanne, all tank-fermented with fresh and lively fruit expression. This is best served with light summer salads or avocado bruschetta drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

2012 Chenin Blanc, Blue Plate $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Here’s a Chenin Blanc grown sustainably in the Sacramento Delta commune of Clarksburg. It is pure sunny, melon-laden and tropical-tinged juice. The fruit is picked early to keep acids fresh and sugars in check. Fleshy, yet dry, this versatile white pairs up well with fried chicken and all the traditional sides.

2014 Vinho Verde, Arca Nova $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Slightly effervescent and super low in alcohol, a well-made Portugese Vinho Verde, like this one, is perfect for daytime imbibing or partnering up with a picnic. A family-owned winery, Arca Nova makes their Vinho Verde from the grapes, Loureiro, Arinto and Trajadura. For an unexpected pairing, try it with spicy pan-fried rice noodles like Pad Kee Mow.

2012 Riesling Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Ehrhart $19.99, $15.99 reorder

Okay, try this one. You’re sitting at a restaurant with a few friends. One friend orders a turkey sandwich. Another goes for corned beef and cabbage. A third likes the idea of the Dungeness crab salad, and you can’t take your eyes off the fish tacos. Think you all need the ‘by the glass’ list? Think again. This dry Riesling works with all of them.

2013 Chardonnay/Torrontes, Martin Fierro $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

Tulum Valley, Argentina is north of Mendoza. The vines there grow at elevations exceeding 2000 feet. The combination of Chardonnay and Torrontes makes for a fragrant yet perky, clean wine. A chilled glass to linger over on the veranda is nice especially with some nibbles of fava bean puree on crostini, crunchy crudité or a composed dinner salad.

NV Vouvray, Domaine d’Orfeuilles $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

June is a month known for several celebrations. And though we highly promote sparkling wines to be served at any occasion, this bottle may come in handy should you need a quick fizz pick me up. It’s made from Chenin Blanc and has aromas of dusty mineral and a crisp apple. Sparkling wine pairs very well with salty snacks like chips or popcorn.

2011 Syrah/Grenache, Laurent Miquel $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Spicy Syrah combined with juicy Grenache is a traditional blend in the Languedoc. Laurent Miquel vinifies these two complementary grapes to create an accessible and plush red. One famous British wine writer described producer Laurent Miquel “as one of the most reliable and forward-looking in the Languedoc.” Serve with any Mediterranean inspired dish.

2008 Tempranillo, Gárgola $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

This structured, soft tannin Spanish red comes from grapes grown in the Extramadura region. Situated along the border with Portugal in western Spain, this sparsely populated region is rich in wildlife and home to the famous Jamón Ibérico. Try this cured-meat delicacy with some Marcona almonds and a large goblet of the Gárgola for a quick festive feast!

2012 Grenache, Blue Plate $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Looking for a warm-weather red quaffer? Something juicy and light with little oak? If so, the Blue Plate Grenache is the one for you! Pretty aromas of strawberry, raspberry and a hint of violet charm the senses. Light-bodied and fresh, serve with teriyaki-glazed chicken, Korean short-ribs or anything spicy and assertive that needs a fruity back drop.

2013 Syrah, Domaine Saint Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder

Coming from just outside the Rhône Valley, our friends at Saint Antoine craft this brawny Syrah. Another terroir-driven wine that speaks of its place of origin, it’s 100% de-stemmed and all tank fermented. Pair it with Papardelle with rabbit sauce.

2010 Château La Gorre, Médoc $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

Wait. What??? 2010 Left Bank Bordeaux in the Dirty Dozen? You bet. 2010 was one of the best vintages in the region in recent memory. La Gorre is another producer located in the village of Bégadan, and their 2010 is expressive and balanced. Treat it special: get the good stemware, a decanter, someone to share it with and a nice T-Bone steak.

2011 Ventoux Fayard, Domaine Fondrèche $17.99, $14.39 reorder

Winemaker Sébastien Vincenti has one of the best locales in all of Ventoux, and continues to churn out expressive wines with charm and complexity. For his Fayard blend, Vincenti uses 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre to give it some gaminess and backbone. Pop it with a simple Margherita pizza and your taste buds will be tickled.

Check Out Our Complete Inventory at Click here to purchase all 12 wines for $109!

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Peter Zavialoff, The Dirty Dozen, Wine Clubs/Samplers

Pinot Noir From the Russian River Valley: 2014 Poco a Poco

Poco a Poco
The Poco a Poco 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is another one of those strong values made by a talented winemaker offering an entry-level tier. I look out for these types of scenarios because, if the stars all perfectly align, fabulous juice can be purchased for a fraction of what the competition might charge for a comparable wine. The 2014 Poco a Poco Pinot Noir is delightful because of its vibrant, cheery red cherry fruit delivered in a charming light/medium-bodied weight package. This is not an over-the-top Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, but a restrained, fruity and pure example of one.

Poco a Poco is brought to you by Luke Bass and his wife, Elena. Luke Bass is the winemaker at Porter Bass. At the north-western edge of the Russian River Valley lies the vineyards of Porter Bass which are biodynamically farmed. The fruit from this small estate is in very high demand, and they only it sell to a select few. The tiny production at Porter Bass forced them to seek other vineyard sources to make wine under their Poco a Poco label. For the 2014 Pinot Noir, Luke uses fruit from the Forchini family’s vineyard just south of the town of Healdsburg and a half mile east of the Russian River. The Pinot Noir grown here is between 10-30 years of age and is organically farmed. The success of the Poco a Poco Pinot Noir is evident in that little by little production has increased. This is certainly a good thing because TWH has been cut short on more than one vintage. The 2014 has just been released, so I anticipate stocking it over the next couple months.

The 2014 Poco a Poco Pinot Noir is ideally suited for warmer days and evenings with its integrated, delicate tannins. If you decide to pop open a bottle and temps outside are pushing 90 degrees, its important to make sure the wine isn’t at room temperature. Go ahead and stick the bottle in the fridge for a few minutes in order to replicate optimal cool cellar temperatures. By doing so, you’ll get brighter and livelier flavors in the glass.

As wine trends go, I am over-joyed by the uptick in frequency of customers asking specifically for lighter reds. It warms this wine merchant’s heart to see wine drinkers embrace a wider diversity of wine styles. As we head into the summer months, it is not as if we all stop drinking red wine and start drinking white and rosé exclusively. And yet, how often, even with a rich piece of grilled meat, does a heavy tannic red fall flat (or hot) when outside temperatures spike? Avoid this mishap by selecting a softer tannin red, one that does not sacrifice flavor and complexity for heft like the 2014 Poco a Poco Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. I know I’ll be looking forward to bringing along a bottle to share with family and friends at one of this summer’s out-on-the-deck beneath the Redwoods dinner gatherings. – Anya Balistreri

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2012 Rosso di Montalcino From Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona: Value From The Hills Of Montalcino


The majestic, undulating hills of Montalcino give birth to some of the Italy’s greatest wines made from Sangiovese: Brunello di Montalcino. Regrettably, I am not as well-versed in Brunello as I’d like to be. Opportunities to evaluate them have been limited during my wine business tenure and well, they can be too pricey for casual exploration. Luckily I have an ace in the hole for when the urge strikes for a taste of that suave, bright cherry Sangiovese fruit, delivered in a slightly more opulent package than its cousin to the north in Chianti, and that is a bottle of delicious Rosso di Montalcino. Recently, we took in some 2012 Rosso di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona which I wasted no time purchasing to evaluate at home with a Sunday supper.


The 2012 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino is a beauty with rich layers of black cherry, anise and spice. What attracted me most to this wine is the texture. It has a powerful impression to the fruit but the finish and mouthfeel is pure luxe and velvety smoothness. The texture is the result of fermentation in tank, stainless and concrete, and then a 12 month rest in large Slavonian oak, followed by a few months in bottle before going to market. This regiment smoothes out any sharpness to the acid or roughness to the tannins. It is straight out of the bottle ready.

The Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona estate dates back to the 17th century, changing hands from church to titled aristocracy. Current ownership of the estate belongs to the Bianchini family who inherited it from the Countess Ciacci Piccolomini, who had no heirs. Giuseppe Bianchini, who has since passed, lived on the estate and raised his family there while overseeing the day-to-day operation of food and wine production for the Countess. In 1985 Giuseppe was willed the estate and his dream to produce Brunello became a reality. Today his children, Paolo and Lucia run the estate and wine production.


I traveled and stayed in Montalcino in the late 90’s. I remember at the time thinking to myself – why all the fuss over vacationing in Chianti and not Montalcino? Less tourists, less traffic, similar beautiful vistas and equally, if not better, wine – impossible not to fall in love with the region.

Anyway, knowing I was going to be matching dinner up with the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, I naturally turned my thoughts to preparing something Tuscan or at the very least, Italian. I wanted to cook up something comforting but at the same time I didn’t want pasta. I was stumped, so I decided to widen my culinary borders and settled on Shepherd’s pie. I like to include lots of mushrooms to the ground lamb to lighten up the dish a bit, and I always double the portions – gotta have leftovers. The Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso was divine with the dish. The creaminess of the mashed potatoes and the gaminess of the lamb suited the succulence of the Sangiovese beautifully. The wine’s underlying acidity was welcomed and cut through all that comfort food richness.


In the last half of May, my daughter will have performed in three different dance/musical productions. Last night she sang the opening number followed by a long monologue. It was the first time she had a solo role, so emotions ran high. I was excited for her and felt proud watching her overcome nerves to deliver a strong performance. Afterwards, the family celebrated with sweets and libations. No, I didn’t serve the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini, but I did serve chilled bottles of Giavi Prosecco that were quickly and happily depleted by my guests. I think I can get used to this stage mother thing!

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2013 Domaine des Buissonnes Sancerre: Sleek Sauvignon Blanc

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Domaine des Buissonnes’ Sancerre is precisely why Sancerre is so beloved and has such far reaching popularity; the flavors are refreshing, crisp and persistent. Grower and winemaker Dominique Naudet is a meticulous farmer. His Sancerre is always lush on the aromatics without compromising that charged Sauvignon Blanc attack. The 2013 is particularly compelling with its focused and precise flavors; compact and clean. You will immediately be greeted by aromas of gooseberry and passionfruit. On the palate it’s got citrus and cut grass freshness, but by no means is it “grassy”.


At the end of April, Jeanne-Marie de Champs, who represents many of the producers The Wine House imports, and comes to SF bi-annually to visit us, held court in our new conference room sharing with TWH staff a line-up of newly arrived wines off of our last container. Though Jeanne-Marie works from Beaune in the heart of Burgundy, she is originally from Loire. When Jeanne-Marie is in town, I try to take these opportunities to ask as many questions as possible about each domaine, especially ones like Buissonnes that leaves no marketing or social media footprint. It is as if they don’t exist, other than the fact that our clients clamor for it as if it were the only Sancerre on the market.

Jeanne-Marie showing Peter the line-up

Jeanne-Marie explained that typical of the region, Domaine des Buissonnes owns several parcels around Sancerre, not just one contiguous vineyard. This is by design as the region is often devastated by hail, and owning vines in various places helps to insure a crop. Dominique Naudet owns about 20 hectares of vines and the winery itself is in Sury-en-Vaux just north of the town of Sancerre. Vinification occurs in stainless steel however to draw out aromatics and give a rounded mouthfeel, the wine sits long on the lees.

JM Holding Court

In an article about Sancerre’s popularity, a wine director for a high profile New York restaurant confessed that he won’t offer Sancerre by the glass because if he did it would make it nearly impossible to sell another white by the glass, thus destroying his by-the-glass program. Just some food for thought. Despite the popularity, I would caution that not all Sancerre is made equally. The family-run estate of Domaine des Buissonnes can only survive if it delivers quality, which is does vintage after vintage.

At a small town farmer’s market this past week I purchased some sweet, young Spring onions that would be perfect to grill, drizzle with a light vinaigrette and then crumbled over with fresh goat cheese – you know where I am going with this? – to serve with a chilled glass of 2013 Domaine des Buissonnes Sancerre. Now, doesn’t that sound lovely?

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2013 Saint Antoine Merlot – A Red For Every Occasion

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At The Wine House, we strive to stock the very best wine in every category from collectibles to everyday pleasures. For the latter, Domaine St. Antoine’s Merlot is our go-to for large gatherings, weddings, or budget-conscious imbibers. The 2013 Merlot is as it should be: fruity with approachable tannins with some backbone and drinkable start to finish. I won’t mislead you; you won’t mistake Saint Antoine Merlot for Ausone. However, that is not to say there are plenty of reasons to find charm and quality in the 2013 Merlot from Domaine St. Antoine.
St.Antoine1Domaine St. Antoine’s vineyards
Domaine St. Antoine is situated west of the Rhone River in the hills southeast of Nîmes. The estate is run by Jean-Louis Emmanuel and his wife, Marlène. The vines are planted on a plateau of rocky limestone that was deposited there when the area was underneath the Rhone River. The approach to winemaking here is simple. The Merlot grapes are 100% de-stemmed to keep the flavors fresh and vibrant, cold fermented in tank and then transferred to concrete cuves to rest before being bottled unfiltered. Nothing is added to bolster fruit flavors or trick tasters into thinking the wine was aged in barrel. This is honest to goodness country wine brought to market for a fair price.
Jean-Louis
Jean-Louis and Marlène
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Domaine St. Antoine doesn’t have a website – and unless someone else takes over their social media, it is unlikely they ever will. Domaine St. Antoine is a working farm with an ancient olive grove that they press into oil, that happens to grow grapes. They make simple, albeit delicious, wine. I visited the estate once years ago. With my camera at the ready to take lots of pictures, I found it difficult to capture that postcard perfect angle. It was January and wet. The estate which truly looks more like a farm and nothing like the wineries strewn along California’s Highway 29, was muddy, had farm equipment parked all around and maybe a dog or two barking in the driveway. It was a wonderful place. I met Jean-Louis and remember him as warm, but quite shy. His wine does all of the talking.
TreeAntoine
Ancient Olive Tree
On Day 2 of Easter, if the katzenjammer isn’t so bad, we set off on a pilgrimage to a small butcher shop in Santa Rosa to buy made in-house beef jerky, smoked bacon and an assortment of sausages. On the way there we stop by my brother’s house to check in on his chickens, gentlemen’s vineyard (new plantings of Mataro and Grenache have been added to his Petite Sirah and Zinfandel for a field blend effect), and any of his new hobbies. This year he escorted us to the wine cellar to peak in on and taste his curing Prosciutto! Hobbies are good. Bravo K! For tonight’s dinner a package of sausages have been de-frosted and a simple kinda of red is on tap – 2013 Merlot from Domaine St. Antoine. – Anya Balistreri
Prosciutto
Curing Prosciutto

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