Category Archives: Anya Balistreri

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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Filed under Anya Balistreri, montalcino, Tuscany

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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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Loire Valley, Sancerre

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.
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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.
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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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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine

2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg – Domaine Saint Rémy

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Pinot Noir accounts for less than 10% of total wine production in Alsace. Not much of it even leaves the region. It is therefore unlikely that many of us have great knowledge or familiarity with Alsatian Pinot Noir. If you desire to dabble in the esoteric then the 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg from Domaine Saint Rémy is a perfect place to start your exploration of Alsatian Pinot Noir.

Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart have transformed their centuries old domaine into an estate committed to sustainability and conscientious farming practices. They are certified organic and biodynamic. Their emphasis on meticulous work in the vineyard reflects back in the glass. TWH has proudly offered their range of AOC and Grand Cru whites, but it is only recently that we’ve stocked their Pinot Noir.

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Courtesy Domaine Ehrhart’s Facebook page
Ehrhart Pinot Noir comes from the Rosenberg vineyard, a recognized lieu-dit. The vineyard is south and southeast facing with clay-limestone topsoil and lots of rock underneath. The age of the vines are 25-30 years.

The 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg is 100% destemmed and likely spends some time in barrel but certainly not any new. It is light but not without complexity. The exuberant red cherry flavors of new world Pinot Noir are not in play here. Instead the berry fruit goes arm in arm with more savory notes of dried herbs and tea leaves. The lower alcohol (13% on the label) evokes a more restrained palate feel and the aromatics suggest more herb and tea leaves than fruit.
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Courtesy Domaine Ehrhart’s Facebook page
I slapped myself on the forehead this morning as I spied the 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg tucked among the Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. All week I’ve been asked wine recommendations for ham, lamb or braised brisket. Rhone and Burgundy always came first to my mind, but I see now that I missed a perfect opportunity to introduce Alsatian Pinot Noir to a wider audience. The 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg, with its lighter profile, also makes a nice option for daytime and early evening meals.

I’ll be pulling double-duty with Western Easter this Sunday and Eastern Orthodox Easter next. Can a bit of spring cleaning even be a consideration for me at this time? Probably not; another fail. Gratefully, failing at choosing the perfect wine to go with Nana’s stuffed roast pork isn’t possible now that the Ehrharts’ Domaine Saint Rémy 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg is back on my radar. Wishing all of you a glorious Spring celebration!

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Filed under Alsace, Anya Balistreri, Pinot Noir