Category Archives: Anya Balistreri

2012 Scaia Corvina: High Scoring, Everyday Day Rosso Del Veneto

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The 2012 Scaia Corvina from Tenuta Sant’Antonio represents the 5th vintage we’ve carried at The Wine House. There is a good reason why we have and that is because it is a veritable steal for the quality! 100% Corvina sourced from the winery’s young vines fashioned into a supple, un-oaked red beauty.

 

Tenuta Sant’Antonio began twenty years ago when four brothers decided to take their collective wine knowledge and go into business together, purchasing land to augment their familial vineyard east of Verona. A risky venture anywhere in the wine world, but these four had passion and experience behind them and they were determined to make world-class Amarone and Valpolicella. At last week’s Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri tasting at Fort Mason, Sant’Antonio poured their top end Amarone, so the wine world has taken notice of their achievement in making fine wine. A tactic of mine that can bring good results is to seek out high-end wineries that also produce an everyday line such as Sant’Antonio’s Scaia. At best, what I hope to find is top-notch winemaking from quality grapes that from the bottle over-deliver for price. The Scaia Corvina is such a wine.
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I’ve enjoyed the Scaia rosso starting with the 2007 vintage. Many of you may already be familiar with Scaia especially if you’ve been a frequent buyer of The Dirty Dozen; the Scaia goes in nearly every vintage.

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And yet, the 2012 Scaia distinguishes itself from past bottlings. Now the varietal, Corvina, is prominently written on the handsome, newly updated front label and Veneto is identified as the IGT or indicazione geografica tipica. But more importantly, it is the wine that makes the 2012 their finest effort. For a 100% Corvina it is pleasantly dense and rich at the core while still maintaining freshness and light tannins. The fruit is all red cherry with a thread of green, typical of the grape.

From issue #216 of The Wine Advocate comes this review:
The 2012 Corvina Scaia is an unbelievable deal, and a wine that can be purchased by the case-load for those informal occasions at home when a simple glass of red wine accompanies you as you cook dinner or watch television. This is the ultimate downtime wine. The fruit is fresh and bright with white cherry, cassis, sweet almond and freshly milled white pepper. It’s appearance is compact with a light ruby hue.90 points.

 

In the last six months since my father’s passing, I’ve met my youngest nephew hours after his birth and just last night witnessed my eldest nephew announce his wedding engagement to the family.  Life does indeed go on.
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And Pete is right when he wrote, “life’s too short to not enjoy something special at least once a month.” Splurging is good, but if you can’t (or don’t want to) you shouldn’t have to jeopardize quality in order to enjoy an affordable glass of wine. It may take a bit more effort on your part to find such a wine, but that’s why you have us here at The Wine House – to help you find the best possible wine to enjoy at any price.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Corvina, Italy, Veneto

The February 2015 Dirty Dozen

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February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s packed with fun stuff to do! There’s Valentine’s Day, of course, but Presidents’ Day and winter break right afterward. That’s reason enough to have a Dirty Dozen handy. Think about it, 12 wines, all chosen for their versatility, in one handy box, for one incredibly low price. So no matter what’s cooking, there’s something in this here sampler that will pair well beside it. Vive la Dirty Dozen!

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2013 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Col del Mondo $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

An old favorite makes a return visit to the DD. These mature Trebbiano grapes are grown on silt/clay soils rich in calcareous elements. Winds off the Adriatic keep temps cool at night, preserving freshness. Meticulous work in the vineyard yields results that over-deliver for the price. Unoaked and yet dripping with sunny, citrusy flavors – delizioso! Serving suggestions include veal Piccata, a bowl of Castelvetrano olives, or a rotisserie Chicken.

2013 Chardonnay, Sean Minor $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

This Central Coast Chardonnay is put together keeping balance in mind as only a portion of the wine is aged in barrel. A Chardonnay that is unapologetically Californian in flavor profile: apple, pear, with nuances of tropical fruit. A rounded, creamy finish will compliment Swiss enchiladas, pan-roasted salmon or it can go solo at your next book club meeting.

2013 Pinot Grigio, Riff $11.98, $10.78 reorder

One of Italy’s most famous producers, Alois Lageder, makes this delightful, delicious and de-lovely Pinot Grigio. Fermented in tank and left on its lees for four months to develop texture, this is far removed from the sea of plonky Pinot Grigio. Depth and pronounced aromas of orchard fruit make this a perennial TWH favorite. Food match-ups are endless here, but to get you started: Oysters Rockefeller, clam chowder, or a grilled Gruyere & ham sandwich. Nice!

2012 Unoaked Chardonnay, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder

English expat Alex Dale has a few labels under his umbrella down Stellenbosch way. His entry-level brand, The Winery of Good Hope doesn’t spend precious resources on new barrels, packaging, or marketing, ultimately keeping their bottle prices über-friendly. Here it is: Lively Chardonnay with no make-up, waiting to be poured with those crabcakes.

2012 Bordeaux Clairet, Château Armurey $9.99, $7.99 reorder

Speaking of the English – They’ve called red Bordeaux wines “Claret” for centuries. Where’d they get that from? In the Middle Ages, light red wine called Clairet (say Klare-ay´) was shipped from Bordeaux to England, and that inspired this now permanent fixture in their lexicon. Not a red wine, not a Rosé, this Clairet is as versatile as it is easy on the wallet!

NV Touraine Brut Rosé, Domaine d’Orfeuilles $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a pink sparkler with plenty of nuance and character. Made mostly from Côt (non Loire people call it Malbec), it sports a deep brick-like color, but don’t let that fool you. This fizz is dry and zesty, the fruit pings with freshness, and there is gravelly mineral at its core. Perfect to open with tempura and/or sushi.

2013 Luberon, Dauvergne Ranvier $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Juicy black cherry and plum flavors are embraced by firm, velvety tannins making this the ideal anytime Rhône red. Two-thirds Syrah with the balance Grenache, this wine captures the easy-to-drink profile of the region. Each sip can elicit taste memories of fruit and Provençal herbs. Try with turkey and hominy chili (make it as hot as you like, this red with handle the heat), lamb burgers or white bean and kale stew for meatless Monday.

2013 Nero d’Avola, Marchione $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

The dark-skinned Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most important and widely planted grape. This rendition of Nero d’Avola opts to take the fresher route by fermenting the grapes in tank, leaving the acid bright and the fruit intense. A charming Nero d’Avola if ever there was one. It is well suited for tomato-based sauces and dishes, as well as Mediterranean seafood stews like Cioppino or Bouillabaisse. Too much effort? Ok then, a lamb shawarma or carnitas burrito can do in a pinch.

2013 Bobal, Atance $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

One can easily make the case that Spain produces the greatest selection of wine values in the world. Allow us to put into evidence, Atance Bobal. Crusader of Bobal, Toni Sarrion of Bodegas Mustiguillo, makes this wine using grapes from the DO Valencia. A medium-bodied red, the aromatics have an alluring thread of black pepper in tandem with the raspberry fruit. Muy ricos!

2013 Merlot, Domaine de St. Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder

Jean-Louis Emmanuel’s terroir in the hills to the southeast of the city of Nîmes have been compared to the terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He grows Syrah as well, but he found something to his liking by planting Merlot under the hot sun of the Costières de Nîmes. It’s juicy and medium bodied with a hint of the garrigue; great with pasta and duck ragu.

2011 Morgon Côte du Py, Domaine Pierre Savoye $18.99 net price, $15.19 reorder

There are 10 classified ‘Crus’, or growths, in Beaujolais. Though they’re not labeled as such, their recognition suggests each one special, akin to Premier Cru or Grand Cru. The wines from Morgon’s Côte du Py are considered to be some of Beaujolais’ more age worthy. Think bright red cherries and forest floor, this juicy number suits a turkey sando just fine.

2012 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $14.59, $11.67 reorder

Hardly a newfangled ‘Super Tuscan,’ Cabernet Sauvignon has been allowed to grow in Carmignano since Medici times. Blended with 80% Sangiovese, the Barco Reale shows plenty of brightness braced by the sturdy Cabernet fruit. This is a food wine extraordinaire, as it will suit pasta, pizza, stews, barbecue, veal shanks, meatballs; we could keep going!

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

2012 Jean-Marie Chaland Macon Villages Les Tilles

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Sneaky – that’s the way I see it anyway. The 2012 Mâcon Villages Les Tilles from Jean-Marie Chaland is sneaky the way its flavors intensify with repeated sips. With an unoaked Chardonnay from the Mâconnais you might not expect much complexity, but this one is different. Once you get past the first refreshing, satisfying swallow, what emerges is a sophisticated expression of classic Chardonnay flavors like apple and pear. jmchaland

Talented winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland, whose swashbuckler good looks make him a shoo-in for a remake of The Three Musketeers, organically farms several old-vine (some darn near ancient) micro-parcels in the villages of Viré and Montbellet. The grapes for the 2012 Les Tilles are mere youngsters at 40-50 years old and come from a single parcel grown on a plateau of clay and limestone soil near Montbellet. Jean-Marie takes a simple approach to vinifying this wine: stainless steel tank fermentation, natural yeasts, no added sugars or acidification. What you taste in the glass, aside from any clever flavor descriptor I can come up with, is the environment in which the grapes were grown (soil, climate, viticultural practices) and Jean-Marie’s gentle guidance of turning the grapes into wine.

 

Jean-Marie Chaland may take a simple approach to making his 2012 Mâcon-Villages Les Tilles but the end result is extraordinary. It is analogous to a chef, someone like Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe, who honored ingredients by skillfully preparing them without masking their inherent goodness and flavors. When you have a perfectly ripened garden tomato or a farm-fresh egg, there is not a whole lot you need to do to make it taste better.
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And so to recap, the 2012 Mâcon-Villages Les Tilles:
1) organically grown grapes,
2) grown on clay/limestone soil,
3) 40-50 year old vines,
4) unoaked
and….
5) $19.99 per bottle or $16.99 by the case!
Did I just hear a needle scratch over the record? I must admit, I have tried excellent unoaked local Chardonnay but I can assure you, they don’t cost under $20 a bottle! An amazing value when you consider the material in the bottle.
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Sent my big Bro home with a bottle!

Now for a little sharing – rather than watch the Super Bowl at home with her parents, my daughter opted to spend it at her BFF’s house – they too were having a party. Right after halftime, she called home to inform us that she had eaten dinner. After I assured her that that was fine and that I expected she would have eaten with them, she followed up by making me promise to save some of the Buffalo Wings we were serving for her to eat later! My little foodie!

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Burgundy, Macon

2013 Picpoul de Pinet de Julie Benau – Lipstinger From The Languedoc

Domaine Julie Benau’s Picpoul de Pinet is a wine that we initially stocked because we felt it was one of the finest of its kind. Now we stock it because we’d have a riot on our hands if we didn’t. Talk about a wine that has gained traction! It has become a favorite and staple for many TWH customers. It combines the desire one might have for a white with charged acidity with one that has some fleshiness. I’d place it somewhere between a Muscadet and crisp white Cotes du Rhone.
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Picpoul de Pinet refers both to the name of the grape and the appellation; something you don’t often encounter on a French wine label. The vineyards grow along the Etang de Thau which is a series of lagoons that stretch along the Mediterranean coast. The water has high salinity and is host to a thriving oyster-producing community. Like Muscadet, Picpoul de Pinet is a natural choice for oysters on the half shell. To illustrate this point, Domaine Julie Benau’s Picpoul de Pinet literally has a pen and ink sketch of an oyster on the front label. Though personally, I wouldn’t limit Benau’s Picpoul de Pinet to just raw shellfish – that would be a mistake. Boquerones, grilled sardines or a creamy Brandade would be a great way to go if you had this perky white chilling in the fridge.

 

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In 1980, Julie Benau’s family bought the domaine which centers around a 16th century fortified farm and like most growers in the area do, sold their fruit to the local co-op. In 1999, Domaine Julie Benau began bottling part of their production using their best vines. It is clear to my palate that this practice continues as the 2013 Picpoul de Pinet is laden with green-tinged fruit, lemony flavors and a touch of oily roundness. It’s the texture here that makes me think white Cotes du Rhone, though the body weight of Picpoul is far lighter than a Rhone. Perhaps not coincidentally, outside of the Languedoc, Picpoul can be found growing in the Rhone. It is one of the thirteen varietals allowed in Chateauneuf du Pape and is used mainly to add acidity to the blend. The word Picpoul itself translates to “stings the lip”.
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TWH post-Holiday staff party last Saturday night was a great celebration. Vintage Champagne and crab beignets (an incredible combination)…and that was only the beginning! My tastebuds are still doing a happy dance one week later. Speaking of dancing, my tiny dancer is hitting the big stage to perform sick Hip Hop moves as part of a dance school showcase. I am giddy with excitement for her. Break a leg, sweet pea!
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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Picpoul de Pinet

The January 2015 Dirty Dozen

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Happy New Year! It’s January 2015, time for new beginnings, and renewed optimism. As we look back and see the holidays in our wake, it’s comforting to feel the relative calm that January brings. It’s a great month to just chill, get caught up on our reading, and taste some new wines. The Dirty Dozen is exactly the discovery tool to accompany all three pastimes. So kick off your shoes, get the glasses, and let the DD do the entertaining!

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2012 Alento, Monte Branco $12.98 net price, 11.68 reorder

A slew of autochthonous grapes make up the blend for this zippy Portuguese white. It’s an easy sipper with pronounced amounts of bright, citrusy flavors. Young winemaker Luís Louro established the winery in Alentejo, a wine region in the southern part of the country. Saffron-infused steamed mussels and crab cakes work well as does a winter veggie slaw.

2011 Chardonnay, Brezza $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

This Langhe Chardonnay comes from an estate located near the town of Barolo, Italy. It is all stainless steel tank fermented, so it is a crisp rendition of this famed grape variety. 20+ year-old vines grown on sand and silt make for a stylish, structured white. Serve with pizza bianca or clam linguine.

2014 Gewurztraminer, Banyan $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

This is seriously delicious Gewurztraminer! Perfumed aromatics are met with a dry, vibrant finish. The fruit is sourced from Monterey County, where climate suits the varietal well. The winemaker, of Thai decent, deliberately set out to make a wine to pair with Southeast Asian cuisine. Burmese tea leaf salad, Panang beef curry, Pad Kee Mao, oh yeah!

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

Jean-Louis Emmanuel and his wife Marlène run this estate and its 20 hectares planted on a plateau of rocky limestone in the Costières de Nîmes. Their Rosé is made from 100% Syrah using the saignée method, or “bleeding” the juice off the skins after a short time on them. It’s a versatile wine that pairs well with pork chops, tuna salad, or a warm kitchen.

2011 Chardonnay, Lalande $13.99, $11.19 reorder

A semi-frequent visitor to the DD, the Lalande Chardonnay is a no-brainer in the quality for price Chardonnay category. It’s bright and fleshy with a crisp finish. It sees 33% new, 1-year, and 2-year old barrel to give it texture and aromatic complexity. Enjoy this one with a fried chicken sandwich, crab pasta salad, or just a baguette and some green olives.

NV Crémant d’Alsace, Domaine Ehrhart $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder

TWH pals Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart farm organically and make their Crémant d’Alsace from 100% Chardonnay. It’s rich and creamy, with just the right amount of balancing acidity. It’s always good to have a bottle of sparkling wine handy just in case an occasion presents itself! You know what sounds great right now? Brats, potato pancakes, and this!

2010 Touriga Nacional, Quinta do Pinto $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Big, rugged, earthy with plum flavors and a hint of tobacco and chocolate on the finish, this 100% Touriga Nacional is perfect for winter’s heavier fare. The winery is situated in the Lisboa wine region, which stretches along the Atlantic coast west and north of Lisbon. Aged for nine months in 2 & 3-year old French oak barrels, this wine will warm the soul even on the chilliest of evenings. Pair with braised, slow-cooked dishes, crusty bread and a roaring fire.

2012 Scaia, Tenuta Sant’ Antonio $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

A wildly popular red from a producer of Valpolicella and Amarone, Scaia is made from 100% Corvina. Juicy, red cherry and wild strawberry fruit is bolstered with herb and forest floor notes. Medium-bodied and plush, this is a crowd-pleasing, versatile red. Perfect for a wild mushroom ragout, Shepherd’s Pie, or truffled mac-n-cheese.

2012 Blue Plate Grenache, Picnic Wine Co. $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

A boisterous and playful lighter-styled California Grenache intentionally constructed to show off the grape’s juicy nature. Fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors are left unobstructed by oak, making this an ideal red to serve at daytime events. At home, take a cue from the label and serve with meatloaf and mashed potatoes or other diner favorites.

2010 Tradicional, Quinta do Alqueve $11.29, $9.03 reorder

Here’s another head-scratching, “How do they do it?” wine coming out of Portugal. We don’t ask how, we just enjoy it! It’s a four grape blend: Touriga Nacional (40%), Tinta Roriz (30%), Trincadeira (20%), and Castelão (10%). It gets a little oak treatment to knit them all together, and bam, is it ever great! Pair it with small bites like meatballs or sliders.

2013 Pinot Noir, Lomas Del Valle $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Coming to us from Chile, the Lomas del Valle Pinot Noir tips the scales in the quality for price Pinot Noir department. Its aromas are of lovely Pinot-berry fruit with depth and earthy complexity. On the palate, it shows medium body with a red fruit attack that melts in the fresh acidity and finishes in harmony. We’re thinking thin-crust Neapolitan pizza here.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinum Africa $17.99, $14.39 reorder

Transplanted Brit Alex Dale now calls South Africa his home and is involved with making and marketing the wines for Vinum Africa. Many have concluded the etching on the bottle to be an ancient tribal symbol, but alas, it’s just a clever way of spelling Vinum. This Cabernet comes from a sensational vintage when everything went right. We’re thinking a grilled T-Bone steak for this one.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Peter Zavialoff, The Dirty Dozen

2010 Domaine Sainte Barbe Perle de Roche Cremant de Bourgogne

If it isn’t Champagne, what do you call it? In France, the term used to denote a sparkling wine other than Champagne is Crémant. The 2010 Crémant de Bourgogne Perle de Roche from Domaine Sainte Barbe is therefore technically not a Champagne but you’d be hard pressed to know that if given a glass to taste blind.

Just like in Champagne, Domaine Sainte Barbe has the wine go through secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is called Méthode Traditionnelle. The darling monk, Dom Perignon, is erroneously credited for discovering this technique of making still wine into sparkling wine. The transformation of still into sparkling wine was less of a sudden discovery and more like a drawn-out process that evolved over a long time period. At any rate, Domaine Sainte Barbe’s winemaker, Jean-Marie Chaland, uses 100% Chardonnay, a blanc de blancs as it were, from two parcels: one in Mâcon and the other from the lieux-dit, La Verchère, in Viré-Clessé. The Chardonnay grapes are grown on clay and limestone soils, lending an especially minerally quality to the wine.
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Jean-Marie takes further care by leaving the wine en tirage for a good long time, and in the case of the 2010 vintage, the wine sat on the lees for 30 months before disgorgement. Chaland’s 2010 Cremant de Bourgogne is rather dry, he uses only 4 grams of sugar per liter, which is low even for Champagne standards. It is a sparkling wine for Rock Heads – the affectionate term used for wine drinkers who have an affinity for mineral-driven, steely wines. At the store, we call Domaine Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne, the Poor Man’s Les Mesnil because of that distinctive, crisp, sleek finish.

 

No need to twist my arm, I gladly embrace the tradition of drinking a glass – or two- of bubbly this time of year. Of course, I don’t usually need any encouragement to drink it as I adhere to the Lily Bollinger way of thinking (“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”LB)
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On Christmas Day, after the wrapping paper and boxes were gathered and put into the refuse bins and we finished a couple cycles of The Christmas Story marathon, I was ready for a celebratory glass of bubbly. The 2010 Crèmant de Bourgogne was right on target with the slightly nutty nose and sleek finish. One sip pushed aside all earthly cares, helping me languish in the moment.

 

For New Year’s Eve, I’ll be arming myself with a couple of bottles of Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne to take to a house party. The price makes it doable. It doesn’t hurt either that the package is elegant, but ultimately it is the quality in the bottle that will impress and so no one will be the wiser that I did not have to over-pay for mediocre Champagne.
In anticipation of the new year, I would like to wish all of you a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2015!

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Cremant, Cremant de Bourgogne, Sparkling wine

My Sale Pic: 2011 Domaine Michel Bouzereau et Fils Bourgogne Blanc

 

Bouzereau’s 2011 Bourgogne Blanc is a sensational deal. How often can you drink white Burgundy priced at $24.95 per bottle and get this level of complexity? Sadly, not too often these days. That said, it is our unending quest to keep searching the Côte D’Or for hidden gems to import at affordable prices. Though Bouzereau no longer can be considered a “hidden gem”, as the domaine is becoming well recognized for making exceptional Meursaults, Puligny-Montrachets and Volnays, it is their Bourgogne Blanc that gives us mere mortals with aspirations of drinking more white Burgundy more often the possibility to pull the cork even on casual occasions.

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My neighbor across the street has a son-in-law who is an avid amateur fisherman and, lucky for me, can’t seem to consume all the crab he brings her. So she shares it with my family. Two things I don’t tire of is fresh Dungeness crab and white Burgundy, separately or together. It bears mentioning here, that I have gone on record many times with saying that if I could, I would drink white Burgundy every day. Knowing I had crab marinated in parsley, Meyer lemon and olive oil waiting for me last night, I fretted all during the day deciding what I wanted to drink with it. Often I go with something light and crisp, but this time I wanted richness, something luxurious and layered to accompany the crab. White Burgundy, that’s what I wanted. Not Chablis, not some crisp Macon, something with more heft and flesh. Heading into the gift-buying season, I had to be budget conscious too. Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc: the clear and obvious answer.

Bouzereau’s Bourgogne Blanc comes from 3 parcels, including one from Meursault and one from Puligny-Montrachet. The oldest vines were planted in 1957. Aged in barrel, this is no ordinary Bourgogne Blanc. It is much, much more and quite frankly, easily mistaken for a village or Premier Cru level wine. Yes, it gives you that much to appreciate. The nose is boisterous with notes of anise and hazelnut creme, minty even. The flavors on the palate are textured and lengthy, with beautifully integrated fruit and oak notes. This is darn good Chardonnay!
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In a review of the 2011 Bourgogne Blanc from Bouzereau, critic Allen Meadows of Burghound ended with “One to buy by the case” – no kidding!

Take his word, take my word, you will want to drink this over and over again and at $24.95 per bottle you can do so without feeling any pangs of guilt.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Burgundy, Michel Bouzereau Pere et Fils

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