Category Archives: Grenache

Giving Back – La Cuadrilla!

What is now known as The La Cuadrilla program at Stolpman Vineyards began as a way for the vineyard manager to better train his crew. The idea was to dedicate a two-acre block, or cuadra, that the vineyard crew had to then cultivate, from pruning to harvest, without supervision. This training block was called the La Cuadrilla, in Spanish meaning the people of the block. To challenge the crew even further, this two-acre training block would be set up in another part of the vineyard the next vintage. Eventually the vineyard manager confided to owner Tom Stolpman the success of this training system. It was Tom who came up with the idea of making wine from that training block and giving those bottles to the crew as a way to enjoy the fruits of their labor. By 2009, the program expanded to include fruit from other parts of the vineyard so that La Cuadrilla could be sold commercially. Profits from the sale of La Cuadrilla are divided among the vineyard crew in the form of a year-end bonus. This is a creative way for all to benefit by incentivizing learning and taking steps to achieve sustainable employment. Bravo to Stolpman Vineyards!

Of course, in order for this program to really work well, the wine has to be good – this can’t be just a gimmick. The 2015 La Cuadrilla is a lively blend of Syrah with small additions of Grenache, some of it old vine, and Sangiovese. The wine is vinified in concrete tanks and then aged in neutral barrel. La Cuadrilla has a lot of brightness and tart red fruit. It isn’t heavy or over-ripe, but is dominated by red fruit flavors and a pleasant, earthy note. Because of its fresh palate feel, it’s a great choice for warm-weather food pairings like smoky barbecued meats.


Stolpman Vineyards is located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon AVA. Ballard Canyon is Santa Barbara’s newest AVA and sits between the Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon. Ballard Canyon benefits from warm days during the growing season and is protected from wind by the surrounding hills. Temperatures drop significantly at night. Some soils, like at Stolpman, have limestone deposits.


I won’t only be celebrating our nation’s birthday this weekend. I will also be celebrating my mother’s birthday and my own. Mother and daughter will be throwing a joint birthday party! My brother, bless his heart, suggested putting only one candle on each of our birthday desserts. I agreed, adding that we wouldn’t want to ignite a raging inferno. My birthday year was not a particularly good vintage for wine throughout most of world. No worries here because the party calls for youthful wines, so La Cuadrilla will make an appearance on the table. It should be another great family meal up at the dacha out on the deck beneath the Redwoods. Happy Happy, Everyone! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine, Grenache, Santa Barbara County, Syrah

Rose From Provence: Start Your Summer Right!


The Rosés have landed! The Rosés have landed! The one I took home first, was the one I took home most often last vintage: Domaine des Aspras à Lisa Rosé. The 2016 is as delightful as was the 2015. What’s not to love? Fragrant strawberry aromas give way to nuanced berry and melon flavors on the palate.I believe my affinity for Rosé has been well established, and now that I’ve reached a certain age, I am not afraid to admit that I prefer Rosés with a fruitier profile. I still want a dry finish but I want fruit – if I want a white wine, I’ll drink one. The à Lisa Rosé gives me the fruit I am looking for along with the fresh and lively finish I crave.

Aspras in Winter

Domaine des Aspras is located in the unique Provençal village of Correns. What makes Correns unique is that the entire village is BIO. It is the first village in France to become so, which means everyone farms organically and the community has agreed to pursue sustainability in everything they do. Michael Latz, the proprietor of Domaine des Aspras, is also the Mayor of Correns. Michael’s parents, Lisa and Gottfried established the winery in the 1960’s, after first fleeing their native Germany in the thirties and then escaping the Congo Crisis of the early sixties. Neither Lisa nor Gottfried knew anything about viticulture when they settled in Correns, but they made a go of it.

A Room With A View

The à Lisa is the domaine’s entry-level line of wines (there is also a white and a red). As you could probably guess, the name is in honor of Michael’s mother. The Rosé is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Cinsault grown on vineyards along the banks of the Argens River. A direct-press Rosé of 100% de-stemmed fruit, the quality here is on par with pricier Cotes de Provence and Bandol Rosés. A delicate salmon-pink hue is both pretty to look at and delicious to drink – And, there is enough weight on the palate to take this Rosé from aperitif to the dining table.


The Photographers

The night I tasted the 2016 à Lisa Rosé was not nearly as warm as the evenings we’re experiencing this weekend across most of the US, but that didn’t stop me from making one of my all-time favorite warm weather dishes, Salade Niçoise. Salade Niçoise is on regular rotation at my house for the next several months and my first choice to serve with it is a Rosé. It’s a match made in heaven.

A special thanks goes out to my brother and sister-in-law who shared their photos of Domaine des Aspras. I was able to arrange for them to visit the winery this past March after they took a river cruise along the Rhone. Though still winter with a glimmer of spring on the horizon, the photos convey the sheer beauty of the region. Hey Kiki – next time we go together! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine, Grenache, Rose

2013 Cotes-du-Rhone La Boissiere, Domaine Boudinaud


Whoa! How did it get to be February already??!! Seriously, the period after the holidays may be somewhat quiet for some, but around here it was hoppin’. I mentioned the parade of folks from Bordeaux passing through our doors the past couple of weeks; the UGC tasting of the newly bottled 2014’s was a week ago Friday. The wines are showing as well, if not better, than I anticipated after having tasted them as barrel samples. I’ve got more to say about them, but tonight’s exercise is more about what I like to call ye olde reliable, Côtes-du-Rhône rouge. Specifically, the 2013 CdR La Boissière from Domaine Boudinaud.

It’s funny. My memory is chock full of useless information. I don’t know why I remember some things (seriously, yesterday was my best friend’s from 3rd grade birthday), and not other, more important things. Like when and where and why did I taste my first Côtes-du-Rhône? It almost feels to me like it just always was a given. If I wanted a nice glass or two of delicious red wine without much expense, there is always Côtes-du-Rhône. When a new customer walks in to our shop and informs me that they like wine, yet aren’t very familiar with French wine, I tend to start here. With Côtes-du-Rhône, it’s tough to go wrong.

We have been working with Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud for well over a decade, and we just love their wines. For the 2013 la Boissière, Thierry blended 55% Grenache with 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Cinsault. The nuance of each variety’s aromatic profile is noticeable and the blend is quite harmonious. And what’s great about this wine in particular is that you can drink it on its own, with a burger, with steak, with a pork chop, barbecue chicken, and so forth. It is that versatile. Given its price point, it’s a super wine for a very fair price. I do remember how much we liked the 2012, and how my colleagues and I squirreled away bottles for ourselves when our stock began to vanish. When it finally dried up, the countdown began for the new vintage. Now that it’s here, our entire staff is enjoying it. One bottle at a time. And though $13.49 is already an extraordinary deal for a wine of this quality, the case price of $11.47 per bottle is what we call a no-brainer.

Wow. I’m at a loss for what to do for dinner this evening. As Anya mentioned last week, our staff had our annual holiday dinner gathering a fortnight ago, and last Saturday, I was lucky enough to join a supplier and representatives from three Bordeaux chateaux at The Battery for an incredible dinner. It was there that I tasted my very first grade A-5 Wagyu beef. I will not be forgetting about that anytime soon. I have a feeling that tonight’s dinner plans will be less extravagant and more about comfort food. What wine will I be bringing home to sip with my comfort food? Ye olde reliable, of course! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Côtes-du-Rhône, 2014 Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Cotes du Rhone, Grenache, Mourvedre, Peter Zavialoff, Syrah

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

Remembering 2012 With A Fine Gigondas


It sure has been an interesting week. On one hand, it’s the middle of August. Most of France is on holiday and I’ve always been under the impression that these waning summer days before school begins again are the official “dog days.” This perception needs updating. While having lunch at a restaurant the other day (still in search of the best French Dip in the North Bay), I overheard two people talking about school starting. As in this week! What??!! It’s August 14th! Anya confirmed this today as her daughter is less than a week from her first day. Seriously, where does the time go? It’s a good thing we have wine in our lives. Meant for pleasure rather than scrutiny; each bottle is a living thing made from a combination of elements including soil, grape variety, winemaker, and vintage. In the wine biz, we sometimes get caught up in only thinking about a wine region’s quality during a given year, but it also leaves us an opportunity to reminisce. This week, I am reminiscing with 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas.


To start, I must confess that I am a longtime fan of Gigondas. Back in the day, each night after my band finished practicing at Lennon Studios South of Market, we would pack it up and head over to Ruby’s Restaurant on 3rd Street where a friend worked as chef de cuisine. He always took good care of us, and would usually join us at the table after his shift. They had a reasonably priced Gigondas on the list, and it was our go-to dinner wine for years. It was probably around the 5th or 6th time we ordered it, that Mr. Ruby himself took a seat at our booth and inquired exactly how a group of 20-something rockers came to order Gigondas. “Michael (the chef) told me that you’re really into food and wine, but what makes this wine so special that you keep ordering it?” Ruby asked.
“It’s a food wine,” I replied. “There are all sorts of fancy wines out there, many of them are made to impress critics, and that provides no service for the diner. This Gigondas is balanced and elegant. It was made to enjoy with dinner. And you can’t beat the price.”
This seemed to put him at ease, and he agreed wholeheartedly. As we continued our patronage, Ruby would often sit with us for dinner and conversation. He would offer us tastes of the many other wines that he had on his list, but we would always drink the Gigondas with our dinner. Nobody complained. Ever.


When the first Tour de l’Isle wines arrived at TWH, I was excited to see that they made Gigondas, and was not going to waste any time waiting to taste it. I did, and that’s why I’m typing. At the helm of the Tour de l’Isle label is Robert Rocchi. Robert has been involved with the wines of the southern Rhône Valley for over 35 years! Rocchi works with a select handful of growers in the area and assists and advises them on how to produce the finest wine from their holdings. As Anya likes to say, “He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” The 2012 Gigondas is comprised of 70% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, and 12% Syrah, all aged in large foudre. The Mourvèdre gives it some gamey backbone, the Syrah some smokiness, but this is an Old World Grenache lover’s dream. It displays aromas of red and black fruit, spice and herbs, some forest floor earthiness, and a hint of iron. The palate is focused and layered, the elegant fruit persists long after the finish. No, he’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.


2012. Sure, I have opinions on vintage quality, particularly in Bordeaux, but also the southern Rhône Valley. But seeing this particular year on the label got me reminiscing about the year itself. Looking back, it was a pretty good one. For me, it was the year of the live show. I went to more concerts than I had in any other year, and by the time it ended, it was me back on stage after taking a few years off from performing live. It was a magical year for European Football as the club I support won club football’s grandest prize in dramatic fashion. A local baseball team did very well also! The trip to Bordeaux was a successful one, especially considering it was in 2012 when I was able to taste Château Coutet’s dry white, Opalie for the very first time. Shortly thereafter, the 2010 vintage of the wine was released to the world and The Wine House San Francisco was the world’s first wine merchant to offer it! So yeah, great year.

Well, it is mid-August. That’s a fact. I suppose just like any other time of the year, it means different things to different folks. Thousands of kids in the North Bay will be back in school this week, but the French will remain on holiday. My perception of the dog days will continue, as will my quest for the best French Dip. When I find it, it may be a good idea to have a bottle of 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas handy. After all, it’s a great food wine!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about summer’s dog days, French Dip sandwiches, Gigondas, or Bordeaux: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Barbecue Wine, Gigondas, Grenache, Mourvedre, Peter Zavialoff, Syrah

Smoky Rhone Goodness – 2011 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Fayard


Whew! Who knew? Put some Burgundy on sale, and things get hopping! Or as one customer who came in today said, “Burgundy sales are the only way mere mortals can buy and enjoy the stuff.” True, true. When we introduced this little surprise sale, we did mention that it was more than just Burgundy, and many of you found some other goodies by clicking around our website. On the heels of my recent blurb about affordable reds, I just kicked the proverbial rock and uncovered another beauty, and IT’S ON SALE for $9.95 per bottle: the 2011 Domaine Fondrèche Fayard!



On the heels indeed, of my recent write-up and Anya’s recent post about the 2013 Ventoux Rouge. I hesitated for a moment to put fingers to keyboard about this wine thinking it too similar to these two recent posts, but no, it’s a different wine; for sure. This baby has been getting some nice beauty rest and is in a fine place to treat our taste buds this summer! When I first approached the bottle to pour myself a taste, I brought some expectations. As Anya mentioned about the 2013, it needed air. We have always enjoyed Sébastien Vincenti’s wines over the years, but we know that his wines tend to be in need of oxygen when they’re young. That’s just how he rolls; we decant the wines, and they’re great. I remember tasting the 2011 Fayard when it was young. It was dense and jammy; the fruit was in the forefront and it was a challenge to perceive the overall framework of the wine because of it. Time has been kind to this wine. With those expectations in the back of my mind, I looked; I swirled. I reached for the light switch as I wanted to closely examine the color – it had changed. It’s not bricking or anything, but it has grown deeper in the maroon department and away from the magenta/purple hue it shined in its youth. A positive sign of a little age. I sniffed. Whoa. Tar, earth, there’s fruit, but it’s more mature, less jammy and more in line with the complex notes that one perceives now that it’s not so fruit forward. On the palate, it has a medium bodied mouth feel. It’s bright, the acidity is very much alive, and the fruit is smoky leading me to check the percentage of Syrah in the blend: 30%. It’s half Grenache, 30% Syrah, and the rest equal parts Carignan and Mourvèdre. Did I mention it was 10 bucks? If I sat down in a nice restaurant and they poured me a glass of this wine for 10 bucks I would be doing backflips, not to mention I would return again and again for more. I know that I grabbed a case of that 2010 Tradicional to keep my new apartment stocked with an underpriced delicious red, but I’ve got to have a case of this too! If you like southern Rhône Valley reds with smoky, Syrah character and a little bit of bottle bouquet, don’t walk, run to this one.


As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, we had a busy week. In the timing department, along with the sale, the week was marked by the release of the 2015 prices for some of Bordeaux’s marquis names. David has been staying up in the middle of the night as these prices are released, making sure that our allocations are confirmed. I’ve been trying my best to get all of these purchases into our system and website, and you will soon see more offers for 2015 Bordeaux futures. This week promises to be chock full of even more releases as the campaign is soon to reach its pinnacle. So please keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, this latest little sale of ours continues, and hits like the 2011 Fondrèche Ventoux Fayard keep coming. Talk about pleasant surprises!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2015 Bordeaux futures, our sale, the 2011 Fayard, or the state of English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Barbecue Wine, Cotes du Ventoux, Grenache, Peter Zavialoff, Rhone Valley, Syrah, Ventoux

2013 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Rouge


Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Rouge

Hands down, the most important producer in the Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche continues to evolve – adjusting, experimenting, remaining dynamic. From the start, I’ve been drawn to winemaker Sébastien Vicenti’s wines for they encompass deep fruit expression with captivating spice and herb notes. Success and accolades haven’t stifled Sébastien’s drive to make the finest wine possible. Not at all. For the 2013 vintage, and going forward, the winery will no longer be making their special cuvée, Nadal. Nadal, a Grenache-based blend, garnered high scores and was one of my all-time favorite Rhône reds carried at TWH. So where is all that old-vine Grenache going to go? My guess is that it all went into the 2013 Ventoux and is possibly the reason why this vintage is so incredibly dense and chewy. I should be more upset that my beloved Nadal is no more, but the sting of that loss is easily mitigated by the impressive bottling of the 2013 Ventoux.

 

Bobby Kacher with Sèbastien

Another change at the winery, but one of less consequence than the demise of Nadal, is that their Ventoux rouge has dropped the name “Fayard”. So henceforth, I’ll be calling Fondrèche’s basic red, the Ventoux rouge. The 2013 Ventoux rouge is half Grenache, 40% Syrah and the balance, Mourvèdre. Sébastien Vicenti is a strict practitioner of organic farming, and though is not certified as such, closely follows the principles of biodynamic farming. In interviews, Sébastien emphasizes the connection between the natural harmony of the land and soil to the grapes. His credo in the vineyard carries over into the winery, where he strives to do “less” to attain “more” from the grapes. The 2013 Ventoux rouge is aged in a combination of egg-shaped concrete tanks, barrels and Foudres. This makes for a very texturally rich and engaging wine. The French publication, Le Guide Hachette des Vins, described it as “chewable”, noting its generous palate as round and silky. The Le Guide Hachetteeven bestowed a coveted “Coup de Coeur”, suggesting it is a wine worthy to investigate, irrespective of price. Good newshere as it relates to price is the 2013 Ventoux rouge is $16.99 per bottle, getting down to $14.44 when purchased by the case or as part of a mixed one! A stunning bargain!

Domaine de Fondrèche

All this gushing over the wine does come with a recommendation and it is this: Be prepared to decant. In Sébastien’s effort to control the freshness of the grapes, the resulting wine is in need of oxygen to release its full potential. Can you pop the cork, pour a glass straight out of the bottle and enjoy it? Sure, that is perfectly acceptable, but I want to suggest getting the wine some air to really set off the bevy of sweet spices and licorice notes you get on the nose. It is one of those wines that can be enjoyed one glass at a time over the course of several days from the bottle. It won’t fall apart quickly.

Second Growth, baby!

Some weeks are good “food” weeks and other are good “wine” weeks. For me, this week was both. It began last Saturday night when my husband and I went to La Folie. The dinner was my Valentine Day’s present. Flowers and jewelry are good choices, but so is a fine meal! It was our first time at La Folie and, though I don’t normally do so, I brought along a special bottle of wine – 2000 Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes from Etienne Sauzet (Thank you to my Fairy Wine-Father!). We dined for nearly 4 hours! A tear ran down my face as the last sweet amuse bouche was served. On Tuesday I attended an Italian wine tasting hosted at Acquerello. Typically at trade tastings some cheese and bread may be offered, but this being an Italian restaurant, there were also platters of salumi and olives, while small plates with either penne al sugo or truffled risotto were passed. I returned to the store in time to taste through some Bordeaux that a visiting Négociant was pouring for Pete and David. We tasted multiple vintages of Brane Cantenac, Nenin and…Leoville Las Cases! Wipe me off the floor! AND at a staff tasting I got to try the 2013 Ventoux rouge from Fondrèche. OK, I’ll stop, though I could go on. Yep, a very good food and wine week.

– Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rhone Valley, Syrah, Ventoux