Category Archives: Top Ten Wines Of The Year

The Wine House SF – Top Ten Wines Of 2015


 

The Wine House SF
Our Top Ten Wines Of 2015

 

As we begin to settle in to 2016, we look forward to all of the new wines and new discoveries that await us. But before we head full-steam into the new year, a brief recap of 2015 in the form of a list of our Top Ten Wines is in order! Here at TWH, over the course of a year, we taste thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers. From all of these tastings, one can only imagine the difficulty in choosing which wines to import and/or to stock on our shelves. A very small percentage indeed. Taking all that into consideration, paring the list of those wines down to a neat Top Ten is quite the challenge. So many wines deserve a mention, but one important criterion consistent in each year’s Top Ten is this: A good story. After all, a bottle of wine is a living thing. And so are we. Good wine is meant to be shared, and that is the only tidbit of instruction that we offer to accompany this list. Life is short. Live a little. Share your wine. Smile. Repeat as often as you can.

For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wines from:

 


A few of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned on their merits. In no particular order, here are our Top Ten Wines of 2015:

 

2010 Domaine Sainte Barbe
Perle de Roche
Crémant de Bourgogne
We begin with bubbles. How can we not? With New Year’s Day festivities in our wake, it just makes sense. The 2010 Perle de Roche Crémant de Bourgogne from Domaine Sainte Barbe is very special indeed. In the day and age of mega-corporate Champagne producers flooding the market with their hundreds of millions of bottles, it’s refreshing to come across a small producer in Burgundy who cares for their Crémant like artisanal Grower-Champagne producers do. This fizz is dry, as only 4g/l of sugar are used, which is much lower than most wines labeled as “Brut.” Stony minerals are at its core, and its zippy nerve leads to a crisp, elegant finish. Winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland has not made this wine since his 2011 (which was produced in tiny quantities), and currently there isn’t any new Crémant in the pipeline. So what is left is all there is. For now.

 

2012 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Truly a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lovers’ CdP, Domaine du Pegau is a standard bearer for traditional, old-school wines from the wine capital of the southern Rhône. The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck puts it thusly, “Without a doubt, Domaine du Pegau is one of the top reference point estates for traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
He goes on to describe the wine, “One of my favorite wines, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is a classic. Beautiful on the nose, with notions of ground pepper, wild herbs, minerality and smoked plum and dark fruit, it’s medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and has plenty of tannin that comes through on the finish. Similar in style to a lighter-weight 2010, drink this beauty anytime over the coming 12-15 years. 94 points”

 

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache
On a field trip last summer, Anya paid a visit to the Scherrer winery during their annual open house. Having been on their mailing list since the winery’s early days in the 1990’s, she was very familiar with their various bottlings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. After another fine visit and tasting, as she was saying her good-byes, Fred Scherrer asked if she had time to taste one more wine. That’s a proposition that few wine geeks can resist, and Anya wasn’t about to buck the trend. He reached behind a barrel and revealed his 2012 Sonoma County Grenache. Knowing a bit about our selections of Grenache-based Rhône wines, Fred felt his Grenache would be a good fit with our customers. It is literally a single-vineyard bottling from Kick Ranch. Let’s just say that it went over so well that we are all in agreement about the wine’s ability to integrate the liveliness of southern Rhône Grenache with the juicy fruit expression of Sonoma County. We’re very happy to include the Scherrers in our Top Ten of 2015!

2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard Les Vaumuriens
It’s all in the family. Laurence Jobard and her sister, Miraille own Domaine Gabriel Billard. You may be familiar with Laurence from her 30 year tenure as oenologist at Maison Joseph Drouhin. The sisters now entrust Laurence’s daughter, Claudie with winemaking duty. Claudie has hit TWH’s Top Ten in the past, and does so again with this 2012 stunner. The domaine is a bit of a secret; they do not submit samples to any well-known publication or critic, and production is remarkably low.
After doing the research (delish!), and composing the write-up for the June 2015 Taste Of Burgundy, I asked David the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?” We popped a bottle at the end of a busy Friday during the Anniversary Sale/Holiday frenzy. I think Anya summed it up best when she said, “You know, I always love the inexpensive wines that we have in abundance here. I take a bottle of Gavi or a bottle of Côtes du Rhône home for dinner, and they always deliver, making me think, wow, what a goldmine. But then I taste a wine like this one and I get it. This is in another league; this is special.” The 2012 Pommard Vaumuriens is, for all intents and purposes, sold out. We do have a few bottles left of the 2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru Charmots, which is a qualitative upgrade from the Vaumuriens; but ultimately it’s about 2012 red Burgundy and the Jobard family magic!

2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s
The hits just keep coming! As the story goes, a sample bottle of the 2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s went out on a sales call to some fancy restaurants, and
when the remains showed back up in the shop after we closed that day, Chris and I were treated to more of that “another league” special kind of wine! Layers of all of the goodness a quality Côte Rôtie can provide, smoky, meaty, gamey, dark savory fruit, spice, and earthiness in a glass! It took every bit of willpower we had to not finish the bottle in order for Anya and Tom to get a taste the following day, and after they did, our euphoria for this wine is unanimous! The 2012 has sold out, but we still have some 2011 in stock, and 2013 on the way. I’m building a vertical of this one!
Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Pichat Champon’s, “Aged two years in 30% new oak, the 2012 Côte Rôtie le Champon exhibits gorgeous notes of black raspberry, sweet black cherry, smoked earth, herbs and dark chocolate. Pure, fine, elegant and layered, with medium to full-bodied richness, it too has a modern ting, but still has plenty of Côte Rôtie style. Drink it over the coming decade. 93 points”
And the 2011, “Comprised all of Syrah and aged 24 months in 40% new French oak, the 2011 Cote Rotie Champon’s exhibits a perfumed, complex bouquet of black raspberry, smoke, incense, saddle leather, violets and underbrush. This is followed by a medium to full-bodied, supple, elegant and pure 2011 that can be consumed any time over the coming 10-15 years. 92 points”

2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir
Sometimes you never know what might be coming your way; so it’s a good idea to be open to new things. Introduced to us by David through a connection made via one of his tasting groups, winemaker Matthew Iaconis visited TWH last year and introduced us to Brick & Mortar. By the time he left, we were all convinced that we were on to something. And that’s the beauty of small, family-style run wine shops – If you’re new and under-the-radar, have a good story, and bottle a quality wine, folks like us are approachable. We don’t need fancy marketing, big scores, or any other bells and whistles. If the wine is high in quality and represents good value, bam; everyone wins. Especially our customers! Speaking of which, I took a look at the list of customers who bought the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir, and it reads like a who’s who of Pinot Noir-centric customers who appreciate small production, off the radar, quality wines (a handful of which were in on Anthill Farms in the days before they caught on). We were delighted with the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir (and their other wines too!), and are looking forward to the next vintage!

2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole
The 2010 vintage for Barolo was an outstanding one. But hold on folks – Rather than gushing about the perfect conditions, we’d like to mention the challenges. First off, winter did not go away easily. Frosty conditions continued through March which delayed the start of the growing season. Temperatures remained cool throughout the spring and summer, and a fair amount of rain fell in June and October. Most estates harvested around mid-October which made for a long growing/ripening season. What we’ve got here is a modern classic vintage. Wines that will age very well and reward those with patience.
Giuseppe Vajra paid us a visit last year and poured some exquisite wines for us, including the 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole. Taking all that into consideration, this is yet another wine begging the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?”

2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna

Island wines. Who knew? We heard quite a bit about island wines in 2015. And when we purchased and subsequently offered the 2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna, we had no idea what was about to happen! First off, we sold through our stocks in record time. Then, we continued to receive inquiries in hopes that we could acquire more wine. Then, this posting received the most hits of the year on our blog. We ordered this wine on pre-arrival, so what was shipped to us was all there was going to be. The good news: All being said, we will be getting the next vintage soon. Stay tuned.

Cannonau is what they call Grenache in Sardinia. As written above, we are big fans of Grenache-based wines, both from the southern Rhône Valley and Sonoma County. Well, we can add another place of origin to the list as this island Cannonau exhibits wonderful round cherry fruit with layers of earth and herbs. Taking all of its quality into consideration, coupled with its value price, it’s no wonder that it was literally swept up in less than a week! Island wines? Now we know.

2012 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan Blanc

The 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc underlines one of our more important strategies when scouting for wines to import. Upon tasting Bordeaux’s 2012 vintage En Primeur in the spring of 2013, I visited negociants, the UGC Tastings, and had several appointments at some fancy chateaux. It takes a lot of concentration to not let bias and perceived quality differences distract from being in the moment and appraising what is in the glass at any given time. It is well documented that I am fond of dry white Bordeaux, though one can probably say that about all styles of wine from the region. Sticking with the dry whites, I usually taste samples of Haut Brion, La Mission Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, and several others; wines that will retail for close to $100. In the case of the first two I mentioned, it’s more like $700 per bottle. So yeah, the quality/price model is a bit out of whack here, so uncovering great value is a challenge. I vividly remember tasting the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc out of barrel at the UGC tasting at Château Olivier. It had the structure and balance that I look for in a barrel sample. In the back of my mind, I had an idea of what its approximate price would be, and had it on a short list of must haves.

Later that same day, I was sitting at dinner at my favorite chateau, when I was asked by the other guests to “defend” a wine. I mentioned how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated. Citing the tiny production, significant demand, the overall quality and ability to age well, I called out the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc as a dynamite value from a sector known for pricy wines. After the wine arrived here in our warehouse last summer, I was happy to read of The New York Times’ Eric Asimov’s endorsement of the 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc.This article, of course, helped the wine sell out. Last spring, I tasted the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc and I liked it every bit as much. With the stronger dollar, the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc is an even better value! Hmmm. Perhaps one of the Top Ten Wines of 2017?

2012 Château d’Issan, Margaux

Red Bordeaux. Margaux. The 2012 Château d’Issan. It’s funny. I never think about our Top Ten Wines list when I’m out tasting. But this one goes all the way back to the spring of 2013 and Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings. I tasted this at a large negociant tasting, as Château d’Issan does not participate in the UGC tastings. Tasting at this negociant’s can be quite overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of wines available. I try to pass on most of the wines that I will have other opportunities to taste in order to get to as many as possible. The barrel sample of 2012 d’Issan floored me. Using descriptors such as classy, silky, sexy, expressive, and nothing overboard meant this wine was a textbook example of a great barrel sample. My note ends with, “The star so far.” I was asked several times during this tasting by various members of the negociant’s staff what my impressions were and if I had any favorites. I pointed them all to the d’Issan and witnessed their happy reactions after tasting. When I returned from Bordeaux, I sat down with David to discuss the 2012 vintage. I told him that I liked the reds and whites from Pessac-Léognan, the wines from Barsac, Margaux, and Pomerol. David answered that yes, he had read about Pessac and Pomerol, but regarding Margaux, he said, “You’re kind of on your own here, because nothing I’ve read had anything great to say about Margaux.” Hey, what can I say; I taste what I taste. Maybe it was the d’Issan in particular, though there were other Margaux wines that I felt confident enough in to include the appellation among my favorites.

Fast forward to November of 2014. Augustin Lacaille from Château d’Issan visited us here at TWH and poured a few wines including the newly bottled 2012. My expectations were not in line with reality. Fortunately, neither was the wine. It’s off the charts! The best thing is that it isn’t off the charts when it comes to price. Bravo to the team at Château d’Issan for their outstanding 2012!

And there you have it. Another exciting year in wine has passed, another new year awaits. Well, we’re not waiting. It’s only the 13th of January, but we’re already out there tasting new wines to stock on our shelves. Trips to Europe are being planned, and of course, the Bordeaux UGC tastings of the 2013 vintage are set to hit the US at the end of the month. There’s no rest in the wine biz. All the best for a great 2016!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2012 Red Burgundy, Cannonau, Cremant de Bourgogne, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Pessac-Leognan, Peter Zavialoff, Pommard, Top Ten Wines Of The Year, White Bordeaux

The Wine House SF – Our Top 10 Wines Of 2014

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The Wine House SF – Top 10 Wines of 2014

It started out as a concept brought to light while fighting off a bout of insomnia, but after five years, it seems to have stuck. A Top Ten Wines of the Year list. We taste so, so many wines each year – whether in the form of reps pouring samples on site, to airfreighted samples that arrive from overseas, the occasional trade tasting, here in SF, LA, Chicago, or New York, or the litany of wines that come at us on tasting trips overseas. Add them up, and we’re talking about thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers! Keeping that in mind, just making the selections as to which wines to stock is a fairly severe exercise which endorses a paltry few bottles compared to all that we taste. Now, take those wines and choose our ten favorites; that is a tough assignment! For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wine lists from 2013,

2012,

2011,

2010,

and 2009.

There are no rules. They don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. They don’t need some sort of numerical justification from someone who prefers Pepsi over Coca-Cola. They could be surprise packages from unusual locales, well established producers with an exceptional vintage, terrific expressions of terroir, or the ineffable. Favorites are favorites. Some of the wines have sold out, but deserve to be listed due to their merits. Not in any particular order, The Wine House San Francisco’s Top Ten Wines of 2014:
NV Pascal Doquet
Grand Cru Le Mesnil Sur Oger Champagne
doquethuitres2
Starting things off the same way we recently kick-started our annual Post-Holiday Party. With Grower Champagne. Grand Cru, no less. Laure and Pascal Doquet own and run this 8.66 hectare estate which includes plantings in some of the finest Grand and Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte de Blancs. Pascal’s dedication to quality is relentless. Pascal took the reins of the family’s domaine in 1995, and since 2004, he and Laure are the sole proprietors. Pulling the curtain aside, Pascal shares a great deal of information about his wines on their back labels, such as disgorgement date and contents. For our current stock of Non-Vintage Grand Cru Le Mesnil, it is made up of the following vintages: 2003 (40%), 2002 (40%), and 2001 (20%). We taste a lot of Champagne during the year, and we chose to serve this one at our party! Life’s too short not to enjoy fine Grower Champagne like Doquet’s.

 

 

2012 Domaine Raimbault Sancerre “Apud Sariacum”
davidlynnephilippe

The phantom. Depending on your timing, you may have seen it on our sales floor, or maybe not. You see, the “Apud Sariacum” Sancerre has been the darling of a high-profile, wine-centric restaurant in the Los Angeles area for a few years. Funny thing is, this resto is known for switching out its wine list often, yet the “Apud” resided there for FOUR VINTAGES! Yep, it’s that people-pleasing. It was a difficult task making sure that there was enough to keep them pouring it continuously, many times resulting in our pulling it from the sales floor. All good things must come to an end, and after a very long ride, the restaurant’s policy of mixing it up resulted in the “Apud’s” replacement. That’s good news for the rest of us! A phantom no more. This bright, refreshing Sancerre is full of life with its zesty citrus aromas framed in stony minerality. Easy to like, you can pour it as an aperitif, or pair it with those dishes that beg for a zippy Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

 

 

2012 Domaine Sainte Barbe Macon-Burgy “Terres Rouges”
chalandpic
Throughout the course of each calendar year, we receive over a handful of containers packed with wines from France and Italy. The arrival of each one is highly anticipated as there are always ‘little secrets’ on board. I say ‘little secrets’ because that’s what it’s like when we taste something new overseas, and return home only to wait for what sometimes feels like a long, long time before we can put it in your hands. We waited patiently for this one to arrive, but once it did, patience flew out the window. David continues to find cool new wines from producers familiar to us and beyond. He hit paydirt with this little red from Macon. Wait. Red wine from Macon?? Yes, indeed. Made from Gamay Noir, we all got a big kick out of Sainte Barbe’s “Terres Rouges”, and if you like Old World charm and sour cherry, wine-geeky Gamay, you will too.

 

2012 Orgo Saperavi
orgolabel

If you’d have asked any of us last year if there would be a wine from the Republic of Georgia in our annual top ten, we may have reacted inquisitively, as in “really?” As you probably already know, we look all over the world for wines to stock here in our shop. And when we say all over, we mean ALL OVER! The Orgo Saperavi took us by storm with its juxtaposition of softness and solid structure. Kind of reminds us of the “fist in a velvet glove” analogy. It comes with a great story too. I love it when a wine gets us talking about history, clay kveri, and Teinturier grapes!

 

2011 Domaine Stephane Magnien Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru
11petitesnoix

As David continues to travel to Burgundy (and beyond!) in search of new wines and producers, we are collectively excited at the prospect of welcoming them to our shelves! If you think about it, it takes a lot of work. On these road trips, one tastes a lot of wine. Those outside the wine business make light of this with quips like, “tough job,” “it must be nice,” and “somebody’s got to do it.” Let’s just say that finding wines to bring back home takes a lot of time and patience. One thing that David does regarding new producers is he tastes several vintages before pulling the trigger. He tasted young Stephane Magnien’s wines again and again, and after a few years, bam! Here they are. The entire line is impressive, as Stephane’s holdings include some fancy locales! But we were all quite taken by the 2011 Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru “Aux Petites Noix.” One thing that is never looked for, yet always mentioned in my tasting notes when present is “X-tra D,” or extra dimension. This one has it.

 

2012 Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
occivines

And from right here in our own backyard, from the Sonoma Coast, we were introduced to a new wine made by some old friends. The celebrated vintner Steve Kistler and business partner Mark Bixler teamed up once again to produce an amazing Pinot Noir under the Occidental label. There isn’t a whole lot of production, so when we saw the chance to get our hands on a teeny-tiny allocation, we jumped at it. You should have been in the tasting room when we all tasted the sample, it was poured into one glass, each of us taking tiny sips and emerging with wide eyes and happy disbelief! We weren’t the only ones who jumped at the chance. The Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir disappeared from our shelves literally hours after they were placed there!

 

 

2012 Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers Saumur Rouge
saumurchateau

This one was an example of a wine coming to us! Though there are wine reps here pouring wines multiple times per week for Anya, it is a rare occasion when a rep pours for Anya, Chris, Tom, and myself collectively. This meeting was set up by David, who knew of the 7 or 8 samples to be poured, and strongly advised us to pay close attention to the 2012 Saumur Rouge from Hauts de Sanziers. In retrospect, he didn’t need to mention it. However, mentioning it did create an expectation level that was not only met, but surpassed! It’s a light-styled herbaceous Cabernet Franc from Saumur that has a Burgundian feel, and as Anya once said, “It’s light, but without being thin.” More wine-geek wine here. Loire Valley Cabernet Franc is not for everybody, but if you like the woodsy herbal quality one finds in them, this one’s for you too.

 

2012 Domaine Michel-Andreotti Montagny 1er Cru
“Les Coères”
12coeres
We were already on board with Michel-Andreotti courtesy of their “Les Guignottes” bottling which landed them in our Top Ten list in their rookie year! Back in early 2014, before the move, we noticed a slightly different label coming from a box of their Montagny. Upon further investigation, we discovered that they make a Premier Cru wine called “Les Coères.” It swept us off our feet! Plenty of fresh, fleshy white fruit, a pleasant caress on the palate, sturdy structure, and a zippy, complex finish. Factor in the price, and it’s no wonder that it’s all gone.

 

 

2011 Roc de Cambes, Côtes de Bourg
rocgate
For red Bordeaux, 2011 was not like 2010 nor 2009, but just as each vintage is its own, there are almost always some successful efforts. 2011 was like that. A sensational vintage for the dry whites and gold wines, things were a little challenging for those who made Claret. Having tasted the wines out of barrel in the spring of 2012 and again from bottle in 2014, there were several wines that I would like in my cellar. None more than François Mitjavile’s Roc de Cambes. I vividly recall tasting this wine from barrel in François’ cellar in 2012. Interesting note, François chose to present the Roc de Cambes sample AFTER his Tertre Roteboeuf sample … something he hasn’t done for me before nor since. He knew the potential of this wine back then. When I tasted it out of bottle last spring, it stole the show. Considering that it’s roughly 1/3 the price of Tertre Roteboeuf, it’s always a great opportunity to taste one of Bordeaux’s most charismatic winemaker’s wines without paying full fare. The 2009 and 2010 Roc de Cambes were both stellar, the former coming in a close 2nd to the latter in a local wine society’s annual taste-off in 2014. The 2011 Roc de Cambes will give both a run for their money!

 

2011 Château Coutet, Barsac
coutetbarrels
Since April of 2012, I had a feeling that we would get here. It is fairly well documented that I am a fan of Château Coutet. Their terroir and style suit my palate to a T. They are not alone. There are several Bordeaux chateaux that I count as favorites in most vintages. Any kind of pre-conceived notion of liking something before I taste it goes right out the proverbial window once the time comes to actually taste. I’ve been disappointed plenty of times when a château that I fancy comes up short in a particular vintage, and Coutet is not immune to that. But when I tasted the 2011 Coutet out of barrel, sparks flew. All of the components I look for in a barrel sample were right there! As mentioned above, 2011 was a sensational vintage for white and gold Bordeaux, and from that day up until I tasted it out of bottle in January 2014, all I could say about it was, “best Coutet barrel sample I’ve ever tasted.” The 2011 Coutet was the hit of the UGC tasting for me, but I was nowhere near being alone on this. Glowing reviews and huge scores from wine critics followed, topped by The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth, who gushed forth with a 97 point review. In his review, Molesworth said, “This just makes you feel special when you drink it.” We concur. A week or so after the UGC tasting, when we all were here, we popped a bottle of 2011 Château Coutet, and it was a smash hit with all of us, leading Anya to pen this post. One for the cellar, I hope to enjoy this wine for many years to come!

 

So there we are, already well into 2015! The UGC de Bordeaux passed through town pouring the 2012’s from bottle back at the end of January. 2012 is not a “vintage of the century,” but a solid one with plenty of wines to like. There are containers on the water. David will be headed to France next month, and I will follow shortly thereafter. All of that means we are hard at work, not only looking for our Top Ten of 2015, but for a fine stable of solid wines that we can present for your enjoyment. Onwards and upwards!!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Barsac, Cotes de Bourg, Kakheti, Peter Zavialoff, Sonoma Coast, Stephane Magnien, Top Ten Wines Of The Year

The Wine House SF: Our Top Ten Wines Of 2013

Where does the time go? It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years since we listed our first Top Ten Wines of the Year in January 2010, but it has! 2014 promises to be a great year of discovery, as we have plans to receive more wine from producers new to us. Let us not forget our stalwarts, we’ll have plenty from them as well. We’re expecting visits from some of our friends overseas, keep on the look-out for information about winemaker dinners and events coming soon. All in all, 2014 is shaping up to look like a very exciting year!Before we blaze further into the new year, let’s relive our Top Ten Wines of 2013.

 Again, we taste a lot of wine here at TWH throughout the year, and we enjoy the exercise of reminiscing our tasting experiences. Our first Top Ten listing was for the year 2009. We have continued the tradition, and you can view our Top Ten lists from 2010, 2011, or 2012 by clicking on each year. It’s not an easy exercise, as we taste so much throughout the year, and it’s hard to narrow it down to just ten. But somehow we manage. Here at TWH, for our Top Ten Wines of the year, it’s not about highest scoring, most well-known, big names, nor big prices. It’s about quality, it’s about diversity, it’s about value, it’s about wines that we all love! Some of the wines are sold out, but have earned a place on our list due to their merits. Here it is folks, TWH SF’s Top Ten Wines of 2013:

2012 Chateau Armurey Bordeaux Clairet
This one was two years in the making! Back in 2011, our former teammate Emily asked if I had ever tasted Bordeaux Clairet. Not only hadn’t I tasted it, I had no idea it existed! A little research revealed that Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, almost like a heavy Rosé that is rarely seen outside Bordeaux. The wine is made in the style of the Bordeaux wines shipped to England during the middle ages. Rumor has it that it was Bordeaux Clairet that inspired the contemporary English term, Claret. Having been on our radar since 2011, we were excited to see it listed on a negoce’s price list in December 2012. We had a sample shipped. We tasted it. We loved it. Now the tricky part; how much should we order? Well, we slightly missed the mark on that one. It sold out way too fast! Not only was it a huge hit for our customers, members of our staff snapped it up a case at a time. What’s not to like? 12.5% alcohol, fresh, crisp, refreshing light red wine (served chilled) for less than $10? I’m responsible for the depletion of over 2 cases. We’ll be tasting the 2013 soon. If it’s anything like the 2012, we can all look forward to cooling our palates this summer with more Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet!

2011 Claudie Jobard Rully ‘Montagne La Folie’ 
White Burgundy. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? We love white Burgundy, and when we find one of high quality in the sub $30 range, we get very excited. We welcomed Claudie Jobard to TWH family in 2013 via two bottlings of Pommard that she makes for her aunt and her mother at Domaine Gabriel Billard. Her mother being Laurence Jobard, head oenologist at Domaine Drouhin for over 30 years. Taking a step back, Laurence has tasked her daughter to make the wine for the domaine. If Claudie is good enough to make wine for her celebrated mother, she’s certainly good enough for us!  Claudie also bottles red and white Burgundy from vineyards she’s been handed down from her father’s side of the family in Rully. As far as price to quality goes, the wines are in the sweet spot. When Anya wrote the wine up last May, she observed that Claudie’s 2011 Rully Montagne La Folie was what many California Chardonnay producers are shooting for, but “miss the mark.” With the case price, it’s actually less than $25 per bottle! However you see it, it’s terrific white Burgundy, deserving its spot in our Top Ten. Welcome to TWH family, Claudie!
2011 Claudie Jobard Rully Montagne La Folie
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$28.99
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2009 Grange des Rouquette Syrah ‘Agrippa’ 
Now for one from a couple of our longtime friends, Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud. We’ve been representing Thierry and Véronique for many years, first as their California distributor, and now as their importer. They make a range of wines, but they’re mainly good quality, inexpensive country French wines. Wines that you would expect to be poured at any of the bistros, cafés, and brasseries that dot the southern French landscape. A year ago, on a visit to their property, David was poured a barrel sample of something Thierry called Agrippa. The wine is, in essence, a reserve wine. Thierry doesn’t make it every year, and when he does, he only makes 10-15 barrels. Well, David was impressed! If you love northern Rhône Syrah, you owe it to yourself to give the Agrippa a try. This 100% Syrah comes from a 3 hectare parcel of 20+ year old vines planted in sandy loess soils, similar to those in the north.

I had a surprise, aha moment with this wine one night. As the day grew to a close, I grabbed a couple of random bottles and put them in my wine bag. Once in the wine bag, you can’t see their labels, but I had thought that the bottle of red wine that I grabbed was a 2010 Boudinaud Syrah/Grenache. I put my groceries away, and grabbed a couple of pots, ready to get dinner started. With my concentration entirely on what I was preparing, I grabbed my corkscrew and opened the bottle of red. I poured a glass, went back to the stove to stir some onions and garlic, and then I took a sip. Whoa! That’s not inexpensive French country wine, that was something entirely different. A closer look at the bottle revealed that it was indeed the Agrippa, and my love affair with this wine began. But ask any of us, the 2009 Boudinaud Agrippa Syrah is a special wine. If you factor in the $16.14 case price, it is pretty much unbeatable.

2009 Vignobles Boudinaud Syrah Agrippa Vin du Pays d’Oc
Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$18.99
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2011 Palmina Dolcetto
There has been such a buzz lately amongst wine industry people in regard to winemaker Steve Clifton and the wines from Palmina! A recent trip to SF restauranteur Bruce Hill’s revamped Fog City revealed that Palmina is well represented on Gregory Altzman’s list; both by the glass and by the bottle. Well, Anya was on to the concept quite a while ago, as the wines are indeed made for those interested in Italian varietals from California rather than the “Cal-Ital” crowd. The 2011 Dolcetto is sublime, it has Old World character, with just enough fruit to balance out its rich complexity. Medium in body, it’s the kind of wine that pairs well with all of the dishes you would imagine. From a simple Pizza Margherita to a more serious Osso Buco. We’re so pleased with the full line of wines that we received this year from Palmina, but the Dolcetto, that’s something very special indeed!

Warning: Less than a case of the 2011 is left. We will soon be moving on to the 2012. Stay tuned for that.

2011 Palmina Dolcetto Santa Barbara County
Red Wine; Dolcetto; Central Coast;
$15.98
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2010 Domaine Pernot-Belicard Meursault 
Another of David’s solid recent discoveries was not entirely a “new” discovery. How do you classify that exactly? He’s (fairly) new to us, but he’s the grandson of one of our stalwarts. We’re talking about Philippe Pernot, who in addition to helping his grandfather (and father) at Domaine Paul Pernot et ses fils, makes his own wine sourced from vineyards acquired from his wife’s family. The young Pernot has 5 hectares of vines in 9 different climats, but get this, his Meursault comes from a single parcel and the vines are 65-70 years old! Talk about layered and complex! We were all wowed by this wine when it first arrived, and continue to be. If you love Meursault, and who doesn’t, we recommend you taste the 2010 Pernot-Belicard Meursault.
2010 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$49.99
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2011 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$50.99
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Just in!!! Philippe’s 2011! Build a vertical.

2011 Domaine Pichat Cote Rotie ‘Loss’
During a recent conversation with another importer, we came to the conclusion that discovering new producers who make high-quality, value wine was nearly impossible. Especially when it comes to famous wine regions whose production is severely limited. It’s a theory, yes, with a boatload of truth and logic to back it up. David has been working diligently with his friends and various agents looking specifically for a “new” Côte Rôtie producer for several years now. That means he’s tried a bunch of them over the years, but in each case, graciously said no. Well, that has changed now. He’s liked what he’s tasted from Domaine Pichat for several vintages, and that’s what it takes for him to graciously say yes! When the Pichat wines landed we all got to taste them, and they are indeed special wines with that signature smoky, meaty goodness that Syrah exhibits when originating from the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie. It was unanimous amongst us, the fancier cuvées were great, and will be spectacular wines someday, showing immense concentration, texture and structure. When we tasted the Löss, we were blown away by its balance and drinkability. The complexity was dazzling, and we could swear that Stéphane used some new barrel on it as well, but were assured no, only neutral barrel is used for this wine. Proving again that Syrah is “a ballerina who can kick-box”, Pichat’s 2011 Löss delivers plush, dark plum and red berry flavors framed in a classic smoky, meaty structure. Another great discovery; this time from an almost impossible source!
2011 Domaine Pichat Cote-Rotie Loss
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$51.99
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2011 Domaine Sebastien Dampt Chablis 1er Cru ‘Cote de Lechet’
It was during that same conversation with the other importer where a modicum of possibility did emerge: find someone new or someone young. Sure, that doesn’t guarantee quality, but if you’re going to find the diamond in the rough of unclaimed producers, that’s the place to look. Chablis is much bigger than Côte Rôtie, yes, but finding the new producer wasn’t easy.  Patience is a virtue, because after graciously saying no several times, David found us a bona fide all star, Sébastien Dampt! My, my, what a fine line of wines. The youngster’s family has been making wine for over 150 years! Sébastien had been working with his brother, Vincent, together with their father at his eponymous Domaine Daniel Dampt before setting off on his own in 2007. What this young winemaker can do with Chardonnay is astounding! His 2011 Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet wowed us at first whiff! Its fresh, focused white fruit, floral, and mineral aromas were captivating; the palate was as bright and nervy as expected; the finish long and harmonious. The very fair price, a result of patience and direct importation. Bravo!

The 2011 Côte de Léchet has sold out, but its stablemate, the Premier Cru Les Vaillons is another outstanding example of what this young winemaker does with Premier Cru fruit!

2011 Sebastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$26.99
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules ‘La Bolida’
Making her second appearance in a TWH SF Top Ten is our pal in Costières de Nîmes, Diane Puymorin with her 100% old vine Mourvèdre La Bolida. Old vine? Yes, these twisted, weathered vines are between 80 and 100 years old!  Crazy, right? This has always been a prized bottling for our staff as many of us squirrel away a few each year, as they deliver much joy after only a short time in the cellar. Her 2009 La Bolida is all that and more! Mourvèdre has the reputation for yielding big, powerful wines that, in many cases, need cellar time. This is true with many of the wines coming from Bandol. It is a very late ripening grape and only flourishes in a handful of locales around the world. One place it flourishes is in Diane’s vineyard! When discussing La Bolida, she often points to the juxtaposition between the wine’s power and its roundness. It definitely has the stuffing to go the long haul, but is short of any hard edges that may interfere with its charm. The southern Rhône has had a string of successful vintages, and 2009 was one of the best. 
2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Other France;
$36.99
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge (in magnum)
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$73.99
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2010 Opalie de Chateau Coutet
Talk about new discoveries … how about a first time EVER wine? The team at Château Coutet had been working on a secret project for a couple of vintages: to make a top-flight dry white Bordeaux. With the assistance of Philippe Dhalluin and his team at Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Mouton), two particular plots of their Barsac/Sauternes First Growth vineyard were chosen as the source for the new wine. As the wine from the 2010 vintage developed, it was determined that the quality was outstanding and it was time to unveil Opalie de Château Coutet to the world! The Wine House San Francisco were the first merchants in the world to offer the wine on a pre-arrival basis in the summer of 2012. As other merchants in the world began to offer the wine for sale, Decanter Magazine listed us as its exclusive US merchant. It was shipped to us in 2013 and was a huge hit with staff and customers alike. It is a wine of pedigree and refinement, brimming with opulence and richness, yet finishing dry and crisp.

The 2010 sold out long ago, however, we are now offering the 2011 Opalie de Coutet, also on pre-arrival. Warning: we have already sold half of our allocation of the 2011. The wine is due to be shipped to us sometime in the spring of 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
$44.00
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Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
$499.00
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2010 Chateau Fleur Cardinale
In the red Bordeaux department, 2010 was a stellar vintage. It was a great follow-up to 2009, a spectacular vintage in its own right, but 2010 was spectacular for a different reason. Sadly, this of course, meant higher prices, which turned more and more Americans away from the wines from Bordeaux. Aha, but let’s not let those who now bottle commodities rather than wine spoil the party for us wine drinkers! It has been reported here, once or twice that a chateau in St. Emilion was not only cranking out fantastic wine, vintage after vintage, but they were pricing their wines where they could be enjoyed by people who love Bordeaux. Since taking over the property beginning with the 2001 vintage, Dominique and Florence Decoster have turned this St. Emilion property into a champion in the quality to price department. They have been on a great run of consecutive vintage successes, and then came 2010. Arguably, their finest vintage to date, the 2010 Château Fleur Cardinale is representative of the hard work and investment made by the Decosters and their team. Their motive is simple. Dominique once told me that if you are going to make wine and travel the world pouring it, you’re going to have to drink it a lot. So make something good! Bravo, Dominique and Florence!

Sadly, we sold out of the 2010 weeks ago, but we are selling the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale on pre-arrival for an unbelievable price. This is quality juice, folks, take it from me.

Or, if you would like Robert Parker’s synopsis, “Another top-notch success, the 2011 (70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) hit 15% natural alcohol. Yields were a low 30 hectoliters per hectare, and the harvest occurred quite late. The result is a dense purple-colored wine with a stunning bouquet of blackberry jam, graphite, charcoal and blueberries. With superb density and purity as well as a multidimensional mouthfeel, this intense St.-Emilion is a sleeper of the vintage, although consumers are catching on to the exquisite quality emerging from La Fleur Cardinale. The 2011 should drink well for 15+ years. (92-94 points)”

2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale Saint-Emilion (Pre-Arrival)
Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$36.00
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So there you have it. We’re a month into 2014, and we’re already making more vinous discoveries! Many 2011 Bordeaux (now in bottle) were tasted at the UGC tasting in Los Angeles last week. We’ve got winemakers and property owners from wineries in France and Italy lined up to visit us in the first part of this year, and the samples keep coming! We’ll try to stay in front of the onslaught, forever echoing our sentiments here for you all. Or as Anya says, “We taste a lot of bad wine so you don’t have to!” Happy 2014. – Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2010 Bordeaux, Barsac, Bordeaux Clairet, Costieres de Nimes, Peter Zavialoff, Rully, St. Emilion, Top Ten Wines Of The Year

The Wine House SF Top Ten Wines Of 2012

Now that we’ve all settled into 2013, we have to say with excitement that this is going to be a great year! We are anxiously looking forward to all of the good things and the many great wines coming our way in 2013. But before we get too far into it, let’s have a look back as we reveal our Top Ten Wines of 2012!

The concept may sound simple … the top wines, right? Well, not so fast. We could tap into the multitude of reviews from wine writers and critics and fashion a list of highly rated, don’t drink until 2025, keep in a bank vault wines, but that’s not how we roll here at TWH. In years past, our Top Ten lists are comprised of wines we all love. Wines that deliver. Wines that outshine their respective price points. Wines that provide pleasure, because really, isn’t that what wine is all about? We taste a whole lot of wine throughout the year, both here and abroad, and only bring in the ones we deem worthy to be on our shelves for you, our customers. Choosing a Top Ten out of all of the wines we’ve said yes to is a fun albeit difficult exercise. It’s fun because we get to relive our tasting experiences, remembering the meals, the ambiance, and the company that went along with each wine. Remember, some of the wines have sold out, but we list them here based on their merits … So without further ado, here is The Wine House San Francisco’s Top Ten wines of 2012!!!

Please use these links to view our Top Ten from last year, 2010, or 2009.

20NV Pascal Doquet Extra Brut Premier Crus Blancs de Blanc
With New Year’s memories slowly fading, let’s begin with some bubbles. TWH mainstay Pascal Doquet makes some of the best Grower Champagne that we’ve encountered. He sure has been garnering praise recently from the likes of James Molesworth of The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni. Why wouldn’t he? His artisanal Champagnes have been wowing our staff for over a decade! When this Extra Brut landed here in our shop this year, it instantly became a favorite of our staff and all customers who have tried it.Here’s what Mr. Galloni had to say about it, “Doquet’s NV Extra Brut Premier Crus Blanc de Blancs is pretty, soft and enveloping. Dried pears, spices, crushed flowers and almonds wrap around the palate in this expressive, layered Champagne. This is one of the more open Extra Brut Champagnes readers will come across, likely because of the high presence of 2005 juice and full malolactic fermentation. Technical details aside, the wine is flat out delicious. 91 points”
NV Pascal Doquet Premiers Crus Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs
Sparkling; Champagne Blend; Champagne;
$54.98
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19Michel-Andreotti Montagny les Guignottes
White Burgundy. Honestly, we don’t really have to say much more than that. It is special wine. Unfortunately, supply and demand do what they do, and a great amount of it is priced in the ‘special wine’ echelon. Well, David’s trips to Burgundy have paid off yet again, as we are now importing the Montagny “Les Guignottes” from Michel-Andreotti. From the slightly off-the-beaten-path appellation of Montagny in Côte Chalonnaise, “Les Guignottes” outperforms its price point by far and reminds us that there is good White Burgundy out there for a fair price. First came the 2010. It’s an understatement to say that it sold out quickly. Then along came the 2011, it sold out too, but we just re-loaded and it’s back in stock. Which one made our Top Ten of 2012? It’s a dead heat. They both belong!
2011 Domaine Michel-Andreotti Montagny Les Guignottes
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$19.99
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182011 Juicy Villages From Juicy Rebound
Now for some local representation. You’ve got to love old-vine Mourvèdre. It’s rare to find a blend from California that showcases the grape in the leading role. Winemaker and hockey fanatic Douglas Danielak took 120+ year old Mourvèdre from the Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa where the vines look like “little trees” and blended it with Syrah and Grenache to create a mouth-filling berry bomb bestowing it with the catchy name, Juicy Villages. There’s plenty of grip and tang to give Juicy Villages a well-balanced flavor experience. A whopping 100 cases were produced of this unique and delicious Côtes du Rhône-esque red. All that for a price that’s more than fair on your pocketbook. Bravo!
2011 Juicy Rebound Juicy Villages California
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Other California;
$19.98
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172009 Domaine Martin Bart Marsannay
2012 was the year of containers. It seemed all throughout the year, we were simultaneously in the process of consolidating one overseas, anticipating the arrival of the one already on the water, and unloading the container at our dock! That just means we found lots of goodies on our trips overseas. The 2009 vintage was a phenomenal one in France (more on that later), and we tasted a lot of great wines that now have “Imported by Wine House Limited” on their labels.So 2009 was great in Burgundy, especially for the red wines. So again, we’re sure the top names of the region produced formidable wines, but we like to kick tires and look under rocks to find value! David is on a roll bringing some amazing, new-for-us, high-quality producers to join TWH family! Another feather in his cap in 2012 were the wines from Domaine Bart in Marsannay. Their Les Champs Salomon was a home run of a Red Burgundy. It smelled fancy. It tasted fancy. Its price tag? Not so fancy. That all explains its sold out status. Welcome to TWH top 10, Domaine Bart!

 

16Ravan From Kabaj
We’ve got our eyes open for great wines from all corners of the wine world. Like Slovenia. Wines from Slovenia are catching favor with consumers and critics alike, popping up on restaurant wine lists and profiled in thoughtful wine publications. Just one whiff, just one taste was enough for us to throw caution to the wind and stack the Ravan from Kabaj high and proud. Were we concerned whether TWH customers would shy away from an unknown producer from an unfamiliar wine region? Not. The staff were all in for sure, but when a wine is this delightful, exotic and complex, we knew our adventurous clientele would embrace the Ravan from Kabaj just as passionately. The 2009 has sold out, but we find the 2010 a worthy successor!
2010 Kabaj Ravan White Wine Goriska Brda
White Wine; other white varietal; Slovenia;
$19.98
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152009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Tour de l’Isle
Imagine attending a traveling French wine trade show in Chicago in the middle of January … brrrrr! Seriously, at some point you have to ask yourself why? Well, part of our service to you all is to indeed kick tires, look under rocks, kiss some toads, and every now and then, we get lucky. Here goes your proof. Last January David braved the elements and flew into 6 degree Farenheit Chi-town. He met a lot of people and tasted a lot of wine. When he met the folks representing the Tour de l’Isle brand, he was gaga over their Châteauneuf-du-Pape! A sample bottle was shipped to the shop the following week, and now we all sing the praises of this rich, powerful (yet friendly), stone mineral driven, Grenachey Grenache! The 2009 was already in the US, courtesy of another importer. Well, we all love it so much that we made ’em an offer they couldn’t refuse. We bought their entire stock and are now the proud importer of their wines! Boo Yah!
2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$34.99
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142009 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the advantages, and pleasures, of being in business for over 35 years (!) is the long-standing relationships we’ve forged with both customers and vendors. One of David’s first discoveries working at The Wine House was the debut vintage of Spottswoode’s estate grown 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Wine House has been proudly offering their Cabernet Sauvignon every vintage thereafter. The 2009 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon is a standout among a very long line of outstanding efforts; it has that unmistakable thread of Spottsberry fruit pushing through with the signature silky tannins wrapping around it. It is a true collectable California Cabernet and we are happy and proud to include this monumental effort among our Top Ten Wines of the year!
2009 Spottswoode Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
$144.98
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132011 Gavi di Gavi
We’ve been directly importing the Ernesto Picollo line of Gavi wines for 5 vintages now, and though we have always felt they smash the quality for price ratio, their 2011 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto has that extra umph that propels it into 2012’s Top Ten! Anya swears that it is the fact that Picollo’s top cuvée Rughe wasn’t made this year, so that special older-vine fruit made its way into the Rovereto. Whatever it was, there’s no denying the quality of this wine. Crisp, mineral driven, and precise, you would swear that the bottle cost would be twice or even three times as much as it is! It is that special. It’s very likely THE best white wine deal in the house!
2011 Picollo Ernesto Gavi di Gavi Roverto
White Wine; other white varietal; Piedmont;
$15.99
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122001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial
Chances are if you’ve been in our shop in the latter part of 2012, and perhaps overheard a customer request for a “special wine” or a “gift wine”, you would have heard a member of TWH staff gush over the merits of the 2001 Reserva Especial Rioja Viña Ardanza by La Rioja Alta. Whew, that’s a mouthful; but so is the wine! This well known Rioja producer has only thought it appropriate to make this special bottling in two other vintages: 1964 and 1973! Space limitations will keep us from gushing too much over this in writing, but let’s just say that if it were twice the price, it would still be a bargain. With 11 years of age, it can be enjoyed anytime from now until your 3 year old graduates from college … and then some!
2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial Rioja
Red Wine; Red Blend; Rioja;
$29.98
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11Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Of course it had to be a 2009 Bordeaux. I only wrote about this vintage and its wines umpteen times. But which one? Seriously, this was the toughest point of this exercise. But when you take everything into consideration, we’ve got to give the big tip of the cap to the 2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc. I loved it out of barrel. Then, when the first 2009’s arrived in early 2012, it was on the first container. Chris and I grabbed a few of the new arrivals and taste tested them. His overwhelming favorite of the bunch was the Larrivaux. We opened another bottle the following week for Anya, Tom, and David to taste, and it was unanimous! Now that everyone was on board, we went back to the marketplace and loaded up. It is certainly not the only success story from the 2009 vintage, but that kind of quality for less than $25 resonates big time! Ignore at your own peril.
2009 Chateau Larrivaux Haut Medoc
Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$23.98
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So there you have it, our Top Ten Wines of 2012! We’ve already begun tasting new wines in the new year, and we’re taking good notes, so we’ll have plenty of candidates for this list this time next year! Wishing you all the best in 2013!Anya Balistreri & Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Chateauneuf du Pape, Contra Costa County, Cortese, Domaine Bart, Gavi, Haut-Medoc, Marsannay, Montagny, Mourvedre, Napa Valley, Peter Zavialoff, Rioja, Slovenia, Top Ten Wines Of The Year

The Wine House San Francisco: Our Top Ten Wines of 2011

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year again where we pick the top ten wines that were released and passed through our shop in the calendar year 2011. We first did this in 2009, and the reaction was so positive that we did it again last year. It’s a fun exercise for us here; we taste a lot of wine throughout the year, most of which doesn’t even make it to our sales floor. Of all that DOES meet our standards and make it to the floor, it becomes a difficult task to narrow it down to just 10. But we get there; the most fun part of the exercise is that while discussing the wines, we get to relive the past year in tasting. Remember, some of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned here based on their merits.

2010 Lugana – Ca’Lojera
Kicking things off here is the first of 7 direct TWH imports in this year’s top 10! Speaking for those of us who have not met her, we’re so jealous that first David, and then Anya met with Ambra Tiraboschi at successive Italian tastings in New York City. The wines that come from Ambra’s Ca’Lojera are a rare breed indeed. Ambra’s Cabernet Sauvignon is a gem that is not to be missed. But it’s what she can do with the Turbiana variety that lands her in our Top Ten of 2011. Her 2010 Lugana is one of our favorite Italian whites that came this way in 2011. It’s yummy goodness of fresh white fleshy fruit and zippy acidity, not to mention modest price, pushes it right into the Top Ten. If this is only the first of ten of this caliber, you might want to grab a seat.
2009 J-M Chaland Vire-Clesse
Speaking of terrific white wine imports … David was (again) lucky enough to be tasting wine in Burgundy last winter and when he tasted through the unoaked Chardonnays from Jean-Marie Chaland he had an epiphany. Brand new for us are a whole line of delicious Maconais wines which scream “White Burgundy Values”. The top of the line Thurissey is made from vines over 90 years old! Seriously, run don’t walk to this wine.
2008 Claude Thomas Zinfandel
Here’s a real TWH story. You should see our calendar. I mean Anya’s calendar. It’s got names and times jotted down for every day she works. There is a line out the door for the opportunity to have Anya taste (and hopefully, buy) the respective wines that each wine rep sells. It’s gotten so out of hand that one producer periodically sends his friends in specifically asking for his wine. Ah, what some people resort to just to make a sale. Sometimes, one of these encounters results in an extraordinary upside surprise, “winemakers to watch” and all. Yet it happened again in 2011 with a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. When the 2008 Claude Thomas Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was poured for her, Anya, who by the way loves Zinfandel, was all in! Ripe, brambly berry and spice, we’re all in too. What a pleasure for all of us here at TWH when Tom Stanley drops off cases of his wine! Well done, Tom.
2008 Vignobles Boudinaud Côtes du Rhône Mataro
Back to France. You love Mourvèdre. We love Mourvèdre. What’s not to love? Big, gamy, muscular, earthy wines always have a home with those who love the style. It says Côtes du Rhône on the label. It says Mataro on the label as well, which is what some people in Spain, and apparently in the south of France call Mourvèdre. It’s a Côtes du Rhône made from 100% Mourvèdre. We love that! All of us here at TWH were wowed by this wine in 2011.
2010 Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray
One of our favorite Loire Valley producers, Domaine d’Orfeuilles, you know, the ones that make sparkling Vouvray. Or maybe you’re familiar with their sparkling Touraine Rosé made from Côt, or Malbec as it’s known elsewhere. Maybe you’ve heard of their demi-sec Vouvray “les Coudraies”. Obviously, we’re big fans of these guys! The wine that brought us to them? It was the 2005 Vouvray “Silex”. That was so long ago that there isn’t even a blog link to attach to it. But the ’05 Silex? Crisp and bone dry with that lovely apple-ey goodness that Chenin Blanc is known for … but the mineral swirl? The stuff of legend. So when the 2010 recently went out to wholesale accounts and the sample bottle returned to the shop, we poured out some tastes for our staff … Chris and I took one swirl and taste … “Dude, can you believe that?” (Yes, we talk that way. Mostly just to each other.) “That acidity? That freshness. The mineral. The Fruit? This is better than the ’05!” It was. And it is. And it will be.
Pleiades XX – Sean Thackrey
Ever been to Bolinas? It’s a fun little town just northwest of Stinson Beach in Marin County. It’s tough to find, though. Locals like to take down the sign pointing the way whenever Caltrans puts up a new one. This keeps a lot of tourists out; or at least that’s the locals’ rationale. But Bolinas is home to Sean Thackrey’s winery. Sean Thackrey has been making wine for three decades! And his wines are our kind of wines; he embraces unique winemaking techniques, and sources his fruit from all over California. He brings it all back to his winery in Bolinas and makes wine with his hands. Thackrey’s Pleiades XX cracks the top 5 due to its serious amalgam of complexity and intensity. We are ALWAYS on the lookout for wines like this one! We sold out of the XX, be on the lookout for the XXI!
NV Giavi Prosecco
Prosecco. Serious Prosecco. The NV Giavi Prosecco. You’ve never tasted Prosecco like this before. We’ve got a serious Champagne customer. Serious. This gent will ONLY buy the best highly allocated Grower Champagnes we can get our hands on. He loves this Prosecco. He is actually talking this wine up to restaurants he dines in. Word is out in the restaurant world. We haven’t been able to offer this in our retail shop for months due to the demands of fine restaurants here in the Bay Area and in LA! We’re finally back on track, and once again have the wine in stock for you to try. This is Top Ten kind of Prosecco. Try one and see for yourself.
2009 Château Puy-Servain Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes
“Everybody loved it.” That’s what a customer said about the 2009 Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes from Château Puy-Servain. What a great 2011 discovery this was!! Instead of relaxing in Bordeaux on the Saturday after the En Primeur tastings, I was off to Montravel to meet with Daniel Hecquet at his Château Puy-Servain. When I tasted his 2009 Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes I got butterflies thinking about how cool it was going to be to get the wine over here and onto your tables. And even cooler, the wine sold out quickly. We bought more from Daniel and the next batch should be here by the end of March.
2009 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc
Back to White Burgundy. David has been tasting the wines from Domaine Michel Bouzereau for several vintages, and he’s liked what he’s tasted. But just as he pointed out in regards to the J-M Chaland wines, he likes to taste several vintages before pulling the trigger. Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau is the winemaker these days and he makes some of the finest Premier Cru Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet that we stock here at TWH. You could pick any of Jean-Baptiste’s Premier Crus and put them in the Top Ten, but that’s kind of like cheating. But what’s this? He makes a Bourgogne too! Not only that, it’s a “Bourgogne” though most of the grapes are sourced from in and around Meursault. One taste will have you hooked!
2008 Château Branaire Ducru, St. Julien
Keeping with tradition, we’re going to Bordeaux. It’s so hard to pick just one wine. In 2011, it was the 2008 Bordeaux vintage that hit the market. There were standouts in all categories Red, White, and Gold! But the wine that struck me greatest had to be the 2008 Branaire Ducru. It has everything I look for in a young claret. Its fruit is expressive, the aromas are deep and complex. On the palate, it has a round feel with noticeable structure and more fruit expression braced by the zippy acidity. Great weight and great balance. The finish is long and complex; a perfect reminder as to why I love the wines from St. Julien most. We only have a few bottles left, so sorry when it sells out.
Honorable Mention: 2001 Château Lanessan
Narrowing all that wine tasted over the course of a year down to only 10 is a very difficult task indeed. One main criterion for the list is that the wine be newly released and available to us in said calendar year. But there is one more wine that wowed us in 2011 that deserves a slight mention, the 2001 Château Lanessan. It too was an amazing discovery that was made in the office of one of our negociants in Bordeaux this past April. We sold out of our stock rather quickly, quick enough to still have a chance to buy more! We did, and it’s on its way here. It should arrive at the end of March. – Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2008 Bordeaux, Cote du Beaune, Cotes du Rhone, Dry Creek Valley, Italy, Jean-Marie Chaland, Lugana, Michel Bouzereau Pere et Fils, Montravel, Peter Zavialoff, Prosecco, Top Ten Wines Of The Year, Vouvray

Our Top Ten Wines Of 2010

Happy New Year! It was right around this time last year that we listed our first “Top Ten” wines of the year for 2009. We received an overwhelming response from that email/blog post, such a response, mind you, that we’re going to give it another go for 2010.

Again, the concept: A lot of different wines from different places fly through here throughout the year. Some make their way to our sales floor, some don’t. Of those that do, several stand out. They stand out for many reasons. Quality. Price. Quality for price. Exotic origins, unique varieties … You know, in 2008 TWH was awarded an Editor’s Award in the SF Bay Guardian as the Bay Area’s best “French Wine Warehouse”. We were happy and proud to receive such praise and honor, as we take our French wines seriously; but we take all wine seriously. This year, in addition to some French selections, we have wines from Spain, Greece, and of course, California that cracked the top ten. A couple have sold out, regretfully, but are mentioned here due to their merits.

We’re wishing you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2011!

10Domaine Ehrhart Cremant d’Alsace
We hear it often. “I have Champagne taste, but am on a sparkling wine budget.” (This does occur in other regions as well, but we’ll use this version for this wine.) Well, a sparkling 100% Chardonnay from Alsace is great way to get going! Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart’s Domaine is certified organic, and they pour their hearts into the finished product we get in the bottle. This latest batch of their Cremant raised eyebrows all around TWH with more than one staffer grabbing a bottle or two for New Year’s Weekend!
NV Domaine Ehrhart Cremant d’Alsace
Sparkling; White Blend; Alsace;
$16.98
Add to Cart

92008 Valdubon Ribera del Duero Cosecha
From the Ribera del Duero, is our first of two Spanish Top Tenners, the 2008 Valdubon. None of us on the staff need to discuss this at any length with each other, as actions speak louder than words. A good way to gauge what wines are fancied by members of our staff is simply to observe what is taken home for personal consumption. With me, it started with the sample bottle that was left for us. I really love the finesse of this Tempranillo. It’s medium bodied, has bright red fruit and spice up front and sits in perfect balance as its complexities fade. It’s a great food wine too! The medium body lends itself to pair with a wide range of cuisine. Chris’ folks liked it so much, they ordered a six pack, but still haven’t received it because Chris drank it all. Tom packs one under his arm every now and then, and every time Anya loads up a case for friends and family, at least one of these makes its way into the box. Proof’s in the pudding.
2008 Bodegas Valdubon Ribera del Duero
Red Wine; Tempranillo; Ribera del Duero;
$11.98
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82009 Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel
If there is a young California winemaker who had a better year than Morgan Twain-Peterson did in 2010, we haven’t heard of it. Over the course of the year, if you glanced at the Bulletin Board on erobertparker.com, you would see posts entitled Bedrock this and Bedrock that along with Morgan Peterson’s name, time and time again. Having met him here at TWH last year, we couldn’t be more happy for him. His 2009 Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel sold out faster than you can blink, Anya’s write-up notwithstanding. In spite of its sold out status, it surely deserves to be in our top ten!

72007 Lacuna Red Blend
Okay, it may be getting tough to get our mitts on anything Bedrock these days, but psssst! Here’s another one of Morgan’s wines under a different label, Lacuna. What a find. Chiefly Syrah that’s blended with Cinsault, Zinfandel and Grenache, this wine is a darling to all who love fuller bodied reds. The partners on this project knew straight away that they could have easily charged upwards of $40 for this delectable juice, but wanted it to be accessible to more than just the 40 and up crowd. Yes, sadly, this too will sell out, get yourself some while you can!
2007 Lacuna Syrah Blend California
Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Other California;
$24.98
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Santorini A EN 2009 - 0292009 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko
Looking back, it is somewhat surprising that one of our Top Ten of 2010 is a white wine from Greece. Surprising on the surface, anyway. When we tasted the 2009 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko, we were blown away. Dry and crisp with vibrant acidity, we weren’t the only ones to be blown away by this wine. Your demand for it had us sold out on several occasions as we continued to return to the well for another fix time and again. Think Greek Islands. Growing grapes for purportedly 3000 years. Hmmm. What is the protein of choice of most island societies? What do you suppose they want to drink with it? Yes; crab, scallops or prawns would be perfect.
2009 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini
White Wine; other white varietal; Greece;
$21.98
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52009 Paco & Lola Rias Baixas Albarino
You just never know when the cosmic tumblers are going to line up and point the way to your favorite wine discovery of 2010! But that’s just what happened to me last year. An innocuous taste was just the first of several “signs” that this wine and I were meant to be. Just like many a wine geek, I gravitate toward versatile, aromatic white wines from all over the world. I seem to have found what I didn’t know I was looking for in a Rias Baixas Albarino, the Paco & Lola.
2009 Paco & Lola Albarino Rias Baixas
White Wine; other white varietal; Rias Baixas;
$16.48
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42009 Mattiasson White Blend
Speaking of versatile, aromatic white wines that will catch the attention of not only the wine geek, but the wine lover in all of us, the 2009 Matthiasson White is an aromatic heavyweight champ. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano, all grown in Napa County. It’s the perfect Cali-quaffer that will get you out of a Chardonnay rut before you can say “new oak barrel”. It cracks the Top Ten merely based on the smiles on the faces of you customers who come back raving, as you pick up your replacement bottles. Well, yes, of course, we love it too!
2009 Matthiasson Napa Valley White
White Wine; White Blend; Napa;
$34.98
Add to Cart

32005 Paras Vineyards Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the perks of being in business for 33 years is the multitude of great relationships that we have forged with both customers and suppliers. Sometimes, as a result of a lengthy relationship, we continue to receive allocations of highly sought after wines. It’s kind of like a little bonus and a thank you from the supplier for believing in them before the critics started heaping on the praise. Generally, after the latter, allocations dry up and prices skyrocket. Well, we are tickled pink (or red, in this case) that we received our allocation of the 2005 Paras Vineyards Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Decanter Magazine tasted through a rather large smattering of 2005 California Cabernets. Guess which one they liked the most? We’re proud and grateful that we can offer this rocking Cab to our customers.
2005 Paras Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
SALE $59.98
Reg. $72.98
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22009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie
Judging from what I’ve tasted so far, 2009 is one of those vintages that was good for everyone. Okay, everyone in France anyway. Timing can be funny. As I type, David is in France meeting people and tasting their wines. One of the many highlights of his prospecting last year were the incredible Cru Beaujolais from Chateau Raousset! The wines are blessed with perfect structure, balance and complexity. Of the 3 wines from Raousset, we found the Fleurie to be drinking perfectly upon arrival. Dare we say Gamay can age, and I would be thrilled to find a 2009 Fleurie (or Morgon) in my cellar 10 years from now. Thinking out loud here, good idea for a bumper sticker, “HIP Wine Drinkers Drink Cru Beaujolais!”
2009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie Grille Midi
Red Wine; Gamay; Burgundy;
$19.99
Add to Cart

12007 Chateau Climens
Okay, I didn’t purposely set out to make a false claim in last year’s Top Ten. I did state that no Top Ten list would be complete without a red Bordeaux. What I meant to say was no Top Ten list would be complete without something from Bordeaux. This year a tip of the cap goes out to the 2007 Chateau Climens. It was at the UGC tasting in Los Angeles last January where I got the chance to taste this amazing wine. I had never before, nor have I since proclaimed a wine would receive a perfect numerical score from an influential critic, but I did with this wine. For the record, The Wine Spectator’s number was 93, but it was The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin who saw things in similar fashion to me. Now I don’t expect Mr. Martin has any time on his hands to read my ramblings, but if he did, chances are he would also know that I am a supporter of the Chelsea Football Club. He is not a fan, this I know. My proclamation was issued in February 2010. Martin’s scoring of the 2007 Climens was released at the end of April. His score? 99+. Seems coincidental. We’re sold out, but there’s more in France. Please inquire if you are interested. – Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Albarino, Alsace, Mt. Veeder, Napa, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes, Spain, Top Ten Wines Of The Year

Our Top 10 Wines of 2009

The funniest things happen when we least expect them. I was awoken this morning at 3:46 AM. This happens occasionally, especially when I hit the hay early. It is at this time where one of two things can happen. Either I will fall back asleep immediately, or I’ll toss and turn for hours. When immediate sleep doesn’t happen, I’ve found a way to keep from dragging on too long. I count things. No, not sheep. I don’t know the origin of that one, but it’s dubious at best. This morning I counted my favorite wines that I’ve had this year. Well, I started counting, and all I remember next was waking up at 7:54 AM. Success! So much so, that I thought back as to how I made it back to sleep. Counting wine. How ingenious. While prepping breakfast, I began to think, “We all have had our favorites this year. The Wine House should come up with a list of our favorite 10 wines that passed through here in 2009.” I arrived only to find a 48 foot trailer jockeying for position at our loading dock. David was tied up trying to get that situated properly. Somehow, I got his attention, and said, “I had the greatest middle of the night thought, top 10 list for the year!” We’ve never done that before. He thought it was a great idea, and without further ado, presenting the first annual Wine House Top 10 Wines from 2009:(Please note: Some of these wines have sold out, but have earned the merit to be mentioned here anyway.)
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2007 Bourgogne Blanc – Paul Pernot
Okay, well here is a no brainer. Paul Pernot, no doubt, has a penchant for crafting some of the finest Chardonnays, respected the world over. His entry-level Bourgogne Blanc rings all of the bells required to be a super value! We import a great amount of this wine year after year, and it sells out. It’s that good. The 2007 was magnificent, but sadly, it’s gone. The 2008 promises to be yet another steal, and will be available to us in 2010, stay tuned for details. Here’s a link to Anya’s write-up of the 2007.
2007 Cotes du Ventoux – Domaine Fondreche
A protege of Rhone-master Andre Brunel, Sebastien Vincenti has been making wine for over 10 vintages! His expression of fruit and terroir have seduced fans of all things Rhone related ever since I started working at The Wine House. His top cuvee, Persia, has always been the darling of customers and critics alike. Think about all you’ve heard about the Rhone and 2007 … simply genius! Here’s a link to one of his, unfortunately, sold out 2007’s. Just know that this is his precious top of the line blend.
2007 Domaine de Fondreche Cotes du Ventoux Rouge Cuvee Persia
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$28.99
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2008 Bordeaux Blanc – Chateau Couronneau
Okay, you had me at White Bordeaux. Sorry to say, the 2008 Couronneau Blanc has also sold out. It’s okay. We have a very good relationship with Christophe and Benedicte Piat who make some of the most amazing wines from their perch in the eastern chunk of Bordeaux. I, personally, loved this wine from moment one. So much, I put it in writing!
2006 Santenay – Chateau de la Maltroye
Okay, let me confess something here. When I started working at TWH, I thought I was well versed on French wine. I knew my Bordeaux, and Rhones … but Burgundy? That was a whole other animal. I now know that I prefer elegant red Burgs that show their terroir as well as those subtle nuances that Pinot Noir is able to express. I was compelled to chime in about it.
2006 Chateau de la Maltroye Santenay Rouge 1er La Comme
Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$43.99
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2007 Bianco, Arbe Garbe
Sometimes, it is a good thing to leave our schedules open for the serendipitous. Wow! This was one of the coolest California wines to cross our threshold this year. 2007 Bianco, Arbe Garbe.
2004 Arbios Cabernet Sauvignon
Oh my, the hits keep coming! This is, and has been, one of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignons, to come from Alexander Valley for years. Its value (for $25, really) has put it over the top for all of us here at TWH. Tom’s a huge fan! Indulge! Oh yeah, here’s what Anya had to say about that.
2004 Arbios Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma;
$24.98
Add to Cart
Sparkling Vouvray
Festive times call for festive wines, right? Sparkling Vouvray, you might ask? Well, it’s not Champagne, but, it’ll stop right there. This fizz will tantalize you with its complexity! Chris will fight you for a bottle! Check it out here!
NV Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray Brut
Sparkling; Chenin Blanc; Loire;
$16.98
Add to Cart
The Bomb!
Sorry, there will be no Columbia Crest here in OUR top 10! Not taking anything away from them, they make a lot of wine that is long on quality and short on price. If you can get it at your local grocer, we, most likely will choose to go with others, This gem from Espana has everything we all love. As a matter of fact, our staff is in flux as to who gets to put their name on this one! Anya got to it first, so it’s hers. Emily loves it too, and without asking her permission, I believe this could very well be her choice for “Wine Of The Year. Here ya go!
2006 Dehesa de Rubiales Alaia Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon
Red Wine; Red Blend; Other Spain;
$11.98
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Academy Award
Introducing our “Academy Award Wine”. You know how the “top flicks” sneak their way into the calendar year at the end of December? This is what we have here. 2007 needs no intoduction in the southern Rhone. We haven’t had time to write about this one because it, literally, just got here. It’s that good! And more. David was lucky enough to taste this one months ago, he told us about it, but now we know! For those of you who love the wines crafted by Diane Puymorin, this is as good as it gets. This will sell out. If you’ve loved her wines in previous vintages, you MUST check this out …
2007 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Select
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
SALE $14.59
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After all, it’s Bordeaux
Yes, I am biased. There will never be a top 10 list that does not include red Bordeaux. It’s that simple. It’s funny, 2006 as a vintage, does not get the proper respect that it deserves. These wines did not get the accolades that their 2005 predecessors did, but, you know what? In many cases, some Chateau were able to make wines of higher distinction in 2006. I have always loved Pichon Lalande, and I have a feeling I always will … a wine for dreams …Peter Zavialoff
2006 Chateau Pichon Lalande Pauillac
Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$119.98
Add to Cart
All of us here at The Wine House wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! We will be here to assist you all with any of your vinous needs, anytime!

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Filed under 2006 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Costieres de Nimes, French Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Top Ten Wines Of The Year