Moulin-à-Vent is considered by most to be the king of Cru Beaujolais. Keeping this in mind, you can imagine our excitement when a recent container brought with it a brand new producer, Le Nid, to our warehouse from this region. But for some strange reason we didn’t taste it as a staff right away. David was playing it cool, down-playing his recent acquisition. He obviously forgot how jazzed we get over Cru Beaujolais. He was probably just waiting for the right time to pull the cork. This week was finally the time and the response from the staff was unanimous – Le Nid’s 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle is a delight! For a Moulin-à-Vent, which is noted for its structure and fullness, the Le Nid is perfectly polished and rounded despite its underlying structure.
The Lardet family purchased an existing domaine and its six hectares of vines in 2012, renaming it Le Nid. Le Nid, or nest en français, not only reflects their raison d’être approach to farming but also to the notion of bringing family back home to the nest. Paul and Danielle Lardet are joined by their three children in this endeavor. Moulin-à-Vent’s mostly east-facing slopes are made up of a soil called gore or grès which has deposits of crumbly pink granite with seams of manganese in it, giving the wine its distinctive characteristic. The 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle comes from a single one hectare parcel, producing less than 200 cases. The average age of the vines are fifty years old. They partially de-stem the fruit and age the wine in neutral barrel for at least 12 months. The wine has the wild strawberry fruit, notes of undergrowth and mineral typical of quality Beaujolais, but has none of those tank-y, tutti-frutti aromas or flavors. It has a whole lot of black fruit on the palate with a delicious thread of vanilla on the finish. I enjoyed how rounded the flavors sat on the palate, but clearly has the structure that begs for food.
The Lardets were fortunate to debut their wine with the 2013 vintage. The 2013 growing season in Beaujolais was blessed with a sunny July and August. The favorable weather continued on through a late harvest. This slow, long growing season produced small berries, allowing for a high skin-to-juice ratio. They submitted the 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle to the Concours des Grands Vins de France, receiving a gold medal. Not a bad way to start out! This is positive validation that they are on the right path to making noteworthy Moulin-à-Vent. Right now, Le Nid, is way under the radar, but I think fans of Cru Beaujolais are going to quickly change that fact.
So I’ve been sitting on pins and needles while writing this newsletter. I am missing my daughter’s play-off basketball game and haven’t heard any news. The game has added drama to it because it was scheduled at the same time my daughter was to perform in a production of Beauty and the Beast. It was a tough decision to make. She chose to miss this one performance (with the blessing of the director) to join her teammates, despite knowing the coach wouldn’t play her much, but felt she was needed there to emotionally support the team. Got to admire her for that! Finally got the call…they won by a point! Bringing home a bottle of Le Nid to celebrate, as it too is a winner in my book! – Anya Balistreri
Yay! It’s March. There’s something special about this month. Maybe it’s because the days are getting longer. Maybe it’s because the weather is warming up. Maybe it’s because baseball season is less than a month away. Whatever the reason, we’ve made your wine purchasing decisions really easy. The March Dirty Dozen contains plenty of interesting, versatile wines, sourced from all over the map. Get your March DD today!
Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2015 Orvieto Classico Vignarco, Palazzone $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
In 1969, the Dubini family purchased their property in the Umbrian hills, planting grapes soon after. By 1982 they had made their first Orvieto. The Vignarco is made up of 80% Garganega and is entirely vinified in stainless steel. Golden-hued, fresh with a lovely floral scent, it’s perfect for light meals and appetizers; try it with crab cakes atop dressed greens.
2015 Moscato Secco, Uvaggio $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Don’t let the “Moscato” scare you … this is “Secco” so it’s dry, dry, dry. Yes it has lovely exotic aromatics, but it has so much more going for it. A dead-ringer for a Ribolla Giallo from Alto Adige, this perfumed and alluring white is extremely versatile as a stand-alone sipper or a meal enhancer. Match-ups include pasta alla Vongole, vegetable gratins or frittata.
2011 Mottobello, Brigatti $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This wine hails from Colline Novaresi, which is situated in Piedmont’s northeast corner. Here the grape Erbaluce (or locally known as Greco Novarese) is the exclusive white varietal. It’s known for producing higher acid wines, though the 2011 Mottobello has tempered acidity, crisp fruit flavors and a light overall palate feel. It’s great with oysters.
2015 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi’s Ca’Lojera is located in Sirmione, on the southern shore of Lake Garda. Caution: If you search images for a picture of Sirmione, you may feel the need to visit. The grape they use for their Lugana is Turbiana, the local name for Trebbiano di Garda. It has a bright yellow fruit and floral bouquet and finishes crisp and clean.
2015 Sauvignon & Sémillon Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $14.49, $11.59 reorder
Modeled after the white blends from nearby Bordeaux, this Côtes de Gascogne is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. It’s all tank-fermented, so it’s fresh and vibrant with aromas of pears, kiwi, and apricots. The palate is crisp and expansive, and the finish balanced and lipsmacking. This is the kind of wine to serve with breaded filet of sole
2014 Ventoux Blanc, Domaine de Fondrèche $16.99, $13.59 reorder
White wines from the southern Rhône Valley may be among the most overlooked wines from France, but quality to price-wise, they are some of the most value driven wines out there! This 4 grape blend (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Rolle) is teeming with complexity. Think pears and nectarines – this is great on its own, or you can pair it with pork chops.
2014 Toro, Yaso $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
100% Tinta de Toro, aka Tempranillo, the Toro region of Spain produces robust, hearty reds – this one from Yaso is no exception. Just 40 miles east of the Portugese border, viticulture here dates back to pre-Roman times. Deep purple with lush fruity flavors, it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kinda red. Some take-out from your favorite BBQ place is a wise option here.
2013 Red Wine Blend, MF Wines $15.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Matthew Fritz wines frequently appear at TWH because they offer tremendous value. They are aces at sourcing high quality fruit at below market prices, then passing along the savings. This particular Red Wine Blend is a delicious combo of 85% Merlot and 15% Petite Sirah, all from Napa Valley. It’s super with a French Dip, Osso Buco or a calzone.
2014 Ribera del Duero, Sembro $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Another Spanish Tempranillo, this one comes from further inland in Ribera del Duero. Ribera del Duero sits on a high plateau at about 2800 feet above sea level, where summers are hot and winters are harsh. The Sembro has vibrant red cherry fruit, easy tannins and a medium-bodied texture. Try pairing it with Merguez lamb sausages, chorizo or fajitas.
2014 Fronton, Château Coutinel $8.99, $7.19 reorder
The seldom heard of grape Negrette thrives in the Fronton region, which is near the city of Toulouse, France. Think of it as a cross between Gamay Noir and Malbec. Its aromas are of cherries and forest floor and it’s medium bodied. The dark plummy notes take over mid-palate, and the finish is rich and complex with a hint of amaro. It’s great with spare ribs.
2012 Bergerac, Château Calabre $7.95 sale price, $7.55 reorder
About 100km north of Fronton, as the crow flies, is the appellation of Bergerac, of Cyrano fame. Its proximity to Bordeaux shows in the grapes grown for the local red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. This easy-drinker shows bright red and purple fruit with an herbaceous quality. It’s a great wine to pop with burgers of any sort.
2012 Château Les Clauzots, Graves Rouge $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Speaking of Bordeaux, this month’s DD has one of those too! Château Les Clauzots is located in the region’s southern tip, near the city of Langon. It’s 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and does it deliver for its modest price! Dark berries and cassis dominate the aromas and the palate is rich, balanced, and refined. Here’s your steak night wine.
What constitutes good value? Well, M-W.com defines the word as, “A fair return or equivalent for goods, services, or money for something exchanged.” Keeping in mind that the word “fair” is subjective; we all want our money’s worth when purchasing anything. Here at TWH, we always seek good value when tasting and deciding which wines to import and stock on our shelves. At every price point, there is value to be had here.
If one is searching for the best values among our bins, it is obvious to begin with wines that we import ourselves. It just makes sense – as there are no middlemen taking their cuts as the wine moves from producer to our shelves. We pride ourselves on being able to provide good value at every price point, from the $10 bottle well into the hundreds. In the world of fine wine, there exists a law of diminishing returns. After all, is a $100 bottle of wine really twice as good as a $50 bottle? There are many reasons for a particular wine’s price to exceed that of similar wines from similar locales. Some brands have excellent marketing arms and are able to command more due to a heightened reputation – deservedly or not. Taking all this into consideration, I have quietly enjoyed a very special wine recently. It’s from a fancy appellation – one that includes wines which sell for hundreds of dollars. I’m talking about Barolo. Specifically, the 2010 Barolo from Aurelio Settimo.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about an Italian white wine which we directly import. Within the write-up I mentioned a tasting room experience in which Tiziana Settimo suggested we try a line of wines made by a friend of hers. The fact that we all really fell for those wines further solidified Tiziana’s reputation in our eyes.
Around a year ago, we introduced Aurelio Settimo in the form of a Sunday email, calling them “Time Machine Wines.” Please click here to access it. Tiziana Settimo, after taking the reins from her late father in 2007, has continued the winemaking tradition in the family, maintaining the estate’s style. Her wines sing beautifully of quality fruit expression and sense of place. When the line of Barolo arrived last year, I was surprised to find that her 2010 Barolo was not only outstanding, but with a little decanting, it could be enjoyed now! I put my money where my mouth was and brought a bottle to Restaurant Picco in Larkspur to enjoy with dinner. I am friendly with several members of their staff, and shared tastes of the Barolo with many of them. The response was unanimous. They all loved it! It is a true Old World wine. The aromas are marked by the quintessential tar and a hint of rose petal, there is some wild cherry in there too, as well as dusty sandstone and herbaceous notes. The palate is medium bodied and elegant, dare I say silky. It’s altogether balanced, and the finish is prolonged by the buoyant acidity. It’s a fancy wine without being flashy. In other words, it’s a classy Old World wine.
2010 was an excellent vintage in Barolo, and among the famous labels, marketing departments or not, prices can be pretty steep. Due to the benefits from direct importation, the 2010 Aurelio Settimo Barolo is not $100 per bottle; not even $50. It comes in at $41.99, and even better, as part of any mixed case, the price gets down to $35.69. For Barolo.
It has been a banner week here at TWH. We co-hosted an intimate dinner at the aforementioned Restaurant Picco in Larkspur this past Tuesday with the Cru Classé wines from Bordeaux’s Bernard Magrez, represented by his daughter, Cécile Daquin. It was a great success, and we hope to have more opportunities to host more dinners in the future. Speaking of Bordeaux, we’re less than a month away from the annual En Primeurs tastings. There are still some loose ends to tie up for me schedule-wise, though I am confident they will be in order sometime this coming week. We’re hearing good things about 2016, but I will reserve judgement until I taste them for myself. That’s what we do here at TWH, and there’s a whole lot of value in that! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Barolo, direct importation, Bordeaux, or the current state of the English Premiership: peter@wine SF.com
When you discover five cases of a 2008 Chardonnay made by arguably one of California’s most respected winemakers, who do you call? The Wine House! Mel Knox along with winemaker Jim Clendenen partner to make wines under the Ici/La-Bas label. Mel called a week ago and said he had some wine he wanted to show us. Any opportunity to taste with Mel Knox is a welcome one – I will always make time for him. Mel has an encyclopedic knowledge of California’s wine history and of wine in general. He began his career in retail, then started his own company selling French barrels nearly 40 years ago. He knows the industry intimately both here and abroad and has been an integral player in the advancement of California’s wine industry.
And so, Mel came by the store to pour us wine from Ici/La-Bas and from another project he is involved with. I wouldn’t characterize Mel as a typical sales person as he is truly candid and honest in assessing his own wines. A masterful storyteller, his visits are never a splash and dash. The first wine he poured was the Ici/La-Bas 2008 Elke Vineyard Chardonnay from Anderson Valley. Inventory management being what it is, Mel “found” a few cases of it in his warehouse. I wouldn’t say I was skeptical, I know how well Jim Clendenen’s wines age, I just wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by it. It was youthful, fresh, delicious and complex. The flavors on the palate unfurled with each taste, noting apple, pear, creamy vanilla, flint and mineral and a whole lot more. It is a truly Burgundian-styled California Chardonnay.
I asked Mel if he would email a few notes on the winemaking to me. The Chardonnay was barrel fermented in 228 liter Francois Freres barrels. A barrel expert, he explained that, “The barrels were made from wood from the Bertranges forest, air dried three years. Bertranges gives wine a bit more tannic structure, perhaps bad for short-range consumption of the wine but great for long term aging. The longer seasoning of the wood eliminates the harsh tannins and provides a more subtle flavor. We used about 35% new barrels.” The wine was left on its lees for an extended period, then bottled in the Spring of 2010. Now with almost seven years of bottle age, the wine is in its prime! How often do you get the benefit of a cellared wine for such a reasonable price? TWH is offering the remaining bit of 2008 Chardonnay for $29.98 a bottle!
I spent a portion of the morning reading online articles on Jim Clendenen. My intention was to use some provocative quote of his to highlight Jim’s reputation for being a non-conformist in the wine industry. If you’d like to read a couple quick articles on Jim, please click here, here or here. In my early days at TWH, Jim often came by with new releases. David was an early admirer of Au Bon Climat wines. I was also fortunate to have been a guest at Jim’s annual luncheon at his friend, Michael Wild’s restaurant, Bay Wolf, a couple of times. A tasting of new releases from Au Bon Climat would precede a lunch that always included cellared bottles – that is how I discovered how well his wines aged. Jim lives up to his reputation and I find him inspirational. I always left those luncheons glad to be a part of the wine business.
When Mel left the store, David and I remained in the tasting room discussing the 2008 Chardonnay. David, like myself, was impressed with the wine. He said that TWH might not be known as a California Chardonnay house, but when a wine is this good, we can’t pass it up. With that, I placed my order. Revel in this well-cellared wine. It is in its prime, will likely age further, but is really one to enjoy right now – be in the moment! It is a testament to the skill of the winemaker. It’s a show piece.
I’ll be buying some bottles to take home. I plan to stump industry friends with it, share with my girlfriends who are exclusively Chardonnay drinkers, and for when I am hankering for the style of California Chardonnay I enjoy most. The Ici/La-Bas 2008 Chardonnay Elke Vineyard is not to be missed!
– Anya Balistreri
Basic Facts for those of you who are new to the program: Every two months we select two Burgundies, one red and one white. We include write-ups detailing the background of the grower, the vineyard source, and the wine. Finally we knock a significant percentage off the prices of the wines, making the Sampler price $89.98. If you would like us to add you to the Sampler Club and receive the wines regularly, please notify us in the comments field, and we will charge your card accordingly. If you would like us to ship faster than the standard ground service, please specify this as well.
2014 Viré-Clessé Thurissey – Domaine Sainte Barbe
Jean-Marie Chaland founded Domaine Sainte Barbe in 1999. He farms 8 hectares in and around Viré-Clessé organically, achieving certification in 2006. He has old vines, as 75% of his holdings are over 50 years old. Chaland’s vines in the lieu dit Thurissey are over 90! Thurissey is a tiny vineyard, consisting of half a hectare facing due south. Jean-Marie makes a mere 200 cases of his showpiece wine, and no new oak is used. The vineyard has a reputation for producing wines that are rich in minerality, and we imagine the roots of Chaland’s old vines are deep into the clay and limestone subsoil. There’s no doubt that 2014 was an exceptional vintage for white Burgundy, and the 2014 Viré-Clessé Thurissey from Domaine Sainte Barbe is one special wine. Its aromas are of citrus blossoms, snappy apples, and stony minerals. The palate is rich and bright with a hint of a saline/mineral quality, and the wine intensifies at the mid-palate. It’s tightly coiled and ready to spring. Drink this from 2020-2030.
Stéphane Magnien is now the fourth generation winemaker at this domaine in Morey-Saint-Denis which dates back to 1897. He took the reins from his father, Jean-Paul in 2008, and farms 4.5 hectares in the Côte de Nuits. Though his holdings may appear small, they include some fancy locales. Stéphane’s Aux Petites Noix is actually a blend of his holdings in Premier Crus Les Greunchers and Clos Baulet, two tiny vineyards just east of the village. One doesn’t need to do much research to understand that 2010 was an exceptional vintage for red Burgundy, particularly in the Côte de Nuits. In general terms, the wines are teeming with expression and are structured sufficiently for a long life in the cellar. Magnien’s 2010 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Aux Petites Noix is in a beautiful place at the moment, showing aromas of briary red berry fruit, earthy mineral, and forest floor. It’s medium in body with great balance and expression. It’s open for business and can be enjoyed from today through the 2020’s. – Peter Zavialoff
As I was taking out the week’s recycling this morning, I couldn’t help notice that the four wine bottles going into the bin were all Italian! This doesn’t happen very often. Though we do import and sell wines from Italy, we have soooo much else to choose from, that the odds of each week’s collection of half-poured, taken home samples to all be from the same country are big. Though considering that this week pretty much was Italian week around here, it does make sense.
Italian week. Yes, Gambero Rosso’s annual tre bicchieri tasting took place this past Wednesday at Fort Mason. Our friends, Enrico Pierazzuoli and Gianlorenzo Picollo were in town for it, as Enrico’s 2013 Carmignano Riserva was included in the tasting. Before they arrived, on Monday evening, we all found ourselves in a tasting room with a lineup of red wines from a Sicilian producer for whom we had high expectations. This is one of the ways we decide whether or not to import/carry a producer’s lineup. You can’t learn to swim from a book; and the same can be said about a wine’s tasting experience. Well, expectations being the harbinger of disappointment and all, it was a shame that the wines weren’t up to our standards. After taking in the aromas, Chris decided to not even taste the last wine. That’s how it goes sometimes. But as we often say, “We taste a lot of bad wine (okay, that may be a bit harsh in this case), so you don’t have to.” Many of the half-poured sample bottles didn’t even make it to any of our homes that evening.
Then Tuesday came, and with it, two of our pals from Italy. We tasted through their wines and they were all showing very well. There were no leftover samples on Wednesday morning! We tasted a few more of their wines on Wednesday, and ditto, nothing was left behind. Not even Enrico and Gianlorenzo. They were off to the east coast on Wednesday evening. Thursday came and went without incident, and then on Friday, the expectation/disappointment paradigm went the other way!
Winemaker Tiziana Settimo of Aurelio Settimo fame suggested we taste a lineup of wines made by some friends of her’s. The wines were shipped from Italy via air freight, and when Anya pulled them from the box, she exclaimed, “Ooh. The whites are from 2016 – these folks mean business. I’m really looking forward to tasting these!” First, David and Anya went through the lineup, then Chris and I had our turns. The consensus? We like them. A lot. As a matter of fact, we love them. Not only did all the samples disappear from the tasting room, there was noticeable tension among us while taking turns choosing which wines to take home. You will hear about them someday, when they get here; but for tonight, a similar yarn about an Italian producer whom we hold in high esteem: Ca’Lojera from Lugana.
Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi’s Ca’Lojera was David’s discovery. And as Anya wrote about years ago, he is not the kind of man who jumps up and down and screams, “Read all about it!” That’s more of what we do. David happily signed Ca’Lojera to our roster, and the rest is delicious history. Samples were shipped across the country for our staff to taste, and back at our old location, after we closed one day, we tasted the wines. Our reactions were very much like our reactions this past Friday, we loved them and could barely wait for them to arrive! With 5 successful vintages under our belts, we are pleased to announce the arrival of the Ca’Lojera Lugana from 2015!
A reminder: Ca’Lojera’s Lugana is made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana, or Turbiana, as the locals call it. The vineyards are on the southern shore of Lake Garda, and the winery is located in the commune of Sirmione. (Um, if you search images of Sirmione, you may want to travel there soon). The 2015 vintage was a good one in the region, with healthy ripeness levels and well-balancing acidity. The 2015 Ca’Lojera Lugana has you at “hello.” Its fresh, clean aromas of rich yellow fruit, blossoms, and mineral greet you like a fresh breeze off a lake surrounded by orchards. The palate is harmonious and lively, the complexities abound, all threaded together by the buoyant acidity. The intertwined components all fade slowly on the crisp, yet somehow fleshy, finish. All in all, I have a lot of ideas as to what to pair this wine with. It seems to be as versatile as can be!
Well, Italian week has come and gone. We laughed, we cried. We tasted some wines with great promise, and we tasted some wines to which we will politely say, “No thank you.” We said, “Ciao,” more this week than we will over the next few months combined, and the thought of pairing Osso Bucco with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo will haunt me all day tomorrow. No matter what happens next week, I can be assured of one fact: there will be not one, but at least two bottles of Italian wine in next week’s trip to the bottle bank. For I am taking two bottles of 2015 Ca’Lojera Lugana home tonight to enjoy over next week! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Lugana, Sirmione, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
I am a bargain shopper. I love the hunt. In my personal life, I like to search on-line classifieds, scour local thrift and consignments stores and frequent estate sales. For me, it’s a sport. This need of mine to find the best deal also applies to my professional life. Nothing satisfies like when I find a wine I can say is a super bargain. These days it is harder and harder to find one from California, but we try and we do, which leads me to my wine pick of the week: 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir.
Wonderwall is a secondary label for Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones. Jones is a vine nursery fieldman who moonlights as a winemaker. He claims to have stood in almost every vineyard in the Central Coast. The guy knows the area and he knows vineyards. With Wonderwall, Jones focuses on Pinot Noir from cool climate sites. For his 2015 Pinot Noir, two vineyards were sourced for fruit: Spanish Springs and Jespersen. Spanish Springs is only 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, just northeast from the seaside town of Pismo Beach. The vineyard is at 900 ft elevation with temperatures rarely exceeding 80 degrees. The proximity to the ocean keeps the vineyard cool and free of disease and its favorable south-facing slope ensures long, ripening hang time. You might recall that Evening Land Vineyards used Spanish Springs for their single-vineyard program a few vintages back, receiving high praise and scores for it. Jespersen is also in the Edna Valley AVA. It is four miles from the ocean and, like Spanish Springs, enjoys a long, cool growing season.
Partially de-stemmed, the 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir was aged for 7 months in 100% French oak; only 15% of it new. I was struck by its joyous cherry fruit flavors and subtle notes of baking spice and brown sugar. The tannins are rather soft, so the structure suggests drinking this one in the near term. At $17.98 a bottle, the whole point is to drink and enjoy it right now! There is a similarly priced Pinot Noir out in the market that begins with “M” and ends in “i” that is wildly popular. This wine has a production of a quarter million cases. Now I’m not suggesting that wine can’t be any good, but consider the difference between making a few barrels of wine versus nearly a million cases! It’s like trying to make an intricate dish for 200 people instead of 4; something gets lost in the scaling up whether it is the execution, the ingredients or both.
I don’t normally comment on labels, but I have to this time. I think in some instances, customers have purchased a bottle of 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir solely for the label only to return a few days later because of its contents. The label has a famous photograph of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí holding his pet ocelot, Babou, on it. I admire Dalí’s work, I even have a signed lithograph of one his paintings hanging on my wall that I earned selling art back in high school – now that’s a whole other story! Overall, this is a delicious wine in a whimsical package made by a talented winemaker using excellent fruit for well under $20. A super bargain!– Anya Balistreri