Open Today: Noon - 4:00PM!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 12:23 PM

Celebrating The Season
SF City Hall Lit Up With Green And Red

We're open on a Sunday!

It doesn't happen often, as we are usually closed on Sundays, but we are open today, December 24 from Noon - 4:00pm.  If you're looking to get away from the full parking lots, crowded shops, and overall madness of the season, stop on by and say hello!  We will make it worth your while, as David is marking down a bunch of wines to be sold as in-store specials just for today.  



Last minute wine craving, or in need of one more gift?  We'll be here for you.

Back in Stock!



The 2010 Château de Malleret took us all by storm a couple of years ago, as it was a happy discovery while tasting samples in Bordeaux in 2014.  We bought a bunch, drank some, sold some, cellared a few, and eventually they were all gone.  It happens; nothing to get down about, we just go back to the source and try to find something comparable.  Usually, when something this good which sells for such a low price sells out, it's out for good.  Surprisingly, back in June, while looking through a supplier's price list, I saw it.  I proclaimed, "You'll never believe this, but so-and-so are showing the 2010 Malleret back in stock."  Less than 5 minutes later, the email was sent:  "WE'LL TAKE IT ALL."



And now it's back in stock!  It won't be around very long, if history is any example, as so many of you have purchased and enjoyed this lovely Haut-Médoc wine from the legendary 2010 vintage.  Maybe today is a good day to head on over to TWH and pick up a bottle or two?



-Peter Zavialoff
2010 Chateau Malleret Bottle
Buy Now - $19.98

2010 Château de Malleret - It's Back!!

Friday, January 5, 2018 5:11 PM



2010 Château de Malleret - It's Back!!

In the wine biz, one gets good at saying goodbye; we all have our favorites, but once they sell out, it’s time to move on.  It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, we get a second (and sometimes third and fourth) chance to repurchase a favorite wine, and then we wait for it to make its way overseas here to our shop.  This weekend’s wine spotlight is on one of these wines.  Won’t you please welcome back to the shop, the 2010 Château de Malleret, Haut-Médoc.

 

It went down something like this:  In the spring of 2014, while on assignment in Bordeaux for the En Primeur tastings, I made a handful of appointments with suppliers to taste some of their already bottled inventory.  It was at one of these meetings that 24 sample bottles were open and available for tasting.  I went through the line, swirling, sniffing, tasting, spitting, and jotting down notes.  All in all, it was a successful tasting because I liked 8 or 9 of the wines, but it was one of them that sent me over the moon.  Yes, it was the 2010 Malleret.  When I returned from Bordeaux, I sat down with David and we discussed the new vintage and the wines that I tasted.  When he asked me how much Malleret we should buy, it marked the very first time I answered, “Well, at least a pallet.”  I should point out another characteristic about being in the wine biz – it teaches you patience.  The wine finally arrived in early 2015 and was gone shortly thereafter.  We made a lot of friends with that wine, and said goodbye after it was gone.
Early this year, I was surprised to come across the 2010 Malleret while reading through a supplier’s price list and mentioned it to David.  Without hesitation, we secured the wine, and thanks to a recent container’s arrival, it’s here now.  I have secured my six bottles for the cellar, so come and get it!  I say that I want a few bottles in the cellar because when I came back from Bordeaux in 2014, I found a bottle of the 2000 Malleret for sale at a very fair price.  I hadn't had much experience with this chateau before, so I wanted to taste an older vintage to better understand their style.  It was outstanding!  Which leads me to deduce that perhaps this chateau doesn’t exactly knock it out of the park every vintage, but when they do, the wine can last.  So based on my experience with the 2000 Malleret, I feel the 2010 will still be drinking well in 2024.

 

2010 Chateau de MalleretI took a bottle home this past week, grilled up some steaks, and used the super fancy stemware.  The wine was sensational!  It has put on a little muscle, but there’s plenty of dark berry and cassis fruit there to keep it in balance.  The aromatics are complex:  the fruit is layered, there are earthy elements, and there’s a tobacco and forest floor herbaceous facet to them.  The palate entry is easy, it’s well balanced, medium-full bodied, with the purple-red fruit at its core.  The finish is long and layered, with the fruit and forest floor lingering.  I realize that everyone has their own taste, but this is my kind of wine … and the price is right!  Pure and simple.

 

Things are exciting around here.  Two containers are on the water, headed this way.  There’s going to be some Bordeaux on one of them – another over the moon discovery from this year’s trip, courtesy of one of our suppliers.  It’s a 2014 Saint-Estephe; stay tuned for its arrival!  The annual three week celebration known as Birthdayfest has begun, and will continue through mid-September.  I have a hunch there will be a few special bottles popped in my near future.  Maybe a bottle or two of something I put in my cellar before we said goodbye to it a long time ago?   - Peter Zavialoff

Authentic Pomerol – Chateau Bonalgue

Thursday, July 14, 2016 9:36 PM


 

When Robert Parker retired from tasting Bordeaux En Primeur in the spring of 2015, it created a bit of a stir.For those who relied on his palate to make wine buying decisions, it would be like having to change dentists, accountants, or mechanics. It was going to be different, but is that all so bad? There’s an old saying, “Different is not always better, but better is always, by definition, different.” We let this play out, and one of a few key talking points around the En Primeur tastings this past spring was that the vignerons knew he would not be tasting their wines as barrel samples anymore, and so to the rest of us, they appeared “Un-Parkerised.” Let me just say that when tasting barrel samples, less extract and more terroir transparency are very welcome! Coincidentally, in the spring of 2015, I had lunch with one of our suppliers at Château la Dominique’s La Terrasse Rouge. The wine we drank at lunch? 2008 Château Bonalgue, Pomerol. It was delicious. Old school dusty, earthy mineral aromas, savory black olive-like fruit with hints of brambly red berries, a kiss of sarsaparilla spice all wrapped up in a medium-bodied elegant mouth feel.

 
Château Bonalgue sits in the very west of Pomerol just near the Libourne city limit. The property consists ofapproximately 7.5 hectares planted mostly to Merlot with around 10% Cabernet Franc. The soils are a mixture of sand, clay, and limestone. The property traces its history back to before the French Revolution with the current owning family having purchased the chateau in 1926. Ironically, it was Robert Parker himself who had this to say about Château Bonalgue, “This over-achieving estate is one of the most consistent performers in Pomerol. Always a well-made, fleshy, succulent, hedonistic wine.”
 

We placed our order for the 2008, and then noticed the 2009, 2010, and 2012 were available. We couldn’t help ourselves; if a quality vertical is so easy and affordable to stock, why not indulge. So we can’t blame those of you who wish to profiter, and build a vertical of this authentic Pomerol for your cellars! –Peter Zavialoff

 

 

 



2012 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol

Early indications pointed to Pomerol as again the hot spot for the 2012 vintage and now that the wines have been bottled, it certainly is one of the more homogenous appellations for the vintage. The wines are showing decadent fruit and dazzling structure suggesting that they’ll age very well. Here’s what RP said about the 2012 Bonalgue,“This excellent blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc is always one of the best value wines of Pomerol, thanks to the leadership and vision of proprietor Pierre Bourrotte. Deep ruby/plum/purple, with loads of mulberry and black cherry fruit, soft tannins, medium body and excellent concentration, this is a plump, mouthfilling Pomerol that lacks complexity, but offers generosity and loads of fruit. Drink it over the next 10-15 years.”13.5% ABV

 

Reg. $39.98

buy 2012 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol 750ML

 

 



2010 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol

 

Another great Pomerol vintage, another rock-solid Bonalgue. This has a little more grip than its two older bottlings, just as we feel the 2009 needs a little time to gain in complexity, we would advise the same for the 2010. Patience is a virtue and with the 2010 Château Bonalgue, it will serve you well. If you are planning on opening either the 2009 or 2010 any time soon, we strongly recommend you decant them for 60-120 minutes before serving. Again, from Señor Parker, “A delicious wine from proprietors Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Bourotte, this frequent sleeper of the vintage is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Like its older siblings, the 2010 offers loads of tasty mulberry and black cherry fruit and medium to full-bodied texture, It does not have the greatest complexity, but the 2010 Bonalgue is satisfying and charming. Drink it over the next decade.” 14.5% ABV

Reg. $39.98

buy 2010 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol 750ML

 

 

 

 



2009 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol

Part II of the dynamic duo of great back to back vintages, the 2009 has dense, purple fruit and a solid mineral expression. It has gained in intensity since bottling, and we feel it needs another 4-5 years before it begins revealing further complexity. That being said, here are Mr. Parker’s notes,“Another sleeper of the vintage from this very consistent estate that always seems to over-achieve no matter what the vintage conditions, big ripe black cherry and mocha notes intermixed with some forest floor and underbrush jump from the glass of this seductive, dense, full-bodied, fleshy fruit bomb from Pomerol. It is rich, pure, and just irresistible. Drink it over the next 7-8 years.”14% ABV

 

Reg. $49.98

buy 2009 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol 750ML

 

 



2008 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol

Another great vintage in Pomerol. Most of Bordeaux needed an Indian Summer to save the vintage, which luckily occurred; but Pomerol was going to be good regardless. The Indian Summer made it great. From Parker,“Bonalgue’s 2008 is a sleeper of the vintage. Its deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by sweet black cherry and plum-like fruit, a fleshy texture, and a heady, long finish with ripe tannin and good freshness. It is a pretty wine for drinkers, not speculators.” 13.5% ABV

 

Reg. $38.98

buy 2008 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol 750ML

 


2015 Bordeaux Update: The futures campaign has begun! At the time of this writing, pricing has come out for a small number of producers, and no doubt the next several weeks will be very busy with more chateaux offering their 2015’s to the marketplace. We are already active in the campaign and will continue to be, asmany of the wines merit a place in our bins and in your cellars! The first of our 2015 Bordeaux futures email offers will be hitting your inboxes soon.


 

 

Yes, 2015 Bordeaux. It seems like yesterday, but it’s now been 10 years since the now (and always) famous 2005 vintage was introduced to Bordeaux lovers. 2005 was hailed as a “perfect” vintage, as the weather conditions during the growing season were optimal for producers.Vintages like 2005 are great for those of us who love Bordeaux as everyone benefited from the conditions and made good wine. We always look out for lesser known producers in those types of vintages as the quality is there, but the high price isn’t. 2005 was dubbed the “vintage of the century,” and we continue to enjoy those petits chateaux bargains to this day!
 

 

 
What’s happened in Bordeaux in the decade since the “vintage of the century?” They got two more! Of course they did … 2009 and 2010 were both spectacular vintages with great wines from top to bottom. Each time that I have visited Bordeaux since these back to back successes, I have endured an exhaustive schedule with suppliers to taste as many “lesser” wines from 2009 and 2010 that I possibly could have. All of that hard work has paid off as we have been delighted to bring in the many petits chateaux wines that we have, and if the feedback we’ve received is any indication, our customers share this delight. It’s been slim pickin’s out there for the past couple of years as we are nowhere near alone in this philosophy and supplies have dwindled. Alas, sometimes we buy something, but for logistical reasons, it takes longer than expected to arrive. That’s what we have here. A recent container from France brought us one more superb 2010 Bordeaux at the $20 price point, the 2010 Château Tour St. Bonnet, Médoc.
 
 
The château is located in the commune of Saint Christoly in the Médoc, north of Saint-Estephe. Famed Bordeaux guru, David Peppercorn MW wrote, “The most important property in St. Christoly is La Tour St. Bonnet. The reputation of the wine is good, the style typical of the warm, fruity wines of St. Christoly.” About the 2010 Tour St. Bonnet, Robert Parker wrote, “A beautiful sleeper of the vintage, this is possibly the best wine I-ve ever tasted from this over-achieving estate near St.-Christoly-de-Medoc. A blend of 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Petit Verdot. The 2010 exhibits classic cedar wood, tobacco leaf, creme de cassis, licorice and some balsam wood notes in a strong, medium to full-bodied, layered style with good opulence, purity and overall harmony. A real beauty, it should be drunk over the next 4-5 years. 90 points.” He also said of the 2010, “A well-known, perennial sleeper of the vintage, Tour St.-Bonnet’s wines are always well-made, under-valued and taste like a mini-version of the well-known Pauillac, Grand-Puy-Lacoste.” If you want some delectable, inexpensive 2010 Bordeaux to have around, you may want to move on this one sooner than later.
 
So yes, the 2015 Bordeaux futures campaign has begun and we are part of it. The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin released his overview of the vintage this past Friday, and though we have our own impressions of it, we applaud his integrity, hard work, and guidance. We will go on the record and say that the 2015 vintage in Bordeaux is the best vintage since 2010 … except when it isn’t. And there are exceptions. Keep a look out for those futures offerings coming soon! – Peter Zavialoff


 
The very first customer that walked in to the shop today strolled through our Bordeaux section and later commented, “Wow. I remember the days when Lynch Bages was less than $30, and now it’s over $100??!!” Sad, but true. Who doesn’t have a story like that about something, whether it pertains to a house, car, meal in a restaurant, or even a bus fare once paid? Sometimes prices go up, it happens. Not to fret; there’s plenty of sub $30 red Bordeaux out there to be enjoyed! That’s what we do. Sure, we buy most of Bordeaux’s fancy offerings in each vintage, but with our boots on the ground in the region, we suss out quality wines made by smaller, lesser known producers as well. While in Bordeaux early last month, I got the chance to revisit a wine that reassures me that there continue to be delicious bargains from the world’s wine capital. The 2010 Château Rollan de By is that wine.
 
 
I’ve gone on before about things I do while in Bordeauxduring the time of the En Primeurs tastings. The UGC tastings are crowded affairs, and anyone that knows me well knows that my M.O. in an environment such as this is tofocus and stick to the task at hand with maximum efficiency. In other words, do the job and get out.Despite their hectic nature, the UGC tastings only pour around 20% of the samples I taste over there. There are other sanctioned tastings and chateaux visits, but the majority of samples are tasted in a far calmer environment, at the offices and warehouses of negociants. It was in one of these warehouses that I got to taste the 2010 Rollan de By out of bottle for the first time. There is an ethereal aroma/flavor component that I associate with red Bordeaux after it spends some time in bottle. To my friends and colleagues I call it “that Bordeaux funk.” It is not funky nor unpleasant.It is the height of complexity, to a point where I lack the words to describe it further. I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I detect it. It is the reason I drink red Bordeaux. Wines that I have tasted in recent years that have it include 1985 Leoville Las Cases, 1995 Grand Mayne, 2002 Domaine de Chevalier, 2000 Château de Malleret, and 2007 Pape Clement. The 2010 Rollan de By has it in spades.
 
 
Château Rollan de By is located in the northern Médoc village of Bégadan. You may remember some earlier praise for a château in Bégadan. The 180 hectare property overlooks the Gironde estuary which protects it from extreme weather conditions. Their 2010 was made from 70% Merlot, and 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The château is run by Jean Guyot. No, this is not Will Durst. Guyot is the son of an antique dealer, which explains the artistic aesthetic of the château and property. A poignant piece of his collection is a cherub-like bronze statuette holding a bunch of grapes to its mouth. According to the chateau’s website,“It symbolizes the love of the grape. Before the love for wine. Wine is a work of art, and like all masterpieces, what counts is to drink it, as much as to talk about it.” That’s what I’m talking about; where’s my wine key?
 
This from The Wine Advocate: “Consistently better than its humble appellation, this excellent wine from proprietor Jean Guyon offers up plenty of black currant fruit intermixed with cedar wood, licorice and incense in a medium to full-bodied, surprisingly concentrated and expansive style that should drink nicely for a minimum of a decade or more.There’s no need for patience with this sleeper of the vintage, given the sweetness of its tannins, attractive glycerin and fruit levels. 90 points” – Robert Parker
 
And …
 
“The Rollan du [sic] By 2010 has a ripe raspberry coulis and wild strawberry nose with just a hint of candied orange peel. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp acidity. There is very fine tension here, great purity on the finish with a supple, focused finish with beautifully integrated oak. Excellent. Drink now-2018. 91 points” – Neal Martin
 
Wow, Will Durst. Back in the days when one could find Lynch Bages for less than $30, I found myself rubbing elbows with the comedian and his wife Debi from time to time. I used to hang out with the gang at The Punch Line comedy club because … I love comedy. I introduced them to the “Hi Bob” game, and that became our way of saying hello to each other for years after. Who’d of thunk he has a doppelgänger in the Médoc.
 
So there you have it, another rock-solid red Bordeaux for less than $30. An exercise I like to undertake when I have nice bottle of Bordeaux that sells for a modest price is to treat it special. That’s right, get the decanter, the good stemware, pair it with something good, and of course, share it! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about low priced/high quality Bordeaux, English Football, or our upcoming 2014 Bordeaux Futures campaign: peter@wineSF.com

Another 2010 Standout – 2010 Chateau Larrivaux

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 1:04 AM


 

As we continue to reveal the contents of our last French container, let us tell you about yet another stupendous value-driven wine from Bordeaux! TWH regulars need no introduction to this château, as we backed up the truck not one, not two, but three times with their 2009 wine. It was that good! As a customer once said to us, “It sold out and we cried.” Well crying time is over; now in stock for theunbelievably low price of $16.98 is the 2010 Château Larrivaux!

 
Again, Château Larrivaux is run by Bérangère Tesseron, the wife of Basile Tesseron of 4th Growth Château Lafon Rochet in nearby St. Estephe. Larrivaux has been in existence since the late 16th century, and has been run by the women of the family throughout the generations. The wine has a particular degree of finesse and elegance, which could lead some to call it feminine, which makes sense considering its history. With a powerful vintage like 2010, an elegant styled wine like this is astandout.
 
We had high expectations when we tasted the 2010 Larrivaux … and you all know what that can lead to. (High expectations → disappointment) Not this time. This would be the opposite. Aromatically, it shows a solid core of dark cherries and berries within an earthy and spicy framework. The palate is elegant for a 2010 Left Bank wine, with a surprising complexity factor. It is not a typical young 2010, as it is interesting and enjoyable now, though it has the structure to reveal even more complexity over time, say 4-10 years.
 

 

 

Here’s what Neal Martin and Robert Parker had to say about it:
 

 

“There is good intensity on the nose with creme de cassis, plum and violets, quite opulent in style. The palate is medium-bodied with good tension, pure blackberry and plum fruits with a linear but focused finish. Very fine.” – Neal Martin
 

 

 

“Another sleeper of the vintage, this elegant 2010 offers up notes of cedar, loamy soil, black currants and black cherries. Medium-bodied and complex already with supple tannins as well as a nicely layered mouthfeel and finish, it should be consumed over the next decade.” – Robert Parker
 

 

 

Speaking of Bordeaux, there are still a few open spots (8) at the table of our upcoming Bordeaux dinner at Piperade restaurant on Thursday, January 29 at 7pm with Second Growth Château Brane Cantenac. 5 courses, 5 wines. The price? $100 which includes dinner, wine, tax, and gratuity. For a Bordeaux dinner, this is about as inexpensive as it gets! If you are interested, please contact me for more information. It promises to be a fun, educational, and delicious evening! – Peter Zavialoff


The last time I chimed in on a Saturday night, I promised that I would tell you all about some of our new arrivals.But we all know that I can’t just do that. There’s got to be a story, right? You see I’ve been waiting, very patiently, for these three wines to arrive. I say very patiently because I tasted them last March on my annual trip to Bordeaux. When I returned home, I sat down with David and we discussed what I liked and what and how much of each we should buy. We didn’t feel these three particular petits châteaux wines were well-known enough to offer on pre-arrival, so I just sat here with my tasting experience and my notes and waited. And waited. They’re here now and our staff has tasted them all and everyone agrees, these three wines are screaming bargains! How do we find wines like this? Here’s how.

 
I usually arrive in Bordeaux on the Wednesday before the hectic En Primeurs week. I like doing this because:
a) I get adjusted to the time, cuisine, and language
b) I have more time to visit negociants and taste the wines at a leisurely pace
This works for the negociants as well, as they get to cross me off their lists before the madness begins the following Monday. I’ve settled into a pattern recently of making tasting appointments Thursday and Friday, morning and afternoon. These appointments are generally informal, I can take my time, taste what I want, and shoot the breeze with the staff. I just looked back at my notes, and I tasted 24 wines at this particular appointment. As we’ve mentioned in the past, we don’t always buy every wine we like, but prefer to focus on the best values. Here are a couple of (translated) examples of notes for wines we did NOT buy: “Broad depth of aromas, youthful palate, complexity, fruit punches thru.” Or, “Modern, fancy smelling, has expansive palate with a spicy finish.” They sound good enough, but the three I chose were a little more convincing.
 
negociantroom
 


2010 Chateau La Gorre Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010
2010 Chateau La Gorre Medoc Cru Bourgeois

“Bright cherries, earth, herbs aromas, palate expressive, has great potential.”Squiggly line (a seldom used

indicator of a wine I really like.)

 

Reg. $16.98

buy 2010 Chateau La Gorre Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010


2009 Chateau Devise d'Ardilley Haut-Medoc 2009
2009 Chateau Devise d’Ardilley Haut-Medoc

“Complex, ripe purple fruit aromatics, easy entry, palate dark, expansive, brooding in a good way, all firing on finish.”Squiggly line

 

Reg. $19.98

buy 2009 Chateau Devise d'Ardilley Haut-Medoc 2009

 

malleretnote2



2010 Chateau de Malleret Haut-Medoc 2010
2010 Chateau de Malleret Haut-Medoc

“Wide palette of aromas, complex, herbal, St. Julien-like fruit …” from here my note concludes because the rest of the experience is seared in my memory. If I were to continue writing, it would go something like this, “pleasantly commanding attention on the palate, vibrant fresh red fruit, forest floor, black tea, hint of incense, yet lively and bright with fine tannins, long finish, the hero of the tasting.” TWO squiggly lines (I can count those on one hand).

 

Reg. $19.98

buy 2010 Chateau de Malleret Haut-Medoc 2010
 

In addition to our praise for these wines, The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin has nice things to say about the three of them as well:

 

 

2010 Château La Gorre:
“The La Gorre has a very attractive bouquet with lively, vivacious black cherries, boysenberry and crushed stone that is well defined and opens nicely in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, supple tannins. The acidity is crisp and the finish tense, with hints of graphite on the finish. This is a well-crafted Cru Bourgeois. Drink now-2018. Tasted September 2012. 90 points”
 
2009 Château Devise d’Ardilley:
“Tasted at the Cru Bourgeois 2009 tasting in London. The Devise d’Ardilley was the winner of the Coup de Cru Bourgeois that I judged at Vinexpo in June. Here, it justifies that “coup”. It has a lovely, beautifully defined bouquet with pure dark berried fruits intertwined with marmalade and orange rind. Sheer class. The palate is beautifully balanced with superb acidity. Very vibrant, very composed with a sensual, caressing finish worthy of a Grand Cru Classe. Outstanding for its class. Tasted September 2011. 92 points”
 
2010 Château de Malleret:
“Tasted at the Crus Bourgeois 2010 tasting in London. There is plenty of ripe blackberry and raspberry fruit on the nose of the de Malleret, with touches of dark plum emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with firm, dense tannins. There is very good weight here with an appealing, tobacco infused, grainy finish that shows great persistency. Superb. Drink now-2018. Tasted September 2012. 90 points”
 

 

 

When this email hits your inboxes this evening, TWH crew will be celebrating at our annual After-Holiday Party! There were some very special bottles packed up this afternoon and sent over to the home of a very good friend of TWH where the party will be held. Some excellent food will be served and the wines are ready to sing!
 

 

 

We’ll all come back to Earth tomorrow morning; I’ll be waking up on my brother’s couch, hopefully near a remote control so I can watch the big match between Manchester City and Arsenal. Back to Earth, yes, but with a whole new wave of petits châteaux Bordeaux wines now in stock, we’ll be back to Earth in style! – Peter Zavialoff
 

 

 

If you have any questions or comments about Bordeaux, petits châteaux, or tomorrow’s footy match feel free to email me: peter@wineSF.com

 

In the wine importation game, it sometimes seems nothing happens as quickly as we would like. There are things we can control, and there are things we can’t. I’ve been happily trading emails with Bordeaux negociants this week informing me that some of our wines have been picked up and will begin making their way here via refrigerated container soon. That’s great news as I am especially looking forward to a handful of fairly inexpensive Bordeaux wines I tasted this past spring during En Primeurs. Alas, those wines are several weeks away, sorry to say, so we must wait a little longer. On the other hand, what we don’t have to wait for are the six petits chateaux wines that arrived a month ago. We’ve introduced you to four of them already, and now, the other two, the 2010 Château Beauregard Ducasse, Graves and the 2010 Château La Fleur de Jaugue, St. Emilion Grand Cru.

Keep in mind the exercise here, out of 24 sample bottlesprovided by one of our suppliers in Bordeaux, we found six to our liking and sent the other 18 packing. Not that they were all bad, mind you. In fact, many of the wines we didn’t buy were also to our liking, but we just felt the six we chose represented the best values for the respective price points. Let’s start off with the 2010 Beauregard Ducasse. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve had a love affair with wines that say “Graves” on their label for many years. Named for the preponderance of gravelly soils throughout the region, it’s an easy appellation to grasp conceptually. If you’ve been lucky enough to taste an Haut Brion from 1985 or earlier, you would have seen “Graves” written on the label. But we’re not talking about Haut Brion here; this is a completely different animal. In 1987, several prestigious chateaux near the villages of Pessac and Léognan (and in between) broke off from the Graves AOC and formed the fancier Pessac-Léognan AOC, with Graves still representing the nebulous region further south all the way past Langon. And that’s where Château Beauregard Ducasse is, in the village of Mazères, about 25km due south of Langon in Bordeaux’s southern frontier.

bducasse

 

A little research reveals the property has been in the Jeanduduran family since 1850, with current administrator/grower Jacques Perromat taking over in 1981, after marrying into the family. The 32 hectare vineyard consists of clay and gravel upon limestone subsoil, and is planted to Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), and Cabernet Franc (5%). The wine is all tank-fermented, and 80% is aged in tank, with the other 20% aged in barrel. This is just another example of the success of the 2010 vintage. From a price to quality standpoint, this is a Grand Slam of a deal!!! AND …. it’s also available in half bottles!

 
2010 Château La Fleur de Jaugue,

St. Emilion Grand Cru
First things first. The words “Grand Cru” mean different things in different French regions. It can be a bit confusing. The folks at Berry Bros. in London have the St. Emilion classification explained very well here. As they state, the consumer would be better served if these wines were labeled “St. Emilion Supérieur.” Well, Château La Fleur de Jaugue is no run-of-the-mill St. Emilion Grand Cru!!! Looking back over several vintages of Robert Parker’s tasting notes, he regularly refers to Fleur de Jaugue as “a sleeper of the vintage, a reliable and impeccably run estate,” and “a shrewd insider’s wine.” Consistent high praise for a château that many of us are not very familiar with.
 

 

Their 2010 is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc from 50 year old vines. They employ techniques one normally sees at more upscale chateaux such as de-stemming and green harvesting. Fermented seperately in concrete vats, the wine is then blended and aged for 18 months in new and 1 year old barrel. The result is astonishing. It has great weight and balance, and again, for the price, is an absolute no-brainer.
 
stemilion
 
Oh yeah, then there’s this. A good friend of mine, with whom I’ve tasted a lot of Bordeaux wines over many yearscame in when these wines first arrived. I gave him a brief rundown on them, and he decided to try one bottle of each of them. I caught up with him a couple weeks later. The wine he couldn’t stop raving about? The 2010 Château La Fleur de Jaugue.
 

 

Another customer came in just yesterday, our write-ups printed out and in hand, he mixed up a case of these wines for himself. He pointed out how well the petits chateaux wines from 2009 and 2010 were showing, and acknowledged our efforts in weeding out the lesser performing wines and stocking great deals like these. He thanked us for “making this so easy” for him. It’s always good to hear, but that’s what we do here at TWH.

Peter Zavialoff

2010 Château de Blissa, Côtes de Bourg

Saturday, October 11, 2014 7:13 PM

So far we’ve told you all about two out of the five petits chateaux wines that just arrived from Bordeaux, the extraordinary 2010 Tour du Roc Milon, Pauillac and the almost sold-out 2009 La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru. Back in spring, we received 24 sample bottles from one of our suppliers in Bordeaux. Over the span of 5 weeks, we tasted 4 at a time, and decided from there which ones we wanted to import. Most of the samples are of good quality, but we insist on focusing on the great ones. The great ones that offer great value, that is. The price spectrum amongst this current quintet ranges from $11 to $39. We’ve told you about a $25 and a $39 wine so far. Now it’s time to talk about the $11 number, the 2010 Château de Blissa, Côtes de Bourg.

 Cotes-De-Bourg-Map
 
Again, the Côtes de Bourg is a Right Bank appellation west of Libourne just opposite the estuary from Margaux. It’s one of France’s oldest wine producing regions. Historians have traced its origins back to the Second Century AD, the Romans planting “Vitis Biturica,” which many believe to be an ancestor of Cabernet, in the clay and limestone soils. Côtes de Bourg thrived in the Nineteenth Century, its proximity to the estuary giving it both easy access to shipping routes as well as keeping it virtually frost free. Later, as the Right Bank appellations of Pomerol and St. Emilion gained in prominence and investment, Côtes de Bourg took a bit of a back seat to them.There is one clear exception, Roc de Cambes, the undisputed top chateau of the appellation, but today Côtes de Bourg’s reputation is that of an historical locale that produces some quality wines for very fair prices.
 
bliss
 

Okay, 2010 Château de Blissa. First off, let’s just say that when we’re talking about Bordeaux wines in this particular price range, the percentage of wines that make the cut are EXTREMELY low. We continue to ask for samples. We continue to taste the wines. Without being too insulting, let’s just say that not only do we pass on over 90% of these wines, the remains of the respective sample bottles aren’t even packed up by our staff to come home with us. Things were different with the 2010 Château de Blissa. There was much to like about it. It won’t make you forget about Pomerol … because it’s not Pomerol. It is a well-balanced red Bordeaux at a price point that enables us to pop the cork for any occasion, any day of the week. Made from 40% Merlot, 30% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc, it’s an honest wine that outperforms its price point by a long shot. Currently run by Stéphane Destrade whose family acquired the property in 1950, de Blissa can trace its roots all the way back to 1640!!!

I was recently contacted out of the blue by someone looking for Bordeaux Clairet, and got into an email conversation about her last trip to Bordeaux and Côtes de Bourg in particular. She informed me that she and her husband reallyloved the red wines from Côtes de Bourg because they were honest Bordeaux wines made by farmers for their family estates. The prices of the wines are very fair considering the quality. So she came in last week and picked up a bottle of the 2013 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet (yes, it’s in stock!) and a bottle of the de Blissa. She came back this week and bought a full case of the de Blissa. So that’s saying something. We offered a Côtes de Bourg as part of our petits chateaux offer last year. It was gone quickly. This, of course, makes us all proud here at TWH. Our efforts (and much spitting of wines that we don’t dare purchase) truly pay off, and we take great pride handing our customers a bottle that says “Imported by Wine House Limited,” because if that’s what’s written on the back label of the bottle, you know what’s inside is going to be great! – Peter Zavialoff

2010 Château Tour Du Roc Milon, Pauillac

Monday, October 6, 2014 8:33 PM

It’s always exciting around here when new Bordeaux containers arrive. As we wrote last week, we are in a fortunate position as direct-importers to bring overonly the wines that suit our standards. A couple of our suppliers in Bordeaux have begun the practice of sending sample packs with up to 24 bottles for us to taste. We like to go about tasting these samples five or six at a time, and it usually takes a few weeks before we’re finished. Back in the spring, we were at it again, and as reported, of the 24, we chose five red wines.Quality and price are THE two determining factors. Four of these petits chateaux wines fall into the “everyday quaffer” price range of $10-$25, but there was a sample a little beyond this price range ($38.98) that swept us all off of our feet. We were still talking about it a week later, citing its honesty, authenticity, and elegance. What was this pearl of a wine? The 2010 Château Tour du Roc Milon, Pauillac.

 

pauillacsign
 
Our entire staff was abuzz that day about the 2010 Pauillac being so reasonable in price, considering the vintage and place of origin. But it was its stunning quality that pushed us all over the top! Though it may be true what they (and we) say about great Bordeaux vintages; that is, look out for the smaller, lesser-known chateaux, because everybody got good grapes. But then again, Château Tour du Roc Milon isn’t exactly a little guy. It belongs to Château Fonbadet, a property that sits in the southern part of Pauillac just north of the two Pichons, on the way to Lynch Bages. It gets more interesting. Their vines grow in three different places. Four hectares neighbor Château Latour and Pichon Lalande. Another three hectares are in central Pauillac bordering Lynch Bages. The bulk of their holdings, 13 hectares, are in the north, surrounded by Mouton Rothschild! So yeah, not exactly a little guy. This wine has it all. Complex aromas, sense of place, concentrated dark fruit, zippy acidity, fine tannins, and a lengthy satisfying finish.The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, with the final 5% comprised of both Petit Verdot and Malbec. Overall, it is an elegant, complex Pauillac made by an established producer in a great vintage. Coming in at 13.5% alcohol, it’s not exactly “old-school,” but its medium-full body doessmack of more elegant Pauillacs. Maybe it’s the suggestive nature of its name, but it really reminds me of Château Clerc Milon. We enjoyed the youthful sample so much that one could easily make a case for drinking this wine in its youth. Yet patience will reward those who wait. With proper cellaring, it will continue to improve, and hit its peak in 5-15 years.
pauillac map
 
 
Yes, a new container: new wines; exciting times. Based on the responses to our petits chateaux offers, this concept is resonating with you all. We don’t consider the 2010 Château Tour du Roc Milon to be a petit chateau, because it isn’t. It is an under the radar Pauillac from a great vintage for a very fair price. Wines like this are exactly what we look for. It’s not often enough that we tap into an undiscovered supply of great wine, but we found a winner with this one!

– Peter Zavialoff

The Wine House SF: Our Top Ten Wines Of 2013

Thursday, January 30, 2014 7:24 PM

 

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
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
  Add to Cart

 

 

 

 

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
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
  Add to Cart
2011 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault

White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$50.99
  Add to Cart
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
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
  Add to Cart
2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge (in magnum)

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$73.99
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
  Add to Cart
Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

$499.00
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
  Add to Cart

 

 

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
Everyone is talking about Bordeaux, or so it seems. Parker released his reviews for the 2012 vintage on Friday, essentially ruining every Bordeaux negociants’ weekend. Our very own resident Bordeaux Scout, Pete Z., has been filling us in with vintage impressions and assessments and entertaining us with stories about the many visits he paid to our Bordeaux friends in early April. No trip to Bordeaux would be complete without making the trek to Chateau Couronneau, which Pete made the day before he returned home to SF.  Pete reports that owner/winemaker Christophe Piat’s dedication to organic farming is as strong as ever as he continues to implement Biodynamic farming practices. Starting with the 2012 vintage, Chateau Couronneau will be certified Demeter. I admire Christophe’s passion for farming and his desire to learn how to work even better in the vineyard than he already does. 

 

 

Chateau Couronneau’s 2010 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier is made from the estate’s oldest Merlot parcels grown on clay-limestone soil. I have never tasted such depth and raw concentration in the Cuvée Pierre de Cartier as I do in the 2010. In the spirit of full disclosure I must note that my tasting experience with the 2010 is limited to a day old sample. Remarkably, a day spent in a small glass vial did nothing to tame the intensity of fruit. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting; were the guys playing a trick on me? The story goes that the Piats nicknamed the 2010 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier, The Monster. Knowing their non-interventionalist approach to winemaking, this Monster was obviously created in the vineyard; severely reduced yields made for some incredibly concentrated juice. The news of The Monster had spread and some wine regulator types came to inspect the winery, thinking they might find some trickery going on, but of course they did not. Given the plushness of the 2010 Couronneau Classique, it seems only natural that this reserve bottling, the Cuvée Pierre de Cartier, would show even greater intensity. I wouldn’t say that the 2010 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier is a departure for Chateau Couronneau but it is without question, a monster. The dark plum fruit approaches jamminess but does not cross over that line. There is spice and cedar box lurking beneath the fruit. It is young and delicious and will certainly evolve nicely in bottle. Another aspect to this wine that makes it so appealing are the soft, round, cocoa-dusted tannins, reminding me of what is so darn attractive about Merlot from Bordeaux. 

 

 

I am uncharacteristically irritable today, and feeling downright annoyed – my daughter woke up this morning with horns in place of her halo, I encountered way too many aggressive drivers on the ride in to work and Pete just devoured a sandwich from the Deli Board, piled high with cured meat, in front of me, oohing and ahhing the entire time (I am in the final stretches of a 7-week meat abstinence). Days like these are eased and soothed by the promise of a quiet moment with a glass of wine at the end of the day. Wine is good! —Anya Balistreri

2010 Fleur Cardinale: The Decoster’s Passion

Sunday, April 7, 2013 9:34 PM

Bordeaux – 6 April 2013. It’s the Saturday before the crazy week known around here as en primeurs. The global wine press and trade have descended upon the region, and we’ll all be braving the soggy roads tasting barrel samples from the 2012 vintage. Some of the more famous writers/appraisers have already come and gone, preferring to avoid next week’s mob scene. I’ve already tasted several 2012 samples, although too few to formulate any kind of general opinion of the vintage as a whole. In many cases the harvest occurred much later than usual, and the samples are not as far along in their development as in vintages past. This has added fuel to the fire of those buzzing around Bordeaux calling 2012 a hit or miss vintage. I’ve certainly tasted some outstanding samples, but also a few that didn’t show quite that well. But I’m here. It’s nice to see familiar faces and good friends, and I look forward to new experiences and meeting new friends. It was during a lunch last year when the invitation was extended to me. And it was this afternoon when I had a most wonderful visit with Florence and Dominique Decoster at Château Fleur Cardinale.
It was with ridiculous short notice that I sent an email to the Decosters inquiring as to their availability either this afternoon or next Friday, two dates where I would be in the St. Emilion area with a car and a little free time. The response was immediate: “Please come visit us on Saturday.” Very cool. It’s great when things work out so well. I arrived right on time and Dominique came pulling up just after I got out of my car. “Have you been waiting long?” The answer was no. Florence was already inside and she opened the door, greeted me, and let us in. We all exchanged pleasantries, and then Florence showed me a map of the appellation. Of the various soil and terroir types around St. Emilion, Fleur Cardinale sits upon a vein of the exact same clay and limestone terroir that the prestigious vineyards of the plateau that surrounds the village enjoy.  She then escorted me into the tank room. 24 stainless steel vats all marked with words of affirmation … of what it takes to make great wine. No pumping is used in the facility, it is all about gravity. At the end of the tank room are the large doors, and through one of them we were able to observe the vineyards. They surround their home which is perched on a rise southwest of their facility. More vines surround the winery itself, all growing upon rolling hills. Adjacent to the vines around their house are those of Château Valandraud. Jean-Luc Thunevin is friend, neighbor, and consultant to the Decosters. Florence pointed out to me that they continue to improve their methods in the vineyard, using the least amount of chemicals that is possible. She also pointed out that growing between the vines is not only grass and such, but herbs as well. It’s been cold in Bordeaux, so we quickly headed back inside (as if a winery is a warm place) and continued to the barrel room. The Decosters use 100% French oak sourced from 6 different coopers and believe in separating their various plots into separate barrels. Of course, all fruit is hand harvested. 
Back to the hospitality area, we rejoined Dominique and resumed our conversation. As Florence and Dominique took turns speaking about their wines, I was once again struck by their collective passion for the wines they make. Their ability to speak English should not be overlooked either. Here I’ve been working on my French for months, and no one knows it. The time came to taste. Dominique had sample half bottles of both the 2012 Croix de Cardinale and 2012 Fleur Cardinale. Croix de Cardinale is a seperate property the Decosters acquired in April of 2011. It was comprised of 8 hectares that surrounded the finest parcels of the Fleur Cardinale vineyard. The finest 4 of those (with the usual red tape required) have now been incorporated into the Fleur Cardinale vineyard. The 2012 Croix de Cardinale has every reason to show stylistically similar to its neighbor, and it does. The 2012 Fleur Cardinale was a great example of a high quality St. Emilion barrel sample. Opulent fruit, texture, expression, and structure.  In harmony.

 

This got us ’round to talking of the 2010. I remarked of how the vintage was originally presented after we tasted the primeurs in April of 2011. We knew the wines would be great someday, but it seemed at the time that they would need a long time in the cellar. Fast forward to this past January when the bottled wines made their US debut. Still showing sturdy structure, they have begun to develop some charm as well, which suggests perhaps they don’t need as much time in the cellar as previously thought. I explained to them that we sold out of our 2010 Fleur Cardinale futures, but considering the quality, we went back to the marketplace and bought more. It cost a bit more, but it is soooo worth it. This is great wine from a great terroir made by great people! Oh yeah, this talk prompted Dominique to break out a sample half bottle of the 2010. What a treat. At different times, both Florence and Dominique told me that 2010 was their favorite. After tasting it again myself, I must agree. It’s probably going to be at its best from 2018 on, but it will be a great wine for a long time.

Sorry, brevity is not my strong suit, thanks for hanging with me this far. As I type away at 1:25 Sunday morning in my hotel room, I was happy to relive my visit with the Decosters today. They exemplify what wine is all about; and for me, what Bordeaux is all about: passion. You’ve either got it or you don’t, it’s that easy. So, easing into what is a full schedule of tastings and visits (with rain beginning Monday and lasting throughout the week), at the end of the day, the interactions I have with the passionate personalities around this diverse region is equally important as the juice they produce. That wasn’t supposed to rhyme. Look for more reports on the 2012 en primeur campaign soon. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2012 Bordeaux, passion about wine, Fleur Cardinale, or how I am enjoying the rain: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2010 Lalande-Borie, St. Julien

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:59 PM

The countdown stands at two days. Two days until The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker releases his impressions of the 2010 Bordeaux vintage. No doubt we’ve all heard a lot about the spectacular back to back vintages of 2009 and 2010, and there’s no denying their quality. The 2009’s wowed us with their charm. Pretty aromas, precocious fruit, sweet tannins, and excellent balance suggest the wines will provide pleasure both in the near term, and for many years to come. 2010 is a different story. Out of barrel, they showed intense concentration, grip, and structure. After tasting them from bottle this past January, there’s no questioning their weight, but they too are showing their charm.

 

The Wine Spectator and former Spectator Senior Editor/European Bureau Chief, James Suckling have released their impressions of the vintage, and were full of praise. The number of small, lesser known chateaux that received solid reviews is growing and growing, and that is a very positive development. In fact, Robert Parker is on the record stating this about the 2010’s, “There are at least a 100+ wines I think highly about that retail (for) less than $25.” Okay, maybe this wine is exactly $25, but this is the kind of Bordeaux we’re on about here, the 2010 Lalande-Borie.

 

 

In 1970, Jean-Eugène Borie (of Ducru Beaucaillou fame) bought around 30 hectares of land in western St. Julien between Lagrange and Talbot and planted on 18 of them. The property remains under the Ducru Beaucaillou umbrella, administered by Jean-Eugène’s son Bruno Borie. Early vintages of Lalande-Borie leaned toward the light side due to the youthful vines. Things are different these days, as the vines are now over 40 years old! We were so impressed by the barrel sample tasted in April 2010 that we decided to carry futures of their 2009. We’re sorry we weren’t able to offer them as in-stock items in our shop, as the futures sold out. Taking that in consideration,when we tasted the 2010 out of barrel in April 2011, we liked it even more! We still have some availability, but at $25, we don’t think futures on this wine will be around much longer.

 

The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth had this to say about the 2010 Lalande-Borie from bottle,“Solid, with a very juicy core of lightly mulled plum and blackberry fruit, a polished apple wood note that runs along the edges and a solid, gravel-tinged finish. Sports nice terroir and leaves a mouthwatering feel on the finish. Best from 2015 through 2027. 91 points”

 

When The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker released his barrel tasting notes at the end of April 2011 he had this to say about the 2010 Lalande-Borie, “Another sleeper of the vintage from Bruno Borie, this 2010 is atypically powerful, rich and concentrated, with loads of sweet black currants, mocha and a hint of caramel. Deep, lush, succulent, and fruit-driven, it is a wine to drink in its first 10-12 years of life. (89-92) points”

 

Though there’s no guarantee that Mr. Parker’s impressions and score will exceed what he has already said about the wine in its infancy, an educated guess based on the facts we have before us suggest they just might. The countdown stands at two days. – Peter Zavialoff

The Magnificent 2010 Red Bordeaux’s: Pre-Arrival Offer

Saturday, February 16, 2013 8:29 PM

It’s February, and in the northern hemisphere, wine people are traveling. We were recently paid a visit by Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart from Alsace, and the following week, Elisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli swung by and tasted our staff on her line of new releases. These visits were preceded by the annual Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux traveling junket who stopped by the Palace Hotel revealing the newly bottled 2010 vintage.

2010 was another highly successful vintage, especially for the red wines of Bordeaux. The wines show robust structures with plenty of fruit, tannins, and acidity. In some cases, they are revealing now, but this is the kind of “classic” vintage where terroir counts for something, and time in the cellar will reward those of us who may find the patience to leave them alone for several years. And now that wine professionals and consumers all over North America have begun to taste them, word is getting out, and the market is heating up. The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth’s assessment has been published as have James Suckling’s ratings from this magnificent vintage. The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker’s notes are due to be released at the end of the month, and if it is anything like last year’s assessment of the 2009’s, TWH will resemble a high paced trading desk with phones ringing and orders popping up from all possible origins. So please allow this message to serve as a tap on the shoulder that many of the more famous names listed below may very well win Mr. Parker’s praise and will disappear quickly. We’ve also chosen some solid Red Bordeaux values that will provide plenty of pleasure over the years to come but won’t sting your pocketbook like the classified growths. (Like Lanessan, Belle-Vue, Lalande-Borie, and Mazeyres, in particular).

If I can draw an observation based on my own experiences tasting these wines first, from barrel in April 2011, and again, with the UGC last month, it is that 2010 is indeed a classic Bordeaux vintage.  The tasting notes included with the descriptions of the wines from Mr. Parker and Mr. Martin struck a chord with me. I too remember tasting massive barrel samples with big, brooding structures, which no doubt signals that they will be long lived. It was after the UGC tasting last month where I was swayed by the charm of many of the wines. I was particularly taken by the wines from Margaux and St. Julien, as they were well defined in structure, yet expressive, suggesting they can be accessed in the near to medium term. The wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion are expressing this charm as well. After reviewing the barrel sample notes from The Wine Advocate, I predict similar observations from Mr. Parker and Mr. Martin. Though one can never tell, I would not be surprised to see their scores lean toward the higher end of their respective ranges, but we shall see soon. – Peter Zavialoff

2010 Opalie de Château Coutet

Sunday, February 10, 2013 7:14 PM

Choosing a wine to write about for tonight’s email took no time nor effort. And no thought either. In tonight’s case, the wine chose me. Seriously. Since my last Sunday ramble, not a day has passed without my being involved in some way with the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! Now that it has arrived, I’ve been helping the many of you who purchased the wine on pre-arrival by setting up shipping and/or having it ready for pickup. My best friend had his case personally delivered 10 days ago.  It is special wine. It is such a special wine that I’m going to go out on a limb and declare it 2013’s Valentine’s Day wine! I’ve heard from more than one party that it will indeed be included in this year’s Valentine’s Day celebrations. It’s that special.  Now that it’s here, you can see what all the fuss is about. Now that it’s here, you can partake in the Valentine’s Day festivities with a bottle yourselves. It’s here now, but not for long if recent sales are any indication. 
When we introduced the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet last year, we received a great response, as many of you are connected to Coutet or TWH or both! We went through a double digit percentage of total production, and for months were the only merchants in the country selling the 2010 Opalie on pre-arrival, which is something that we are very grateful for. It is a wine of class and distinction. The fruit is sourced from a select few rows of 40 year old vines in the heart of Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyards. It is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, all hand picked, and vinified in French oak barrels. Class and distinction.

 

So not a day has passed in 2 weeks without some Opalie involvement, but that involvement has now hit fever pitch! Customers are tasting it. Customers are loving it! At closing time yesterday, I opened a bottle from my personal stash (Yup, I was the very first Opalie customer) for our staff to taste. Smiles and praise all around the tasting table. I poured off a sample for Tom who is out on Fridays, and took the rest home to share with my neighbors who let me into their kitchen early one morning last year so I could email back and forth with the folks in France about Opalie before 17:00 European time. More praise. More smiles. Tom hadn’t quite gotten to his sample yet this morning when the cellarmaster of a regional Bordeaux tasting group arrived to pick up his case of 2010 Opalie. In an amazing display of harmonic convergence, David happened to be in the shop at this moment. Having just tasted it the previous evening, David spoke about the wine at length, and after inquiring as to the availability of it, the cellarmaster decided to buy another 6 pack. As he was leaving, David gave him the sample and guess what? He returned asking for another 6 pack. If one is to be a cellarmaster for a Bordeaux tasting group, one must know Bordeaux … well. Very well.

And so it goes. After my normal Wednesday off, I arrived at my workstation and fired up my computer. Apparently Chris loaded a photo of this Opalie display that he built onto my computer as my new screensaver! The image was met with a chuckle as I began my workday. Minutes later, I heard my first connection between Opalie and Valentine’s Day. Later that day, another … and so it goes. So yeah, why not?  Valentine’s Day is Thursday, and all indicators are pointing to the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet as this year’s Valentine’s Day wine! Happy Valentine’s Day all! – Peter Zavialoff

 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2010 Opalie de Coutet, Valentine’s Day, my band’s upcoming gig this week, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2010 Chateau Couronneau: The One!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 7:31 PM

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The 2010 Couronneau arrived just in the nick of time as our inventory of the 2009 had dwindled down to just bottles. I thought the 2009 Couronneau was the best wine from Chateau Couronneau I had ever tasted. It’s tricky to make such a statement about a wine because, well, there’s always a next vintage.
Among the staff, I freely pronounced my admiration for the ’09, always noting it was the “best ever”.Peter never disputed my claim, but would only say, “wait till you try the 2010”. I trust and know that Peter knows Bordeaux, but my understanding of the vintages is that ’09s are more expressive and drinkable at this early stage, while ’10s are more structured and less outgoing in the fruit department. So why was Peter implying that the 2010 Couronneau was so special? I now know why…the 2010 has amplitude and a brash richness to it that defies its humble Bordeaux Superieur classification. The 2010 Couronneau is dense with plum and tangy cassis fruit, the tannins and acidity are heightened and bring forth a freshness on the palate for all that rich fruit. I don’t know what is happening but I am again smitten with a young Bordeaux.



The Piat family, the proprietors of Chateau Couronneau, have worked hard and meticulously in the vineyard to coax out the best possible fruit for their wine. This hard work includes a dedication to organic farming (they are certified with Ecocert), green harvesting in Spring, and limiting yields to an average well below what is allowed for the appellation (their average is around 35HL/HA when 65HL/HA is allowable). Christophe Piat’s foremost motivation is to make the best quality wine possible. His achievements in the vineyard, and subsequently in the cellar, have not gone unnoticed. He has been regaled with many medals for his wines in France and Chateau Couronneau has been noted for quality and value in multiple wine publications worldwide. Rightly so, Christophe is quite proud of his estates’ medal showings in wine competitions. You can debate the efficacy of organic farming and other such viticultural practices, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak, and I have witnessed, and tasted, the steep trajectory of rising quality from this estate over the past decade. With every vintage, Chateau Couronneau rolls out beautiful, complex, totally satisfying wine. Wait till YOU try it!



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This past Thursday, The Wine House along with Chateau Coutet hosted a dinner at Picco in Larkspur, pairing Sauternes with each course. This is the third time our Peter and Aline Baly from Chateau Coutet have teamed up to prove that pairing Sauternes with savory courses is not just a gimmick but is in fact an exciting way to broaden your culinary experience. I missed out on the previous dinners, and I have to say, I was getting a little annoyed and rather tired of hearing how great this dish was with that vintage, and how this attendee brought an ancient vintage to share and yadda-yadda-yadda. It’s 2013, a new year, so I decided to use birthday money I had squirreled away to treat myself to this third Coutet dinner. (I also knew they were planning to unveil the inaugural vintage of Chateau Coutet’s first dry white, the 2010 Opalie de Coutet – boy, was that fantastic!). I expected to like the pairing of Coutet with savory dishes, I really did. What was surprising to me though was how effortlessly the wines paired with the savory. The pairings were not at all strange or a culinary stretch. And I didn’t miss having it paired with fois gras. The real stand-out pairings were not with the dessert courses, as is when one typically thinks to break out a bottle of Sauternes. A raw oyster with a chile-cilantro mignonette was paired with the youthful and exuberant 2008 Coutet for a crazy good match of heat, sweet and briny. Another memorable bite was the opulent 2010 Coutet served with crab linguine accented with Korean chili flake. The sweetness of the crab came through brilliantly and the pineapple notes of the young 2010 tempered the heat of the chile flake gloriously. It was a spectacular evening all around with great company, food, wine and atmosphere. I really do need to drink more Sauternes, preferably Chateau Coutet.Anya Balistreri

Inaugural Vintage: 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet

Saturday, July 14, 2012 5:21 PM

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The dry white wines from Bordeaux
can count themselves amongthe finest wines in the world. It’s difficult to spread the word, as the wines are in short supply and they have a dedicated following of savvy white wine lovers snapping up what little is produced. Sometimes it’s good, make that great, to be in the right place at the right time! This past April, I was there. This past April, I was introduced to the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! 

The Opalie de Château Coutet is a brand new dry White Bordeaux made from equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon sourced from the quintessential parts of Château Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyards. The fruit comes from a few rows of 40 year old vines that are planted in the thickest layers of clay and limestone. Grape selection is strict and it is all hand harvested into small baskets which protect the ripe berries as they make their way to the cellar. Fermented and aged in French oak barrel, Château Coutet has produced a dry white wine of class and distinction with their inaugural vintage of Opalie, the 2010!

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It is always with great pleasure when I get a chance to visit Philippe and Aline Baly at Château Coutetduring primeurs week. I’ve certainly chimed in occasionally as to how much I enjoy their Gold Wines from Barsac. This past April, after tasting 2010, 1976, and 1989 Coutet respectively, the conversation drifted around to “a secret project”. Intrigued as I was, I didn’t see this one coming. Another clean glass placed on the table and Philippe poured from an unlabeled bottle. Light straw-like in color, you can swear there are facets of slight green that pop out when you’re not looking directly at the wine, it’s that fresh. Its aromas were of high quality White Bordeaux:citrus blossoms, crunchy minerals, vanilla spice, and a hint of beeswax. On the palate, it was deep and complex with hints of tropical fruit mingling with the citrus garden. Its mineral definition is present throughout and the whole package is buoyed by fresh, crisp acidity. When you think about the mineral, the texture, the aromas, and the acidity, you come to the conclusion that the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet is a very unique, one-of-a-kind wine. 

So I had to take this secret home with me. All I knew was the wine would be available sometime later in the year. I’m good with secrets. That doesn’t necessarily mean I like to be trusted with them, but I can keep one. Well, guess what? It’s not a secret anymore! The 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet is now available on a pre-arrival basis. (It is expected to arrive in late 2012). Production was very limited, but we were fortunate to get an allocation which, on this day, July 10, 2012, has The Wine House San Francisco listed as the only merchant in the WORLD selling the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! Be the first on your block to own this stunning new wine! – Peter Zavialoff

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