Time, Patience, And 2011 Chateau de Fonbel

Monday, March 20, 2017 12:14 PM

Time is flying. In a recent email back-and-forth with one of our suppliers in Bordeaux, she exclaimed, “It seems like we’re still dealing with the 2015 campaign; and now, it’s time for the 2016’s! Crazy!” That’s just how it is. Time flies. And because time is fleeting, some things must be done sooner than later, as there are finite windows of time. Wait too long and opportunities may pass. Alas, contrary to that, there are also closed windows which will open sometime in the future. That’s where patience is required. It’s funny, patience and Bordeaux just go together. One of the secrets of patient people is that we are very much aware how time flies, so every day of waiting brings us closer to whatever it is we are waiting for. Like a wine.

Five years ago, I tasted a barrel sample from the 2011 vintage. I liked it a lot. While not from a famous, high-pedigree chateau, the winemaking team is high-pedigree. I liked that too. We bought it. After it arrived, we tried it. While it continued to display the structure and balance which first attracted me, it had shut down and was not expressive. This is not uncommon with red Bordeaux wines. Patience would be required. That was over three years ago. We waited. Patiently. The window is now open on the 2011 Château de Fonbel.

I still remember it well, though visiting Château Ausone is always memorable. Yes, Château Ausone. The Vauthier family who own and make the wine for Ausone also own and make the wine from de Fonbel. The property was acquired by Alain Vauthier in the early 1970’s and it sits just down the hill from Ausone. Alain’s daughter, Pauline manages the property these days. So yes, it was the first appointment after lunch on the Wednesday of En Primeurs, and after tasting the de Fonbel, I was particularly impressed by its herbal/forest floor aromas, not to mention its bright red fruit meets cassis notes, leading me to jot down a particular nod to Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up 20% of the blend. The palate was quite lively with bright acidity balanced by the red fruit, cassis, and sturdy tannins. Balance and expression are two important things to recognize when tasting barrel samples, and this wine displayed both in fine fashion. When the wine arrived, I was excited to taste it because I remembered that barrel sample well. Let’s just say that I was mildly disappointed that it had shut down. I knew all we needed to do was to wait a while and this wine would someday spring to life.

For anyone who purchased the 2011 de Fonbel, from that day forward I strongly recommended that if they were to be opening the wine shortly thereafter, to allow for a couple of hours of decanting. This obviously helped, but the wine still needed time. We opened a bottle just before our Anniversary Sale last fall, and immediately after I opened it, I poured out a glass. Still closed? It seemed so, but I revisited it just 15 minutes later and happily proclaimed it was beginning to fulfill its potential. I opened another bottle last night, and that is why I am writing today. A little air will still enhance the tasting experience, but straight after opening, the 2011 Château de Fonbel is open for business! The nose is complex with bright red cherry fruit with hints of cassis, blackberries and thicket; forest floor and fallen apple tree leaves, and there’s a tar-like note in there too along with the slightest note of cedar. The palate entry is soft and medium bodied, the acid kicking in mid-palate to project the various fruity, herbal, and earthy complexity on to the blank screen of the palate. The finish is carried by the fruit/acid interplay with fine, delicate tannins. It has blossomed into a classic, honest claret which can be drunk now or cellared for at least another decade. In fact, I would love to taste this wine in 2027!

It’s that time of year again. The annual En Primeur tastings will take place in Bordeaux from April 3rd through April 6, and I am proud to represent TWH to taste the 2016 wines from barrel. My schedule is shaping up with appointments and tastings for the majority of my 10 day visit, as I always choose to visit suppliers and taste back vintages in search of values for both our Cru Classé and our petits chateaux sections. I also usually allow room for the serendipitous, and I’ve managed to continue this practice. All in all, I’m excited to taste the new vintage, meet old friends, make new friends, find new back vintage wines, and take part in the city of Bordeaux’s recent renaissance. Who knows which windows will open for me this year? – Peter Zavialoff

2011 Château Malescot St. Exupery, Margaux

Monday, September 12, 2016 8:14 PM


As ourend of summer sale continues, it’s hard to just point at one or two wines as “must haves” because there are somegreat values in every corner of the shop. Ifevery corner means that there arewines from Bordeaux on sale, well, that’s where I’m headed first!Today’s strollthrough our Bordeaux binsstopped dead in its tracks in front of this bin.


Come on. Really? This is Malescot St. Exupery. It’s a Cru Classé (3rd Growth). The 2010 goes for $85. The 2009 goes for a hundred. While 2011 may not be as famous a vintage as either of those, there is plenty to like about this wine apart from its below-market price.



I remember tasting the red wines from Bordeaux’s 2011 vintage from barrel very well. It wasn’t as fruit forward or charming a vintage as 2009 was, and it wasn’t a bombastic vintage with big fruit, big structure, and big alcohol as 2010 was. As far as the fruit expression went, in general terms, it was a little bit on the shy side. There were many wines with ample structure and balance, they just seemed like they were going to need time in the cellar before they would be pleasurable to drink. I remember the Malescot St. Exupery had a big profile for a Margaux out of barrel. There was a solid core of dark cherry fruit, but being a barrel sample, it was still shrouded in tannins and acidity. There was certainly potential there. Fast forward two years, now in bottle, and the black cherry fruit character was enhanced. The structure still ate it all up; the tannins were grippy, though if you knew where to look, you could have made a good argument that the wine would be something special some day. After reading through the notes on this wine in CellarTracker, and taking them into consideration with my own opinions and observations, I’m guessing that this wine is about 2 or 3 years from hitting its drinking window, and when it gets there, it will provide pleasure for another 15-20 years.
Funny thing, as underrated as the 2012 vintage turned out to be, the 2011 vintage seems even more under the radar. When I was in Bordeaux this past spring, I had several conversations with suppliers and chateau owners about these two vintages. Something I heard again and again was that 2012 was indeed the better of the two. Right now, that is. All involved were of the opinion that beginning around the year 2020, the 2011’s would begin to strut their stuff, and we will then be able to recognize how successful the vintage really was. The wines just need time. The time is almost at hand.
Here are Robert Parker’s notes for the 2011 Château Malescot St. Exupery:
“This small estate (only 130,000 bottles were produced in 2011) has been on a qualitative tear for a number of years. A fragrant perfume of spring flowers, black raspberries, blueberries and cassis is followed by a wine with medium-bodied, juicy flavors, sweet tannin and a broad, generous mouthfeel. A terrific 2011, it should be at its peak in 2-4 years, and last for 15 or more. Bravo!”
I must admit that I have a soft spot for Margaux. Saint Julien is my favorite Bordeaux appellation, but it was in Margaux where I had two lapses in professionalismduring my first En Primeur trip. As we were headed north on that first day of tastings, John was behind the wheel. I started seeing the signs … Château La Lagune. A while later came Cantemerle. Still further up the road, Siran, and then one turn and BAM!!! My jaw dropped. “Chateau Paaaalllmmmerrrrr,” I must have sounded like a kid who sees Disneyland for the first time. We spent the day in Saint Estephe, Pauillac, and Saint Julien, and as we headed back, our last appointment was fittingly at Château Margaux (my Bordeaux epiphany occurred with the 1988). As we headed to the chai to taste, we walked in front of the columned château and I broke down and asked John to snap a photo of me with the château in the background. Not exactly unprofessional, but still, not exactly what a pro would do.
Further blurring the lines between work and play,rather than heading home each day this week after we close, I’ve been commuting to the Fillmore Auditorium to spend time with Wilco and some friends. It has become rather work-like in its scheduling and routine of meeting up with friends, heading into the show and enjoying live performances from yet another new album. As I said to my best friend during a moment of musical mastery during Wednesday night’s show, “I’m just pointing out how lucky we are.” I have happily met a few customers at the shows, and I would think that trend will continue. Last night, our good friend Tim (whom I’ve seen at Wilco shows in the past) saw me in the line to get in and introduced me to his pals as his “wine pusher.” Well Tim, if you’ve got wines along the lines of 2011 Château Malescot St. Exupery in your cellar, I’m perfectly okay with that title. Happy Weekend! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Wilco’s new album, Schmilco, the 5 shows at The Fillmore, 2011 Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

2011 Leoville-Poyferre

Friday, November 13, 2015 12:09 AM

It’s been an eventful week here at TWH. The Wine Spectator released its Top Ten Wines of the year over the course of this week, and we were greeted with ringing phones and many orders for Wine #9 first thing Monday morning. (We still have a very limited amount of the 2012 Château Clos Fourtet available on Pre-Arrival – Expected early 2016). More of the same for Wine #6 on Wednesday (though that wine is now sold out), and then we watched the rest of the show in somewhat peace and quiet. It triggered some fine conversation around here.

It can feel like panic buying. The interesting thing is that the wine did not undergo any change in the last week.It’s been in bottle for around a year, yet as this list began leak out, perceptions changed. Suddenly on Monday morning, many had to have the wine … and immediately. It’s not a surprise that our staff are all wine consumers, though this list didn’t motivate us to buy a single bottle. It was fun to watch, but what motivates us to buy a wine? Quality. Price. Markets are efficient. A buyer bids, a seller offers; when they meet, the trade occurs and both are happy, or they should be. When it comes to Cru Classé Bordeaux, the sellers seem to have less compromise than other wine producers. When Château Léoville-Poyferré earned 198+ points from The Wine Advocate for their combined 2009 and 2010 vintages, it seemed like another “good-bye” to friendly pricing for one of Bordeaux’s Second Growths.
The 2011 vintage in Bordeaux was nowhere near as universally successful as the 2009 and 2010 vintages were, yet it was no washout either! There were plenty of successful red wines produced in Bordeaux in 2011, not the least of which is the 2011 Léoville-Poyferré.With the chateau’s recent successes, coupled with a favorable barrel sample review from Robert Parker, we nervously awaited the release of the price of their 2011. It wasn’t bad, but with the exchange rate at the time, it wasn’t cheap either. So what motivates our staff to buy a wine?Quality. Price. There is no mistaking the quality of the 2011 Léoville-Poyferré. The price? $90, but wait, aspart of our 38th Anniversary Sale, it’s just $74.95!Now there’s a change that should motivate. The wine is still the same. The price has gotten better. It’s here, it’s in stock. It will drink well beginning in a couple of years and last two decades at the very least. It will make for a great gift, especially for those who may be cellaring the 2009 and/or 2010 versions. The 2011 will be drinkable long before either of those are ready.
Robert Parker’s in-bottle review of the 2011 Château Léoville-Poyferré in The Wine Advocate:
“This property, which has been on a qualitative tear over the last generation, has produced one of the most successful wines of 2011. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, it is broad, rich, medium to full-bodied and dense. It boasts an inky/purple color as well as lots of concentration, silky tannins, and a bigger, richer mouthfeel than any of its St.-Julien peers. The result is one of the stars of the vintage. 94 points”

The Wine House SF – Our Top 10 Wines Of 2014

Thursday, February 12, 2015 9:08 PM


The Wine House SF – Top 10 Wines of 2014

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




and 2009.

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



2012 Domaine Raimbault Sancerre “Apud Sariacum”

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



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


2012 Orgo Saperavi

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


2011 Domaine Stephane Magnien Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru

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


2012 Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

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



2012 Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers Saumur Rouge

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


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



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


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


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

2011 Roc de Cambes: Another Award Winner?

Friday, January 2, 2015 10:30 PM


Here’s a Cinderella story about passion, friendship, hard work, and good fortune. This tale begins with myfirst visit to Bordeaux. To say it was eventful would be a massive understatement. For a Bordeaux enthusiast to visit the region for the very first time and basically hit ALL of the most famous chateaux and taste their wineswas about as memorable as it gets!  As we wound down our final day, I was awash in gratitude for all I had experienced.  Aha! I was in store for one more memorable event. After a wrong turn or two, and then some right turns, I parked the car at Tertre Roteboeuf. We walked down into the cellar, and I was introduced to François Mitjavile.

Pouring for the dozen or so tasters also there in the cellar, François paused and welcomed us. As he shook my hand he inquired if it was indeed my very first time to Tertre Roteboeuf. I nodded my head in agreement and with that he declared that I must see his vineyard, and at once! He excused himself to the others, and led me outside.  After viewing and hearing in detail about his prized terroir, we rejoined the group and began tasting hisexquisite wines. I met some wonderful people in his cellar including his son Loulou, as he is affectionately known. What a way to close out the final tasting of my first trip to Bordeaux!
The next time I visited Bordeaux, I emailed François to see if I could taste his wines at the end of one of the days that I would be in St. Emilion. He responded with a dinner invitation. Figuring that during the hectic En Primeurs week, “dinner” would be a large gathering, I prepared myself for a party. I was wrong. I got to my appointment on time, tasted the wines as usual, and was then instructed by François to wait in his sitting room for the day’s tastings to conclude. Two hours is a long time to wait, but I’ll just say two hours in François’ sitting room can fly by.His collection of books is incredible! Books on any subject, you name it. Architecture, mythology, music, dance, all the arts for that matter. Biographies, science, astronomy, history; I could go on, but you get it. So the two hours flew by. François then arrived with coat and scarf and declared, “Now we go for a walk before dinner.” On the walk, he regaled me with stories about his village, the surrounding vineyards, and some ancient folklore. After explaining to me the procedure for obtaining burial space at the local cemetery, I felt like the next thing he was going to say would be, “And when I’m gone, all this will be yours.” Of course that wasn’t about to happen, butsuch was the tone of our conversation. Dinner was for three: François, his wife Miloute, and myself. It was wonderful. Great food, great wine, and great conversation covering almost as many topics that lay in his sitting room. I left with the most wonderful impression of this passionate, hard working winemaker who makes some of Bordeaux’s most sought after wines.
The following year, I arranged a visit to his property out inCotes de Bourg, Roc de Cambes.  I have always found these wines to be similar to those of Tertre Roteboeuf in style, though different due to terroir and varietal make up. It’s a great wine in its own right, and also amore affordable way to taste Francois’ wine without paying the price of Tertre Roteboeuf.  After having had lunch at Domaine l’Aurage with Loulou and his wife Caroline, Loulou and I hopped in his SUV and headed west.  Bourg is quite a ways from Castillon, and I enjoyed the informative conversation we shared on the drive.  Once we arrived in Bourg, we visited the estate and its surrounding vineyards.  When I asked if a neighboring vineyard belonged to them, Loulou was quick to point out that the vines were pruned differently than the Mitjavile way, so of course not.  The cellar was undergoing a renovation when I visited, so I snapped this photo outside the gates.  All in all, it was an entertaining and educational way to spend one of my few “days off” in Bordeaux.  
Fast forward to summer 2014.  The chair of a local wine appreciation society came into our shop looking for 2009 and/or 2010 red Bordeaux, I had a couple of ideas as to where to point him. It seems this society chooses a different region/grape/style and conducts a taste-off throughout the year. They held 6 tastings of 7-10 wines and each tasting’s winner would be entered in one final blind tasting. There were some great wines tasted, and the 2009 Roc de Cambes came in a very close second place. What came first? The 2010 Roc de Cambes, of course. When I gave François the good news, he was grateful for those tasters who voted for his wines, but also mentioned that Roc de Cambes was a deserved winner. That’s what passion and hard work will do for you.


So that’s the Cinderella story about impressing a well established Bay Area wine appreciation society, andproviding them with not just their winning wine, but the runner up as well! As we continue to import these award winning wines, the 2011 Roc de Cambes is now here in our shop and ready for you all to try. Who knows what good fortune it may bring.


I continue to visit François at Tertre Roteboeuf each year, and I highly value his synopsis of the latest harvest and vintage. This past year, I had lunch there, and one of the wines they served me was the 2011 Roc de Cambes. It was fantastic!!! – Peter Zavialoff



2011 Chateau Roc de Cambes Cotes de Bourg


From The Wine Advocate: “The 2011 has a wonderful, pastille-like bouquet with unerring intensity, with a Burgundy, Vosne-Romanee-type mineralite. The palate is very pure with filigree tannins, a crystalline composition with wonderful balanced and precision on the finish. This is a stunning Roc de Cambes that makes you wonder why they bothered back in 1855. Tasted March 2012. 91-93 points” – Neal Martin


*(Top picture from candbscene.net, middle picture from wine.com.tw)

Just In Time: 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 6:41 PM


It was like a splash of cold water in the face. Bam! World Series over and done, and all memory of summer with it. Throw in a rain shower, the time change, hoops and hockey on the TV, and all of sudden it’s, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Sheesh! I saw it coming, but I sure didn’t feel it coming. My perception of Thanksgiving has changed in recent years, so I’m looking forward to it, but whoa, there’s a lot of stuff to do between here and there! Things that you’re all going to be hearing about soon, like theAnniversary Sale, Thanksgiving itself, and a dinner in January with Chateau Brane Cantenac, are all coming into view; full steam ahead! Since we still have more than a couple of weeks until the fourth Thursday in November, let me tell you about a very special winethat you may find ideal for this fall’s (and beyond) celebrations. Our final allocation of 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet is here and ready for you all to enjoy!


This is one of my favorite wines and also one of my favorite stories. I’ve gone on more than once about how much I love White Bordeaux. It can be life-altering. Yes. I meant to say that. The dry white wines of Bordeaux areamazing reflections of terroir when both young and aged. It’s funny that this happened on the same day. I was up in the Medoc tasting red wines at various UGC tastings as well as stopping by a handful of esteemed chateaux to taste their wines. One of these well known, fancy chateaux had recently begun making a dry white wine, and though I liked it okay, my notes do include the word, “imposter.” That same evening I had the great pleasure of dining at Chateau Coutet with Philippe and Aline Baly. After dinner, Philippe brought a bottle to the table. It had no label. He poured a glass and Aline told me that Philippe wanted my impressions. Perfect word. I was impressed. It was rich and opulent, much like Coutet itself. The only difference was it was dry and crisp. It spoke of a place.I told them how much I liked it. They then regaled me with the story of Opalie de Coutet.
Seeking the advice of Philippe Dhalluin of Mouton Rothshild (et al.) fame, they chose a couple of rows of 40 year old vines planted in the thickest layers of clay and limestone in their Premier Cru vineyard to source the fruit for Opalie de Coutet. Blending 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon, it is fermented and aged in oak barrels, 45% of it new. To call it unique would be an understatement. It is truly a one of a kind wine.Production is only a precious 250 cases. We had a great amount of success with the inaugural 2010 vintage of Opalie, selling out our entire allocation in record time. For the 2011, we took our allocation in two lots. The first one came to us back in January. It sold out inFebruary. Our second drop has now arrived, and when it’s gone there’ll be no more.
I got to taste the 2011 Opalie de Coutet for the first time at Coutet along with several wine professionals including Commanderie members and writers, one of which happened to also be an MW. It was a fantastic experience to have a discussion about a young wine that broke down the language barrier from terroir to palate. The quintessential richness of Coutet’s terroir is ever-present in this fresh, zesty, expressive wine. I was and continue to be smitten by Opalie de Coutet.
Fastening my seatbelt here, it is indeed full speed ahead.You will be hearing about the Anniversary Sale soon, and a Bordeaux dinner soon afterwards. But for tonight, it’s all about the 2011 Opalie de Coutet! It’s actually perfect timing. November is a great month for this wine. Crab season is right around the corner, oysters are mighty tasty these days, and the 2011 Opalie de Coutet would be a sensational addition to any Thanksgiving table. Keeping that spirit alive, if the parties and holidays of December call for something special and unique, the Opalie will more than satisfy those criteria. And peeking a bit further into the future, as has been written here before, that Opalie de Coutet is the perfect Valentine’s Day wine. It’s here, for now, so come on by TWH and get yours today!
– Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about the 2011 Opalie de Coutet, our Anniversary Sale, our upcoming Bordeaux Dinner in January, and of course, footy: peter@wineSF.com
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TWH SF’s New Showroom

19 April, 2014. 829 26th St. Corner of 3rd Street.  Looking around here, things are beginning to take shape. Pallets are being broken down, and more and more wine is hitting our sales floor. All of us are so excited about our new showroom/headquarters that we eagerly anticipate welcoming you all here (when you can visit, of course) to show it off!!!

Gone are the dusty winds of Carolina St. Gone are the fading banners hanging from the ceiling. Gone are the quagmire of wires and cables swirling and intertwining our workstations and staff. What’s here, you ask? Same friendly, fun-loving, knowledgable staff. Same direct-import prices.  Same small production, artisinal wines from places like Croatia, Hungary, Morocco, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Argentina, France, and of course, the US!

But moving into new digs is never easy, and I got a late start on the process to boot. 11 days late, that is. Why? Well, on our final day of moving, I caught a flight to France, and was in Bordeaux by the following afternoon. What was going on in Bordeaux? It was that time of year again for the 2013 En Primeur tastings, and I had 10 days worth of meetings and tastings in my immediate future. 


For Primeurs, several negociants open their warehouses for trade tastings.

The primary reason for this annual trek to Bordeaux each spring is to taste the brand new vintage as it is revealed to the international wine trade. It was unanimous. Whether it was a vigneron, chateaux owner/director, negociant, or PR person, they all said, “2013 was a very difficult vintage.” What does that mean? Without getting into it at any great length, difficult vintages present a multitude of challenges for all involved; yet there were still several high-quality 2013 samples tasted.They weren’t plentiful, but there were several. All in all, 2013 was a vintage of inconsistency all over Bordeaux. Yet it is exactly vintages like this where the experiences and observations of the wine professionals who participated in these tastings carry the most weight. Keep your eyes out for our thoughts on the 2013 vintage and our corresponding offers on the wines we deem worthy of placement in your respective cellars, coming to your inboxes very soon!


Another reason for the trip (which was VERY IMPORTANT this particular year), was to taste back vintages of wines on the marketplace and to find the best values to purchase and import in order to bolster our Bordeaux section. It was for this reason that my itinerary was a little fuller than normal. I scheduled meetings with negociants: morning, lunch, and afternoon, each day, leading up to the frenetic En Primeur week. This here picture was taken in the warehouse of one of those negociants, the back vintage selections lining the counter between the visible white wines (no, the double magnum of 2010 Haut Brion was not available for tasting). The good news: I found a bunch!!! Better news: We bought a bunch!!! Just a little patience, they will be arriving in our warehouse in the next few months. We’ll let you know when they get here.


2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale

Back at the end of January, I attended the annual California appearance of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, this time with the newly bottled 2011 wines. The dry whites and Sauternes/Barsac wines stole the show, as their respective barrel samples had indicated 21 months prior to this tasting. What surprised me (and not only me) were the quality of the red wines. Sure, we all know that 2011 followed the massively successful 2009 & 2010 vintages for Boredaux’s red wines. Not given its fair share, the vintage was ignored in many circles. I have to say, after tasting a fair share of them out of bottle, there were several high-quality red wines produced in 2011. Again, like 2013, 2011 was not a consistent vintage, so keeping an ear tuned to your taster of choice is important. Though not in the UGC, I was able to taste the 2011 version of one of my favorite Right-Bank chateaux while in Bordeaux. The verdict: Château Fleur Cardinale has done it again!


It should have come as no shock that I was wowed by the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale, St. Emilion. I loved it out of barrel, noting its “power, intensity, and structure” yet also noting its balance and specifically mentioning that it was “not overbearing.” Fast forward to tasting it from bottle 2 weeks ago, I found it has big, complex aromas of dark fruit, spice, and mineral. Many 2011’s had charming aromas, but many lacked expression on the palate. That is not the case with the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale! The palate was richly structured with definitive layers of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit to compliment the spicy nuances, all resolving harmoniously. So yes, we bought a bunch of 2011 Fleur Cardinale too, and it will be here soon!!!


Come to think of it, it was while tasting the 2011 Fleur Cardinale out of barrel that I first met Florence, and later Dominique Decoster 2 years ago! We shared a lovely lunch, made plans for a future visit to their chateau (that I made good on last year), and then stepped outside and snapped this photo. They’re a fantastic couple with a fantastic wine which consistently delivers for a very fair price. TWH customers need little introduction to the wines from Château Fleur Cardinale, we’ve been consistently stocking their wines for over a decade now, and the bottles disappear from our sales floor at a rapid pace each vintage!


I had a technological breakdown a fortnight ago while in Bordeaux causing me to miss sending my “Saturday night email.” Sorry about that. I hope the length of this one doesn’t cause any anguish. 2013 Bordeaux futures pricing has begun to be released and we will be active once again in the campaign. Please do not hesitate to contact me/us should you have any questions or specific requests for us to buy particular 2013 Bordeaux futures. And keep an eye out for our upcoming 2013 Bordeaux futures offers. –Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments on 2013 Bordeaux futures, Bordeaux in general, our new location, or why my favorite football club cannot win unless I am watching the match: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale Saint-Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;

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A reminder of Robert Parker’s review of the 2011 Fleur Cardinale after tasting from barrel. Please note: Mr. Parker’s rating from bottle is due to be released on 1 May, 2014. If he revises this score any higher, it may be very difficult for us to get our hands on any more wine at current prices!


“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 Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Monday, February 17, 2014 9:09 PM

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!


Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 



With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!


So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 



Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri


Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

2011 Domaine L’Aurage (Pre-Arrival)

Monday, January 13, 2014 8:03 PM

aurageHappy New Year! Well, it worked. The reaction to my last write-up of the year resulted in brisk sales and heaps of praise for our new Chablis producer, Sébastien Dampt. The Premier Cru Côtes de Léchet is almost sold out, but do not fear; this past week our staff got to taste the full line of wines from this exciting young producer. Let me just say one thing: Wow!!! From bottom to top, the wines are impeccable, and to quote Burghound’s Allen Meadows one more time, “They are screaming bargains.” If you even remotely fancy a nice, crisp Chablis every now and then, you need to come speak with anyone on our staff about these wonderful wines.


2013 was an exciting year here at TWH, David having signed up a handful of new producers who now sport “Imported by Wine House Limited” on their respective back labels. But, to translate a quote from Karl Lagerfeld in the film La Doublure“I am never satisfied. On to the next.” And so we move on to the next. A new year means new wine tasting experiences, both here and abroad. The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux traveling junket will be passing through the states at the end of the month, and I’m all set to fly to LA to taste the newly bottled 2011’s. The vintage didn’t receive as much fanfare as 2009 or 2010, but I was able to find some outstanding 2011 samples when I tasted them in the spring of 2012.

One of the more memorable 2011 tastings occurred on day one of the frantic week. I began on the Right Bank in 2012. I prefer to spend the first Monday in the Médoc, but that’s another story, and that’s just how it worked out in 2012. Appointment #2 was with François Mitjavile at his Tertre Roteboeuf in St. Emilion. I was welcomed into his home, declined his offer for some coffee, and we sat and discussed the vintage. I’ve always thought of François as a renaissance man, and chuckled when I spied Keith Richards’ autobiography on the table. Call me a kool-aid drinker all you want, but I not only believe that every vintage has something to offer, I appreciate the individuality of each vintage, especially in Bordeaux. François finished up his coffee, the conversation concluded, and it was off to the cellar. I had been there about 30 minutes at this point, and I was puzzled as to why no one else was there yet. I tasted through François’ 3 wines, and he explained that he was a bit miffed by the early development of them, as they were not “in their proper place” to present to the press and trade. Well, this was like an overprotective father with his shy child. We were tasting barrel samples, so no one should be looking for a fine glass of wine here. The samples were all fine, they were just tightly wound. Time and oxygen usually sort that out, so I wasn’t worried, but then again, I wasn’t the winemaker.


 What was impressive, was the barrel sample of 2011 Domaine l’Aurage, made by François’ son, Louis. I was first introduced to Domaine l’Aurage via Louis’ 2009 vintage, and it was a huge hit with both staff and customers alike. What wasn’t to like? It had it all: charm, finesse, balance, and that silky, almost Burgundian mouthfeel. Apples don’t fall far from their trees, that’s for sure. The Mitjavile family style of winemaking has been passed to the next generation. When I tasted the 2011 sample of l’Aurage, it didn’t come with a “proceed with caution” warning. The 2011 was very reminiscent of the 2009: fresh purple fruit sitting atop soft, silky structure. It had power, but it had balance. It was indeed impressive. Somewhere in the middle of this visit, the bell rang. François and I were joined by Jeannie Cho Lee MW! I was introduced to her by François as “an old friend”, and Jeannie smiled and replied, “He doesn’t look so old.” Wow. Was she flirting with me? François excused himself for a moment, and ran upstairs for something, and Jeannie turned to me and asked, “It’s a little reductive, don’t you think?” I then explained what François told me before we tasted. When she tasted the sample of the 2011 l’Aurage, she didn’t say anything. I looked at her with raised eyebrows. She nodded. I nodded. She smiled.

We didn’t buy the 2010 l’Aurage. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. (See? It’s not just customers who regret not purchasing something). But the currency situation was less favorable when the time came to buy the 2010, so it wouldn’t have been priced so well. But guess what? While it is still on pre-arrival, the 2011 Domaine l’Aurage is available at the same price that we sold the 2009 for, $29 per bottle. For all of the Mitjavile magic in that bottle, that folks, is a steal!

Yes, a new year means new wine tasting experiences. I’m looking forward to the UGC Bordeaux tasting, yes, that will be interesting. For me, Bordeaux is still the benchmark, as Bordeaux delivers. Prices for the famous chateaux are certainly in the stratosphere, but hey, when you’ve got winemakers like Louis Mitjavile and wines like the 2011 Domaine l’Aurage coming in at $29 on pre-arrival, it’s good to be right here on Earth. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about 2011 Bordeaux, Domaine l’Aurage, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 4:45 PM

White Bordeaux is one of the wine world’s true treasures. Produced in tiny quantities compared to their red counterparts, the wines offer a vast array of complexity, the ability to pair with a litany of dishes, and a surprising ability to age. Some white Bordeaux wines can last for years and years if properly stored, and still dazzle the olfactory sense and palate with exciting nuances. The wines have a dedicated following, thus making them difficult to source. 



Last summer, Barsac First Growth Château Coutet introduced us to their 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet. It marked the inaugural vintage of the château’s very special dry white wine, produced in very small quantity. The Wine House San Francisco was the first merchant in the world to offer this special wine (on a pre-arrival basis), and the response from our customers was overwhelming! The 2010 Opalie sold out shortly after arrival, and judging from the feedback we have received, a great many of you have been charmed by this gem of a wine. One good turn deserves another, so just like the 2010, please allow us to introduce the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!



Again, this is a very special dry white Bordeaux. The 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet comes from the quintessential parts of the Grand Cru vineyards.  Sourced from a few rows of 40 year old vines, sitting on the thickest layers of clay and limestone, the fruit is hand selected and harvested using small baskets for collection, so as not to bruise the grapes. It is comprised of half Sémillon and half Sauvignon Blanc, the former providing the depth and richness, with the latter contributing liveliness and verve. The wine is fermented and aged for 9 months in 45% new French oak barrels. It is an elegant, harmonious dry white wine that displays Coutet’s inherent richness framed by crisp minerality and freshness.


The 2011 vintage heavily favored those growing white grapes in Bordeaux. Warm weather in April sped up vineyard activity by two weeks, and the dry weather forced the vines to dig deep into the clay and limestone for nutrients. Cooler weather in summer was beneficial for the grapes to achieve the proper levels of acidity. That was followed by a warm, sunny Indian summer which provided the ideal conditions in which to harvest. In other words, if you prefer dry white wines with good mineral definition and harmonious balance of fruit and acid, the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux is for you! (If you’re a fan of Bordeaux’s Gold Wines, aka Sauternes and Barsac, 2011 is for you too. The 2011 was the best Château Coutet barrel sample I have ever tasted.)



I was lucky enough to taste the 2011 Opalie back in April at Château Coutet, with a table full of wine enthusiasts (including, at least, one MW!). Pale straw-like in color, the wine had rich aromas of citrus blossoms and stony minerals with that hint of a beeswax shadow. The oak barrel regimen has lessened from 60% new to 45% from the 2010 vintage, and that is recognizable on both the aromatics and palate. The palate is deep and rich, the citrusy Sauvignon Blanc bracing the complex elements of the Sémillon. It is a truly unique tasting experience, the richness from the esteemed Coutet terroir in a dry wine. Compared to their 2010 bottling, the 2011 seemed to have less oak spice on the nose, yet the barrel’s influence was still present in the wine’s texture, which again, seemed to be brighter and even more fresh than the 2010! There were smiles and praise all around the table as the Opalie de Château Coutet is a one-of-a-kind wine. Class and distinction.


Production of the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet is very small, just 250 cases.We have received our allocation, and are happy and grateful to be the first US merchant to offer this wine to all of you! We are selling the 2011 Opalie on a pre-arrival basis.  The first half of our allocation has arrived, but it has sold out to those who purchased the wine on pre-arrival. The balance will arrive sometime in early 2014. Here’s another chance to be the first on your block with the brand new vintage, introducing the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!!! – Peter Zavialoff



2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
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6-Pack 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

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

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