Chateau Coutet Grand Cru Classe 1855


In The World Of Sauternes,

The common perception is that Château d'Yquem stands alone at the top of the pyramid when it comes to quality. While this may be true in general, there is a wine, only made in the best vintages, which challenges that perception:  Château Coutet's Cuvée Madame.

As the story goes, the cuvée was named after Madame Rolland-Guy, who owned the estate until 1977. The vineyard workers would dedicate a day's work to her, without pay, while picking the most concentrated Sémillon grapes from the two oldest parcels of the Premier Cru vineyard. (More information can be found on the château's website by clicking here.) Production for the Cuvée Madame has typically been around 1200 bottles. It is not made in every vintage. In fact the 2009 Cuvée Madame represents only the 15th vintage of this wine first made in 1943. The wine is bottled and aged at the chateau for around a decade and then released. The next installment of Cuvée Madame will be the 2014 vintage, slated to be released in 2026!

The growing season of 2009 was marked by warm and dry conditions, this extended through an Indian summer allowing the fruit to reach an exceptional maturation level. The rains came on 18 September which kickstarted the botrytis which spread over the very ripe berries. It took just 6 passes to complete the harvest, with 70% of the fruit picked on the third pass. Production was slightly more than usual with 1900 bottles produced, 1600 of which are planned for release . All in all, 2009 was a monumental vintage for Coutet, Barsac, and for the entirety of Sauternes!
Chateau Coutet Grand Cru Classe 1855

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A Stunner Of A White Bordeaux Deal - 2016 Tour Leognan Blanc

2016 Chateau Tour Léognan Blanc Bottle, Glass, Corkscrew


Dry White Bordeaux

runs the gamut of vinous price points. Starting at around $10-$15, you can find white Bordeaux from the outskirts of the appellation, or from places like Entre Deux Mers or Graves. Accessing the more prestigious dry whites from Pessac-Léognan starts at around $35 and quickly escalates to the $100 per bottle level for the likes of Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Pape Clément. The super-elite siblings of Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion can fetch upwards of $700, if you can find them. That's a lot of money, but legend has it that tasting one of those with 20+ years on it can be a life changing experience. That's all fine and dandy, but what about those of us who just love the Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blends from Bordeaux, who don't want to wait 10-15 years to drink them, and who don't want to spend more than $25? Well, it just so happens that our last container brought forth something for us: the 2016 Château Tour Léognan from Pessac-Leognan. It's $22.98 per bottle.

Wait a second, I just wrote that white Pessac-Léognans start at around $35, what gives? Château Tour Léognan is the second wine of Château Carbonnieux, which usually sells for around $35 and seems to always produce wine that outperforms its price! I am a huge fan of Carbonnieux, especially of their blanc. When I tasted Tour Léognan for the first time several years ago, I did not know that it was Carbonnieux's second wine. I liked the sample a lot, and was going to buy the wine anyway, but when the négociant told me what it was, I shrugged and mumbled, "no wonder I like this so much," and the wine sold in a couple of months' time. It's not the kind of white Bordeaux that you age for a lengthy period of time, but its aromas, palate, and finish remind me of wine fancier than its modest $23 price tag.

The blend for the 2016 Tour Léognan Blanc is approximately 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. The fruit comes from the property's younger vines, which are around 10 years old. The aromas are bright and expansive with citrus fruit, white flowers, gooseberry and a hint of passion fruit. The palate entry is crisp and vibrant showing yellow fruit and citrus, with a soft, medium bodied texture that leads to a finish that's well balanced and complex. It's a great little white Bordeaux, ready to be enjoyed now, though you could cellar it short term. I wouldn't risk it past 3-5 years, or as the chateau's website recommends, "Best enjoyed around 3 years old."  That would be now.

I can't believe it's February already ... and that it's a quarter of the way over already! With so many personal holidays and friends' birthdays, January is always a blur for me, but somehow during the blur, I was able to book my flights and made a few arrangements for this year's trip to Bordeaux for the En Primeur tastings. You'll never believe this, but all reports from the Bordelais are telling us that 2018 was a great vintage! Imagine that!!?? Either way, it will be interesting to taste the new vintage from barrel, as well as visiting suppliers with already bottled wines available for purchase. That's how we found the 2016 Château Tour Léognan, so I would say it's a worthwhile endeavor. Only time will tell what is waiting to be discovered this year. - Peter Zavialoff


Chateau Tour Léognan Blanc Label
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All Critics Have Spoken - 2016 Bordeaux Is Worth Stocking Up On

2016 Bordeaux

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux recently passed through the US on their annual whirlwind tour, coinciding with the release of the ratings from all major players in the Bordeaux world. It's as close to unanimous as these things get: this is a vintage for the ages. You get the picture. If you haven't bought into it, now would be a pretty good time. Since all of the updated ratings have been released, we've seen an increase in demand, and have sold out of a few of the wines. We tried to reload on some of these wines, and guess what? The prices are higher. Currently, our 2016 Bordeaux pricing reflects our having purchased the wines upon release, and with their impending arrival throughout 2019, these prices will be the lowest that we can offer. If you want in, we would advise pulling the trigger sooner than later.
2016 is the first great homogenous vintage of the post-Robert Parker era. There are great wines at every price point - the First Growths are unbelievable, the Super Seconds are extraordinary, and even the petits chateaux made some outstanding wines. We have a few 2016 petit chateau wines in stock now, though I will focus on finding more when I'm in Bordeaux this coming March/April.
We could go on and on, and quote every taster who has had the opportunity to comment, but Neal Martin hits the nail smack on the head when he says, "Let’s cut to the chase: 2016 is a fantastic, sublime and at times entrancing vintage. For once, the frothing hype that presaged en primeur was justified. The 2016 vintage already feels haloed. The promise that was so palpable in barrel remains, and many of these wines are destined to give immense pleasure, not only at the top of the hierarchy but on the lower rungs too – always the litmus test of a truly great growing season."
I couldn't agree more, after all, I've tasted the wines too ;) - Peter Zavialoff
Should you have any questions about or need further information about any 2016 Bordeaux, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to assist you. 1.415.355.9463 or peter@winesf.com

***PLEASE NOTE: Prices may change without notice. Prices can be confirmed either by placing an order online or by a member of our staff only.  All wines expected to arrive by late fall 2019.


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Introducing Villamagna, considered to be the finest terroir of d'Abruzzo
2015-villamagna-store-stacks

The Torre Zambra winery

was established in 1961, and continues to be a family run estate with its third generation at the helm. We took the leap last year to begin importing their wines after an introduction by Tiziana Settimo of Barolo's Aurelio Settimo, whose wines we also import. People often ask how we source our wines from abroad, and in this instance, it was a respected winemaker (Tiziana) that connected us to Torre Zambra. Our relationships with the producers we import are vital to the strength of our business. We are in this together. So when someone like Tiziana suggests checking out another winery, we listen. 
So many of you have delighted in Torre Zambra's vibrant rosato, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, their classic, zippy Pecorino and their many styles of Montepulciano. Well, we have one more wine from Torre Zambra that arrived last month during the frenzy of the holiday rush, the 2015 Villamagna DOC. A recent DOC, created in 2011, Villamagna is considered the finest terroir of the Abruzzo, limited to a total of 85 hectares among three municipal districts, Vacri, Bucchianico, and Villamagna. Torre Zambra's hillside estate vines are grown at 500-1000 feet in elevation with an ideal south-east facing aspect within the village of Villamagna. 

villamagna-hillside-vineyards
The 2015 Villamagna is lush and supple. It highlights the best of the Montepulciano grape, showcasing plenty of fruit, a dark robe and gentle tannins. Too often when making their "best" wines, producers in Abruzzo throw too much oak on Montepulciano, masking its inherent approachability. TZ's Villamagna is fermented in stainless steel tank, aged in large cement vats for a year and then rests in bottle for another 6 months. The resulting wine is pure, unadulterated fruit. There are flavors of red cherry and plum, notes of cocoa powder and an underpinning of leather. Its gorgeous, plush mouthfeel reminds me of some Châteauneuf-du-Pâpes. The 2015 Villamagna is constructed for maximum tasting pleasure. 
torre-zambra-third-generation
I drank the 2015 Villamagna on two occasions; once on Christmas day with ricotta-stuffed, baked shell pasta and on New Year's Eve with grilled steaks. In both instances the wine delivered on my expectations for a generous, high-impact fruit wine without any pretensions. Sometimes the mood strikes for more yummy, and less contemplative. 
The last couple weeks held many life lessons for me on facing down doing what is right even if it is hard or uncomfortable. These moments don't always present themselves in a way you can reflect on after the fact. But this time they did and left me feeling better than I felt before dealing with them. It's nice to be able to pat yourself on the back sometimes. And in this spirit, I think I'll buy another bottle of 2015 Villamagna to enjoy with dinner as another winter's storm passes overhead. 
- Anya Balistreri

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A Tasty Margaux For Under $40 - 2012 Château Siran

Saturday, January 26, 2019 4:13 PM

A Tasty Margaux For Under $40 - 2012 Château Siran
Chateau Siran Label

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

Were in town yesterday, this year pouring the fairly recently bottled 2016 vintage. It was a vintage of superlatives. There were sensational wines from every appellation. Briefly, some of the 2016 wines that made impressions on me were (in no particular order) Clos Fourtet, Les Carmes Haut Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Leoville Barton. Impressive they were, but these wines are mere infants.  They're going to need time. In fact, believe it or not, there were a few wines which I felt were already entering the period of "shutting down."  Meaning that their structure was particularly dense, denying the inherent fruit to fully express itself. As I've written before, I consider 2016 to be the first great homogenous Bordeaux vintage of the post-Robert Parker era. The wines, at least the Cru Classé wines, are going to need time in the cellar before they really strut their stuff.
Back in the spring of 2013, members of the international wine trade gathered once again in Bordeaux, this time to taste the 2012 vintage. The vintage received little fanfare, certainly not praised as were the back to back blockbusters of 2009 and 2010. Though not receiving much praise from the wine press, I found the vintage charming, and in some locales, fantastic. I remember my first day of tasting that year in the warehouse of a negociant tasting barrel samples for hours. The firm's General Manager walked over to check on me and asked what I was liking and I sent him to the Château d'Issan sample. He took a taste and made the "big eyes" face, as he was impressed. d'Issan was not the only Margaux which was impressive. When I returned, I sat down with David to discuss the vintage. Pomerol, St. Emilion, Pessac-Léognan, and Margaux were the winners, I told him. The consensus among critics included the former 3 appellations, but David was quick to point out, "Margaux? Didn't hear much about that. I think you're on your own there." When Robert Parker's assessment of the vintage out of barrel was released, the aforementioned d'Issan received a modest (87-89) point rating from him. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. I thought it was fantastic and continued to recommend it to our customers. Once the wines were bottled, Parker re-tasted it and gave it 95 points. After that, it seemed that wine writers began to recognize that Margaux had its set of great 2012's also. We had a good run with the 2012 La Gurgue, a petit chateau from Margaux, a couple of years ago. I continue to look for 2012 Margaux's on price lists when we receive them, and found a solid deal not too long ago. The 2012 Château Siran, Margaux is not only a solid deal, it can be enjoyed now (decant, please) or will gain in complexity if cellared over the next two decades.
Château Siran is located in Labarde, the southern-most commune in the Margaux appellation. After La Lagune, Cantemerle, and Giscours, it's the fourth recognizable chateau one passes when driving north from the city of Bordeaux. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot primarily, though it is also comprised of 13% Petit Verdot, which can add spiciness and concentration to the wines. Siran is one of very few chateaux to have had the same family in charge for more than 150 years. In 1859, the renowned Miailhe has been in charge, and currently, Édouard Miailhe represents the fifth generation in control, a position he took over in 2007.
Out of barrel, the 2012 Château Siran showed classic structure with spicy and herbal aromas. On the palate, the wine showed an earthy mineral core with dark fruit, pencil lead and truffle notes. I thought enough of the barrel sample to keep a look out for the wine once it was bottled. We found some a while back and they landed here recently. Out of bottle, tasted over the holidays, I found the wine to be in a good place with the fruit expressive, rising about the earthy structure. The herbal and truffle notes are present, but that black cherry and cassis fruit make for a pleasant tasting experience. At least it was a hit with the group I shared it with. I took my eye off the bottle for a couple of minutes, and when I went back for a second glass, all I got were the lucky drops!
Here's Neal Martin's synopsis of the 2012 Château Siran after he tasted it in 2016:
"Tasted at the vertical held at the property, the 2012 Château Siran, a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, has a very composed and delineated bouquet with scents of red plum, raspberry, mineral, cedar and a touch of graphite. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, gently grippy tannin, and graphite-tinged black fruit that turns spicier towards the finish, which displays commendable substance and persistence - a 2012 Margaux with ambitions. This is a very fine Siran, much better than many of the wines produced in the 1990s and it comes recommended."
You, most likely, will be hearing more and more about the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux, and my two cents are that it is not over-hyped; the wines are legit! They're just going to need time, but they are certainly worth owning. In the mean time, while our 2016's are aging in our respective cellars, it's a darned good idea to have some 2012 Margaux at our disposal. One doesn't often see a recognizable Margaux château available for less than $35, but here it is. Come and get it! - Peter Zavialoff

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