Torre Zambra Pecorino, The Wine That Sealed The Deal

Saturday, October 20, 2018 9:15 PM

Torre Zambra Pecorino, The Wine That Sealed The Deal

What a beautiful day in SF's Dogpatch ...

While walking the streets of our neighborhood this afternoon, I couldn't help noticing the general good vibe of throngs of folks out enjoying the warm weather, sitting in parklets and outdoor tables, sharing the weekend with those of us who work and live here. We had more than a couple of first timers poke their heads in our shop today, asking what we're all about. As many of you know, we are always happy to share our stories, answer questions, and put quality juice in your hands. Now that we're moving deeper into autumn, days like today will be fewer, but the vibe this afternoon has me longing for something chilled and delicious. What's this week's Saturday night wine and how did it come to us? It's the 2017 Torre Zambra Colle Maggio Pecorino and to answer the second part, good connections.

41 years is a long time to be in business, and we will turn 41 in less than two weeks! (Pssst - Yes, there will be an Anniversary Sale - stay tuned!) And when you're in business that long, you're bound to make connections. It hadn't been that long after we signed up Tiziana Settimo and her line of wines from Aurelio Settimo:  Dolcetto, Langhe Nebbiolo, and those amazing Baroli, that a package arrived with a range of samples from a producer in d'Abruzzo. Tiziana highly recommended that we try them and let her know what we thought. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in the tasting room with the samples. There were the usual suspects one finds in d'Abruzzo, Trebbiano and Montepulciano, but there were a couple of other wines including a Pecorino.

Pecorino was not named from the sheep's cheese, its name actually was derived from sheepherders who ate these grapes while tending to their flocks in search of food. Italian wine grape maven, Ian d'Agata wrote in his tome Native Wine Grapes of Italy"Pecorino is not just a grape variety; it is also one of Italy's biggest wine success stories of the twenty-first century."

Wine Glass, Bottle of Pecorino, and Ian d'Agata Book
I have been on a Pecorino kick ever since Anya brought one in for The Dirty Dozen back in 2010. It's gotten to a point where I just have to have it when I see it on a wine list in a restaurant. So when we were tasting the Torre Zambra wines, my inner wine enthusiast was giddy for a taste of the Pecorino. It did not disappoint. That's an understatement. It was remarkably delicious! The aromas are of stone fruit, orchard fruit, and citrus blossoms. Its aromas alone are captivating. On the palate, it has a medium body and bright acidity which sweeps the aromatic complexity into harmony. I still can't get enough of this wine. Another reason I can't lay off in a restaurant, is its ability to pair with food. Often times, when one chooses the wine before the food, your dining options diminish if looking to dial in a perfect pairing. Not so much with Pecorino. This wine works with most seafood entrees and appetizers, and lighter land meats such as porchetta or turkey breast. I was over the moon for the Colle Maggio Pecorino! Heck, I didn't even have to taste any of the other wines to know we would be bringing them in, but for the record, all of the wines were outstanding, and they all represented excellent value at their respective price points. David and our staff were all in agreement. Any guesses who now imports Torre Zambra into California?  TWH, of course.

Things are getting interesting, we've got Halloween coming right up, and our 41st Anniversary the very next day! The rest of 2018 is looking like a rip-roaring good time. Oh yeah, Dungeness Crab season begins November 3. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Pecorino for the win. - Peter Zavialoff
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Celebration

Thursday, December 27, 2007 10:04 PM

First off, Happy Holidays! As you can see, we’re not selling anything in in this email, and we wanted to make sure we gave our wishes up front just in case you’re in last minute shopping mode.I’ve been contemplating the “holiday email” for a while now, and I was thinking wouldn’t it be great if I wrote something nostalgic and sweet? An ode to our customers, and a remembrance of what a great year it’s been. Then I got a few hundred (exaggeration) similar emails from other wine retailers (competitors, I’m on their lists) finishing with ‘buy this wine, after all we couldn’t do it without you.’ I figured if I went that route you’d either mark me as spam or puke in your sweater.

That doesn’t change the fact that this an important time of year for celebration and family, so I do want to say something. So let me get the sweater stuff out of the way. We do appreciate your business. We’re a small company, and it’s wonderful that you have chosen to support us in this age of large retailers who are able to build almost monopolies of internet presence. Thank you for loving wine with us.

So it’s the holiday season. The season of celebration. And presents for some people. Is it wrong to ask for a gift from your customers? Yes. Yet I ask. For my gift from you I have a simple request. Assuming you are a wine lover, which I think is safe, please remember that this is a season of celebration, and that as wine lovers, we all need to open at least one special bottle before the year ends.

Some will argue, “I don’t open anything good this time of year. I’m not going to waste my best bottles on people who won’t appreciate them.” I’m not saying open it at midnight on New Years or at a huge holiday party, I’ve made the case for other wines that operate in those situations. I’m saying that the season can get out of control and stressful with all our running around eating, doing the family thing, and overextending into all things holiday. Sometimes we forget to actually celebrate in a way that makes us happy. We love wine right? And we particularly love a good bottle. I say take one evening (or morning, if that’s the way you roll), get you’re lover or best friend and open something truly memorable. I’m not saying make a ceremony out of it. Just two people, two glasses, and a delicious selection from the cellar. There’s something therapeutic about a great bottle of wine uninterrupted by frills and planning. Sure maybe some cheese, a simple dinner, take out even, just as long as we treat ourselves to something nice. That’s what I want for Christmas. An hour or two of pure wine enjoyment from every Wine House customer who can spare it.

So (please) pull out your day planner if that’s what it takes and schedule a time and place to relax in between the parties, flights, and feast preparation. A point of quiet personal indulgence will do us all good. I think we’ll be happier people, and when we look back on the holidays we’ll remember at least one moment when we truly celebrated. Happy Holidays everyone. Thanks for making us your wine merchant. – Ben Jordan

 

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Bachelor Party Wine: 2005 Red Burgundy

Sunday, November 25, 2007 2:35 PM

My wife decided that it would be best if I had my bachelor party after the wedding. She needed me to dance at her bachelorette party (trying to save money) and that didn’t leave time for me to … That’s not true, but David did bring a half bottle of the 2005 Beaune Clos du Roi to my bachelor party (2 days before the wedding) and it made a good title for this email. Many of you are probably weary of my numerous emails referencing this important point in my life, I know my wife is, and I’m pretty sure my coworkers are too. I’m thinking this is the last one, and I apologize to those of you who find it tedious or nauseating to go on (and on) about getting married, but I’ve never done this before, and I’m never going to do it again, so I figure, what the hey! Plus a number of customers have been very kind and supportive, so in a way they are egging me on.So, we’re back from France, and I’m not sure I’m tired, but I am hazy. I didn’t expect to be able to write this, which would have broken a rather long streak of Sunday emails, but I was in the shower yesterday (after arriving in SF Friday evening) thinking about the honeymoon, and this email wrote itself in my head. I do much of my creative work during these 5 or 10 minutes in the morning. One of those few times when I’m not distracted by various layers of communication and city life. 

So the wine, David had taken a bottle out to present to restaurant accounts the day of the party. It had shown really well, everyone he poured it for loved it, which is rare when you pour a wine for a variety of palates and personalities, so he brought it for us to try. This get-together was less traditional in respect to the average bachelor party. Instead of boozing our way down Broadway, we had what seemed like a 30 course meal at Jai Yun (my first time at this foodie mecca) that we paired with a number of Rieslings, Loire Chenins, and Beaujolais. This was one of the special bottles of the night, and it went fast once it hit the lazy Susan. I had tasted the wine in France in January, and it was shut down from recent bottling at that point, so I was impressed to find the wine both open and delicious. This is Burgundy to the core with pure, snappy fruit and fresh structure. ‘Tres Pinot’ as they say. My uncle noticed the bottle being passed around, grabbed it, and poured himself a glass. He’s really more of a Bourbon guy, so I watched to see his reaction. After a sip he immediately looked over and said, “Now what is this I’m drinking?” It’s always refreshing to see quality being appreciated by less geeky palates. Long story short, the wine was delicious, and everyone who had a chance to taste it was similarly impressed.

Fast forward through the rehearsal dinner (San Tung in the Inner Sunset), wedding (what a wonderful whirlwind), to the honeymoon. We found ourselves in a small, cozy village on the hill behind Pernand Vergelesses. My wife read about a walk to the town, and I replied that it was a wonderful idea. I didn’t mention that Domaine Rapet was based here, instead I slipped out of the room to rub my hands in anticipation. Excellent. I crossed my fingers hoping they were open. They were. I bought wine. I had to carry it the 3km back up the hill. That was hard. But it was worth it. I really like Rapet’s 2005s.

I’ll mention one last thing about this Domaine. They are hot in Burgundy. In the Côte du Beaune especially, these wines are all over restaurant lists and in wine shops. While they fly under the radar in this country, buyers in Burgundy love the high quality they offer for the relatively low tariff. Speaking of which, our prices are very similar, and many times lower than what you would pay (dollar adjusted) at a shop in Beaune. This is $33.99 with the mix/match case discount. $34 for high quality 2005 1er Cru red Burgundy! You don’t see much of that. This is the last email I will mention my wedding, and chances are it is the last email where I will be able to mention $34 1er Cru Burgundy from this vintage. – Ben Jordan


 

Tasting Notes Note: This wine is quite limited, and I would not have written about it if we didn’t have half bottles as well. One of the reasons I like Vincent Rapet’s red wines is the way they focus the fruit. Even in an overtly ripe vintage like 2003, you wouldn’t confuse these with new world wines. He doesn’t slather oak, and he always retains terroir. In 2005 he has also maintained a certain degree of elegance that counterbalances the power and concentration of the vintage, and I imagine that is why this wine is approachable now while so many others have been shut away by their structure. There is a mouthwatering purity to the fruit, and there is a bit of that ‘take another sip, and another, and just one more’ character to the flavor. That being said, there is plenty of room for development left in this wine. While it will be earlier drinking than a number of 1er Cru wines from this vintage, it will age well, and if you like secondary and tertiary flavors/aromas, I’d give it at least 5 years. A number of 2002 village and 1er Cru reds I drank over the past two weeks were just emerging from sleep, and their fruit was still deliciously young and vervy. It is a perfect way to balance your cellar if you are buying deep into this vintage and want wine that is for the mid-term while you wait for the the burly Côte du Nuits to come around. This is especially true for the half bottles.

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2005 Gevrey Chambertin Monopole

Saturday, November 24, 2007 4:08 PM

I’m in Burgundy! Well, actually I’m in San Francisco while I’m writing this, but now that it has been sent out, I’m in Burgundy. The internet is so cool. My wife, who was my fiancée when I wrote this, but since this is the future is now my wife, asked that I make it very clear that I am not writing this on our honeymoon. We are on vacation, and I am not practicing my bad habit of working on days off. I can’t promise that I didn’t jump on a computer (in the future of this writing, but actually in the past relative to your reading it) in Paris or Beaune, to add a little something. But for the most part, I’m writing this in San Francisco before our wedding and honeymoon.


While it is certainly appropriate for me to be writing about Burgundy, I hadn’t planned on featuring this wine till we opened it recently at the Wine House. Generally I concentrate on lower price ranges because anyone can rave about expensive wine, and we rarely have enough of the higher tier Burgundy’s to merit an offer on a single wine. However, this was so impressive, and we were able to get a decent allocation because of past support of the Domaine, so it fits right into my parameters. This a special wine that Dominique Gallois didn’t offer to the critics for tasting (his 2005s have been very well-received, by the way) because of the relatively small amount available, and because it is really more of an “insider’s” wine. It’s the one you don’t even hear about unless you’re a friend of the domaine. And it looks we’re on that list.


We opened this because John was the only person who had ever tasted the wine, and the rest of us were curious. Pretty good reason. I opened the bottle early just in case it had shut down like we are finding the 2005s are beginning to do. I took the inaugural sip from a glass I had poured in order to get a little air in the bottle. Yes, the wine was young, it’s 2 years old, but I knew immediately I would write this email. The fruit was delicious, the wine stayed on the palate, and the texture was exactly what we want from Burgundy. Sure there was some tannin, but it was such ripe tannin, the impression was creamy silk or silky cream. One of the two. It was even better in a few hours. In fact we all loved it, and it became clear that no one of us was taking the rest of the bottle home, so we poured it in to half bottles and we were all able to drink a glass that night. Now, I know this will gain complexity with age, but this made for a great glass of wine. If all young Burgundy drank like this, there would be a lot less old Burgundy. There is a certain beauty in drinking luscious young fruit, primary as it is, but rarely do we have the opportunity. This is a special time for this wine, made possible by full, perfect ripeness, and a window where the structure steps back and allows the fruit to dominate. The Maltroye Chassagne reds had a month or so like this, and now they are in deep sleep, so it won’t be like this forever, but it was a delight to have such a giving experience at this early point.


In the end this will age like a very good 1er Cru Gevrey Chambertin. Dominique bottled it separately from the village Gevrey because the vines are significantly older than the 30 year average for that wine, and because it had its own pronounced identity that called for a separate bottling. While it is not an under $20 find, the value is still very strong if you compare it to the 1er Crus across this vintage that are pushing $100. They may have a slight edge, but they are not $60 better, and this is great. This is a 10-15 year wine, and will probably only really wake up in 7 or 8. For those of you who are really aching for 2005 red Burgundies in your cellar, but are mortified by the near three figure prices, this is an excellent opportunity. It has breed and class, balance and concentration, and beautiful ripe fruit. These are the flavors and textures that drive scientists to develop techniques that imitate these textures and flavors. For better or for worse these techniques are approximations that never hit the mark, and it reminds us that the only way to really make this wine is to have a great vintage in Gevrey Chambertin. I’d say this is a breakout vintage for Dominique, and with this relatively modest price, this is the smart buy for those of us that want to be drinking 2005 red Burgundy over the next two decades. I’m willing to bet that in the future (relative to this writing, but the present relative to your reading it) I am driving my now-wife to Dominique’s cellar in the hopes of justifying my ideas for the allocation of our now shared cash flow. Wish me luck. – Ben Jordan

 

Tasting Notes
All the material is here for great wine. Ripe, rich fruit, concentration without over-extraction, good acidity, and just the right amount of subtle, high quality wood. The texture has my heart at the moment as it is really strong in my sense memory, but the fruit is downright delicious as well, so I don’t want to discount that. Like I say, delicious young wine that I can’t wait to taste when it is mature. But I will have to wait. Probably around 10 years. Sometimes tasting Burgundy is a lot of fun, and this is one of those times.


Email me at ben.winehouse@sbcglobal.net if you like, but I will probably wait till the honeymoon is over to get back to you … I just checked with my wife, I’m definitely going to wait till the honeymoon is over.

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