Bordeaux Update & 2015 Alberto Furque Malbec

Monday, May 15, 2017 1:33 PM

While vacillating over whether or not to write about Bordeaux earlier this morning, I discovered that there are a couple of things that must be addressed before I tackle the subject of this week’s Saturday night wine.

#1) The 2016 Bordeaux Futures campaign is in motion. We sent our first offer out a couple of weeks ago, just after Cos d’Estournel released their price. The email included a handful of petits chateaux which we feel showed well at the En Primeur tastings, offering great value in this remarkable vintage. Several other estates have released their pricing since, and we are preparing another offer which we will send early next week. Doubtless, there will be more price releases next week, and the campaign will grow quite busy until the middle of June, at the soonest. Should you have interest in any 2016 Bordeaux wine, released yet or not, please feel free to send me an email: and we can discuss it, reflect pricing (once released), and source it for you, should you approve of the price.

#2) We recently received a new container with a lot of 2014 Bordeaux on it. These wines will be hitting our sales floor sometime later next week. If you have spoken to me about the 2014 vintage, then you already know I’m a big fan, and highly recommend the wines, especially from the Left Bank. I was graciously welcomed to the Thursday Tasting Group’s tasting of 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux the other day. After looking at the roster (d’Armailhac, Branon, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Clerc Milon, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, La Lagune, Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Poujeaux), I knew I would be in for a treat. Part of the TTG experience is to rank the wines from 1 to 9 in order of one’s preference. At the conclusion, it was said by several tasters that if they were served the wine they respectively ranked 9th, they would enjoy them very much. When I reported this back to David, he just smiled and said, “Well, that’s Bordeaux for you. It’s not uncommon for ALL the wines to show well.” From a price-to-quality perspective, 2014 offers the best value from this impressive trio of vintages.

To say it’s been hectic around here would be an understatement. Juggling the pricing for the futures with the arrival of the “presents” can be daunting. One thing that I am looking forward to is standing around a grill this weekend with friends, preparing some delicious barbecue. There’s a new vintage of one of our staff favorites that I tasted this past week that will be perfect for this grilling affair: 2015 Alberto Furque Malbec.

It’s not Bordeaux, but Malbec’s roots can be traced back to the region, as it was historically used in Bordeaux blends. The plants’ susceptibility to rot and disease saw it lose favor among French vignerons, and now very few Bordelais grow the variety. Sometime in the mid 1800’s, vine cuttings made their way over to Argentina, and they thrived. The rest is history. Malbec is grape variety numero uno in Argentina.

Carolina Furque

How time flies … we’ve been carrying the Alberto Furque Malbec for over a decade! It’s now made by Alberto’s daughter Carolina, and we just love the pure expression of her wines. Everything is hand-harvested, the wine ferments in steel tank, and its elevage takes place in concrete vats; all contributing to the wines’ fresh fruity aromas and profile. Heck, I wasn’t expecting to take to this wine like I did the other night when I took it to a dinner, but its freshness and seductive fruit contributed to a speedy depletion of the bottle’s contents. When I went in for my second glass, all I got were the lucky drops! Having no oak influence gives the fruit the spotlight. It has a plummy character, both in the aromas and on the palate, there are notes of cherries, raspberries, and black currants. The palate is medium to fuller bodied with well-dialed-in balancing acidity, and the tannins are finely integrated. All in all, it’s a superb wine that will suit meals such as steak with chimichurri, pastas with meatballs or sausages, or pulled pork. This weekend, I will pair it with a dry-rubbed tri-tip, grilled to perfection. With barbecue season upon us for the next several months, this is a great wine to have around … for two reasons: Quality and price. The case price is ridiculous.

To all of you Moms out there, we wish you a Happy Mothers’ Day tomorrow! I’m looking forward to visiting my Mom around midday. We will be preparing her favorite, salmon; pairing it with a crisp Rosé. Afterwards, I am planning on attending a memorial reception for a San Francisco restauranteur whom I was lucky to have known and have enjoyed the “family treatment” from his progeny for decades. Later in the evening, I will head over to visit some friends, and we’ll get busy grilling up the tri-tip and pulling a couple of corks of Malbec. A topic of conversation sure to arise around said grill will be English Football and the newly crowned champions. Though my support remains on the sidelines until a certain unsporting individual leaves the club, I am happy for the Blues and for my family of Chelsea brothers and sisters. I’ve got a lot on my plate tomorrow, so by the time I get to that footy conversation, I will be ready for that tri-tip, perfectly paired with Carolina’s 2015 Malbec! – Peter Zavialoff

The September 2014 Dirty Dozen

Saturday, September 6, 2014 10:29 PM

On we go, into the ‘ber months! Kids are back in school, the French are back from their holidays, and here in San Francisco, it’s time for our summer! For the occasion, we’ve sourced some special wines to make our September a memorable one. Six reds, one crisp Rosé, and five whites, all chosen for their versatility, are screaming values on their own. Pack them all in a box and knock the price down 35%? Magic. The September Dirty Dozen!

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2012 Falanghina Nina, Torre Quarto $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

Give it a chill, just not too much, otherwise the lovely melon fruit and fragrant aromas (look for that slight hint of pine) will be muted. Falanghina, an ancient Italian grape, is grown in the south – Puglia in this instance. Yellow-gold in color, this lush white has a round texture that complements seafood, fresh salads and cold entrées.

2012 Côtes de Gascogne Cuvée Jean-Paul, Boutinot $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

From southwest France, this dependable refrigerator door white’s beauty – a classic blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc – lies in its simplicity. Notes of lemon and citrus zest move into tangy grapefruit on the palate, leaving a refreshing, lingering lightness. Nothing complicated, but it’s oh so nice ice cold out of the fridge on a warm late summer’s eve.

2012 Pedro Ximenez PX, Cucao $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Pedro Ximenez is a varietal known mainly for its role in Spain’s sweet sherries, but this dry example is grown in the northern-most wine region of Chile – the Elqui Valley. Sunny weather ripens the fruit while the high altitude ensures freshness. A delightful blend of acidity and concentrated fruit; try with miso-dressed soba noodles or coconut shrimp.

2013 Ventoux Rosé l’Instant, Domaine Fondrèche $15.99, $12.79 reorder

This wine gets you at ‘hello.” Just look at that color! As pale as pale Rosé gets, winemaker Sébastien Vincenti blends 50% Cinsault with 30% Syrah and 20% Grenache and the wine is light, lean, crisp, and delicious. It’s a versatile little Rosé, textbook southern French style. Got a hankering for Salmon Étoufée? If you do, try it with this.

2012 Grenache Blanc/Rolle/Roussanne, Domaine de la Petite Cassagne $12.89, $10.31 reorder

In 1998, Diane Puymorin purchased this domaine and re-named it Château d’Or et de Gueules. TWH regulars know all about her and those wines, but Diane keeps it real and pays homage to the history of her property with this bottling. Here she blends three classic white Rhône varietals. It’s crisp, clean, and fleshy. Pair it with a seared tuna sandwich.

2012 Gewurztraminer Herrenweg, Domaine Ehrhart $21.99, $17.59 reorder

Gewurztraminer is known for its profound bouquet reminiscent of lychee nuts and rose petals. The Ehrharts’ single-vineyard, Herrenweg is a tad off-dry, and is rich and expressive, both aromatically and on the palate. Not for sipping, this one needs food. Especially spicy food. You must try it with a spicy curry dish, or spicy Cajun red beans and rice.

2010 Tempranillo Dauco, Bodegas Martúe $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder

Hailing from central Spain, this friendly Tempranillo has silky smooth tannins and rich cherry fruit. Outside Rioja, Tempranillo can show many faces, but here it shines as a versatile, charming red, reminding drinkers what makes Tempranillo just so darn delicious! Surely Paella works but so does Pollo con Arroz, Plov, or Tadig with kebabs.

2012 Malbec, Ecologica $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Argentian Malbec is unquestionably a favorite for those looking for value and quality in an everyday wine. Ecologica sources only organic fruit and is Fair Trade Certified. Medium-bodied with welcoming notes of green herbs, red plum and cassis fruit, the acids and tannins hold up well to heavily-seasoned grilled meats or a quesadilla with fresh Pico de Gallo.

2010 Dão, Proeza $11.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Looking for a full-bodied red that goes easy on the pocket book? Look no further than this voluptuous Portuguese red from Proeza. Loaded with big flavors courtesy of Touriga Nacional and Tinto Roriz, grapes traditionally made into Port, this dry red is grippy and broad-scaled. A lot of wine for the money! Hearty, rib-sticking meals would work best.

2010 Touraine Rouge, Domaine des Corbillières $14.99, $11.99 reorder

We’ve been working with Dominique and Véronique Barbou for two decades, their wines can magically transport us to the land of France’s most majestic chateaux. This blend of Pinot Noir, Côt (Malbec), and Cabernet Franc is marked by juicy fruit with an herbal twist. Drink it on its own or with anything you would want to pair with a cheerful red.

2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $14.59, $11.67 reorder

In the rolling hills just west of Firenze is the commune of Carmignano. Long before the days of the ‘Super Tuscan’, Cabernet Sauvignon was allowed to grow here, only to be blended with the native Tuscan Sangiovese. It’s a zippy little red table wine with another layer of complexity. Pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil is all you need with this one.

2009 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Tour de l’Isle $14.59, $11.67 reorder

Proprietor of Tour de l’Isle, Robert Rocchi acts as a negociant in the southern Rhône Valley who advises a handful of growers on improtant aspects of winemaking. The results in bottle are not only delicious, they are reflective of their places of origin. Or as Anya likes to say, “He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” Try this with a grilled steak.

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August 2012 Dirty Dozen

Thursday, August 9, 2012 11:30 PM

How fortunate that summer gives us not 1, but 2 months with 31 days in them. Let’s revel in that! That leaves plenty of time for more picnicking and barbecuing, among other fun summer endeavors. Whether you’re on vacation, a staycation, or are enjoying the longer daytime hours that summer gives us, let the Dirty Dozen satisfy all your vinous needs.

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2011 Chardonnay, House Of Independent Producers $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
The House of Independent Producers Chardonnay is an unoaked, terroir-driven quaffer from the Columbia Valley AVA in Washington state. The nose has a solid core of pale yellow fruit wrapped with minerals; the palate is fresh and crisp with hints of apples and citrus. A great food wine, this will pair well with seared scallops, lentils, and corn.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Koura Bay $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Here at TWH, we’re always on the lookout for wines of quality and character. When we taste one that has a very modest price tag, well, that’s when we act. Such was the case when the Koura Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was poured for us. It has a citrus-like profile and an amazing amalgam of herbal notes. Serve it with a cool garden salad.

2011 Vinho Verde, Vera $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Every DD wine is picked for its versatility, and the Vera Vinho Verde from Northern Portugal is exactly that. Meaning “green wine” this Vinho Verde has a citrusy profile reminiscent of grapefruits. Pour it along side a light pasta dish.

2010 Chardonnay/Viognier, Laurent Miquel $10.48 net price, $9.43 reorder
Winemaker Laurent Miquel blends 65% Chardonnay with 35% Viognier sourced from his vineyards in France’s Languedoc region and the result is a winner! The aromas are fruity and rich with hints of peaches, apricots, and lemon-lime. On a hot August night, a chilled glass of Miquel’s Chardonnay/Viognier makes for a terrific by the glass sipper.

2011 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $14.99, $11.99 reorder
In Italy’s Lake Garda region lies the Lugana DOC. Ca’Lojera is run by Ambra and Franco Tiraboschi, and we are happy and proud to resume our relationship with them with the 2011 Lugana. Made from 100% Trebbiano di Garda, or Turbiana (as the locals call it), it’s fruity and crisp with hints of melons and citrus throughout. It’s perfect with grilled chicken.

2011 Touraine Rosé, Domaine des Corbillières $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Nearly every summer, the Touraine Rosé is the most popular Rosé among our staff and customers. What’s not to like? Its pale salmon color gets you straight away. Made from Loire Valley stalwart Pineau d’Aunis, it shows aromatic hints of herbs and lemon blossoms. On the palate, it’s perfectly balanced with hints of light citrus fruit. Bring it on a picnic.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, R8 Wine Company $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Especially chosen for this month’s DD is a fine Cabernet Sauvignon from the R8 Wine Co. Sourcing their fruit from California’s Central Coast, the folks at R8 deliver a sturdy, fuller bodied Cab at a more than reasonable price. It shows spicy cedary aromas combined with lush dark brambly berries. It’s the wine you’re going to want with that grilled filet.

2010 Tempranillo, Tapeña $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Hailing from Tempranillo’s original home, Spain, Tapeña’s take on it is a traditional one. The wine has an overall roundness of medium purple fruit, yet shows an abundance of leathery, earthy, and tobacco like notes. You will certainly have no problem pairing it with any kind of tapas you deem appropriate, though we think meatballs in tomato sauce is best.

2007 Tempranillo, Tempusalba $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Over in Argentina, they’re growing Tempranillo as well. The grape is the same, but the New World’s take on it is unmistakeable. With a little bottle age, some of that youthful up-front fruit has mellowed with the herbal profile resulting in a smooth, balanced red wine. This will be perfect with a veal chop with chimichurri sauce.

2011 Malbec, Alberto Furque $14.99, $12.74 reorder
Unusual for us, but this month’s DD boasts a trio of reds from Argentina. #2 is produced by Alberto Furque. The estate is now run by Alberto’s daughter Carolina, and she makes outstanding Malbec from vineyards planted 3,000 feet above sea level. It’s power packed and is further proof of the grape’s success in Argentina. Pair it with a rib eye steak.

2007 Carmenérè, Inacayal $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Staying in Argentina, here’s another grape that’s found a new home. Carmenere, just like the Malbec above, was once commonly found growing at the various châteaux in Bordeaux’s Médoc. Think of it as the best of both worlds, combining the characteristics of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s spicy, full bodied, and delectable. A lamb chop works.

2010 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $13.99, $11.19 reorder
Easing up a bit, we conclude this month’s DD with a medium-bodied blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Enrico Pierazzuoli’s Le Farnete sits just west of Firenze in the Tuscan countryside and his wines speak of the place. His Barco Reale is fresh and clean, it spends 4 months in 1 year old barrel and 4 months in bottle before release. This is a great all-purpose wine that drinks well on its own, yet will shine along side pizza and saucy pasta dishes.

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April 2012 Dirty Dozen

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 9:02 PM

Days get longer, the nights grow short, our Easter baskets are getting filled up, and what’s this? Baseball season? Yep, it’s April and it’s time for opening the windows and doors, getting some fresh air, and maybe a picnic or four. However you like to spend your time this spring, consider this: Twelve bottles, one low price.

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2010 Orvieto, Cardèto
Big on our list of springtime wines are dry, crisp, easy quaffers that deliver in the quality department, yet keep the big bills in your wallet. This Orvieto is just the ticket! Lean and crisp with a citrusy freshness, this blend of Trebbiano and Grechetto is a great refresher should a warm spring afternoon come your way. Pairs great with a bowl o’mussels.

2010 Chardonnay, Viano Vineyards
Is it us, or do you ever see Cali Chardonnay in the sub $10 category anymore? At least quality, sub $10 Cali Chardonnay? Sales reps visit us and pour and pour, but we keep saying no until the right one comes along. Well, here it is! From Contra Costa county, no less; halfway between the Napa and Livermore Valleys comes the Viano. Pair with a crab salad.

2010 Vino Valpredo Bianca Mia, Fritz Winery
Rather than choose between Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, why not blend them? At least that’s what our friends at Sonoma’s Fritz Winery thought. You know what? This is some quality juice. Aromas of stone fruits and citrus blossoms give way to a zesty citrus palate. Anya says grill up some shrimp and serve it with mango salsa … and this, of course.

NV Prosecco Superiore, Giavi
Talk to any of us about our new D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore, the Giavi, and prepare yourself for an enthusiastic reply! Seriously, this Prosecco has it all: tiny bubbles, a pale, frosty appearance, depth, and crispness. Crostini with caviar?

2010 Blanc de Domaine de la Petite Cassagne
Her name is Diane de Puymorin. We adore her wines … all of them. Diane purchased the Petite Cassagne estate back in 1998, renamed it Château d’Or et des Gueules, yet still pays homage to the old guard with a Rouge, Rosé, and this Blanc. Diane blends 40% Rolle (Vermentino) with Grenache Blanc and the result is a bright, citrus infused aromatic showpiece.

2009 Fernão Pires, Quinta do Alqueve
Dare we try to get wine geeky on you, but here’s Portugal’s Fernão Pires blended with a smidge of Arinto. Geeky? Maybe. But the stone fruity aromas and crisp mouthfeel will make wine geeks out of us all! Great with sardines.

2009 Garnacha Two Rows, Odisea
As we switch to the reds, let’s point out that our friends at Odisea have another hit on their hands. Mostly Grenache with small parts Syrah and Tempranillo, the Two Rows is a plump palate pleaser. Ripe cherries and raspberries mingle with vanilla spice and herbs resulting in ethereal harmony. If it’s burgers on the grill; sorry, these Two Rows are taken.

2010 Tempranillo, Enanzo
Yummy Tempranillo from Spain’s Navarra region! The philosophy at Enanzo is simple. To quote them, “this Tempranillo is made by applying the only true winemaking criterion: intimate, permanent, progressive harmony between man and his environment.” It works here, the herb infused fruit is braced by dusty tannins and spirited acidity. Great with pizza.

2009 Château de Bouchet La Rentiere
What a vintage 2009 was for the wines of Bordeaux! The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker likened the vintage to the legendary 1982 noting one exception: in 1982 there weren’t many small, inexpensive producers taking advantage of the perfect weather to make great affordable Bordeaux. That’s different now. Pair this beauty with your prime rib.

2008 Les Cimels, Château d’Or et des Gueules
If there’s a better $15 red wine here at TWH, I haven’t seen it. The aforementioned Diane de Puymorin blends some old vine Carignan with Grenache and Syrah, and the result is an herbal masterpiece. Forest floor, Kalamata olives, and black tea dominate the aromas, and the palate is more savory than fruity. The perfect wine for pasta with an herbal sauce.

2009 Côtes du Rhône les Boissières, Vignobles Boudinaud
New to us is Veronique and Thierry Boudinaud’s les Boissières Côtes du Rhône. It’s an exciting story as 100% of what’s imported to the US is imported for us! Think honest, old-school Côtes du Rhône here. It shows plenty of fruit, but without going overboard. Toss in some cracked pepper and herbs Provençal, and you get the drift. This is yet another versatile bottle in what can be called The Versatile Dozen. Great on its own, or paired with cassoulet.

2006 Syrah, Alberto Furque
Ever popular with our staff and customers, the Alberto Furque line crushes it when it comes to quality for price. Grown at altitudes of over 3000 feet, the vineyards of Mendoza’s Bodega Aconquija (we call them Alberto Furque) get just the right amount of warm days and cool nights to produce wines with dazzling structure. This Syrah sings of balance and harmony. If you find yourself dreaming about some thinly sliced Argentine beef with Chimichurri sauce, pour this.

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2005 Alberto Furque Tempranillo

Monday, May 24, 2010 2:48 PM

The more I try new wines, the more I realize that I really like wine. Love wine, actually. If you were a fly on the wall here at TWH this week, you may have heard me mumbling something about needing therapy (I do, but that’s another story altogether). It has everything to do with my seeking out Old World wines and my not being able to keep a straight face when a customer asks about the differences between vintages in California. I somehow now have a reputation for only liking, and only drinking French wines. This is flat out wrong. One such person who once accused me of such close-mindedness now knows that it just isn’t true.


I owe a lot to New World wines. When I was first getting to know wine, I remember making a conscious decision to delve into California wines. Easy decision, right? I mean the vineyards are an hour or so away and there’s no such thing as a bad year … no brainer. I tasted my way around, found producers that I particularly liked, and started building a cellar. My thirst grew for different wines. Fortunately, I have friends with similar curiosities. It is more common than not for my friends and I to enjoy Old World wines. We dine together often, and find that the lower alcohol levels found in Old World wines are complementary to a good meal. But that, by no means, is the end-all! Let me tell you about a New World Tempranillo!


If you’ve been reading our emails, you may recall a time or two when my colleague, Anya has praised Alberto Furque’s Malbec from Argentina. Daughter Carolina makes the wine at the estate now, and though the Malbec is great, it ain’t the only game in town. Furque makes the most of her 5 hectares of Tempranillo vines. Known as the grape that gives red Rioja its giddy-up, it seems to thrive at the 3000 foot elevation of Furque’s vineyards in Mendoza. At least I think so. I love this wine! And guess what? It’s not only from the New World, it tastes like it. And I’m okay with that. Coming in at a moderate 13.6% alcohol, it shows restraint, yes, but that pure red fruit profile is just so dang easy to like. To accompany that easy to love fruitiness, it shows hints of spice, forest floor, herbs, and one of Cupid’s arrows … okay, maybe not that last one, but you’ll fall in love with this wine; it’s that good. So good, mind you, that the aforementioned person who once dismissed me as a “French only” wine drinker was surprised tofind me sitting at the bar of the restaurant she manages with a bottle of bright, bold, fruity, New World Tempranillo. “See? I get out of France … and I’m loving it!” I poured her a taste, and then she got serious. She started asking questions. I left the bottle for her staff. They all loved it. She’s now pouring it by the glass. It’s that good.
Call me what you want. Label me all you want. I will prove you wrong every time. Just when you think all I ever drink is austere Old World geek wine, watch me pull out a juicy, fruit forward New World offering. They are making some pretty classy stuff down in Argentina … interesting … wheels are turning … everybody who I know that has been there has reported back having had a rip-roaringly good time. Been thinking about going there for a few years now.Maybe it’s time to send Carolina an email …Peter Zavialoff


Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Tempranillo, my favorite restaurant in Marin, what I will be doing now that footy season is over, or trips to Argentina:

Not only can Carolina make great wine, these pictures are her’s as well!

0 Comment Posted in Argentina

Good Times, Good Timing, Good Wine, Good Friends

Monday, February 22, 2010 6:25 PM

I’ve been known to say, “Planning leads to expectations, and expectations are the harbinger of disappointment.” My apologies for repeating myself. I tried my best to manage my expectations last night after work. But looking at the evening as planned, I couldn’t help losing touch with my philosophy. Dinner at my best friend’s house is always a good thing. In addition to dinner, there was a reason to celebrate, acellar full of wine, guitars and basses, and a 7:00 AM Chelsea match on TV this morning. Yes, I needed the sleepover kit.
One of my favorite things about being in the wine world isdiscovering new flavors and sensations. It was a great thing for us at TWH when importer Bobby Kacher began to import wines from Argentina. We now have two producers from this illustrious country, and the wines all sing. Something very new for us is the addition of Torrontes to the lineup of wines from producer Inacayal. Being a fan of spicy Asian cuisine, I was more than anxious to try what was presented to me as a great pairing wine for exactly that kind of food. It passed with flying colors! Yesterday, we had a sample bottle open for some wholesale accounts, and when the remainder was up for grabs after work, I made it my first choice. Funny thing was I had dinner plans, and they weren’t for spicy Asian fare. How was this going to work out? I wondered.

 Dinner plans involved red Bordeaux, that’s all I knew. What it was going to be, I didn’t. It did not take much thought to realize there would red meat along side the Claret. My best friend was treating me, yet again (Big tip of the cap here!), in celebration, after I told him that I would be tasting the 2009 vintage from barrel next month. We took a walk down into the cellar and started pulling bottles. After several pulls, he had a bottle of 1990 Cos d’Estounel in his hands and said, “How ’bout this?” Sometimes I have bad days, sometimes I have good days, sometimes I have really good days. My eyes popped at the sight of the trophy bottle, and back up the stairs we went. I’ve been in the habit of breaking corks lately, so I was real careful with this one, and POP, no breakage. A small pour in each of our glasses and wow, there’s nothing like … wait a second. What about the Torrontes?? Wait for it.

So we’re hanging in the kitchen. (Isn’t that where EVERYONE hangs out?)The components for the meal are now being revealed. New York steaks (who knew?), asparagus … a look around for the famous bachelor/musician potatoes found nothing. Crab cakes was the call. I know the source, and I remember their recipe is a little on the spicy side. With my nose buried in a big glass full of 1990 Cos, Torrontes was the furthest thing from my mind. As everything miraculously prepared itself (I guess it just seemed like that), we sat at the table. Oh yeah, there was chicken salad too. As I spooned some of that on my plate, I grabbed a crabcake and then it hit me! I’ll be right back. I ran out to the car,grabbed the sample bottle, and now we were set. My buddy was impressed that I could just dial in a perfect pairing on the fly like that, and I was just as amazed that the perfect opportunity for the Torrontes to shine presented itself.

The wine sang. Its delightful bouquet of floral, blossomy aromas harmonized brilliantly with the fleshy stone fruit profile, and this cut right through the spice of the crabcakes, and made for a brilliant pairing. The chicken salad had an Asian spiced dressing, so as you would imagine, it sang with that too! He then asked me how much it cost. 25? 30? Nope. Try 14. Really? Yep. Case.

I won’t go out on a limb and say it was better than 1990 Cos d’Estournel and a New York steak, but for pairing purposes, our first course was more interesting, that’s for sure. The rest of the night included some tasty jamming and much hilarity. I caught some Z’s on the couch, woke up to the sound of my buddy cheering and watched my beloved Chelsea Blues open up a four point lead atop the English Premiership table!

It’s funny. You just never know. I have no idea what compelled me to grab that bottle of Torrontes. I’m literally shaking my head typing this. That’s the great thing about being in the wine world. It pays to be lucky, and timing is everything, and a stitch in time … nevermind. Sometimes, I just need to keep quiet and smile. Cheers! – Peter Zavialoff

Feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Torrontes, Argentine wines, Bordeaux, Music, Footy, or whatever else you may have on your mind:

A Passion For Malbec

Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:58 PM

A couple of months back I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from my big brother asking whether The Wine House carried any malbec from Argentina and what I knew of them. Since emails from my big brother come infrequently and my family rarely asks for my advice, wine or otherwise, I was quick to write back. Mainly I explained to him about thisremarkable relationship malbec has with the high elevation vineyards of Argentina.Historically grown in France, malbec plantings have been declining significantly there. Its presence remains in the Loire and, of course, in the famous reds of Cahors. However it’s another matter in Argentina where malbec thrives. Widely planted, this is a vivid example of the great synergy between grape varietal and climate, a.k.a terroir. When properly vinified malbec can be a juicy, fruit-forward, charming wine. I concluded to my brother that The Wine House in fact sells adynamite malbec, but unfortunately it was sold out. The malbec I had in mind was Alberto Furque’s malbec from Mendoza’s Uco Valley (the vineyards are 3,000 feet in elevation). The Wine House is now on its third vintage of this passion-inducing little number, but because it gets snapped up by a prominent and popular restaurant group in the Bay Area, we never get the chance to shout too loudly about this wine; in the door, out the door. Well, we finally got wise to this predicament and made sure to order extra this time. I am so glad we did because I think this is the best malbec from Furque to date! So listen up big brother- it’s finally here, I’ll gladly make the delivery!

Tasting Notes:

An eye-popping ruby red color gets the senses revving up. Expressive aromas greet the nose reminiscent of bing cherries. Lots of black cherry, plum and cassis fruit on the palate with an ever so slight note of black licorice and green herb; after all this is malbec, not syrah or zinfandel! The tannins are fine, the body is medium-weight, and the texture is sweet and persistent. This is wine for immediate pleasure, no need to lay it down, just pour and enjoy. It is no wonder this is such a wine-by-the-glass success at restaurants as it is ready to go and eager to please.

Not a crafty type by nature, I spent a lovely week preparing homemade Valentines with my daughter. I forgot how soothing it is to cut heart shapes out of pretty paper. It was a relaxing diversion from the “quick, whats gotta be done next” mindset. And so when I go home tonight this Valentine’s Day, even though my under-the-weather sweetheart won’t be greeting me with a finely prepared gourmet meal,as is our Valentine’s Day ritual, I’ll be doing just fine. I’ll have a glass of the passionately intense 2007 Alberto Furque Malbec to jazz up my dinner, read “Scooby Doo’s Valentine Mystery” to my daughter and hopefully watch a movie from beginning to end with my sneezing husband at home in our love nest. Now that’s a good Valentine’s Day! I hope yours is too!! Anya

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