Bordeaux Tasting:

Favorites & Upside Surprises
Bordeaux Barrel Tasting at Chateau La Dominique Photo

Happy New Year!

From all of us here at TWH, we hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  To many, especially in the hospitality business (which, kind of, includes the wine biz), this is a relatively quiet period of time when many of us catch up on things put off by the mayhem of said holidays.  From a personal perspective, the mayhem will continue throughout the month culminating with the annual visit of Bordeaux's Union des Grands Crus, who will be pouring the recently bottled 2015 vintage here in San Francisco on January 25.

Having tasted many barrel samples from the 2015 vintage back in the spring of 2016, I have some thoughts, impressions, and biases of what I experienced, and I am looking forward to tasting the finished wines, now in bottle, to further those impressions.  I say biased, because it happens.  We all have favorites.  Our favorites are not necessarily the finest things in any particular category, but they do usually offer plenty of personal appeal.  When it comes to wine, my favorites are from Bordeaux.  Time and space does not allow me to list all of my favorites, though in no particular order, some of my favorite Bordeaux chateaux include:
Margaux
Gruaud Larose
Coutet
Ducru Beaucaillou
Haut Batailley (fingers crossed the recent ownership change doesn't affect the wine)
Grand Puy Lacoste
Calon Segur
Pichon Lalande
Mouton Rothschild
La Lagune
Vieux Chateau Certan
I recognize this bias, and when I taste these, and other favorite wines, I try to just focus on what's in the glass.  It goes the other way too.  There are many chateaux, some of them famous, which have produced wines which don't always resonate with me.  I mean the wines are fine, there's nothing wrong with them, they just come up short in the "Wow" department.  With me anyway.  I recognize this bias as well, though it seems each year at least one of these wines surprises me.  What was the biggest surprise for me during the 2015 barrel tastings?  Which wine am I going to pay particularly close attention to at the UGC tasting?  The 2015 Château Olivier Rouge. 
  
 

Medieval Chateau Olivier Photo
Chateau Olivier is one of Bordeaux's oldest chateaux.  Parts of it date back to the 11th century!  It has been owned by the de Bethmann family since the 19th century, and it is said that the son of England's King Edward III, The Black Prince, enjoyed hunting there.  Historically, Olivier has been more famous for their white wines, however recent investments and soil surveys have resulted in increased production and quality of their red wines.  The Wine Advocate's Robert Parker once referred to Olivier as "a perennial underachiever," though in his tasting note for the 2009 rouge, he declared it to be the best Olivier he had tasted up to that point.  Sure 2009 was a precocious vintage, but this was a sign that things were on the upswing at the property.  Fast forward six years, and here's what TWA's Neal Martin had to say about the 2015 after he tasted it from barrel:
"The 2015 Chateau Olivier offers vivacious red cherry and crisp strawberry fruit on the nose, biding its time, gently unfolding in the glass until it takes full flight. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin and smooth wild strawberry and raspberry fruit, laced with cedar and a pleasant saltiness.  This is one of the best wines from Chateau Olivier in recent years, thanks to its greater depth and harmony. Laurent Lebrun has done a great job here."

And from Decanter Magazine:
"Power and poise of rich, muscular tannic frame for good ageing potential. Continuing the more serious expression of Olivier over last few years, begun with the inclusion of the new Bel Air plot of vines that represents 30% of the blend. New addition also in 2015 of 1ha of Petit Verdot, representing 5% of wine along with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot."

My note from the UGC barrel tasting:
"Fresh, clean, brambly red fruit aromas, Merlot noticeable.  Palate is medium bodied, well constructed!  All components firing with slight grip on finish, but that's a good thing.  Surprise!

Since December 2014, we have enjoyed a very favorable currency conversion rate vs. the Euro.  This kept prices for both the 2014 and 2015 Bordeaux futures down, and in both vintages, bargains abound.  Unfortunately, this past week, the Euro broke out of its three year range and closed near $1.22.  Combine that with the fruit lost due to late April's frost, and it's easy to predict that the 2017 Bordeaux wines will not be the bargains we are hoping for.  So when I see quality like that of the 2015 Olivier rouge for such a price, it's easy to say, "Put me down for six!"
- Peter Zavialoff

    
***The 2015 Château Olivier is available on a PRE-ARRIVAL basis.  It is expected to arrive sometime during 2018.  Please understand that overseas shipments are sometimes subject to delays, though we are expecting this wine to arrive sometime in the spring or early summer. 
 
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Open Today: Noon - 4:00PM!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 12:23 PM

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

We're open on a Sunday!

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

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

Back in Stock!

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

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

-Peter Zavialoff
2010 Chateau Malleret Bottle
Buy Now - $19.98
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40th Anniversary Sale: Bordeaux!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 12:09 PM

BORDEAUX ON SALE
Bordeaux City Riverside Walkway

It only happens once a year ...

that we put wines from Bordeaux on sale, and now's the time!  The wines from Bordeaux are among the most highly sought after wines in the world.  Why is that?  Because they deliver.  Something I often tell customers is that the wines from Bordeaux are the most reliable wines money can buy.  Spend $50 on a bottle of Bordeaux and it will deliver.  I don't mean to disparage any other wine region, but sometimes even the sum of $50 won't guarantee you satisfaction if the wine were to come from elsewhere.  

Shortly after David sent me the list of wines which would be going on sale for this year's anniversary, my personality switched from merchant to consumer, and the first place to check out was Bordeaux.  I quickly identified which wines were the best deals, and put a star next to them.  I've listed 6 of these wines below, 3 below $50 and another 3 below $100.  There are plenty more Bordeaux wines (and wines from all over) on sale, so if you haven't yet had a look at our sale wines, now's the time!   - Peter Zavialoff





2012
Château Cantemerle
Haut-Médoc

Reg. $38.98
SALE $29.95

For me, this is kind of a no-brainer.  Cru Classé wine for less than $30.  Has some old-school Bordeaux funk, and terrific berry fruit expression.

 




2005 Château
Beau-Séjour Becot

Saint-Émilion
Reg. $94.98
SALE $79.95

Now in bottle for over a decade, this is just beginning to hit its drinking plateau.  Power-packed and sturdy, this wine can be consumed now (with decanting), or it will last another 20 years in your cellar. 
 


2011
Château La Lagune

Haut-Médoc
Reg. $59.98
SALE $39.95

La Lagune has been on my short list of favorite chateaux for quite some time now.  When I first saw that sale list, I identified this to be the best deal of all the Bordeaux on sale.



2012 Chateau
Pontet Canet
Pauillac

Reg. $108.98
SALE $89.95

In the northern part of Pauillac, just a small road separates Pontet Canet from Mouton Rothschild, so their terroirs are similar.  Big, dense, and chewy with hints of iron.  This is a classic Pauillac with a long life ahead of it.
 

2012 Château Nenin
Pomerol

Reg. $59.98
SALE $48.95

This from the Delon family's (Léoville Las-Cases) property right in the heart of Pomerol.  70% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc.  Fresh, harmonious fruit and spice impeccably balanced.







2006 Chateau Troplong Mondot
Saint-Émilion
Reg. $144.98
SALE $99.95

Another in the 10+ years old category, though the 2006 Troplong Mondot is drinking marvelously now.  It's more medium than full-bodied with a healthy level of fruit concentration, tar, black pepper and tobacco.  Delish!
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A good-sized parcel of 2014 Bordeaux has landed at TWH! Though several others are still en route, many have now hit our sales floor. I have been closely listening to Peter talk up the vintage, making a strong case for its quality and comparable value, especially on the Left Bank. With Peter’s guidance, TWH seized the opportunity to load up on high-quality, value-oriented Bordeaux from 2014 in addition to the region’s high-flyers. Only after customers who bought wines on futures were notified and the last pallet was broken down, did I buy my first bottle of 2014 to take home – the 2014 Sénéjac.



I selected the 2014 Sénéjac for three reasons:

1) It’s under $20

2) In really good vintages, Sénéjac always ends up on “sleeper of the vintage” lists

3) The crown logo and script font reminds me of another one of my favorite Bordeaux chateau, Branaire Ducru.


I took home the bottle, popped open the cork and poured a glass for myself for no other reason than to edify myself on 2014 Bordeaux. I need a reference point, a place to start all future comparisons. A sub-$20, Haut-Médoc seems like a reasonable place to start.


When I was first introduced to Bordeaux, working here at TWH, I either tasted young Bordeaux in order to acquaint myself with TWH stock or I was treated to cellared, well-aged fine Bordeaux courtesy of David and Company. I got spoiled fast and as a result liked to claim that I didn’t like young Bordeaux, only Bordeaux with some age on it. There was both truth and pretentiousness to this declaration. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy young Bordeaux more and more. I think some of it has to do with changing wine styles as well as the overall advancement of quality in the region. In some years, 2009 comes to mind, young Bordeaux tastes great from the get-go. No need to wait, but if you find one you like in particular, buying some to cellar is a good thing too.




On Mother’s Day I hosted dinner for nine including my mother, mother-in-law, sister and spiritual mother. I promised to keep it low-key, but it was work nonetheless. I made a pork tenderloin in an agrodolce sauce studded with dry fruit and citrus zest and paired it with the Le Nid 2013 Moulin-à-Vent. As much as I enjoy making a meal for others, this year a long held fantasy was actualized. My daughter made me a special Mother’s Day breakfast. She planned the meal and shopped for it. In the morning, she quietly got out of bed, closed my bedroom door to allow me to sleep longer undisturbed. It was one of the tastiest meals of my life!




Speaking of all things tasty, the 2014 Sénéjac is one of those young Bordeaux that tastes pretty darn good right now. Maybe not as dense as I remember some of the 2009 to be, what the 2014 Sénéjac has going for it is overall balance. The components are all there in harmony: fruit, acid, tannin. The aromas are undeniably Bordeaux with plum and red currant notes, a hint of oak that sneaks out of the glass but gets buried in the fruit on the palate. A classy expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I am looking forward to revisiting the rest of the wine tonight! – Anya Balistreri

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“Take more pictures!” We say it each time one of us travels to any wine region. We say it because no matter how many pictures any of us take, we can always use more. So when I left for Bordeaux back at the end of March, I had this phrase stuck in my head. It’s not easy to take oneself out of the moment in order to capture an image or two, but I made an effort. I found myself with a couple of free hours in Saint-Emilion last Friday morning, and the bulk of my images were snapped then and there. I will try to scatter a few of my faves from this year’s Bordeaux trip throughout this write-up. This is one avenue in which all of us here at TWH could use a little encouragement! If you would like to see more on-location pictures from us, don’t hesitate to tell us, “Take more pictures!”


SaintEmilionRoad4-17forNL


This year’s trip to Bordeaux was a very good one. I can sum it up briefly: Flights went well, weather was great, and the new vintage’s barrel samples were great. I made all of my appointments, was only late to two of them; I shared some great meals and wines with friends and associates, and experienced zero stress. Maybe I didn’t take as many pictures as we would have wanted, but that’s just gravy.


SaintEmilionTriptych4-17


You will doubtless be hearing all about the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux very soon as the futures campaign has officially begun. We don’t envision any of the region’s famous producers to be releasing their prices this coming week, nor the next, but since the city of Bordeaux will be hosting VinExpo come mid-June, it is likely that the campaign will be finished by then. In the meantime, I will be working as hard as I can to keep you all up on our purchases and offers as quickly as possible. Whether by emails like this one, links on our website, or articles in our paper newsletter, we will be sure to alert you to our offers for 2016 Bordeaux futures. With the recent experiences of these tastings in my mind, please feel free to contact me should you have any specific questions about any of the wines.

 


beychevelle4-17

 


These are exciting times, as the new futures campaign is in its infancy. We have noticed that several suppliers in Bordeaux have put a moratorium on sales of any 2015 wines in the past few weeks. Perhaps they are waiting for the new vintage to be received by the public, and will adjust their prices accordingly. Unfortunately, these adjustments seldom tend to be favorable for consumers. Anyhow, WE will continue to offer our 2015’s, and believe it or not, there are still some bargains out there. One of my favorite wines, vintage after vintage, for over a decade, is Château Larrivet Haut-Brion. I don’t think it’s in print anywhere, but in my personal cellar, my broadest vertical of red wine is of Larrivet Haut-Brion. Why? Quality. Price. Period.


LarrivetHautBrion


Picture from Panoramio.com


Many years ago, I penned an email about (what was then) a recent experience tasting the 2005 Larrivet Haut-Brion out of half bottle. I still remember the enthusiasm I had for that wine, and if you take a peek in my cellar, and into the cellars of my Bordeaux drinking pals, you will find several bottles from this fine Pessac-Léognan château. Slowly but surely, each year I taste the wine from barrel and also the most recently bottled vintage. And coincidentally, my cellar grows each year we receive new wines from Larrivet Haut-Brion. I fondly remember visiting the property 9 years ago when they hosted the UGC Pessac-Léognan tasting, and John and I had lunch there after the tasting. A week ago Tuesday, I drove right past it as I had a late appointment at Château Haut Bailly, just across the road. Say what you wish, terroir is terroir, and having a neighbor like Haut Bailly is a good thing! Tasting the 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion from barrel last year was another excellent display of dark, complex fruit, herbs, and earthiness. The palate was silky and seamless; with the finish displaying immense potential for the young, coiled barrel sample.

The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had this to say about the 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion: “The 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion might be overlooked against some startling other 2015s with “Haut Brion” in their name, which would be wholly unfair because this is a potentially great wine. It has an outgoing bouquet with plenty of bright and bushy tailed red fruit that is well defined and very nicely focused. The new oak is carefully used here and gives it real lift. The palate is medium-bodied with fine grain tannins, fleshy in the mouth with crisp acidity and a nicely composed, lightly spiced finish. This is an excellent Pessac-Léognon and it will hopefully will be well priced.”


bdx17sixpics.001



If you’re still reading all the way down here – I thank you! As I said above, this year’s Bordeaux trip went very well. I tried to take more pictures, and I sure hope these are to everyone’s liking. I’m no photographer, but I like to give these kind of things a shot when I can. I was able to taste the 2016 version of Larrivet Haut Brion out of barrel, and I must say, I continue to be impressed by the efforts made by the winemaking team. As my vertical continues to grow, I encourage any of you who enjoy fine quality Bordeaux for a reasonable price to join me! – Peter Zavialoff

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