2018 Bordeaux Futures - The Hits Keep a'Coming

Friday, May 17, 2019 10:59 AM

2018 Bordeaux Futures - The Hits Keep a'Coming

Back in early April ...

The Bordelais opened their doors and unveiled their respective barrel samples to the international wine trade. The week, known as En Primeur week, is usually accompanied by praise and hype that would make Madison Avenue proud. Like it or not, that's what happens, it's just how it goes. More on that later. By now, those of you who are interested in such things know a thing or two about the 2018 vintage in Bordeaux, but just to be thorough, here's a brief overview. Please keep in mind that this is a general summary, conditions varied greatly from place to place. Though not as consistent as 2005, 2009, 2010, or 2016, there were some absolutely stunning samples presented.

The 2018 growing season started out cold and wet. This delayed things in the vineyards a bit, though the rain persisted through May and especially June. Toss in a hailstorm or two, and you get the picture. It was a challenging start to be sure. Another rainstorm hit, coincidentally on the day France won the World Cup (in July), and the weather warmed up. All the moisture combined with the heat made conditions quite tropical, and unfortunately ideal for the outbreak of downy mildew. Vineyards farmed biodynamically were pretty much wiped out, and they weren't the only ones. This was where a little luck (and wherewithal) made the difference.

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Another Great Bordeaux Bargain:  2015 Chateau Haut-Plaisance, Montagne St-Emilion

At a Bordeaux negociant's office last spring, 

I ditched my eyeglasses for this tasting glass, opened up my tasting book, and proceeded to sample 30 wines they thought would be appealing. Every negociant has a different way of presenting their wines; there's no right or wrong way to do so, just different. Tasting samples one on one with suppliers in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere is definitely my preference, but when one is in Bordeaux for Primeurs week, you've got to roll with the punches. Fortunately for me, this appointment was quiet and relaxed. I tasted through the lineup, made some notes, went back and re-tasted some of them, made some more notes, which led to a handful of decisions.  

I have to say this particular negoce has a pretty good sense as to what I look for, because there are usually a high percentage of favorable wines each year I taste with them. The record stayed intact, as of the 30 wines, I disliked only 2, while making a strong case for 12 of them. That's a very high percentage compared to some of the tastings I attend!  Though we could have purchased all dozen of them, I had to whittle down the list to the wines that I felt strongest about; wines to focus on.

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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. 

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!

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All Critics Have Spoken - 2016 Bordeaux Is Worth Stocking Up On

2016 Pauillac Tasting at Batailley

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.

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

New Year - New Container - New Budget Bordeaux

Saturday, January 12, 2019 6:09 PM

New Year - New Container - New Budget Bordeaux
Chateau Calvimont bottle, corkscrew, and glass

Happy New Year!

Just to add frenzy to the already boisterous holiday period, we were blessed with the landing of a container of new French wines. Much of it originated in Bordeaux, with the bulk of our purchases from the 2015 vintage. In addition to the famous wines we offered as futures, came the arrival of a dozen or so petits chateaux wines. I mentioned a sensational deal in the world of dry white Bordeaux two weeks ago, the 2016 Château Boisson blanc. Several cases disappeared quickly, snapped up by savvy shoppers and TWH staff alike. The subject from tonight's email is a red wine from a village that's not well known for their red wines. Introducing the 2016 Château Calvimont, Graves from the town of Cérons.

The famous wines from Bordeaux represent a mere 5% of the overall production, which means that few have ever heard of the other 95%, myself included. Each year while in Bordeaux for the annual barrel tastings, I make time to taste wines from suppliers which have already been bottled and I must say that each year I taste wines from chateaux I've never heard of, let alone tasted before. Talk about zero label bias! It's all about quality and price in those tasting rooms, and as I re-taste this year's crop of petits chateaux wines, I must say I'm happy with the results! Early last week the stars aligned and we were all here, so I pulled a handful of these wines and brought them to the tasting room to pour for David and our staff. The wines all showed well (Phew! As the pressure was on), though one particular wine won the honors as the hit of the tasting, the 2016 Château Calvimont, Graves.

A little background:  Calvimont is a label owned by Château de Cérons, and the production is red and dry white wines. Dry wines coming from within appellations that produce sweet wines from this area are legally allowed to use the Graves appellation on their labels. Cérons sits right beside the Garonne River just across from Cadillac. Cérons is just south of Podensac and just north of Barsac. If you know me, you know I spend a lot of time in this neck of the woods each year. The Château de Cérons is a grand manor house built in the early 18th century situated on a terrace overlooking the Garonne. It is listed as a historical monument. It was the Marquises of Calvimont who initiated the construction of the chateau in the 18th century. The vineyards which produce Château Calvimont have always been part of the Cérons estate. The soil is gravel and sand upon limestone. The winery is gravity fed, designed for the gentlest possible handling of the grapes. For the red wine, the blend is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot. Fermentation is done in cement vats and the wine is aged in barrels, 20% new.  The current management team of Xavier and Caroline Perromat took over in 2012, and things are looking up, up, up. At least I'm keeping my eye on them!

So as we were tasting the wines the other day, this one stood out for its quality and modest price tag. The aromas are complex and nuanced with hints of bright red fruit, crushed leaves, geranium, some chalky mineral and that brambly, plump Merlot fruit. On the palate, it exhibits a medium-bodied entry with that 2016 freshness, the hallmark of the vintage. Its bright acidity keeps the nuanced wine alive, allowing for the complex layers to pop out to say hello.  The finish is well balanced and long. All in all, for less than $20, the Château Calvimont is class act!

As we continue to see what 2019 has in store for us, I must say that it's exciting to have all of this new wine to taste. A great majority of our 2015 Bordeaux is now in, as are some new vintages from some of our friends in Burgundy. It has been quiet on the music front lately, though The Noise Pop festival is coming soon. The English Football scene has been quite interesting, though I fear The Blues are a few key pieces away from winning any silverware this spring, but it's still fun. Speaking of sports, I just read a newspaper article this morning that mentioned Phil Smith, Kevin Restani, and Eric Fernsten, among others. These former collegiate athletes were childhood heroes of mine. I never thought those names would make their way back to relevance, but there's excitement once again on the Hilltop. TWH has been well represented at USF's Memorial Gym this season in the form of both Tom and myself in the stands for several basketball games. We'll be there again tonight to see how they match up vs. #5 Gonzaga. Win or lose, it should be an entertaining evening. Happy New Year - and be sure to check out the 2016 Château de Calvimont! - Peter Zavialoff

Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie: Bordeaux's Other Sweet Wine

Sainte-Croix-du-Mont

is a small appellation along the Garonne River opposite from Barsac. In Sainte-Croix-du-Mont they grow Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a tiny bit of Muscadelle, making dessert wine not entirely unlike Sauternes, but then again quite different. Sainte-Croix-du-Monts are lighter, less botrytised and unctous sweet wines. To compare them solely to Sauternes is a mistake and can lead one to overlook a very good opportunity to enjoy another style of sweet wine. The Chateau Les Arroucats Cuveé Virginie is a favorite one here at The Wine House. And as anyone who walks through our doors discovers - we love sweet wines! Context is everything when it comes to appreciating non-dry whites and keeping an open mouth and palate will derive oodles of tasting pleasure. Over the last two weeks, I've opened several bottles of the Arroucats to serve with, and instead of, dessert. Because it is lighter in body and less heady, it's perfect to open up on a whim and not fuss whether or not your guests are giving it the proper attention. I can attest that is goes well with Sicilian Cannolis, panettone and quality cheeses. Last night I poured a glass with a couple of shards of peanut brittle. A great combination. The nutty, buttery candy was uplifted by the sweet cream and citrus notes of the Arroucats.

oyster-soil-sainte-croix-du-monts
Chateau Les Arroucats was established by Christian Labat after WWII. The estate was taken over by his daughter, Annie Lapouge, who was credited for modernizing the winery. Today the winery is managed by Mme. Lapouge's daughter, Virginie. They hand-harvest the grapes over several passages then ferment them in concrete and stainless steel vats. The wine ages for one to two years in vats before bottling. The wine is not aged in any wood, hence the fresh, fruity flavors. The grapes at the estate average over forty years and grow on clay-calcareous soils that sit above on a plateau of an ancient seabed as evidenced by the thick layer of oyster shells (see picture above). It is no secret that demand for these lighter-styled dessert wines has waned, so it's no small miracle that such a terrific one like Les Arroucats is still being produced AND at such an affordable price! At $14.99 it is a steal and it gets better...it discounts 15% by the case! Happy New Year! 
a-girl-and-her-dog
I have stumbled over the finish line into 2019, only to realize that on the Twelfth Day of Christmas my darling daughter turns 15! Impossible you say? Impossible I say! Early in December, a customer came to pick up a large order for his annual work Christmas Party. After some chit chat, he asked me how old my daughter was. I told him she was soon to be 15. He looked at me and said, "Does she hate you yet?". I laughed, answering "only some of the time". She is a good person with a big kind heart and curious mind. What a blessing. Her birthday dinner will be a traditional Russian Christmas Eve lenten meal. Luckily she inherited her mother's love for all types of foods and cuisine. We'll have cake, but there will also be Kutya and Zvar, so the simple, honeyed flavors of the Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie should pair beautifully. Wishing all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! - Anya Balistreri

New Year - Wine Labels - 2016 Chateau Boisson Blanc

Saturday, December 29, 2018 10:45 AM

New Year - Wine Labels - 2016 Chateau Boisson Blanc

Let's Say Goodbye To 2018!

All good things must come to an end ...

And certainly there were high points and low points throughout 2018 for all of us, but it's not out of the norm to be reflective about them as we look forward to the coming New Year. Doubtless, we all enjoyed some special bottles during the year, with several of them being enjoyed within the past month or so. This is neither the time nor the forum for name-dropping, or label-dropping as it might be called. What is most important is that we share our wine and our time, with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. As long as the wine is being shared, what's on the label isn't as important.

My favorite wine writer, Andrew Jefford, penned an article in Decanter Magazine yesterday titled, 
"Are you a wine label drinker?" Not to parrot too much from said article, though I was moved by this analogy, "You don’t have to be standing in the Grand Canyon to experience the wonder of nature." In this case meaning that one doesn't require tasting the finest of the finest to enjoy their wine tasting experience. The article makes several other points that struck chords with me, but that was the biggie.

Case in point, last Tuesday I enjoyed a mellow Christmas lunch with my brother and our Mother, who is in her 90's. Mom insists on paying for the wine that I bring her, and also believes that anything over $10 is overpriced. I think you get the idea as to what kind of wine we shared. What are you going to do? To stew over not drinking something fancy would ruin the occasion. I happily poured her a glass of French Merlot in her price range, and get this, when I finished she looked at me and said, "You can pour some more, you know." It was a light-hearted moment enjoyed by the three of us.

After lunch, I headed back in to the city to the home of some good friends and a group of around 15. We all were treated to some amazing dishes with Dungeness Crab and Prime Rib being the two headliners. Some of my fellow party goers brought some very nice bottles, and I brought some also, though the ones that I brought weren't quite up to the stature of a mature Bordeaux in magnum! It mattered not. The Trebbiano d'Abruzzo was great with the crab, though I fear our tapping into it during cocktail hour perpetuated its exhaustion midway through the crab dish. The rustic Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake Garda in Italy was terrific with the Prime Rib, and was the topic of some interesting conversation. The dinner was a smashing success for all involved and the sentiments around the table were positive and loving. Looking back, after returning home, it was the best Christmas I've spent in years. By the way, to my friend, P.S., thank you very much for bringing that magnum. It was stunningly good!

Sticking with the topic of modest wine doing the trick, one of my favorite deals in dry White Bordeaux is now here, having just arrived on our most recent container:  It's the 2016 Château Boisson Blanc, Bordeaux. It's modestly priced alright! I'm sure I will be eventually pouring a glass for my Mom sometime in the near future. The aromas are pretty complex for a $10 wine. There's something there on the nose which reminds me of those tart, powdery candies of yore. Along with mineral and floral notes, the gooseberry fruit is in proper balance with the rest of the components. The palate entry is easy and light, the fruit gaining slightly on the palate, braced by some light acidity, and the finish is harmonious with a yellow/gold fruity core. It's $10 per bottle so you can pop it for any occasion. To borrow a sentence from Andrew Jefford, I wouldn't turn down a glass of Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, but I can think of plenty of occasions where a glass of the 2016 Château Boisson Blanc would be perfect. Happy New Year, everybody! - Peter Zavialoff

Bordeaux Tasting: Favorites & Upside Surprises

Monday, January 15, 2018 4:50 PM

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

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!

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

“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

Bordeaux – 1 April 2017. After two reasonably smooth flights, I arrived in Bordeaux on Wednesday afternoon, preparing to take part in the annual En Primeur tastings. If you follow these kind of things, you probably have heard some pretty good news so far. As I type this, I have only tasted six of them, so I will reserve judgement, at least until after tomorrow, where a warehouse full of barrel samples awaits. In addition to the barrel samples, I am also here to taste already bottled wines and to take in the zeitgeist of this year’s proceedings.


It’s great – each year, there are always new things to see, to learn, to taste, and to figure out. But there are also many familiar things as well. One such exercise is now bordering on ritual, and that would be the Saturday rental car pickup and the drive out to Sainte Foy la Grande to visit the Hecquets in Montravel and the Piats in Ligiuex which I did again early this morning. First stop was at Château Couronneau to visit Bénédicte and Christophe Piat.



The three of us sat in their living room pictured above and caught up on things. They’re on the fast track to becoming empty nesters, as their youngest will be leaving the family home soon to finish her studies abroad. And in the wine department, Christophe explained to me that beginning with his 2015’s, he has changed the type of filtration he uses. The net-net of this is that the wines need a bit more time after bottling before they are fully resolved and ready to drink. I tasted through their entire line of 2015’s, which were all recently bottled, save the blanc, which was bottled in late December. Change in filtration or not, the 2015’s were going to need some time in bottle regardless. We also spoke at length about the 2016 vintage, and they asked me if I had tasted any barrel samples yet. “Just six,” I said, yet still smiling, for the first three were at Château Margaux. With a chuckle and a wry smile, Christophe matter-of-factly inferred it was standard practice to taste Margaux and then Couronneau due to their similarities (his idea of an April Fool’s joke).



16th Century Château Couronneau – 1 April 2017



Yep, That’s a 16th Century Moat – 1 April 2017

Christophe went on to say his 2016’s were plentiful and the quality was outstanding. They too were going to need some time. The wines from Couronneau are usually ready to go once they’re released, but the Piats cautioned me that the past two vintages will be at their respective best five years after release. So what vintage to drink now? The 2014, of course. I asked Christophe his thoughts on the matter, and he feels that the 2014 exhibits lighter acid levels than the past two vintages, and that the fruit is more supple and silky. He admits that the 2014 Couronneau is fine to drink now, but it will be at its best 2 to 5 years from now. I popped a bottle shortly before leaving San Francisco, and I just loved the aromatic expression and the medium-full body of this lovely wine. The Piats’ biodynamic practices have obviously paid off!



The Vines Will Follow Soon, But The Vineyard Is Alive


We recently received our final drop of the 2014 Couronneau, so it’s in stock at the moment. So try a bottle today. If you like it, we’ve got a super deal for you. If you already know and enjoy this wine, the deal is good for you as well. Beginning tonight, we are offering a “special full case discount.” It’s much better than our normal discount, and we do not want to be disorderly and advertise this unheard of price in all the usual online places. If you would like to know what the discount is, simply load 12 or more bottles into your online shopping cart and you will see what it is. ***Please note: You can easily remove the items from your cart should you not wish to make the purchase.


Alors. The (semi-) mellow part of the trip is now finished. Over the next 7 days, I am going to be hit with a barrage of barrel samples from the 2016 vintage. I am ready. Should any of you be curious about any particular 2016 sample, please feel free to drop me a note, and I will do my best to taste it and report back with my observations. In the meantime, should you wish to profiter from a super deal on a fine bio-dynamically farmed wine from a seriously great vintage grab a full case (or two) today! – Peter Zavialoff

Holidays, Favorite Wines, and Memories

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 10:45 AM


Twas the night before Christmas … and the first night of Hanukkah too! Pretty cool, if you ask me, as I’m all for celebrations. Considering the timing of my fortnightly ramble, I’m not expecting as wide an audience to be reading this evening. That takes all the pressure off, as there’s really no need to speak of any specific wine tonight. I figure that we’ve all got our wines for the holiday weekend in place, ready to be shared and enjoyed. So, for the sake of exercise, and since it’s the time of year to break out the good stuff, I will reminisce about some of my very favorite wines.


*I will go on the record here and declare any 1982 red Bordeaux ineligible from this list; much like the Beatles’ exclusion from favorite musical acts lists.

1985 Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac

This wine was served as the final act of a dinner/tasting with some very good friends, and we formed a Bordeaux tasting group that evening. The concept was a good one. Back in the days when one could purchase First Growth Bordeaux for less than $200 per bottle, I was thinking out loud to a couple of friends. “I would love to try a bottle of Mouton, but wouldn’t necessarily want to splurge and just have the one bottle. But if you chipped in $200, and you chipped in $200, and we got a couple more friends to do the same, we could taste 6 bottles of great Bordeaux, and that would be worth it!” This idea caught fire and Carsten and I were in charge of acquiring the special bottles. The evening’s lineup, in order: 1978 Pontet Canet, 1985 Pichon Lalande, 1985 Margaux, 1982 Leoville Las Cases, 1978 Lafite Rothschild, and 1985 Mouton Rothschild. Such a memorable evening with close friends, great food, and amazing wine. The 1985 Mouton took the blue ribbon for its amazing complexity and sublime mouth feel. I hope to taste this wine again someday.


1985 Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard

My all-time favorite California wine. I have been lucky enough to have tasted ’85 Martha’s a handful of times. The very first was with some trader buddies back in my days as a NASDAQ marketmaker at The Little Nell in Aspen. But the most memorable tasting was at “A Taste For Life,” which was a charity tasting put on by Wine Commune in 2001. Due to the generosity of a good friend, I found myself seated at the 1982 Bordeaux table with several Bordeaux enthusiasts. Our conversations were free-flowing and full of passionate stories about Bordeaux. The lineup at our table was: Lafite, Margaux, Mouton, Latour, Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Pichon Lalande, and La Mission Haut Brion. At some point after I tasted the aforementioned, I caught Shaun Bishop walking through the crowd with a bottle sporting that unmistakeable 1985 Heitz Martha’s label (well, it could have been the 1974). You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I asked if I could possibly have a taste. Not only did he oblige, he was quite generous about the pour. I took the glass back to the table and shared it with the rest of those seated. Not only did the Heitz hold its own, it stood out with its abundance of cassis, earth, spice, and that quintessential Martha’s Vineyard menthol/mint/eucalyptus. I didn’t think a wine from California could stand up to some of Bordeaux’s legendary wines from a legendary vintage. I was wrong.

1988 Chateau Margaux

Back to my trader days here. A trader buddy (and one of the boys from the ski trip) from New York recommended I stay at the Eden Hotel when I visited Rome. He strongly advised me to eat in the hotel’s top floor restaurant, which sported a panoramic view of Rome’s skyline. The Colosseum, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, and St. Peter’s were all visible from the dining room. My guest and I dined there the very first night and had such a blast during and after dinner that I tracked down the maitre d’ and asked if we could eat there again on our last night in town. “For you, Mr. Zavialoff, the finest table in Rome.” That’s what he said; no kidding. Two nights later, that’s what we got. That special table in the corner window with the view. Wow. So I decided to go for it and get the Margaux. This experience had a lot to do with why I’m here typing today. It was my first Bordeaux epiphany. Never, at that time, had I tasted such a complex red wine. It had depth, richness, silky tannins, and aromas galore. Our server was wise to keep the decanter out of arm’s reach. This way it lasted all through dinner. It was more spectacular than the finest table in Rome.


1985 Leoville Las Cases

I consider myself very lucky to have tasted 1985 Leoville Las Cases. I was given a bottle as a gift several years ago, and I was saving it for a special occasion. In 2014, my boyhood baseball team won its third World Series in five years, so that was special enough to pop the ’85. (I’ve got a thing for 1985 red Bordeaux.) I brought the bottle to Restaurant Picco in Larkspur, where I pop in fairly regularly. The complexity, mouth feel, and aromatic sensations that I experienced with the 1985 Las Cases, I would put up against anything I’ve ever tasted. My friends and I shared tastes with the manager, assistant manager, several servers, and Chef de Cuisine, Jared Rogers. Every single one of us were completely blown away. 30 year old Bordeaux, still tasting rather fresh, yet showing layers and layers of Bordeaux goodness which comes from time in the cellar. We collectively shed a tear when the bottle came up empty. All we had was a memory. A very happy memory. And the good news is that the generous gent who gave me that bottle has given me another. Thank you! I look forward to that special occasion.

2005 Chateau Coutet, Barsac

Not even a short list of favorite wines would be complete without the 2005 Coutet. It all started when someone came to our shop on Carolina Street and spent a long time in our Sauternes section. I engaged him in conversation and it turned out he was with Chateau La Tour Blanche. He was in town for a 2005 Sauternes tasting at Fort Mason. David made a couple of phone calls, and I went to the tasting. The lineup included Doisy Vedrines, Doisy Daene, Rayne Vigneau, Clos Haut Peyraguey, La Tour Blanche, Coutet, Guiraud, Suduiraut, and Climens. Each wine was tasted by the group at the same time, and all the wines were showing very well. I will never forget what happened when we all tasted the ’05 Coutet. The noise level in the room erupted and smiles and praise beamed from all the tasters. It was quite incredible. My own notes concluded with “Cover off the ball.” It gets better. I put my staff pick sign on this wine and somehow it got back to Chateau Coutet – to Aline Baly specifically. Together, we have hosted three awesome all-Sauternes tasting dinners, and Aline and her uncle Philippe have treated me like family ever since. Having grown up in the Boston area, Aline suggested I try it with lobster. What a great idea. I have very fond memories of 2005 Coutet and lobster shared with my sister for several years. This will always be a special wine for me.


Well, if you made it this far, I thank you. Without reason to flog a wine, I thought it fun to remember some of the great wines I’ve tasted. I don’t mean this to appear as a brag of any sort; but in writing this, I’ve come to remember the people and occasions which got these bottles open in the first place. For me, the most important thing about a good bottle of wine is sharing it. 2016 has been a tumultuous year; we can all agree with that. As I grow older, I become painfully aware that life is short. Some of the people with whom I shared the above wines are no longer with us. Well, we’ve all still got each other, so let me raise a glass and toast: To all of us, may we enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, share some good times, wonderful meals and fine wine, may we live in good health and in peace. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! – Peter Zavialoff

When Robert Parker Retired From En Primeurs

Friday, July 8, 2016 8:59 PM


Shortly before the wine world descended upon Bordeaux in the spring of 2015, The Wine Advocate himself,Robert Parker, announced that he would be retiring from traveling to Bordeaux each spring to attendthe En Primeur tastings. He also announced that he hadchosen longtime Wine Journal blogger and TWA contributor Neal Martin to replace him each spring in Bordeaux. We applauded this decision as here at TWH we have a great amount of respect for Mr. Martin, his professionalism, and his integrity.

With that news in the air just a few days prior to my landing at Merignac, you can imagine all the questions.“What do you think about Ro-Bear Par-Care’s retirement?” “Do Americans trust Neal Martin?” “How will this impact Americans’ perception of Bordeaux?” Those were just a few.The most poignant conversation I had about it came at lunch somewhere in the middle of the crazy week of Primeurs. After fending off the familiar string of questions, I got this one, “Who will replace Parker in the eyes of Americans now that he has retired?” Hmmm. That’s a good one. The answer was simply, “No one.”

Parker had excellent timing. In the late 1970’s, he was a lawyer who greatly admired consumer advocate Ralph Nader. He had a taste for French wine and arrived on the scene when NO ONE was serving the consumer in regard to the quality of the wines from Bordeaux being offered as futures. The rest is history and that ship has sailed. Anyone thinking that they can be “The next Robert Parker” needs to come to grip with some key facts, as in time does not stand still, and we evolve. Parker doesn’t need replacing. His legacy leaves us all with an improved ability to articulate what we sense when tasting, and more importantly, most Bordeaux producers are now making much better wine than they did prior to Parker’s arrival on the scene. It’s up to professionals across the board, especially those of us who come into direct contact with consumers. Sommeliers and retailers can provide some of the best direction because we forge relationships with our clientele, and in knowing an individual’s likes and dislikes, can provide better advice than the often-misused 100 point scale.

 

 

Of course, in addition to Parker’s legacy, which played a role in this, is the fact that American wine consumers are more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more trusting in their own perceptions than to blindly trade their money for Parker points (or anyone’s points for that matter) anymore. Just like anything else, there will be people new to the arena, and especially with wine, lack of experience can be very intimidating. We remind those new to wine that it is a beverage created to promote joy and to complement our meals. We encourage new wine drinkers to stay within their budgets and discover their likes and dislikes. What any wine critic/advisor has to say about a wine that you like means nothing. You like it, that’s all that matters. In fact, if you like a wine and a critic publishes something negative about it, you win, as the wine is more likely to be available and not in danger of going up in price.

The American wine consumer has come a long wayin the past 40 years. Regardless of any personal feelings or biases, Robert Parker deserves a great amount of recognition for his contribution to that. In this technological age of blogs, apps, and social media, it seemsthere will always be a forum for anyone to express their perception of what they taste. Professional bloggers and wine journalists will continue to publish tasting notes, for a price. They work very hard, and their experience and knowledge of the subject is well recognized. Many Americans, ourselves included, listen to some of the more objective tasting notes from these folks, yet we tend to treat them more as advice rather than gospel. And that is a sure sign that American wine consumers are more sophisticated than we were 40 years ago. It is yet another rite of passage; just like leaving home, finishing school, and going out into the world, we’re now on our own. I am grateful to Mr. Parker for his legacy as a consumer advocate, and I am also grateful for his decision to retire and leave the rest to us. Again,“Who will replace Robert Parker in the eyes of Americans?” No one. – Peter Zavialoff

0 Comment Posted in Bordeaux

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”

 


We’re hoping that you all had a happy and safeHalloween, wherever you may be. We had a bit of a parade in the shop today with folks in costume; little and not so little alike. It got me to thinking. Earlier in the week, on my usual Wednesday off, I was finishing up a little business with some people whom I wasn’t familiar with, and was asked,“Do you always have a day off during the week?” I answered affirmatively, but explained that I work on Saturdays, which balances that out. But Saturdays are good days here at TWH; that’s the day that we receive the most foot traffic. More foot traffic meansmore interaction with more customers! A fairly regular Saturday customer popped in for another case of 2010 Château de Malleret (it wasn’t his first!), and as I helped him out, we got to chatting about it.

 


 

 
As anyone who has done so can attest to, bringing up Bordeaux with me will be met with much enthusiasm as well as a story or two. It started with the Malleret, and how pleased I was when I tasted it from bottle at a negociant’s office in Bordeaux. I explained to this gent that I was proud that I found such a wine that has been enjoyed so much by our customers (and staff) for such a reasonable price. I also pointed out that I probably don’t get to taste it if I just went to Bordeaux for the barrel samples. He then began to ask about the barrel samples and how one can appraise a wine not yet in bottle. This warrants a long story, so I’ll spare you that one. The short of it is, speaking for myself, you can’t. At least I can’t tell you what it’s going to taste like 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years down the road. I explained that a bottle of wine is a living thing, and that tasting a barrel sample and describing its complexity 20 years in the future is tantamount to pointing at an infant and declaring it to be a Senator. BUT – tasting a barrel sample does give you an overall impression of a wine’s potential structure, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and most important, balance. Taste enough samples from various appellations, and one gets an impression of the overall character of the vintage. I know, I know. It must be nice … It’s work. Trust me on that one.
 
 
Back in late March/early April, I was in Bordeaux for the annual tastings. I arrived on the Wednesday before the hectic week, giving me time to visit growers and negociants. The UGC tastings are important, as that is where many of the well-known chateaux pour their samples. But these days we know there aren’t any bargains at a UGC tasting; hence the negociants’ tastings. I’ve come in habit of hitting one major tasting of barrel samples (see above photo)on Sunday. Hundreds of wines; many of which are petits chateaux. I said it was work, right? With the 2014 vintage, I found many samples to my liking. I get particularly excited when I like one and I know that it’s going to be inexpensive. This year the barrel sample that packs the most quality for the lowest price for me is the 2014 Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc. Not being used to the current dollar/euro conversion rate, I was thinking $18-$20 in my head when I tasted it. I felt it worthy. My tasting note ended with “The right stuff.” Underlined. “Good, honest wine”, I called it. It hadexcellent weight, pleasant extract, the right amount of acidity and tannin, and most importantly, all in balance. When I got back and we crunched the numbers, we offered it as part of our 2014 futures. $13. Not a typo.$13. For a bottle of Bordeaux. Okay, not yet a bottle, but for a bottle in the future. $13. What?
 
Okay, one must have a modicum of patience when they buy Bordeaux futures. They take 3 years after vintage to arrive stateside. The 2014 Château Sénéjac will arrive here by the end of 2017. When it does, it probably won’t be $13 (if any is unsold in the first place). Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had to say about the 2014 Sénéjac:
“The Château Sénéjac 2014 has a fresh, lively bouquet, energetic blackberry and boysenberry fruit leaping from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied and tones it down a little. But there is commendable energy here, well-judged acidity and plenty of blackberry and raspberry fruit on the finish that linger long in the mouth. This comes recommended. (89-91 points)”
 
 
With Halloween behind us and November upon us, we will be unveiling our 38th Anniversary Sale very, very soon. Keep an eye out for that. For those of you who are experienced with buying Bordeaux futures, a six-pack of Sénéjac is a no-brainer. For those of you who have never bought them, here’s a low cost opportunity to partake in the exercise, which is actually quite fun and exciting once the wine arrives. Seriously, $13. Do you like wine? $13. Boom! – Peter Zavialoff


Visiting Bordeaux each spring to attend theEn Primeurtastings isalways an interesting experience. Full ofchallenges and deadlines, but also rife withlearning opportunities and plain old dumbluck, I try to approach the week asopen and accepting as possible. It isnot a time for stress or mood swings. You never know what is going to happen. Not being much of a planner,Primeurs is theone week that I keep a list of appointments, from 9am until 6pm, every day, and I cram a lot of tastings and appointments into those time slots!Monday was spent in the Médoc with appointments at 11 châteaux, including 2 First Growths, 5 Seconds, 2 Thirds, and 2 Fifths.Tuesdaywas again spent in the Médoc, only 3 appointments, but all 5 UGC tastings were there.Wednesday morning began with the UGC Pessac-Léognan tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Between the reds and whites, that was 31 wines, soit was rather amusing as to why I busted my tail after this tasting to drive to Pomerol for a noon appointment to taste one wine. What was the wine? Believe it or not, it was the2014 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet.

 

 
 
You may have heard the story before, a few years ago, former TWH staffer Emily asked me if I had ever tastedBordeaux Clairet. The answer was no, but more than that, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Once again, Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, made in the style reminiscent of the wines shipped to England in the middle ages. It’s made like a Rosé, yet sits with its skins for a longer period of time, hence the red wine aromas and palate. We just love it! With a little chill on it, it’s fresh, it’s fruity, it’s light, but definitely more substantial than a Rosé. Around the table, it’s incredibly versatile too; you can pair it with almost anything. The best part: its price. $10 by the bottle or $8.50 by the case, it’s no wonder my fall invoice usually has a bottle or seven on it. Here is our post about the 2012 version. Also, you can read our write-up on the 2013 here.
 
Unlike the past two vintages, the supplier did not air-freight out any samples of the 2014 for our staff to taste, and we weren’t about to buy something we hadn’t tasted, so I made arrangements to do so while in Bordeaux. It must be amusing from the négociant’s perspective as well, as she interrupted her hectic Primeurs schedule to grab a sample of inexpensive Clairet, chill it, and meet with me so I could taste it. We went to lunch afterwards, where we did discuss more serious matters with some serious wine from a Pomerol estate called Château Bonalgue (You will be hearing a bit about Bonalgue in the near future). After lunch, I was off to four appointments at various celebrated Pomerol châteaux, then two more just across the border in Saint Émilion. When I look back on the day as a whole, it cracks me up to think about leaving Smith-Haut-Lafitte and high-tailing it across the two rivers to make my noon appointment to taste the Bordeaux Clairet. I was confident that it would be to my liking, but I needed first hand knowledge before we went ahead and bought a bunch. It exceeded expectations.
 
 
It’s container season here at TWH! The 2014 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet recently arrived on the first of three containers due in the next several weeks! Both Anya and I took bottles home last weekend, and it looks like we’ll be doing it again after we close today! First thing this morning, Tom asked Anya if she had tried the Clairet. “I love it! It’s great, so easy to drink, so plump, so juicy. I like this year’s version better than last year as it’s fresher and less herbal.” Who need boring tasting notes when you have Anya’s enthusiasm? – Peter Zavialoff
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Happy New Year!!! We hope you all had a healthy, happy holiday season. We sure did. Nothing over the top, but let’s just say that some very nice bottles were popped and shared. Of course the air is always rife with New Year’s resolutions this time of year, and why not? Clicking reset on the calendar gives many of us hope for better things.We beverage industry professionals need resolve as well, as there is much to do, and it’s so, so easy to get sidetracked. One of my favorite sayings is, “That’s the beauty of the world; we all have different tastes. If we didn’t, all the good stuff would have been gone long ago.” Resolutions are as individual as tastes.

 
This whole train of thought began with a minor inconvenience that occurred on New Year’s Eve. I love my corkscrew. Seriously. I know it well. It knows me well. I keep it in the same drawer as my spoons, forks, and knives at home. We also have one just like it here at TWH. With that corkscrew, I can take the capsule and cork out of even the trickiest bottle in record time. Throughout the year, I find myself in places tasked with opening bottles with foreign corkscrews. Sometimes the results are fine, sometimes not. So on NYE, a very good friend invited me to dinner with his family and shared a very special bottle of Burgundy. As I snapped the foil cutter out of his wine key, I grimaced with disappointment. I asked for and we eventually found another, and then it came to me. Moments like this, and there are plenty each year, wouldn’t happen if I just started to carry my trusted corkscrew around with me. It’s not much of a New Year’s resolution, but it’s what got the idea going this year. Wine-wise, here’s what I’d like to do in 2015:
 
 
#1 Expand My Horizons
 
There’s a whole lot of wine from all over the world with new vintages each year. Try some.
 
#2 Push The Boundaries
 
This year I will learn at least 12 new things about what I thought I already knew well.
 
#3 Monthly Splurge
 
Life’s too short to not enjoy something a little special at least once a month. “Splurge” means to spend more than usual, which again, means different things for different people. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. In reality, it’s a small sacrifice for pleasure.
 
#4 More Wine Events
 
Get out there! Arranging tastings or dinners with visiting winemakers or dignitaries can be challenging, but the results are well worth it. Look for the announcement of a dinner with a 2nd Growth Bordeaux Chateau very soon!
 
#5 Drink More Merlot
 
Yep. I re-watched Sideways this past year, and stand behind my statement that if that film were to take place 10 years later, Miles’ famous line would have began with, “If she orders Pinot …”
Merlot is the base of some of the finest and most famous wines in the world.
 
 
So there they are, my five wine resolutions for 2015.As the year progresses, I promise to reflect back upon this list and hopefully, it will keep me on track. Now about that Merlot …

We recently received a new container from Francewhich included in it a handful of well-priced Bordeaux I thought well enough of last April to ask David to import. Our staff has tried a few of them already, and you’ll be hearing more about these wines as we head further into the New Year.

vcurelabel

I made more negociant appointments than usual in 2014 in order to taste past vintages, as I knew that there would be opportunities to find more diamonds in the rough from 2009 and 2010. Little did I know that one of these negoce’s had something up his sleeve when I visited. In addition to several wines from the vaunted 2009 and 2010 vintages, he opened a mini-vertical of Chateau Vieille Cure, Fronsac. We had a field day with the 2005 several years ago, so the detailed, old-school label was immediately familiar to me. The wine that stuck out at that tasting? The 2004 Vieille Cure. For sure. The other wines from this chateau were more recent, yet this 2004 had what it takes. Already 10 years old, it still held youthful charm and structure, yet it was beginning to reveal the secondary characteristics Bordeaux emits after some bottle age. I would have to say that though it seems to have the stuffing to last another decade, it is officially open for business! This wine will provide pleasure tonight or on a Saturday night 10 years from now. Here’s Robert Parker’s note written in 2007:
 
“As was the 2003, this is another big time sleeper of the vintage. The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2004 offers a sweet perfume of framboise, black cherry liqueur, cedar, and spice. Supple-textured, medium to full-bodied, expansive, and savory with superb purity and texture, it can be drunk now and over the next 10-12 years. This property has been on a qualitative roll and still remains one of Bordeaux’s finest values. 90 points.”
 
With Merlot like the 2004 La Vieille Cure, #5 will be a piece of cake to uphold, we’ll see about the others … As mentioned, there are several new bottlings from France and Italy hitting our sales floor as we begin 2015. We’ll be telling you all about them soon! In the meantime,here’s to a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2015! A Santé!

Peter Zavialoff

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