2015 Château de Raousset Fleurie "Grille-Midi"

Friday, January 5, 2018 5:54 PM

Chateau de Raousset

Best Vintage Since 1947?

Or so says Georges Duboeuf, so we'll take that with a grain of salt.  Though if you search the interwebs for "2015 Beaujolais Vintage," the superlatives are everywhere! 

My favorite wine writer, Andrew Jefford, had this to say about the 2015 vintage in Beaujolais, "The growing season, growers reported, unfolded according to the script they would have written for themselves – except that quantities were smaller than they would have liked.  The main threat to quality came towards the end of July, when the vines were beginning to show signs of drought stress, but cooler nights and showers in August helped enormously, with most beginning harvest towards the end of that month.  Acidities were fresher and balances livelier than in 2009, while the wines avoided some of the hardness of 2005, with a sweeter and more tender style.  Beaujolais vinifications are so various and sometimes risk-taking in style, however, that it’s still important to buy on recommendation."  That last line there is key.

The good news is that our producer, Château de Raousset, took full advantage of the ideal climatic conditions, and produced a line of wines which we highly recommend!  Maybe I'm biased, maybe I'm swayed by its pretty name, but it seems that vintage after vintage, I find their Fleurie "Grille-Midi" to be ideal for my palate.  The 2015 is stunning!  The aromas are all there, bright red cherry fruit, forest floor, again, maybe it's the name, but there's a hint of something floral going on in there too.  On the palate, the wine seems to float gracefully.  The fruit is perfectly ripe and the structure is seamless.  It comes in at 13% alcohol.  One doesn't hear it often, but this Cru Beaujolais can be cellared and should provide plenty of pleasure from now through 2026, if, as Neal Martin says, "you can resist its charms early on."

I don't want to bum anyone out here, but it is fall, and tomorrow is October 1.  An enthusiastic Rosé-loving customer picked up a case of her favorite earlier today and let it be known she wasn't ready for summer to be over, though she was accepting that very fact.  I always think of Cru Beaujolais as a wine which suits autumn perfectly - that forest floor nuance and all.  I also regularly consume, and happily recommend it be served during the fall's biggest holiday, Thanksgiving.  That's right.  Thanksgiving is next month.  That makes socking away a magnum or two a pretty dang good idea.  We do also have Raousset's Chiroubles, with its lighter profile, and also their Morgon "Douby", which is a bit more structured and even more age-worthy.  Though for me, the Fleurie "Grille-Midi" is just right! - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2015 Beaujolais, autumn, Thanksgiving wines, or how sweet it is to be rid of the reason I stopped watching my favorite football club for three years:  peter@wineSF.com    
 

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2014 Château de Raousset Fleurie "Grille-Midi"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 5:48 PM

Over the course of any given day here at TWH, we have conversations about a great many things. With two musicians on staff and our speakers tirelessly serenading us, music comes up a lot. But this is a wine shop, so conversations about food and wine are a daily occurrence. The other day, Chris and I were talking about Nouveau Beaujolais. He said that he's never tasted it. I told him that it is usually a light, simple, fruit driven wine. He went on to say that sometimes, the situation may call for simple, yet enjoyable. I get it, but from a value standpoint, it's overpriced. If you want to taste good value wines from Beaujolais, their top wines, the Cru Beaujolais are pretty darned good values; and they're pretty tasty too!


In brief, Beaujolais is a region that sits just south of Burgundy in central France. Its red wines are made from Gamay Noir. The wines tend to be light in body, with aromas of wild berries, flowers, herbs, forest floor, and mineral. Of course, vintages, producers, and terroir vary, so different wines will have different characteristics. The finest vineyards of the appellation are called Beaujolais' Growths, or Crus in French. There are 10 of these Crus, you can find them on the map above. Fleurie is often described as having the prettiest name, reflective of its wines' personality. I won't argue with that. I've written about Château de Raousset's Fleurie before. Now that the 2014 Fleurie "Grille-Midi" is here in stock, I'm writing again.

 

Comparing this Cru Beaujolais to Nouveau isn't fair. So I won't. The 2014 vintage was exceptional in the region. Some are saying that it is the best vintage in Beaujolais since 2005, and that's saying something, as they've had 5 great vintages since then. The wines are expressive in the fruit department and are brimming with aromatic complexity. They can be enjoyed now, though most will benefit from another 3-6 years of aging. When Jeanne-Marie de Champs was here last month, we tasted a lot of Burgundy. I did mention there were other wines. The 2014 Fleurie from Raousset was one of them. And it did not disappoint. The aromas are rich and striking. Layers of wild berry fruit. Spice. Forest floor and a little bit of earthy something. The palate - fresh and intensifying. It's all about the red berry fruit, with the forest floor spice, and lively acidity holding it all together. It's another winner from the producer who Jeanne-Marie always describes as "a great grower." I mean it's great just tasting it here in the tasting room, but I am imagining how good it would be with the right meal.

 

I took a little time out from my usual Friday routine last night and enjoyed a nice dinner with a longtime buddy of mine whom I haven't seen in well over a month! This particular pal of mine is one of my wine tasting friends, and it's always a pleasure to hear his descriptors when tasting. Any of my stories that have ever featured smoked or barbecued meat occurred at his house. Quite the handyman, he's in the process of renovating his kitchen ... as in tearing everything out, including the drywalls. So with nowhere to whip up any side dishes, we went out. We hit a quandary when it came time to choose the wine. He was going with red meat and I wanted chicken. We ended up settling for wines by the glass, which set off some negative comments about by the glass pricing in some restaurants. If only I had thought to bring a bottle of 2014 Fleurie from Château de Raousset, then we both would have been happy! - Peter Zavialoff

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Get Your Geek On – Gamay From South Africa

Monday, July 11, 2016 7:22 PM


 
 
 
Introducing: Thirst from Radford Dale
 
What is a geek wine? Among wine drinkers I know, a geek wine does not hold a negative connotation – quite the opposite. A geek wine is something that could be rare or less known, certainly not mainstream, and is most likely appreciated by a confident wine drinker (meaning someone who knows what they like and drink it). Thirst Gamay from Radford Dale is such a wine.
 
Where to begin? First, it is Gamay. Gamay as in Beaujolais, but this one is from South Africa. South Africa has only 32 known acres of Gamay vines. That is 0.0128% of total planted vines in South Africa. Leave it to super sleuth Alex Dale to find a vineyard with any Gamay. The Gamay Radford Dale sources were planted in 1984, sothey are fully mature vines with naturally producing low yields. The vines grow on a low-wire trellis system which allows the grapes to grow underneath the canopy, sheltering the berries from direct sunlight, allowing for good retention of acidity and freshness.
 
Alex Dale Modeling His Shirt @ TWH
 
In the cellar, the grapes were fermented whole berry and whole bunch. A portion of the wine went through carbonic maceration. After 3 months in tank, the wine spent a short time in old neutral barrel. The wine is neither fined nor filtered and a minimal amount of sulphur was used. The alcohol content clocks in at a whopping 11.5%!Approximately 500 cases of this unique red were produced which means TWH has 4% of the production.
 
Ok, so what does it taste like? I first tasted the 2015 Thirst Gamay back in May when our stock arrived in our warehouse coinciding with a visit from the owner and founder of Radford Dale, Alex Dale. A visit from Alex Dale is always inspiring, entertaining, informative and motivating. Alex has a lot to say and I like what I hear.The emphasis Alex places on being ecologically and socially conscientious in the pursuit of making wine is honorable, to say the least. It is not just lip service with him. I found the entire line-up of his newly arrived wines the best I’ve tasted yet, but it was the new line, Thirst, that had our staff captivated. The Thirst Gamay is light bodied. You could say it is like a dark rosé, but I think it is better to describe it as a very, very, light red wine. The varietal flavors of the Gamay are spot-on and recognizable: lots of red berry fruit, a dusty earthiness and a perfumed green note of tomato leaf. The finish has an exhilarating dryness to it just as fine cru Beaujolais does. The tannins are present, giving structure to the wine, at the same time the low alcohol makes for a light, refreshing drink. As Alex told our staff, “all our wines are built on an architecture of acidity”, so that is there too, giving lift and freshness.
 
The Line Up with Alex Dale
 
The Thirst Gamay is best served chilled. Yes, it is acceptable to chill red wine, especially this one. On a hot summer’s day or balmy evening, when you are craving red wine but can’t bear to open one because you know it will be too much, too heavy, the Thirst Gamay is a very good option. Certainly the Thirst Gamay is fine on its own to sip before dinner, or to bring along on a picnic, but it is also suited for main course meals. You’d think it was intentionally designed for salmon, as it goes so well with it. Thirst Gamay is not a frivolous wine given its light body and low-alcohol. As Alex likes to suggest it is meant for wine consumers who are looking for a naturally produced wine with little intervention. He also points out that a wine like Thirst is difficult to make both from the standpoint of production as well as the costs associated. I’m gratefulRadford Dale makes the effort.
 
Alex Dale & David Netzer @ TWH
 
I was finally able to spend a few days up at the River like I’d been hoping to do for some time. What made this tripnourishing and special was the convergence of three families under the guise of a wedding shower. Surrounded by this tribe, as we like to call ourselves, is where I am happiest! We don’t see each other often enough, but when we do, it’s like we’d never left each other’s side. Oh, and I discovered that my brother isn’t the only family member who reads my newsletters – thanks TH for reading to the end!– Anya Balistreri
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Passetoutgrain is a regional appellation in Burgundy. It covers a large area, nearly 2000 acres, and the wine must be at least 30% Pinot Noir and have a minimum of 15% Gamay. So, how come so few know about or drink Passetoutgrain? For the most part, Passetoutgrain has lost favor, particularly in villages that command high dollars. In these places most producers have replanted Gamay with Pinot Noir. This makes economic sense, but as a result some of the cultural history of Burgundy is lost.Passetoutgrain occupies a useful category as it provides an affordable option for locals to drink and it can be poured at domaines while their age-worthy wines are being cellared. You won’t find anyone mistaking Passetoutgrain for Grand Cru, but if you are looking to rub shoulders with Burgundy without mortgaging your home, Passetoutgrain is a viable way to go.
 
 
All this background is to emphasize my delight when I discovered bottles of Domaine Françoise Lamarche’s 2013 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain in our wood box stacks. I didn’t even know Lamarche made a Passetoutgrain, let alone that TWH was carrying it! Chock it up to working here part-time. At any rate, I couldn’t wait to taste it! It’s a delicious blend of 50/50 Pinot Noir and Gamay that spends some time in neutral barrel. The production is tiny and comes, according to The Queen of Burgundy, Jeanne Marie de Champs, from a vineyard “on the low part of Vosne Romanée”. It’s pretty polished for this type of wine withloads of cranberry, tart cherry and flavorful spice notes. Put in the context of Pinot Noir from anywhere, I’d sayLamarche’s Passetoutgrain will appeal to those who prefer old-world Pinot Noir. It is light and delicate but with enough fruit to keep one’s interest.
 
Burghound’s Allen Meadows wrote this about Lamarche’s 2013 Passetoutgrain:
“The exuberant nose of very fresh red berry fruit aromas displays notes of spice and pepper. There is a surprisingly silky mouth feel for a PTG and while there is a touch of rusticity on the finish the overall impression is unusually refined.”
 
 
The history of Domaine François Lamarche reads like a novel. The family has been making wine for several generations and can trace their roots in the village of Vosne-Romanée back to 1740. Their vineyard holdings are impressive and include the Grand Cru, La Grande Rue,which is sandwiched between La Tâche on one side and La Romanée and Romanée-Conti on the other. Today, Nicole Lamarche is making the wines, having taken over from her father in 2006. With Nicole at the helm, vineyard practices have changed to biodynamic cultivation, new barrel regiments have been employed using less new oak and the winery has been updated to modern standards. Drinking a glass of Lamarche’s Passetoutgrain gives me that chic hi-lo vibe, like wearing a designer gown under a leather motorcycle jacket. It’s not a Cru, but it is incredibly enjoyable nonetheless – I am drinking Burgundy and spent less than $25 – what a deal!
 
 
 
Basketball, basketball, basketball. From NCAA to the Warriors to the last game of my daughter’s CYO league,March has been mostly about Basketball…and Burgundy! My daughter has never played on an organized sports team before this season. It was entirely her choice to play basketball and though not a “sporty” girl, she loved the whole experience! Her team made it to the first round of play-offs. It was a tough battle. She played in the 2nd quarter, caught a rebound, turned to shoot and was fouled.Her first trip to the free throw line and she made it in! Her first score of the season! Her team lost the game, there were tears for a hard fought game, but my daughter….well she ran off the court with the biggest smile imaginable, shouting “Did you see it? Did you see it?” I sure did and it was great! – Anya Balistreri
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Thanksgiving 2015: Some Pairing Ideas

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 1:37 AM


All of us here at TWH were shocked to see and read the news of the tragic events that occurred in Paris on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the French populace.


Not such a pleasant way to commence this week’s Sunday email. Somehow, the topic I’ve had in mind to write about is applicable. Seeing that this is my last Sunday email before Thanksgiving, I will continue the tradition of giving thanks. A good friend of mine summed his feelings up pretty well on his Facebook feed last night. “Very sad day indeed. Could have happened anywhere. Give your loved ones a hug and be grateful for what you have.” A sentiment that I share with many is that giving thanks is an every day activity, not something to be saved exclusively for the fourth Thursday of November.

 
I’ve written about my early perceptions of Thanksgiving before. Most of my life, it was a holiday that I didn’t really celebrate. If I wasn’t skiing, I was bored. I didn’t care for any of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. It wasalways nice to get together with extended family and good friends, but that was it. Of course this all has changed now that I have lobster and Sauternes on Thanksgiving. I’m planning on doing this again, and the wine I’m choosing this year is the 2005 Château Clos Haut Peyraguey. Why? A pair of cosmic tumblersfalling into place.
 
 
Tumbler #1 – The property was purchased by Bordeaux chateaux mogul Bernard Magrez in 2012. TWH was just paid a visit by a Magrez’s export director last Monday, and he commented on our having a couple of back vintages of Clos Haut Peyraguey in stock. We spoke about Barsac and Sauternes at length, and I’m pretty black and white about my feelings for the wines. I think he got my drift.
 
Tumbler #2: It’s a 2005, a fantastic vintage for the wines of Barsac and Sauternes. I can recall John’s excitement about the quality of Bordeaux’s sweet wines when he returned from the region in the spring of 2006. Ben went so far as to purchase some ’05 Clos Haut Peyraguey futures citing its geographical proximity to Yquem.Then there was the tasting of 2005 Sauternes that I attended in 2008, leaving me with quite the impression, especially for Château Coutet. I last had 2005 Coutet on my birthday back in September and it was showing brilliantly! 10 years has worked its magic on the wine which was revealing some bottle bouquet and secondary characteristics. It was still fresh and youthful, yet layered and intellectual. We are trying to get more. I’ll get back to you on that.
 
Back on Wednesday evening, I was invited to the home of a very good friend to celebrate the end of his six year quest for a particular certification. To celebrate he picked up a USDA Prime Tri-Tip, marinated it, and slow cooked it for hours. He finished it off in a pan and popped a1993 Penfolds Grange. It was my very first taste of what is considered Australia’s finest wine. It was a great experience, and along with another good friend we discussed many of the finest food and wine pairings we’ve enjoyed over the years. He humbly dismissed the tri-tip/Grange pairing from being among the best (it belongs in the argument), and poured full praise for “The year you brought that magnum of Fleurie to Thanksgiving dinner.” There’s a lot to say in support for Cru Beaujolais at the Thanksgiving table. It’s light. It’s complex. It’s versatile. It smells like fall. As the holiday approaches, we have helped many customers with their “Beaujolais for Thanksgiving” orders.
 
 
As I stated above, giving thanks is something that should be done daily, and I have reason to be grateful for many people and things these days. 2015 has been a very challenging year for me personally, and I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in without the tremendous support that I have received from so very many. Giving thanks, BIG TIME! Happy Thanksgiving!!! – Peter Zavialoff
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