I’ve got to get out on our sales floor a little more often! Funny, I work here 5 days a week, so there goes any excuse … Every now and then, presumably on my days off, newly acquired wines make their way to the floor without my noticing them. Here at TWH, we’re like a little family, constantly sharing food and wine tasting experiences, so it was not out of the ordinary when I arrived at work a few days ago and struck up a conversation with Anya. “Oh man, I popped into Picco last night and they’re pouring this delicious Saumur by the glass! It was great; light on its feet, yet with just the right amount of fruit, all framed with the classic herbal and earthy character one gets from Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I have a new go-to!”

“Who is the producer?” She asked.

“I don’t remember (I had more than one glass). Let me look it up, I bet it’s on their beverage list online.” At which point I surfed to said list and proclaimed, “Yeah, this is it. It’s the 2015 Saumur from La Paleine.”

“Yes, Pete. That’s a good one indeed. You know, it’s out on our floor right now.”

“This Saumur?”

Anya was chuckling now. “Yes. You might want to take a look around every once in a while.”

Talk about instant gratification …

The commune of Saumur is perhaps best known for its fancy chateau which sits on the hill above it. It’s also one of a handful of Loire Valley appellations which produces some of the world’s finest Cabernet Franc wines. Domaine de la Paleine is located in Puy-Notre-Dame, 20km southwest of the chateau, and the 32 hectare property is mainly planted to Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. The soil is clay upon limestone, and the tufa subsoil acts as a sponge, absorbing excess water after the rains, and releasing it slowly when the vines need it. Owners Marc and Laurence Vincent had sought AB (certified organic) status beginning in 2010, and were rewarded with the certification beginning in 2013. As mentioned above, the wine is well balanced with textbook Loire Valley Cab Franc aromas in seamless harmony. The palate is medium in body, with bright acidity and a round raspberry-like core. Loire Valley Cabernet Franc brings out the wine-geek in me, so I am more than thrilled that I can procure a bottle of this for around the same price that restaurants charge for a glass!

This is not the first time that I have tasted a wine at Picco, only to subsequently find it among our offerings here at TWH. I have to give a big tip of the hat to such a fine restaurant in which I have enjoyed countless delicious meals, great wines and company over the years. I have made many friends there, including many members of their staff, which is coincidentally like a little family. This takes me back to my very first professional interaction with a manager who worked there over 9 years ago. On a quiet evening, we were discussing one of her new wines for the list, and I was more than intrigued to try it. When she said we could all try it as long as we covered the bottle’s cost, I was the first one to pony up the cash for my share. After all, it was Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. – Peter Zavialoff

2012 Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers Saumur

Monday, June 16, 2014 7:36 PM

Saumur. I’m biased. When I see the name Saumur, I think of this. Every time. No, I haven’t been there, but it’s on the list. There’s just something striking about that majestic château rising above the hustle and bustle of contemporary life in this Loire Valley commune. At least it struck a big chord with me! So even if it is written on the label of a wine bottle, “Saumur” stirs up the romanticism I associate with European travel. So when our representative from Robert Kacher Selections set up the appointment to taste us on this wine, I knew I had to be very focused on the wine’s quality as it had already entered the “I want to like” state in the back of my mind. That can happen. Every so often among my litany of tasting notes, I see the letters “WTL” written above the name of a wine. As long as I recognize that, I’m alright. I never endorse a wine because I want to like it. So there’s the background story. Now, about the wine …


The rep arrived as scheduled, with about 7 or 8 different samples for us to taste. David wasn’t able to join us that day, though he made mention to pay close attention to the 2012 Saumur from Domaine Hauts de Sanziers.  When it’s good, I love Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I wish this were always true, but it’s not. There was a time when my palate was fairly used to ripe, fancy, higher alcohol New World wines, so when I popped the cork on my first Chinon, let’s just say that I was a bit surprised. It’s different. It’s not obscure enough to be considered “wine geek wine”, but I think of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc to be kind of geeky. It usually has quite an herbal profile, sometimes you can say it has a stemmy quality to it. It is not dense. It is not brooding, nor unctuous. It is usually light to medium bodied, with fresh acidity, and scaled back in the alcohol department. When we tasted the 2012 Hauts de Sanziers Saumur, we were smitten. It was unanimous! When David returned and queried us about it, he was met with 4 smiling faces encouraging him to go deep. Why? It is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s light bodied. I get bright red cherries met with a briary thicket herbal aroma. There is a hint of dusty, chalky minerals that frame the bouquet. On the palate, it is zippy and fresh, light in body for sure. But as Anya said, “Light, but not thin.” It’s really quite Burgundian. I know, I know. It’s Cabernet Franc, not Pinot Noir, but it really reminds me of an honest Bourgogne Rouge. Coming in at 12.5% alcohol, it is a fantastic food wine. Having tasted it recently with a customer who happens to be a private chef, he raved about its ability to go with food. We’re thinking chicken or pork, seasoned with fresh thyme and a little garlic. And at 12.5%, go ahead and pour yourself a second glass!


Wonderful wine, yes. I love how a wine can transport a taster to the source. As I said, I’ve never been there, but ever since I turned the page of that guidebook in 1998, I’ve had one image and one image only of Saumur! That list of mine has become quite lenghty, though somehow, Barçelona has been crossed off, though I’ve never been there. Speaking of football – yes, of course, I’m paying attention to what’s going on in Brazil. International football doesn’t exactly get my heart racing, and I just hope that there aren’t any serious injuries. It’s better than a summer without football, so I’ll make the best of it. I have the day off tomorrow, so I’ll actually get to watch some. In fact, France plays Honduras. It’s going to be hot, so full bodied red wines will not be served. Maybe I’ll pour myself a glass or two of the 2012 Hauts de Sanziers Saumur and be whisked away to a riverside cafe gazing up at the château between halves. Allez les Bleus!!! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, Saumur, The World Cup Finals, or Bordeaux: peter@winesf.com

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