Celebration Preparations - Sparkles And Sweet Decadence

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 12:15 PM

Tick Tock, Tick Tock ...

We're ten days away from the end of 2017!!  What to do?  Why, celebrate, of course!!  If you're in need of wine to celebrate with, we've got you covered!

As is customary this time of year, sparkling wines are very popular as celebratory wines, and we have good stocks of fizz ranging from sub $20 sparklers to fancy, hard to find Champagnes.  
Click here for a link to our selection of bubbles. 

If you like to celebrate like I do, then maybe a bottle of Sauternes from our anniversary sale is the way to go.  I always like to celebrate with Bordeaux's Gold wines, and a glass of Sauternes on New Year's Day is a must, if one is going to have a sweet year!

Remember, our sale lasts through January 2, 2018, so if you haven't checked it out, time is running short.

 - Peter Zavialoff



Conegliano Valdobbiandene


Prosecco Superiore

Reg. $14.98

Our ever-popular, dry, pear-scented, Giavi Prosecco is quite an elegant drink for its party-wine price. Careful - the bottle tends to be finished before you know it!

2005 Château

De Malle

Sauternes 375ml

Reg. $27.98

SALE $19.95

From a vintage known for its abundant level of botrytis, the 2005 de Malle is showing rich aromas with citrus fruit and spicy aromas.  The palate is well-balanced and harmonious.  It's in a great spot right now.
d'Orfeuilles Touraine Rose Bottle

Domaine d'Orfeuilles


Touraine Rosé

Reg. $15.98

Vivacious Champagne-method bubbly produced from organically farmed Côt, Cabernet Franc, and Grolleau grapes, grown on limestone-clay hillside soils. Fresh and crisp, with surprising complexity.

2007 Chateau


Sauternes 375ml

Reg. $44.98

SALE $34.95

"The palate is very pure and balanced with a wonderful seam of acidity that slices through the viscous botrytis fruit, quite spicy on the finish" - Neal Martin

Pascal Doquet

Grand Cru

Le Mesnil Sur Oger

Coeur De Terroir

Reg. $99.98

SALE $74.95

Or one can go the way of true vintage Chamagne with this 2004 Grand Cru from Pascal Doquet.  Expressive, yeasty, and nutty, 2004 was great for Chardonnay-based Champagne.

2005 Chateau De Fargues

Sauternes 375ml

Reg. $59.98

SALE $49.95

Owned by the Lur Saluces family (former owners of Château d'Yquem), the 2005 de Fargues is Sauternes lover's dream.  It's intense, complex, rich, and powerful.  It's a great wine - for now, or for up to 15-20 years.

2015 Château d'Yquem

Friday, January 5, 2018 5:38 PM

2015 Chateau d'Yquem Bottles

The Top Of The Pyramid

Unquestionably, Château d'Yquem is in a league of its own when it comes to quality and notoriety.  Think about it.  If you've tasted any vintage of Château d'Yquem, chances are you remember when, where, and with whom.  If you've had enough Yquem that you've forgotten a few of these occasions, consider yourself lucky!

Here's an opportunity to get in on a legend in the making.  The 2015 vintage in Sauternes was a great one.  The botrytis was profound; the acidity levels healthy.  Here's a short excerpt from what The Wine Advocate's Neal Martin had to say about the 2015 vintage in Sauternes:  "The catalyst was a storm on August 31. The 9 millimeters of rain followed by warm sunny conditions was perfect for botrytis formation, the cool nights locking in the acidity. In some years, harvesters are at the beg and mercy of the capricious weather and hesitant botrytis development; but in 2015, the noble rot was so regular and even, that for once, vineyard managers could almost sashay into the vineyard and pick how they wanted."

Here's Mr. Martin's note from tasting the 2015 Yquem from barrel:

"It has a show-stopping bouquet that is beautifully defined and very complex and exuberant, infused with greater mineralité than recent vintages - intense but not as flamboyant as say the 2009 Yquem at this stage. The palate boasts absolutely stunning balance. This is a Yquem without a hair out of place: fantastically pure, botrytised fruit caressing the mouth. That is as per normal. What distinguishes this Yquem is the sense of electricity that is imbued by that razor-sharp acidity. There is just unbelievably tension here and to be frank, there is little point in me continuing to write this note, because it is simply an astonishing Yquem that will rank alongside the 2001 and 2009." 

Happy New Year! From all of us here at TWH, we hope you had a fantastic holiday season. Okay, now that it’s 2016, what’s up? Plenty. French container on the water should be here around mid-month with Bordeaux, Burgundy, and more! Italian container due to arrive shortly thereafter. David should be off to Burgundy again sometime soon, and I’m headed to LA at the end of the month to taste the newly bottled 2013 vintage at the Union des Grands Crus tasting. Oh yeah, one more IMPORTANT thing: our 38th Anniversary Sale will end at the close of business on Monday, January 4.So, if you’ve had your eye on anything on that list, now is the time to act. For the past 6-8 weeks, we’ve mentioned a few of the great deals that were to be found as part of our sale, and though there are still many, many great deals, just know time is running out. Back in 2015 (okay, last Thursday), a good friend of TWH came in to buy … wait for it … a couple of bottles of Sauternes. Every year he prepares a torchon de foie gras for New Year’s, and this year was no exception. As TWH’s GoldWine Ambassador, I was happy to chat with him about our selections, and after discussing several options, he was very excited about the sale price on the 2006 Château de Fargues, Sauternes. After all, it has pedigree, a famous name, and a sale price that if put into proper perspective, makes it an absolute steal!

So, foie gras and Sauternes pair well together, this is well-known. The rich, creamy, savory texture and flavorsensations of a bite of foie are sent to another dimension when followed by a taste of rich, layered, complex, botrytised Sauternes (or Barsac); the balancing acidity being the catalyst that frames and holds it all together. (TWH customers and friends know that fois gras is the traditional pairing, but that the wines have so, so much more potential as evidenced by the trio of GoldWine dinners *scroll down this link* we’ve had in the past few years). If one is in northern California and needs a bottle of Sauternes/Barsac, TWH is a logical destination as we have few rivals sporting the breadth of our GoldWine section. I presented our customer with several bottles that offered great value as well as a couple of my favorites. Which then brought us into a discussion about Count Alexandre de Lur Salucesand his involvement with both Château d’Yquem and Château de Fargues. The Lur Saluces have been affiliated with Yquem since 1785 and ran the château until selling it to luxury brands group LVMH in 1999. Alexandre stayed onuntil 2004 before leaving to focus on the family’s long owned Château de Fargues. Alexandre first joined his uncle at de Fargues in 1966 and took over leadership of the chateau after his uncle’s passing in 1968. Throughout the years, the wines from Château de Fargues have rivaled the hoity-toity Yquem in quality, but not in their steep bottle price. Beginning with the 2004, the wines from de Fargues have stepped it up another notch, earning some special praise from Robert Parker and Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate.


Here’s what Mr. Parker had to say about the 2006 de Fargues after having tasted it from barrel:


“The refuge of the Lur Saluces family after selling their beloved Yquem, this is an Yquem-like wine that sells for a fraction of the price fetched for the most famous wine of the region. Rich, honeyed citrus along with creme brulee, vanillin, sweet caramelized pineapple and citrus notes are followed by a wine with an unctuously thick, viscous, full-bodied mouthfeel, but with good enough acidity to balance out the wine’s enormous weight, richness, and concentration.”
I wished our customer a hearty, “Bonne Année”, and await the report on his experience with his first de Fargues. Funny thing, earlier in the week, a couple of ladies came in to buy some party wines and one of them inquired about Yquem, as she had once tasted it at a New Year’s celebration. I told her the price ($500) and she politely chuckled and said, “No thank you.” I then explained there were plenty of top-notch Sauternes selling for far less, and when I told her the Lur Saluces story, and that she could have Yquem-like quality for $79.95, she happily bought one to continue the Sauternes-as-part-of-the-New-Year-celebration tradition.
So yes, happy 2016! It’s mid holiday season for me as December 24 is just day number one of 13 days of celebration between late December and late January. Celebratory day #6 is today (Sunday), and I’ve got a bottle of GoldWine for it, because if you’re not celebrating with Sauternes, you’re not really celebrating. It seems this mode of thinking is slowly catching on; on December 30 and 31, we sold more bottles of Sauternes than of the more traditional sparkling wines. Yep. When it comes to celebrating, there are traditions, but there are no rules. Here’s to good health, success, and happiness to all of you in 2016! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions about our Anniversary Sale, Sauternes, foie gras, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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

2005 Chateau de Malle: Priced to Move!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 3:31 PM

05demalleThere is not much else I need to write other than this: 2005 Chateau de Malle on sale for $24.95 … and no, that is not for the half bottle!  Unbelievable, right? No wonder Pete keeps telling customers that our Moving Sale has wines at “never-to-be-seen-again” prices. The 2005 Chateau de Malle is delicious. Not a super rich or particularly unctuous Sauternes, it does, however, glide lightly over the palate with charming flavors of butterscotch, browned sweet butter and graham cracker crust. The 2005 de Malle is an elegant example of a medium-weight sticky that at this price will be making its way into my fridge often and regularly. Look here, there’s already a bottle waiting for me when I get home tonight. This makes me so happy!

chdemalleChateau de Malle is a stunning estate with manicured gardens and a museum open to the public. The estate dates back to the 16th Century and has remained in the same family the entire time. In the 1950’s the estate was taken over by Pierre de Bournazel, a man who would become an important figure in the viticultural world of Bordeaux. Pierre renovated the Chateau, replanted the vineyards and brought de Malle into recognition. Interestingly, Chateau de Malle straddles two appellations, Sauternes and Graves (about half of their production is for Sauternes). The composition is classic with 70% Semillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc and a small trace of Muscadelle. The vineyards are grown on undulating slopes upon a plateau of gravelly clay soil. The wine is aged in barrel between 20-24 months in a third new French oak after which the wine rests in bottle at the Chateau for 2 to 3 years before release.

Our Moving Sale is on!  Prices are slashed on wines ranging from everyday quaffers to top-tiered trophy wines with the caveat that they must leave our premises before we move! I will be moving some of the 2005 Chateau de Malle into my cellar to lighten TWH’s load. I can guarantee you that each time I pop the cork on this honeyed wine with its lingering flavors of melted brown sugar and sweet vanilla cream, I’ll be patting myself on the back for being such a clever, savvy wine buyer. A combo plate from Taqueria San Jose with an enchilada and a house-made chile relleno – pop open a bottle of 2005 Chateau de Malle! After a big meal with friends, no one wants dessert but a plate of crispy, buttery cookies served with a glass of 2005 Chateau de Malle- no one will pass on that! Your neighbor brings back a terrine of foie gras from Paris as payment for taking care of their cat – 2005 Chateau de Malle is a perfect, albeit conventional, pairing! At $24.95 per bottle, you can be as adventurous as you want with the 2005 Chateau de Malle. It’s a guilt-free, slam-dunk, smile-inducing, happy-making wine purchase. 

2011 Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Monday, February 17, 2014 9:09 PM

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!


Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 



With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!


So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 



Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri


Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

On Thanksgiving Wines, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013 8:50 PM

San Francisco, November 16, 2013. Two weeks ago, I pointed out that Thanksgiving was creeping up on us, and guess what? It is! Since this will be my last Sunday email before the big day, I’m going to continue with the T-Day spirit. You see, when it comes to Thanksgiving, I feel like I’ve been born again. Seriously, it has only been a fairly recent development that I get excited about Thanksgiving. Why get excited? Because I get to drink Sauternes, that’s why.


It is important to be grateful and give thanks, and I’ve never had a problem with that. It has been the traditional Thanksgiving meal that I’ve had issues with, and this goes way back to early childhood. Being the only native American in a family of immigrants came with a rather unique perspective. Goings on at the homes of childhood friends, though all different from each other, still had a familiar cultural connection. I would return home and it was like crossing a border or something. Giving thanks was something done daily at the dinner table … after one was finished. Though they had a few years of practice before I came into being, my family’s Thanksgiving meals were bland and banal. They ceased being banal once I started providing the wine, but the family feast still left a lot to be desired. In those days, excessive money was spent on extravagant bottles that drank very well; they just didn’t pair well with anything on the table. I enjoyed sharing fancy wines with my loved ones, and I still do, don’t get me wrong.

Being in this line of work has me a little more focused on pairings nowadays, and I’ve been loving my journey of discovering savory food pairings for the Gold wines of Sauternes and Barsac. I’ve always loved the wines, but I was under-utilizing them. It’s interesting how things come about, and my Sauternes story is certainly a long one; I’ll do my best to spare you the ” … and then the 38 Geary went by” details I’ve been known for while telling a story. It was May, 2008. It was just another day here at TWH, a customer was walking through the Bordeaux section, and then stopped in the Sauternes section. We do have an amazingly large selection of Gold wines, one of the largest in the country. I’m always curious to see customers there, so I went out to investigate. Turns out the customer was Didier Frechinet from Château La Tour Blanche. He was in town for a big Sauternes tasting. David asked me to go to the tasting.  A lot changed that day. I am very grateful that Didier visited us that day, and I am also very grateful for all of the good Sauternes has done for me. Very grateful. Giving Thanks.

After that tasting, I was off in search of unusual savory pairings for the Gold wines of Bordeaux, chiming in here on occasion.Turns out people actually read these things, because not too long thereafter, we teamed up with Aline Baly of Château Coutet for an all-Sauternes dinner for customers at Restaurant Picco in Larkspur. It was a smashing success, as we now have 3 Coutet dinners under our belts! Though born in France, Aline grew up here in the states and always celebrated Thanksgiving with the Gold Wines from her family’s property. Now there’s an idea! It might have taken me a while, as once you get in the habit of dismissing Thanksgiving, it can be difficult to embrace it. But I’m embracing it now; the golden elixir to the rescue!


What I’m trying to say here, as I said last time, there’s no right or wrong way to pair wine with Thanksgiving. Go with what works for you. You want a light-body red? Magnums of 2011 Fleurie would be great. A nice, fairly inexpensive White Burgundy? Try the 2011 Bourgogne Blanc from Michel Bouzereau.In the mood for a full-bodied red? The 2009 Château Larrivaux is calling your name. I could go on and on.  Just remember: This is Thanksgiving. These are your friends and family. Do what you want; or as Ms. Baly likes to say, “There are only traditions, no rules.”



I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, however you celebrate. Over the years, I have received compliments from several customers about these write-ups, and I am very grateful for them. I am also very grateful for those of you that I don’t hear from; thank you for reading! Giving Thanks.  


So yes, I am very excited about celebrating this born-again (for me) holiday. You can absolutely count on the fact that I will have, at the very least, a glass of Sauternes or Barsac come November 28.


In case you all want to join me in a toast, check this: We’re having a special sale on the 2005 Château La Tour Blanche in half-bottle! Regularly priced at $29.98, it is now on sale for $19.95!!! When I tasted it with Didier Frechinet in the room, I found the botrytis profound and the structure suggesting the wine will last a long, long time. After tasting it recently, I still find the botrytis ever-present, but it exhibits a melange of complexity that will keep you deep in thought … this baby’s open for business! True story, a customer once asked for a recommendation for a magnum of Sauternes for his daughter born in 2005. He bought the 2005 Château La Tour Blanche, he also asked me to enclose an autographed copy of my tasting notes. That was a first. Very Grateful. Giving Thanks. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Thanksgiving, Gold Wines, Bordeaux, or why I don’t like international breaks during footy season: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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Vintages, Verticals, And The Delectable Chateau Coutet

Thursday, February 9, 2012 4:47 PM


One of the most interesting things about the world of wine is the fact thatwith each new vintage comes a swath of new bottles from all over the world. One will often hear critics and oenophiles compare newly released vintages with older ones that they perhaps have experienced enough to draw such comparisons. Well, in the scheme of things, we understand some folks’ need to label something in order to move on. However, just as 2011 was different from 2007, it’s exciting to experience different vintages because they are just that: different.Sure, there will always be similarities due to terroir, grape varieties, etc., but each vintage IS different. This is why the vintages are listed on the labels. You won’t see a bottle of 2009 Bordeaux that says parenthetically, (just like the 1982!). You just won’t.

With variety being the spice of life and all, many of us collect things. Much of the time these collections consist of different individual components with a common theme. A favorite novelist’s works for instance, can represent clear snapshots in time revealing where the writer was, mind and spirit, with each book. A catalog of a musical artist’s albums serves a similar purpose. With each read/listen, one gains a better and better understanding of the author/artist, and observes the changes that may occur over time.

Taking all this into consideration, we can make a strong point stating thattasting a single producer’s wine over several vintages reveals not only a history of vintages past, but an ever focusing understanding of the true essence of said producer and their terroir. It is common practice among customers (and staff!) to collect multiple vintages of a particular producer’s wines for these very reasons. In most circumstances, it takes patience and a concentrated effort to build a vertical, as it’s sometimes difficult to source several vintages all at once. By virtue of our connections in Bordeaux,we’ve been able to source and offer you a 6 bottle vertical from Château Coutet.


Granted 1st Growth status in the 1855 Sauternes Classification,Château Coutetis 1 of only 2 Premier Cru chateaux in the village of Barsac.The unique terroir is comprised of clay on a limestone subsoil which is ideal forproducing wines with fresh, lively acidity levels balancing harmoniously with the yummy botrytis-affected fruit. “Coutet” is not a family name, but a derivative of the Gascon word “couteau” or knife, as the wines’ fresh acidity “cuts” through the fruit in the finished product. We’re huge fans of Château Coutet, having co-hosted not 1, but 2 dinners last year with Aline Baly from the Château. It was a great honor last year, during the time of the En Primeur Bordeaux tastings, that I was able to visit Aline and Philippe at Château Coutet and see about their unique terroir firsthand! It was an experience I won’t be forgetting any time soon … if ever.

For the vertical, we have 3 vintages in stock and 3 vintages in France awaiting transport. To play it safe, we’ll say that the 3 pre-arrival vintages are expected to arrive in mid to late 2012.

This is a great way to observe what has been done with a focused effort by the Chateau to make no compromises in the vineyard and cellar, and by making the right investments to continue its tradition of producing fresh, lively First Growth wines reflective of each individual vintage. The proof’s in the pudding!Peter Zavialoff

Château Coutet In-Stock:



2007 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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The overwhelming favorite from last year’s Bastille Day dinner at Range,tasting the 2007 Coutet is an ethereal experience indeed. – PZ

“This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more ‘pixilated’. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ – 94 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Marin
2006 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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The wine I drank on my birthday in 2010. The 2006 is perfect to be enjoyed now and will gain in complexity over the next 10-15 years. – PZ

“This is a little flatter on the nose than other ’06 Sauternes: marmalade, orange peel and tangerine, with less delineation that I would hope for, with petrol aromas developing with time. The palate is rounded on the entry, more sugary than botrytized fruit, viscous honeyed notes and a touch of barley sugar with a linear, quintessential Barsac finish. – 90 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin
2005 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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It was back in ’08,at a 2005 Barsac/Sauternes tasting at Fort Mason, that I first tasted the delectable 2005 Coutet. Unforgettable. – PZ

“Passion fruit, white peach and nectarine, then a hint of white flowers. The palate has a good level of botrytis, quite minerally, nice tension with dried apricot and spicy, quince flavours coming through on the linear finish. Time should mellow this out. Excellent. Drink 2012-2025. Tasted January 2009. – 92 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin


Château Coutet On Pre-Arrival:

Please note: Pre-arrival wines are expected to arrive mid to late 2012. You will be contacted when the wines arrive.



2009 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Recently tasted at the 2009 UGC tasting in Santa Monica, this is a decadent Coutet, with all the bells and whistles firing as they should be! – PZ

“The Coutet 2009 is a sensational effort from Philippe Baly and his team. It has a fragrant nose of honey, vervain tea, pineapple, frangipane and apple-blossom, well defined if needing a little more vigour at the moment. The palate is vibrant on the entry, informed by touches of apricot and orange peel, very focused and tensile towards the long, sensuous, viscous finish. It has the same minerality exuded by Doisy-Daene and reminds me of a stellar ’62 tasted just a few weeks previously. A magnificent Coutet. – (96-98 points)” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin
2008 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Tasted January 2011 at 2008 UGC tasting at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, I found it to be an aromatic masterpiece with complex layers upon layers. If it’s showing this well in its youth, it is sure going to be tough to wait and see what it will be like 10-15 years down the road! – PZ

“The 2008 Chateau Coutet has a very extroverted bouquet, with notes of tangerine, pink grapefruit, guava and pear drop, showing fine definition. The palate is well-balanced, with Coutet’s trademark citrus-driven entry segueing into a pure honeyed, mineral-rich finish that is linear, but very composed at this stage. This will need time, but it already displays that trademark race and tension that are the hallmarks of a great Coutet. Drink now-2040. – 92 points”The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin
1999 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Believe it or not, I have not tasted the 1999 Coutet … yet! – PZ

“Quite candied on the nose without the floral aspect that makes the 2002 so much more charming. Chalk dust, almond and white flowers. The palate is cohesive with good weight, quite minerally but does not fan out on the finish as I would wish. Starts well, but does not quite fulfill its promise on the finish. Medium-term Coutet, but quietly impressive. Tasted July 2006. – (90-92 points)” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin


Château Coutet Vertical:
Chateau Coutet 6 Bottle Vertical: 10% Off!!!
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Save 10% on this normally non-discountable wine! 1 bottle each of 2009 (pre-arrival), 2008 (pre-arrival), 2007, 2006, 2005, and 1999 (pre-arrival)!

To Pair With The Exotic: 2007 Barsac/Sauternes

Thursday, September 8, 2011 3:30 PM

Sweet indeed. Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope everyone is enjoying these three days, no matter what you do. Labor Day is a lot of things for a lot of people. An old friend of mine once told me that he was melancholy on Labor Day as it was the weekend that he and his family would close down their lakeside cottage in upstate NY. Funny thing was he really loved doing it. Some other friends are annual fixtures at the Sausalito Art Festival, and they generously open their nearby house for friends and family before, during and after the music. For me, there is usually a good chance my birthday lands during this weekend. Emily once told me thatshe drinks Viognier every year on her birthday, and I thought that wassuch a good idea that I immediately held a vote on what my annual bottle should be (it was a close race, but I won 1-0), and established the tradition last year. If you know me at all, it’s pretty easy to guess what I had and will continue to have on my birthday from now on. Gold Wine from Bordeaux, sweeeeet!


I could go on an on, and I have, but no day of celebration for me would be complete without a regal glass of wine from Barsac/Sauternes. If just as an aperitif, or with foie gras (insert obvious eye roll here), with blue cheese (more eye rollin’), or with dinner itself; it’s just got to be there. And it will be.

2007 was a sensational vintage for the Barsac/Sauternes region. The wines are marked with fresh, crisp acidity and that really helps to keep things in balance and accentuate the complexity of the wines. The now sold out 2007 Climens made our top 10 last year, and was the only wine I have ever predicted would get a perfect score from an influential critic after I tasted it (Neal Martin gave it 99+, so I was wrong). But I find the 2007 vintage to be quite compelling for these wines across the board. If you seek freshness and lively acidity in your Sauternes, you’re going to love these. They’re fantastic with food, I’m thinking lobster (yeah, that’s kind of obvious), or wok-tossed prawns, maybe a Vietnamese pork sandwich, or Chile Rellenos (okay, now I’m starving), a glass of 2007 Gold Wine will do you right! I’ve listed below our current stock of in-stock 2007 Barsac/Sauternes. Won’t you join me in a toast to the wonderful complexity of the wines from Barsac/Sauternes with a glass of wine from Barsac/Sauternes?Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me regarding Bordeaux’s Gold Wines, this year’s Champions’ League draws, or anything else: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

On July 14, all the cosmic tumblers aligned themselves as 55+ diners packed themselves into Range Restaurant for a very special evening. The concept was unusual;can you enjoy Bordeaux’s Gold wines (Barsac/Sauternes) throughout an entire dinner? Back in January, we had a very successful dinner doing just that at Bruce Hill’sRestaurant Picco in Marin. Well, now it wasBastille Day, it was warm and sunny in San Francisco, and Range Restaurant’s Chef Phil West concocted a tour de force of flavor and texture to accompany three vintages of Château Coutet. Aline Baly, who joined us all the way from Château Coutet in Barsac, was there to present the wines (I told you; we had ALL the cosmic tumblers in place). Ms. Baly made time to visit with everyone and she surprised us all with a taste of an older vintage. It was truly an unforgettable evening with smiles and praise bursting from both of the dining rooms. Aline mentioned that one minute she remembered sitting down and the next thing she knew, it was time to leave! Time flies when you’re having fun, eh? Even 4 weeks after the dinner, I received an email from one attendee calling the event, “Stupendous”, and continue to receive phone calls from others thanking us again and asking to be kept in the loop regarding any future Gold Wine dinners! A smashing time for all, myself included. Here’s how it went down:


Guests were treated to a fizzy, raspberry infused cocktail upon arrival in addition to roasted padron peppers that made their way around Range’s reception area. As the reception area filled up, we headed for the tables. Coordinating a pairing dinner for over 55 guests is a difficult task. Hats off to our friendsCameron and Phil West and their staff at Range Restaurant for their impeccable eye for detail. Every facet of the dinner was perfect. Diners were first served a pour of 2007 Château Coutet with an amuse bouche, which in this case consisted of plain custard topped with caviar. Smash hit #1. The flavor of the caviar and texture of the custard created a finish line tape that the 2007 Coutet cut right through with stunning harmony.Staying with the 2007, out came an English Pea stuffed pasta with black truffles and trumpet mushrooms. Again, the depth, earthiness and texture of the pea stuffed pasta and fungi provided the hanging curve ball that the 2007 Coutet slammed out of the ballpark with its freshness, depth and complexity. Spirits were high in anticipation of what was to come.


Fresh glasses came out closely followed by bottles of the2006 Coutet. A very underrated Sauternes vintage in my opinion. It’s a precocious wine of great balance, citrus and spice-like complexity, and fresh bright acidity. Chef’s idea for the 2006?Oysters Diablo.That would be two baked oysters in a creamy sauce with a hint of cayenne pepper to be eaten upon wafer-thin crispy toast. Flavors and textures; the pairing was so perfect that the thought of a bite of Oysters Diablo without a sip of 2006 Coutet was unthinkable. More praise from both dining rooms. Hitting high gear now, we were presented with the main course: Grilled quail on a bed of hominy with broccoli rabe and pancetta in a green peppercorn sauce. What a perfect set up for the profoundly botrytised 2005 Coutet! Its texture, depth and richness clearly demonstrated how versatile Gold wine can be. Most successful food/wine pairings are either complementary or contrasting, and this one was a little of both. The wine shined in complementary fashion with the flavors of the quail and hominy while simultaneously contrasting the nuances of the rabe, pancetta and green peppercorns. Talk about a lot going on! If that wasn’t enough, Aline then surprised everyone with a taste of Coutet 1989! In a word, the wine was stunning. 20 years has been good to this wine as the amalgam of complexity stretches the palate.Buoyed by its quintessential Barsac fresh acidity, the 1989 grabbed dinner guests much like early Technicolor films grabbed audiences used to black and white. What a treat. Thanks Aline!


Yes, the cosmic tumblers were aligned. It was pure harmonic convergence for foodies and wine people. The overwhelmingly obvious answer to the question is YES – YOU CAN DRINK SWEET WINES WITH YOUR DINNER! At least, along with Aline Baly of Château Coutet, we’re 2 for 2 in 2011.


By the way, there were some huge fans of the Château there too. Believe it or not,a couple of diners were responsible for bringing (and sharing a little) 1971, 1949, and get this, 1926 Coutet!  The 1926 being the oldest vintage that Aline herself has tasted. It was indeed a very memorable evening leaving all parties involved satisfied and happy.

Once again, we’d like to thank Aline Baly of Château Coutet for all of her efforts in addition to taking the time to join us and for providing the surprise vintage. Thanks go out to Jon Sillcocks from Range Restaurant for helping get this from fantasy to reality. To Cameron and Chef Phil West of Range Restaurant for their professionalism and for hosting such a fantastic dinner party. To the staff of Range Restaurant for their unparalleled level of service. To Monty Sander and Tom Fuller of Fuller & Sander Communications for their part in coordinating (and Tom for the above photos). And most of all, thanks to all of you who attended the event. Your participation and appreciation made it all worth it! – Peter Zavialoff, The Wine House San Francisco

Bastille Day Dinner At Range With Chateau Coutet

Thursday, June 16, 2011 9:21 PM

With the multitude of flavors and textures one finds in contemporary cuisine, it becomes a major challenge to find a wine versatile enough to pair with the many tastes and feels. A concept that is new to many, though hardly new at all is to use one of Bordeaux’s Gold wines. The sweet wines of Barsac/Sauternes make perfect accompaniment for dinner. Especially if the chef is juggling a complex array of texture and flavor.Back in January, together with Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet in Barsac, we held a dinner at Restaurant Picco in Larkspur pairing 3 vintages of Chateau Coutet with Chef Jared Rogers’ delectable expression of flavor and mouth feel. The results? Smashing. Every participant of that event left Picco satisfied … tremendously satisfied.It was such a success that we’re going to do it again! Aline is coming back to SF to visit (she’s calling it a vacation, though it sounds like work to me) in July and we’re teaming up with Chef Phil and Cameron West of Range Restaurant in the Mission for another Barsac/Sauternes tasting dinner, get this, on Bastille Day! What a way to celebrate, right? Seating will be limited to 60 diners; won’t you join the fun for this rare epicurean event? French speaking optional.


Dinner Details:

Where? Range Restaurant, 842 Valencia St (between 19th and 20th streets)


When? Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 7:00 PM for arrival; 7:30 PM for sit down

How Do I Make Reservations? Range Restaurant will be handling all reservations. Please call them anytime after 3:00 PM at 415.282.8283 and be sure to mention “The Chateau Coutet Dinner on July 14th” when making your booking.

How Much Does It Cost? The dinner with the wines included will cost $135 per diner. Please note: tax and gratuity not included.

What Are The Wines? Diners will be served 1 glass each of 2005, 2006 and 2007 Chateau Coutet. There are rumors that Aline will be treating all diners to a taste of an older vintage of Chateau Coutet.

What’s On The Menu? Though the menu is not 100% certain, it will resemble this:

A cocktail of sorts during the meet and greet period

Amuse Bouche

Stuffed pasta featuring summer truffles, fava beans and goat cheese

Oysters Diablo

Quail with Albufera sauce and sides


Where can I park? Parking can be difficult at times, please allow time to find street parking, or there is a public lot not far away on 21st St.

Any Other Questions? Please direct them to Peter Zavialoff – 415.355.9463 or peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

Chateau Coutet: Past, Present And Future

Saturday, February 5, 2011 5:09 PM


We’re only one month into 2011, and have already had one extremely successful “Winemaker Event”! It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet to Restaurant Picco in Larkspuron the evening of January 17th for a dinner pairing her wines with a multi-course, savory dinner. Several TWH customers and members of local media were in attendance, and everyone’s expectations were exceeded! Picco Chef Jared Rogers dialed in an amazing array of flavors and textures that worked oh-so-well with 3 different vintages of Chateau Coutet. As a special treat, Ms. Baly shared with all guests a taste of the not yet released 1997 Cuvee Madame! We sincerely thank Aline, Chef Jared, the Picco staff and all guests for their contributions to what amounted to a win-win-win-win evening! Ms. Baly plans to return to San Francisco sometime this summer, and we have been discussing another event, this time in the city. We have a list of interested parties for such an event, please contact me if you would like to be added to the list: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net.

 Coordinating such an event brought some unexpected good fortune. As we were investigating menu options and which vintages of Chateau Coutet we would be pouring, the topic of older vintages hovered just above our pragmatic decision to use wines that were already here in-stock. Later that week, after the UGC tasting, Aline informed me that there was a limited amount of both the 1976 and 1989 Chateau Coutet available directly from the Chateau!



Limited quantities of both the 1976 and 1989 Chateau Coutet are available directly from the Chateau. These two pre-arrival wines are expected to arrive by fall 2011.
1976 Chateau Coutet Barsac (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Robert Parker calls this “One of the best Coutets of the 1970’s”. It’s a seriously big, complex Barsac with the “trademark (Coutet) acidity.”


Know anyone born in 1976? This will make a great birthday gift for those 35ers out there!

1989 Chateau Coutet Barsac (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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From the middle vintage of the famous trio of ’88, ’89 and ’90, the 1989 Coutet is like heaven now, and has the stuffing to last and last. The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin uses words like “harmony and precision” in his stellar review of this classic Coutet!



Current vintages of Chateau Coutet in-stock now:
2005 Chateau Coutet Barsac (half bottle)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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2005 Chateau Coutet Barsac

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
  Add to Cart
“Tasted single blind at Southwold. Much lighter on the nose. Passion fruit, white peach and nectarine, then a hint of white flowers. The palate has a good level of botrytis, quite minerally, nice tension with dried apricot and spicy, quince flavours coming through on the linear finish. Time should mellow this out. Excellent. Drink 2012-2025. Tasted January 2009. 92 points” – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate

I could go on and on about this one, wait, I already have!

2006 Chateau Coutet Barsac (half bottle)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
  Add to Cart
2006 Chateau Coutet Barsac

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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I tasted this at the UGC SF in 2007, and was quite taken by it. Again, we’re talking brilliant acidity, finesse and balance. I took one bottle of wine home for my birthday last year. It was this one.

The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker had this to say, “Light to medium gold with a greenish hue, this wine exhibits wonderfully pure notes of wood spice such as vanillin, honeyed citrus, a hint of under-ripe peach, and touches of creme brulee and marmalade. With great acidity and finesse, this is a medium-bodied, impressively endowed, but generally very racy, restrained style of wine that should age beautifully for 25 or more years. It is not the sweetest, and by no means the biggest wine of 2006, but it has nobility tattooed all over it. – 92 points”

2007 Chateau Coutet Barsac (half bottle)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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2007 Chateau Coutet Barsac

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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“This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more “pixilated”. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ 94 points” – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate

This is a serious effort here, and of course, I’m a fan!



Available vintages of Chateau Coutet as futures. Note: 2008 is expected to arrive late 2011; 2009 is expected late 2012.
2008 Chateau Coutet Barsac (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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At UGC San Francisco, 1/21/11: “Zesty, lively fruit aromas, botrytis, hints of tropical fruit and marshmallow; zippy entry, lively, intensifies, brilliant acidity … pineapples and honey; acidity carries lengthy finish” – PZ


May I add, that as I began tasting the Gold Wines, there was a couple just finishing, and as they tasted the Coutet, they looked at each other and proclaimed, “Winner! This is the best of the bunch!”

2009 Chateau Coutet Barsac (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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From The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin: “The Coutet 2009 is a sensational effort from Philippe Baly and his team. It has a fragrant nose of honey, vervain tea, pineapple, frangipane and apple-blossom, well defined if needing a little more vigour at the moment. The palate is vibrant on the entry, informed by touches of apricot and orange peel, very focused and tensile towards the long, sensuous, viscous finish. It has the same minerality exuded by Doisy-Daene and reminds me of a stellar ’62 tasted just a few weeks previously. A magnificent Coutet. (96-98 points)” 
Peter Zavialoff

Our Top Ten Wines Of 2010

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 3:16 PM

Happy New Year! It was right around this time last year that we listed our first “Top Ten” wines of the year for 2009. We received an overwhelming response from that email/blog post, such a response, mind you, that we’re going to give it another go for 2010.

Again, the concept: A lot of different wines from different places fly through here throughout the year. Some make their way to our sales floor, some don’t. Of those that do, several stand out. They stand out for many reasons. Quality. Price. Quality for price. Exotic origins, unique varieties … You know, in 2008 TWH was awarded an Editor’s Award in the SF Bay Guardian as the Bay Area’s best “French Wine Warehouse”. We were happy and proud to receive such praise and honor, as we take our French wines seriously; but we take all wine seriously. This year, in addition to some French selections, we have wines from Spain, Greece, and of course, California that cracked the top ten. A couple have sold out, regretfully, but are mentioned here due to their merits.

We’re wishing you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2011!

10Domaine Ehrhart Cremant d’Alsace

We hear it often. “I have Champagne taste, but am on a sparkling wine budget.”(This does occur in other regions as well, but we’ll use this version for this wine.) Well, a sparkling 100% Chardonnay from Alsace is great way to get going!Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart’s Domaine is certified organic, and they pour their hearts into the finished product we get in the bottle. This latest batch of their Cremant raised eyebrows all around TWH with more than one staffer grabbing a bottle or two for New Year’s Weekend!
NV Domaine Ehrhart Cremant d’Alsace

Sparkling; White Blend; Alsace;
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92008 Valdubon Ribera del Duero Cosecha

From the Ribera del Duero, is our first of two Spanish Top Tenners, the 2008 Valdubon. None of us on the staff need to discuss this at any length with each other, as actions speak louder than words. A good way to gauge what wines are fancied by members of our staff is simply to observe what is taken home for personal consumption. With me, it started with the sample bottle that was left for us. I really love the finesse of this Tempranillo. It’s medium bodied, has bright red fruit and spice up front and sits in perfect balance as its complexities fade. It’s a great food wine too! The medium body lends itself to pair with a wide range of cuisine.Chris’ folks liked it so much, they ordered a six pack, but still haven’t received it because Chris drank it all. Tom packs one under his arm every now and then, and every time Anya loads up a case for friends and family, at least one of these makes its way into the box. Proof’s in the pudding.
2008 Bodegas Valdubon Ribera del Duero

Red Wine; Tempranillo; Ribera del Duero;
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82009 Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel

If there is a young California winemaker who had a better year than Morgan Twain-Peterson did in 2010, we haven’t heard of it. Over the course of the year, if you glanced at the Bulletin Board on erobertparker.com, you would see posts entitled Bedrock this and Bedrock that along with Morgan Peterson’s name, time and time again. Having met him here at TWH last year, we couldn’t be more happy for him. His 2009 Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel sold out faster than you can blink, Anya’s write-up notwithstanding. In spite of its sold out status, it surely deserves to be in our top ten!


72007 Lacuna Red Blend

Okay, it may be getting tough to get our mitts on anything Bedrock these days, but psssst! Here’s another one of Morgan’s wines under a different label, Lacuna. What a find.Chiefly Syrah that’s blendedwith Cinsault, Zinfandel and Grenache, this wine is a darling to all who love fuller bodied reds. The partners on this project knew straight away that they could have easily charged upwards of $40 for this delectable juice, but wanted it to be accessible to more than just the 40 and up crowd. Yes, sadly, this too will sell out, get yourself some while you can!
2007 Lacuna Syrah Blend California

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Other California;
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Santorini A EN 2009 - 0292009 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko

Looking back, it is somewhat surprising that one of our Top Ten of 2010 is a white wine from Greece. Surprising on the surface, anyway. When we tasted the 2009 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko,we were blown away. Dry and crisp with vibrant acidity, we weren’t the only ones to be blown away by this wine. Your demand for it had us sold out on several occasions as we continued to return to the well for another fix time and again.Think Greek Islands. Growing grapes for purportedly 3000 years. Hmmm. What is the protein of choice of most island societies? What do you suppose they want to drink with it? Yes; crab, scallops or prawns would be perfect.
2009 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini

White Wine; other white varietal; Greece;
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52009 Paco & Lola Rias Baixas Albarino

You just never know when the cosmic tumblers are going to line up and point the way to your favorite wine discovery of 2010! But that’s just what happened to me last year. An innocuous taste was just the first of several “signs” that this wine and I were meant to be. Just like many a wine geek, I gravitate toward versatile, aromatic white wines from all over the world. I seem to have found what I didn’t know I was looking for in a Rias Baixas Albarino, the Paco & Lola.
2009 Paco & Lola Albarino Rias Baixas

White Wine; other white varietal; Rias Baixas;
  Add to Cart


42009 Mattiasson White Blend

Speaking of versatile, aromatic white wines that will catch the attention of not only the wine geek, but the wine lover in all of us,the 2009 Matthiasson White is an aromatic heavyweight champ. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano, all grown in Napa County. It’s the perfect Cali-quaffer that will get you out of a Chardonnay rut before you can say “new oak barrel”. It cracks the Top Ten merely based on the smiles on the faces of you customers who come back raving, as you pick up your replacement bottles. Well, yes, of course, we love it too!
2009 Matthiasson Napa Valley White

White Wine; White Blend; Napa;
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32005 Paras Vineyards Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the perks of being in business for 33 years is the multitude of great relationships that we have forged with both customers and suppliers. Sometimes, as a result of a lengthy relationship, we continue to receive allocations of highly sought after wines. It’s kind of like a little bonus and a thank you from the supplier for believing in them before the critics started heaping on the praise. Generally, after the latter, allocations dry up and prices skyrocket. Well, we are tickled pink (or red, in this case) that we received our allocation of the 2005 Paras Vineyards Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Decanter Magazine tasted through a rather large smattering of 2005 California Cabernets. Guess which one they liked the most? We’re proud and grateful that we can offer this rocking Cab to our customers.
2005 Paras Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;

Reg. $72.98
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22009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie

Judging from what I’ve tasted so far, 2009 is one of those vintages that was good for everyone. Okay, everyone in France anyway. Timing can be funny. As I type, David is in France meeting people and tasting their wines. One of the many highlights of his prospecting last year were the incredible Cru Beaujolais from Chateau Raousset! The wines are blessed with perfect structure, balance and complexity. Of the 3 wines from Raousset, we found the Fleurie to be drinking perfectly upon arrival. Dare we say Gamay can age, and I would be thrilled to find a 2009 Fleurie (or Morgon) in my cellar 10 years from now. Thinking out loud here, good idea for a bumper sticker,“HIP Wine Drinkers Drink Cru Beaujolais!”
2009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie Grille Midi

Red Wine; Gamay; Burgundy;
  Add to Cart


12007 Chateau Climens

Okay, I didn’t purposely set out to make a false claim in last year’s Top Ten. I did state that no Top Ten list would be complete without a red Bordeaux. What I meant to say was no Top Ten list would be complete without something from Bordeaux. This year a tip of the cap goes out to the 2007 Chateau Climens. It was at the UGC tasting in Los Angeles last January where I got the chance to taste this amazing wine. I had never before, nor have I since proclaimed a wine would receive a perfect numerical score from an influential critic, but I did with this wine. For the record, The Wine Spectator’s number was 93, but it was The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin who saw things in similar fashion to me. Now I don’t expect Mr. Martin has any time on his hands to read my ramblings, but if he did, chances are he would also know that I am a supporter of the Chelsea Football Club. He is not a fan, this I know. My proclamation was issued in February 2010. Martin’s scoring of the 2007 Climens was released at the end of April. His score? 99+. Seems coincidental. We’re sold out, but there’s more in France. Please inquire if you are interested. – Peter Zavialoff

2007 Sauternes: Chateau Coutet In Stock!

Monday, August 30, 2010 4:13 PM

If you’ve been by our shop recently, you most likely noticed we weremaking space. Making space for what? More wine, of course. We’re 33% complete with another trio of incoming containers bringing us all sorts of goodies from overseas. This last one was chock full of Bordeaux. Red and white; sticky white, that is. Yes, I mean Sauternes. Most of our 2007 Sauternes selections are now in stock, including my favorite, Chateau Coutet!

I’m not going to get all sentimental about this, though I should point out that 2007 was the first vintage I tasted out of barrel in Bordeaux. So when I saw the forklift unloading palates stacked with wood cases with 2007 printed on them, I felt that things had come full circle. There were a plethora of memorable moments on that trip, but one of the most memorable was our stop at Chateau Desmirail in Cantenac for the UGC Sauternes tasting. Having spent the morning driving from the other Medoc UGC tastings at Pontet Canet and Lascombes, tasting 50 or so young, tannic, red wines, the thought of cleansing the palate with some luscious Sauternes was a brilliant idea. I just didn’t know how brilliant.

I’ve said before
that I’m a big fan of the 2005 vintage in Sauternes, yet I’d heard that 2007 was another stellar vintage for the region, and I was anxious to taste what I was hearing about. What a show. We got there around lunch time, the masses were still busy feeding themselves, and we had the room almost to ourselves. Only in such an empty tasting room could the following have happened. While tasting the Chateau d’Arche, I experienced a humorous episode. A sample was poured for me, I swirled it in my glass, and took a whiff. It was puzzling. I was already half way through the tasting, and these botrytised wines have similarities, but this was something strangely different. I swirled and inhaled again. It was unmistakable. Floral. I mean reaaaally floral; I started to write: “Weird faux floral thing, shampoo-like …”, I stopped. I turned around, and they were cleaning out the spittoon behind me and mopping the floor with soapy suds. Ah. I took my pour elsewhere in the empty room, and continued tasting. I found the majority of the wines to show great weight, buoyed by zippy acidity, wrapped around the ever so important botrytis. As I approached the finish line, having just tasted the opulent Chateau Guiraud, I stepped forward to sample one of my fave’s, Chateau Coutet. It’s a double-edged sword when you approach a tasting with expectations. I got my sample, gave it a swirl, and started jotting things down.“Enigmatic. Orchard fruit, a hint of grass, not getting any botrytis … marshmallow.” Then I tasted, “Dense, has depth, there’s the botrytis, it intensifies on the palate, deep, what a fine wine. Finish has depth, botrytis, lively acid, and fades slowly. Long.” Okay, there it was. I believe it was right there and then when I began to understand the difference between Sauternes and Barsac. The Guiraud was very good, yet somehow obvious. The Coutet was delicate, elegant; it was the waltz to the Guiraud’s tango. I tasted the final quintet, and it was time to go. Thank you Chateau Desmirail. Thank you for hosting a most lovely Sauternes tasting.


This past January, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux came to Los Angeles to pour the bottled 2007’s, and, as you would imagine, I was psyched to see how they turned out. I found many of the reds to my liking; and with their mineral drive and lively acid levels, the dry whites were stellar. Yet the wines of Sauternes stole the spotlight that day.Seriously, TV cameras and everything. I was looking around wondering where Angelina Jolie was. I tasted through the newly bottled stickies, andfound them ethereal. When I got to the Coutet, again, I was expecting a lot, but they didn’t fail me. Again, I got that depth, that pleasant pinch of all taste sensors, the botrytis, but the way the flavors seemed to intensify on the palate was extraordinary. Again, the finish was deep, complex, and lengthy. Bravo! I staggered through the end of the Sauternes section much like a prize fighter pinned to the ropes. I mean this figuratively, not literally, I am a professional, ergo I spit. But now that these lovelies are here in our shop, I can take one home and drink it! I think I just may treat myself to a half bottle tonight!


PS Sauternes are not dessert wines. Sure you can have them with dessert, as dessert, or as an aperitif, as the French do. You can pair them with savory cuisine. That’s right, savory cuisine. And I’m not just talking about foie gras. (Insert eye roll here). In fact, I was discussing this very topic with Sandrine Garbay back in April (Sandrine is the Maitre de Chai at Chateau d’Yquem), and when foie gras came up we collectively rolled our eyes at this good, but very tired pairing. Imagine seeing the same film every time you go to the cinema!?? Aline Baly, proprietor of Chateau Coutet visited our shop back in May, and we discussed the same subject at length. Especially now, in a day and age where so many exotic flavors and types of cuisine are available to us, the wines of Sauternes are extremely versatile and can pair with almost anything. A good customer of ours (and reader of these Sunday emails) was picking up a bottle of Sauternes earlier this week. We asked him what he was going to drink it with, and he said, “Hunan Lamb”. That’s the spirit!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments regarding savory Sauternes pairings, 2007 Bordeaux in general, or the latest transfer gossip: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

From The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, “This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more “pixilated”. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ – 94 points”

*Vineyard photo from tripadvisor.com; bottle/glasses from chateaucoutet.com

The UGC de Bordeaux Comes To California – 2007 Vintage

Saturday, February 13, 2010 4:15 PM

As I stated in a previous email, it was around this time last year that the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeauxcame to San Francisco to pour the newly bottled 2006 vintage. They were scheduled to do it again at the end of January, but decided to cut their junket short and skip us altogether. On relative short notice, I scrambled my way down to LA to attend the UGC tasting in Hollywood.Remembering how the wines tasted out of barrel back in March/April 2008, I was ready to taste them now that they’ve been bottled. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise.


Flash back to the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux in 2008. As we headed north through the Medoc on morning one, we had no idea how the wines would show. Rumors were swirling (sorry, I can’t help it) in regard to the Indian Summer that supposedly saved what would have been a lackluster vintage whose growing season was marked by murky weather at best. What I found very interestingwas the fact that because the summer weather was not hot and sunny, the hang time of the grapes was much longer than usual allowing them to fully ripen physiologically. Just hearing this made me think classic in regard to the vintage; meaning wines that were not necessarily “showy” in their youth, but wines that would gain in complexity each year stored in my cellar. The barrel tastings were highly educational. The top chateaux presented some outstanding samples (go figure, right?). Of course, they were able to afford to severely limit yields sending scores of workers into the vineyards all season. Well, it paid off. There were some other fine samples presented by lesser growth chateaux, but it was hit or miss at those levels. On the right bank, it was hit or miss again. As far as the red wines went, it is the type of vintage where one would need some guidance. The white wines, both dry and sweet, were another story. More on that later.

Back to the present. After a lengthy flight delay, I made it to the tasting … a little late … well, it was right when I snapped this photo. As you can see, it was in full swing. The beauty of it was that the mob was in the larger room on the right, so Pessac, St. Emilion, and Pomerol were easy access straight away. As I tasted through the Pessac-Leognan reds, it was not a surprise that I thought highly of the Haut-Bailly, Pape Clement, and Smith Haut-Lafitte. But with many of the others, I picked up more than a hint of what I like to call “Old School Bordeaux Funk”.

Switching gears completely, I was in St. Emilion and was taken by the Chateau Canon quickly. It was “delicate” and “elegant” (if I can read my own handwriting). All in all, the St. Emilions showed very well. The Pomerols showed great power and intensity … these will age well. Then it was the Margaux appellation, which was a little spotty. That left bank “funkiness” was back. St. Julien was similar; Pauillac had a few standouts. Lynch Bages and Pontet Canet showed very well, but leave it to Pichon Lalande to win the honor of best red!

I finally caught up to the mob. Where were they? Sauternes and Barsac. These wines are an absolute treat! It was another stellar vintage for the Noble Rot; the wines that were harmonious and well balanced out of barrel have taken on an extra dimension now that they are in bottle. I’m not going back on my claim that 2005 was the best Sauternes vintage of the decade, but in one case a 2007 trumps its 2005 counterpart. When I got to Chateau Climens, I had to fight my way through what I considered to be a Hollywood “see and be seen” party, complete with film crew. Well, the wine was stellar! So good, mind you, that we sold out of the tag ends we had left the very next day. One guess as to the general geographic area of all of the buyers … southern Cal, of course. There was much praise on ERobertParker.com’s bulletin board as well, and I will go on the record here … now … time stamp it. This will be one of those wines. You know what I’m on about here. It seems very likely to me that it will get 100 points from Robert Parker and/or The Wine Spectator. I was so impressed with the 2007 Climens that it would not surprise me at all if one day the phones started lighting up and the whole country needed to own this wine! So in preparation, we were able to secure an additional allocation of this soon to be trophy wine!

I took a victory lap back to Pessac-Leognan to taste whichever dry whites remained, no surprise, it was Pape Clement and Smith Haut-Lafitte again! I landed at SHL and decided to stop spitting as I was finished. Always one captivated by all things musical, I spyed the Capitol Records building in the distance and snapped this here parting shot before the sun set. 


My conclusion is unfortunately similar to the consensus (that’s not usually how I roll); it was a trying vintage for the red wines on the left bank (save the few mentioned here and the atavistic “Old School Funky” ones, and I’m sure the top growth who don’t pour at these events … sadly). The right bank reds showed panache and verve without being overdone, and I applaud the efforts there. The dry whites were very well balanced with zippy acidity. And finally, the Sauternes … Ah, the Sauternes. Oh yeah, the de Fargues was sensational also; but there can only be one winner, and that would be the Climens … hands down!Peter Zavialoff

2005 Rabaud Promis On Sale! Treat Yourself

Monday, December 21, 2009 3:12 PM

ATTENTION CUSTOMERS: We will be open Sunday, December 20 from 12 Noon until 4PM and Thursday, December 24 from 10AM until 5PM. We will be closed Christmas Day.

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2005 Chateau Rabaud Promis Sauternes (half bottle)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;

Reg. $24.98


  Add to Cart
2005 Chateau Rabaud Promis Sauternes

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;

Reg. $49.98


  Add to Cart


What makes something special? A visit to M-W Online will tell you things like, “Unique”, “Distinguished by some unusual quality”, or “Held in particular esteem”. One other descriptor it adds is, “Being other than the usual”. This resonates most with me because really, special is, uh, special. So even though there is not a day that goes by (really … and I’ve said it before) when I want to grab a half bottle of Sauternes to take home, I don’t. Why? Because to me, Sauternes is special. It has been months since I last took any Sauternes home, so last night I got to thinking, it’s the holidays, treat yourself. And treat myself I did!
Ah, but which Sauternes to bring home? Given all the choices, you all must wonder exactly how we come to any decisions as to what to bring home for our own consumption. This story pretty much epitomizes how a member of our staff makes that decision. We have a customer who really enjoys sweeter wines. The other day, she approached me with two different half bottles of Sauternes and asked me for my opinion of them. One was the 2005 d’Arche Lafaurie Cuvee Madame and the other was the 2005 Rabaud Promis. The answer was simple. I had tried the d’Arche Lafaurie (and loved it) and had not tried the Rabaud Promis. Knowing what I know about the 2005 Sauternes vintage (fish in a barrel, anyone?), I knew the Rabaud Promis would be very good as well. I encouraged her to try it and report back (how about that for a lame attempt to get free tasting notes?). She busted me, and chose the d’Arche Lafaurie. That left me exactly where I was, knowing nothing about the Rabaud Promis. Well not quite. My curiosity had been officially piqued. So I decided that it was time to not only know what it tasted like, but to treat myself to something special at the same time. So, without much fanfare, I grabbed a half bottle on my way out the door last night, and was I in for a treat.


I opened up my kitchen door, then the fridge, and popped the Sauternes in for a quick chill. I took care of a little business and got my dinner arranged. It’s funny, I flew through dinner quickly, which is something I never do. I very well may be the slowest eater around. My family is certainly aware of this, as at gatherings it is not uncommon for my mother to ask, “Who wants coffee, who wants tea?”, bringing out dessert; while I am in the middle of lunch. Sorry, I’m rambling again. I flew through dinner because, for me, it was always going to be about the Sauternes. I cleaned up, got a fresh glass and let the corkscrew work its magic. Pop. Out it came. Poured the first glass. It was a little too cold. So I cupped the bowl with my hands as I swirled. I am a pretty patient guy, so I waited 15 minutes or so before I got back involved. Wow, was I rewarded.Aromatically, I picked up tropical notes of pineapple, papaya, and mango … candied peaches, baked apple, and the quintessential botrytis of 2005. On the palate, that baked apple thing really came forth, as did the vanilla, which led me to think of apple pie a la mode straight away. I marveled at the brilliant, lively acidity that seemed to hold the whole thing together and make for a memorable finish of fruit and spice. Wow, talk about something special!

So, you see, you never know what is going to inspire you to taste a wine you’ve never tried before. I would like to thank our customer who inspired this particular tasting (she did come in today and reported the 2005 d’Arche Lafaurie Cuvee Madame to be something special indeed.) But one thing’s for sure, if I could make a list of all of the special things in my life, Sauternes would be on it!Peter Zavialoff

I would like to wish you all a very healthy, safe, and happy holiday season. Thank you, as always, for reading. Should you have any comments or questions on Sauternes, the meaning of “special”, the insanity of the English Premiership, or eating slowly, please address them to: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net
2005 Chateau Rabaud Promis Sauternes (half bottle)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;

Reg. $24.98


  Add to Cart
2005 Chateau Rabaud Promis Sauternes

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;

Reg. $49.98


  Add to Cart

Half Bottles, Giving Thanks, and Betterment

Monday, November 23, 2009 4:29 PM

Exciting news!!! The Wine House is now on Facebook. And if that’s not enough, you can also follow us on Twitter!!!



In an earlier Sunday email,I wrote something about shivering in November. I was right. My fingers feel like they’ve been forming snowballs. Thanksgiving is next week, and I am certain we all have things to do and people to share them with. Earlier today, I exchanged emails with our DJ pal Arden at KPIG radio, and she agreed with me that although it’s nice to get together with loved ones and celebrate Thanksgiving, conceptually, every day should be for giving thanks. I’m certainly thankful to have a friend like Arden who is a wealth of knowledge of all things musical and so much more, who plays a request for us almost every Saturday and gives us a shout over the airwaves. So there. Giving thanks. Every day. 

Something else I’ve been doing every day since sometime in late spring, is use the word “betterment”. It has made a world of difference in the way I feel each day. Better than any New Year’s resolution, my betterment campaign goes something like this: Whenever any decision needs to be made, I ask myself the question, “Is this for the betterment?” Somehow, this seems to be working. Some nights, I find myself alone in the treehouse cooking up something for dinner. But what to do regarding the wine? Opening a full bottle is not an acceptable practice if one is flying solo. As a charter member of the Betterment Society, I give thanks to the inventors of the half-bottle! Half bottles are an absolute boon to those who love wine. Even in groups, we can taste so much more and not have do deal with the excess. The betterment is not confined to what I am drinking either. Exercise and nutrition are part of the program as well, and for the latter, I routinely check out Summer Tomato. It is a blog run by a San Francisco Foodie, health enthusiast, wine loving scientist. Checking in there has been an inspiration that I am truly thankful for. Let’s just say that I never thought I would walk out of a farmers’ market with a bag of kale, let alone know how to prepare it. Don’t miss the recipes! Giving thanks.

Anyhoo. Back to the half bottle thing. We have a multitude of 375 ml bottles to choose from ranging from Sancerre, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Sauternes. I’m all over the map when it comes to these little beauties and enjoy them all. I’ll list a few of my favorites below.I can’t conclude without thanking you, our customers, for your continued patronage. We wouldn’t be here without you. It is always a pleasure helping you find those wines that put smiles on your faces. Many of you have been very complimentary regarding our write-ups, and I am always touched to hear your kind words. Giving thanks.Peter Zavialoff


Feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Thanksgiving, The Betterment Society, Half Bottles, The Upcoming Chelsea v Arsenal Match, or anything else: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

Roadtrips And Sauternes – 2005 Coutet

Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:53 PM


Ah, the road. I love road trips. Haven’t been on one in a while, but I’m on my way tomorrow (Thursday). If all is Rosy, I will be in The Big Easy when this email hits your inbox. But that’s not going to stop me from chiming in with my thoughts each fortnight.

One of the more interesting things about being in the wine business is the constant observation of human nature and how we react to big scores, low scores, big hype, and even one single line in a film! I have a very wide range of emotion when it comes to these observations. Say what you want about ratings, but they don’t seem to be going away any time soon. It is my feeling that in spite of having the best intentions for the consumer, the folks who use the 100 point scale have actually hurt us wine drinkers by giving producers a numerical reason to hold out for more cash. Alas, amidst all the hype, sometimes something goes unnoticed.

If you have a sweet tooth (most of us do, including me – even though I rarely have dessert), you may want to look into the wines of Sauternes. A little research into the topic yields fascinating results. Really, if you think about it, it has to be painfully expensive to make this wine. I mean when the time comes, you’re sending a lot of people out into the vineyard to hand pick grapes for several days, not to mention employing other people to inspect these grapes one by one when they come in. And that’s all before you even start to make wine out of them. Then there’s the cost of new barrels … why bother? You know why?Because the wines of Sauternes are among the best wines in the world that’s why. They are incredibly complex, pair well with an abundance of cuisine, both sweet and savory, and due to their sugar content, they can last a long, long time if properly cellared.


So, maybe 2005 Sauternes got lost in the hype of the 2005 Red Bordeaux andWhite Bordeauxand Red Burgundyand White Burgundy and the Southern Rhone Valley and the Northern Rhone Valley. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. When John returned from Bordeaux in the spring of 2006, in spite of having just tasted the superb red and dry whites of 2005, he was beaming about Sauternes! One point he made over and over was that the period for harvesting botrytised grapes was much longer than normal. In fact it was up to five times longer than some vintages. This made for incredible complexity. I have tasted several 2005 Sauternes, and I said it then, and I will say it now – I was, and continue to be, blown away. Kaboom! I have heard a lot of hype about the 2001, 2003, and 2007 vintages. I have tasted them. There is no comparison for me. 2005 was the Sauternes vintage.They’re still young, but they are already breathtaking. Sauternes are all about botrytis, and in 2005, the botrytis is profound.


Chances are, if you’ve come in our shop and asked me for a recommendation for a 2005 Sauternes, my knee-jerk reaction would have been Cou-tet. As big a fan as I am of the vintage as a whole, I choose the Chateau Coutet as the finest of these sticky sensations. I will never forget that Sauternes tasting I went to last year where all the wines showed incredibly well. But the fun part was tasting the Coutet with a room full of wine people. It was quiet and professional, but when it came time for all of us to taste the Coutet together, wow! The din ratcheted up several levels, smiles were tossed around the room, and I didn’t notice too many people spitting.

I went to check out this wine on Robert Parker’s website, and next to the wine was this, “92+”. As I always do, I like to read about the tasting experience in words. That usually tells me lots more about a wine than some numeric snapshot in time. When I clicked on the wine, it opened a window that said, “no tasting note given”. Whatever. See my tasting notes below.

Sure Sauternes can be special occasion wine. Lord knows what kind of group you need to drink one out of magnum. Of all Bordeaux bottlings, I would have to say that you see more half bottles of Sauternes than anything. There’s a reason for that. A little half bottle of a great Sauternes is the perfect capper for any occasion. Break one of those out, and you’ll get comments like, “Wow. You thought of everything!” I’ve been known to do just that.

Woo-hoo! I’m psyched about hitting the road. Let’s just say the last time I went to New Orleans (15 years ago), I was a cocky youngster and was humbled … deeply. I am returning seeking redemption. I will revel in doing my small part in helping this soulful old city continue its road to recovery. I’ll make a deal with you all. This email is scheduled to hit on Saturday evening at 9:00PM PDT. It will be 11:00PM where I am. Perfect time for finishing a nice dinner. Precisely at that hour, I will order a half-bottle of Sauternes from whichever restaurant I will be dining that evening. Hopefully, they’ll have the 2005 Coutet!

Tasting Notes

Here we all were in a small room, all quiet, swirling the same wine. Notes are being jotted down, sips taken, the spitting (romantic huh?), more notes, then all of a sudden, the euphoria we felt as a group couldn’t be contained, and smiles of glee and praise were heaped. My own note concluded with “Cover off the ball”. Hints of flintiness on the nose combined with the profound botrytis and some citrus notes, but I had no idea what was in store for me. The wine showed amazing weight, sat perfectly on the palate, gained in intensity, showed off candied fruit and spice-cake among other things, and finished like the grand finale of a fireworks show. The hit of the tasting. Need I say more? Peter Zavialoff


The Only Merchant In America With This Wine!

So, as the story goes … In the spring of 2006, while I was finishing up my first month in the wine business, John was visiting Bordeaux for the annual en primeurtastings. On getaway day, he was down in Barsac visiting Chateau Climens, where he was informed about the length of the Sauternes harvest. The 2005 harvest period was unusually long as some grapes weren’t picked until November!Having so many different batches of grapes gave thevignerons a wide palate of flavors to blend with, adding to the already complex nuances of these grapes affected by the noble rot. By the time he made the trip back up to Bordeaux proper, it was getting late in the day, and the prospects of tasting many other Sauternes from this amazing vintage were dwindling. He did have an appointment with a negociant, and when he arrived, he was met and taken to a room (really, an entire room) full of unopened wine bottles most of which were 2005s. As is custom, he was offered the opportunity to taste whatever struck his fancy, and amongst others, he swirled a 2003 Sauternes from a lesser-known Chateau d’Arche-Lafaurie. It was their fairly new Cuvee Madame, which we are coming to learn is a huge step up from previous offerings from this chateau. Impressed with the 2003, he had a go at the 2005 as well, and loved it. His tasting notebook dog-eared at the page, he returned home, and when the wine came up for sale as futures, he bought some.

 What is interesting about this is that according to a few wine-specific search engines, we are the only merchants in the country carrying this wine!We sold some as futures, and I made a point of questioning those of you who bought this wine as to why you chose this particular chateau, as I didn’t have any knowledge of these wines. I found that many of you either had experience with, or heard about the success of the 2003 version. Anyway, when the wine finally arrived, our staff had to try a half-bottle.

As we were all tasting this wine, you could hear descriptors like, creme brulee, coconut cream, dates, and candied pear. Followed by, “How much is it??!! You’ve got to be kidding, this is great!” All of us who tasted that day were very impressed. I could go on and on about the vintage itself. Wait a sec, I already have! Suffice to say, despite what I have read about Sauternes vintages of the oughts, to me, 2005 is clearly the most complex, pleasurable vintage for these amazing wines.


After working hard in the kitchen with prep and execution, having had some laughs and lively conversation with friends both while cooking and during dinner, not to mention having tasted some fine wine paired with said dinner, warrants the question, How do you follow an act like that? We’re making it easy for you. A simple half bottle of 2005 Chateau d’Arche-Lafaurie Cuvee Madame will do the trick. Sure, if your table is bigger than mine (most are), then perhaps a full bottle. Bring ’round the cheeses, bring the desserts, or simply sip your dessert. It’s all good.


PS If you think you might want to cellar some of this wine for posterity, I say good idea, you’re on to something. A Sante! – Peter Zavialoff


Tasting Notes

Ah … there’s nothing like having a glass of fine Sauternes in your hands. Savor the aromatics. I picked up aromas reminiscent of Butter Rum LifeSaver, with hints of caramel, pear, and sawdust. It enters the palate much like a long ride on a big wave. The flavors and vibrancy come together hand in hand and seemingly ride on forever. The wine seems to intensify as it builds tension which never pushes you over the edge. It finishes with a zippy lift that leaves you thinking about how to conserve what’s left in your glass without compromising your gustatory experience.


Feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2005 Sauternes, staff tastings, Butter Rum LifeSavers, or the wine business in general: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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