Entre-Deux-Mers: Drink Responsibly

Monday, April 24, 2017 1:14 PM

Could it be because Pete just returned from Bordeaux, or that it’s Earth Day and I am thinking about human stewardship of the planet? Or is it because it is a wine I have frequently purchased for my own personal pleasure that I have selected to write a few words about the lovely white Entre-Deux-Mers from Chateau Ferran? For all the above reasons and more, I have the 2015 Chateau Ferran Entre-Deux-Mers on my mind. Entre-Deux-Mers is a expansive Bordeaux appellation but within it are a few choice sub-appellations. One of note is Haut Benauge and this is where you will find Chateau Ferran. Haut Benauge is directly across the Garonne River from Graves and because it is on high ground it is considered a choice location to grow wine grapes.


Chateau Ferran is a family-run estate that converted to organic and biodynamic farming nearly ten years ago. In preparation for this write-up, I visited Chateau Ferran’s website. The website has plenty of information about the winemaking, the farming philosophy and such, but there is practically no mention of the people who make the wine or run the estate. I think this is a deliberate exclusion. It suggests to me that the Ferran family places more importance on the land, the soil, the biodiversity of the vineyards, than on human intervention.


This Entre-Deux-Mers is a blend of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 10% each of Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. I am drawn to the yellow fruit flavors, reminiscent of peaches and apricots, that linger long on the palate. It has no pungent, grassy flavors so often associated with Sauvignon Blanc. All tank fermented, with some time on the lees, it has gorgeous floral aromatics that bring to mind citrus blossoms and acacia. The finish is slightly creamy and is very fresh. It has filled in very nicely as my Friday Night Fish Fry wine, making a lovely match with baked, breaded Petrale Sole.




Julien Ferran is the current winemaker who took over from his father, Alain. Julien is a biologist by trade, so his interest in biodynamic farming is not unexpected (check out 

this video of Julien discussing geobiology in the vineyard). I know for many the principles of biodynamic farming are controversial and verge on the cult-like, but in my anecdotal experience with wineries who embrace biodynamics, I see a direct connection between the exhaustive, conscientious work down in the vineyard and the quality of the wine. This under $15 Bordeaux blanc is impressive because of the effort that went into it and the final outcome, its deliciousness.




Samples of Chateau Ferran were sent to us by another French winery who included them among their own samples. We had no prior relationship to Chateau Ferran when we tasted the samples. We knew nothing of them other than they were friends of a wine family with whom we were starting to do business. Based solely on the quality (and price) of the samples, we purchased a pallet of Chateau Ferran. This is atypical of TWH to pull the trigger so quickly, but good wine is good wine – we recognized it immediately, so we felt there was little risk.


The last few weeks have had a recurring theme for me that centers around the question, “what do you believe in?” I have been asking myself a lot of questions about what I am willing to stand up for personally, socially and spiritually. I’ll spare you my existential angst, but if I’m comparing two wines of equal pleasure to me and one is made by a small family who farms organically and/or biodynamically and the other is mass-produced, industrially made, I am going to pick the former every time. The 2015 Entre-Deux-Mers is coming home with me tonight. I am not sure what is on the menu, but I’ll start the evening with a chilled glass of it. Tastes good and it’s good for you! – Anya Balistreri

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New Arrival – 2014 Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc

Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:28 AM

Last weekend we mentioned the fact that we have had several visitors from Bordeaux drop by over the past week and a half. This is an annual occurrence, as this has been the week that the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings of the 2014 vintage, now in bottle, take place across the continent. They started last Friday in Miami, and have now moved through Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, Chicago, and they are in Los Angeles tonight. The traveling junket arrives in our fair city tomorrow for a tasting at the Saint Francis Hotel. UGC Tastings are usually well attended affairs, and this one promises to be packed. Large crowds are not exactly my cup of tea, but I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to taste the 2014’s now that they’re bottled.





The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux was a very good one … with very fair prices! It was a homogenous vintage, as each of Bordeaux’s appellations turned out well-balanced, classically styled wines. In the scheme of things, tasting the red wines from 2014 out of barrel was not as challenging as in some other vintages. But still, the debut of bottled 2014s promises to provide us with purple teeth and plenty of tannins tomorrow, though the tasting is not confined to red wines only. The dry whites of Pessac-Léognan will be represented; and I may be in the minority here, but out of barrel, I preferred the 2014 dry whites to their 2015 counterparts. I’ve gone on the record declaring my admiration for dry white Bordeaux on several occasions, and one of my favorite dry white producer’s 2014 wine has just landed here at TWH: Château Carbonnieux!


Like I said, the vintage was a very good one for the reds and dry whites, and Carbonnieux turned out another tempting barrel sample. I picked up some fleshy yellow fruit and melon on the nose, its palate entry was bright and zippy, with the acidity and complexity expanding mid palate. There were hints of chalky minerals present, framing a promising barrel sample. And tomorrow, I will have an updated tasting note which begins, “From bottle, UGC SF 1/27/17.” I’m excited.


I’m guessing Neal Martin has tasted this from bottle by this point, but here are his words about 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc from barrel: “The Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2014 has a pretty nose in the making: precise apple blossom and blackcurrant leaf aromas that gently waft from the glass. The palate is crisp on the entry, the acidity not as shrill as some of its peers, thus rendering it a more “languid” Pessac-Léognan. There is already a very elegant, gravelly finish that lingers in the mouth-a very promising Carbonnieux Blanc that may merit a higher score after bottling.”


Tomorrow’s tasting promises to be a great event! It’s always educational to discover how the finished wine is a couple of years after tasting its respective barrel samples. And if the young red wines get to my palate with their youthful structures, it sure is good to know that there will also be an array of high-quality dry white Bordeaux in the house! – Peter Zavialoff

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A White From Carlisle? That’s Right!

Monday, June 13, 2016 5:59 PM

The Derivative from Carlisle
 
I like to boast about the fact that The Wine House started carrying Carlisle wines from the very first vintage whenMike Officer, then a customer of ours with a taste for Rhônes, began making small lots of Zinfandel. Eighteen vintages later, we continue to still stock Carlisle wines only now their repertoire has expanded to include several single-vineyard and appellation-designated Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah (to name a few) and of late, white wine too. The 2013 The Derivative is a complex blend of several white grape varietals from multiple vineyard keeping in line with Carlisle’s zeal for sourcing old-vine fruit.
 
Semillon at Monte Rosso Vineyard
 
The base of the wine is Semillon, about half of the blend, from the famed and historic Monte Rosso Vineyard.Monte Rosso Vineyard is named for its rich, red volcanic soils and lies on the last high flank of the Mayacamas Range. The Semillon grown here was first planted in 1890. To this Mike adds Muscadelle from three different vineyards, and Colombard from Mancini Ranch. At the corner of Piner and Olivet Roads just west of Santa Rosa,Mancini Ranch was planted by Lucca Mancini in 1922.The Colombard adds a significant acid component, adding lift and zip to the wine. Only the Semillon was fermented in oak and of that, only 20% was new. The rest of the grapes were fermented in tank. Phew, that was a lot of information I realize, but I find it interesting to know how the pieces fit together to make a harmonious, complex wine. The wine is golden-hued with honey, grapefruit and beeswax notes. It has firm structure and the acid is notable and pleasant.
 
Saitone Ranch
 
On a recent Monday morning, Peter said to me “guess what I drank yesterday?”. I of course had no idea, but my best guess was “Bordeaux”. Nope, he drank a glass of The Derivative with Sunday lunch at a restaurant. I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I asked what he thought of it. He told me he liked it very much and that it reminded him of White Bordeaux. Hmmm…that sounded intriguing to me. The winery notes on The Derivative specifically suggest that fans of White Bordeaux would find this wine “right up your ally”. I have to admit that when I took the wine home to try for myself, because of the percentage of Semillon, I had in mind a much different flavor profile. I expected it to be oily and round, but what I tasted was far more stealth and lively … like White Bordeaux. The grapefruit and spearmint flavors are followed by a slight oxidative note reminding me of the bottles of 1998 Domaine de Chevalier I polished off just a while back. In flavor and in structure, this wine suggests it will age quite comfortably. I would be curious to know how this wine evolves over time. For right now though, it is pretty delicious.
 
Mike Officer
 
I siphoned off a bit of The Derivative into a vial to share with the guys at the store. I served them a taste blind just to make it more interesting. Chris, David and Pete liked it immediately and with some deductive reasoning, Pete recognized the wine as being the one he had at Sunday lunch. Chris remarked that he wished he could taste the wine with food, thinking that it would perhaps show differently. I got excited by his comment because I knew it to be true. As the cliché goes, The Derivative is a food wine.The Derivative takes on a much broader flavor spectrum with food and its acidity cradles rich, creamy flavors to higher heights. I write this because I know – at home the glass I tried became far more opulent and showy when I drank it with my dinner.
 
2013 The Derivative
 
Over the last eighteen vintages, I have witnessed the evolution of a winery go from a small unknown to one widely recognized as being one of the finest producers in California. An online wine forum that I follow from time to time – they claim to be “The World’s Largest and Most Active Online Wine Community”- even has a thread that reads “Which Carlisle are you drinking”? The thread has over 6,000 posts. Not just any winery can command that much interest and devotion.
 
School’s out for Summer! Alice Cooper’s lyric looped inside my head as I drove my daughter to her last day of 6th grade. I think I may be more excited than she is about the start of summer. I am hoping to slow down the pace, go outside, explore. As someone wisely said in a movie I watched with my daughter (her choice) last weekend, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Anya Balistreri
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2013 Opalie de Château Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 6:36 PM


2013 Opalie de Château Coutet
(Pre-Arrival)
 
Dry white Bordeauxwines are some of the wine world’s finest treasures. Typically made by blending Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon, and sometimes Sauvignon Gris or Muscadelle; the top wines are smartlysnapped up by collectors, and due to short supply, their prices can be astronomical. But just like any famous wine region, there is still value to be had! One doesn’t need to win the lottery to enjoy a fine bottle of white Bordeaux, one just has to know where to look. Entry level pricing for the elite white Bordeaux producers usually starts at around $80 per bottle and ranges much higher for the two wines with “Haut-Brion Blanc” in their name. Savvy white Bordeaux lovers know that for around half the entry level price, high quality can still be had. We are happy and proud to once again be the first wine merchants in the world to offer the 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet on pre-arrival!

 

 
In the spirit of “Y” d’Yquem, “S” de Suduiraut, or “G” de Guiraud, the Opalie de Coutet is a dry white wine made by a producer better known for their sweet wines. The only difference is that Opalie de Coutet is from Barsac! The soil here is clay upon limestone, and what makes Opalie different from the “single letter gang,” is the freshness and nerve that Coutet is known for.
 
 
The 2013 vintage in Bordeaux heavily favored those making dry white and gold wines, as the spring and summer were unusually cool which is essential for the development of fresh acidity in the grapes. August saw a heat wave that ripened things up a bit, and by harvest, we had a winner of a white wine vintage! (Check out the 2013 Sauternes too, they’re fantastic.) With such well balanced, zippy fruit, the blend was 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It was 70/30 for the 2012. I was able to taste the bottled 2013 last spring while visiting Aline Baly and her uncle Philippe at Château Coutet, and I was very impressed. As in past vintages, it’s truly a unique wine.The aromas are deep, rich, and complex. Citrus fruit, beeswax, wet rocks, and a faint hint of vanilla. Once again, the wine is aged in oak barrels, 40% being new. The barrel imparts more texture than flavor, and it seems that 40% is the magic number, as the 2013 Opalie continues the trend of slightly upstaging its previous incarnation. The palate is rich and decadent, dry and crisp, and carries with it an amalgam of complexity ranging from stone fruits to citrus, with the mineral/beeswax/vanilla texture holding together nicely. Top that off with a nervy, grand finale of a finish, and we’ve got another blue ribbon on our hands courtesy of Château Coutet. Production is limited to 250 cases; that’s just 250 cases for the whole world!! Opalie de Coutet is a rare gem, indeed!
 
 
The time has come to prepare to travel to Bordeaux as members of the wine trade have already begun to descend upon the region, meaning it should be a proper madhouse by the time the En Primeur tastings begin on Monday, April 4. I will be there by the middle of next week, and I will hit the ground running with negociant visits begining the following day. Aline and Philippe were kind enough to invite me to visit them at Coutet, and as always, I am looking forward to that. On the agenda: Tasting the 2014 Opalie amongst others … – Peter Zavialoff

 

Click Here To Purchase 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet on Pre-Arrival

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Whencustomers enter TWH for thevery first time, they often inquire aboutwhat it is that we do and how we go about sourcing the wines to put in the bins that line our sales floor. While there are no general, party-line answers to those questions, there isone major criterionthat isconsistently present in our wines,whether they’re $10 per bottle or $200: Value. As in,“Is this worth it?” To a Pomerol collector with a much larger wine budget than mine, the2012 Vieux Chateau Certan is a great wine from a great producer that isevery bit worth its $168.98 price tag. Oh how I would love to taste this wine 10 years from now. To a Dogpatch neighbor who walks their dog every afternoon and occasionally pops in forgood, inexpensive dry white wine, we have several to choose from. One such white wine,not to be missed, would be the2014 Montravel Blanc from Château Calabre.

 

 
 
Coming on the heels of Anya’s recent email about longtime relationships in the wine business, TWH is happy and proud of our ongoing association with Daniel Hecquet and his wines from Montravel and Bergerac. We’ve been stocking Daniel’s wines for 20 years! Why? Value. Are they worth it? Unquestionably. The Château Calabre Montravel Blanc is Hecquet’s entry-level white, made in the style of dry white Bordeaux blends. The blend for his 2014 is 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, and 10% Muscadelle. It’s fresh and clean, all tank fermented, and ready to go with its screwcap enclosure. The palate is zippy and lipsmacking with fine balance, and it clocks in at 13% alcohol. It’s a great little versatile white thatdelivers pleasure at a very reasonable price: $10.99 (or $9.34 by the case). As someone who has worked on sourcing the wines in our Dirty Dozen sampler for a decade can attest to, it is much more difficult to find good quality inexpensive white wine than red. I don’t know why that is, but it is true. If there were more producers out there like Daniel Hecquet, sourcing the Dirty Dozen each month would be a little easier.
 
 
It just makes good sense that a shopper doesn’t make a purchase unless they perceive there to be value in said purchase. Please keep in mind that before we offer these wines to you, we ourselves must buy them! That of course makes us wine shoppers also. When tasting and appraising a wine, we have an idea of what its price tag is going to be. That’s where the decision is made. Is it worth it? The 2014 Château Calabre Montravel Blanc sure is; the $9.34 by the case price makes it a no-brainer. – Peter Zavialoff
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