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

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

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

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


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

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

2012 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Saturday, March 14, 2015 5:32 PM

It is once again, with great pleasure, that we announce the American release of an extraordinary dry white wine from Bordeaux! By now, many of you are familiar with Opalie de Château Coutet, as we were the first wine merchants to offer both the inaugural 2010 and its successor from 2011. These are two stunning wines: opulent, textured and complex, both reflective of the prized terroir they’re sourced from and of their distinct vintages. Unique in its vivacity, Opalie is a first-of-its-kind dry white wine from Barsac produced in extremely limited production. And now comes the 2012, another gem extracted from Château Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyard in Barsac.

 

When we unveiled the inaugural 2010 vintage, we pointed out how the dry white wines fromBordeaux can count themselves among the finest wines in the world. They have a committed following of in-the-know wine consumers snapping up what little is produced, and prices for the top echelon wines can be astronomical. The Opalie de Château Coutet is a truly unique white Bordeaux wine that at once encapsulates richness, layers of complexity, opulence, nerve, and texture in unwavering harmony.

With the 2011 Opalie, we again pointed out in what short supply these wines are in, and further praised their ability to age. If you’ve ever tasted a dry white Bordeaux with the additional complexity that comes with age, you already know what we’re talking about. These wines can age for much longer than most of us think. At TWH’s holiday party this past January, we poured a dry white Bordeaux from 1992 out of half-bottle with one of our dinner courses, and it blew us away! Are we saying that youshould age your Opalie 20 years before you drink it? NO! It’s in a lovely place, drinking very well right now. But if you find the odd bottle or two in your cellar a few years down the road, you’ll be in for a treat.

So, what about the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet then? Well, for starters, it has to be my sentimental favorite, because it was in April 2012 that I had my very first taste of Opalie while visiting Aline and Philippe Baly at Château Coutet. The 2010 was already in bottle and the 2011 in barrel, but for the 2012, it was just the beginning. After that initial tasting, I shared my glowing impressions of the wine with them. Citing how much I appreciated the wine’s richness, complexity, and sense of place, Philippe persistently inquired as to how I would improve the wine if I could. Again, we all have different taste, but I do have a fairly high tolerance for acidity in white wines. I mentioned this to them, and Philippe agreed stating that the recipe going forward would be to increase the amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the cuvee. For the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet, the blend is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. The wine is aged for 9 months in oak barrels, with 40% being new. In a word, the wine is fantastic! Its fresh aromas captivate the taster with nuances of citrus blossoms, baking spices, stony minerals, and green tea. The body is lively and zesty, plenty of zip provided by the Sauvignon Blanc, and the palate is rich and complex, with the mineral laden framework enduring through the finish. I tasted the2012 Opalie on my final day in Bordeaux last year, leaving a long lasting impression on me. Class and distinction.Class and distinction for a very fair price, that is.

 

Here’s what The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth had to say about the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet:
“Juicy, with lots of tangerine, white peach and green almond notes that bounce along, carried by vivacious acidity. Hints of melon rind and green plum show on the finish, leaving the impression this could stretch out a little more. Drink now through through 2018. 291 cases made. Score 91.”

 

So there you have it. Château Coutet’s one-of-a-kind dry white wine, the 2012 Opalie.Right now, the only place you can get it on pre-arrival in the US is here at TWH!

The time keeps ticking as Bordeaux prepares for itsannual En Primeurs barrel tastings which commence on Tuesday, March 31. I will berepresenting The Wine House SF at the tastings,scouting the 2014 vintage (and more) for our customers. My appointment book is filling up with visits to growers, suppliers, and chateaux. I will continue to scout for lesser known wines that represent great values for their various price-points and it looks like I will be visiting some of Bordeaux’s most famous chateaux in addition to tasting at the UGC events. In keeping with tradition, I will take the time to visit Sauternes and Barsac in particular. There’s a very good chance that I’ll get to taste the 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet, and to that, I am looking forward. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any specific requests in regard to tasting the barrel samples. Please know that time constraints will not allow for me to taste everything, but I will do my best to share my impressions of any particular wines you may be interested in that I do taste.

peter@wineSF.com

Click Here To Purchase 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet on Pre-Arrival

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;
$74.00
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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

2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 4:45 PM

White Bordeaux is one of the wine world’s true treasures. Produced in tiny quantities compared to their red counterparts, the wines offer a vast array of complexity, the ability to pair with a litany of dishes, and a surprising ability to age. Some white Bordeaux wines can last for years and years if properly stored, and still dazzle the olfactory sense and palate with exciting nuances. The wines have a dedicated following, thus making them difficult to source. 

 

 

Last summer, Barsac First Growth Château Coutet introduced us to their 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet. It marked the inaugural vintage of the château’s very special dry white wine, produced in very small quantity. The Wine House San Francisco was the first merchant in the world to offer this special wine (on a pre-arrival basis), and the response from our customers was overwhelming! The 2010 Opalie sold out shortly after arrival, and judging from the feedback we have received, a great many of you have been charmed by this gem of a wine. One good turn deserves another, so just like the 2010, please allow us to introduce the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!

 

 

Again, this is a very special dry white Bordeaux. The 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet comes from the quintessential parts of the Grand Cru vineyards.  Sourced from a few rows of 40 year old vines, sitting on the thickest layers of clay and limestone, the fruit is hand selected and harvested using small baskets for collection, so as not to bruise the grapes. It is comprised of half Sémillon and half Sauvignon Blanc, the former providing the depth and richness, with the latter contributing liveliness and verve. The wine is fermented and aged for 9 months in 45% new French oak barrels. It is an elegant, harmonious dry white wine that displays Coutet’s inherent richness framed by crisp minerality and freshness.

 

The 2011 vintage heavily favored those growing white grapes in Bordeaux. Warm weather in April sped up vineyard activity by two weeks, and the dry weather forced the vines to dig deep into the clay and limestone for nutrients. Cooler weather in summer was beneficial for the grapes to achieve the proper levels of acidity. That was followed by a warm, sunny Indian summer which provided the ideal conditions in which to harvest. In other words, if you prefer dry white wines with good mineral definition and harmonious balance of fruit and acid, the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux is for you! (If you’re a fan of Bordeaux’s Gold Wines, aka Sauternes and Barsac, 2011 is for you too. The 2011 was the best Château Coutet barrel sample I have ever tasted.)

 

 

I was lucky enough to taste the 2011 Opalie back in April at Château Coutet, with a table full of wine enthusiasts (including, at least, one MW!). Pale straw-like in color, the wine had rich aromas of citrus blossoms and stony minerals with that hint of a beeswax shadow. The oak barrel regimen has lessened from 60% new to 45% from the 2010 vintage, and that is recognizable on both the aromatics and palate. The palate is deep and rich, the citrusy Sauvignon Blanc bracing the complex elements of the Sémillon. It is a truly unique tasting experience, the richness from the esteemed Coutet terroir in a dry wine. Compared to their 2010 bottling, the 2011 seemed to have less oak spice on the nose, yet the barrel’s influence was still present in the wine’s texture, which again, seemed to be brighter and even more fresh than the 2010! There were smiles and praise all around the table as the Opalie de Château Coutet is a one-of-a-kind wine. Class and distinction.

 

Production of the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet is very small, just 250 cases.We have received our allocation, and are happy and grateful to be the first US merchant to offer this wine to all of you! We are selling the 2011 Opalie on a pre-arrival basis.  The first half of our allocation has arrived, but it has sold out to those who purchased the wine on pre-arrival. The balance will arrive sometime in early 2014. Here’s another chance to be the first on your block with the brand new vintage, introducing the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!!! – Peter Zavialoff

 

 

2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
$44.00
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6-Pack 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

$264.00
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Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

$499.00
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2011 Chateau Les Arroucats Cuvee Virginie

Thursday, August 8, 2013 6:26 PM

By now you’ve heard all about our venture into the “Value Bordeaux” world. What’s not to like? Great wines from Bordeaux’s hidden corners, and they all outperform their respective prices by a long shot! As we previously reported, we chose 24 samples, tasted them over the course of a month or so, and just chose six wines to sell in our shop. Four of those were red wines. What were the other two?  Well, the soon-to-be sold out 2012 Bordeaux Clairet was one, but what was the sixth wine chosen? This one’s for those of us who enjoy the sweeter side of life, it’s the 2011 Chateau Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie from Sainte-Croix-du-Mont.

 

Okay, this isn’t Sauternes. It isn’t Barsac. Nor is it Preignac, Fargues, or Bommes. But just across the river from this cluster of villages that mark the home of the world’s finest sweet wines (and a famous dry wine or two), sits the appellation of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont. Just like our other “Value Bordeaux”, the prices for the sweet wines from the north side of the Garonne are bargains compared to their famous neighbors. Sainte-Croix-du-Mont sports some of the best topography and soil on that side of the river. Its proximity to the Garonne makes it another locale situated well for the development of the noble rot. Chateau Les Arroucats was established in the late 1940’s by a Mr. Labat; his granddaughter Mme. Virginie Barbe is at the helm these days. Her vines grow in calcareous, clay soils on a plateau of ancient seabed. The blend is 70% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 10% Muscadelle from vines up to 60 years old. No oak touches this wine, it’s all concrete and stainless steel tank, and it’s aged in cement vats for two years before bottling. The result is a fresh, aromatic expression of stone fruit and a hint of caramel and chalk. On the palate, the wine is lively, not viscous, with the distinct sweetness and complexity of a botrytised wine. Again, you can always go the route of sipping this with dessert or as dessert itself, but it’s better served with the exotic and spicy. Of course, one can also go the traditional route of blue cheese or liver pate, but life’s too short to be mired by tradition, isn’t it?

 

Our ever-expanding “Value Bordeaux” section is here to stay, and it now sports a sweet, botrytised wine. How sweet it is! It has already garnered the attention of several customers who have been gushing over the virtues of a 750ml bottle of botrytised (mostly) Sémillon from southern Bordeaux for such a crazy price. And remember, the 2011 Chateau Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie had to pass the scrutiny of our staff, initially, and is now another great deal that each of us has been and will be taking home for our own tables! 

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