2012 Château Teynac, Saint-Julien – A New Favorite!

Monday, January 23, 2017 11:20 AM

A belated Happy New Year, all! I can’t believe this is my first Saturday evening email of 2017 – the flu hits hard, and I was recovering from the repercussions of said flu last Saturday. And now that it has passed, there’s no mistaking what time of year it is. The parade of Bordeaux personalities has begun to pass through our doors, and there will be more to come next week, culminating with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting of the newly bottled 2014’s next Friday! With so many folks passing through here, I am being constantly reminded to get a move on making my arrangements for early April’s En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux. A new container from France just arrived, and on it is a wine which also reminds me of one of the reasons I make this trip each spring – a super deal!


As I may have mentioned in the past, En Primeur week begins on a Monday and lasts through Thursday; with wine people from all over the world scrambling around in our rental cars frantically trying to make all of our tasting appointments on time! I like to arrive in the middle of the preceding week, giving me a few days to adjust to the time, cuisine, and language. It also allows me time to visit suppliers and taste several bottled wines, all the while seeking value. The value wine that took the gold during last April’s visit has now arrived, and we all just tasted it last week: 2012 Château Teynac, Saint-Julien.


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Saint-Julien has the lowest average production of the five major appellations of the Médoc, yet it also has the highest proportion of classified growths, producing over 80% of the appellation’s annual output. So, with over 80% of the appellation classified, we must ask ourselves are there any non-classified Saint-Julien bargains out there? The answer is a resounding yes. It was at a negociant tasting last year where I tasted the 2012 Château Teynac, to call it a big hit would be an understatement. It showed aromas of black cherry fruit and cassis, with the signature underlying forest floor, chalky mineral, and hint of leather that I usually associate with nearby Château Gruaud Larose. The palate is medium bodied, and the acid component of the wine’s structure is bright and lively. There are some spice notes which come from a little oak barrel in the mix, and the finish is bright and complex. Impressed as I was with the tasting, I fully jumped on board after checking its price and hearing its story.


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Château Teynac sticks out like a beacon on the main road that connects the village of Beychevelle with Gruaud Larose and Chateau Lagrange beyond that. The negociant mentioned that the vineyards lay between Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou and Chateau Beychevelle, though after I returned from the trip, I read somewhere that they were more specifically between Beychevelle and Gruaud Larose, which makes a lot of sense to me, as I was reminded of the latter’s aromatic profile when tasting the wine. This negoce also told me that the vineyards continue to be sought after by neighboring classified growths, but that Teynac’s owners, set with their “tech money,” refuse to sell. They enjoy their wine, so they keep a lot of it for themselves.

Since 2008, they had employed the daughter and granddaughter of Spanish winemakers, Diana Garcia Gonzalez to make their wines. Obviously, winemaking is in her blood. She set off immediately and went about improving things. New harvesting machines, stainless steel tanks (in order to vinify seperate parcels), and a new cellar were all brought in under her watch. Her magic touch extends beyond the winery, as she is a nurse and a bit of a vine-whisperer out in the vineyards. Diana was the winemaker for the 2012 Château Teynac, though has since joined Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol as Technical Director. She now goes by Diana Berrouet Garcia. Keep your eye on that property — we sure will!


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A Close Up Of The Small Label Sign To The Left Of The Gate Above


In the excellent timing department, my health is back just in time for this evening’s festivities, for tonight is TWH’s Holiday Party. We can’t exactly schedule such a thing during the period known as “The Holidays,” due to high stress and other obligations, so we’ve had these events in January before. You can bet there will be wine from Bordeaux at this dinner; Chris and I even lobbied hard for a second bottle of Sauternes to be brought because, in his words, “I like the idea of having a glass of Sauternes in front of me to taste with everything that comes to the table.” That makes two of us! – Peter Zavialoff

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Holidays, Favorite Wines, and Memories

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 10:45 AM


Twas the night before Christmas … and the first night of Hanukkah too! Pretty cool, if you ask me, as I’m all for celebrations. Considering the timing of my fortnightly ramble, I’m not expecting as wide an audience to be reading this evening. That takes all the pressure off, as there’s really no need to speak of any specific wine tonight. I figure that we’ve all got our wines for the holiday weekend in place, ready to be shared and enjoyed. So, for the sake of exercise, and since it’s the time of year to break out the good stuff, I will reminisce about some of my very favorite wines.


*I will go on the record here and declare any 1982 red Bordeaux ineligible from this list; much like the Beatles’ exclusion from favorite musical acts lists.

1985 Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac

This wine was served as the final act of a dinner/tasting with some very good friends, and we formed a Bordeaux tasting group that evening. The concept was a good one. Back in the days when one could purchase First Growth Bordeaux for less than $200 per bottle, I was thinking out loud to a couple of friends. “I would love to try a bottle of Mouton, but wouldn’t necessarily want to splurge and just have the one bottle. But if you chipped in $200, and you chipped in $200, and we got a couple more friends to do the same, we could taste 6 bottles of great Bordeaux, and that would be worth it!” This idea caught fire and Carsten and I were in charge of acquiring the special bottles. The evening’s lineup, in order: 1978 Pontet Canet, 1985 Pichon Lalande, 1985 Margaux, 1982 Leoville Las Cases, 1978 Lafite Rothschild, and 1985 Mouton Rothschild. Such a memorable evening with close friends, great food, and amazing wine. The 1985 Mouton took the blue ribbon for its amazing complexity and sublime mouth feel. I hope to taste this wine again someday.


1985 Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard

My all-time favorite California wine. I have been lucky enough to have tasted ’85 Martha’s a handful of times. The very first was with some trader buddies back in my days as a NASDAQ marketmaker at The Little Nell in Aspen. But the most memorable tasting was at “A Taste For Life,” which was a charity tasting put on by Wine Commune in 2001. Due to the generosity of a good friend, I found myself seated at the 1982 Bordeaux table with several Bordeaux enthusiasts. Our conversations were free-flowing and full of passionate stories about Bordeaux. The lineup at our table was: Lafite, Margaux, Mouton, Latour, Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Pichon Lalande, and La Mission Haut Brion. At some point after I tasted the aforementioned, I caught Shaun Bishop walking through the crowd with a bottle sporting that unmistakeable 1985 Heitz Martha’s label (well, it could have been the 1974). You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I asked if I could possibly have a taste. Not only did he oblige, he was quite generous about the pour. I took the glass back to the table and shared it with the rest of those seated. Not only did the Heitz hold its own, it stood out with its abundance of cassis, earth, spice, and that quintessential Martha’s Vineyard menthol/mint/eucalyptus. I didn’t think a wine from California could stand up to some of Bordeaux’s legendary wines from a legendary vintage. I was wrong.

1988 Chateau Margaux

Back to my trader days here. A trader buddy (and one of the boys from the ski trip) from New York recommended I stay at the Eden Hotel when I visited Rome. He strongly advised me to eat in the hotel’s top floor restaurant, which sported a panoramic view of Rome’s skyline. The Colosseum, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, and St. Peter’s were all visible from the dining room. My guest and I dined there the very first night and had such a blast during and after dinner that I tracked down the maitre d’ and asked if we could eat there again on our last night in town. “For you, Mr. Zavialoff, the finest table in Rome.” That’s what he said; no kidding. Two nights later, that’s what we got. That special table in the corner window with the view. Wow. So I decided to go for it and get the Margaux. This experience had a lot to do with why I’m here typing today. It was my first Bordeaux epiphany. Never, at that time, had I tasted such a complex red wine. It had depth, richness, silky tannins, and aromas galore. Our server was wise to keep the decanter out of arm’s reach. This way it lasted all through dinner. It was more spectacular than the finest table in Rome.


1985 Leoville Las Cases

I consider myself very lucky to have tasted 1985 Leoville Las Cases. I was given a bottle as a gift several years ago, and I was saving it for a special occasion. In 2014, my boyhood baseball team won its third World Series in five years, so that was special enough to pop the ’85. (I’ve got a thing for 1985 red Bordeaux.) I brought the bottle to Restaurant Picco in Larkspur, where I pop in fairly regularly. The complexity, mouth feel, and aromatic sensations that I experienced with the 1985 Las Cases, I would put up against anything I’ve ever tasted. My friends and I shared tastes with the manager, assistant manager, several servers, and Chef de Cuisine, Jared Rogers. Every single one of us were completely blown away. 30 year old Bordeaux, still tasting rather fresh, yet showing layers and layers of Bordeaux goodness which comes from time in the cellar. We collectively shed a tear when the bottle came up empty. All we had was a memory. A very happy memory. And the good news is that the generous gent who gave me that bottle has given me another. Thank you! I look forward to that special occasion.

2005 Chateau Coutet, Barsac

Not even a short list of favorite wines would be complete without the 2005 Coutet. It all started when someone came to our shop on Carolina Street and spent a long time in our Sauternes section. I engaged him in conversation and it turned out he was with Chateau La Tour Blanche. He was in town for a 2005 Sauternes tasting at Fort Mason. David made a couple of phone calls, and I went to the tasting. The lineup included Doisy Vedrines, Doisy Daene, Rayne Vigneau, Clos Haut Peyraguey, La Tour Blanche, Coutet, Guiraud, Suduiraut, and Climens. Each wine was tasted by the group at the same time, and all the wines were showing very well. I will never forget what happened when we all tasted the ’05 Coutet. The noise level in the room erupted and smiles and praise beamed from all the tasters. It was quite incredible. My own notes concluded with “Cover off the ball.” It gets better. I put my staff pick sign on this wine and somehow it got back to Chateau Coutet – to Aline Baly specifically. Together, we have hosted three awesome all-Sauternes tasting dinners, and Aline and her uncle Philippe have treated me like family ever since. Having grown up in the Boston area, Aline suggested I try it with lobster. What a great idea. I have very fond memories of 2005 Coutet and lobster shared with my sister for several years. This will always be a special wine for me.


Well, if you made it this far, I thank you. Without reason to flog a wine, I thought it fun to remember some of the great wines I’ve tasted. I don’t mean this to appear as a brag of any sort; but in writing this, I’ve come to remember the people and occasions which got these bottles open in the first place. For me, the most important thing about a good bottle of wine is sharing it. 2016 has been a tumultuous year; we can all agree with that. As I grow older, I become painfully aware that life is short. Some of the people with whom I shared the above wines are no longer with us. Well, we’ve all still got each other, so let me raise a glass and toast: To all of us, may we enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, share some good times, wonderful meals and fine wine, may we live in good health and in peace. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! – Peter Zavialoff

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2011 Leoville-Poyferre

Friday, November 13, 2015 12:09 AM


It’s been an eventful week here at TWH. The Wine Spectator released its Top Ten Wines of the year over the course of this week, and we were greeted with ringing phones and many orders for Wine #9 first thing Monday morning. (We still have a very limited amount of the 2012 Château Clos Fourtet available on Pre-Arrival – Expected early 2016). More of the same for Wine #6 on Wednesday (though that wine is now sold out), and then we watched the rest of the show in somewhat peace and quiet. It triggered some fine conversation around here.

 
It can feel like panic buying. The interesting thing is that the wine did not undergo any change in the last week.It’s been in bottle for around a year, yet as this list began leak out, perceptions changed. Suddenly on Monday morning, many had to have the wine … and immediately. It’s not a surprise that our staff are all wine consumers, though this list didn’t motivate us to buy a single bottle. It was fun to watch, but what motivates us to buy a wine? Quality. Price. Markets are efficient. A buyer bids, a seller offers; when they meet, the trade occurs and both are happy, or they should be. When it comes to Cru Classé Bordeaux, the sellers seem to have less compromise than other wine producers. When Château Léoville-Poyferré earned 198+ points from The Wine Advocate for their combined 2009 and 2010 vintages, it seemed like another “good-bye” to friendly pricing for one of Bordeaux’s Second Growths.
 
 
The 2011 vintage in Bordeaux was nowhere near as universally successful as the 2009 and 2010 vintages were, yet it was no washout either! There were plenty of successful red wines produced in Bordeaux in 2011, not the least of which is the 2011 Léoville-Poyferré.With the chateau’s recent successes, coupled with a favorable barrel sample review from Robert Parker, we nervously awaited the release of the price of their 2011. It wasn’t bad, but with the exchange rate at the time, it wasn’t cheap either. So what motivates our staff to buy a wine?Quality. Price. There is no mistaking the quality of the 2011 Léoville-Poyferré. The price? $90, but wait, aspart of our 38th Anniversary Sale, it’s just $74.95!Now there’s a change that should motivate. The wine is still the same. The price has gotten better. It’s here, it’s in stock. It will drink well beginning in a couple of years and last two decades at the very least. It will make for a great gift, especially for those who may be cellaring the 2009 and/or 2010 versions. The 2011 will be drinkable long before either of those are ready.
 
Robert Parker’s in-bottle review of the 2011 Château Léoville-Poyferré in The Wine Advocate:
“This property, which has been on a qualitative tear over the last generation, has produced one of the most successful wines of 2011. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, it is broad, rich, medium to full-bodied and dense. It boasts an inky/purple color as well as lots of concentration, silky tannins, and a bigger, richer mouthfeel than any of its St.-Julien peers. The result is one of the stars of the vintage. 94 points”
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As I alluded to yesterday, summer is here, and I can go on and on about more white and rosé wines, but on the heels of the praise of Grüner Veltliner, I thought to change it up a bit. Why not? It’s probably no surprise that my thoughts are on Bordeaux, that’s just natural. The Bordelais just hosted VinExpo this past week, and though we were able to follow the festivities via social media, my inbox was unusually quiet this week. That’s all good, we all need time to catch up on things. As I was doing a little housecleaning this morning, I stumbled upon a fairly recent acquisition, the 2008 Château Gloria. I thought, “Here’s an outstanding bottle of red Bordeaux, with a little age on it, for a very fair price.Hey, people drink red wine during summer too.” Summer barbecues? But of course.

 
 
A couple of years ago, I wrote about another St. Julien chateau, and my very first experience with it. Back in those early days of exploration, I listened to a lot of peoplefrom various wine shops, and received a lot of good advice. Occasionally, I went off on my own and would try something on a hunch. One of these early hunches wasChâteau Gloria. I liked the price and saw “St. Julien” on the label. That was enough to go on. It did not disappoint. I found it very enjoyable with a cedary, tobacco, forest floor element, with a good dose of concentrated dark fruit, all in balance. My fellow diners were equally impressed. Maybe it was the pomp of decanting the bottle, I don’t know, but my friends thought I paid double what I did for it. From that moment on, in my mind, filed under Château Gloria was this experience.
 

Things have only gotten better at the chateau over the past 20 years as quality has improved remarkably.The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker remarked back in 1998 that, “Recent vintages of Gloria have pushed the level of quality even higher.” After revisiting the 2003 last summer, Parker declared, “Year in and year out, there is rarely a better wine for the money than this dark garnet Gloria.” If you think about the wild ride of Bordeaux pricing, you’ve got to love the fairness in pricing shown by the team at Château Gloria.
 
 
The 2008 Gloria is drinking very well. Still youthful, it can be enjoyed now or cellared for another 10 years easy. Probably more. You can take my word for it. Or, here’s what the folks at The Wine Advocate had to say:
 
First, Robert Parker: “A stunning sleeper of the vintage, this beautiful, already irresistible, plum/garnet-colored 2008 is a wine to purchase by the case. It possesses a dense plum/purple color, a glorious perfume of Christmas fruitcake, cedarwood, black currants, jammy cherries and licorice, medium to full body and a silky personality. It will provide both a hedonistic and intellectual turn-on over the next 10-15 years. 90 points”
 
And Neal Martin: “The Chateau Gloria 2008 has a fresh, well-defined bouquet with tobacco and graphite notes. It is very clean with well-integrated and judicious use of oak. The palate is medium-bodied with a rounded black cherry and spice-tinged entry leading to a plush, well-defined finish. This is a well-made Saint Julien that should age well over 10-15 years. 91 points”
 
 
So yeah, summer can call for lighter wines meant to be sipped chilled, but there are times when you might want a bold, elegant red too. The 2008 Château Gloria is that wine. I’m looking forward to the first barbecue of summer, because I will be packing one of these. An hour or two in the decanter, and voilà: instant decadence for a modest price. Looking for a belated Father’s Day gift? How about a couple of bottles of 2008 Gloria – one for this summer, one for a summer down the road. To all the Dads out there, we wish you a very Happy Fathers’ Day! And a very Happy Summer Solstice too! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Bordeaux, St. Julien in particular, or all of the transfer gossip that permeates the English media this time of year: peter@wineSF.com
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Slow Down With 2009 Chateau Lagrange

Sunday, May 19, 2013 5:59 PM

Seriously, where does the time go? I picked up the phone yesterday afternoon and assisted an east coast customer who was sending one bottle gifts to several business associates all over the country. Since we were pushing the UPS deadline to begin with, I initially decided that we could wait until next week to ship them. Then it dawned on me, if we ship them on Monday, the east coast customers will get them the following Monday, right? Wrong. No shipping on Memorial Day. Yes, it’s that close. We shipped them yesterday, so no problem there; but what’s up with it being Memorial Day already? How does one slow down the clock? I’ve done a significant amount of research on the subject, but I’ll spare you all the boring parts and just say that one way to slow down time is to have a glass of something rich and complex that is meant to be savored and enjoyed over a long period of time. And if you’re really serious about making time crawl, try cellaring a few bottles of said wine, knowing that you are not to open the next one for x-amount of years. Where am I going? Why 2009 Bordeaux, of course. In particular, 2009 Château Lagrange.

 

I was once told that my ability to remember so many vivid details about my past was “not healthy”, but I do remember my first moment with Château Lagrange. I was a budding Bordeaux lover weaning myself from fancy Napa Valley wines. I was already building a vertical of Château Gruaud Larose, and it was becoming obvious that St. Julien was my favorite appellation. I was in one of my favorite warehouse-style shops listening to a couple of “pros” talk about Bordeaux. One of them went on and on about Lagrange, a château I had yet to try. Well, not until that evening anyway. The verdict? It made complete sense to me that I liked it. Well sure, it was the 1990 which was a pretty well-received wine. But I also discovered that the property was located just behind Gruaud Larose on the gravelly plateau of St. Julien. I was learning about the concept of terroir. 

 

Lagrange was given Third Growth status in the famous 1855 classification. But just like so many other châteaux, has endured many ups and downs since. They have been on a roll since the mid 1980’s, causing Robert Parker to report in 1991 that, “this wine currently remains considerably underpriced given the quality level of the wines (sic) that is now emerging.” I went back to the well several times, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed every vintage of Lagrange I’ve tasted. When I tasted the 2009 out of barrel back in April 2010, I found it rich and intense, yet with expressive, perfumy aromatics. Two years later, from bottle, it was among my favorites of the tasting. Expressive dark red fruit and forest floor dominated the aromas, the palate was rich and deep, my notes continue, “Big profile, great wine, cellar, wow.” Oh yeah, those squiggly lines that only appear next to outstanding wines are on both sides of this note.

 

Robert Parker had this to say about it, “A slightly lighter, less powerful style of St. Julien, but also less oaky than previous vintages have tended to be, the 2009 Lagrange offers attractive, fresh, red and black currant notes, and an elegant as well as corpulent attack and mid-palate. This wine does not have the weight of the “big boys” of St. Julien, but it displays an endearing finesse, freshness, and purity.”

But it was The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin who said this: “The Lagrange 2009 has an earthy, slightly introverted nose at the moment although it opens ajar with aeration with hints of lavender and crushed flower. The palate is medium-bodied with a fresh, citrus entry, great delineation and a wonderful build of flavours on the mouth, a subtle crescendo as it were. This is so very refined and classy. 95 points”

This is special wine. It’s not for pizza nor for Tuesday nights. It’s special. So here’s the strategy: it will most likely hit its ideal drinking window in approximately 6 or 7 years, and will last for at least another 20. If you pop a bottle now, give it some time to breathe. In the glass or in a decanter, either way will give it some air. Savor it and enjoy it for as long as you can. Sock a bottle or two in the cellar and wait patiently for them to hit that magic window. That’ll keep time from flying by too quickly!

It’s been an action-packed week around here. Daniel Hecquet and his wife, Catherine popped in to visit us. We’re preparing our first offering of 2012 Bordeaux futures, and for one more week, the Chelsea Blues are holders of both European titles. But unfortunately, footy season ends tomorrow. That too will cause time to slow down. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Château Lagrange, St. Julien, the holders of both European titles, or 2012 Bordeaux futures: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

 

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