2009 Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg

Monday, June 2, 2014 5:53 PM

Okay, I was all set to follow up my recent post about crisp summer wines with another suggestion, as well as to fully endorse Anya’s recent praise of Elisabetta Fagiuoli’s 2011 Vernaccia Tradizionale, (it absolutely rocks! We tried a sample last night and you should have seen the battle royale for who got to take the bottle home!) but the chair of a local wine tasting group came in and wanted to chat about Bordeaux. Specifically, 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux. As I’ve mentioned many times, if you are pressed for time, asking me about Bordeaux is not a very good idea. He seemed to have the time. He gave me his parameters; his group was putting on a tasting, looking for red Bordeaux wines between 40 and 75 dollars. We spoke about several of them. The one he walked out with to submit to his tasting group? The 2009 Roc de Cambes from Côtes de Bourg.



During our conversation, we spoke of some of my favorite wines that fall into that price point, and I would have no problem whatsoever serving a 2010 Du Tertre, 2009 Reserve de la Comtesse, or a 2010 Larrivet Haut-Brion Rouge to a tasting group, all wines that I recommended. But I guess my story about François Mitjavile pushed him over the edge. I have mentioned François (and his son, Louis) in previous posts. First off, the conversations I have had with François over the years have been memorable to say the least. I place him at the top of the list of people I know who epitomize the term, renaissance man, as he is well-versed on any subject you want to talk about. Secondly, he makes great wine. His Château Tertre Roteboeuf in San Emilion is a cult-wine, as bottles of that can push the $200 envelope these days. So how can you taste a wine François made without paying full-fare, as it were? He happens to also own Roc de Cambes in Côtes de Bourg. The Bordeaux Atlas and Encyclopedia of Châteaux by Hubrecht Duijker refers to Roc de Cambes as “the undisputed leader of the appellation.” Côtes de Bourg lies on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, west of the appellation of Fronsac, just across the estuary from Margaux. The traditional blend here is (mostly) Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon. 2009 was a legendary vintage in Bordeaux, and I found the Roc de Cambes to be an extremely well structured claret with plenty of zippy acidity to prop up that expressive cherry cola fruit. I have always maintained that François’ wines are among the most Burgundian-styled wines coming from Bordeaux, mainly meaning that I find them fresh and silky in texture. So as we were discussing the merits of the 2010 Du Tertre, my eyes glanced down to the 2009 Roc de Cambes bin. My reaction? “What’s that still doing here???” Seriously. I know it isn’t one of our lower priced French country wines, nor is it among our petits chateaux selections, but it is a special wine from a special vintage, made by a special vigneron!


2009 red Bordeaux has been picked over and over, both here and in Bordeaux. We are running out. Bordeaux is running out. Those great 2009 deals we were able to take advantage of recently? Gone daddy gone. I was able to find a few more when I visited in April, they will be here soon.  I will be sure to let you know when they arrive. So, what is the 2009 Roc de Cambes still doing here??!! It too will be gone. There isn’t all that much left, we apologize if it sells out.



Talking about Bordeaux … so as we were checking out, the conversation continued. It seems this tasting group is having a Bordeaux tasting later this month, he threw it out as a “for instance”, but hinted at inviting me to join them for the tasting and general Bordeaux discussions. Hmmm, I wonder how much time the group has? – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2009 Bordeaux, summer wines, or the upcoming World Cup Finals: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2009 Chateau La Fleur Boireau

Saturday, July 13, 2013 6:46 PM

San Francisco – July 5th. We hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day! The weather here in the Bay Area was beautiful, and we witnessed plenty of evidence that many folks were busy tending to their respective grills. If you’re among the lucky ones enjoying an extra-long holiday weekend (we’re not, but someone has to keep the shop open!), then we invite you to stop on by for a visit as we are open today, July 5th until 6pm. We’ll be open tomorrow, July 6th from 10am until 5pm. We will be closed, as usual, on Sunday.  We recently reported about the creation of a value Bordeaux section here alongside the more famous Cru Classé Bordeaux wines. Again, the concept: We sat down with a visiting Bordeaux negociant and selected 24 wines that seemed interesting from their catalog. The negoce shipped us one bottle each, and over a month long stretch, TWH gang tasted and retasted all of the wines. Of the 24 that we received, we chose 6. Today, we’ll focus on one of the 4 reds chosen, the 2009 Château La Fleur Boireau from Montagne St. Emilion.

A little online research doesn’t reveal very much on the wine, only a few reviews from other wine merchants who at one time stocked the 2009 La Fleur Boireau. As of today, on WineSearcher.com, we are the only merchant in the country with this wine. After reading the reviews from some of the other merchants, we agree with the consensus that this wine is a great value. It was interesting to note that some of those other merchants who were proclaiming this wine “a steal” were selling it for a much higher price! Being the importer helps, big time.

When our staff embarks on a tasting exercise evaluating potential candidates to import and stock, we taste them over the course of the day noting any changes as the wines are exposed to oxygen. The unwritten rule is that nothing is discussed until everyone has tasted the samples and then we begin to share our opinions. These discussions usually lead us all back to the tasting table to re-taste the wines after we hear each other’s opinions. We liked the 2009 Château La Fleur Boireau for a few reasons, price being one of them. The wine possesses the charm and structure of the 2009 vintage. The aromas are of dark berry cassis-like fruit, chalky mineral, spice, and a leathery component that I like to call “that Bordeaux funk.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition of “old school” meets modern times. On the palate, the wine is lush and velvety, medium to full bodied, with a good balance of expressive fruit and rustic Old World charm. The finish is fairly long, with the dark brambly fruit propped up by lively acidity and velvety tannins.Château La Fleur Boireau is located in the appellation of Montagne St. Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The vineyard lies in the western part of the appellation just adjacent to Lalande de Pomerol. The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and the wine is made in cement vats. The fruit comes from vines 30+ years old, grown on a clay/calcareous slope. Checking my own tasting notes, I admired the briary, expressive fruit, chalky mineral, and the hint of rusticity. Stylistically, I have an appreciation for “Old-School” Bordeaux. It was quite evident that over the course of the day, that leathery, “Bordeaux funkiness” blew off. All in all, we liked the complexity, style, structure, and best of all, price of the 2009 Château La Fleur Boireau. 

So yes, it took us a month to taste all of those samples, and we have repeated the exercise with a similar line-up of wines from a different negociant. So our value Bordeaux section is set to expand later this summer. We’re always looking for great new wines to put on our shelves, and sometimes we have to taste through many suboptimal wines to find the good ones. Or as Anya said, “We taste a lot of bad wine so you don’t have to.” – Peter Zavialoff

Everyone is talking about Bordeaux, or so it seems. Parker released his reviews for the 2012 vintage on Friday, essentially ruining every Bordeaux negociants’ weekend. Our very own resident Bordeaux Scout, Pete Z., has been filling us in with vintage impressions and assessments and entertaining us with stories about the many visits he paid to our Bordeaux friends in early April. No trip to Bordeaux would be complete without making the trek to Chateau Couronneau, which Pete made the day before he returned home to SF.  Pete reports that owner/winemaker Christophe Piat’s dedication to organic farming is as strong as ever as he continues to implement Biodynamic farming practices. Starting with the 2012 vintage, Chateau Couronneau will be certified Demeter. I admire Christophe’s passion for farming and his desire to learn how to work even better in the vineyard than he already does. 



Chateau Couronneau’s 2010 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier is made from the estate’s oldest Merlot parcels grown on clay-limestone soil. I have never tasted such depth and raw concentration in the Cuvée Pierre de Cartier as I do in the 2010. In the spirit of full disclosure I must note that my tasting experience with the 2010 is limited to a day old sample. Remarkably, a day spent in a small glass vial did nothing to tame the intensity of fruit. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting; were the guys playing a trick on me? The story goes that the Piats nicknamed the 2010 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier, The Monster. Knowing their non-interventionalist approach to winemaking, this Monster was obviously created in the vineyard; severely reduced yields made for some incredibly concentrated juice. The news of The Monster had spread and some wine regulator types came to inspect the winery, thinking they might find some trickery going on, but of course they did not. Given the plushness of the 2010 Couronneau Classique, it seems only natural that this reserve bottling, the Cuvée Pierre de Cartier, would show even greater intensity. I wouldn’t say that the 2010 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier is a departure for Chateau Couronneau but it is without question, a monster. The dark plum fruit approaches jamminess but does not cross over that line. There is spice and cedar box lurking beneath the fruit. It is young and delicious and will certainly evolve nicely in bottle. Another aspect to this wine that makes it so appealing are the soft, round, cocoa-dusted tannins, reminding me of what is so darn attractive about Merlot from Bordeaux. 



I am uncharacteristically irritable today, and feeling downright annoyed – my daughter woke up this morning with horns in place of her halo, I encountered way too many aggressive drivers on the ride in to work and Pete just devoured a sandwich from the Deli Board, piled high with cured meat, in front of me, oohing and ahhing the entire time (I am in the final stretches of a 7-week meat abstinence). Days like these are eased and soothed by the promise of a quiet moment with a glass of wine at the end of the day. Wine is good! —Anya Balistreri

The Magnificent 2010 Red Bordeaux’s: Pre-Arrival Offer

Saturday, February 16, 2013 8:29 PM

It’s February, and in the northern hemisphere, wine people are traveling. We were recently paid a visit by Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart from Alsace, and the following week, Elisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli swung by and tasted our staff on her line of new releases. These visits were preceded by the annual Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux traveling junket who stopped by the Palace Hotel revealing the newly bottled 2010 vintage.

2010 was another highly successful vintage, especially for the red wines of Bordeaux. The wines show robust structures with plenty of fruit, tannins, and acidity. In some cases, they are revealing now, but this is the kind of “classic” vintage where terroir counts for something, and time in the cellar will reward those of us who may find the patience to leave them alone for several years. And now that wine professionals and consumers all over North America have begun to taste them, word is getting out, and the market is heating up. The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth’s assessment has been published as have James Suckling’s ratings from this magnificent vintage. The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker’s notes are due to be released at the end of the month, and if it is anything like last year’s assessment of the 2009’s, TWH will resemble a high paced trading desk with phones ringing and orders popping up from all possible origins. So please allow this message to serve as a tap on the shoulder that many of the more famous names listed below may very well win Mr. Parker’s praise and will disappear quickly. We’ve also chosen some solid Red Bordeaux values that will provide plenty of pleasure over the years to come but won’t sting your pocketbook like the classified growths. (Like Lanessan, Belle-Vue, Lalande-Borie, and Mazeyres, in particular).

If I can draw an observation based on my own experiences tasting these wines first, from barrel in April 2011, and again, with the UGC last month, it is that 2010 is indeed a classic Bordeaux vintage.  The tasting notes included with the descriptions of the wines from Mr. Parker and Mr. Martin struck a chord with me. I too remember tasting massive barrel samples with big, brooding structures, which no doubt signals that they will be long lived. It was after the UGC tasting last month where I was swayed by the charm of many of the wines. I was particularly taken by the wines from Margaux and St. Julien, as they were well defined in structure, yet expressive, suggesting they can be accessed in the near to medium term. The wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion are expressing this charm as well. After reviewing the barrel sample notes from The Wine Advocate, I predict similar observations from Mr. Parker and Mr. Martin. Though one can never tell, I would not be surprised to see their scores lean toward the higher end of their respective ranges, but we shall see soon. – Peter Zavialoff

The Right Answer & Ernesto Picollo 2011 Gavi di Gavi

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 7:23 PM

Greetings all. It’s been another banner week here at TWH! There was much excitement here Thursday morning/afternoon as our staff nervously huddled around an AM radio listening to those tortuous Giants hold off a myriad of base runners and a hungry Reds team pent on breaking San Francisco’s hearts. We also were incredibly happy and proud to be mentioned in Decanter.com’s recent article announcing the launch of Opalie de Château Coutet, and of our current US exclusivity! Speaking of Decanter magazine, they regularly have a feature called “Confessions of a sommelier”. It is always a fun read, and this October’s feature with Robert Smith MS of Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas included a question we hear often, “What’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?”It was Mr. Smith’s answer that had our staff abuzz in thought, praise, and delight.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned in a write-up that we, the staff of TWH, are like a little family. We love to share our experiences with food and wine, and we love to laugh. We don’t necessarily laugh at everything; when something profound makes its way past the humor filter, we can be awestruck. Like we were when we read Robert Smith’s answer to that question. You see, we (obviously) all love wine. Which wine you ask? Many wines is the answer to that question. Sure, we all have our favorite regions and vineyards, but if you take a survey, you’ll find our favorites are quite catholic. Chris recently divulged that if it all came down to one bottle, it would be Red Burgundy for him. Tom’spreference lies in Burgundy as well, but in the Chardonnay vineyards of Meursault. There is enough evidence pointing to my appreciation of Bordeaux, though it is Sauternes that I choose to drink each year on my birthday. For this exercise, I asked Anya what her preference would be, and though I know she loves White Burgundy, Champagne, and Zinfandel, she brought the conversation back to Robert Smith’s answer to that question. Touché!


 We all like different things. As I’ve said many times before, the beauty of the world is that we all have different taste. If we didn’t, the good stuff would have been gone years ago. Also, that we alone are the experts as to what we, ourselves, like. Tom and I were discussing this concept today.Even if we may not fancy a particular wine, it is important to recognize the wine’s merits.One doesn’t need a Dujac Clos St. Denis, Château Haut Brion, or Vega Sicilia Unico to enjoy a special moment. Oops. I almost gave away the punch line. Take the 2011 Petite Cassagne Rosé, it is EVERYTHING I love about Rosé. No fancy price, but a stunning wine meant to be paired with happiness. No kidding, I’ve gone through 2 cases, one bottle at a time. Then there’s the Château Larrivaux that I wrote about two weeks ago. What joy! Something that I discovered two and a half years ago is finally here, and is it resonating with customers AND staff alike!?! (More on that later). 

So which wine am I going to recommend this weekend? What’s the best white wine value in the shop right now? Hands down. No brainer. It’s the 2011 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto from Ernesto Picollo. We’re now working with our 5th vintage of wines from Gavi producer Ernesto Picollo, and his 2011’s may be the best of the bunch. At least this year’s Rovereto has me smitten! Complex aromas of white peach, stones, and lemon blossom head the zingy palate of refined, zesty fruit and mineral; leading to a crisp, lipsmacking finish with all components firing. This is classy juice, and it’s an incredible deal! Hat’s off to direct importation! What to pair it with? All the usual suspects; but the moral of tonight’s email leads us back to Decanter magazine and “Confessions of a sommelier”

What’s the best wine you’ve ever drunk and why?” Here’s Robert Smith MS’s answer, “It’s not a wine, it’s a moment: like enjoying rosé on the beach in Tahiti or having empanadas and Malbec while on horseback in Argentina.” How true. How profound. How perfectly unpretentious. That pretty much sums it all up. The most perfect pairing for any wine is the right moment. Cheers to you, Robert Smith MS! Thank you for that.

So here at TWH, we’re sure to be huddled around the AM radio this week awaiting further Giants’ torture. We’ll all be tasting different wines this weekend, that will surely lead to some great conversation come Monday. Hopefully we’ll all have had some great moments to make those wines all the more special!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any thoughts about wine pairing moments or the frustration of international football breaks: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2011 Picollo Ernesto Gavi di Gavi Roverto

White Wine; other white varietal; Piedmont;
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$13.59 per bottle by the case!!! Note: Website will not calculate discount. It will be applied when we process your order here in our shop. This is about as good a deal that exists for a pedigreed Italian white!



To conclude this weekend’s write-up, I asked Anya to express her thoughts after recently tasting the 2009 Château Larrivaux.Here is her kind reply:


“I could no longer resist the glowing reviews, my colleagues’ endorsements, nor the enthusiastic customer feedback for2009 Larrivaux, so I bought a bottle last Saturday night and promptly opened it when I got home. Why resist you wonder? Well, I am not a big fan of young Bordeaux. I buy Bordeaux, yes, but I can be patient when in comes to cellaring wine, so I prefer to wait a few years before imbibing. Young Bordeaux can be astringent and disjointed to me or just all fruit and wood with no nuance. Then came along 2009 Larrivaux. Wow, what a nose! With no audience within earshot, I nevertheless exclaimed aloud “that nose, that beautiful nose!” just like Santa in the animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie. It was several minutes before I even took a sip as I relished the pencil shaving aromas and deep black cassis notes that wafted way out of the glass. I wasn’t expecting to like this wine as much as I did even though everything pointed to the contrary. I immediately got very concerned (because now she wants to buy them-PZ) as I now knew firsthand what Pete has been writing about since tasting the ’09s out of barrel. I am a believer. What impressed me about the ’09 Larrivaux, along with the classical aromatic notes, was the seamless integration of fruit, wood and acidity. The wine has lift and elegance without a hint of astringency.I can see myself drinking this wine over and over and never tiring of it. 

So there you have it. A great wine. A great price. Waiting for a great moment.

2009 Chateau Larrivaux Haut Medoc

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
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2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc

Monday, October 1, 2012 6:28 PM


Here at TWH, this has been quite the eventful week! I just got word that our next container from France is almost full and will be on the water shortly. On it will be some goodies from the Loire Valley and Burgundy as well as more 2009 Bordeaux. 2009 Bordeaux. Pinch me, I’m dreaming. They’re that good. As I’ve said recently, you don’t need a second mortgage to fill your cellar with high-quality 2009 Bordeaux. I’ve been excitedly writing about this subject ever since April 2010 when I returned from the En Primeur tastings. We sold healthy quantities of some of my recommendations as futures, and I’m grateful for those of you who participated in that. Things are different now. Today, as I write about yet another fabulous, budget-friendly 2009 Bordeaux, just know that the wine is here, ready to be tasted. Many customers have been picking up their 2009’s, and guess what? They’re loving it! No doubt they will be great in 15-20 years, but what’s simply amazing is that they’re already showing brilliantly. And this week, several customers have entered TWH elated at the quality of the 2009’s they’ve bought here, like longtime customer Ken, who was radiating about one that I recommended.


One of the reasons why it’s great to have an independent family-style wine shop staffed with folks who love wine at your beckon call is that we pay attention to what you buy, what you like, and just as important, what you don’t like. Many years ago, Ken and I had a conversation about modern styled wines versus old-school ones. He mentioned that he preferred the latter, and when he said that, I knew I had something for him! I told him that we just so happened to have an atavistic Bordeaux from the celebrated 2000 vintage. He tried a bottle. Then another. Then another. Eventually it sold out. Ken came in this past week, and when I saw him, I rose from my desk and put a bottle of 2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc in his hands. He bought several other wines that day, but when he and his better half came in today, she exclaimed, “He’s so excited about this wine that he brought in the cork!” What was it? The 2009 Château Larrivaux, of course. He was so happily excited that he went back and emptied the bin. Using terms like “lean”, “mannered”, and “very adult”, he then went on about its “cheap price.” It’s always such a good feeling when we’re able to find something affordable that resonates so well with a customer that they can’t contain themselves when they come back to the shop! He went on to say, “Once upon a time, you found an atavistic Bordeaux, and I loved it. I bought bottle after bottle, and then it sold out and we cried. You kept prospecting, kept on tasting, and low and behold, you’ve found another winner; thank you!” No. Thank you, Ken.



A little research yields some interesting tidbits. First off, the château is run by Berangère Tesseron, the wife of Basile Tesseron of 4th Growth Château Lafon Rochet in nearby St. Estephe. Basile is the nephew of Pauillac high flyer Alfred Tesseron of Château Pontet Canet fame. Larrivaux has been in existence since the late 16th century, and has been run by the women of the family throughout the generations. The wine has a particular degree of finesse and elegance, which could lead some to call it feminine, which just makes sense, considering the château’s history. Though Ken argued this point with me, saying that Red Bordeaux is masculine by rule. Either way, it is a fantastic wine from a legendary vintage for a very fair price that will bring pleasure to all who taste it for years to come. I highly recommend that all you budget-friendly Bordeaux lovers jump on this opportunity to taste this delectable wine.


So yes, I get more and more excited every time I hear about any customer’s experience with any of our 2009 Bordeaux, and it has begun to happen with regularity! The Blues won a huge match this afternoon and last week’s Wilco shows were sensational! Good times! Even better, there’s budget-friendly 2009 Bordeaux here at TWH. Come and git it! – Peter Zavialoff

Neal Martin’s notes: “A blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc 3% Petit Verdot, this has a fine crisp dark brambly nose: good definition with hints of black olive tapenade and a touch of smoke. The palate is medium-bodied with a lovely, slightly “digestif” entry, good acidity, very well balanced with and fine, quite racy finish. Very fine. Tasted March 2010. (89-91 points)”

Above photo of Berangère and Basile Tesseron from efwines.com

Now In Stock!!! 2009 Château Cantemerle

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 6:53 PM


As we head full-steam into the dog days of summer, things are gettingpretty exciting around here. Our next container from France has been collected and is awaiting transport! What’s on it, you ask? More 2009 Bordeaux, that’s what! I have gone on the record declaring 2009 to be “my favorite Bordeaux vintage for the rest of my life”, and am happily squirreling bottle after bottle away in my cellar to remind me lest I forget someday. There are some unbelievable wines on that container. Off the top of my head, I know there are good quantities of a couple sub $25 bottles that will blow you all away with their quality. I’ll be sure to let you all in on what they are when they get here.

Let’s focus instead on what is already here. We recently received our 1st container of 2009 Bordeaux, and boy has it been fun tasting and recommending them! Despite their youth, these wines are open, accessible, and expressive, revealing exactly what makes 2009 such a great vintage: fresh, rich, deep, and expressive fruit framed by a perfect balance of tannins and acidity. The precocious fruit leads me to believe that many wines will be consumed before their respective maturity dates, but who cares? See joy, feel joy. My strategy has been to taste and experiment with the lower priced 2009’s (I’m cellaring them too), but also to carefully select some more serious bottlings to get a chance to know what 2009 will taste like in say … 2025!



The firstserious 2009 that I’ve socked away is theChâteau Cantemerle.This Haut-Médoc Fifth Growth property has been on my radar for many years now. It’s about a 5-iron from Margaux, and stylistically, Cantemerle’s wines have that Margaux-like charm. You may remember a recent write-up about the2009 Château Cantemerle, written shortly after having tasted it out of bottle for the first time. It was being sold on pre-arrival at the time, and sold so well, we went back to our negociant and bought some more. Guess what? It’s here now! Tasting a 2009 Château Cantemerle today is a bit of a crime, but it will reveal how incredible the 2009 vintage is. I wouldn’t recommend tasting/drinking more than 1 bottle at this stage of its life, but for scientific purposes, I caved, and is it ever great.



Robert Parker had this to say about the wine:

“Readers looking for the more ethereal, elegant side of Bordeaux need search no further than Cantemerle, one of the estates in the very southern end of the Medoc. Dense ruby/purple (nearly opaque), this wine offers up notes of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, raspberries and black cherries. The wine is ethereal, medium-bodied, and by no means a blockbuster, but long and intellectual. However, the tannins are present, and the wine is certainly capable of putting on weight with time in the bottle. Give it 3-4 years of bottle age and drink it over the following 25+ years. – 91+ points”


And The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had this to say:

“Tasted at the Union de Grand Cru in London. The Cantemerle 2009 has a lovely floral, almost Margaux-like bouquet with fine delineation and intensity. The palate is well balanced with fine delineation, a little grainy on the entry but very focused on the supple finish. This is a very attractive Cantemerle that should age with panache. Tasted November 2011. – 91 points”


I don’t want to open up Pandora’s box here and regale you all with my quirky beliefs and and prejudices about points and wine, but let’s just say that if I look up a wine that I haven’t tasted yet, I am more likely to enjoy a wine in the 88-92 range than I will a 96-100. Just sayin’.


I sure hope everyone’s enjoying their summer. We’re plugging away for you all tasting this and tasting that, looking for liquid gems for drinking now and for laying down. Here at TWH, our palates never tire! As I said, we’re excited about the next Bordeaux container coming soon, but let’s continue to relish in the one that has already arrived. For after all, it brought us the 2009 Château Cantemerle!Peter Zavialoff


Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments regarding 2009 Bordeaux, Château Cantemerle, Points and Wine, or how I’m passing the time until footy season starts: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

Inaugural Vintage: 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet

Saturday, July 14, 2012 5:21 PM


The dry white wines from Bordeaux
can count themselves amongthe finest wines in the world. It’s difficult to spread the word, as the wines are in short supply and they have a dedicated following of savvy white wine lovers snapping up what little is produced. Sometimes it’s good, make that great, to be in the right place at the right time! This past April, I was there. This past April, I was introduced to the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! 

The Opalie de Château Coutet is a brand new dry White Bordeaux made from equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon sourced from the quintessential parts of Château Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyards. The fruit comes from a few rows of 40 year old vines that are planted in the thickest layers of clay and limestone. Grape selection is strict and it is all hand harvested into small baskets which protect the ripe berries as they make their way to the cellar. Fermented and aged in French oak barrel, Château Coutet has produced a dry white wine of class and distinction with their inaugural vintage of Opalie, the 2010!


It is always with great pleasure when I get a chance to visit Philippe and Aline Baly at Château Coutetduring primeurs week. I’ve certainly chimed in occasionally as to how much I enjoy their Gold Wines from Barsac. This past April, after tasting 2010, 1976, and 1989 Coutet respectively, the conversation drifted around to “a secret project”. Intrigued as I was, I didn’t see this one coming. Another clean glass placed on the table and Philippe poured from an unlabeled bottle. Light straw-like in color, you can swear there are facets of slight green that pop out when you’re not looking directly at the wine, it’s that fresh. Its aromas were of high quality White Bordeaux:citrus blossoms, crunchy minerals, vanilla spice, and a hint of beeswax. On the palate, it was deep and complex with hints of tropical fruit mingling with the citrus garden. Its mineral definition is present throughout and the whole package is buoyed by fresh, crisp acidity. When you think about the mineral, the texture, the aromas, and the acidity, you come to the conclusion that the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet is a very unique, one-of-a-kind wine. 

So I had to take this secret home with me. All I knew was the wine would be available sometime later in the year. I’m good with secrets. That doesn’t necessarily mean I like to be trusted with them, but I can keep one. Well, guess what? It’s not a secret anymore! The 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet is now available on a pre-arrival basis. (It is expected to arrive in late 2012). Production was very limited, but we were fortunate to get an allocation which, on this day, July 10, 2012, has The Wine House San Francisco listed as the only merchant in the WORLD selling the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! Be the first on your block to own this stunning new wine! – Peter Zavialoff

2009 Château Fleur Cardinale (Pre-arrival)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 3:18 PM


Just back from the annualBordeaux en primeurstastings, I’m happy to report that all went well; the meetings, the weather, and of course, the wines. In general terms, the vintage was a challenging one for those making red wines, though there were still some successful standouts. The dry whites of Pessac-Léognan and gold wines of Barsac/Sauternes showed amazing freshness and purity, and will be celebrated for many years to come. Stay tuned right here for further information about the wines and for our 2011 Bordeaux Futures campaign, which will be unveiled very soon!

I scheduled a multitude of meetings over 10 days, and they were all informative and constructive. Ranging from negociant visits, to cocktail parties and dinners, visits to growers and chateaux, and the tastings themselves, it was great to meet many new people and greater still to see familiar associates and friends again! Though my days were fairly planned out, I still made sure I had some time to allow for the serendipitous. Alas, this tactic has rewarded me time and time again, and this year was no exception. It all started with meeting #1, first thing Thursday morning. I met with a negoce whom I’ve known for a couple of years, and at one point he asked me what our best selling Bordeaux wines are. I said that I didn’t know off the top of my head, but after giving it a little thought, I said, “Fleur Cardinale. It’s a great wine for a great price.” Ah, the beauty of calling right into someone’s hand! It turns out he is a family friend of Florence and Dominique Decoster, owners of Château Fleur Cardinale. We had a light-hearted chuckle over this coincidence (though I don’t believe in coincidences), and resumed our discussion. Fast forward to Monday, day 1 of 5 crazy tasting days. I attended le Cercle Rive Droite tasting in St. Emilion. It can be an overwhelming tasting, as there are well over 100 Merlot based samples coming from Pomerol and St. Emilion, in addition to other Right Bank appellations. It is at this tasting where I usually get the opportunity to tasteChâteau Fleur Cardinale. At large tastings like le Cercle, I tend to zone out so I don’t get overwhelmed, and take them one at a time. So when I showed up at the table to taste the Fleur Cardinale sample, it didn’t fully register that it was Florence Decoster that was pouring it for me. We had a chat about the wine and then she told me about a new property that they recently acquired. I then mentioned to her that one of her sons visited us here at TWH last year, and of my acquaintance with the family friend negociant. It was a very pleasant visit, and back in my zoned out mode, I marched on to taste more. I like to attend the larger tastings during/around lunch time, when the masses are eating, drinking, and socializing, leaving me room to fly through the wines. I can always get a small bite afterward. I forgot where I was exactly, maybe tasting Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux, but I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and it was Florence. She asked me if I would like to join the Decosters for lunch, provided my schedule allowed. I pondered this for a moment. I had 2 hours until my next appointment. When traveling, allow for serendipity, things like this happen.


We stepped outside, I was immediately introduced to Dominique, and off we went to lunch. The only word I can use to describe lunch that day is soulful. It was. Speaking English very well, Florence and Dominique regaled me with their story of Dominique selling his famous Porcelaines Haviland in Limoges, to their investing in St. Emilion by acquiring Château Fleur Cardinale in 2001. All the while as I listened, I could feel the Decoster’s collective passion. At one point, Dominique mentioned to me that stylistically, their wine is made to suit their own palates. He explained to me that when one owns a property in St. Emilion, you drink your own wine a lot, so you better like it! All humor aside, there is truth in that. I went on to tell them how well their wines do with our customers, as they have consistently been price/quality leaders in our Bordeaux section for over 5 vintages. After tasting their 2009, it looks as if we will have another PQR leader on our hands come summer! Full body, rich structure, ripe fruit, hints of spice, earth, and cola. All’s well here. Please see The Wine Advocate’s review below. As is usually the case, time flies when you’re having a blast, so it unfortunately was time to pack it up and continue with our day. Florence and Dominique back at the tasting, and me with my appointments in Pomerol. What a great couple. What passion. I feel very lucky.

As I said, it’s wonderful to meet new people, and this year I met many. My passion for Bordeaux has again brought me there to scout out a new vintage for all of you. As prices are released, we expect to be active in the 2011 Futures market, and I will be here ready to help you choose which wines suit you best.Thanks for the opportunity! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Bordeaux, the 2011 vintage, serendipity, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2009 Domaine l’Aurage: Mitjavile Magic

Monday, April 9, 2012 5:24 PM


Ah Bordeaux.
We’ve gone down this trail a gazillion times, but pardon me, here I go again. First of all, I’m here. In Bordeaux. Just had a great dinner, looking forward to all the upcoming week has in store. I’ve already hadseveral meetings with negociants, and if there is one thing that’s clear, they’re all saying that 2009’s are either out of stock, or that what they can offer now costs much more than we initially paid. Well, that makes sense. It is a great vintage, no question. So how do we “profiter”, as the French say? Easy, find the wines that we still have for sale at the opening price. Here’s one that very well may be overlooked. Domaine l’Aurage. What? Never heard of it? You should. You will.  

Domaine l’Aurage is the property that belongs to Caroline and Louis Mitjavile in what used to be called “Côtes de Castillon”. Nowadays, its appellation is “Côtes de Bordeaux”, yet it still carries the “Castillon” moniker. Confusing? Pardon me for making it more so. Do you see this picture of Louis? Some of his vines are on both his right and left. The vines behind the tree with ivy on it? Those don’t belong to him. But they are in St. Emilion. Yes, that is the border. Caroline and Louis’ driveway effectively, is the border between St. Emilion and Castillon.

Louis is the son of François Mitjavile of Château Tertre Roteboeuf fame. The wines of Tertre Roteboeuf are highly celebrated amongst Bordeaux buffs in the know. I can go on and on about François and, not only Tertre Roteboeuf, but his Roc de Cambes as well, but not tonight. 2 years ago this week, I found myself in the cellar at Tertre Roteboeuf with François, and I was re-introduced to his son, Louis, or Loulou, as he is affectionately known by his loved ones. Louis is a strong spirit, who has worked in and around St. Emilion, Fronsac, and elsewhere. He knows far more about winemaking than a multitude of wine people that I know. So when I visited Tertre Roteboeuf 2 years ago, I was so happy to have been re-acquainted with Louis, and when I tasted HIS wine, my mind was certainly cast into the realm of thinking that, yet again, apples don’t fall far from their respective trees. Coming from Castillon, the 2009 Domaine l’Aurage benefited from the perfect growing season that the vintage stamped on all of the wines from Bordeaux. Taking that into consideration, it also had that “Mitjavile signature” of opulence, great weight, texture, expression, and balance. I do not want to dampen the allure of François’ wines (Tertre Roteboeuf and Roc de Cambes), as they are well worth the cost, and then some, but here’s a chance to get in on the Mitjavile magic at a phenomenal price that quite simply, you’re not going to see again. That’s right, the 2009 Domaine l’Aurage is available, on pre-arrival, at the amazing price of $29. Get out! You’re not serious. Oh yes, we are. This is pure, silky magic in a bottle. When I tasted it out of barrel, I was thinking, “Okay, yep, this is the stuff. It’s got the verve, it’s got the style. But, sigh, probably going to be high 40’s, low 50’s?” Ahhhnttt! Wrong. How about $29??!!?? Seriously, you cannot find better Right Bank Bordeaux under $30 than the 2009 Domaine l’Aurage. Nope. I challenge you. Think juicy, ripe dark red/purple fruit, a hint of cola, earth, tobacco, allspice, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it enters so silky, then intensifies with all of those components firing in full-on fashion. The acid/tannin tandem, is so harmonious, you just have to take another sip to believe it. Yes, $29 (on pre-arrival). Oh, did I mention? We are the ONLY merchant in the USA with this wine. We’ve been around almost 35 years, we’ve got connections! You will not see Domaine l’Aurage for sale under $30 again. I strongly urge you to secure your allocations now. Scout’s honor, you will not be disappointed.

Pardon me for banging the table yet again, but taking in the weather here in Bordeaux, and just settling in to the pace of the place has rekindled my passion for it (like it was ever extinguished). I hope to discover many new things this year while here, and you can count on me to fill you in on them when I do! Until then.Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Bordeaux, especially if you would like to hear my impressions of any particular 2011 barrel samples: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

I will try to reply as best I can.


Here’s to hoping everyone made it through St. Patrick’s Day okay! Wait a minute, St. Patrick’s Day? Wow, time is really flying now. It just occurred to me that the next time I chime in with a Sunday email,I will do so from a hotel room in Bordeaux. Yep, it’s that time of year again; I still have a couple of loose ends to tie up, but I’m pretty much ready to head across the pond to taste the red, white, and gold wines from the 2011 vintage out of barrel. You know I’m a bit of a wine geek, doing things like encouraging people to drink Riesling with their corned beef and cabbage, for instance, but my passion and devotion in the wine world is found along the banks of, and further inland of the magical estuary known as the Gironde. Bordeaux. For me, it’s the beginning and end of every story. For me, it’s all I want; all I need.


It was around 2 years ago when I jetted off to Bordeaux to taste the massively successful 2009 vintage out of barrel, and as I’ve said before, no wine cellar would be complete without representation from this illustrious vintage. As was mentioned in my previous Sunday email, Robert Parker’s ratings of 2009 Bordeaux out of bottle were released at the end of last month, with a remarkable 19 wines earning his highest praise. Say what you will, and it’s all been said, but I drink wine, NOT points. One wine that struck a strong chord within me was the 2009 Château Cantemerle. I know this property well, as it sits just south of Margaux in the Haut-Médoc. One of my best pals and bandmates turned me on to the stuff when he lived in London and regularly sought advice from the staff at his local Nicolas shop in Notting Hill. Another pal of mine was generous enough to invite me over to his home on my last birthday and pop a bottle of Cantemerle’s 1983. If you can get your hands on one of those, I strongly recommend you do! Surely, someday I believe the 2009 version will trump that 1983 experience. The wine has it all. My usually reserved tasting notes seem to have been written by a teenager on the last day of school before the summer. The famous squiggly line, exclamation points, and the phrase “Home Run” jump off the page. But a closer look reveals words like nuanced, elegant, fresh and silky. It is abundantly clear that I was highly impressed with the 2009 Cantemerle. When you consider the price, compared to the other Cru Classé wines, this was a no-brainer. When I returned from the 2009 UGC tasting in Los Angeles, David asked me if there were any wines that we should be buying more of. Without thinking, without consulting any of my notes, and without hesitation, I said, “Cantemerle and La Lagune” (more on that one later). Wham! Bam! A few days later, several more cases were confirmed from our sources in Bordeaux, and I’m so excited knowing that they will be arriving sometime this year! Dismiss at your own peril.


2009 Chateau Cantemerle Haut Medoc (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
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“Readers looking for the more ethereal, elegant side of Bordeaux need search no further than Cantemerle, one of the estates in the very southern end of the Medoc. Dense ruby/purple (nearly opaque), this wine offers up notes of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, raspberries and black cherries. The wine is ethereal, medium-bodied, and by no means a blockbuster, but long and intellectual. However, the tannins are present, and the wine is certainly capable of putting on weight with time in the bottle. Give it 3-4 years of bottle age and drink it over the following 25+ years. 91+ points” – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate



Châteaux Cantemerle and La Lagune are 2 of only 5 properties awarded Cru Classé status in the 1855 classification that are not from the Médoc’s most-famous appellations (both are Haut-Médoc). Situated nearby Cantemerle, La Lagune is one of my favorite, favorite “under the radar” Bordeaux properties. It has been for some time now, but all of a sudden, in the past 4 months, it has exploded, as everywhere I look, there it is again. Seriously, it all started with 10 bottles of the 1985 (until 2009, my favorite vintage) that we purchased from a private cellar. I know the wine, it was priced $300 lower than Chateau Margaux of the same year, but it is every bit as enjoyable. A couple of customers listened to my advice, and they were very pleased. Then, a customer and his father came in and tried one. The phone rang an hour later, the customer’s father had declared it “the best wine I’ve ever had”, and now he is a customer too! In fact, he scooped up what was remaining, and sampled the 2006 which was much to his liking. Then I was having lunch with my sister at The Left Bank in Larkspur, and there was a large table of older gentlemen conducting a wine tasting. Without craning my neck too much, I saw some familiar fancy California labels, but I didn’t want to gawk, so I let my curiosity dissipate while enjoying my visit with my sister. Our server, and that of the table of wine tasters, is a friend of mine, so when the tasting finished and the large table emptied, I asked her about the wines. Turning my head completely around, I looked and there it was, a bottle of La Lagune. I asked to see the bottle, and she brought it to me. 1986. And there was still wine in it, which she permitted me to taste. Magnificent! Time had been good to this bottle. I couldn’t help noticing the back label which clearly stated, “Imported by Wine House Limited.” A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at work and as I signed in to my work email account, there was an email from a representative from La Lagune inviting me to the Chateau when I visit later this month, spooky. My schedule is pretty tight, but I’m trying to figure out how to fit it in. But back to the L.A. tasting. If I thought the Cantemerle tasting notes were written by a teenager, then the La Lagune notes were written by an exuberant lottery winner. 2 squiggly lines … I believe that this is the ONLY time I’ve ever done that, “Good God! Vitamin-like minerals, rich, deep, dark red and purple fruit, great weight, sublime!” I don’t know what winning the lottery feels like, but while tasting the 2009 La Lagune, I think I have an idea.
2009 Chateau La Lagune Haut Medoc (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
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“It is not unusual that the 2009 La Lagune is a spectacular effort given the fact that this estate has been making terrific wines over the last decade or more. It boasts a dense purple color as well as a beautiful perfume of blueberries, mulberries, cassis, white chocolate and subtle toasty oak. Notes of Chinese black tea, cedarwood and forest floor also make an appearance in the singular aromatic and flavor profiles. This sumptuous, full-bodied La Lagune possesses low acidity, abundant but ripe, sweet tannin and a long, 45-second finish. Give this beauty 5-7 years of bottle age and drink it over the following three decades. 95 points” – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
So there you have it, 2 Cru Classé Left Bank Bordeaux from the 2009 vintage that are way long on quality and more than reasonable in price. Alas, here we are in mid-March. I’m all set for another scouting mission to my favorite wine region on the planet. I promise to take more pictures and post them on our Facebook page. I promise to taste more wines than last year. I will be a good boy and make all of my appointments on time, just like last year. Lastly, I promise not to be too distracted at the Commanderie dinner, fully knowing that my team will be playing the deciding match of the European Champions’ League Quarter Finals that evening. Scout’s honor!Peter Zavialoff


Last Call: 2006 & 2008 Clos Fourtet

Monday, March 5, 2012 3:58 PM

Wow! What a crazy week! The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker just released issue #199 which revealed to the world his decisive synopsis of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage among other things. The result? A frenzied barrage of telephone calls and emails from a plethora of people all over the country who were all coincidentally looking to buy Mr. Parker’s top wines. Trying to stay on top of the situation was challenging to say the least. That kind of frenzy has its frustrating side as well. I do my best to report to our customers when I’m on to something, and it gives me great pleasure when you act on my advice. But sometimes it takes a Parker to sway opinions. Either way, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, my passion for Bordeaux driving the machine. So what do you want to tell us about, Pete? Well, one of the wines that sold out this week was the 2009 Château Clos Fourtet. As stocks are depleted, re-purchasing the wines from France can prove costly. After we sold out of the wine, we noticed one Bay Area wine merchant selling the wine for $350! That’s crazy! But that’s supply and demand for you. So that’s got me thinking … we’ve got a little bit of both the 2006 and 2008 vintage available, and they’re both priced below $60. Just saying, I don’t think they will be around very much longer.
Since hiring winemaking consultant Stephane Derenoncourt, the wines from Clos Fourtet have been turning heads amongst wine lovers and critics. My experience with their wines began in 1996, and I’ve held them in high esteem since. If you ever visit Bordeaux, the one thing you absolutely must do is visit St. Emilion. This quaint medieval village in the middle of all the famous vineyards will charm all those who wander there. I still remember my last day in Bordeaux in 2011, while driving out to the Right Bank to visit Château Couronneau and Daniel Hecquet’s Puy Servain, I started thinking. It’s 14:00. I don’t have to meet Daniel until 17:00. I haven’t had lunch yet and St. Emilion is 7 km away. What to do? What to do? If I’m EVER 7 km from St. Emilion with an empty stomach and 3 free hours, I go. I just go. I’m a fool if I don’t. It’s perched on a hilltop and some of the views are, in a word, awesome. The list of famous vineyards that surround the village’s wall is an impressive one. Chateaux such as Beau-Sejour Bécot, Beausejour Duffau, la Couspaude, and the princely Ausone are all within a sand wedge from the heart of the village, but none are as close as is Clos Fourtet. It is somewhat bittersweet for me that the 2009 Château Clos Fourtet received Robert Parker’s highest praise. One the one hand, I am very happy for the chateau and for all parties who worked so hard to achieve this status. For me, the downside would be the price and availability of their wines going forward. On balance, it’s a good thing. I’ve enjoyed their wines for some time and they deserve it. If you want to get a feel for their wines, there is still a chance to get in relatively inexpensively. Both the 2006 and 2008 are here, in stock, most likely for a very short time.Ahhhh … just remembering last year’s quiet lunch in St. Emilion on a sunny day has me thinking. We are less than a month away from the crazy week when the Bordelais open their chateaux to the trade and allow us to taste from barrel the previous year’s wines. I’ve booked my flight, and have made appointments to visit many of the chateaux who don’t pour at the sanctioned tastings. (One of these appointments will result in visiting Château Le Pin for the very first time! So psyched!) There’s plenty more planning to be done, and I better get on the ball. One thing I’m planning though, when at the UGC St. Emilion tasting, is saying, “Bravo!” when I’m poured the Château Clos Fourtet!Peter Zavialoff


Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Bordeaux in general, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, my upcoming scouting mission to Bordeaux to taste the 2011’s, or music. Please, no football this week, it’s just too painful: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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2009 Bordeaux Back In Stock: Chateau Couronneau

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 6:09 PM


Whew!What a day yesterday was.I got up at 5:30 AM in order to prepare for a drive to the airport and a flight down to Los Angeles in order to participate in the Unions des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting of the newly bottled 2009 vintage.I’m sure I wasn’t alone holding high expectations for the wines from a vintage that was overwhelmingly impressive when I tasted them out of barrel two years ago. In a word, the wines shined. Shined. Like Soul Shine. Better than sunshine. Better than moonshine. Way better than rain (more on that later). The energy that filled the large room at theFairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica was electric. Some of my overhears: “Classic Margaux. Note the subtlety, yet the expression.” “Psst. The wines aren’t normally this good so young, are they?” “I’m not wasting this glass.” I could go on and on, but the collective euphoria I experienced just means to me that the vintage will be a popular one for all of us who love wine, especially those of us who love Bordeaux. We will be getting our Cru Classé 2009 Bordeaux in different shipments throughout the calendar year, look out for emails alerting you to the in-stock availability as they come in. Some of the more well known names will begin to arrive in late March. In the meantime, we just reloaded on a 2009 Red Bordeaux that has shown so well that it sold out quicker than you can say2009 Château Couronneau!

 It is always with great pleasure when I visit Christophe and Bénédicte Piat in Ligueux around the time of the En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux each spring. They have a lovely Château and a lovely family, but that just makes sense as they are truly wonderful people. Proudly displaying the banner sporting the “Agricole Biologique” logo in front of their property, they believe in the methodology andthe proof’s in the juice. My visit this past April was met with outstanding weather, and we decided to eat our dinner al fresco. Seeing that I had a long drive back to Bordeaux after dinner, I had to spit all of the wine that was served (so professional), assuring a clear head for the return leg. The toughest wine to spit? The 2009 Château Couronneau Rouge, of course. All of that 2009 goodness, the wine showed expressive dark red fruit, herbs, and earthy mineral.The tannins were smooth allowing for a sensational finish of high toned fruit, hints of autumn leaves, and a just-used shovel. This is not the first time I’ve written about this wine, but seeing that it sold out so quickly, many of you may not know that it’s back in stock. Ding! Ding! It’s baaaaack:2009 Château Couronneau is here at TWH, back in stock! So we wait.The heavy hitters from the 2009 vintage will be arriving soon enough, many of them will benefit from short/medium term aging (though many will be highly enjoyable upon release). The 2009 Château Couronneau is one of those “highly enjoyable now” wines (though a few years in the cellar couldn’t hurt). To borrow from Meursault’s Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau’s list of quotes, “If pleasure is here for the taking, why not take it?”

So yes, an amazing tasting, an amazing day. I had a moment in that room. Time stood still. The sounds around me faded and I just looked around the room. I was tasting the best of the best. I had many friends around the room that I saw enjoying the occasion. I felt so perfectly placed that I snapped out of it and proceeded with my duties. Then the lights flickered and it was time to go. The final tally? 94 wines. Not bad. Please contact me should you want to discuss any particular wine in detail.

During the tasting, I overheard a rumor that ALL flights back to SF were delayed (and this was at 4:00 PM). I dismissed it, as my flight wasn’t until 9:40 PM. After dinner, I called the airline just to see where we stood, and gulp, the flight was delayed until 12:20 AM!!! Not good, not good, so not good. Waiting at the airport, by some stroke of good fortune, I happened to notice a fairly large group of people moving from the gates in the direction of ground transport/baggage claim, so I got up to investigate. Good thing I did. They stuffed all passengers (and checked luggage) from all 3 delayed SF bound flights into 1 and off we went at approximately 11:00 PM. With a significant rain storm pounding the California coast, I must say that I experienced the most turbulent flight in all my airplane experiences last night. All’s well that ends well and when I turned the lock on the treehouse door at 1:55 AM, I was relieved. What a day, indeed.Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2009 Bordeaux, the upcoming Wilco shows, or of course, English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

The Soon To Be Legendary 2009 Bordeaux

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 5:39 PM


A Link To Our Complete 2009 Bordeaux Offer

New Year’s? Really? Whew! Time flies. So what’s on the agenda? January is always a particularly busy time of year as many northern-hemisphere wine industry folks are traveling around and there are always a plethora of tastings this time of year. One tasting that is highly anticipated will be the annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting. I will be zooming down to LA on Friday, January 20th for the inaugural stateside tasting of 2009 Bordeaux in bottle. I took this trip 2 years ago to taste the newly bottled 2007s. This will be a totally different kind of tasting!Tasting the 2009s out of barrel was an amazing experience. In general, the wines showed expression and harmony, but they were marked by sturdy structure which indicated to me that the vintage will be legendary. I cannot wait to taste the finished product! The UGC has unveiled the vintage in London, Paris, Japan, Korea, and China. All reports that I’ve heard are heaping praise on the wines. A friend of mine who poured at all the tastings told me that they were so successful that she ran out of wine every time. I won’t know until I taste them myself, but as I’ve said before, I have a sneaking suspicion that 2009 will be my favorite Bordeaux vintage for the rest of my life. A wine sales rep heard me say that and asked me, “How can you possibly say something like that?” The answer is simple. I know what I like.

My impressions notwithstanding, the wines are coming. By the end of January, most US based Bordeaux-centric professionals will have tasted the wines, and if my suspicions are correct, there will be excitement, praise, and more hype. The end result will be depleted stocks and, say it ain’t so, higher prices. We bought a lot of wine from the 2009 vintage, we’ve sold a lot as futures, but we still have plenty available on a pre-arrival basis. The wines are due to arrive in various shipments throughout the calendar year 2012. I’ve been focusing in on the best deals, and there are some fantastic wines in the $20-$50 range. You cannot go wrong by having 2009 Bordeaux in your cellar. This is not an opinion, it is a fact.Please consider this a reminder, as you will be hearing all about the 2009 vintage and its wines for a long, long time to come. I will report back after the UGC tasting, but by then I won’t be the only one reminding you. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2009 Bordeaux or if you would like some recommendations: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2001 Chateau Lanessan: In Stock

Monday, September 19, 2011 3:15 PM

Brevity not being my strong suit, I thought I’d give it a go today. I don’t need much space to make this point. If you like Red Bordeaux; if you like Red Bordeaux that is 10 years old that has been stored in its chateau, please lend me your ear. As a Bordeaux scout, I was delighted to discover the 2001 Château Lanessan while in Bordeaux this past April. Delighted is not the word. How about stoked? Nope.Overwhelmingly excited? Yeah, that’s it. What I’m stoked about is the fact that a container from France arrived here at TWH yesterday, and on it was the 2001 Château Lanessan!

  We’ve been down this road before. I love Bordeaux. Part of my job as a Bordeaux scout is to sift through price books, kick under rocks, talk to producers and negociants, and allow for serendipitous moments of good luck. Last fall, I got lucky. We stumbled upon a crazy-good-deal, and everybody benefited. We went through over 100 cases of the 2004 Mont Perat, and friends and customers alike are still thanking me for scouting out a great drinking Bordeaux for a great price. Pssst. I’m whispering again. The 2001 Lanessan could very well be a better deal!

If you don’t know the story, again, I’ll try to be brief. The Château is a stone’s throw south of St. Julien, in the Haut-Médoc. In 1855, the château’s owner did not submit samples for the classification, thinking it “bureaucratic nonsense”. Well, that would have been like Bill Gates not taking Microsoft public. This cost the château dearly … but is not necessarily a bad thing for the claret lover. The wines from Château Lanessan have been solid, representative, great drinking wines for over a century. The best part, is absent any Cru Classification, the price has been extremely fair.

So here I am at a negociant’s office the Friday before Primeurs week this past April. Tasting some back vintages and verticals of assorted wines, I stumbled upon the 2001 Lanessan. It is classic old-school Bordeaux, not bombastic, not full of splinters, but what I would describe as classic claret. 10 years in the bottle and it is now revealing those lovely secondary characteristics that one finds in aged Bordeaux. On the nose I got cassis-like fruit and a smoky, earthy, leathery terroir-driven sensation. On the palate, it is a medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon blend with impressive balance and structure. It’s fresh and lively, showing tobacco leaf, forest floor and plenty of fruit, but the show didn’t stop with that. Those wonderful secondary characteristics are beginning to reveal themselves, adding to the already complex mouthfeel. The finish is bright and fresh with fine tannins latching on to the lively acidity, taking its time to fade away. The negociant looked at me. I looked back. He told me the price. My eyes nearly popped out. I nodded. He nodded.

My colleagues here have been hearing about this wine ever since. What a glorious day yesterday was. After nearly 6 months of waiting, it’s here! As I said, if you like Red Bordeaux, especially if you like it with a little bottle age, you should try the 2001 Lanessan. The sooner the better. It won’t be around long. – Peter Zavialoff

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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

What a crazy week! It all started last Saturday after we closed. I attended aKFC/Dom Perignon tasting. Yep. It was great. No, I don’t know why. It was a chaotic week in the 2010 Bordeaux Futures game, as several high-profile chateaux released their prices. It’s been very difficult keeping up, but look for something in your inbox soon. Vinexpo is going on in Bordeaux this week, so they’re going crazier than I, but not by much. Our upcoming Winemaker Dinner with Château Coutet is all-systems-go and reservations are now being accepted. And finally, we’re getting around to sampling some of the new

wines that recently arrived via container.

The thrill of the change of seasons has beckoned the Rosé lover in all of us, and this year’s selections are unbeatable! There are some lovely White Burgundies from the Macon that you all will be hearing about very soon. There are a few reds from the Rhône Valley including a dynamite Côtes du Rhône from Domaine Boudinaud! We’ve had wines from Vignobles Boudinaud for many vintages, but this is the first time we’ve had the La Boissière line. The 2008 La Boissière Côtes du Rhône has everything I like in a Côtes du Rhône: rich, ripe fruit, a kiss of earthy mineral, and a waft of herb which when all tied together makes me happy that unlike the famous wines of Bordeaux, these wines are affordable. I’m not alone here at TWH when it comes to this wine either. Here’s a funny one. So our staff pulled a Chip and Dale on this one. No one wanted to appear selfish and take it home the day we opened it. Emily had left early, so we decided to leave it for her as she and David came in last Sunday for a short time to check out Sunday Streets Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and Bayview. I left her a note saying it was here on the tasting table and guess what? She didn’t take it either. It doesn’t happen often, but our entire staff was crestfallen that the best of the bunch was left undrunken. These things do happen, so in penance, I’m buying one for tonight. This will not be my last.

For me, Sundays are for resting. And after the week I had, I will rest. To all you Dads out there, Happy Fathers’ Day! Here’s a tidbit of wisdom from my Pop:

Pete? Do you have a minute?

Right now? Okay … grumble, grumble (I was around 15 at the time)

Sit down (gulp)

Soon, there will be times when you may be drinking

Uh, really?

I just want you to remember one thing.

What’s that, Pop?

If one bottle costs $7 and the other one $15, buy the $15 bottle, you’ll thank yourself in the morning.


You can go now.

Fast forward to today. Thanks Pop. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me if you want to know more about 2010 futures, our upcoming dinner with Aline Baly of Château Coutet or anything else: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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

2001 Chateau Lanessan (Pre-Arrival)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 3:34 PM

Here at TWH, we’re always looking out for thebest quality winesto stock for you. If that takes us to far away places, so be it. David’s annual trip to Burgundy in January uncovered some great new wines which have recently arrived. Anya’s NYC Italian tasting brought us some stellar wines that push the envelope when it comes to quality for price. It’s a huge bonus when we fall in love with a wine with such a reasonable pricethat we have to scream about it. It’s a bigger bonus when that wine happens to be a Red Bordeaux!But that’s just what happened during my April visit.I had a 3:00pm appointment for which I arrived a little early. (Last year, I had a 2:00pm, and the negociants’ offices were tumbleweed. They like their long lunches.) I sat and relaxed, remembering the 50 or so wines I tasted at another negoc’s office before lunch. Now I was deep in thought about the 2010 barrel samples that awaited me. The first room I entered was this one here;plenty of wine to taste, but not too overwhelming. Come to find out it was the room of “other vintages”. There were some petits chateaux from 2008 and 2009, some recognizable names from such vintages as 1996, 2001, and 2005, and for some reason a really famous chateau’s 1999. We just started tasting … and talking. Spitting of course. The vibe is pretty casual here. All of the wines are for sale and the unopened bottles can surely be opened if anyone was interested in them. I must have only gone through a handful or so, and then poured the 2001 Chateau Lanessan, Haut-Medoc.


Moments like these are why we make the trips! What a great discovery! I don’t need to look at my notebook; even after tasting all the wines I tasted over a 10 day period, I remember this one. Well. Its aromatics were ofhonest, old-school Bordeaux.There was a distinct herbal, earthy character wrapping the medium Cabernet fruit that was the core. On the palate it showed great complexity, weight, and balance. It was revealing secondary complexity due to time in bottle, but what put me over the top was that it finished fresh and vibrant. A peek back at my notes reveals similar descriptors, but what’s with all the stars, asterisks, and squiggly lines? And the words “Oh Yeah!” after the note? That must have been when he told me the price.After that lengthy day of tasting, I did a little research on Chateau Lanessan. It was then that my interest piqued. The property lies just south of St. Julien about a kilometer west of the D2 in the Haut-Medoc. The story is interesting;according to David Peppercorn, “Lanessan is surely one of the best growths of the Medoc not to be classified in 1855. And the strange thing is its excellence is no recent feature.” He goes on to say, “It was listed as a quatrieme cru by Lawton in 1815, when under the name Duboscq. But unfortunately, Louis Delbos, the proprietor in 1855, refused to send samples of his wines for consideration for the famous classification, which he regarded as bureaucratic nonsense, a piece of high-handedness that has cost Lanessan dearly.” Very interesting, indeed! And therein lies a good reason why we are able to offer you this great wine for $24 per bottle! Or $22 per bottle, by the case. Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is in Bordeaux, we expect it to arrive early fall through the end of 2011.Peter Zavialoff

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