On Philosophy and Graves Blanc

Thursday, April 23, 2009 5:55 PM

 

2004 Vieux Chateau Gaubert Graves Blanc

White Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
SALE$19.95

 

Reg.$21.98

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Special pricing on 6 bottles! Save 15% off the original price. Only $18.68 per bottle!Special pricing on full case purchases! Save 25% off the original price. Only $16.49 per bottle!

Discounts will be applied when your order is processed and we will reflect the price in a fulfillment email.

I don’t believe in coincidence. Nope, no such thing. Please excuse my philosophical ramble, but in order to regale you all with my story of the2004 Vieux Chateau Gaubert Blanc, I feel I must let you in on a little background of my perspective.So no, no such thing. We have had some technical difficulties with our point of sales computer system recently, and for some reason, when one particular computer is turned on, the system eventually crashes. When it isn’t on, no problems. Coincidence? Can’t be. Or then there was the morning after finding out which street my high school crush took to school, I just happened to ride up and surprise her. Coincidence? She thought it was, but no, I was a stalker. I’m reformed now; but I still feel that every so-called coincidence is driven by something. 

I’m not much of a planner either. I mean for important things like finances, retirement, or Wilco concerts, planning is mandatory. But I like to leave things open while on vacation or on Friday nights to allow for serendipity. One of my quotes I use over and over again is, planning leads to expectations, and expectations are the harbinger of disappointment. It’s true. You see more kids crying at Disneyland than in a dentist office.

So this past Friday, I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Nothing unusual here. We have dinner together often, and have in-depth discussions about the wine we serve with them. I told him I was probably going to take it easy and go straight home for a change, but we would chat later. Well, he needed my input on an important matter, so I later told him I would be there. He told me not to bring anything as we would be drinking his wine.

Before the shop closed on Friday, we had a line-up of 11 wines for the staff to taste. One of the 11 was the 2004 Vieux Chateau Gaubert Blanc white Bordeaux. Maybe it’s because I’m on a white Bordeaux kick lately, but I loved it. Repeat. Loved it. (Tasting notes below). When the time came to divvy up the bottles, in spite of red Bordeaux blends and white Burgundy, I made this my first pick. I was quite pleased that I would be bringing something to dinner after all.

Here’s where things got really interesting. As I walked up the path to the front door, I noticed people in the living room. Turns out some friends had dropped by on their way to dinner. One of them is the most amazingly talented guitar player I have ever played with. I mean this guy can play. Big time. In fact, he’s so good, I’ve really got no business playing with him, but somehow it happens occasionally. His date, I was meeting for the first time. Very nice. I showed them my samples, saw their glasses were empty, pulled the cork on the Vieux Chateau Gaubert, and off we went. The conversation was all about how complex the wine was. “Crisp” and “mineral” and “all kinds of stuff going on here” were all things they said. I nodded in agreement as I already loved it. I was asked by this couple for advice on where they should have dinner. I suggested they stay and eat with us. They did. So our conversation continued to swirl in and out of the wine world, then it was English football, the local music scene, the best ingredients for artichoke dip, the 450 degree chicken, and sadly, we had emptied the bottle. There were other wines to taste and we did with a little less fanfare, because the Vieux Chateau Gaubert was that good. As we were about to sit down to eat, another friend arrived and now there were five of us. Our new arrival earned the moniker, “A Party Must” before long as he regaled us with tales of working for the Peace Corps in Niger, being a DJ on the night Lowell George died, and how Huckleberry Finn is, according to James Joyce, the only comedic novel of American Literature. We all were having such a rip-roaring good time, that my friend’s date proclaimed, “This is so much fun, what are you all doing tomorrow night? We need to do all of this all over again tomorrow!” The guitars eventually came out and I found myself singing the song I just wrote. All good things must come to an end, and with much glee hugs were exchanged and we were all in collective agreement that what we just experienced was one special evening.

I don’t believe in coincidence. For an evening to be that enjoyable, it must have a foundation. That foundation then is built upon, with good, stimulating conversation, wit, and hilarity. So how did it all start? The 2004 Vieux Chateau Gaubert Blanc white Bordeaux, that’s how. Coincidence?Peter Zavialoff

 

Tasting Notes

50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon made by winemaker Dominique Haverlan. The estate is an historic site dating back to the eighteenth century. This is the top wine of the property and is sourced from the best vineyard parcels of the chateau.It has a pale yellow glow in the glass, and the aromatics emit rich, spicy, citrus peel, with a dose of gravel. On the palate, it is lightweight, yet exhibits a wide array of complexities that will have you scratching your head to get them all. This is truly a great conversation wine, as many people will taste many things. The finish is clean, dry, and leaves a hint of spice. What fun for such a price!

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about white Bordeaux, coincidence, Huckleberry Finn, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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We Love It, Robert Parker Does Too

Friday, March 13, 2009 4:50 PM

label

 

2005 Chateau La Vieille Cure Fronsac

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$35.98

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I love March!
It probably has something to do with my being hooked on baseball all those years ago, but I am still giddy with excitement when I turn the February page of the calendar. And this year is no exception. Two of my favorite musical acts are releasing new material, Eric Lindell and Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles , providing the soundtrack for all of the other good things on their way! You know, like Daylight Savings Time and the start of spring for starters. 

Having prepared the March Dirty Dozen (with Anya’s help), I find myself with a moment to look around and take a deep breath. So where do my thoughts wander when I have moments like this, inevitably with my physical being close behind? Why to the Bordeaux section, of course. It’s as natural as the tide. I was invited by a friend who is a customer (or is it a customer who is a friend?) over for dinner last night, and wanted to bring something nice over. So as I grabbed my bottle of white Bordeaux (we were having mussels), something caught my eye. It was the 2005 Chateau la Vieille Cure.

I hope that I will wake up one day in, say March 2024, and discover that I still have some 2005 Bordeaux left in my cellar. We’ll see, I guess, but the foundation of that 2005 cellar is right here in 2009! It’s time for me to make my choices. Sure, I want some Leoville Las Cases; sure, I want some Pontet Canet; but in a vintage like 2005, prices will dictate which Chateaux will wind up in my cellar. The 2005 Chateau la Vieille Cure is one of them. With the prices of the two aforementioned wines being what they are, I’m sorry, they won’t be joining the party in 2024. In a vintage like 2005, one doesn’t need to shoot for the stars, because everybody got good grapes. This is the kind of vintage where the little people made exceptional wines.

We opened one of these up a while back and tasted it. Gripping and tight immediately after opening, one could detect an immense richness of dark fruit and earth just waiting to emerge. No one took the sample bottle home that day, but we were all pleased to discover it the following day (after it had been opened for 24 hours!). It had opened up brilliantly! It showed a deep, black cherry, earthy nuance that is best described as extraordinary. It is still a baby. If you want to try one, the 24 hours open trick works really well. It is meant for the cellar. I am so happy to make this wine a part of my future, and I highly recommend that you Bordeaux lovers out there do too! Oh, just don’t take my word for it, Robert Parker has some very nice things to say about it as well. His Notes below.

From The Wine Advocate #178, August 2008: La Vieille Cure’s amazing 2005 is even better than their terrific 2003 and 2000. The 2005 boasts an inky/ruby color as well as a gorgeously sweet perfume of charcoal, black cherries, black currants, and spring flowers as well as an underlying mineral component. Superb concentration, full-bodied power, wonderful symmetry, purity, and texture, and a multidimensional mouthfeel are all found in this fabulous sleeper of the vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020+ – 93 Points 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about March, why I don’t watch baseball anymore, mussels, 2024, or Bordeaux: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux recently stopped here in San Francisco pouring the newly bottled, non-hyped, saved by the sunny September 2006 vintage. Though not all chateaux are members of the Union (most of the high-fliers are not), there were over 120 wines poured.

 The Wine House was represented as Patrick, Peter, and John were all able to taste the wide range of wines presented, and guess what? All three were impressed! The wines showed classic claret character. Despite their youth, most of the wines were approachable, and some were showing ravishing hints of their future development. They’ve got the stuff to last, and will offer great drinking while you’re waiting for those 2005s to shed their baby fat.

We don’t want to leave the impression that 2006 is just a little brother next to their 2005 counterparts. There are certain chateaux, including Lynch Bages, Mouton Rothschild, Giscoursand the recently arrived Pichon Lalande to name a few, where the 2006 bottling is considered to be at least the equivalent of if not better than their 2005 counterpart. With prices less expensive, we suggest that those of you who appreciate classic claret to take a look at the 2006 vintage. Except for a few early arrivals, the wines are being sold on a pre-arrival basis, and are expected in mid to late 2009.

 

 

Patrick’s Impressions:

Well, we tasted separately, and didn’t stop to discuss much along the way (Peter blazed ahead of me; I dawdled a bit at the beginning, thinking I had a chance of taking detailed notes and get to taste as much as I wanted. Not.). However, we shared notes briefly on the following Monday, and found many common favorites, as well as some divergences in opinion. One thing rang true for me, though– these 2006 Bordeaux far exceeded my expectations based on the press. Recognized by the wine pundits as a particularly good vintage for the right bank, especially Saint Emilion (and yes, these were very good), I found a tremendous variety of character and overall high level of quality among left bank wines, as well. I knew it was a well-regarded vintage for the dry whites of Graves and Pessac-Leognan, and each I tasted was compelling, but the reds had much more to offer than I perhaps expected. Of course, these wines on both sides of the Dordogne are overshadowed by the splashy 2005s, but they are classic Bordeaux that offer tremendous pleasure now, but will age gracefully for many years to come. Overall, these 2006s offered a tremendous amount of sheer pleasure, in contrast to the massiveness of 2005s at the moment. Some of my notes below:

 

2006 Chateau Angelus Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$199.00

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Opulent, as one might expect, without going overboard. Velvety texture full of intense dark fruits, but solidly structured.
2006 Chateau Canon Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$73.00

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Again, wonderfully plush texture, but with good energy and high-toned fruit singing above a profound texture.
2006 Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$77.00

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It’s all there–ripe, rich, round, concentrated, elegant texture, blah, blah, blah… Stefan von Neipperg has done it again with this classic Saint Emilion.
2006 Clos Fourtet Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$59.00

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Ripe, well-endowed, concentrated, toast and mocha-inflected fruit.
2006 Chateau Figeac Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$94.00

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Very classy, elegant, with minerality and suavity.
2006 Chateau Giscours Margaux (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$50.00

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A beauty. Perhaps the wine of the tasting?! Really savory, fresh berries, graceful, suave. I couldn’t spit this one.
2006 Chateau Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$64.50

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Classic St. Julien– big, but graceful and polished. Usually a Gruaud-Larose man, I preferred this.
2006 Chateau Pontet Canet Pauillac (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$73.00

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Distincive, with pretty floral perfume intermingled with savory, rich fruit.
2006 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Leognan (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$55.00

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Powerful red-fruited nose cloaked in toast, graphite and caramel. Big, richly concentrated dark fruits on the palate, with a now sternly tannic finish.
2006 Chateau Troplong Mondot Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$129.00

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Attractive aromatics, with plenty of licorice-laced fruit, broad texture and powerful, lingering finish.Patrick Mitten

 

Peter’s Notes:

When details and opinions began to circulate regarding the 2006 vintage in Bordeaux, I always had in the back of my mind the thought that this was going to be one of those solid vintages, with modest pricing (okay, well, in many cases, anyway), whose wines will disappear just before the press really sing its praises. 2001 comes to mind immediately in this regard. It’s always good to have wines from great vintages in ye olde cellar, but hey, just like red Burgundy, I seem to enjoy vintages that themainstream wine writers don’t gush over. So when the UGC came to pour Bordeaux 2006, I had an open mind, and would let the wines do the talking. Well, speak they did, some more than others, but for the most part, I was particularly impressed. The dry whites received acclaim, and rightfully so, they deserve it. The reds showed classic claret character without mouth shocking structure, and even though I had to hit the bread and cheese spread twice due to palate fatigue, I was able to get through the whole show tasting everything. (PS If Patrick found me to have blazed ahead, you should try to keep up with John at one of these tastings!) My notes below:

2006 Chateau d’Armailhac Pauillac (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$35.50

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Old school funkiness, zippy vibrancy, bright fruit, a quality effort.
2006 Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere Saint Emilion (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$77.00

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Stefan von Neipperg poured this for me himself, but I don’t seem to get star struck anymore. Big fruit, extra dimension on the aromatics, wow, rich, alive, will last, one of the ones. I guess I liked that one.
2006 Chateau Clerc Milon Pauillac (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$44.00

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Black cherries and mineral nose, toasty spice, medium tannins, and a menthol lift, it finishes of crushed, rocky cherries.
2006 Chateau Climens Barsac (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$89.00

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2006 Chateau Climens Barsac (half bottle) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$46.00

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I think this one was second to last for me, but my note starts off modestly, but then: Racy, candied fruit aromas, warm, soft, luscious, oily, deep botrytis, WOW! What depth!!!
2006 Chateau Coutet Barsac (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$46.50

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2006 Chateau Coutet Barsac (half bottle) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$25.00

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This has been my favorite Sauternes property over the last several vintages as they seem to be doing something very right lately. Rich, harmonious, botrytis, hint of candied pears and mandarin orange, wow.
2006 Chateau Giscours Margaux (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$50.00

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Polished fruit, hint of toasty mocha, like heaven, racy acidity, medium fruit, well integrated oak, harmony, I love this wine. Yep, confirming, this showed best of all.
2006 Chateau Lynch Bages Pauillac (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$72.00

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Modern style, oaky spice, rich tannins, lively fruit, mellow finish.
2006 Chateau Pichon Lalande Pauillac

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$119.98

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Big extract, rich, powerful, all tied together in delicious harmony. Finishes like a sunset. One for the cellar. IN STOCK!
2006 Chateau Pontet Canet Pauillac (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$73.00

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Nose: berries upon berries … stewy fruit, high toned, yet in balance, zippy finish.
2006 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Leognan (Pre-Arrival)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$55.00

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Ah, another great effort here. I love these guys. Very unique. Dark fruit, gravel, and gamey, sweet fruit, zippy acid, racy tannins all tied together in harmony. Peter Zavialoff

Cheers To Our Customers

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 7:31 PM

During our Anniversary sale, I was helping a customer load up with some good wine for an unbelievable price. Happy as she was, she also said, “The downside of this is that I won’t be back for a while.” It struck me. I felt the same. We love having you all here in our shop! Whether you’re buying, seeking advice, comparing notes, or just popping in to say hi, we’re always here for you and are glad to see you. (If you do not live in our area, please know that we appreciate your phone calls, emails, and other correspondence just as much). Anyway, before I get too gushy here, the point that I’d like to illustrate is that we get so much out of these unique relationships that we have with you. I could name names and go on and on, but that would probably cause most of you to hit the delete key thinking that I’ve been doing too much “research”. But through the feedback we have received, and of these relationships we have with you, we know we’re not just another wine shop.



As our staff is acutely aware of, you never know what you’re going to get when you answer the phone. I answered one the other day, and it was a longtime customer who particularly loves Bordeaux. I like to talk about Bordeaux. That’s an understatement. In fact, if it wasn’t for Bordeaux, they’d call me the quiet guy around here. From time to time, when this customer calls, we share tasting notes and perceptions of various Bordeaux that we have tasted. He asked me if I had tried the 2005 Chateau Grand Ormeau. When I said no, not yet, he said, “I would advise you to do so, the sooner the better.”

2005 Chateau Grand Ormeau Lalande de Pomerol (half bottle)

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
 
 
Very limited supply in half-bottles
2005 Chateau Grand Ormeau Lalande de Pomerol

Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$28.98

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2005 Bordeaux For Now – Chateau Grand Ormeau

 

This emphatic advice was not lost upon me. Considering the source, I was not going to hesitate. I plopped a bottle down by the radio (where I like to keep my homework before I leave) and drew up plans to pop it on New Year’s Day of the Julian Calendar (which was last Wednesday). Being a holiday, I planned to do it up a little. I’ve been dining at my best friend’s house a lot lately, always leaving him with a less than tidy kitchen. I thought it only fair to mess mine up for a change. When I got home, I popped the Grand Ormeau. No decanter, I just let it breathe out of the bottle. An hour and a half had passed. We had a little sparkling to start, it was New Year’s after all. Then, as things had come together, we tasted the Bordeaux. “Holy cow. Where’d this come from?” he asked. We have been tasting wine together for many years and his reactions are usually more reserved and scientific in nature. We then continued to enjoy a delightful holiday dinner with an accessible 2005 red Bordeaux that continued to improve over time.



What struck me most was indeed the accessibility of this wine. I’ve tasted through more than a handful of 2005 red Bordeaux, and one thing is for sure, it is a vintage of amazing concentration across the board. The concentration and structure of most of these wines makes you want to forget about them in the cellar for 10 years or more. But this one? It was lovely. Rich in aromatics; solid, yet harmonious on the palate, finishing like the encore at a Springsteen show. Hmmmm. No wonder my buddy just bought a case!

Tasting Notes

As stated above, opened approximately 90 minutes prior to tasting and left in bottle. My first impression of the aromatics was favorable. It was young, no doubt, but behind the toasty, mocha aroma was what seemed like an elegant presence of briary, berry-like fruit. On the palate, the oak influences backed off as the velvety, dark fruit shined through it as a halogen light would in a dark forest. We could detect some earthy, forest floor like nuances on the palate as well. The finish was bright and zippy and quite reminiscent of dark cherries. If you would have served this to me blind, there is no way I would have thought it to be from 2005, it’s just so drinkable! I bet it will still be good in 10 years too.

Oh yeah, some of you may care what Robert Parker thinks: “Grand-Ormeau, one of Lalande de Pomerol’s finest estates, has fashioned two outstanding wines in 2005 (I actually preferred the basic cuvee over the Cuvee Madeleine). The open-knit, accessible 2005 regular cuvee boasts a dense ruby/purple color as well as copious quantities of sweet black cherries, mocha, and strawberries, and an opulent, plush, concentrated mouthfeel. This beautifully textured, heady, round wine should be enjoyed over the next 7-8 years.” – 91 points, The Wine Advocate #178, August 2008

So you see, it’s a two way street here. As Anya said, “We taste a lot of bad wine so you don’t have to.” And we can advise you, based on what we learn about your tastes, what wines you may or may not enjoy. The best thing for us is hearing your stories about what you’re tasting and what you’re enjoying. We look forward to seeing/hearing from you all soon, and to continue helping you with all things vinuous! – Peter Zavialoff

 

I Should Have Opened My Mouth Sooner

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 8:53 PM

I don’t drink Bordeaux as often as I’d like. There are multiple reasons for this. I belong to a generation that hasn’t been able to afford it on a regular basis (long gone are the days of $12 first growths). I also lack the patience to age claret into the autumnal glow of earthy, wooly secondary characteristics, and consume it in its primary, tannic youth. And lastly, my heart hasn’t always been in it. It was, I think, the exotic, wild perfume and spice of Rhone wines that first seduced me, but sometimes I do seek the aristocratic reserve and intellectual stimulation of Bordeaux.

So it was a couple weeks ago that I took home a bottle of 2005 Cap de Faugeres (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc). It has a long reputation as an overachiever in the Cotes de Castillon, it’s from an indisputably great vintage, we were grilling a Flintstone-esque cowboy ribeye that night, and the price was right. And I was attracted by the decent dose of Cabernet Franc and what it might contribute to the perfume.

I tried it right after opening it, and it was a monster. Aromatically withdrawn, brooding in texture, fruit withheld and sternly tannic, my fear that this may be too young would possibly be confirmed. (I’m not expecting a fully integrated, open knit, totally expressive experience from any 2005 Bordeaux at the moment, but I found this surprisingly forbidding). However, after an hour in the decanter, it really started to bloom, serving up fragrances of luscious dark fruits, licorice, graphite and lilacs. Still dense and firm in the middle, the clamps were starting to loosen on the fruit to suggest richly concentrated cassis and mulberry. There was also some Cabernet Franc-induced green tobaaco and attractive herbaceousness. However, those tannins were still strongly in charge, although the grip was perhaps balanced by the gradually yielding aromas and flavors. After two hours in the decanter and competition from the steak, the tannins started to stretch out a bit, allowing for a more pliable texture, with a long, luscious finish.

I love it! With a little decanting and beating the wine up a bit in the glass, here’s a young Bordeaux that offers lots of pleasure right now!This is not to say that it lacks profundity – far from it. I wouldn’t hesitate to pull a bottle in five years, or even ten; it has the stuffing to not only last, but develop tremendous complexity down the line.

So, you may rightly ask why I didn’t open my big mouth (although I’m not typically known for bombast) a couple weeks ago when we had this wine on sale for $18.75 or $199 a case?! Mea culpa! Well, to right the situation, we have extended sale pricing on this baby past our anniversary sale. So, stock up now on this red Bordeaux that will reward both the patient and impatient alike. – Patrick Mitten

2005 Larrivet Haut Brion And Waiting

Monday, June 16, 2008 7:10 PM

2005 Larrivet Haut Brion

Waiting. It can be frustrating. It builds tension. Tension that is released when what we’re waiting for finally arrives. It’s kind of like the crescendo in a great song that builds and builds until the final chorus bursts forth and knocks all of that tension to the four corners of existence. So, in spite of a little tension, good things come to those who wait.

Ever since I first walked through the doors as a Wine House employee, not a day has gone by without some mention of 2005 red Bordeaux. I likened it to talking about the lives of celebrities. What’s the point? They’re not here. Out of sight, out of mind. So, why bother talking about them? Yet unlike the prospect of Natalie Imbruglia meeting me for lunch, I knew in the back of my mind that someday these wines would arrive. So I listened. And talked. And waited. Did I mention that Bordeaux is what makes me tick? The foundation of why I love the wines of France? The reason why I’m sitting here in The Wine House typing this right now? Yes, it is all because of Bordeaux.

The first 2005 we received and tasted was the Mylord, then the Croix de la Roche, Potensac, and Mont Perat. Then I got to taste a handful of bigger names before the recent Sauternes tasting I attended. I must say that I sit in humble agreement with all who use the term legendary when discussing the vintage.

In front of me now are seventeen different 2005s in half bottle. I am waiting no longer. A week ago Wednesday, I happened to grab one as I went off to do my Wednesday thing. You see, I have Thursdays off, so for the past several months, Wednesday evenings for me are often spent with my friends at Wellington’s Wine Bar in Sausalito. It is a very comfortable room run by nice people who happen to know a thing or two about wine and offer an array of selections from around the wine world in various sized portions. After cooling off with a couple glasses of white wine off the list, I thought I’d mention to Jeremy, the proprietor, that I had a half bottle of 2005 Larrivet Haut Brion in the car. He chuckled and told me to fix that problem. I fetched the half bottle, we popped it and decanted it. After around 45 minutes or so, we decided to pour a few glasses out. Of course it was youthful, yet was rounded and bursting with fruit. Time passed; everyone involved was blown away by the complexity (mineral, spice, earth, forest floor) that kept popping up as the young wine took a few breaths.

larrivethautbrion

I came in to the shop on Friday morning with high praise for the 2005 Larrivet Haut Brion. Such high praise, I might add, that I convinced Ben to take a half bottle home. He usually shakes his head when he hears me talk up a young Bordeaux. Not only did he take it home … per my recommendation, he decanted it for two hours. He came in on Tuesday gushing (yes gushing) with enthusiasm. “Three thumbs up”, he said. I’ve never heard him say that about any wine.

Waiting. It’s a cruel trick to wait for two years for a bottle that demands we wait another five to ten years to drink it! Though destined to be a classic with a decade of proper storage, if you decant for around two hours, you can take a peek at what we’re on about here. In the film “Big Jake”, John Wayne said, “Waiting’s good for them and bad for us.” In the case of 2005 Larrivet Haut Brion, we feel the opposite, whoever they are. – Peter Zavialoff

Tasting Notes

Immediately after we opened the bottle, we poured it into a decanter and it was pointed out to me that the aroma was much like buttered popcorn. It was. Ben suspects it experienced malo in barrel (which appears to be a trend though no one really speaks of it). It would need time for that toasty new oakiness to blow off and to let the fruit emerge. After 45 minutes or so, when it was time for that first sip, I found the aromatics to scream of spicy, dark berry fruit. On the palate, it was rich in fruit, yet showed elegant restraint; not going “over the top.”  The tannins held up their end in silky fashion without taking center stage. More time in the glass only began to reveal the true makeup of this wine. We were all in agreement that every time we went back for another sip, another nuance would present itself. We found forest floor, spicy mineral, pencil lead, leather, and earth, all held together by the high-toned structure. Needless to say, a mere half bottle didn’t stand a chance with us. We were begging for more when it came up dry. Jeremy took the empty bottle and said, “Hall of Fame”, then put it up with the rest of the trophy bottles that line Wellington’s windows.

Email me with any questions or comments regarding waiting, Bordeaux, lunch with Natalie Imbruglia, or which Wednesday evenings I might be at Wellington’s: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2005 Sauternes: Sweet Sensations

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 2:35 PM

Notes From a Recent Tasting

I love Sauternes. Really. Loooooooove them! What I love the most about them are their complexity. I mean where else can you be but at a Sauternes tasting when you see these words among your notes: mandarina, pineapple, exotic, honeysuckle, crème caramel, luscious, prickly pear, honey, floral, banana, nutmeg, menthol, olive oil, candied peach, gooseberry, apricot, brioche, marshmallow, coconut, just to name a few. There is not a day that goes by where I’m not tempted to take a bottle home. Not a day. But it’s getting to be slim pickings out there. Well, we’re all in luck because the 2005’s are beginning to arrive. It’ll be a trickle at first, and we expect the rest to arrive throughout the year.   

Sure, we all know the Cabs and Merlots of Bordeaux flexed their respective muscles in 2005, got all the press (for good reason), which unfortunately led to ultra high prices. So while everyone is gushing over the reds, keep in mind that the weather was also perfect for Sauternes. Conditions were ideal for the noble rot. The period of harvest was unusually long, allowing vignerons many more lots to blend with than they would normally have. Take into consideration what it takes to make Sauternes (painstaking hand picking, in many cases picking grape by grape to find the fruit affected by botrytis … and that’s before the sorting table!), and this vintage is a downright screamin’ bargain!

I had heard all this already, just as I had heard all about the 2003 stickies. No doubt 2003 was an excellent vintage, but these wines need time to develop their complexities. So when David suggested I check out a recent tasting of 2005 Sauternes, I of course said yes, but was on the fence with my expectations. Would they be showing complexity due to the lengthy harvest period? Or would they be shy and sweet as many 2003’s turned out to be when they first arrived in bottle? I was blown away. Kaboom! Blown away. I wasn’t alone. These wines are exceptional. Tasting notes below the links to the 750’s.

Tasting Notes:

 

Doisy Vedrines: I’ve become more familiar with this producer over the past couple of years for two reasons: more affordable and delicious wines. This ’05 was when the tasting really hit stride for me. The initial impression of botrytis on the nose was unmistakable and profound, bracing the flighty nuance of white candied fruit. On the palate, the depth of the botrytis was felt, rich as Roman, with hints of blossoms, vibrancy, and that feeling you get when tasting a fine olive oil. From here my notes say: “Bam. A cracker.(something really good) Finish still going.” One of the ones for me and my budget.

 

Doisy Daene: Tasted directly after its Barsac cousin, there was a noticeable difference in aroma. The Daene had a much cleaner and precise direction to it. The botrytis was present, yet balanced with a hint of citrus which led me to believe there was more Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. If not more, it certainly seemed more prevalent. In the mouth, it was expansive with a hint of smokiness behind that luscious fruit which seemed to ping off of every sensor available. I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, are they kidding? This is like the Bill Graham Memorial concert where Jackson Browne went on at 12:10. If he’s playing now, who’s coming on at 3:30?” Ah, but I already had the wines in front of me, so I knew.

 

Clos Haut Peyraguey: Once again I’m struck with a deep botrytis on the nose combined with aromas that remind me of what I had for breakfast: brioche, butter, and tea. The Clos Haut is round and soft in the mouth exhibiting delicate tropical notes of papaya, banana, and coconut. The acidity picks up mid palate and sends the whole package away much like a lover at the train station in the days of yore.

 

La Tour Blanche: One of the few producers to still use Muscadelle (5%) in the blend, the LaTour Blanche has an abundance of complexity on the nose. Yes, its bouquet is marked by expressive botrytis, I picked up a hint of petrol as well. On the palate it has a wide, wide mouth-feel that gives those dark corners of your mouth a pleasant pinch. It carries a spicy-sweet flavor profile reminiscent of honey toast, is concentrated, and has the stuff to last. One for the cellar. 

 

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

 

Guiraud: Talk about a tough act to follow! The Guiraud has received a heap of praise, and rightfully so. There is an expressive floral/blossomy component on the nose that compliments the botrytis and lively fruit. In the mouth, one gets the sensation of creme caramel, interwoven with spice, a lively mid palate that has that feel of fine olive oil. The finish combines brioche-like flavors with fruit and spice and lasts and lasts.

 

Suduiraut: The Suduiraut was the wine that stood out the most for me. This was due to its delicacy and refinement. I detected the botrytis and candied orchard fruit on the nose in a addition to green tea, they just presented themselves in a restrained fashion. On the palate it was soft and luscious with that honey-toast butter/spiciness. There were hints of petrol throughout. On the finish, it faded slowly and appeared to dry out at the very end. All in all I really loved what they did here as the wine was truly unique in an amazingly good way.

 

Climens: I’ve been looking forward to writing this one throughout this exercise. You see I’ve never used “cookie” in a tasting note before. But there it is. Okay, it’s Chateau Climens, Lord of Barsac. 100% Semillon; it’s reputation precedes it. On the nose it’s back to the richness of the vintage: noble rot, allspice, walnut, petrol, and cookie. I must have meant oatmeal cookie as that was the only cookie I knew as a kid. Oh, there’s more. In the mouth I wrote, “Intense, expanding, menthol, full throttle“. This wine was not shy. In a word, it was a mouthfull. I was glad they saved it for last as we would have missed out on the nuance of the Coutet and Suduiraut had we experienced this one earlier. The finish was equally intense and faded slowly, leaving the traces of a lovely tasting of great wines seared in my memory.



Parting Notes

I unfortunately had two subsequent tastings that day, so by the end, my vision was a bit cloudy. But reviewing my notes really brought me back to the feel of the tasting and the energy that existed in that room. There were some interesting topics that arose that day. One I’ll share. When asked about savory pairing ideas for Sauternes, the usual were brought up (foie gras, cheese, etc.). Well one of the foremost experts on Sauternes here in the states said with a high degree of conviction that it pairs very well with Mexican cuisine. No kidding. I haven’t tried it, but I will. I’ll report back after I do. I encourage any questions, comments, or experiences with Sauternes pairing, especially with Mexican food: peter@wineSF.com – Peter Zavialoff



PS: I will not be in the shop tomorrow as I will be watching the Chelsea Blues vie for the one piece of silverware that has eluded them. May the best side prevail!

2005 Bordeaux: Volte Face Encore

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 9:19 PM

2005 Château Couronneau Volte Face Sainte Foy

First things first. I had some very good suggestions for good Dungeness prices. Thank you, and as promised I will keep these to myself. A customer likened me to a rug salesman for saying that we had limited quantities of the Floresta (from last week), and that it would be sold out. Basically he meant that I was frothing demand much in the way that jewelry store in Fisherman’s Wharf seems to be perpetually going out of business and drastically reducing prices. I must protest. That wine is very sold out, and I try to call them as close to as I see them. Sometimes I see a wine selling quickly. While I won’t apologize for hawking rugs, I am sorry there wasn’t much wine to go around. However, sometimes luck has it. The 2005 Volte Face St. Foy Bordeaux we offered in October was similarly rampaged. We had 25 cases and then 25 cases were gone. I said that we wouldn’t be getting more, because I was sure we weren’t. But it turned out there was a half pallet at the château in France, so David ordered it, and it has arrived, proving me wrong. Or as our customer pointed out, maybe I should be selling rugs for those carpet shops.

I’ve considered it, and I like wine better. I think the fact that we were able to find more of the wine at once makes me wrong and makes up for my wrongness. This is 2005 Bordeaux after all, so I’ll assume most will be happy we found more. Actually we had one (quick) customer who lucked out in the first round and just happened to call on Thursday to see if we had more. She ordered another case, and now that I think about it, I bet she never knew we were sold out for 3 months. Funny how that is.

Finally, you may remember we offered a special case price on this normally NET wine. Previous demand and a down dollar dictate that the wine should sell at full (or higher) price, but many of you attempted to order within the time frame of the original offer and were shut out, so we’ll honor that pricing for a week. I’ve included the original write-up below. – Ben Jordan

 

Original Writeup from October 2007
Just a warning. I may do a little wine bashing, brand name bashing to be more precise, Napa Valley brand name bashing to be even more precise. I hate to be negative, but when I think about Chateau Couronneau offering the high quality Volte Face at such a low price, I get upset about Napa wine costing so much. I’ll get to that later. For now I will say one thing. It hurts. It really does. There are so many great wines coming out of France right now with labels reading 2005, I’m in a frenzy. I feel like a dog dropped in the middle of a gymnasium filled with table after table of different kinds of meats that my owner never lets me eat. Steak, roast chicken, lamb, fried chicken, roast beef, venison, omigod is that chicken livers?! I love chicken livers! What do I eat first, what do I eat first! Rowrrrll! You may feel this way too, but you know what? We just have to loosen our collars and start eating. 2005 is the type of vintage that doesn’t come around that often. As much as cynics like to mutter sarcasms like “Greatest vintage in two months!,” implying that the next vintage will be just as spectacular, this does not apply to the under $15 French wines. These types of wines are rarely ever at this level. Sure they are consistently good and always values, but this is a vintage to find greatness in the little wines. For these types of French wines, this vintage is across the board better than 2003, 2000, and most years previous. I won’t call it advice, but I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I’m stocking up.
I’m already salivating (like the gym dog) over the 2005 wines I will be opening in 2010, 2015, and 2020, and about 90% of those bottles sell for less than $20. Petit Bordeaux and Burgundy, Loire francs and Chenins, and Rhone wines will all be treating us well, and we will be drinking well-aged wine for what will by then amount to coffee money.

There’s a new record. Four paragraphs, and I haven’t said anything of substance about the wine itself. First off, I haven’t seen this anywhere else on the internet, so our 25 cases may be all there is in the country. Be warned that we won’t be getting more. Volte Face is a new property for Chateau Couronneau located in Sainte-Foy east of Bordeaux proper. Volte Face is reserve to the Bordeaux Superieur. It is fashioned like a good Pomerol: Merlot finished in cask. The casks are bigger than those used at Petrus, otherwise it would cost a lot more.

The Volte Face, like the straight Couronneau I wrote about before, is large scaled in this vintage. We’re talking power here. It’s almost confusing to have a wine of this magnitude at this price. If you put it next to, let’s say Shafer Merlot from Napa, the only difference is that the Volte Face derives it’s complexity of smoke and earth from the Bordeaux terroir rather than the vanilla and spice of the oak on the Shafer. I’d turn down a glass of Shafer anything (yes, anything) and drink this instead. Why? I’ve been playing the allocation game with this winery for over a year now to restart a pitifully small allocation of the Hillside Select for our customers. They tell me buy the Merlot, buy the Chard, then we’ll talk. I buy, but no dice. We’ve been Shafer customers for a long time, now they want to jerk us around on a leash, and I just don’t have the time for it. There are other things to do here, ask any of us. Hey, the wine is fine, I’m not dogging the quality, but I will tell you that part of the reason it is so expensive is that they’re paying somebody to sit in an office and play around with allocations. Not to mention the marketing wing whose big challenge is how to spin their $45 Merlot that was damned by the faint praise of 88 Parker Points. So I say why bother when you can get rich, concentrated Bordeaux for $13.48?

$13.48 (with special case pricing) gets you true Right Bank Bordeaux with the length and ageability to please you through the next decade. I tasted this over 4 days, like the previous Couronneau, and it did nothing but improve, like the previous Couronneau. This seems to me a no-brainer for anyone who loves the Merlots and Cabernets of the Bordeaux region and wants to cellar the 2005 vintage. A case of this in your cellar, along with as many other wines like it as you can find, will help you weather many a mediocre vintage. – Ben Jordan

 

Tasting Notes: Mine for the Volte Face and Parker’s for the Shafer
Like I say POWER. This wine is a mouth-full. Compared to the Couronneau Bordeaux Superieur this wine is rounder and more approachable in youth, but it has admirable concentration that might make it even longer lived. As I mentioned, the flavors are Bordeaux, thru and thru: smoke, earth, and a touch of leather complement the rich fruit. The fruit is black for the most part, though pairing with food with acid, such as tomato sauce, brings out a black cherry red fruit character. Compare to the tasting note below, it is not lighter styled or herbal and it will last longer than 5 or 6 years. I’d bet Parker would rate this higher than the Shafer. And that concludes my definition of a no-brainer.

And Parker’s thoughts from Wine Advocate #168 on the 2004 Shafer Merlot.

“A blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc, the lighter-styled, elegant 2004 Merlot reveals notes of berry fruit, herbs, coffee beans, and chocolate. Drink it over the next 5-6 years. 88 Points.”

By the way, we were selling the Shafer Merlot (actually it was sitting on the shelf not selling), but after they jilted us again, I slashed the price, and boy did our customers find it quick!

2005 Medoc: Potensac

Thursday, January 24, 2008 9:19 PM

Due to the popularity of this offer, we are sold out of our in stock inventory. We do however have more of this wine available (at the same price) on a pre-arrival basis, and it is expected to arrive sometime this year.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about this wine this whole week. I started many an idea and scrapped it. None really conveyed what I’m trying to say, for example: “This is like selling babies. They’re so cute, everybody wants one when they see one, but are we really as patient as we think we’ll be?” If you look closely at this metaphor, it doesn’t really work, plus I am against selling babies. It’s been a busy week, so I’ve settled for a more straightforward approach. For some reason I don’t recommend $23.98 wines that often, but that changes with the 2005 Potensac. Frankly, this is a great deal. So it’s not in that under $15 sweet spot, but it is pure value considering the material. It is serious, very ageable Bordeaux. We’ve sung the praises of the 2005 vintage over and over, and the reason I don’t feel bad about that is because there is so much good wine out there from this vintage, and my goal is to speak up when I taste/drink good wine, kind of like a public service announcement. I’ve admired this Château (owned by Jean-Hubert Delon of Léoville Las Cases) in other vintages for making impressive wines at exceedingly fair prices. This vintage is another story. This has the length and intensity of a classed growth, and it shows us that as much as it sounded like hype when those high prices for Margaux and Latour came out, this really is a stellar vintage for Bordeaux. Whether Latour is worth $10,000 a case is not for me to say, but I will say this is worth every bit of $288. I imagine that as these wines arrive on the market, they’re going to be a thorn in the side of Napa Valley producers. “Normal” Bordeaux vintages are a different animal than the average Napa wine, lighter and less fruited, so there’s no reason for them to worry about quality Bordeaux for less than $30, because the wine is different and attracts a different customer. But when they start treading on your turf, and making wines that take some of what you do best (ripe fruit) along with what they do best (integration, finesse) and selling for half your price … when a wine just over $20 has power, concentration, and the staying power to age along side or better than those $60 (and up) Napa wines, I’d be ready for these 2005s to sell out if I were them. This is not the $10 Bordeaux wines like Mylord which were delicious, but not incredibly serious. (Though that was a controversial wine, as it seems that there was some variation across importers. We had a very high incidence of customer happiness with the Mylord we brought in.) The Potensac has depth and extract, and should be laid away. Otherwise it will need a decanter and lots of patience. For example: This wine was finally opening up and showing its best on the 5th day after I pulled the cork. No gas, lots of oxygen, lots of beating it up. Those first few days it was, deep, dark, and yelling at me, “I’m young wine! Leave me be.” I yelled, “I know, but it’s been a couple days. Please.” Same response, “I told you I’m a young wine. Back off!” All the time there was no degradation or oxidation. When it finally relented its structure on day 5 and the fruit came out, I looked in and said thank you, and the last glass was delicious.

If you love aging wine, and you want a sure thing, this is a perfect example. It’s a great way to see what 2005 Bordeaux does when it really gets going and moves above the entry level into serious, contemplative wine. – Ben Jordan

Due to the popularity of this offer, we are sold out of our in stock inventory. We do however have more of this wine available (at the same price) on a pre-arrival basis, and it is expected to arrive sometime this year.

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