Moroccan Dinner With Ouled Thaleb

Saturday, November 28, 2015 12:26 AM


Ouled Thaleb: Dinner Recap
 
A month ago The Wine House hosted a dinner at Mourad –Mourad Lalou’s swanky Financial District restaurantinside the newly renovated Pacific Telephone Building. The dinner was organized to introduce and feature the wines of Ouled Thaleb, Morocco’s oldest working winery. ThoughThe Wine House has been stocking Ouled Thaleb winesever since they became available in California, the wines are still relatively unknown to the larger wine market.
 
 
In a private room, seated around a gorgeous handmade wood table, diners were treated to a delicious multi-course meal accompanied by the wines of Ouled Thaleb. The energetic and charismatic importer of Ouled Thaleb, Didier Pariente, kept our attention focused on the wines, giving us quick tutorials for each one. Throughout the evening Didier shared stories and insights on the food, wine and culture of Morocco. He emphasized the relevance and importance of Morocco as a wine regionand encouraged us to travel there.
 
 
I enjoyed tasting through Ouled Thaleb’s portfolio of wines in their proper context – with food. The cuisine at Mourad is inspired by the flavors of Morocco, transformed through a skilled chef to create a culinary language all his own. This is elevated food, and the wine kept in step. Three years ago I answered the phone and was greeted bya polite, French-accented man who asked me if anyone there would be interested in tasting wines from Morocco.I normally try to avoid biting on a cold call, but I was intrigued. I had an opening in my tasting calendar, so I said “Sure, come on over”. This is how I met Didier. I tasted the wines and felt them to be interesting and of merit on their own terms, not just a novelty. In other words, if the wines weren’t any good, there was no reason to buy them for the store. I continue to find Ouled Thaleb wines deliciousand carry them vintage to vintage. They have a steadyfollowing among ex-pats, adventure seekers and wine drinkers looking to expand their tasting horizons.
 
 
Listed below are Ouled Thaleb wines that are in stock, along with some brief tasting notes. For the future, if anyone reading this would like to be notified of upcoming wine dinners, please send in your request to info@wineSF.comand we’ll add you to our list.
 
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As usual, the crazy month of January has come to a close with a visit from the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. Some members arrived Thursday, and others early Friday. We were very fortunate to co-host a dinner with Marie-Hélène Dussech from Château Brane Cantenac at Chef Gerald Hirigoyen’s “West Coast Basque” restaurant Piperade on Thursday evening. A small gathering of customers joined Marie-Hélène, Anya, a négociant, and myself and we were treated to some wonderful wines, courtesy of the Second Growth Margaux property. Served alongside Chef Gerald’s excellent pairing menu, the event was a smashing success! As was reported in a past email about New Year’s resolutions, we are already brainstorming our next event, stay tuned.

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The main event for the UGC was, of course, theunveiling of the 2012 vintage, now in bottle, to the wine trade of California and the West Coast. On Friday afternoon, hundreds of wine industry folks packed a crowded Palace Hotel for the tasting. Now remember, thesewines are mere babies, just beginning their respective lives, and many need time before they show their best. The chatter around the room seemed reflective of my own observations that the wines from Margaux, St. Julien, Barsac, and Pessac-Léognan (both red and white) showed best. As it worked out, the last dry wines I tasted were the dry whites from Pessac-Léognan. I fondlyremembered tasting them out of barrel at Château Olivier back in April of 2013, and I can now say that my instincts served me well as many of them turned out to be fine specimens of one of Bordeaux’s somewhat unheralded breeds of wine. The thing about white Bordeaux? There’s just not a lot of it. David Peppercorn MW wrote back in the 1980’s that more and more Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon vines were being uprooted in favor of red varieties and that would severely impact supply of dry white Bordeaux for decades to follow. If you’ve ever checked into the going rates for the finest white Bordeaux, you know what I’m talking about. But just as with the reds, there are values among the dry whites, and one need not drift too far from the heart of the appellation to find them.
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Whether from bottle or barrel, when I am at a UGC tasting, I have a general idea of the approximate price of the wines I’m tasting. So when I tasted the 2012 Château Carbonnieux blanc back in 2013, I was particularly taken by it. So much so that it stayed in my mind all day, availing itself for an exercise later that evening. After the long day of appointments and tastings, Ibraved the traffic on the rocade for a dinner at a château. Joining me were around 10 staff members of an American chain of wine & liquor stores. I can’t remember when during the dinner this occurred, but at one point the ringleader of this group asked everyone at the table to“defend a wine” amongst the barrel samples we tasted. They graciously went first, giving me an idea of what exactly this exercise entailed. The wines some of them “defended?”Margaux, Latour, Léoville las Cases, Cheval Blanc, and Haut-Brion. Not judging here, but I didn’t quite understand why some of Bordeaux’s most famous names needed defense. When my turn came, I stood up and proceeded to “defend” the 2012 Carbonnieux blanc. I formulated my defense initially on how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated, and how complex and age-worthy the wines can be. Further explaining their scarcity and the lofty prices demanded by the elite, I cited the 2012 Carbonnieux as a great example of the freshness and complexity that can be found in a great dry white Pessac. Factoring in what I believed the price would be (under $50), I declared it a steal and an example of everything a dry white Bordeaux should be. Dinner’s main course was duck confit and Pauillac. At least it was until said ringleader saw what wine was to come and requested we drink gold wine from Barsac with the confit. I certainly was elated! If you haven’t tried it, just know that a wine from Barsac or a fresh Sauternes will accompany duck confit perfectly.After dinner, the large group was reunited with their driver and left the party. I said my goodbyes from the table and remained there as our hosts escorted the group outside. Once back in the château, the first words I heard were, “You know, you were the only one that defended a wine.” Perhaps I was at the time, but after having tasted the 2012 Château Carbonnieux blanc from bottle yesterday, I don’t think it needs any “defense” either!

 

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Looking back at my tasting notes from the barrel sample that inspired this (sorry) lengthy write-up, they read:” Classy Sémillon aromas – fresh, fresh, fresh – citrus, yeah – wood in check. Palate: Zippy, comes to life, intensifies, … OFF THE CHARTS!!! Very nice. I buy. Squiggly line.

 

For something more formal, here are Robert Parker’s and Neal Martin’s respective takes on the 2012 Carbonnieux:

 

Robert Parker: “Another full-throttle 2012 dry white,this 2012 offers lots of honeysuckle notes as well as a full-bodied mouthfeel and beautiful purity, elegance and length. Lemon zest, grapefruit and subtle wood characteristics are found in both the aromatic and flavor profiles. Drink this stunning Pessac-Leognan over the next 6-10 years.”

 

Neal Martin: “The Carbonnieux Blanc has a well defined bouquet with lovely scents of lime flower and orange blossom that is very well defined – more complex than recent vintages. Hints of custard cream emerge with aeration. The palate is well balanced with a pleasant fatness in the mouth. This is certainly a concentrated Carbonnieux and although I would have liked a little more acid bite on the finish, this is certainly one of the best white wines from the estate in recent years.”

 

Whew! January is always the most hectic month for me and this year was no exception. I’m just glad our Bordeaux dinner went well, and that I had a toothbrush and toothpaste handy after the UGC tasting. Today started with a huge match pitting #1 vs. #2, which ended in a draw, but in English football, a five point lead going into February is a good thing to have. If it’s your thing, have a great Super Bowl Sunday!!  May the best team win. Today’s footy was the sports highlight of the weekend for me! Tomorrow will be all about commercials and Katy Perry. – Peter Zavialoff

 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2012 Bordeaux, dry white Bordeaux, future events or dinners, and of course English Football: peter@wineSF.com
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Gorgeous Aromas – Stephan Pichat’s Syrah and Viognier

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 12:51 AM

 


Aw shucks. We’ve been receiving a lot of praise lately from some of our customers in regard to our write-ups. We just want to say a big Thank You to all of you who read our write-ups with any degree of regularity! It means so much to all of us, and we greatly appreciate the compliments. Why just this morning, in response to our last email about finding 3 more hidden gems from Bordeaux, we were thanked for our time and effort in sussing out such value-driven wines. On Saturday, a customer who lived near our old Carolina Street location over five years ago came in with two friends in tow and made a beeline over to Anya. “I love reading your write-ups,”she gushed. “They’re written with such passion and they are so distinct that I can tell who was doing the writing.When I finish, I just want to lick the screen!” Wow! What incredible praise. We were very touched.

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As reported in this past weekend’s email, we all visited the home of some very close friends of TWH for our annual Post Holiday Party. To say it was epic would be a massive understatement! During one course, which was paired with a three vintage vertical of Côte Rotie Les Grandes Places from Stéphan Pichat one of our hosts commented that he had never seen such passion. We were all swirling, sniffing and tasting each of the three glasses we had in front of us. The conversation was all about the wines; where they were in their development; where they were headed. “I can’t imagine any other group of co-workers doing what you’re all doing right now. You all love wine, and it shows!” Again, more praise. For that, we are very grateful.

 

 

The 2010, 2011, and 2012 Cote Rotie Les Grandes Places all showed extremely well, each framing the signature of its vintage. They are truly special wines from one of Côte Rotie’s top sites, made by one of the region’s top young winemakers! All three have very long lives ahead of them. We’ve had these remarkable wines for three vintages now, and they’re a bit spendy for regular staff tastings, but Stéphane makes some other wines that aren’t. When David visits Stéphane each year, he also tastes his VDF, or Vin de France wines, a Syrah and a Viognier. Both of these wines represent fantastic bargains and David has put in orders for them each year since we’ve begun working with Stéphane. Up until now, it was no dice. The wines sell out quickly and demand for them exceeds supply significantly. This year we got lucky. We got some. And guess what? They’re here.

 

 

The 2013 Domaine Pichat Syrah is a blockbuster of a Syrah with super expressive aromas. They are a solid core of deep red berry fruit, spice and earth that will freeze you in your tracks just taking them all in. I got to the sample first that day and somehow managed to keep a straight face afterwards. Watching Anya take her first sniff was an absolute delight. Her eyes widened, eyebrows went up, mouth agape, she exclaimed, “Now THIS is expression!” We were all quite taken by this magical wine. All of the fruit is from just outside Côte Rotie, but the price is so, so much more friendly!

 

 

For the 2013 Pichat Viognier, the fruit is sourced from a vineyard bordered on three sides by Condrieu, where Viognier has thrived since Roman times. Again, it isanother aromatic masterpiece with all its floral expression with hints of apricot, peach, and rose petal. The palate combines all the aromatic complexity with asweet kiss of crisp acidity and the whole package melts together and finishes in wonderful harmony. Again, an amazing wine for a very fair price.
 
 
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We will let our collective passion continue to drive us into 2015, and there are some good things on the immediate horizon. Our Top Ten wines of 2014 will be announced soon and there is a fairly intimate Bordeaux dinner coming up. Bordeaux dinner? Yes, as the UGC de Bordeaux makes its way through the country, we’re going to team up with Château Brane Cantenac for a dinner at Piperade restaurant on Battery Street on Thursday, January 29 at 7pm. There are still some places available, but they’re filling fast. Five wines will be paired with five courses, and the price is $100 per person which includes dinner, wine, tax, and gratuity. In the world of Bordeaux dinners, that is dirt cheap! We’re expecting the dinner to sell out, so if you are interested, I recommend you contact me as soon as you can and I will provide further details. – Peter Zavialoff

415.355.9463

peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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2010 Chateau Couronneau: The One!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 7:31 PM

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The 2010 Couronneau arrived just in the nick of time as our inventory of the 2009 had dwindled down to just bottles. I thought the 2009 Couronneau was the best wine from Chateau Couronneau I had ever tasted. It’s tricky to make such a statement about a wine because, well, there’s always a next vintage.
Among the staff, I freely pronounced my admiration for the ’09, always noting it was the “best ever”.Peter never disputed my claim, but would only say, “wait till you try the 2010”. I trust and know that Peter knows Bordeaux, but my understanding of the vintages is that ’09s are more expressive and drinkable at this early stage, while ’10s are more structured and less outgoing in the fruit department. So why was Peter implying that the 2010 Couronneau was so special? I now know why…the 2010 has amplitude and a brash richness to it that defies its humble Bordeaux Superieur classification. The 2010 Couronneau is dense with plum and tangy cassis fruit, the tannins and acidity are heightened and bring forth a freshness on the palate for all that rich fruit. I don’t know what is happening but I am again smitten with a young Bordeaux.

The Piat family, the proprietors of Chateau Couronneau, have worked hard and meticulously in the vineyard to coax out the best possible fruit for their wine. This hard work includes a dedication to organic farming (they are certified with Ecocert), green harvesting in Spring, and limiting yields to an average well below what is allowed for the appellation (their average is around 35HL/HA when 65HL/HA is allowable). Christophe Piat’s foremost motivation is to make the best quality wine possible. His achievements in the vineyard, and subsequently in the cellar, have not gone unnoticed. He has been regaled with many medals for his wines in France and Chateau Couronneau has been noted for quality and value in multiple wine publications worldwide. Rightly so, Christophe is quite proud of his estates’ medal showings in wine competitions. You can debate the efficacy of organic farming and other such viticultural practices, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak, and I have witnessed, and tasted, the steep trajectory of rising quality from this estate over the past decade. With every vintage, Chateau Couronneau rolls out beautiful, complex, totally satisfying wine. Wait till YOU try it!


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This past Thursday, The Wine House along with Chateau Coutet hosted a dinner at Picco in Larkspur, pairing Sauternes with each course. This is the third time our Peter and Aline Baly from Chateau Coutet have teamed up to prove that pairing Sauternes with savory courses is not just a gimmick but is in fact an exciting way to broaden your culinary experience. I missed out on the previous dinners, and I have to say, I was getting a little annoyed and rather tired of hearing how great this dish was with that vintage, and how this attendee brought an ancient vintage to share and yadda-yadda-yadda. It’s 2013, a new year, so I decided to use birthday money I had squirreled away to treat myself to this third Coutet dinner. (I also knew they were planning to unveil the inaugural vintage of Chateau Coutet’s first dry white, the 2010 Opalie de Coutet – boy, was that fantastic!). I expected to like the pairing of Coutet with savory dishes, I really did. What was surprising to me though was how effortlessly the wines paired with the savory. The pairings were not at all strange or a culinary stretch. And I didn’t miss having it paired with fois gras. The real stand-out pairings were not with the dessert courses, as is when one typically thinks to break out a bottle of Sauternes. A raw oyster with a chile-cilantro mignonette was paired with the youthful and exuberant 2008 Coutet for a crazy good match of heat, sweet and briny. Another memorable bite was the opulent 2010 Coutet served with crab linguine accented with Korean chili flake. The sweetness of the crab came through brilliantly and the pineapple notes of the young 2010 tempered the heat of the chile flake gloriously. It was a spectacular evening all around with great company, food, wine and atmosphere. I really do need to drink more Sauternes, preferably Chateau Coutet.Anya Balistreri

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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
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