Bordeaux – 1 April 2017. After two reasonably smooth flights, I arrived in Bordeaux on Wednesday afternoon, preparing to take part in the annual En Primeur tastings. If you follow these kind of things, you probably have heard some pretty good news so far. As I type this, I have only tasted six of them, so I will reserve judgement, at least until after tomorrow, where a warehouse full of barrel samples awaits. In addition to the barrel samples, I am also here to taste already bottled wines and to take in the zeitgeist of this year’s proceedings.


It’s great – each year, there are always new things to see, to learn, to taste, and to figure out. But there are also many familiar things as well. One such exercise is now bordering on ritual, and that would be the Saturday rental car pickup and the drive out to Sainte Foy la Grande to visit the Hecquets in Montravel and the Piats in Ligiuex which I did again early this morning. First stop was at Château Couronneau to visit Bénédicte and Christophe Piat.



The three of us sat in their living room pictured above and caught up on things. They’re on the fast track to becoming empty nesters, as their youngest will be leaving the family home soon to finish her studies abroad. And in the wine department, Christophe explained to me that beginning with his 2015’s, he has changed the type of filtration he uses. The net-net of this is that the wines need a bit more time after bottling before they are fully resolved and ready to drink. I tasted through their entire line of 2015’s, which were all recently bottled, save the blanc, which was bottled in late December. Change in filtration or not, the 2015’s were going to need some time in bottle regardless. We also spoke at length about the 2016 vintage, and they asked me if I had tasted any barrel samples yet. “Just six,” I said, yet still smiling, for the first three were at Château Margaux. With a chuckle and a wry smile, Christophe matter-of-factly inferred it was standard practice to taste Margaux and then Couronneau due to their similarities (his idea of an April Fool’s joke).



16th Century Château Couronneau – 1 April 2017



Yep, That’s a 16th Century Moat – 1 April 2017

Christophe went on to say his 2016’s were plentiful and the quality was outstanding. They too were going to need some time. The wines from Couronneau are usually ready to go once they’re released, but the Piats cautioned me that the past two vintages will be at their respective best five years after release. So what vintage to drink now? The 2014, of course. I asked Christophe his thoughts on the matter, and he feels that the 2014 exhibits lighter acid levels than the past two vintages, and that the fruit is more supple and silky. He admits that the 2014 Couronneau is fine to drink now, but it will be at its best 2 to 5 years from now. I popped a bottle shortly before leaving San Francisco, and I just loved the aromatic expression and the medium-full body of this lovely wine. The Piats’ biodynamic practices have obviously paid off!



The Vines Will Follow Soon, But The Vineyard Is Alive


We recently received our final drop of the 2014 Couronneau, so it’s in stock at the moment. So try a bottle today. If you like it, we’ve got a super deal for you. If you already know and enjoy this wine, the deal is good for you as well. Beginning tonight, we are offering a “special full case discount.” It’s much better than our normal discount, and we do not want to be disorderly and advertise this unheard of price in all the usual online places. If you would like to know what the discount is, simply load 12 or more bottles into your online shopping cart and you will see what it is. ***Please note: You can easily remove the items from your cart should you not wish to make the purchase.


Alors. The (semi-) mellow part of the trip is now finished. Over the next 7 days, I am going to be hit with a barrage of barrel samples from the 2016 vintage. I am ready. Should any of you be curious about any particular 2016 sample, please feel free to drop me a note, and I will do my best to taste it and report back with my observations. In the meantime, should you wish to profiter from a super deal on a fine bio-dynamically farmed wine from a seriously great vintage grab a full case (or two) today! – Peter Zavialoff


While we patiently await the results of the ongoing harvest all across the northern hemisphere, it’s a good time to remember the vintages past. All of them. The interesting ones. The underrated ones. The classic ones. And, of course, the legendary ones. Looking back upon the past decade of red Bordeaux vintages, it has become a given that 2009 and 2010 have etched their places among the latter two. Before we knew of the power and structure the 2010 vintage gave us, 2009 was eye-opening for its precocious expression and charm.Though, let us not dismiss its potential for aging. We are speaking of red Bordeaux after all. For the classified growths, well, discipline is in order. You’re going to want to hold onto those. Savvy Bordeaux enthusiasts well know that in these type of years, the weather blessed everyone, therefore bargains abound. We could go back and count them, but who has the time? There is a 2009 red Bordeaux that we thought enough of out of barrel, that we bought a modest amount of. We sold about half our allocation as futures, but when it landed here at TWH, the balance was swept up before I could get my hands on a single bottle after taking off a poorly timed three day weekend. Somehow, some way, we were able to get a little more 2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc!
 
For those who know this wine, not much more needs to be said. As I stated, our first drop was gone in a heartbeat. We bought another pallet. Gone. Then another. Gone. Oh well, time moves on, and there are new wines waiting to be discovered. Hold on a second. When we receive new stock lists from our suppliers in Bordeaux, I usually look them over pretty thoroughly. What? 2009 Larrivaux? Really? “David, you’ll never believe what XYZ negoce is offering!” We bought what was left (not much). And now it’s here, back in stock.
 
 
 
Briefly – Château Larrivaux is in the commune of Cissac in the northern sector of Bordeaux’s Haut-Médoc. It is really a 3-wood west of Saint-Estèphe. The property is run by Bérengère Tesseron, and she has been cranking out some impressive wines for quite some time, a bit under the radar. We’re not talking about big, extracted, over-oaked monsters. Her wines are nuanced, elegant, and complex. The 2009 has what it takes to lay down for another decade or more, but it’s so enjoyable now, why not indulge? Seriously, for the price, it’s easy to imagine a Wednesday evening’s slow roasted beef ribs with the fixin’s, a bottle of this, and who cares if you can’t get a reservation at (insert fancy resto name here). It just makes sense; from a flavor standpoint and a budget one, it just makes sense.
 
We’ve written a blog post, or two (scroll down), or three,about this wine. After this email lands in our inboxes, this too, will live as another one. There’s really not much more to say. 2009 Château Larrivaux is back in stock; most likely, for a short time.
 
 
Speaking of harvest, I have spent the past week, and will spend the next on assignment in Slovenia, where the harvest is in full motion. From one perspective, it’s not optimal, as everyone is so busy, it’s difficult to grab the attention of any winemakers around here. That being said, it’s a beautiful country, and it’s almost enough to be stomping around the vineyards, observing the hard work which they undergo, gathering their fruit from the vines. They make time to explain things to us when they can, and it has been a great learning experience.Heck, when all is said and done, I look forward to stashing some 2016 Slovenian wines in my cellar. I probably have some time to achieve that. As far as the 2009 Château Larrivaux goes, I will have to act now. There might not be anything left by the time I return. Na Zdravje! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2009 red Bordeaux, Bordeaux in general, European Football, the six Bay Area Wilco shows, or anything Slovenia: peter@wineSF.com


2015 Bordeaux Update: The futures campaign has begun! At the time of this writing, pricing has come out for a small number of producers, and no doubt the next several weeks will be very busy with more chateaux offering their 2015’s to the marketplace. We are already active in the campaign and will continue to be, asmany of the wines merit a place in our bins and in your cellars! The first of our 2015 Bordeaux futures email offers will be hitting your inboxes soon.


 

 

Yes, 2015 Bordeaux. It seems like yesterday, but it’s now been 10 years since the now (and always) famous 2005 vintage was introduced to Bordeaux lovers. 2005 was hailed as a “perfect” vintage, as the weather conditions during the growing season were optimal for producers.Vintages like 2005 are great for those of us who love Bordeaux as everyone benefited from the conditions and made good wine. We always look out for lesser known producers in those types of vintages as the quality is there, but the high price isn’t. 2005 was dubbed the “vintage of the century,” and we continue to enjoy those petits chateaux bargains to this day!
 

 

 
What’s happened in Bordeaux in the decade since the “vintage of the century?” They got two more! Of course they did … 2009 and 2010 were both spectacular vintages with great wines from top to bottom. Each time that I have visited Bordeaux since these back to back successes, I have endured an exhaustive schedule with suppliers to taste as many “lesser” wines from 2009 and 2010 that I possibly could have. All of that hard work has paid off as we have been delighted to bring in the many petits chateaux wines that we have, and if the feedback we’ve received is any indication, our customers share this delight. It’s been slim pickin’s out there for the past couple of years as we are nowhere near alone in this philosophy and supplies have dwindled. Alas, sometimes we buy something, but for logistical reasons, it takes longer than expected to arrive. That’s what we have here. A recent container from France brought us one more superb 2010 Bordeaux at the $20 price point, the 2010 Château Tour St. Bonnet, Médoc.
 
 
The château is located in the commune of Saint Christoly in the Médoc, north of Saint-Estephe. Famed Bordeaux guru, David Peppercorn MW wrote, “The most important property in St. Christoly is La Tour St. Bonnet. The reputation of the wine is good, the style typical of the warm, fruity wines of St. Christoly.” About the 2010 Tour St. Bonnet, Robert Parker wrote, “A beautiful sleeper of the vintage, this is possibly the best wine I-ve ever tasted from this over-achieving estate near St.-Christoly-de-Medoc. A blend of 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Petit Verdot. The 2010 exhibits classic cedar wood, tobacco leaf, creme de cassis, licorice and some balsam wood notes in a strong, medium to full-bodied, layered style with good opulence, purity and overall harmony. A real beauty, it should be drunk over the next 4-5 years. 90 points.” He also said of the 2010, “A well-known, perennial sleeper of the vintage, Tour St.-Bonnet’s wines are always well-made, under-valued and taste like a mini-version of the well-known Pauillac, Grand-Puy-Lacoste.” If you want some delectable, inexpensive 2010 Bordeaux to have around, you may want to move on this one sooner than later.
 
So yes, the 2015 Bordeaux futures campaign has begun and we are part of it. The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin released his overview of the vintage this past Friday, and though we have our own impressions of it, we applaud his integrity, hard work, and guidance. We will go on the record and say that the 2015 vintage in Bordeaux is the best vintage since 2010 … except when it isn’t. And there are exceptions. Keep a look out for those futures offerings coming soon! – Peter Zavialoff


 
The very first customer that walked in to the shop today strolled through our Bordeaux section and later commented, “Wow. I remember the days when Lynch Bages was less than $30, and now it’s over $100??!!” Sad, but true. Who doesn’t have a story like that about something, whether it pertains to a house, car, meal in a restaurant, or even a bus fare once paid? Sometimes prices go up, it happens. Not to fret; there’s plenty of sub $30 red Bordeaux out there to be enjoyed! That’s what we do. Sure, we buy most of Bordeaux’s fancy offerings in each vintage, but with our boots on the ground in the region, we suss out quality wines made by smaller, lesser known producers as well. While in Bordeaux early last month, I got the chance to revisit a wine that reassures me that there continue to be delicious bargains from the world’s wine capital. The 2010 Château Rollan de By is that wine.
 
 
I’ve gone on before about things I do while in Bordeauxduring the time of the En Primeurs tastings. The UGC tastings are crowded affairs, and anyone that knows me well knows that my M.O. in an environment such as this is tofocus and stick to the task at hand with maximum efficiency. In other words, do the job and get out.Despite their hectic nature, the UGC tastings only pour around 20% of the samples I taste over there. There are other sanctioned tastings and chateaux visits, but the majority of samples are tasted in a far calmer environment, at the offices and warehouses of negociants. It was in one of these warehouses that I got to taste the 2010 Rollan de By out of bottle for the first time. There is an ethereal aroma/flavor component that I associate with red Bordeaux after it spends some time in bottle. To my friends and colleagues I call it “that Bordeaux funk.” It is not funky nor unpleasant.It is the height of complexity, to a point where I lack the words to describe it further. I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I detect it. It is the reason I drink red Bordeaux. Wines that I have tasted in recent years that have it include 1985 Leoville Las Cases, 1995 Grand Mayne, 2002 Domaine de Chevalier, 2000 Château de Malleret, and 2007 Pape Clement. The 2010 Rollan de By has it in spades.
 
 
Château Rollan de By is located in the northern Médoc village of Bégadan. You may remember some earlier praise for a château in Bégadan. The 180 hectare property overlooks the Gironde estuary which protects it from extreme weather conditions. Their 2010 was made from 70% Merlot, and 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The château is run by Jean Guyot. No, this is not Will Durst. Guyot is the son of an antique dealer, which explains the artistic aesthetic of the château and property. A poignant piece of his collection is a cherub-like bronze statuette holding a bunch of grapes to its mouth. According to the chateau’s website,“It symbolizes the love of the grape. Before the love for wine. Wine is a work of art, and like all masterpieces, what counts is to drink it, as much as to talk about it.” That’s what I’m talking about; where’s my wine key?
 
This from The Wine Advocate: “Consistently better than its humble appellation, this excellent wine from proprietor Jean Guyon offers up plenty of black currant fruit intermixed with cedar wood, licorice and incense in a medium to full-bodied, surprisingly concentrated and expansive style that should drink nicely for a minimum of a decade or more.There’s no need for patience with this sleeper of the vintage, given the sweetness of its tannins, attractive glycerin and fruit levels. 90 points” – Robert Parker
 
And …
 
“The Rollan du [sic] By 2010 has a ripe raspberry coulis and wild strawberry nose with just a hint of candied orange peel. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp acidity. There is very fine tension here, great purity on the finish with a supple, focused finish with beautifully integrated oak. Excellent. Drink now-2018. 91 points” – Neal Martin
 
Wow, Will Durst. Back in the days when one could find Lynch Bages for less than $30, I found myself rubbing elbows with the comedian and his wife Debi from time to time. I used to hang out with the gang at The Punch Line comedy club because … I love comedy. I introduced them to the “Hi Bob” game, and that became our way of saying hello to each other for years after. Who’d of thunk he has a doppelgänger in the Médoc.
 
So there you have it, another rock-solid red Bordeaux for less than $30. An exercise I like to undertake when I have nice bottle of Bordeaux that sells for a modest price is to treat it special. That’s right, get the decanter, the good stemware, pair it with something good, and of course, share it! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about low priced/high quality Bordeaux, English Football, or our upcoming 2014 Bordeaux Futures campaign: peter@wineSF.com
We are often asked, “How do you decide which wines to import?”  While there are many ways to answer this question, one thing we DO NOT do is accept sub-par wines in exchange for allocations of hard-to-get wines.  We won’t and don’t play that game.  Being an importer and distributor gives the retail arm of TWH the leverage to say “no” when we don’t feel a wine is up to our standards.  There is one factor that rings consistently with every method we undertake in making our selections:  taste.  So simple, so true.  Taste.  As in one (or more) of us actually sticking our noses in a glass, sipping, and spitting (most of the time).  Last summer saw the arrival of 5 little-known red Bordeaux wines to our new Petits Chateaux section.  To say that they were well received by our staff and customers would be a massive understatement.  They sold out quicker than you could blink; it seems great value Bordeaux struck a major chord among our customer base.  In fact, one of the wines sold out before we could even promote it!
photoWhat do 2012 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet2009 Château Beauguérit2009 Château La Fleur Grands Landes2009 La Fleur Boireau, and the 2009 Château La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru have in common? They were the 5 wines we collectively selected from 24 bottles of samples provided by one of our suppliers in Bordeaux last year. The Croix Calendreau was all gone before we could even write about it like we did for the others! Why? This kind of St. Emilion Grand Cru quality for less than $25 is why!!! First of all, it’s from the amazing 2009 vintage. Vintages with optimal weather offer great opportunities to discover smaller producers, and in 2009 (and 2010), we tasted a whole lot of samples, finding many lesser known chateaux with outstanding wines. Our favorite part of the whole exercise though, is when the wines we selected finally arrive here after their long journey from Bordeaux.

 

 

A container just arrived bursting with goodies from all over France, among them are a handful of new petits chateaux wines and one re-order, the 2009 Château La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw the wine become available again (perhaps someone cancelled their order?), and acted swiftly to reserve some. We added to our order by again choosing 5 wines among the last 24 sample bottles supplied. We’ll be telling you about the others very soon, but in case it becomes the first to sell out again, we thought this time we’d lead off with the 2009 La Croix Calendreau.

croix

The château sits among just over 2 hectares of vines in Saint Christophe des Bardes, just east of the medieval village of St. Emilion. The blend for the 2009 is 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Malbec. It’s vinified in cement vats and aged 50/50 in vats and oak barrels, of which 25% are new. This is a St. Emilion Grand Cru worthy of its appellation status. The aromas are bursting with complexity: dark fruit, earthy mineral, a hint of spice and licorice. The palate is fresh and balanced, tannins integrated, the fresh fruit buoyed by the lively acidity leading to a long, complex finish. If you think about what it is and where it’s from, factoring in the price, it is a screaming bargain! That would explain its disappearance last summer – those of you lucky enough to know how good this wine is need no explanation. For those of you who haven’t yet tasted the 2009 La Croix Calendreau, we recommend you act quickly.  Seriously, 2009 St. Emilion Grand Cru for $25. And THAT is one of the best things about direct-importation.

So here we go! You’ll be hearing all about the other wines that just landed very soon, including the other petits chateaux Bordeaux wines. If you have any questions, or want to know more about our new arrivals, please contact us or come visit us in Dogpatch -we’ll be happy to tell you all about them! We thought we bought plenty of this wine last year, and were surprised as to how quickly it sold out. Taking that into consideration, we bought a little more this time, so hopefully more of our customers will get to try it. Predicting the future is a difficult exercise, but saying that the 2009 La Croix Calendreau is going to sell out again isn’t exactly predicting, now is it? – Peter Zavialoff

Château Couronneau: 2013 Blanc & 2012 Rouges

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 10:07 PM

 

Wow! Can it possibly be? Is Labor Day THIS weekend??!!??That means that we are two weeks away from the landing of another container here at TWH. This container is carrying Bordeaux! In addition to the 2011’s on it, there will be a handful of petits chateaux, or value Bordeaux landing here as well. We look forward to telling you all about them when the time comes. In the meantime, from the container that just recently arrived, we are happy to present the latest releases from our pals Christophe and Bénédicte Piat and their Château Couronneau.

 

We’ve mentioned before that the Piats have been farming organically since 2001, and they have proudly sported the Agricole Biologique banner on the side of the driveway leading up to their chateau. In addition, Christophe and Bénédicte have been farming biodynamically for several vintages. I remember Christophe excitingly showing off his swirling fountains, bulls’ horns, and the like when I visited in 2011. One must practice this technique for several years before actual certification. The good news: Beginning with the 2012 vintage, they are now allowed the Demeter certification on their labels.

 

Okay. Why biodynamism? What exactly is biodynamic farming? For more on that here’s what our colleague, Tom discovered:

“Biodynamics is a form of organic agriculture proposed in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The core of biodynamics is creating healthy soils and a natural equilibrium between vineyards, the soil, surrounding environs, and even the cosmos. The most intriguing aspect of bio-farming is the mystical notion that natural timing and the rhythms of nature are the key to vineyard health. To accomplish this, biodynamic grape growers go beyond organic farming and feed the soil with complex organic preparations.

 

Key applications include horn-dung (manure packed in a bull’s horn and buried through winter) used as a soil spray to stimulate root growth. A second preparation, horn-silica, is made from powdered quartz (packed in a cow horn and buried in soil over the summer) then sprayed over the vineyard to enhance light and growth. Other preparations used in making compost aid the soil. Growers mix small amounts of the preparations in water to make these field sprays. Stirring, first one way and then another, creates a spiral vortex that takes in air and nature’s energy forces and is said to ‘dynamize’ the solution. These preparations are applied at different times of the year and at different times of the day and phases of the moon.

 

The amazing thing is, it seems to work. Biodynamic farming creates deep microbial life in the soil and fosters deep root growth. Deep, healthy roots absorb the minerals vital to strong vines and ultimately grapes with more flavor. Deep-rooted vines enable winemakers to express through their grapes wines with a sense of place.”

 

Okay, about the new wines: When I visited this past spring, Christophe told me that for his 2013 Bordeaux Blanc, 70% of the fruit underwent malolactic fermentation, resulting in a fresher wine with a little more nerve than past vintages. It’s a lively and expressive blend of 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, the latter providing the wine with roundness and body. Coming in at 12% alcohol, it’s an elegant wine; perfect for those who love a second glass of crisp White Bordeaux. For the2012 Couronneau Rouge or “Classique,” it’s 100% Merlot, and is brimming with friendly, juicy fruit that speaks of its place of origin. Underneath the layers of red and purple fruit lie earthy tones and hints of forest floor. It’s an excellent example of the style of wine to expect from 2012 Red Bordeaux. Showing concentrated aromatics with juicy expression, the wines will provide pleasure early, yet have the structure to improve with medium term cellaring. For the 2012 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier, the Piats use fruit sourced from the oldest vines grown in limestone rich soils. The wine is inky purple, glass-staining, if you will. The aromas deep and lush with a little spice derived from time in barrique. On the palate, the wine is dense and concentrated, but has a silkiness to it that’s very pleasant. Definitely the prize of the Couronneau stable, the 2012 Pierre de Cartier is a people-pleaser for a very fair, direct-import price. If you’re planning to open it soon, decanting is advised. Otherwise, drink it over the next 10 years. – PZ
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