Torre Zambra Pecorino, The Wine That Sealed The Deal

Saturday, October 20, 2018 9:15 PM

Torre Zambra Pecorino, The Wine That Sealed The Deal

What a beautiful day in SF's Dogpatch ...

While walking the streets of our neighborhood this afternoon, I couldn't help noticing the general good vibe of throngs of folks out enjoying the warm weather, sitting in parklets and outdoor tables, sharing the weekend with those of us who work and live here. We had more than a couple of first timers poke their heads in our shop today, asking what we're all about. As many of you know, we are always happy to share our stories, answer questions, and put quality juice in your hands. Now that we're moving deeper into autumn, days like today will be fewer, but the vibe this afternoon has me longing for something chilled and delicious. What's this week's Saturday night wine and how did it come to us? It's the 2017 Torre Zambra Colle Maggio Pecorino and to answer the second part, good connections.



41 years is a long time to be in business, and we will turn 41 in less than two weeks! (Pssst - Yes, there will be an Anniversary Sale - stay tuned!) And when you're in business that long, you're bound to make connections. It hadn't been that long after we signed up Tiziana Settimo and her line of wines from Aurelio Settimo:  Dolcetto, Langhe Nebbiolo, and those amazing Baroli, that a package arrived with a range of samples from a producer in d'Abruzzo. Tiziana highly recommended that we try them and let her know what we thought. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in the tasting room with the samples. There were the usual suspects one finds in d'Abruzzo, Trebbiano and Montepulciano, but there were a couple of other wines including a Pecorino.



Pecorino was not named from the sheep's cheese, its name actually was derived from sheepherders who ate these grapes while tending to their flocks in search of food. Italian wine grape maven, Ian d'Agata wrote in his tome Native Wine Grapes of Italy"Pecorino is not just a grape variety; it is also one of Italy's biggest wine success stories of the twenty-first century."

Wine Glass, Bottle of Pecorino, and Ian d'Agata Book
I have been on a Pecorino kick ever since Anya brought one in for The Dirty Dozen back in 2010. It's gotten to a point where I just have to have it when I see it on a wine list in a restaurant. So when we were tasting the Torre Zambra wines, my inner wine enthusiast was giddy for a taste of the Pecorino. It did not disappoint. That's an understatement. It was remarkably delicious! The aromas are of stone fruit, orchard fruit, and citrus blossoms. Its aromas alone are captivating. On the palate, it has a medium body and bright acidity which sweeps the aromatic complexity into harmony. I still can't get enough of this wine. Another reason I can't lay off in a restaurant, is its ability to pair with food. Often times, when one chooses the wine before the food, your dining options diminish if looking to dial in a perfect pairing. Not so much with Pecorino. This wine works with most seafood entrees and appetizers, and lighter land meats such as porchetta or turkey breast. I was over the moon for the Colle Maggio Pecorino! Heck, I didn't even have to taste any of the other wines to know we would be bringing them in, but for the record, all of the wines were outstanding, and they all represented excellent value at their respective price points. David and our staff were all in agreement. Any guesses who now imports Torre Zambra into California?  TWH, of course.



Things are getting interesting, we've got Halloween coming right up, and our 41st Anniversary the very next day! The rest of 2018 is looking like a rip-roaring good time. Oh yeah, Dungeness Crab season begins November 3. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Pecorino for the win. - Peter Zavialoff
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2005 Mourvedre: La Bolida

Sunday, November 11, 2007 5:52 PM

First things first: She said yes!

 

 

Note: This wine is very limited and half of it is being stored at our LA warehouse. Please be patient as the SF stock will be first come, first served. The LA stock is effectively pre-arrival and expected to arrive in a refridgerated truck in two weeks.

 

You know what? I’m liking David Schildknecht’s palate lately. I may eat those words, or simply contradict myself later, but I’ve agreed with a number of the notes he’s given recently. Last week’s Belliviere and this week’s La Bolida. These are examples of cool, non-mainstream wines that happen to be very good, and he hasn’t been afraid to step out and stand behind them. This 90% Mourvedre (10 Syrah) has been in my queue for a while, and I had written much of this when he came out with his notes last week. After such a positive review, it’s now or never. I’ll say it right now, if you want it, get it now. We have very little, and soon we’ll have none. People have a knack of finding anything with 93 points from Parker’s Wine Advocate even if we say nothing. By the way my 6 bottles are safely behind my desk. Don’t even think about coming in while I’m on my honeymoon and asking our new guy (we have a new guy), “Whose are those? Can I buy those?” I will find you when I get back from France. We have a small number of magnums of the 2004, which is very good as well.

 

Until last week very few people knew about this wine. Our staff loves it, the restaurant NOPA in the neighborhood of Nopa loves it, and besides that we just hand sell it to a few folks looking for a particularly special bottle. I believe we were bringing as much of this into the country as any other state. Actually, we may be one of a few retailers in the country with the 2005 at this point. Now it has points, and it just might become an allocated wine in future vintages. It’s funny how these things happen.

We have been a strong supporter of this estate for a number of years now. John and David (David in particular) recognized the quality the first time they tasted with proprietor Diane Puymorin. More importantly they recognized the inspiration that she applies to her winemaking. These are not your everyday drinkers. These are serious, age-worthy wines, and La Bolida is her top wine made from 90% old vine Mourvedre. Diane’s wines are best compared to the those in Chateauneuf du Pape, Bandol, and the prestigious appellations in the northern Rhone. The biggest difference is the prices are wonderfully low relative to their famous counterparts.

Peter, Matt (you all remember Matt, right) and I had the 2004 La Bolida during an epic lunch (eight hours, seven courses) that included the 1990 Montrose, 2003 du Terte, a Chateauneuf du Pape, and a 1998 Gigondas. Guests talked about it as much as any of the other wines, and though the wine was youthful relative to the others, it was many of our ‘wine of the day’. As a side note, none of us were overly full or intoxicated at the end of lunch which is the exact opposite of most of my experiences when I go outto eat. It’s too bad we can’t spend 8 hours every time we have a special meal. Anyway, If you made me choose, I’d say the 2005 has the edge, but the 2004 is so strong, it is a great wine in its own right. I have six bottles and a magnum of that as well. Even though it’s only two vintages, it’s one of the verticals in my cellar I’m most excited about. It’s my Rhone version of Pontet Canet. I want to keep buying it, it used to be under the radar and so far has been very high quality for the price, but if the critics keep scoring it so high, I may not be able to get it anymore! Luckily it’s not experiencing the price inflation that PC is.

I wish I had written about this wine earlier when we had more to go around, but it is such a pet property that I think it’s worth it to offer to all of you who have been so supportive and who have the patience to read these offers which, no matter how hard I try, are always longer than I intend. Like last week, my notes and those from David S. for the 2005 are below. – Ben Jordan

Tasting Notes

Mourvedre, when handled correctly, yields one of the most compelling “dark” wines of the world. As would be expected, this wine is like night. If Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are light and sunny like a summer day, this is black and haunting. The flavors are intense yet they fleet through across your palate. There is a cloak that opens to violets, game, dark spice, and earth. The fruit is rich and black, ripe and assertive. The acidity of the 2005 gives energy to the aromatics, driving and changing your impressions. Though still in its youth the 2004 has settled into itself, and I expect both wines will need a few more years to really start to vibrate. They will both make their 10th birthdays easily.

 

“Diane de Puymorin purchased (and renamed) this property in 1998 and is generating wines of amazing richness and complexity for a relative pittance. The 2005 Costieres de Nimes La Bolida is an essence of Mourvedre (with 5-10% Syrah depending on the vintage) aged in barrel and (sadly) rendered in tiny quantities. With an intense nose of plum preserves, well-aged game, bay, bitter chocolate, black tea, and smoked meats, it saturates the palate with sweet dark fruits, pungent brown spices, and myriad manifestations of meat (that’s Mourvedre!). Marrow, smoky and bitter black tea and fruit pit inflections all cut the wines’ basic sweetness of fruit and torrefactive richness so that they never overwhelm the palate, and this satin-textured beauty finishes with real verve. 93 Points.” David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate #173

 

You may email me at ben.winehouse@sbcglobal.net, but I might not respond for a week or two cause I just got married!
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2005 Loire Valley: Domaine du Belliviere

Saturday, November 3, 2007 10:57 PM

2005 Domaine de Belliviere Coteaux du Loir Le Rouge-Gorge

Red Wine; other red varietal; Loire;

$24.98

  Add to Cart
2005 Domaine de Belliviere Jasnieres Rosiers

White Wine; Chenin Blanc; Loire;

$31.98

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Sometimes I wonder if there are too many different wines these days, but I always manage to convince myself that’s just fool’s thoughts. But I still believe to truly know a wine is to drink it, not to taste it out of a barrel, not to spit it with a sales rep, not to attempt to understand it while tasting 200 other wines in the same afternoon. Some in this industry take pride in their ability to “speed taste,” to go the distance and taste more wines than everyone around them. Some are quick to point out they tasted a wine in its ultra youth (before malo, dude) and remember extrapolating its quality. These are great skills to have, and they are essential if you want to buy and sell wine, but to truly recommend a wine, to really get behind it (especially when it is an unknown producer/appellation), I prefer to drink it.

I like to have a full glass (or two), sit with it, let it open, have it with the meal and without, the most important step is to swallow it. To truly understand a wine, you have to let it intoxicate you. I’m not saying you have to be loaded, in fact I get paranoid when I say things like that, and I feel the need to swear I’m a moderate drinker, but part of truly enjoying a wine is to be halfway through a bottle, and to find something new. Not only is the wine evolving as you go, but you are too, your perception and your state of being is changing and therefore adding to your experience. This is where I always weed out the palate-fatiguing, extracto-bombs that shine at the swirl and spit tastings. And this is where the truly poised and subtle wines (like today’s offering below) truly strut their stuff.

The only problem is that there are so many new wines being created every day that to understand them in this way is not only cost prohibitive, but also bad for your health. As a wine merchant we want to know as much as possible, but we can’t stagger around drunk all day in the name of swallowing wine. At the Wine House, we address this by concentrating on French wine. We have our favorites in Germany, Austria, California, Oregon, and Italy, but our depth is in France. This helps, but I still have to pick my battles. I can’t send out an email on a wine I love everyday, because I don’t love every wine I drink. I would have to drink 5 to 10 bottles of wine a day to even come close to this. I’m a moderate drinker! I am. I am.

So, let’s inch a little closer to the Bellivière wines and ask: do you love wine? Not just as an alcoholic beverage, but as an endeavor? Do you mentally and philosophically participate in its consumption? Do you think about it (in a moderate way) when you’re not drinking it? Do you look forward to drinking a wine that you bought last week/last year/last decade and the hardest part is finding the right person to share it with? Do you find the number of styles and types of wine both exhilarating and exasperating? Exhilarating because it is another new, exciting road to travel down. Exasperating because you want to travel down all roads at once, and you’ve tried that before, it’s a bad idea (see above). If you love wine for its diversity, these Bellivières are wines you need to try. They are at once a study in the obscure and the cutting edge (of wine selection, not production), and they are as interesting and thought provoking as any wine you will drink this year.

First the Rouge Gorge. There’s the appellation: Coteaux du Loir. No, I did not leave the ‘e’ off the end of the word. The Loir is a tributary of the Loire river, and I’ll wager you won’t find any wine of this appellation at BevMo or Costco … though I guess you never know. Domaine de Bellivière is one of a handful of growers in the world producing varietal Pineau d’Aunis, and this rendition is singular. The 2005 is a tour du force, a wine of power and intensity that delivers a whole new spectrum of flavors. This can pull you out of any wine rut, no matter how deep. It will also age very well.

The Rosiers is similarly intriguing, though Chenin Blanc is a slightly more “mainstream” variety. Jasnieres was almost lost as an appellation due to a severe frost 50 years ago. Luckily for us wine geeks, a few intrepid producers kept the torch lit. Though the proprietors Eric and Christine Nicholas consider this their sec, and it usually is completely dry, this year there is a touch of sweetness due to the extraordinary ripeness of the grapes. Sometimes it makes sense to leave a little sweetness in the wine rather than take the alcohol up to an unbalanced point. Besides, it won’t be the first Chenin Blanc with residual sugar.

We don’t have enough time in our life to taste every wine from every corner of world, and I don’t try. But I do try to find quality in lesser known places, because most times that means value. These wines definitely qualify for that description, and if you have an adventuresome wine bone in your body, these would be perfect replacements for your traditional dinner wine. ITIOFD, we do not have the lowest price in the country as the importer is based on the East Coast, but I did the best I could, and our margin is very slim. On a final note, David Schlidknecht of the Wine Advocate shocked the Loire Lovers when he “outed” Belliviere in issue 172. I’ve included his thoughts in the tasting notes section. – Ben Jordan

2005 Domaine de Belliviere Coteaux du Loir Le Rouge-Gorge

Red Wine; other red varietal; Loire;

$24.98

  Add to Cart
2005 Domaine de Belliviere Jasnieres Rosiers

White Wine; Chenin Blanc; Loire;

$31.98

  Add to Cart

 

Tasting Notes Two Ways

Rouge Gorge

I drank the 2004 version of this and found it intriguing in its peppery, fresh garden earthiness, but the 2005 (as you would expect) is in another category altogether. The power and extract are impressive, the fruit is long and deep, and I can see this wine aging alongside many mid-level Bordeaux and Burgundy from the same vintage. The spice and earth here are not like any spice and earth you have ever had. In fact the words are misleading. Let’s call the flavors ‘sparth’ and ‘eice’, and from now on when we drink this wine those will be the descriptors we use. I’m serious. You haven’t had wine like this.

“Belliviere’s dry red 2005 Coteaux du Loir Le Rouge Gorge offers aromas of sour cherry, almond, and fennel. Bright and juicy yet also dense and creamy on the palate, with rich black cherry fruit and an invigoratingly tart fruit skin edge and chalky undertone, this practically explodes with concentrated bitter black cherry, plum, and herbal elixirs in a finish also marked by a continued counterpoint of creaminess with subtle chalk and fruit skin astringency. The 2004 rendition turns out to have more refinement and complexity – but give this another year or two in the bottle. 90 Points.” – David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate #172.

2005 Domaine de Belliviere Coteaux du Loir Le Rouge-Gorge

Red Wine; other red varietal; Loire;

$24.98

  Add to Cart

 

Les Rosiers

Like I mentioned there is a touch of sweetness and it is entirely pleasing. This is a perfect way to start a wine dinner by itself or with whatever appe-teaser you’re pushing. It is my opinion that its real place is with the cheese. The fruit character, the bit of sugar, and its quintessential Loire-ness, will be versatile across most of your cheese plate. Blues and stinkies may overwhelm, but most everything else is golden. Mr. S. below praises the combo of clarity and richness and I have to agree. There’s a lot to pay attention to here, and like the Rouge Gorge it is thoroughly individual.“The driest wine of an extremely ripe, relatively precocious harvest that required gentle, whole-cluster pressing is Belliviere’s 2005 Jasnieres les Rosiers. Sultry and peachy in the nose, this Chenin displays creamy texture and luscious fullness yet refinement and clarity on the palate, orange zest, fruit pit bitterness, herbs, and chalk dust accenting a peach and apricot fruit concentrate. A delicate hint of sweetness (although in point of analytical fact, the residual sugar here is a full fifteen grams) helps extend the finish and integrate the wine’s hint of bitterness. The overall effect is gorgeous, although the wine’s sheer richness will demand that it be paired cautiously at table. I suspect that one should not begin to worry about holding it for at least another 5-7 years, but I don’t pick it to be a long keeper by Loire Chenin standards. 90 Points.” – David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate #172.

2005 Domaine de Belliviere Jasnieres Rosiers

White Wine; Chenin Blanc; Loire;

$31.98

  Add to Cart
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