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!