Category Archives: 2009 Bordeaux

2009 Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg

Okay, I was all set to follow up my recent post about crisp summer wines with another suggestion, as well as to fully endorse Anya’s recent praise of Elisabetta Fagiuoli’s 2011 Vernaccia Tradizionale, (it absolutely rocks! We tried a sample last night and you should have seen the battle royale for who got to take the bottle home!) but the chair of a local wine tasting group came in and wanted to chat about Bordeaux. Specifically, 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux. As I’ve mentioned many times, if you are pressed for time, asking me about Bordeaux is not a very good idea. He seemed to have the time. He gave me his parameters; his group was putting on a tasting, looking for red Bordeaux wines between 40 and 75 dollars. We spoke about several of them. The one he walked out with to submit to his tasting group? The 2009 Roc de Cambes from Côtes de Bourg.

During our conversation, we spoke of some of my favorite wines that fall into that price point, and I would have no problem whatsoever serving a 2010 Du Tertre, 2009 Reserve de la Comtesse, or a 2010 Larrivet Haut-Brion Rouge to a tasting group, all wines that I recommended. But I guess my story about François Mitjavile pushed him over the edge. I have mentioned François (and his son, Louis) in previous posts. First off, the conversations I have had with François over the years have been memorable to say the least. I place him at the top of the list of people I know who epitomize the term, renaissance man, as he is well-versed on any subject you want to talk about. Secondly, he makes great wine. His Château Tertre Roteboeuf in San Emilion is a cult-wine, as bottles of that can push the $200 envelope these days. So how can you taste a wine François made without paying full-fare, as it were? He happens to also own Roc de Cambes in Côtes de Bourg. The Bordeaux Atlas and Encyclopedia of Châteaux by Hubrecht Duijker refers to Roc de Cambes as “the undisputed leader of the appellation.” Côtes de Bourg lies on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, west of the appellation of Fronsac, just across the estuary from Margaux. The traditional blend here is (mostly) Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon. 2009 was a legendary vintage in Bordeaux, and I found the Roc de Cambes to be an extremely well structured claret with plenty of zippy acidity to prop up that expressive cherry cola fruit. I have always maintained that François’ wines are among the most Burgundian-styled wines coming from Bordeaux, mainly meaning that I find them fresh and silky in texture. So as we were discussing the merits of the 2010 Du Tertre, my eyes glanced down to the 2009 Roc de Cambes bin. My reaction? “What’s that still doing here???” Seriously. I know it isn’t one of our lower priced French country wines, nor is it among our petits chateaux selections, but it is a special wine from a special vintage, made by a special vigneron!


2009 red Bordeaux has been picked over and over, both here and in Bordeaux. We are running out. Bordeaux is running out. Those great 2009 deals we were able to take advantage of recently? Gone daddy gone. I was able to find a few more when I visited in April, they will be here soon.  I will be sure to let you know when they arrive. So, what is the 2009 Roc de Cambes still doing here??!! It too will be gone. There isn’t all that much left, we apologize if it sells out.

Talking about Bordeaux … so as we were checking out, the conversation continued. It seems this tasting group is having a Bordeaux tasting later this month, he threw it out as a “for instance”, but hinted at inviting me to join them for the tasting and general Bordeaux discussions. Hmmm, I wonder how much time the group has? – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2009 Bordeaux, summer wines, or the upcoming World Cup Finals:

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Cotes de Bourg, Peter Zavialoff

Chateau Moulin de la Grangere

The 2009 Chateau Moulin de la Grangère has turned me into a young Bordeaux drinker. As a general rule, I don’t drink young Bordeaux. It is probably because I have been spoiled, courtesy of TWH, by well-aged, characterful, seamless Old Bordeaux which were graciously shared at special occasions. I like how Bordeaux tastes when the primary fruit fades to the background and the secondary and tertiary flavors emerge. Who doesn’t?  Sometimes I don’t like young Bordeaux because I find it disjointed and a bit clumsy – not so true with 2009 Bordeaux. It is the exceptionally expressive fruit of this vintage that makes them so delicious to drink right now. ’09s tasted great out of barrel, just after bottling and continue to do so, not unlike the ’82s, or so I’ve been told. It occurred to us here at TWH that in a favorable vintage such as ’09, it would make sense to search beyond the famous chateaux to find wine of quality and affordability. We like to call these wines, petits chateaux. The first half of this year was dedicated to a lot of cork pulling, spitting and following our collective instincts as to what we know to be correct, delicious Bordeaux. As Pete mentioned in last weekend’s offering, we have several new arrivals from 2009 that each in their own way merit consideration.  I happened to settle upon Chateau Moulin de la Grangère as my pick because I find that at barely above $20, you can begin to enjoy the elegance and refinement of graceful Bordeaux with this Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. 


The chateau is near the town of St. Christophe-des-Bardes east of the village of Saint-Émilion and enjoys south-facing vineyards. The vineyards are planted to Merlot mostly with additions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and have an average vine age of 30 years. That round voluptuous, sumptuous texture of Merlot grown on clay soils is what dazzles the palate. The 2009 Chateau Moulin de la Grangère shows a hint of mintiness when you first pop the cork but soon moves into deep plum laced with cedar and warm toast notes. With some aeration, the wine gains weight and complexity. The tannins slide smoothly over the tongue and mouth, making it all too easy to consume a glass without giving it a second thought. 


I have been drinking wine long enough now to include myself into that group of wine drinkers who will begin a lament with something like, “I remember when (high-scoring wine) only cost (insert ridiculous low price)!” Well the wine world has changed and first growths are not going for $100 any longer. But if you like to drink Bordeaux, I mean really enjoy a well-made, quality claret, the good news is if you look beyond the usual names and perhaps take the advise of a wine merchant who has over 30 years experience in the Bordeaux business (like TWH!!!), there are delicious options. A good place to start is the 2009 Chateau Moulin de la Grangère with its dark red fruit flavors, dusty cedar notes and perfectly balanced structure for drinking tonight or putting a case aside to revisit every so often.
I have already bought several bottles of our newly arrived 2009 petits chateaux. And instead of satiating my taste for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, I want more. Too much of what I brought home has been carelessly consumed while watching sports on the flat screen in the late evening with my husband. What I really would like to do is defrost those lamb shanks I’ve had in the freezer and slow-braise them till they fall off the bone and ladle them atop stewed white beans and drink a glass of this fabulous Saint-Émilion, the 2009 Chateau Moulin de la Grangère! Sunday dinner, planned! –Anya Balistreri

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, St. Emilion

2009 Chateau Haura, Graves

Ah, what a week!! It’s always exciting rolling out our new Dirty Dozen and new Taste of Burgundy, but to get them both out in the same week is something seldom practiced. The week began with our staff abuzz about having been paid a visit by a French celebrity last Saturday. The Champions’ League continued in vastly improved fashion on Tuesday, and then there was the annual Grower Champagne tasting on Thursday! I was accompanied to that tasting by TWH intern Stefan Jakoby, who is helping us here as part of his studies of the international wine trade. His palate and ability to appraise the 60 or so Champagne samples we were poured proved a valuable experience to be sure! Believe it or not, as the day drew to a close, our staff gathered around the tasting table to taste a few other samples. A trio of close-outs yielded one winner, and then there were the newly arrived 2009 Bordeaux. 2009 Bordeaux? And taste them we did!

Again, this was a great exercise. Just like we did earlier this year, another two cases of samples were supplied by a Bordeaux negociant; over the course of a month or so, we all tasted the 24 sample bottles. How many did we decide to buy? 5. But this was months ago. That’s where things could get a little dicey. Would the wines still be to our liking? We tasted them, and retasted them, and seeing that it was after the shop closed, ahem, cough, ahem, one of us might have even been drinking their samples. ;) The verdict: Sensational!!! The beauty of it was that all 5 were showing very well, but they were all different from each other. Again, it was great having Stefan (who was not here when we decided on these 5 wines) taste with us, his endorsement of the wines was just the icing on the cake that we were looking for. The 5 new wines range in price from $15-$35, but after tasting through them, Stefan proclaimed the 2009 Château Haura to be the best value among the quintet. Giving the matter a couple of minutes’ thought,I have to say that I agree with him, ergo I write.

Château Haura is located in the Graves appellation just south of the city of Bordeaux. Denis Dubourdieu, the famous professor of oenology at the University of Bordeaux, makes the wine, so you know the fruit is in good hands. The 2009 Château Haura has a seductive bouquet of cassis, dark purple fruit, gravely earth, and incense. On the palate, it is silky and generous, with its fruit/acid/tannin components all on the level. Or as Anya put it, “This is the Goldilocks wine … everything is juuuust right.” With 5 approved sample bottles ready to go home with staff, there wasn’t a dogfight over who got to take the Château Haura home, but Tom was the lucky one, and he was happy to report today that the wine held up nicely and was still great the next day! Okay, take all of that and put a price tag of less than 20 bucks on it, and you’ve got a winner! You’ll be hearing about the other 4 wines soon, but don’t miss out on the 2009 Château Haura! I checked inventory before I started writing and exclaimed, “Oh man, we didn’t buy enough. This is going to sell out.” My apologies in advance when it does.

So yeah, an exciting week. I wrapped things up last night out in the direction of the old hood, at the Philosopher’s Club. It was one of those rare nights of balmy, still air in the usually foggy, brisk, and breezy West Portal. Delightful conversation with wine loving friends about a great many things, but somehow Bordeaux kept working its way back into our conversations. One of the topics covered was how here at TWH, we’re a passionate bunch that enjoy getting to know our customers’ palates, giving us direction in what we recommend to you all. If you love Bordeaux like I do, don’t miss out on the 2009 Château Haura!Time flew by as it usually does, and it was time to pack it up and head on home. A delightful evening indeed, J & L, I thank you very much! Footy match tomorrow is the early one, but thankfully with technology, my viewing of it will begin at 7:30 rather than 5:30. So please, no one divulge the score! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2009 Bordeaux, our Value Bordeaux Section, the Sunset District, or English Football:

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Graves, Peter Zavialoff

2009 Chateau Larrivaux: The Victory Lap

“She say, ‘you can’t repeat the past.’ I say, ‘You can’t? What do you mean you can’t, of course you can.'” More wise words courtesy of Bob Dylan. Looking upon the bright side of his quote, we ask the rhetorical question, aren’t great moments worth reliving? More to the point, aren’t great wines worth re-tasting?  Well, sure. Great wines are always worth re-tasting, but great wines are expensive, right? Yes and no. There’s no doubt that the world’s most famous wines are indeed highly sought after, ergo expensive. We’re NOT talking about them today. Today, we are happy to announce the return of what very well was TWH’s Wine Of The Year in 2012, the 2009 Chateau Larrivaux. When we compile our Top Ten Wines of the Year list, we don’t necessarily rank them 1-10, but it is not coincidence that in the write-up, we might save the best for last. In addition, we seldom list wines that the critics gush over, preferring to factor in important things like affordability and drinkability. You see, here at TWH, we love wine, and show no label bias; it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts. That’s how we found the 2009 Château Larrivaux.


It was the spring of 2010. The weather in Bordeaux was gloomy and drizzly. On the first day, I found myself inside the offices of a negociant tasting through a multitude of barrel samples from the much heralded 2009 vintage. That is where the magic happens. That is where one can find a Picasso at a garage sale. The UGC tastings are fine to attend, but you’re not going to find anything that is off-the-radar at a UGC tasting. That is why I like to get to Bordeaux the week before the sanctioned trade tastings, to taste the wines from producers that are not part of the UGC. The 2009 Larrivaux was one of a handful of samples that I found to be outstanding, and knew would offer great value. After returning to SF, when the futures were released, we bought some. I wrote about it then, I mentioned it to my friends, and I talked it up with my colleagues here at the shop. It was a tough 2 1/2 year wait. I felt like I was sitting on a big secret … but one I could actually blab about. “Wait until you taste these 2009’s,” was all I could say to anyone who asked me about Bordeaux. I’ll never forget the day the first container landed. It is not uncommon for my colleague Chris and I to grab a bottle of something after work and taste it, comparing notes. When I grabbed the Larrivaux, I chuckled. I hadn’t tasted it from bottle either, but I kinda knew what to expect. He swirled, he took in the aromatics, he tasted.
“Wow! Are you kidding??!!”
“That’s what I’ve been talking about.”
How much is it??!!”
“I know. A steal, right?

The next day, Tom and David were in on it too. The following week, a customer walked into the shop looking for value 2009 Bordeaux. It was my day off and Chris helped him. He convinced this customer to try a bottle. When I came in the next day, I went out to the floor to grab a bottle of the 2009 Larrivaux, but it was all gone. This customer bought all of our remaining stock! We went back to our negociants looking for more. We bought a whole bunch more and waited for it to get here. Somehow, Anya missed out on the first go-around. When the second batch arrived, it took plenty of prodding and persistence (young Bordeaux isn’t her favorite) before Anya took a bottle home. See her synopsis at the very bottom of this blog post here. So we were all on board. We bought a lot, and we thought it would last, but even the second batch sold out quicker than we expected. It’s that good. Not expecting to find anything, I perused a different negoce’s catalog, and low and behold, there was more available! We bought their entire stock and had to wait again. Well, the waiting is over! Fresh off of our last container, it’s here and back in stock!!! We bought a bunch, so it should stay in stock for a while … but that’s what we thought last time.
– Peter Zavialoff

Some words from The Wine Advocate: “A blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc 3% Petit Verdot, this has a fine crisp dark brambly nose: good definition with hints of black olive tapenade and a touch of smoke. The palate is medium-bodied with a lovely, slightly “digestif” entry, good acidity, very well balanced with and fine, quite racy finish. Very fine.” – Neal Martin

“A tasty Haut-Medoc with notes of black currants, loamy soil, tobacco leaf and underbrush, this wine should drink nicely for 10 or more years.” – Robert Parker

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Haut-Medoc, Peter Zavialoff

More Value Bordeaux: 2009 Chateau La Fleur Grands Landes

No doubt you’ve been hearing a lot about our recent foray into the world of the petit chateau lately, and we wouldn’t be so dang outspoken about these wines if we weren’t so excited about the results! Your collective response has been amazing! Putting high-quality Bordeaux into your hands for a very reasonable price has caused a great many to come back and reorder resulting in the nearly sold-out status for 2 of the 4 wines already! There is one more wine of this quartet that we haven’t yet told you all about, until now. In many ways, this could be the most elegant wine of the bunch, the 2009 Château La Fleur Grands Landes.

In a great vintage like 2009, everyone in Bordeaux was blessed with ideal weather. It is in those kind of vintages that the playing field levels a bit, because there’s little need for expense in the vineyard if everything is going fine throughout the season. Some of the off-the-radar producers are capable of making some great wine. We asked for 24 samples, of which 21 were red wines. We chose only 4. The 2009 Château La Fleur Grands Landes is one of them. A little online research does actually reveal a little bit about this chateau, perhaps because it has been in one family since the 1700’s. But a check with reveals that TWH is the only merchant in the USA with this wine.  Located in the appellation of Montagne St. Emilion, the property is now run by Isabelle Fort and her husband, Jean-Philippe. Jean-Philippe is a former oenology instructor, and is part of Michel Rolland’s viticultural team. The property consists of 7.7 hectares planted on slopes of clay; the average age of the vines is 35 years. The fruit was picked at optimal ripeness levels, all by hand. For the 2009 Château La Fleur Grands Landes, 80% Merlot was used, as well as 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Approximately 20% of the fermented juice is aged in barrel, which imparts a subtle complexity and texture to the wine. When our staff tasted it, we liked a lot about it. It has great aromatics; spicy, dark purple fruit, hints of herbs, forest floor, and tobacco. It enters the palate in a silky, elegant fashion. That’s the word that best sums up this wine: elegant. Its is complex, yet seamless; everything in perfect harmony. The finish is very much like the rest of the package, a harmonious expression of fruit, spice, and tannin, all buoyed by fresh, lively acidity. It’s the most Burgundian of our 4 new value Bordeaux imports.

As reported, we greatly appreciate your response to this concept, and its subsequent offerings. It seems a great many of you appreciate good quality Bordeaux, and are willing to try wines from off-the-radar chateaux; just like our staff! There will be more wines like these coming soon, when they do, we’ll be sure to tell you all about them. In the mean time, if you like elegant, silky red Bordeaux that won’t break the bank, you should try the 2009 Château La Fleur Grands Landes! – PZ

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Montagne St. Emilion, Peter Zavialoff

2009 Chateau Beauguerit

Sometimes we do little things when we’re young and we don’t then realize how they will impact us in the future. It seems the wine world has been calling my name for quite some time. My first words in English were, “Mom, can I have some grape juice?” No kidding. As a small child, while in swimming pools, I would take in mouthfulls of water and let loose a steady stream of it like a fountain. Hmmm. I do that still, only now it’s with wine into spit buckets. I’ve been to enough tastings to know not everyone can spit wine well, but I can. Childhood friends used to make fun of me when I drank soda. “You ever see how Pete drinks a Coke?” I would take small sips and taste each one, while my peers chugged theirs. I took French instead of Spanish in high school because I thought I would eventually move to Canada to play hockey.  Comes in handy when I travel to Bordeaux. Speaking of which, as previously mentioned, our petits chateaux or value Bordeaux section has grown, and is growing still, now that the first batch of value wines with TWH’s seal of approval recently arrived from Bordeaux. So let me introduce you to another off-the-radar Bordeaux that drinks far past its price point, 2009 Château Beauguérit from Côtes de Bourg.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, here’s the skinny. The famous wines of Bordeaux make up less than 5% of the region’s total production. In great vintages, the other 95% get good grapes too, and some make outstanding wines with them. How do you find the good ones? It’s a numbers game, but that’s why we’re here, we’ll play the game. We looked at a negoce’s catalog and picked 24 different inexpensive, off the radar wines, and they were shipped to us as samples. Over the course of a month, we tasted them. Out of the 21 bottles of red wine, we chose 4. One of them was the 2009 Château Beauguérit. What did we like about it? It’s honest, not contrived. It’s not an oak chipped, overripe, blowzy wine. It’s true to its place of origin, Côtes de Bourg. It’s a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, typical for Côtes de Bourg. The day we tasted the 2009 Château Beauguérit, we kept going back to it saying things like, “This is really good, it’s clean, it’s bright and balanced, has a great finish … is that really the price?” Yes, that’s the price. More online research doesn’t yield much, but that’s probably why its price is so fair.


Côtes de Bourg is on the right bank of the Gironde estuary just across from Margaux. Once a thriving appellation due to its proximity to water, its status waned as Pomerol and St. Emilion were “discovered” by the wine world. Well thanks to folks like François Mitjavile with his Roc de Cambes, and others, the Oxford guide to wine calls Bourg “an appellation worth watching.” Maybe that’s what made Isabelle and Alain Fabre purchase the property in 2000. The château is located in the village of Lansac and the property dates back to the 18th century and has had a long reputation for producing wines of high quality. The vines cover 18 hectares and are planted in clay and chalk soil. The vineyard has direct southern exposure, and the vines average 25 years of age, farmed deploying Agriculture raisonnée. Fermented in steel tank the wine sees no oak, and is fresh and lively, with deep cassis-like notes. It’s just another expressive beauty from the ever-friendly 2009 vintage. It can be drunk now and has the structure to last up to 10 years. For the price, this one’s a no brainer!


So yeah, I don’t quite remember if I attended any grape juice tastings as a child, but I do remember that I preferred a brand different than the most popular. Just goes to show you, keep an eye on the kids, the little things they do can sometimes lead to big ones later in life.  Who knew that imitating a fountain, sipping Coca-Cola in tiny tastes, and French class got me to a morning meeting in Bordeaux with a negociant saying, “I envision an entire section in our shop full of these wines: The Petits Chateaux Section?” – Peter Zavialoff

Oh yeah, Happy Bastille Day!!!

Please feel free to email me with any questions about value Bordeaux, Bordeaux in general, or how I’m passing the time until footy season starts again:

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Cotes de Bourg, Peter Zavialoff

2009 Chateau La Fleur Boireau

San Francisco – July 5th. We hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day! The weather here in the Bay Area was beautiful, and we witnessed plenty of evidence that many folks were busy tending to their respective grills. If you’re among the lucky ones enjoying an extra-long holiday weekend (we’re not, but someone has to keep the shop open!), then we invite you to stop on by for a visit as we are open today, July 5th until 6pm. We’ll be open tomorrow, July 6th from 10am until 5pm. We will be closed, as usual, on Sunday.  We recently reported about the creation of a value Bordeaux section here alongside the more famous Cru Classé Bordeaux wines. Again, the concept: We sat down with a visiting Bordeaux negociant and selected 24 wines that seemed interesting from their catalog. The negoce shipped us one bottle each, and over a month long stretch, TWH gang tasted and retasted all of the wines. Of the 24 that we received, we chose 6. Today, we’ll focus on one of the 4 reds chosen, the 2009 Château La Fleur Boireau from Montagne St. Emilion.

A little online research doesn’t reveal very much on the wine, only a few reviews from other wine merchants who at one time stocked the 2009 La Fleur Boireau. As of today, on, we are the only merchant in the country with this wine. After reading the reviews from some of the other merchants, we agree with the consensus that this wine is a great value. It was interesting to note that some of those other merchants who were proclaiming this wine “a steal” were selling it for a much higher price! Being the importer helps, big time.

When our staff embarks on a tasting exercise evaluating potential candidates to import and stock, we taste them over the course of the day noting any changes as the wines are exposed to oxygen. The unwritten rule is that nothing is discussed until everyone has tasted the samples and then we begin to share our opinions. These discussions usually lead us all back to the tasting table to re-taste the wines after we hear each other’s opinions. We liked the 2009 Château La Fleur Boireau for a few reasons, price being one of them. The wine possesses the charm and structure of the 2009 vintage. The aromas are of dark berry cassis-like fruit, chalky mineral, spice, and a leathery component that I like to call “that Bordeaux funk.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition of “old school” meets modern times. On the palate, the wine is lush and velvety, medium to full bodied, with a good balance of expressive fruit and rustic Old World charm. The finish is fairly long, with the dark brambly fruit propped up by lively acidity and velvety tannins.Château La Fleur Boireau is located in the appellation of Montagne St. Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The vineyard lies in the western part of the appellation just adjacent to Lalande de Pomerol. The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and the wine is made in cement vats. The fruit comes from vines 30+ years old, grown on a clay/calcareous slope. Checking my own tasting notes, I admired the briary, expressive fruit, chalky mineral, and the hint of rusticity. Stylistically, I have an appreciation for “Old-School” Bordeaux. It was quite evident that over the course of the day, that leathery, “Bordeaux funkiness” blew off. All in all, we liked the complexity, style, structure, and best of all, price of the 2009 Château La Fleur Boireau. 

So yes, it took us a month to taste all of those samples, and we have repeated the exercise with a similar line-up of wines from a different negociant. So our value Bordeaux section is set to expand later this summer. We’re always looking for great new wines to put on our shelves, and sometimes we have to taste through many suboptimal wines to find the good ones. Or as Anya said, “We taste a lot of bad wine so you don’t have to.” – Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Montagne St. Emilion, Peter Zavialoff

Slow Down With 2009 Chateau Lagrange

Seriously, where does the time go? I picked up the phone yesterday afternoon and assisted an east coast customer who was sending one bottle gifts to several business associates all over the country. Since we were pushing the UPS deadline to begin with, I initially decided that we could wait until next week to ship them. Then it dawned on me, if we ship them on Monday, the east coast customers will get them the following Monday, right? Wrong. No shipping on Memorial Day. Yes, it’s that close. We shipped them yesterday, so no problem there; but what’s up with it being Memorial Day already? How does one slow down the clock? I’ve done a significant amount of research on the subject, but I’ll spare you all the boring parts and just say that one way to slow down time is to have a glass of something rich and complex that is meant to be savored and enjoyed over a long period of time. And if you’re really serious about making time crawl, try cellaring a few bottles of said wine, knowing that you are not to open the next one for x-amount of years. Where am I going? Why 2009 Bordeaux, of course. In particular, 2009 Château Lagrange.

I was once told that my ability to remember so many vivid details about my past was “not healthy”, but I do remember my first moment with Château Lagrange. I was a budding Bordeaux lover weaning myself from fancy Napa Valley wines. I was already building a vertical of Château Gruaud Larose, and it was becoming obvious that St. Julien was my favorite appellation. I was in one of my favorite warehouse-style shops listening to a couple of “pros” talk about Bordeaux. One of them went on and on about Lagrange, a château I had yet to try. Well, not until that evening anyway. The verdict? It made complete sense to me that I liked it. Well sure, it was the 1990 which was a pretty well-received wine. But I also discovered that the property was located just behind Gruaud Larose on the gravelly plateau of St. Julien. I was learning about the concept of terroir. 


Lagrange was given Third Growth status in the famous 1855 classification. But just like so many other châteaux, has endured many ups and downs since. They have been on a roll since the mid 1980’s, causing Robert Parker to report in 1991 that, “this wine currently remains considerably underpriced given the quality level of the wines (sic) that is now emerging.” I went back to the well several times, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed every vintage of Lagrange I’ve tasted. When I tasted the 2009 out of barrel back in April 2010, I found it rich and intense, yet with expressive, perfumy aromatics. Two years later, from bottle, it was among my favorites of the tasting. Expressive dark red fruit and forest floor dominated the aromas, the palate was rich and deep, my notes continue, “Big profile, great wine, cellar, wow.” Oh yeah, those squiggly lines that only appear next to outstanding wines are on both sides of this note.

Robert Parker had this to say about it, “A slightly lighter, less powerful style of St. Julien, but also less oaky than previous vintages have tended to be, the 2009 Lagrange offers attractive, fresh, red and black currant notes, and an elegant as well as corpulent attack and mid-palate. This wine does not have the weight of the “big boys” of St. Julien, but it displays an endearing finesse, freshness, and purity.”

But it was The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin who said this: “The Lagrange 2009 has an earthy, slightly introverted nose at the moment although it opens ajar with aeration with hints of lavender and crushed flower. The palate is medium-bodied with a fresh, citrus entry, great delineation and a wonderful build of flavours on the mouth, a subtle crescendo as it were. This is so very refined and classy. 95 points”

This is special wine. It’s not for pizza nor for Tuesday nights. It’s special. So here’s the strategy: it will most likely hit its ideal drinking window in approximately 6 or 7 years, and will last for at least another 20. If you pop a bottle now, give it some time to breathe. In the glass or in a decanter, either way will give it some air. Savor it and enjoy it for as long as you can. Sock a bottle or two in the cellar and wait patiently for them to hit that magic window. That’ll keep time from flying by too quickly!

It’s been an action-packed week around here. Daniel Hecquet and his wife, Catherine popped in to visit us. We’re preparing our first offering of 2012 Bordeaux futures, and for one more week, the Chelsea Blues are holders of both European titles. But unfortunately, footy season ends tomorrow. That too will cause time to slow down. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Château Lagrange, St. Julien, the holders of both European titles, or 2012 Bordeaux futures:

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, St. Julien

2009 Domaine L’Aurage, Castillon

In the world of Bordeaux, there’s been a lot of fuss about the 2010’s lately. Well, why not? It’s a super vintage, and after the bottled wines made their way through North America earlier this year, they proved to be more charming than originally perceived. It’s part II of back-to-back legendary vintages for the region. The 2009’s were all about charm from the get-go. What a pleasure it has given me to put the many 2009’s in your collective hands and to hear about the joy and pleasure the wines have already provided you! There’s a pretty long list of the various 2009 red Bordeaux that I’ve recommended since I tasted them out of barrel 3 years ago. Your responses to those reco’s are what makes it all worth while!

I love hearing about your experiences with 2009 Bordeaux, but even when I’m not hearing it, I’m seeing it! Case in point: the 2009 Domaine L’Aurage, Castillon. As far as I know, since June of 2010, we’ve been the only US wine merchant with this wine!!! That’s way cool. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing when I go to Bordeaux each spring. Searching for, and finding wines just like this one. Many of you bought this wine on pre-arrival, and I’ve not only heard, but I’ve seen evidence that you’re all lovin’ it.It would take more than one hand to count how many customers have purchased a bottle or 2, and then have come back in and loaded up! The story’s a great one, as winemaker Louis Mitjavile is the son of François who owns and makes the wines of Tertre Roteboeuf. Apples don’t fall far from their trees, so if one wants to taste right-bank Bordeaux made in the Mitjavile style, and doesn’t want to pony up the $200+ that Tertre Roteboeuf can command, here’s a savvy way to do so. For more info, click here. Note: We don’t have a whole lot of it left, our apologies when it sells out.

Well, it’s that time of year again. All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go. My next Sunday ramble will come from a hotel room in Bordeaux. From the looks of things, I have a fuller, yet manageable schedule to work with. There’s a new bridge across the Garonne, that should help with the traffic. It should go without saying that it’s a treat to visit the famous chateaux, and tasting while visiting them is educational for my palate. But I will continue to keep my eyes open for the lesser known producers whose wines offer great value. My itinerary tells me that I will taste the 2012 L’Aurage on Friday afternoon, 12 April. My schedule also, as always, has room for the serendipitous :) – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me any questions or comments about your experiences with 2009 Bordeaux, the upcoming 2012 En Primeurs tastings, the disruption of football season due to International play, or serendipity:

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Castillon, Peter Zavialoff

The Wine House SF Top Ten Wines Of 2012

Now that we’ve all settled into 2013, we have to say with excitement that this is going to be a great year! We are anxiously looking forward to all of the good things and the many great wines coming our way in 2013. But before we get too far into it, let’s have a look back as we reveal our Top Ten Wines of 2012!

The concept may sound simple … the top wines, right? Well, not so fast. We could tap into the multitude of reviews from wine writers and critics and fashion a list of highly rated, don’t drink until 2025, keep in a bank vault wines, but that’s not how we roll here at TWH. In years past, our Top Ten lists are comprised of wines we all love. Wines that deliver. Wines that outshine their respective price points. Wines that provide pleasure, because really, isn’t that what wine is all about? We taste a whole lot of wine throughout the year, both here and abroad, and only bring in the ones we deem worthy to be on our shelves for you, our customers. Choosing a Top Ten out of all of the wines we’ve said yes to is a fun albeit difficult exercise. It’s fun because we get to relive our tasting experiences, remembering the meals, the ambiance, and the company that went along with each wine. Remember, some of the wines have sold out, but we list them here based on their merits … So without further ado, here is The Wine House San Francisco’s Top Ten wines of 2012!!!

Please use these links to view our Top Ten from last year, 2010, or 2009.

NV Pascal Doquet Extra Brut Premier Crus Blancs de Blanc
With New Year’s memories slowly fading, let’s begin with some bubbles. TWH mainstay Pascal Doquet makes some of the best Grower Champagne that we’ve encountered. He sure has been garnering praise recently from the likes of James Molesworth of The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni. Why wouldn’t he? His artisanal Champagnes have been wowing our staff for over a decade! When this Extra Brut landed here in our shop this year, it instantly became a favorite of our staff and all customers who have tried it.Here’s what Mr. Galloni had to say about it, “Doquet’s NV Extra Brut Premier Crus Blanc de Blancs is pretty, soft and enveloping. Dried pears, spices, crushed flowers and almonds wrap around the palate in this expressive, layered Champagne. This is one of the more open Extra Brut Champagnes readers will come across, likely because of the high presence of 2005 juice and full malolactic fermentation. Technical details aside, the wine is flat out delicious. 91 points”
NV Pascal Doquet Premiers Crus Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs
Sparkling; Champagne Blend; Champagne;
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Michel-Andreotti Montagny les Guignottes
White Burgundy. Honestly, we don’t really have to say much more than that. It is special wine. Unfortunately, supply and demand do what they do, and a great amount of it is priced in the ‘special wine’ echelon. Well, David’s trips to Burgundy have paid off yet again, as we are now importing the Montagny “Les Guignottes” from Michel-Andreotti. From the slightly off-the-beaten-path appellation of Montagny in Côte Chalonnaise, “Les Guignottes” outperforms its price point by far and reminds us that there is good White Burgundy out there for a fair price. First came the 2010. It’s an understatement to say that it sold out quickly. Then along came the 2011, it sold out too, but we just re-loaded and it’s back in stock. Which one made our Top Ten of 2012? It’s a dead heat. They both belong!
2011 Domaine Michel-Andreotti Montagny Les Guignottes
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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2011 Juicy Villages From Juicy Rebound
Now for some local representation. You’ve got to love old-vine Mourvèdre. It’s rare to find a blend from California that showcases the grape in the leading role. Winemaker and hockey fanatic Douglas Danielak took 120+ year old Mourvèdre from the Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa where the vines look like “little trees” and blended it with Syrah and Grenache to create a mouth-filling berry bomb bestowing it with the catchy name, Juicy Villages. There’s plenty of grip and tang to give Juicy Villages a well-balanced flavor experience. A whopping 100 cases were produced of this unique and delicious Côtes du Rhône-esque red. All that for a price that’s more than fair on your pocketbook. Bravo!
2011 Juicy Rebound Juicy Villages California
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Other California;
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2009 Domaine Martin Bart Marsannay
2012 was the year of containers. It seemed all throughout the year, we were simultaneously in the process of consolidating one overseas, anticipating the arrival of the one already on the water, and unloading the container at our dock! That just means we found lots of goodies on our trips overseas. The 2009 vintage was a phenomenal one in France (more on that later), and we tasted a lot of great wines that now have “Imported by Wine House Limited” on their labels.So 2009 was great in Burgundy, especially for the red wines. So again, we’re sure the top names of the region produced formidable wines, but we like to kick tires and look under rocks to find value! David is on a roll bringing some amazing, new-for-us, high-quality producers to join TWH family! Another feather in his cap in 2012 were the wines from Domaine Bart in Marsannay. Their Les Champs Salomon was a home run of a Red Burgundy. It smelled fancy. It tasted fancy. Its price tag? Not so fancy. That all explains its sold out status. Welcome to TWH top 10, Domaine Bart!

Ravan From Kabaj
We’ve got our eyes open for great wines from all corners of the wine world. Like Slovenia. Wines from Slovenia are catching favor with consumers and critics alike, popping up on restaurant wine lists and profiled in thoughtful wine publications. Just one whiff, just one taste was enough for us to throw caution to the wind and stack the Ravan from Kabaj high and proud. Were we concerned whether TWH customers would shy away from an unknown producer from an unfamiliar wine region? Not. The staff were all in for sure, but when a wine is this delightful, exotic and complex, we knew our adventurous clientele would embrace the Ravan from Kabaj just as passionately. The 2009 has sold out, but we find the 2010 a worthy successor!
2010 Kabaj Ravan White Wine Goriska Brda
White Wine; other white varietal; Slovenia;
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2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Tour de l’Isle
Imagine attending a traveling French wine trade show in Chicago in the middle of January … brrrrr! Seriously, at some point you have to ask yourself why? Well, part of our service to you all is to indeed kick tires, look under rocks, kiss some toads, and every now and then, we get lucky. Here goes your proof. Last January David braved the elements and flew into 6 degree Farenheit Chi-town. He met a lot of people and tasted a lot of wine. When he met the folks representing the Tour de l’Isle brand, he was gaga over their Châteauneuf-du-Pape! A sample bottle was shipped to the shop the following week, and now we all sing the praises of this rich, powerful (yet friendly), stone mineral driven, Grenachey Grenache! The 2009 was already in the US, courtesy of another importer. Well, we all love it so much that we made ‘em an offer they couldn’t refuse. We bought their entire stock and are now the proud importer of their wines! Boo Yah!
2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
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2009 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the advantages, and pleasures, of being in business for over 35 years (!) is the long-standing relationships we’ve forged with both customers and vendors. One of David’s first discoveries working at The Wine House was the debut vintage of Spottswoode’s estate grown 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Wine House has been proudly offering their Cabernet Sauvignon every vintage thereafter. The 2009 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon is a standout among a very long line of outstanding efforts; it has that unmistakable thread of Spottsberry fruit pushing through with the signature silky tannins wrapping around it. It is a true collectable California Cabernet and we are happy and proud to include this monumental effort among our Top Ten Wines of the year!
2009 Spottswoode Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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2011 Gavi di Gavi
We’ve been directly importing the Ernesto Picollo line of Gavi wines for 5 vintages now, and though we have always felt they smash the quality for price ratio, their 2011 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto has that extra umph that propels it into 2012’s Top Ten! Anya swears that it is the fact that Picollo’s top cuvée Rughe wasn’t made this year, so that special older-vine fruit made its way into the Rovereto. Whatever it was, there’s no denying the quality of this wine. Crisp, mineral driven, and precise, you would swear that the bottle cost would be twice or even three times as much as it is! It is that special. It’s very likely THE best white wine deal in the house!
2011 Picollo Ernesto Gavi di Gavi Roverto
White Wine; other white varietal; Piedmont;
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2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial
Chances are if you’ve been in our shop in the latter part of 2012, and perhaps overheard a customer request for a “special wine” or a “gift wine”, you would have heard a member of TWH staff gush over the merits of the 2001 Reserva Especial Rioja Viña Ardanza by La Rioja Alta. Whew, that’s a mouthful; but so is the wine! This well known Rioja producer has only thought it appropriate to make this special bottling in two other vintages: 1964 and 1973! Space limitations will keep us from gushing too much over this in writing, but let’s just say that if it were twice the price, it would still be a bargain. With 11 years of age, it can be enjoyed anytime from now until your 3 year old graduates from college … and then some!
2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial Rioja
Red Wine; Red Blend; Rioja;
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Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Of course it had to be a 2009 Bordeaux. I only wrote about this vintage and its wines umpteen times. But which one? Seriously, this was the toughest point of this exercise. But when you take everything into consideration, we’ve got to give the big tip of the cap to the 2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc. I loved it out of barrel. Then, when the first 2009’s arrived in early 2012, it was on the first container. Chris and I grabbed a few of the new arrivals and taste tested them. His overwhelming favorite of the bunch was the Larrivaux. We opened another bottle the following week for Anya, Tom, and David to taste, and it was unanimous! Now that everyone was on board, we went back to the marketplace and loaded up. It is certainly not the only success story from the 2009 vintage, but that kind of quality for less than $25 resonates big time! Ignore at your own peril.
2009 Chateau Larrivaux Haut Medoc
Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
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So there you have it, our Top Ten Wines of 2012! We’ve already begun tasting new wines in the new year, and we’re taking good notes, so we’ll have plenty of candidates for this list this time next year! Wishing you all the best in 2013!Anya Balistreri & Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Chateauneuf du Pape, Contra Costa County, Cortese, Domaine Bart, Gavi, Haut-Medoc, Marsannay, Montagny, Mourvedre, Napa Valley, Peter Zavialoff, Rioja, Slovenia