Category Archives: 2009 Bordeaux

2009 Château La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru

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

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, Petits Chateaux, St. Emilion

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: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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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: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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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 WineSearcher.com 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: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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Filed under 2009 Bordeaux, Cotes de Bourg, Peter Zavialoff