Category Archives: Barsac

2011 Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!

Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 


With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!

So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 


Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri

Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$74.00
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Barsac, Sauternes, Semillon, Spicy food

The Wine House SF: Our Top Ten Wines Of 2013

Where does the time go? It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years since we listed our first Top Ten Wines of the Year in January 2010, but it has! 2014 promises to be a great year of discovery, as we have plans to receive more wine from producers new to us. Let us not forget our stalwarts, we’ll have plenty from them as well. We’re expecting visits from some of our friends overseas, keep on the look-out for information about winemaker dinners and events coming soon. All in all, 2014 is shaping up to look like a very exciting year!Before we blaze further into the new year, let’s relive our Top Ten Wines of 2013.

 Again, we taste a lot of wine here at TWH throughout the year, and we enjoy the exercise of reminiscing our tasting experiences. Our first Top Ten listing was for the year 2009. We have continued the tradition, and you can view our Top Ten lists from 2010, 2011, or 2012 by clicking on each year. It’s not an easy exercise, as we taste so much throughout the year, and it’s hard to narrow it down to just ten. But somehow we manage. Here at TWH, for our Top Ten Wines of the year, it’s not about highest scoring, most well-known, big names, nor big prices. It’s about quality, it’s about diversity, it’s about value, it’s about wines that we all love! Some of the wines are sold out, but have earned a place on our list due to their merits. Here it is folks, TWH SF’s Top Ten Wines of 2013:

2012 Chateau Armurey Bordeaux Clairet
This one was two years in the making! Back in 2011, our former teammate Emily asked if I had ever tasted Bordeaux Clairet. Not only hadn’t I tasted it, I had no idea it existed! A little research revealed that Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, almost like a heavy Rosé that is rarely seen outside Bordeaux. The wine is made in the style of the Bordeaux wines shipped to England during the middle ages. Rumor has it that it was Bordeaux Clairet that inspired the contemporary English term, Claret. Having been on our radar since 2011, we were excited to see it listed on a negoce’s price list in December 2012. We had a sample shipped. We tasted it. We loved it. Now the tricky part; how much should we order? Well, we slightly missed the mark on that one. It sold out way too fast! Not only was it a huge hit for our customers, members of our staff snapped it up a case at a time. What’s not to like? 12.5% alcohol, fresh, crisp, refreshing light red wine (served chilled) for less than $10? I’m responsible for the depletion of over 2 cases. We’ll be tasting the 2013 soon. If it’s anything like the 2012, we can all look forward to cooling our palates this summer with more Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet!


2011 Claudie Jobard Rully ‘Montagne La Folie’ 
White Burgundy. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? We love white Burgundy, and when we find one of high quality in the sub $30 range, we get very excited. We welcomed Claudie Jobard to TWH family in 2013 via two bottlings of Pommard that she makes for her aunt and her mother at Domaine Gabriel Billard. Her mother being Laurence Jobard, head oenologist at Domaine Drouhin for over 30 years. Taking a step back, Laurence has tasked her daughter to make the wine for the domaine. If Claudie is good enough to make wine for her celebrated mother, she’s certainly good enough for us!  Claudie also bottles red and white Burgundy from vineyards she’s been handed down from her father’s side of the family in Rully. As far as price to quality goes, the wines are in the sweet spot. When Anya wrote the wine up last May, she observed that Claudie’s 2011 Rully Montagne La Folie was what many California Chardonnay producers are shooting for, but “miss the mark.” With the case price, it’s actually less than $25 per bottle! However you see it, it’s terrific white Burgundy, deserving its spot in our Top Ten. Welcome to TWH family, Claudie!
2011 Claudie Jobard Rully Montagne La Folie
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$28.99
Add to Cart


2009 Grange des Rouquette Syrah ‘Agrippa’ 
Now for one from a couple of our longtime friends, Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud. We’ve been representing Thierry and Véronique for many years, first as their California distributor, and now as their importer. They make a range of wines, but they’re mainly good quality, inexpensive country French wines. Wines that you would expect to be poured at any of the bistros, cafés, and brasseries that dot the southern French landscape. A year ago, on a visit to their property, David was poured a barrel sample of something Thierry called Agrippa. The wine is, in essence, a reserve wine. Thierry doesn’t make it every year, and when he does, he only makes 10-15 barrels. Well, David was impressed! If you love northern Rhône Syrah, you owe it to yourself to give the Agrippa a try. This 100% Syrah comes from a 3 hectare parcel of 20+ year old vines planted in sandy loess soils, similar to those in the north.

I had a surprise, aha moment with this wine one night. As the day grew to a close, I grabbed a couple of random bottles and put them in my wine bag. Once in the wine bag, you can’t see their labels, but I had thought that the bottle of red wine that I grabbed was a 2010 Boudinaud Syrah/Grenache. I put my groceries away, and grabbed a couple of pots, ready to get dinner started. With my concentration entirely on what I was preparing, I grabbed my corkscrew and opened the bottle of red. I poured a glass, went back to the stove to stir some onions and garlic, and then I took a sip. Whoa! That’s not inexpensive French country wine, that was something entirely different. A closer look at the bottle revealed that it was indeed the Agrippa, and my love affair with this wine began. But ask any of us, the 2009 Boudinaud Agrippa Syrah is a special wine. If you factor in the $16.14 case price, it is pretty much unbeatable.

2009 Vignobles Boudinaud Syrah Agrippa Vin du Pays d’Oc
Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$18.99
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2011 Palmina Dolcetto
There has been such a buzz lately amongst wine industry people in regard to winemaker Steve Clifton and the wines from Palmina! A recent trip to SF restauranteur Bruce Hill’s revamped Fog City revealed that Palmina is well represented on Gregory Altzman’s list; both by the glass and by the bottle. Well, Anya was on to the concept quite a while ago, as the wines are indeed made for those interested in Italian varietals from California rather than the “Cal-Ital” crowd. The 2011 Dolcetto is sublime, it has Old World character, with just enough fruit to balance out its rich complexity. Medium in body, it’s the kind of wine that pairs well with all of the dishes you would imagine. From a simple Pizza Margherita to a more serious Osso Buco. We’re so pleased with the full line of wines that we received this year from Palmina, but the Dolcetto, that’s something very special indeed!

Warning: Less than a case of the 2011 is left. We will soon be moving on to the 2012. Stay tuned for that.

2011 Palmina Dolcetto Santa Barbara County
Red Wine; Dolcetto; Central Coast;
$15.98
Add to Cart


2010 Domaine Pernot-Belicard Meursault 
Another of David’s solid recent discoveries was not entirely a “new” discovery. How do you classify that exactly? He’s (fairly) new to us, but he’s the grandson of one of our stalwarts. We’re talking about Philippe Pernot, who in addition to helping his grandfather (and father) at Domaine Paul Pernot et ses fils, makes his own wine sourced from vineyards acquired from his wife’s family. The young Pernot has 5 hectares of vines in 9 different climats, but get this, his Meursault comes from a single parcel and the vines are 65-70 years old! Talk about layered and complex! We were all wowed by this wine when it first arrived, and continue to be. If you love Meursault, and who doesn’t, we recommend you taste the 2010 Pernot-Belicard Meursault.
2010 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$49.99
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2011 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$50.99
Add to Cart
Just in!!! Philippe’s 2011! Build a vertical.


2011 Domaine Pichat Cote Rotie ‘Loss’
During a recent conversation with another importer, we came to the conclusion that discovering new producers who make high-quality, value wine was nearly impossible. Especially when it comes to famous wine regions whose production is severely limited. It’s a theory, yes, with a boatload of truth and logic to back it up. David has been working diligently with his friends and various agents looking specifically for a “new” Côte Rôtie producer for several years now. That means he’s tried a bunch of them over the years, but in each case, graciously said no. Well, that has changed now. He’s liked what he’s tasted from Domaine Pichat for several vintages, and that’s what it takes for him to graciously say yes! When the Pichat wines landed we all got to taste them, and they are indeed special wines with that signature smoky, meaty goodness that Syrah exhibits when originating from the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie. It was unanimous amongst us, the fancier cuvées were great, and will be spectacular wines someday, showing immense concentration, texture and structure. When we tasted the Löss, we were blown away by its balance and drinkability. The complexity was dazzling, and we could swear that Stéphane used some new barrel on it as well, but were assured no, only neutral barrel is used for this wine. Proving again that Syrah is “a ballerina who can kick-box”, Pichat’s 2011 Löss delivers plush, dark plum and red berry flavors framed in a classic smoky, meaty structure. Another great discovery; this time from an almost impossible source!
2011 Domaine Pichat Cote-Rotie Loss
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$51.99
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2011 Domaine Sebastien Dampt Chablis 1er Cru ‘Cote de Lechet’
It was during that same conversation with the other importer where a modicum of possibility did emerge: find someone new or someone young. Sure, that doesn’t guarantee quality, but if you’re going to find the diamond in the rough of unclaimed producers, that’s the place to look. Chablis is much bigger than Côte Rôtie, yes, but finding the new producer wasn’t easy.  Patience is a virtue, because after graciously saying no several times, David found us a bona fide all star, Sébastien Dampt! My, my, what a fine line of wines. The youngster’s family has been making wine for over 150 years! Sébastien had been working with his brother, Vincent, together with their father at his eponymous Domaine Daniel Dampt before setting off on his own in 2007. What this young winemaker can do with Chardonnay is astounding! His 2011 Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet wowed us at first whiff! Its fresh, focused white fruit, floral, and mineral aromas were captivating; the palate was as bright and nervy as expected; the finish long and harmonious. The very fair price, a result of patience and direct importation. Bravo!

The 2011 Côte de Léchet has sold out, but its stablemate, the Premier Cru Les Vaillons is another outstanding example of what this young winemaker does with Premier Cru fruit!

2011 Sebastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
$26.99
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules ‘La Bolida’
Making her second appearance in a TWH SF Top Ten is our pal in Costières de Nîmes, Diane Puymorin with her 100% old vine Mourvèdre La Bolida. Old vine? Yes, these twisted, weathered vines are between 80 and 100 years old!  Crazy, right? This has always been a prized bottling for our staff as many of us squirrel away a few each year, as they deliver much joy after only a short time in the cellar. Her 2009 La Bolida is all that and more! Mourvèdre has the reputation for yielding big, powerful wines that, in many cases, need cellar time. This is true with many of the wines coming from Bandol. It is a very late ripening grape and only flourishes in a handful of locales around the world. One place it flourishes is in Diane’s vineyard! When discussing La Bolida, she often points to the juxtaposition between the wine’s power and its roundness. It definitely has the stuffing to go the long haul, but is short of any hard edges that may interfere with its charm. The southern Rhône has had a string of successful vintages, and 2009 was one of the best. 
2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Other France;
$36.99
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge (in magnum)
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$73.99
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2010 Opalie de Chateau Coutet
Talk about new discoveries … how about a first time EVER wine? The team at Château Coutet had been working on a secret project for a couple of vintages: to make a top-flight dry white Bordeaux. With the assistance of Philippe Dhalluin and his team at Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Mouton), two particular plots of their Barsac/Sauternes First Growth vineyard were chosen as the source for the new wine. As the wine from the 2010 vintage developed, it was determined that the quality was outstanding and it was time to unveil Opalie de Château Coutet to the world! The Wine House San Francisco were the first merchants in the world to offer the wine on a pre-arrival basis in the summer of 2012. As other merchants in the world began to offer the wine for sale, Decanter Magazine listed us as its exclusive US merchant. It was shipped to us in 2013 and was a huge hit with staff and customers alike. It is a wine of pedigree and refinement, brimming with opulence and richness, yet finishing dry and crisp.

The 2010 sold out long ago, however, we are now offering the 2011 Opalie de Coutet, also on pre-arrival. Warning: we have already sold half of our allocation of the 2011. The wine is due to be shipped to us sometime in the spring of 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
$44.00
Add to Cart
Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
$499.00
Add to Cart


2010 Chateau Fleur Cardinale
In the red Bordeaux department, 2010 was a stellar vintage. It was a great follow-up to 2009, a spectacular vintage in its own right, but 2010 was spectacular for a different reason. Sadly, this of course, meant higher prices, which turned more and more Americans away from the wines from Bordeaux. Aha, but let’s not let those who now bottle commodities rather than wine spoil the party for us wine drinkers! It has been reported here, once or twice that a chateau in St. Emilion was not only cranking out fantastic wine, vintage after vintage, but they were pricing their wines where they could be enjoyed by people who love Bordeaux. Since taking over the property beginning with the 2001 vintage, Dominique and Florence Decoster have turned this St. Emilion property into a champion in the quality to price department. They have been on a great run of consecutive vintage successes, and then came 2010. Arguably, their finest vintage to date, the 2010 Château Fleur Cardinale is representative of the hard work and investment made by the Decosters and their team. Their motive is simple. Dominique once told me that if you are going to make wine and travel the world pouring it, you’re going to have to drink it a lot. So make something good! Bravo, Dominique and Florence!

Sadly, we sold out of the 2010 weeks ago, but we are selling the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale on pre-arrival for an unbelievable price. This is quality juice, folks, take it from me.

Or, if you would like Robert Parker’s synopsis, “Another top-notch success, the 2011 (70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) hit 15% natural alcohol. Yields were a low 30 hectoliters per hectare, and the harvest occurred quite late. The result is a dense purple-colored wine with a stunning bouquet of blackberry jam, graphite, charcoal and blueberries. With superb density and purity as well as a multidimensional mouthfeel, this intense St.-Emilion is a sleeper of the vintage, although consumers are catching on to the exquisite quality emerging from La Fleur Cardinale. The 2011 should drink well for 15+ years. (92-94 points)”

2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale Saint-Emilion (Pre-Arrival)
Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
$36.00
Add to Cart


So there you have it. We’re a month into 2014, and we’re already making more vinous discoveries! Many 2011 Bordeaux (now in bottle) were tasted at the UGC tasting in Los Angeles last week. We’ve got winemakers and property owners from wineries in France and Italy lined up to visit us in the first part of this year, and the samples keep coming! We’ll try to stay in front of the onslaught, forever echoing our sentiments here for you all. Or as Anya says, “We taste a lot of bad wine so you don’t have to!” Happy 2014. - Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2010 Bordeaux, Barsac, Bordeaux Clairet, Costieres de Nimes, Peter Zavialoff, Rully, St. Emilion

2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

White Bordeaux is one of the wine world’s true treasures. Produced in tiny quantities compared to their red counterparts, the wines offer a vast array of complexity, the ability to pair with a litany of dishes, and a surprising ability to age. Some white Bordeaux wines can last for years and years if properly stored, and still dazzle the olfactory sense and palate with exciting nuances. The wines have a dedicated following, thus making them difficult to source. 


Last summer, Barsac First Growth Château Coutet introduced us to their 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet. It marked the inaugural vintage of the château’s very special dry white wine, produced in very small quantity. The Wine House San Francisco was the first merchant in the world to offer this special wine (on a pre-arrival basis), and the response from our customers was overwhelming! The 2010 Opalie sold out shortly after arrival, and judging from the feedback we have received, a great many of you have been charmed by this gem of a wine. One good turn deserves another, so just like the 2010, please allow us to introduce the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!


Again, this is a very special dry white Bordeaux. The 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet comes from the quintessential parts of the Grand Cru vineyards.  Sourced from a few rows of 40 year old vines, sitting on the thickest layers of clay and limestone, the fruit is hand selected and harvested using small baskets for collection, so as not to bruise the grapes. It is comprised of half Sémillon and half Sauvignon Blanc, the former providing the depth and richness, with the latter contributing liveliness and verve. The wine is fermented and aged for 9 months in 45% new French oak barrels. It is an elegant, harmonious dry white wine that displays Coutet’s inherent richness framed by crisp minerality and freshness.

The 2011 vintage heavily favored those growing white grapes in Bordeaux. Warm weather in April sped up vineyard activity by two weeks, and the dry weather forced the vines to dig deep into the clay and limestone for nutrients. Cooler weather in summer was beneficial for the grapes to achieve the proper levels of acidity. That was followed by a warm, sunny Indian summer which provided the ideal conditions in which to harvest. In other words, if you prefer dry white wines with good mineral definition and harmonious balance of fruit and acid, the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux is for you! (If you’re a fan of Bordeaux’s Gold Wines, aka Sauternes and Barsac, 2011 is for you too. The 2011 was the best Château Coutet barrel sample I have ever tasted.)


I was lucky enough to taste the 2011 Opalie back in April at Château Coutet, with a table full of wine enthusiasts (including, at least, one MW!). Pale straw-like in color, the wine had rich aromas of citrus blossoms and stony minerals with that hint of a beeswax shadow. The oak barrel regimen has lessened from 60% new to 45% from the 2010 vintage, and that is recognizable on both the aromatics and palate. The palate is deep and rich, the citrusy Sauvignon Blanc bracing the complex elements of the Sémillon. It is a truly unique tasting experience, the richness from the esteemed Coutet terroir in a dry wine. Compared to their 2010 bottling, the 2011 seemed to have less oak spice on the nose, yet the barrel’s influence was still present in the wine’s texture, which again, seemed to be brighter and even more fresh than the 2010! There were smiles and praise all around the table as the Opalie de Château Coutet is a one-of-a-kind wine. Class and distinction.

Production of the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet is very small, just 250 cases.We have received our allocation, and are happy and grateful to be the first US merchant to offer this wine to all of you! We are selling the 2011 Opalie on a pre-arrival basis.  The first half of our allocation has arrived, but it has sold out to those who purchased the wine on pre-arrival. The balance will arrive sometime in early 2014. Here’s another chance to be the first on your block with the brand new vintage, introducing the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!!! - Peter Zavialoff


2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
$44.00
Add to Cart
6-Pack 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
$264.00
Add to Cart
Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
$499.00
Add to Cart

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Filed under 2011, 2011 Bordeaux, Barsac, Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, Semillon

2010 Opalie de Château Coutet

Choosing a wine to write about for tonight’s email took no time nor effort. And no thought either. In tonight’s case, the wine chose me. Seriously. Since my last Sunday ramble, not a day has passed without my being involved in some way with the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! Now that it has arrived, I’ve been helping the many of you who purchased the wine on pre-arrival by setting up shipping and/or having it ready for pickup. My best friend had his case personally delivered 10 days ago.  It is special wine. It is such a special wine that I’m going to go out on a limb and declare it 2013′s Valentine’s Day wine! I’ve heard from more than one party that it will indeed be included in this year’s Valentine’s Day celebrations. It’s that special.  Now that it’s here, you can see what all the fuss is about. Now that it’s here, you can partake in the Valentine’s Day festivities with a bottle yourselves. It’s here now, but not for long if recent sales are any indication. 
When we introduced the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet last year, we received a great response, as many of you are connected to Coutet or TWH or both! We went through a double digit percentage of total production, and for months were the only merchants in the country selling the 2010 Opalie on pre-arrival, which is something that we are very grateful for. It is a wine of class and distinction. The fruit is sourced from a select few rows of 40 year old vines in the heart of Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyards. It is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, all hand picked, and vinified in French oak barrels. Class and distinction.

So not a day has passed in 2 weeks without some Opalie involvement, but that involvement has now hit fever pitch! Customers are tasting it. Customers are loving it! At closing time yesterday, I opened a bottle from my personal stash (Yup, I was the very first Opalie customer) for our staff to taste. Smiles and praise all around the tasting table. I poured off a sample for Tom who is out on Fridays, and took the rest home to share with my neighbors who let me into their kitchen early one morning last year so I could email back and forth with the folks in France about Opalie before 17:00 European time. More praise. More smiles. Tom hadn’t quite gotten to his sample yet this morning when the cellarmaster of a regional Bordeaux tasting group arrived to pick up his case of 2010 Opalie. In an amazing display of harmonic convergence, David happened to be in the shop at this moment. Having just tasted it the previous evening, David spoke about the wine at length, and after inquiring as to the availability of it, the cellarmaster decided to buy another 6 pack. As he was leaving, David gave him the sample and guess what? He returned asking for another 6 pack. If one is to be a cellarmaster for a Bordeaux tasting group, one must know Bordeaux … well. Very well.

And so it goes. After my normal Wednesday off, I arrived at my workstation and fired up my computer. Apparently Chris loaded a photo of this Opalie display that he built onto my computer as my new screensaver! The image was met with a chuckle as I began my workday. Minutes later, I heard my first connection between Opalie and Valentine’s Day. Later that day, another … and so it goes. So yeah, why not?  Valentine’s Day is Thursday, and all indicators are pointing to the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet as this year’s Valentine’s Day wine! Happy Valentine’s Day all! - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2010 Opalie de Coutet, Valentine’s Day, my band’s upcoming gig this week, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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Filed under 2010 Bordeaux, Barsac, Peter Zavialoff

Vintages, Verticals, And The Delectable Chateau Coutet

One of the most interesting things about the world of wine is the fact that with each new vintage comes a swath of new bottles from all over the world. One will often hear critics and oenophiles compare newly released vintages with older ones that they perhaps have experienced enough to draw such comparisons. Well, in the scheme of things, we understand some folks’ need to label something in order to move on. However, just as 2011 was different from 2007, it’s exciting to experience different vintages because they are just that: different. Sure, there will always be similarities due to terroir, grape varieties, etc., but each vintage IS different. This is why the vintages are listed on the labels. You won’t see a bottle of 2009 Bordeaux that says parenthetically, (just like the 1982!). You just won’t.
 

With variety being the spice of life and all, many of us collect things. Much of the time these collections consist of different individual components with a common theme. A favorite novelist’s works for instance, can represent clear snapshots in time revealing where the writer was, mind and spirit, with each book. A catalog of a musical artist’s albums serves a similar purpose. With each read/listen, one gains a better and better understanding of the author/artist, and observes the changes that may occur over time.

Taking all this into consideration, we can make a strong point stating that tasting a single producer’s wine over several vintages reveals not only a history of vintages past, but an ever focusing understanding of the true essence of said producer and their terroir. It is common practice among customers (and staff!) to collect multiple vintages of a particular producer’s wines for these very reasons. In most circumstances, it takes patience and a concentrated effort to build a vertical, as it’s sometimes difficult to source several vintages all at once. By virtue of our connections in Bordeaux, we’ve been able to source and offer you a 6 bottle vertical from Château Coutet.

Granted 1st Growth status in the 1855 Sauternes Classification, Château Coutet is 1 of only 2 Premier Cru chateaux in the village of Barsac. The unique terroir is comprised of clay on a limestone subsoil which is ideal for producing wines with fresh, lively acidity levels balancing harmoniously with the yummy botrytis-affected fruit. “Coutet” is not a family name, but a derivative of the Gascon word “couteau” or knife, as the wines’ fresh acidity “cuts” through the fruit in the finished product. We’re huge fans of Château Coutet, having co-hosted not 1, but 2 dinners last year with Aline Baly from the Château. It was a great honor last year, during the time of the En Primeur Bordeaux tastings, that I was able to visit Aline and Philippe at Château Coutet and see about their unique terroir firsthand! It was an experience I won’t be forgetting any time soon … if ever.
 

For the vertical, we have 3 vintages in stock and 3 vintages in France awaiting transport. To play it safe, we’ll say that the 3 pre-arrival vintages are expected to arrive in mid to late 2012.

This is a great way to observe what has been done with a focused effort by the Chateau to make no compromises in the vineyard and cellar, and by making the right investments to continue its tradition of producing fresh, lively First Growth wines reflective of each individual vintage. The proof’s in the pudding!Peter Zavialoff

Château Coutet In-Stock:

2007 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$58.98
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The overwhelming favorite from last year’s Bastille Day dinner at Range,tasting the 2007 Coutet is an ethereal experience indeed. – PZ
 

“This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more ‘pixilated’. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ – 94 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Marin

2006 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$49.98
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The wine I drank on my birthday in 2010. The 2006 is perfect to be enjoyed now and will gain in complexity over the next 10-15 years. – PZ
 

“This is a little flatter on the nose than other ’06 Sauternes: marmalade, orange peel and tangerine, with less delineation that I would hope for, with petrol aromas developing with time. The palate is rounded on the entry, more sugary than botrytized fruit, viscous honeyed notes and a touch of barley sugar with a linear, quintessential Barsac finish. – 90 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

2005 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$59.98
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It was back in ’08,at a 2005 Barsac/Sauternes tasting at Fort Mason, that I first tasted the delectable 2005 Coutet. Unforgettable. – PZ
 

“Passion fruit, white peach and nectarine, then a hint of white flowers. The palate has a good level of botrytis, quite minerally, nice tension with dried apricot and spicy, quince flavours coming through on the linear finish. Time should mellow this out. Excellent. Drink 2012-2025. Tasted January 2009. – 92 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

Château Coutet On Pre-Arrival:
Please note: Pre-arrival wines are expected to arrive mid to late 2012. You will be contacted when the wines arrive.

2009 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$70.00
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Recently tasted at the 2009 UGC tasting in Santa Monica, this is a decadent Coutet, with all the bells and whistles firing as they should be! – PZ
 

“The Coutet 2009 is a sensational effort from Philippe Baly and his team. It has a fragrant nose of honey, vervain tea, pineapple, frangipane and apple-blossom, well defined if needing a little more vigour at the moment. The palate is vibrant on the entry, informed by touches of apricot and orange peel, very focused and tensile towards the long, sensuous, viscous finish. It has the same minerality exuded by Doisy-Daene and reminds me of a stellar ’62 tasted just a few weeks previously. A magnificent Coutet. – (96-98 points)” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

2008 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$49.00
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Tasted January 2011 at 2008 UGC tasting at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, I found it to be an aromatic masterpiece with complex layers upon layers. If it’s showing this well in its youth, it is sure going to be tough to wait and see what it will be like 10-15 years down the road! – PZ
 

“The 2008 Chateau Coutet has a very extroverted bouquet, with notes of tangerine, pink grapefruit, guava and pear drop, showing fine definition. The palate is well-balanced, with Coutet’s trademark citrus-driven entry segueing into a pure honeyed, mineral-rich finish that is linear, but very composed at this stage. This will need time, but it already displays that trademark race and tension that are the hallmarks of a great Coutet. Drink now-2040. – 92 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

1999 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$39.00
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Believe it or not, I have not tasted the 1999 Coutet … yet! – PZ
 

“Quite candied on the nose without the floral aspect that makes the 2002 so much more charming. Chalk dust, almond and white flowers. The palate is cohesive with good weight, quite minerally but does not fan out on the finish as I would wish. Starts well, but does not quite fulfill its promise on the finish. Medium-term Coutet, but quietly impressive. Tasted July 2006. – (90-92 points)” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

Château Coutet Vertical:
Chateau Coutet 6 Bottle Vertical: 10% Off!!!
$294.00
Add to Cart
Save 10% on this normally non-discountable wine! 1 bottle each of 2009 (pre-arrival), 2008 (pre-arrival), 2007, 2006, 2005, and 1999 (pre-arrival)!

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Filed under Barsac, Gold Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes

To Pair With The Exotic: 2007 Barsac/Sauternes

Sweet indeed. Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope everyone is enjoying these three days, no matter what you do. Labor Day is a lot of things for a lot of people. An old friend of mine once told me that he was melancholy on Labor Day as it was the weekend that he and his family would close down their lakeside cottage in upstate NY. Funny thing was he really loved doing it. Some other friends are annual fixtures at the Sausalito Art Festival, and they generously open their nearby house for friends and family before, during and after the music. For me, there is usually a good chance my birthday lands during this weekend. Emily once told me that she drinks Viognier every year on her birthday, and I thought that was such a good idea that I immediately held a vote on what my annual bottle should be (it was a close race, but I won 1-0), and established the tradition last year. If you know me at all, it’s pretty easy to guess what I had and will continue to have on my birthday from now on. Gold Wine from Bordeaux, sweeeeet!

I could go on an on, and I have, but no day of celebration for me would be complete without a regal glass of wine from Barsac/Sauternes. If just as an aperitif, or with foie gras (insert obvious eye roll here), with blue cheese (more eye rollin’), or with dinner itself; it’s just got to be there. And it will be.

2007 was a sensational vintage for the Barsac/Sauternes region. The wines are marked with fresh, crisp acidity and that really helps to keep things in balance and accentuate the complexity of the wines. The now sold out 2007 Climens made our top 10 last year, and was the only wine I have ever predicted would get a perfect score from an influential critic after I tasted it (Neal Martin gave it 99+, so I was wrong). But I find the 2007 vintage to be quite compelling for these wines across the board. If you seek freshness and lively acidity in your Sauternes, you’re going to love these. They’re fantastic with food, I’m thinking lobster (yeah, that’s kind of obvious), or wok-tossed prawns, maybe a Vietnamese pork sandwich, or Chile Rellenos (okay, now I’m starving), a glass of 2007 Gold Wine will do you right! I’ve listed below our current stock of in-stock 2007 Barsac/Sauternes. Won’t you join me in a toast to the wonderful complexity of the wines from Barsac/Sauternes with a glass of wine from Barsac/Sauternes?Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me regarding Bordeaux’s Gold Wines, this year’s Champions’ League draws, or anything else: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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Filed under 2007 Bordeaux, Barsac, Bordeaux, French Wine, Gold Wine, Half bottles, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes

Bastille Day 2011: Château Coutet Dinner At Range Restaurant

On July 14, all the cosmic tumblers aligned themselves as 55+ diners packed themselves into Range Restaurant for a very special evening. The concept was unusual; can you enjoy Bordeaux’s Gold wines (Barsac/Sauternes) throughout an entire dinner? Back in January, we had a very successful dinner doing just that at Bruce Hill’s Restaurant Picco in Marin. Well, now it was Bastille Day, it was warm and sunny in San Francisco, and Range Restaurant’s Chef Phil West concocted a tour de force of flavor and texture to accompany three vintages of Château Coutet. Aline Baly, who joined us all the way from Château Coutet in Barsac, was there to present the wines (I told you; we had ALL the cosmic tumblers in place). Ms. Baly made time to visit with everyone and she surprised us all with a taste of an older vintage. It was truly an unforgettable evening with smiles and praise bursting from both of the dining rooms. Aline mentioned that one minute she remembered sitting down and the next thing she knew, it was time to leave! Time flies when you’re having fun, eh? Even 4 weeks after the dinner, I received an email from one attendee calling the event, “Stupendous”, and continue to receive phone calls from others thanking us again and asking to be kept in the loop regarding any future Gold Wine dinners! A smashing time for all, myself included. Here’s how it went down:
Guests were treated to a fizzy, raspberry infused cocktail upon arrival in addition to roasted padron peppers that made their way around Range’s reception area. As the reception area filled up, we headed for the tables. Coordinating a pairing dinner for over 55 guests is a difficult task. Hats off to our friends Cameron and Phil West and their staff at Range Restaurant for their impeccable eye for detail. Every facet of the dinner was perfect. Diners were first served a pour of 2007 Château Coutet with an amuse bouche, which in this case consisted of plain custard topped with caviar. Smash hit #1. The flavor of the caviar and texture of the custard created a finish line tape that the 2007 Coutet cut right through with stunning harmony. Staying with the 2007, out came an English Pea stuffed pasta with black truffles and trumpet mushrooms. Again, the depth, earthiness and texture of the pea stuffed pasta and fungi provided the hanging curve ball that the 2007 Coutet slammed out of the ballpark with its freshness, depth and complexity. Spirits were high in anticipation of what was to come.
Fresh glasses came out closely followed by bottles of the 2006 Coutet. A very underrated Sauternes vintage in my opinion. It’s a precocious wine of great balance, citrus and spice-like complexity, and fresh bright acidity. Chef’s idea for the 2006? Oysters Diablo. That would be two baked oysters in a creamy sauce with a hint of cayenne pepper to be eaten upon wafer-thin crispy toast. Flavors and textures; the pairing was so perfect that the thought of a bite of Oysters Diablo without a sip of 2006 Coutet was unthinkable. More praise from both dining rooms. Hitting high gear now, we were presented with the main course: Grilled quail on a bed of hominy with broccoli rabe and pancetta in a green peppercorn sauce. What a perfect set up for the profoundly botrytised 2005 Coutet! Its texture, depth and richness clearly demonstrated how versatile Gold wine can be. Most successful food/wine pairings are either complementary or contrasting, and this one was a little of both. The wine shined in complementary fashion with the flavors of the quail and hominy while simultaneously contrasting the nuances of the rabe, pancetta and green peppercorns. Talk about a lot going on! If that wasn’t enough, Aline then surprised everyone with a taste of Coutet 1989! In a word, the wine was stunning. 20 years has been good to this wine as the amalgam of complexity stretches the palate. Buoyed by its quintessential Barsac fresh acidity, the 1989 grabbed dinner guests much like early Technicolor films grabbed audiences used to black and white. What a treat. Thanks Aline!
Yes, the cosmic tumblers were aligned. It was pure harmonic convergence for foodies and wine people. The overwhelmingly obvious answer to the question is YES – YOU CAN DRINK SWEET WINES WITH YOUR DINNER! At least, along with Aline Baly of Château Coutet, we’re 2 for 2 in 2011.

By the way, there were some huge fans of the Château there too. Believe it or not, a couple of diners were responsible for bringing (and sharing a little) 1971, 1949, and get this, 1926 Coutet!  The 1926 being the oldest vintage that Aline herself has tasted. It was indeed a very memorable evening leaving all parties involved satisfied and happy.

Once again, we’d like to thank Aline Baly of Château Coutet for all of her efforts in addition to taking the time to join us and for providing the surprise vintage. Thanks go out to Jon Sillcocks from Range Restaurant for helping get this from fantasy to reality. To Cameron and Chef Phil West of Range Restaurant for their professionalism and for hosting such a fantastic dinner party. To the staff of Range Restaurant for their unparalleled level of service. To Monty Sander and Tom Fuller of Fuller & Sander Communications for their part in coordinating (and Tom for the above photos). And most of all, thanks to all of you who attended the event. Your participation and appreciation made it all worth it! – Peter Zavialoff, The Wine House San Francisco

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Filed under Barsac, Bordeaux, Gold Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes, Winemaker Dinners