Category Archives: Peter Zavialoff

Peter’s thoughts on wine.

The Wines From Corinne And Phillipe Ehrhart – Domaine St. Remy

July 25. Yes, we are aware of the fact that we have sent out several emails recently embracing Rosé, and all things summer. Why not? We have now entered late July and the period known as the dog days. What does it mean? Many things to many people. France is about to shut down for a month, and some of our friends from over there have been over here visiting. Last week it was Hélène Garcin-Lévêque from Bordeaux, and this week, we were visited by longtime friend, Philippe Ehrhart from Alsace!
 

Ever been to Alsace? Seeing Philippe again always brings back wonderful memories of the time Chris and I visited the Ehrharts at Domaine St. Rémy in Wettolsheim. If you don’t know the story, Chris had been with TWH for around 5 months at the time, and I had just started. A French food & wine promotional company was offering a free trip for 2 for the retailer that did the best job promoting the wines of Alsace during a given period of time.  Chris built the most magnificent pyramid of picturesque Alsatian boxes with different bottles displayed on each tier, flanked by maps of the region. It was rather eye-catching, to say the least. Our sales of Alsatian wines were quite brisk during this period, and one day a few months down the road, the phone rang. It was a representative of the French company sponsoring the contest. We had won! In what I can only describe as pure luck, I was chosen to accompany Chris on a whirlwind tour of Alsace with visits to 9 estates in 3 days. David was consulted by the sponsor for recommendations as to whom to visit. He also amended our itinerary to spend an extra day there in order to visit the 2 growers that we represented at the time. After 3 days chock full of visits, tastings, and rich meals, we were picked up on that final morning by Philippe Ehrhart himself and driven down to Wettolsheim to Domaine St. Rémy.

On the drive, Philippe regaled us with information about the villages, vineyards, and countryside. Once at the winery, he introduced us to his father and we began tasting tank samples of the recent harvest. It was rapidly approaching midday, so we were off to meet Philippe’s wife, Corinne, at their home for a tasting which included lunch. Philippe made the introductions and then led us to the dining room in which 10 bottles of various Domaine Ehrhart wines were opened and ready to be tasted. Somewhere after we tasted our 3rd sample, Corinne must have removed the lid to the pot with the simmering Choucroute, and the heavenly aroma wafted into the dining room. Beside one of my notes I scribbled, “Omg, I smell Choucroute.” (Wait, did I write “Omg?” Really? Hey, it was 2006, I was just a kid.)

 

Needless to say, the Choucroute was divine! Having the opportunity to taste the Ehrharts’ Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois, and Gewurztraminer alongside it was the perfect Alsatian cultural experience.  So, even if it sounds a little cliché, when a couple of Alsatian winemakers invite you to their home for Choucroute, cancel the rest of your plans immediately and accept their invitation! We stayed well past our time limit, and when Philippe asked us what time our next appointment was, I looked at my watch and said, “5 minutes ago.” Philippe exclaimed that he wished we weren’t leaving, and we all reluctantly got in the car for our 20 minute drive.
 

I learned a lot during that trip. Having an eastern European background, cured meats, sausages, cabbage, and potatoes are all within my sphere of familiarity. I just never had a clue of what wines to pair with them. I can’t tell you how many bottles of quality red Bordeaux I brought to family gatherings which featured ham at the center of the table. In retrospect, the wines were all great, they just didn’t pair with the salty cured meat. After this trip, I knew, Riesling is the wine. Pinot Gris works too, as does Pinot Blanc’s sibling, Pinot Auxerrois. Gewurztraminer may be a little aromatically overwhelming for a holiday ham, ah, but the things you can pair with Gewurz … More on that later. The trip really opened my eyes as to how versatile the wines of Alsace are, and the formation of my opinion that the best pairings are with white wines had begun to take shape. I eat a lot of spicy food. These wines work well with spicy food. Really well.

So yeah, Philippe Ehrhart visited our new digs in Dogpatch this week! We popped one bottle each of the entire Ehrhart line in the cold box this past Tuesday and tasted them with Philippe and David after their full day of meetings and appointments. Having just flown in, Philippe showed no signs of weariness, and eagerly discussed the wines as we tasted them. The Ehrharts have always farmed organically, and the purity and precision of the end product is evidence of this practice paying off. Philippe informed us that he has been employing bio-dynamic practices in the vineyard, and beginning with their 2012’s, will be Demeter certified.

 

The Ehrharts have recently moved into a lovely, modern new winery complete with upscale tasting room. Another recent development has been to employ a scale from 1-10 on their back label describing the perceived sweetness of their wines.  This is extremely helpful for consumers because there is a wide range of styles amongst the wines of Alsace. Some wines are sweeter than others, and to point out the perceived sweetness in this fashion is useful. With their organic techniques, their new facility, and Demeter certification, we see nothing but great things ahead for the Ehrharts! We love their wines and we applaud their ability to look forward and not rest on any of their laurels. Never been to Alsace? It is worth strong consideration, you won’t regret it! – Peter Zavialoff
2012 Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Auxerrois Val St.-Gregoire
White Wine; other white varietal; Alsace;
$16.99
Add to Cart
Perceived Sweetness – 2
Pinot Auxerrois is considered the finest clone of Pinot Blanc due to its natural low yields and smaller berries. It’s a great aperitif, as it has round apple-like flavors and aromas. Great with things like chicken salad, grilled trout, creamy cheeses, or a lobster roll.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling Herrenweg
White Wine; Riesling; Alsace;
$19.99
Add to Cart
Perceived Sweetness – 2
It may say 2, but it seems drier to me. The aromas are fresh, there are floral hints surrounding the core of pear fruit and stony mineral. The palate is lively; it’s the epitome of a dry, versatile white wine. It goes with most traditional Alsatian fare, but there’s oh, so much more. Hunan smoked duck would be fun with this, also raclette, spicy shrimp scampi, or maybe even chile verde.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris Im Berg
White Wine; Pinot Grigio/Gris; Alsace;
$19.99
Add to Cart
Perceived Sweetness – 2
Unlike the Riesling, I get a little more body and sweetness out of this one. Their Pinot Gris has a fuller body and is deep and rich. Aromas of earthy mushrooms are ever-present. The palate has depth, yet is well balanced. Versatile and giving, you can pair this with things like carnitas tacos, a ginger panko crusted salmon with Asian vegetabels, sushi, or Kung Pao pork.
2012 Domaine Ehrhart Gewurztraminer Herrenweg
White Wine; Gewurztraminer; Alsace;
$21.99
Add to Cart
Perceived Sweetness – 4.5
Gewurztraminer is a bit enigmatic. If you like spicy curry dishes, I highly recommend you try a glass of Gewurz with your next curry. I wouldn’t particularly sit down at a wine bar and order a glass of it, but when the balance of the sample bottle was up for grabs, that was all the motivation I needed to whip up a big batch of pork curry with a myriad of peppers last night, and all I have left, sadly is the leftover curry. The Gewurz is long gone! It is the perfect curry wine, no doubt, but I’ve tried it with spicy red beans and rice with much success. Spicy jambalaya, and an abundance of Asian dishes are begging for this highly aromatic, slightly off-dry wine. 

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Filed under Alsace, Peter Zavialoff, Riesling, Spicy food

2010 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional

Yup, there’s no denying that it’s summer.  All the signs are there. Many of my friends are either on vacation or are planning to take off soon. There’s a bottle of Rosé in my refrigerator door (because … you never know). We’ve just had quite a go at Anya’s annual apricot bounty, and are ready to follow that up with a visit to the farmers’ market tomorrow to kick off peach season! Heirloom tomatoes to follow shortly, though I’ve been already enjoying some dry-farmed Early Girls that my sister has generously provided via her trusted supplier. Yes, this is the time to hit that market as the sights, sounds, and smells are fantastic this time of year. I know that farmers’ markets are all about the fruits and vegetables, but each time I visit the Marin Sunday Farmers’ Market, I am strongly tempted by the Marin Sun Farms set-up. Oscar Wilde once said, “The only way to eliminate temptation is to yield to it.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up for me. Fresh produce and some prized grass-fed beef will have me reaching for something red by the time that steak leaves the grill pan. Okay, knowing that this is how tomorrow will go down, leaves me with the question, what to drink with tomorrow’s dinner? It’s going to be the 2010 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional.
 

A friend of mind was recently in Portugal and had the pleasure of sharing several meals complete with wine pairings with the locals while there. She posted something about it on Facebook, I hit the like button, and she began texting me pictures of the wine labels she was enjoying. I told her that our Portuguese section was rather slim lately, but that we have a super red blend that’s long on complexity and very short on price, the 2010 Alqueve Tradicional. We’ve been big fans of this wine for a while, and why not?  For the price, its complexity is unrivaled. Seriously, I still don’t know how they do it! It’s a four grape blend: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Trincadeira and Periquita. That in itself gives the wine an abundance of complexity and 6 months time in small barrels lends additional complexity and texture to the wine. I would call it medium bodied with a fresh red and purple fruit profile. It’s a great food wine due to its vibrant acidity, but its mineral core combined with its freshness, not to mention price, will get it a headlining role on my table tomorrow night!

 

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. Whether taking time off, heading out of town, or just hitting the farmers’ market for summer’s bounty, be sure to make some happy memories of the summer of 2014. Anya’s headed up to the river, baseball season is more than half over, the fog is hovering over the coast, and peaches are entering their peak month! Yep, it’s summer alright.  Looking for a red wine that drinks well in summer? Look no further than the 2010 Quinta do Alqueve Tradicional. – Peter Zavialoff
 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Portuguese wines, Bordeaux, summer wines, or the upcoming season for English football: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Peter Zavialoff, Portugal

2013 Domaine des Corbillieres Touraine Rose

 

Happy Friday! There are 14 weekends this summer, and this one is #5. No need to panic, we’ve still got 9 more afterwards, but that little factoid has us thinking that we should make the most of them. Summer always offers us the opportunity to head outdoors, maybe head over to a farmers’ market, meet up with friends, fire up the grill; yeah, stuff like that. It’s a rare summer afternoon or evening that goes by without the thought, “A glass of Rosé would be perfect right now.” Rare indeed. One of our favorite Rosés has to be the Touraine Rosé from Domaine des Corbillières. We received 2 containers recently, and on the French one were pallets of Rosé, 2013 Corbillières included.

Our Rosé selections represent a few differing styles and flavor profiles, and we have many fans of each of them. They range from the super-sleek, zippy, extra dry to other dry Rosés with varying degrees of fruit expression. For customers (and staff!) who love a dry Rosé with a light-medium body, delicate layers of pink grapefruit, a hint of saline mineral with a harmonious finish, the Touraine Rosé is the perfect choice. It’s a great wine to have on hand all summer long, as it is truly a people-pleaser!

 

The first thing one notices about the Corbillières Touraine Rosé is the seductive salmon hue. When daydreaming about Rosé, this is precisely the color I envision. The aromas are delicate and nuanced. There’s citrus, a hint of some kind of red fruit as well, an herbal, almost peppery subtlety, and a mineral undertone. The palate is bright and fresh, the fruit and structure charming, and the finish refreshing. This is exactly what one would expect to be served if seated at a French café – a wine like this can transport the taster far, far away.
What makes the Touraine Rosé stand out so much? It is made from Pineau d’Aunis.  Pineau d’Aunis? Is that spelled correctly? Yes. What is Pineau d’Aunis? It is a distinct black berried grape from the central Loire Valley that is sometimes called Chenin Noir. It is neither a Pinot nor Chenin. Not widely planted, it is a sanctioned grape for the red and rosé appellations of Touraine and Anjou. Its use is to impart a fruity, peppery profile to rosé wines.The famous philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Just sayin’. We’re already one-third finished with our summer weekends in 2014, so maybe it is a good idea to stop and take a look around this weekend. Stop and look around with a glass of 2013 Domaine des Corbillières Touraine Rosé! – Peter Zavialoff

 

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Filed under Peter Zavialoff, Rose, Touraine

2013 Domaine de Fondreche l’Instant Rose

Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s summer.  Sure, it means many different things to many different people, but that’s just like everything else. We all entertain ourselves in different ways, we all eat different types of food, and as far as wine goes, there’s something out there for everyone. One thing’s for sure, the summer weather causes a great many of our customers to reach for Rosé. Why not? We love Rosé all year round, though in the summer months it becomes particularly apropos. With so many styles and choices out there, there is indeed, something for everyone. When asking about Rosé, many customers look for a wine that is “pale,” “bone dry,” “crisp,” “fresh,” and “lip-smacking.” If those descriptors resonate with you, then you may want to give the 2013 Domaine Fondrèche l’Instant Ventoux Rosé a taste.
 

We have never sent an email offer on ANY Fondrèche l’Instant Rosé in the past. Its color sells itself. Though we have other wines in a similar style, the Fondrèche Rosé is almost always our lightest colored Rosé each vintage. That seems to click with a lot of our customers, especially those who buy in bulk! It doesn’t stay in stock very long. Back in the winter time, we crunched some numbers and decided to ask them to up our allocation because of this. It always goes to show, you never get what you don’t ask for. So we asked, they said yes, and now we can make some noise about it.

 

Domaine de Fondrèche is one of the most well-known domaines in Ventoux, probably because winemaker Sébastien Vincenti has vines growing in the best sites of the appellation. His farming is certified organic, and he has been employing bio-dynamic practices in his vineyards for several vintages. For his 2013 l’Instant Rosé, Sébastien blends 50% Cinsault with 30% Syrah and 20% Grenache giving the wine that Provençal look and flavor.  Coming in at 12% alcohol, pouring that second glass on a warm evening is no problem either!
 

The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck listed Vincenti’s 2013 l’Instant among the finest Rosé wines of the year. Here’s what he had to say, “Beautifully pure, with notions of citrus blossom, peach and strawberry, the 2013 Ventoux L’Instant Rose is focused and crisp on the palate in a lean, tight and refreshing style. Drink it over the coming summer months – 90 points.”

We agree! For those of us who enjoy a sleek, mineral-driven, lip-smacking Rosé, the 2013 Domaine de Fondrèche l’Instant delivers big time!!! Oh, check it – this baby comes in magnum too! Talk about a party in bottle! Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Cotes du Ventoux, Peter Zavialoff, Rose

Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray Brut

Happy 4th of July weekend! It’s nice when the 4th lands on a Friday, and many of us can enjoy an extended weekend. It’s a good time to relax, get some exercise, and catch up on your reading. A great deal of my reading usually has something to do with fermented grape juice, and a topic that seems to be very popularthis week has been that of sparkling wine and its versatility. Funny, a sparkling wine that has been popular around here, and one that I have been enjoying of late, has been the sparkling Vouvray from Domaine d’Orfeuilles.

It’s not difficult to imagine that the majority of the blog posts and articles I’ve been reading lately about sparkling wine had to do with Champagne in particular.  I’m not going to say no to someone who wants to pour me a glass of Champagne, but in the scheme of things, sparkling wines are just as versatile while claiming a small fraction of the investment Champagne demands. The Vouvray Brut from Domaine d’Orfeuillesrepresents sensational quality for price, the 100% Chenin Blanc imparting its textbook Granny Smith apples and orchard fruit to the aromas. There is also a strong presence of dusty, chalky minerals that pervade the experience. It’s about as serious a sparkling wine can possibly be coming in under $20 per bottle. So serious, mind you, that it caused Anya to exclaim, “IT IS ONE OF THE FEW SPARKLING WINES THAT WHEN I DRINK IT, I’M NOT WISHING I WERE DRINKING CHAMPAGNE.”  Speaking of Anya, she’s taken a little vacation, so that’s why you’re hearing from me tonight. I’ll try to keep it brief, and I think I have so far.

Now that the Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray Brut is back in stock, I wanted to point out its merits (not to mention, take a bottle or two home this weekend!). One of those articles that I read earlier this weekend was about the ability fizz has to pair with a myriad of dishes and snacks. My all-time favorite potato chips (Tim’s Cascade Style Jalapeño) are reason alone for me to have a glass or two of the Vouvray Brut. But here’s a short list of various things that would suit this wine perfectly: salty cheeses, green olives, rotisserie chicken, sea bass, beef jerky (don’t believe me? Try it!), caviar, fried chicken, oysters, eggs benedict, a tuna salad, frogs’ legs, roasted and salted peanuts, mussels, kung pao chicken, or a sunny day and the right company! Okay, back to enjoying the weekend – we’ll resume our regular schedule on Monday, just know that the summer is a perfect time to enjoy a glass of Vouvray Brut from Domaine d’Orfeuilles! – Peter Zavialoff

Feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Vouvray, sparkling wine pairings, Bordeaux, or what I might be doing to pass the time until English Football season begins: peter@winesf.com

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Filed under Chenin Blanc, Peter Zavialoff, Sparkling wine, Vouvray

2010 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 3 months since we’ve moved to our new headquarters here in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district. Though it’s new and different, getting here is so much easier than our last location. I mean we’re ONE BLOCK away from a major intersection of 2 busy San Francisco boulevards! It’s also hard to believe that it’s been 3 months since I landed in Bordeaux to attend the 2013 barrel tastings back at the end of March. Where does the time go … seriously? Now that the dust has somewhat settled, look forward to hearing about the trip and some of the exciting finds I made while visiting Bordeaux this year very soon. Our new location has added a mile to my commute, but this morning I was reminded why I endure it each day: Passion.

“If you can sell a wine to me, I can sell it to anyone.” That was how I answered David during my interview after he asked if my lack of retail experience would hinder my ability to perform an important facet of the job. So let’s just say it’s easier for me to recommend wines that appeal to me, especially if there’s a good story behind it. So this morning, a customer came in, she usually sticks to crisp whites, and I have a reasonable idea of what she likes in a wine. As she filled out her case, she threw a curveball at me. Fortunately, it was a hanging curve. She asked me for a Bordeaux recommendation. Smack! Out of the park.

I asked her for some parameters, and quickly reached for a bottle of 2009 Roc de Cambes. She was looking for something “people pleasing and enjoyable now.” I told her that a week ago Thursday night, I poured 3 different Bordeaux wines at the Golden Gate Wine Society’s Bordeaux tasting. I went on about the tasting, and further spoke of my relationship with François Mitjavile and that the Roc de Cambes was the hit of the tasting. When I was done, she asked me, “Do you own this place?” I shook my head and shrugged it off, “no,” I said. She looked at me and replied, “you just work here, eh? Wow, what passion.” I guess so. I love wine, and I love Bordeaux the most. Surprisingly enough, this write-up is not endorsing any particular Bordeaux. It’s about my favorite sub $20 red wine in the shop. I happily drink this wine in every vintage, and I imagine I will do so provided she continues making it. I’m talking about the 2010 Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels.

 

The “she” I’m talking about here is Diane Puymorin. We speak of her often, and for very good reason. She makes unique wines that have a sense of place, are fairly priced, and taste great. Her 2010 Les Cimels rouge has what I love in a red wine. It’s medium-full bodied, has a wide swath of aromatic nuance which include black tea and forest floor, a harmonious complex palate, and a zippy mouthfeel which paves the way for a long, tasty finish. I just love the stuff. It’s not jammy. It’s not oaky. It’s savory. When I think of how to describe the fruit in this wine, my first inclination is to compare it to a Kalamata olive. I have a good buddy who several years ago, after tasting the 2005, told me to “just bring me a case of each vintage of this stuff when it’s released.” I know why. It’s a great red wine, it’s easy on the wallet, you can drink it on its own, and it also is great with food.

Pretty much low hanging fruit, but hey, this stuff is sensational. Me being me, my conversation doesn’t drift far from Bordeaux for very long, but it was a simple progression to see how I landed on the 2010 Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels today. The phone rang. It was another of my music playing good pals with an invitation to come by after work for a 3-day marinated tri-tip dinner! Anya saw me jump for joy after I hung up the phone. I’ve really got a thing for tri-tip and my buddy is quite the grill meister. Okay, my part. What do I bring? I began this exercise by walking around the floor. Hmmm. Something good, yes, but, it’s the end of the month, so be careful in the spending department. That got me to the filing cabinet to review my roster of personal wines that I have stored here. Aha, I’ll bring my last bottle of 2003 Château Gloria, St. Julien, so we’ve got the Bordeaux covered. But I know this group, one bottle will not suffice, and as generous as I might have felt at the time, I managed to continue to hold off on those 4 bottles of 1995 Clerc Milon I have left. Wait! No brainer, just grab a Cimels and call it a day. And that’s how we got here.

Another day in the life of a wine geek. The tasting last week with the Golden Gate Wine Society went great and was a lot of fun. Thinking about addressing this group of tasters gave me a brief pang of nerves. One of the other presenters was a rather famous importer who knows way more about wine than I do. Heeding Anya’s advice, I was just myself, and regaled the group with “the stories that got you to the tasting in the first place.” So yeah, I’m comfortable talking about Bordeaux … you might say passionate. Also, I’m super excited to hear that we are going about picking up our Bordeaux wines getting them ready for their 5 week voyage across the big pond! I’ll try to keep somewhat of a lid on it until they arrive, but in addition to the 2011’s, there will be some great, value-driven Bordeaux wines from earlier vintages that I will by psyched to see among our bins. Patience. Patience. The waiting will be easy. As long as we have plenty of 2010 Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels around. Wishing you all a happy summer and a happy Independence Day! Cheers! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Bordeaux, The Golden Gate Wine Society, high-quality value red wines, the World Cup finals, or the 2010 Les Cimels: peter@winesf.com

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Filed under Costieres de Nimes, Nimes, Peter Zavialoff

Auxey-Duresses From Domaine Lafouge

In the last few years, David’s prospecting trips to Burgundy have been quite fruitful. One by one, we’ve added the likes of Domaine Michel Bouzereau et filsDomaine Sainte BarbeSylvain LangoureauDomaine BartMichel-AndreottiGabriel Billard and Claudie Jobard, Genot-Boulanger, and Stephane Magnien to our roster of producers from that magical strip of land between Dijon and Lyon. And when you’re talking about producers that stay true to their craft, make excellent wine, and keep their pricing somewhat fair, there’s always room for more! Well, we’re happy to report that joining our stable this year are the wines from Domaine Lafouge in Auxey-Duresses.
 

Auxey-Duresses is a valley that juts west in between Volnay and Meursault. Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are planted here, the former on the slope adjacent to Meursault, the latter on the Volnay side. Historically known for producing lower-priced table wines, modern innovation has upped the quality level here, as the wines resemble those of their prestigious neighbors. Auxey’s microclimate is cooler than its neighbors, and the wines generally have healthy acid levels and old school charm.

 

Gilles Lafouge is the 6th generation vigneron of a property that can trace its lineage back to the 17th century. What he makes is traditional, honest Burgundy. He de-stems all of his fruit and employs both hand harvesting and hand sorting. It may be interesting to note that his sister is the wife of TWH Meursault producer, Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau. Both Lafouge’s Chardonnay vineyards border Meursault, and he only uses 20% new barrel for his whites. Les Boutonniers is the more Meursault-like of the two with round, fleshy fruit aromas and flavors. It’s complex, yet balanced, with a hint of that Meursault softness. The fruit for Gilles’ Les Hautés comes from the upper slope of the all-limestone vineyard. The wine is sleek and zippy with plenty of chalky mineral framework. For his 2010 Village Auxey-Duresses, Lafouge used less than 20% new barrel and the wine is an absolute charmer. It’s good, honest, old-school Red Burgundy. The aromas are of cherries and savory berries with traces of herbs and earth. It has a rustic charm on the palate, with a light body and fresh finish. His 2010 Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Les Duresses has a little more oomph to it. The oak regimen is a little more than 20%, but the structure of the wine is able to work with the barrel, and the result is a complex, medium bodied, honest Burgundy that will bring pleasure today, but will drink well over the next 10 years and beyond. Note: the alcohol level on all 4 wines is 13%.

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Filed under Auxey-Duresses, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir

2012 Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers Saumur

Saumur. I’m biased. When I see the name Saumur, I think of this. Every time. No, I haven’t been there, but it’s on the list. There’s just something striking about that majestic château rising above the hustle and bustle of contemporary life in this Loire Valley commune. At least it struck a big chord with me! So even if it is written on the label of a wine bottle, “Saumur” stirs up the romanticism I associate with European travel. So when our representative from Robert Kacher Selections set up the appointment to taste us on this wine, I knew I had to be very focused on the wine’s quality as it had already entered the “I want to like” state in the back of my mind. That can happen. Every so often among my litany of tasting notes, I see the letters “WTL” written above the name of a wine. As long as I recognize that, I’m alright. I never endorse a wine because I want to like it. So there’s the background story. Now, about the wine …

 

The rep arrived as scheduled, with about 7 or 8 different samples for us to taste. David wasn’t able to join us that day, though he made mention to pay close attention to the 2012 Saumur from Domaine Hauts de Sanziers.  When it’s good, I love Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I wish this were always true, but it’s not. There was a time when my palate was fairly used to ripe, fancy, higher alcohol New World wines, so when I popped the cork on my first Chinon, let’s just say that I was a bit surprised. It’s different. It’s not obscure enough to be considered “wine geek wine”, but I think of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc to be kind of geeky. It usually has quite an herbal profile, sometimes you can say it has a stemmy quality to it. It is not dense. It is not brooding, nor unctuous. It is usually light to medium bodied, with fresh acidity, and scaled back in the alcohol department. When we tasted the 2012 Hauts de Sanziers Saumur, we were smitten. It was unanimous! When David returned and queried us about it, he was met with 4 smiling faces encouraging him to go deep. Why? It is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s light bodied. I get bright red cherries met with a briary thicket herbal aroma. There is a hint of dusty, chalky minerals that frame the bouquet. On the palate, it is zippy and fresh, light in body for sure. But as Anya said, “Light, but not thin.” It’s really quite Burgundian. I know, I know. It’s Cabernet Franc, not Pinot Noir, but it really reminds me of an honest Bourgogne Rouge. Coming in at 12.5% alcohol, it is a fantastic food wine. Having tasted it recently with a customer who happens to be a private chef, he raved about its ability to go with food. We’re thinking chicken or pork, seasoned with fresh thyme and a little garlic. And at 12.5%, go ahead and pour yourself a second glass!

Wonderful wine, yes. I love how a wine can transport a taster to the source. As I said, I’ve never been there, but ever since I turned the page of that guidebook in 1998, I’ve had one image and one image only of Saumur! That list of mine has become quite lenghty, though somehow, Barçelona has been crossed off, though I’ve never been there. Speaking of football – yes, of course, I’m paying attention to what’s going on in Brazil. International football doesn’t exactly get my heart racing, and I just hope that there aren’t any serious injuries. It’s better than a summer without football, so I’ll make the best of it. I have the day off tomorrow, so I’ll actually get to watch some. In fact, France plays Honduras. It’s going to be hot, so full bodied red wines will not be served. Maybe I’ll pour myself a glass or two of the 2012 Hauts de Sanziers Saumur and be whisked away to a riverside cafe gazing up at the château between halves. Allez les Bleus!!! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, Saumur, The World Cup Finals, or Bordeaux: peter@winesf.com

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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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2012 Berger Gruner Veltliner

With summer rapidly approaching, it’s always a good idea to have ways to keep cool … and happy. In the wine department, easy drinking, low alcohol, crisp whites and rosés do the trick for both. But there’s a lot of wine out there, eh?  So what to choose? No need to overthink this, sometimes the answer is right there staring you in the face. Look over here, it’s a full liter size bottle with a traditional bottle cap firmly affixed to it. It’s 12.5% alcohol, it’s dry, it’s crisp, it’s the 2012 Berger Grüner Veltliner!

When I first started here at TWH, I remember being quite overwhelmed by the myriad of selections to be found among our bins. I knew a little about Bordeaux, but there were so many question marks in view that I was unable to even formulate a strategy as how to get the knowledge, so to speak. After saying “I don’t know, I haven’t tasted it” to customers several times over that first week, it hit me. I then changed my response to, “I don’t know, but I will tomorrow,” and would put aside the bottle in question, only to taste it with some of my wine-loving friends after work. That, combined with occasional staff tastings, got me up to speed. Well, technically, in the wine universe, you’re never “up to speed.” There are always new vintages, emerging regions, and less recognized grape varietals hitting the marketplace.  At the time, Grüner Veltliner was unknown territory for me. It was Memorial Day weekend that year, and forecasts were calling for warm weather, so among my weekend wines was a full liter bottle of Veltliner. There exists, among the core of my wine-drinking pals, a tendency to gravitate toward white wines that are less fruity and more on the sleek and zippy side. Needless to say, the Berger Grüner Veltliner was a smash hit!

 

Grüner Veltliner is the most planted grape variety in Austria. It is capable of delivering on several quality levels. At this fresh and easy level, the wines are known for having an herbal profile, often displaying aromatics of white pepper. They are a lean in the fruit department, but some show hints of stone fruit.  Buoyed by fresh acidity levels and coming in at 12.5%, it is a great refresher on a warm day or evening. Incredibly versatile in the pairing department, it suits a wide variety of cuisine including light fare such as herbal salads and hamachi crudo. It can also take on such mains as wiener schnitzel, roast chicken, oysters, and pork chops. The New York Times’ Eric Asimov had this to say about Berger’s Veltliner, “Fresh and expressive, with citrus, floral and mineral flavors that linger in the mouth. It practically invites you to have a second glass.”

So later that summer, my best friend was having a milestone birthday, and plans were made to rent a ridiculous place in the Napa Valley and have our own wine tasting as well as a couple of memorable dinners. Tasked with wine duty, I knew there would be plenty of time spent around the pool in the hot sun. A few liters of Berger Grüner Veltliner were perfect for the afternoons outdoors. The wine was not recognized by many partygoers at the time, but many of them now buy Veltliner every summer to remind them of the great time we all had.

Full steam ahead! It’s almost June; time for dads and grads and June brides. As the days continue to get longer and warmer, having some crisp, unpretentious white wine around is always a good idea. At 12.5% alcohol, the 2012 Berger Grüner Veltliner does indeed invite you to have another glass; and the price tag allows you to stock up as well. – Peter Zavialoff

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