Category Archives: Peter Zavialoff

Peter’s thoughts on wine.

Found In Bordeaux: 2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale (Pre-Arrival)

TWH SF’s New Showroom

19 April, 2014. 829 26th St. Corner of 3rd Street.  Looking around here, things are beginning to take shape. Pallets are being broken down, and more and more wine is hitting our sales floor. All of us are so excited about our new showroom/headquarters that we eagerly anticipate welcoming you all here (when you can visit, of course) to show it off!!!
Gone are the dusty winds of Carolina St. Gone are the fading banners hanging from the ceiling. Gone are the quagmire of wires and cables swirling and intertwining our workstations and staff. What’s here, you ask? Same friendly, fun-loving, knowledgable staff. Same direct-import prices.  Same small production, artisinal wines from places like Croatia, Hungary, Morocco, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Argentina, France, and of course, the US!
But moving into new digs is never easy, and I got a late start on the process to boot. 11 days late, that is. Why? Well, on our final day of moving, I caught a flight to France, and was in Bordeaux by the following afternoon. What was going on in Bordeaux? It was that time of year again for the 2013 En Primeur tastings, and I had 10 days worth of meetings and tastings in my immediate future. 


For Primeurs, several negociants open their warehouses for trade tastings.

The primary reason for this annual trek to Bordeaux each spring is to taste the brand new vintage as it is revealed to the international wine trade. It was unanimous. Whether it was a vigneron, chateaux owner/director, negociant, or PR person, they all said, “2013 was a very difficult vintage.” What does that mean? Without getting into it at any great length, difficult vintages present a multitude of challenges for all involved; yet there were still several high-quality 2013 samples tasted. They weren’t plentiful, but there were several. All in all, 2013 was a vintage of inconsistency all over Bordeaux. Yet it is exactly vintages like this where the experiences and observations of the wine professionals who participated in these tastings carry the most weight. Keep your eyes out for our thoughts on the 2013 vintage and our corresponding offers on the wines we deem worthy of placement in your respective cellars, coming to your inboxes very soon!

Another reason for the trip (which was VERY IMPORTANT this particular year), was to taste back vintages of wines on the marketplace and to find the best values to purchase and import in order to bolster our Bordeaux section. It was for this reason that my itinerary was a little fuller than normal. I scheduled meetings with negociants: morning, lunch, and afternoon, each day, leading up to the frenetic En Primeur week. This here picture was taken in the warehouse of one of those negociants, the back vintage selections lining the counter between the visible white wines (no, the double magnum of 2010 Haut Brion was not available for tasting). The good news: I found a bunch!!! Better news: We bought a bunch!!! Just a little patience, they will be arriving in our warehouse in the next few months. We’ll let you know when they get here.


2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale
Back at the end of January, I attended the annual California appearance of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, this time with the newly bottled 2011 wines. The dry whites and Sauternes/Barsac wines stole the show, as their respective barrel samples had indicated 21 months prior to this tasting. What surprised me (and not only me) were the quality of the red wines. Sure, we all know that 2011 followed the massively successful 2009 & 2010 vintages for Boredaux’s red wines. Not given its fair share, the vintage was ignored in many circles. I have to say, after tasting a fair share of them out of bottle, there were several high-quality red wines produced in 2011. Again, like 2013, 2011 was not a consistent vintage, so keeping an ear tuned to your taster of choice is important. Though not in the UGC, I was able to taste the 2011 version of one of my favorite Right-Bank chateaux while in Bordeaux. The verdict: Château Fleur Cardinale has done it again!


It should have come as no shock that I was wowed by the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale, St. Emilion. I loved it out of barrel, noting its “power, intensity, and structure” yet also noting its balance and specifically mentioning that it was “not overbearing.” Fast forward to tasting it from bottle 2 weeks ago, I found it has big, complex aromas of dark fruit, spice, and mineral. Many 2011′s had charming aromas, but many lacked expression on the palate. That is not the case with the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale! The palate was richly structured with definitive layers of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit to compliment the spicy nuances, all resolving harmoniously. So yes, we bought a bunch of 2011 Fleur Cardinale too, and it will be here soon!!!

Come to think of it, it was while tasting the 2011 Fleur Cardinale out of barrel that I first met Florence, and later Dominique Decoster 2 years ago! We shared a lovely lunch, made plans for a future visit to their chateau (that I made good on last year), and then stepped outside and snapped this photo. They’re a fantastic couple with a fantastic wine which consistently delivers for a very fair price. TWH customers need little introduction to the wines from Château Fleur Cardinale, we’ve been consistently stocking their wines for over a decade now, and the bottles disappear from our sales floor at a rapid pace each vintage!

I had a technological breakdown a fortnight ago while in Bordeaux causing me to miss sending my “Saturday night email.” Sorry about that. I hope the length of this one doesn’t cause any anguish. 2013 Bordeaux futures pricing has begun to be released and we will be active once again in the campaign. Please do not hesitate to contact me/us should you have any questions or specific requests for us to buy particular 2013 Bordeaux futures. And keep an eye out for our upcoming 2013 Bordeaux futures offers. -Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments on 2013 Bordeaux futures, Bordeaux in general, our new location, or why my favorite football club cannot win unless I am watching the match:

2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale Saint-Emilion (Pre-Arrival)
Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
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A reminder of Robert Parker’s review of the 2011 Fleur Cardinale after tasting from barrel. Please note: Mr. Parker’s rating from bottle is due to be released on 1 May, 2014. If he revises this score any higher, it may be very difficult for us to get our hands on any more wine at current prices!

“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)”

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2010 Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne-Hautes-Cotes-Du-Beaune Clos Marc

MAN, OH MAN! It’s on! Yes, we are moving. Yes, there are some fantastic, once in a lifetime deals out there.  Like Anya said last week, I’ve been on about the “never to be seen again” prices. All this is complete madness! As I said to a customer yesterday, if I seem level-headed and professional, I’m doing a very good job, because on the inside, it’s bedlam! My to-do list has more than one page. My “things I should have finished last week” list has more than one page! The football gods were cruel to me this morning and scheduled today’s match later than usual, and there is NO WAY that I could have justified coming to work 2 hours late because of a football match. So yeah, bedlam.  People have been kidding Anya and I for allegedly trading personalities; my last two write-ups were about White Burgundy and hers’, Sauternes. Well, we didn’t. Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty to say about Bordeaux and Sauternes in the coming weeks, the annual En Primeurs trip coming up and all. As for the subject of tonight’s email, I’m going to stick with Burgundy. Red Burgundy.

Okay sure, there’s plenty of Red Burgundy on sale. Plenty of top-quality, fancy Red Burgundy. Some of the sale prices are incredible. Should I say, prices never to be seen again? Well, on the opposite side of the spectrum, there is a Moving Sale price on a vin de table. vin de table from Burgundy, that is!!!

It’s funny, I have a buddy who moved to London for a couple of years a while back. When he returned, one of the first things he did was call me up explaining how he had a local Nicolas branch, with staff members recommending various wines from all over France. Sure, he liked the fancy stuff, who doesn’t? His point was, that there was a ton of perfectly quaffable, interesting wine coming from France that was inexpensive enough to open a second bottle of, if only to pour out one more glass. He asked me for a little guidance, and off we went to various wine shops around the Bay Area stocking his cellar. Of course, this task eventually became very rewarding for me. I got to taste a panoply of wines from all over France, and combined with my fancy of all things Bordelais, that experience landed me in this very seat where I type. Ever the intellectual, my buddy proved to be a great dinner guest, his ability to articulate his observations while tasting various wines led to some fascinating conversations. He once lamented that low prices on rustic, vin de table style Red Burgundy were a thing of the past. There was a time when he could pick up a few bottles for less than $15 each, and enjoy them with quiet weeknight dinners at home. Those days were over. And, this was around 8 years ago, no less. Well Chief, this wine’s for you!

When the 2010 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne-Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune Clos Marc first arrived, it had a limited fan base. The wine was rustic in nature, and its acidity outpaced its fruit by several strides. Now that it has gained some bottle age, the acidity has been tamed, and though still rustic in style, it reveals some interesting complexity. I tasted one last night. It still had fresh acidity, but the fruit was more prevalent, and there were some fascinating herbal complexities like tarragon and pine floating among the aromas. This is exactly what my friend was looking for! And it’s 10 bucks per bottle; so you can open a second bottle if only to just pour one more glass! Often on Saturdays, customers in the shop will ask, “What’s tonight’s write-up about?” We usually divulge this information, and today was no exception. I put this wine into several hands today with this: “Keep your expectations at the $10 price level. It’s a Tuesday night wine. A Tuesday night wine … from Burgundy!!!”

Bedlam. And I fear more mayhem will ensue as we grow closer to our moving date. I’m feeling it, no doubt, but part of me is still in denial about it. Just in case that’s not enough, there are still some loose ends in planning this year’s Bordeaux trip. *Deep breath* So, I’ve got that going for me as well. Outside of not being able to watch it this morning, the football went well. I’ve got a fancy Bordeaux tasting dinner tonight, so I am just going to chill tomorrow and cook up a big pot of something tasty. One of these 2010 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne-Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune Clos Marc will do just fine! - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about our Moving Sale, whether or not Anya and I have changed personalities, Burgundy, Bordeaux, or English Football:

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2010 Montagny 1er Cru Les Coeres – Domaine Michel-Andreotti

“You’re moving? Where to?” We’re hearing that more and more these days. Yep, it’s true. After nearly 14 years here on Carolina Street, we’re moving our headquarters to 829 26th Street, which is on the corner of 3rd and 26th Streets in the nearby Dogpatch neighborhood. We’re happy (and relieved) to still be in this part of town, and we look forward to welcoming you to our new location sometime around the end of March!

So, yeah. It is a very busy time here at TWH. Just like with any move, I’m looking around wondering, “How is this exactly possible?” This past week saw me working (and hopefully solving) my favorite puzzle, which is requesting all of my tasting appointments for the upcoming Bordeaux En Primeurs week. Fingers crossed for a confirmation. I still haven’t found the time to report back in regard to the UGC tasting of Bordeaux’s 2011′s, though last week, Anya wrote about my favorite wine tasted that day. My to-do list is looking more like an itemized receipt of a Dirty Dozen purchase, so I’ll be switching gears to full-on Bordeaux speed soon, but for tonight’s Sunday email, I’m sticking with Burgundy. White Burgundy.

It’s been a great crab season so far, and I feel so lucky to have sampled this local delicacy in many forms this winter. It’s great to be part of the team here at TWH, as David continues to sign up new Burgundy producers with new wines!

 When some of those wines pair so well with shellfish, it’s time to indulge! So yeah, new producers – new wines. A year and a half ago, we all flipped over our new Montagny producer, Michel-Andreotti. It seems we weren’t the only ones bowled over by their quality for price, as it sold out quicker than we could blink. It was such a great value that it cracked our Top Ten Wines list in its rookie season! We’re now into our third vintage of Michel-Andreotti Montagny “Les Guignottes” with the 2012, but I recently noticed a slightly different shaped label with the Michel-Andreotti name on it. This one says, 2012 Montagny 1er cru Les Coères. It looks like David has done it again. So this past week, on a day when we were all here, I asked him if we could taste it. Was I happy I did!

At the end of another busy day filled with the stress of the impending move, we all gathered around the tasting table with a bottle. The oohs and aahs full of praise for our first experience with the 2012 Les Coères could only have made David chuckle with pride as he knew he had another winner on his hands, and now his whole team was on board! My initial perception was lots of that fleshy white fruit Chardonnay exhibits, but with a penetrating mineral force, and a little spice which suggested new barrel. I asked David about the oak regimen and he said that of the tiny production (less than 250 cases), only one new barrel was used and that the rest of the juice was vinified in steel tank. So the spice I was picking up was something else. Tom was already well into his glass and praised the soft, delicate mouth feel pointing out that the spice I was picking up was that buttered popcorn aroma which is a product of the malolactic conversion. And he’s spot on here; as I took my first sip, the wine landed with a pleasant caress. Anya too remarked upon the gentleness of the palate, yet pointed out the complexity of peach and apple blossom that emerge because the wine is light and elegant. Let’s just say that Chris gave me a hard time when I took the unfinished sample bottle home. It was Premier Cru White Burgundy after all, one he enjoyed very much. David enjoyed his sample with a smile and a nod of approval. Then we checked the price, $24.99. Premier Cru white Burgundy for less than $25. Or $21.24 per bottle by the case, wow!!! This all led me to think, “Dang. We should have filmed this.” Maybe next time. Come to think of it, our new location will have a far more film-friendly staff tasting area … hmmm.

So there you have it. It’s what we do.  For over 36 years, our team here at The Wine House has been tasting copious amounts of samples, both here and abroad, selecting only the very best to offer to our customers. You can always count on that. No matter our location, first on Bryant Street, then Carolina Street, and coming soon to The Dogpatch. We keep the bar pretty high for a reason. That’s how one stays in business for 36 years. - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Moving, 2011 Bordeaux, the upcoming Bordeaux trip, or today’s stroke of good fortune at the Bridge:

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2011 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne Aligote

February 9. Believe it or not, today is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show! No, I didn’t see it. But as many of you all know, I have more than a keen interest in music, so I know stuff like that. In fact, it was 50 years ago Friday that they first landed in the USA. To commemorate the event, Chris, David, Tom, and I hit The Independent on Divisadero St. for the Lucius show. One of the best things about seeing a show at the Indy, is the fact that it is a half block from one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  Chris had other plans before the show, but David, Tom, a friend of mine, and myself saddled up to a four-top and enjoyed a great dinner. This friend of mine happens to be a regular TWH customer, so our dinner conversations were all about music and wine. We all ordered red wine-friendly dishes, so it was a no-brainer to follow David’s suggestion, and order a bottle of 2009 Château d’Or et de Gueules La Bolida. After all, it did make our Top Ten Wines of 2013 list!

As I mentioned, this buddy of mine regularly serves wine with dinner, and has given me “an open order” to purchase on his behalf, anything that I feel suits his palate and represents a great value. He gets at least a case of Les Cimels and Hors Saison each vintage for sure, but I’m always on the lookout for other stuff should it cross my path. Maybe it’s the season, or maybe it’s because I’m completely swamped here at the shop, but I overlooked one. Fortunately, it came up at the table at Nopa last night. Sure, we spoke of the La Bolida when it arrived at the table. We talked about Condrieu, Château Grillet, and Viognier in general. We talked about Burgundy. We talked about Bordeaux. At some point, the subject of Aligotécame up, and when it did, I froze, my eyes got really big, and I pointed at him. “Oh man, you’re going to love this wine,” I exclaimed. David backed me up with high praise for the wine, singling out grower Sylvain Langoureau for his prowess with this tricky, high acid grape variety.  Sometimes wines made from Burgundy’s other white grape can be super sleek and steely with searing acidity levels. Not Sylvain’s. Certainly not with his 2011, anyway.

Sylvain Langoureau owns some 8.5-9 hectares in and around St. Aubin in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune. His white wines in particular are fantastic … and they’re priced very fairly! Oh yeah, that’s how this wine came up, one of his Premier Cru St. Aubins is on the list at Nopa. That’s what set me off, my train of thought eventually got to my friend’s palate and this super deal on the 2011 Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne Aligoté. Of his 8.5-9 hectares, only about 10% are planted to Aligoté, but as Anya is quick to point out, there must be some intrinsic value in producing it. It has a tradition and a place at the table.One whiff of this wine, and my first instinct is, “Wow, this smells like fancy white Burgundy!” It’s got citrus, mineral, and spice. There is a little oak present, more on the aromas than the palate, so the barrel treatment is done with used barrels. On the palate, it is lean and lively, with wonderful complexity, freshness, and a snappy, crisp finish. Talk about having a place at the table! This is a fantastic food wine. It will triumph when paired with fried oysters, steamed mussels, halibut, and fatty fish. You can go the chicken route, such as Paillard, or for that matter, Wiener Schnitzel and Veal Milanese. A crab salad with avocado, celery root, and lime dressing would be perfect. Dang. Now I’m starving! All I’m saying is that if you like white Burgundy; if you like Aligoté; if you like lean, crisp, white wines; or if you like to be adventurous with your wine selections, I recommend you give the 2011 Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne Aligoté a try!

A great time had by all; we finished up our delicious Nopa dinners, stepped out onto Divisadero St., and strolled the half block to the Independent. We caught up with Chris, ran into a few more friends, the lights went down and Lucius worked their magic. In a word: fantastic! Speaking of fantastic, that crab, avocado, celery root salad with lime vinaigrette is on the menu at Picco. Maybe I’ll bring the rest of this sample bottle over there and chill after a week’s work! - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions of comments about music, Aligoté, my impressions of the 2011 UGC Bordeaux tasting, or the most interesting English Football season in recent memory:

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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;
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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;
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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;
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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;
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2011 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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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;
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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;
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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;
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge (in magnum)
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
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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;
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Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
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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;
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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

2012 Paul Pernot Bourgogne Blanc

Sure, it’s easy to get excited about new producers when their wines finally arrive and knock our socks off. Easy. Kind of mirrors life in a way; the whole discovery thing. There’s something to be said, though, about the tried and true, about familiar and long time friends; after all, they were discoveries once. In the wine universe, having a producer who delivers vintage after vintage is a boon for an importer!  Vintage after vintage is a bit of an understatement here. After all, I am talking about Paul Pernot!!

Here at TWH, we’re now proud to count 4 producers who bottle a Bourgogne blanc. Well sure, they’re not Montrachets, Meursaults, nor Bâtards. But at their modest pricepoints, they ARE white Burgundies, and if you could drink white Burgundy everyday, perhaps one priced in the everyday wine category is in order. Of our 4 Bourgogne blancs, there is but one stalwart. One producer that has provided us with a sensational Bourgogne blanc vintage after vintage for a long, long time. I should say that he has provided ALL OF US with it, as many of you have enjoyed his Bourgogne over the years as well. Yes, I am talking about Paul Pernot. His 2012 Bourgogne blanc just rolled in our warehouse doors, and as overwhelming as it may seem to see stacks and stacks of his wines, we all know that it won’t be long before we start to allocate it on its way to selling out. It’s funny. It happens every year. So the question becomes why?

The answer is multi-faceted. Paul Pernot represents the tried and true for us, a familiar and long time friend. His familiarity is certainly not confined just to these parts either. The question then becomes, why is he so familiar? When you make high quality white Burgundy vintage after vintage over a long period of time, somebody is going to notice. And they will tell their friends. And their friends will tell their friends. Then a wine critic or magazine will run with it. Eventually the wines sell out and the rest is history until the next vintage. At least that’s how it appears to be with Mr. Pernot, because his Bourgogne blanc delivers vintage after vintage, and by pricing it where he does, he’s doing us all a huge solid!

The 2012 vintage in Burgundy, according to Clive Coates MW, is “a vintage for the long term, but a pretty good one.” Keeping with that advice, it would NOT be wise to pop your 2012 Montrachets, Meursaults, nor Bâtards, but as far as Bourgogne blancs go, it’s open season. Pernot’s 2012 Bourgogne blanc is another shining example as to why these wines are super bargains. The aromas are rich with ripe, fleshy yellow fruit, a floral hint, and a kiss of mineral and spices. On the palate, it has depth, a medium body, round displays of citrus and stone fruits, and just enough acidity to keep all the complexity dancing ’til the party’s over. The finish is crisp and mineral laden. Bravo, Paul. You did it again!

Happy Sunday! It’s a good day to rest. My crazy month of January, and all its festivity, is almost over. I spent yesterday flying to and from LA for the UGC Bordeaux trade tasting, so look out, I’ve got Bordeaux on the brain! The 2011 vintage produced many fine wines, and I’ll be telling you all about that in the days to come. All good things in time, as whenever we get new wines from Paul Pernot, we just can’t help writing about them!
Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with questions or comments on Bourgogne blanc, the 2011 UGC Bordeaux tasting, or this week’s madness in English Football:

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2011 Domaine L’Aurage (Pre-Arrival)

Happy New Year! Well, it worked. The reaction to my last write-up of the year resulted in brisk sales and heaps of praise for our new Chablis producer, Sébastien Dampt. The Premier Cru Côtes de Léchet is almost sold out, but do not fear; this past week our staff got to taste the full line of wines from this exciting young producer. Let me just say one thing: Wow!!! From bottom to top, the wines are impeccable, and to quote Burghound’s Allen Meadows one more time, “They are screaming bargains.” If you even remotely fancy a nice, crisp Chablis every now and then, you need to come speak with anyone on our staff about these wonderful wines.

2013 was an exciting year here at TWH, David having signed up a handful of new producers who now sport “Imported by Wine House Limited” on their respective back labels. But, to translate a quote from Karl Lagerfeld in the film La Doublure“I am never satisfied. On to the next.” And so we move on to the next. A new year means new wine tasting experiences, both here and abroad. The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux traveling junket will be passing through the states at the end of the month, and I’m all set to fly to LA to taste the newly bottled 2011′s. The vintage didn’t receive as much fanfare as 2009 or 2010, but I was able to find some outstanding 2011 samples when I tasted them in the spring of 2012.

One of the more memorable 2011 tastings occurred on day one of the frantic week. I began on the Right Bank in 2012. I prefer to spend the first Monday in the Médoc, but that’s another story, and that’s just how it worked out in 2012. Appointment #2 was with François Mitjavile at his Tertre Roteboeuf in St. Emilion. I was welcomed into his home, declined his offer for some coffee, and we sat and discussed the vintage. I’ve always thought of François as a renaissance man, and chuckled when I spied Keith Richards’ autobiography on the table. Call me a kool-aid drinker all you want, but I not only believe that every vintage has something to offer, I appreciate the individuality of each vintage, especially in Bordeaux. François finished up his coffee, the conversation concluded, and it was off to the cellar. I had been there about 30 minutes at this point, and I was puzzled as to why no one else was there yet. I tasted through François’ 3 wines, and he explained that he was a bit miffed by the early development of them, as they were not “in their proper place” to present to the press and trade. Well, this was like an overprotective father with his shy child. We were tasting barrel samples, so no one should be looking for a fine glass of wine here. The samples were all fine, they were just tightly wound. Time and oxygen usually sort that out, so I wasn’t worried, but then again, I wasn’t the winemaker. What was impressive, was the barrel sample of 2011 Domaine l’Aurage, made by François’ son, Louis. I was first introduced to Domaine l’Aurage via Louis’ 2009 vintage, and it was a huge hit with both staff and customers alike. What wasn’t to like? It had it all: charm, finesse, balance, and that silky, almost Burgundian mouthfeel. Apples don’t fall far from their trees, that’s for sure. The Mitjavile family style of winemaking has been passed to the next generation. When I tasted the 2011 sample of l’Aurage, it didn’t come with a “proceed with caution” warning. The 2011 was very reminiscent of the 2009: fresh purple fruit sitting atop soft, silky structure. It had power, but it had balance. It was indeed impressive. Somewhere in the middle of this visit, the bell rang. François and I were joined by Jeannie Cho Lee MW! I was introduced to her by François as “an old friend”, and Jeannie smiled and replied, “He doesn’t look so old.” Wow. Was she flirting with me? François excused himself for a moment, and ran upstairs for something, and Jeannie turned to me and asked, “It’s a little reductive, don’t you think?” I then explained what François told me before we tasted. When she tasted the sample of the 2011 l’Aurage, she didn’t say anything. I looked at her with raised eyebrows. She nodded. I nodded. She smiled.

We didn’t buy the 2010 l’Aurage. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. (See? It’s not just customers who regret not purchasing something). But the currency situation was less favorable when the time came to buy the 2010, so it wouldn’t have been priced so well. But guess what? While it is still on pre-arrival, the 2011 Domaine l’Aurage is available at the same price that we sold the 2009 for, $29 per bottle. For all of the Mitjavile magic in that bottle, that folks, is a steal!

Yes, a new year means new wine tasting experiences. I’m looking forward to the UGC Bordeaux tasting, yes, that will be interesting. For me, Bordeaux is still the benchmark, as Bordeaux delivers. Prices for the famous chateaux are certainly in the stratosphere, but hey, when you’ve got winemakers like Louis Mitjavile and wines like the 2011 Domaine l’Aurage coming in at $29 on pre-arrival, it’s good to be right here on Earth. - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about 2011 Bordeaux, Domaine l’Aurage, or English Football:

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Castillon, Peter Zavialoff

2011 Domaine Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet

As 2013 draws to a close, we’d like to thank you all for your continued patronage. We love hearing from you, whether in person, on the phone, or via email. Whether it be regarding our write-ups, sales & specials, or our continued dedication to bring you some of the best deals on wine, your collective encouragement keeps us going, day in and day out. As you would imagine, December is a very busy month for our staff, and this year has been no exception, but that’s not going to stop us from letting you in on yet another new producer now imported by TWH. Introcucing Domaine Sébastien Dampt!

Long time customers know our M.O. here.  David visits Burgundy (and the Rhône, and the Loire …) several times annually, seeking out top quality producers in search of a California importer. At any given time, he has irons in the fire; as he prefers to taste several vintages from any given producer, before pulling the trigger and opening the gates for direct-importation.  Consistent high quality for price is the motivation that ultimately leads to “Imported by Wine House Limited” on the back label. Well, he’s done it again, and this time with a producer in Chablis! Ah, Chablis. We love it. You love it. What’s not to love? It’s Chardonnay is its purest form: fleshy yellow fruit framed by mineral undertones and that unmistakeable bright, zippy acidity. No wonder the wines from Chablis have such a strong, dedicated following.

Sébastien’s family has been making wine in Chablis for over 150 years. He started his domaine in 2007 after working for several years with his father, Daniel, and his brother, Vincent at the family’s Domaine Daniel Dampt. He’s located in the village of Milly which is just west of Chablis at the bottom of the famed Premier Cru Côte de Léchet vineyard. Half of Sébastien’s holdings are Premier Cru, including nearly a hectare of 50 year old vines in Côte de Léchet. He makes his wines in the old-school Chablis style: all tank fermentation, bringing out the natural flavors of the fruit with the region’s hallmark minerality and zippy freshness. Burghound’s Allen Meadows cites the young Dampt’s no oak philosophy in describing the “well made wines and at prices the Dampt wines sell for, they are screaming bargains.” Having had the wines sitting on a pallet in our warehouse, we haven’t (literally) had a chance to get them to our sales floor. Well, we have several customers who love Chablis, and have fished out some bottles for them. The response has been remarkable. Chablis-centric TWH customers do not just like the Dampt wines, THEY LOVE THEM!!! With the zeal that only a life-altering wine experience can provide, customers have returned and loaded up! This prompted me to sport for a bottle of the 2011 Domaine Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet to share with today’s Saturday staff. I popped a bottle, took a whiff … ripe apples and mineral and a kiss of citrus emerge un-coaxed, but on the palate, oh my! It’s fresh and lively, why of course it is, it’s Chablis … Premier Cru Chablis, that is! I came back from the tasting table and looked at Anya, “Oh, you’re going to looooove this!” She does. So does Tom. Anya did add that one can catch a hint of tangerine in aromas as well. Maybe because it’s late December, but I get that too. The last time we had Premier Cru Chablis in the house, it’s price tag was approaching the half-a-hundred level. The biggest benefit of direct-importation? This baby’s sub $30!

Here’s what the aforementioned Mr. Meadows had to say about Sébastien’s 2011 Côte de Léchet when he tasted it from barrel, “A strikingly complex and refined nose features an abundance of citrus influence but also scents of green fruit, mineral reduction and sea shore aromas. There is really lovely intensity to the precise and stony flavors that possess terrific drive on the dry, clean and impressively persistent finish. This is potentially first rate.”

So yay! We’ve got yet another new star producer among our stable of small production, super quality imports … a Chablis producer, that is. That gives us all reason to celebrate. Speaking of celebration, this begins my personal busiest time of the year. The football has been frenzied and highly entertaining. The band has a gig tomorrow night (and another one on January 11) and tonight, we’re all headed to Chapeau! for our holiday party. Mmmmmm. Oh what fun we had last night selecting the wines! Then, of course, comes New Year’s.

This being our final Sunday email of the year, I’d like to thank you all again for everything you’ve done keeping us happily busy, scouring the planet for some of the best deals in the wine world. On behalf of our entire staff, I wish you all a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2014! - Peter Zavialoff

As always, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Chablis, direct importation, English Football, music, or Bordeaux:

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Filed under Chablis, Peter Zavialoff


A great way to learn about Burgundy and its wines, and (even better) the perfect way to get a discount on two high quality bottles. Sign up now!Click here to receive the Taste of Burgundy Sampler automatically every other month.

Basic Facts for those of you who are new to the program: Every two months we select two Burgundies, one red and one white. We include write-ups detailing the background of the grower, the vineyard source, and the wine. Finally we knock a significant percentage off the prices of the wines, making the Sampler price $89.98. If you would like us to add you to the Sampler Club and receive the wines regularly, please specify “store pickup” or “ship it” in the comments field, and we will charge your card accordingly. If you would like us to ship faster than the standard ground service, please specify this as well. 

2011 Chablis Grand Cru Valmur Maison Dampt 
Brand new to TWH is Chablis producer Sébastien Dampt. The Dampt name is nothing new in Chablis as Sébastien’s family has been making wine there for over 150 years! The 29 year old Dampt had been closely working alongside his brother Vincent and his father Daniel at Domaine Daniel Dampt for several years before venturing out on his own and founding his Domaine in 2007. His village and Premier Cru wines have garnered much praise from the likes of folks such as Allen Meadows of Burghound, who calls the family’s line of wines “Screaming bargains.” The Grand Cru Valmurvineyard lies in the middle of the Chablis Grand Crus just opposite the village across the small river Serein. Perched on a slope with direct southwest exposure, the limestone-rich subsoil contributes to the overall complexity of this Grand Cru. Having a reputation for being tightly wound when young, the wines from Grand Cru Valmur have what it takes to age very well. Open this one from 2016-2025.

2011 Beaune 1er Cru Les Toussaints Domaine Albert Morot 
In his tome, Côte D’Or, MW Clive Coates recommends readers to begin with Domaine Albert Morot while investigating the Beaune appellation. Founded in 1820 as a negociant business, it is now comprised of only Premier Cru vineyards, and exists solely to sell the domaine’s wines. Geoffroy Choppin de Janvry has been making the wines here since 1999 having taken over from his aunt Françoise. Geoffroy considers his 2011 reds to be balanced and delicious, and he suspects they will be quite popular. The Les Toussaints vineyard is a sliver, wedged between Les Cents Vignes and Les Grèves, with perfect southeastern exposure. Allen Meadows of Burghound stated that the Morot wines significantly outperformed the general standard of the Côte de Beaune in 2011, especially with the Les Toussaints and its aromatic complexity, generous depth, balance, and focus. All in all, what we have here is a lovely Premier Cru that will drink well beginning now through 2021. - Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under A Taste of Burgundy, Albert Morot, Chablis, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir

2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Attention Customers: The Wine House SF will be open the following 2 Sundays, December 15 & December 22!!! Please note that our special Sunday hours will be 12 Noon – 4 PM. 
Yep, there’s something in the air. You feel it. I feel it. It’s indisputable. The longest night of the year is but a mere week away. We’re full-on embroiled in “The Holidays!” And however you choose to celebrate, we hope your celebrations are full of love, cheer, and happiness. It’s a good thing that one of many assignments I have today is to put fingers to keyboard and type away. This way I get to catch up on my thoughts, so please bear with me. It has been a banner week! Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame just rolled through northern California, and if you’ve read any of my ramblings around the times Wilco has been in town, you would be safe to assume that I was in attendance. It was a close call traffic-wise, but I made it up to Davis on Tuesday night just in time to catch Mr. Tweedy from the 2nd row! Wednesday and Thursday nights were less hectic at the legendary Fillmore. Thursday night’s show was particularly special, with an amazing setlist that still has me shaking my head in disbelief. Anyways, all that positive energy has carried me here, and away I type. Here’s the part about a wine that I fancy.
They hang like grapes on vines that shine … One of my favorite things about being part of TWH team is knowing that we are extremely flexible when it comes to importing the myriad of wines that we do.  One beaming example of this practice (which usually comes with a 5 minute, detailed story on our sales floor), is how we’ve come to be the California importer for Robert Rocchi’s Tour de l’Isle label. It all started in Chicago … and the wind blew me back, Via Chicago in the middle of the night. David went to a trade show there a couple of years ago and tasted a whole lot of wines, many of which were made by producers seeking importers. One wine that he tasted there was the 2009 Tour de l’Isle Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He loved it. He loved it so much, he brought a bottle back with him. He brought that bottle back for us to try. We loved it too. It’s true; every single one of our staff was blown away. Chris took a sip and made that snapping sound with his fingers. Tom was gushing with praise (and if I remember, he got to take what was left of the sample bottle home). Anya couldn’t keep the smile off of her face for the better part of an hour. Emily (remember Emily?), who once told me she would marry Grenache if she could, was smitten. David held the air of a proud parent after we were all collectively blown away. One problem: they already had a California importer. Well, we didn’t let a little thing like that stop us. We sought out the importer and bought their remaining stock. And beginning with the 2010 vintage, we are now the importer of the Tour de l’Isle wines! The wines are simply amazing, especially the 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Being in the wine biz, it is safe to assume that I get a lot of emails about wine. A lot. Every day, I’ve got a box full of letters … One email that came a couple of weeks ago was for some famous bottlings of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Labels like Pegau, Beaucastel, and the like. Only thing was the price; they were selling these wines for upwards of $100 per bottle! I thought, “Sure these are fancy wines, but sheesh! That’s expensive. Especially considering the fact that we’ve got the Tour de l’Isle for $35. But now that we’re well into our 36th Anniversary Sale, it’s been marked down to $25.95!!! I mean that’s just crazy. This sale will likely mark the end of our having the 2009 in stock, but we sure have this special wine to thank, as it opened our doors to Robert Rocchi’s stable of fine wines from the southern Rhône Valley.

Here’s what Robert Parker had to say about this wine, “The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape Tour de l’Isle reveals tremendous opulence, power and richness. Pepper, spice box, garrigue and kirsch characteristics emerge from this full-bodied effort. It should drink nicely for a decade or more.”

So there you go. If you love Grenache (you don’t have to marry it) – If you love the wines from the southern Rhône Valley – If you love a great sale – pass on this at your own peril!

Whew! What a day! As I type this, we are officially closed for the day, though several customers are still here picking over the bargains scattered around the floor. It was hopping at TWH today! I have to say the quote of the day had to be courtesy of the 8 year old son of a couple of TWH pals, “Do you have any 2005 Cos d’Estournel?” I was floored; that was awesome. Speaking of awesome, it was an odd Saturday as over a handful of customers wanted to talk about Sauternes! I’m not going to question it, nor ask why. I like to talk about Sauternes more than I like to talk about Wilco. But hey, with the music still fresh in my head, and with the shop open tomorrow (and the following Sunday), I’m going to bring my guitar with me. Who knows, with proper coaxing, I might be convinced to play a couple of songs here in the frigid, echoing warehouse.  Mr. Browning has a prediction, so we, we’ve all been told. - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Our 36th Anniversary Sale, this week’s Jeff Tweedy shows, Bordeaux, or English Football:

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Filed under Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache, Peter Zavialoff