MYTH: Bordeaux wines are too expensive. First off, “too expensive” is subjective. Secondly, due to high global demand, the most famous Bordeaux wines can be very expensive. These are the wines that grab the headlines. These are the wines around which this myth was born. It has been reported that less than 5% of all Bordeaux wine sells for more than 15€! Let that soak in for a moment. That means that more than 95% of all Bordeaux wine sells for less than 15€ per bottle. So even when we grumble about Château Beau-Coup de l’Argent raising their price by 20% each year over the past three vintages, we still know an overwhelming majority of producers do not engage in such practices. The subject of this week’s Saturday night email is a big favorite of ours. I don’t want to bore anyone here, because it does fall into the 95% category. It is actually a rather unusual wine, as a quick look at WineSearcher Pro Version reveals only two other merchants in the US are listing a 2016 vintage of this type of wine. And after having not purchased any of the 2015 vintage of this wine, we are thrilled to welcome back to our bins, the 2016 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet!
Though seemingly not as obscure as it once may have been, one still must search hard to find a Bordeaux Clairet (say clare-AY), especially here in the states. A reminder: Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, darker than a Rosé and lighter than your typical red table wine. It is made in roughly the same way a Rosé may be made, only the juice stays with the skins longer which produces more pronounced flavors and aromas, as well as its happy-go-lucky color. It is made much like the wines which were shipped from Bordeaux to England in the middle ages. These Bordeaux Clairets were enjoyed by the English from the time of Eleanor of Acquitaine’s marriage to the eventual King Henry II in 1154. These wines were the inspiration of the English word Claret (say clare-ETT), still in use today, to describe the much darker red wines from Bordeaux. Bordeaux Clairet is the perfect red wine for summer. Don’t want to drink white wine with your backyard ‘cued burgers and dogs? Don’t fret; a chilled glass of 2016 Château Armurey Clairet will do the trick. Pizza and red sauced pasta? Sure a fine spaghetti red always works, but in the heat of summer? Bordeaux Clairet is the answer. Earning nicknames like, “Fruit Punch for adults, Oh Yeah!, and the anti-wine-geek wine,” we’ve enjoyed this wine going back to the 2012 vintage.
Our quest for Bordeaux Clairet began with a question from a former colleague, which set in motion our tracking down the 2012 vintage. It proved to be a big favorite, not only for our customers, but for each and every one of us.The 2013 came and went. Quickly. The 2014 came with its own humorous story and was enjoyed by all, but when it came time for the 2015, we hit a logistical snag and had to pass on it rather than receive it in late September of last year. Sorry about that. Learning from our mistake, we were sure to buy the 2016 as soon as it was released, and it arrived just as spring was packing its bags and moving on. Anya, Chris, and I have all taken bottles home to enjoy, and we are in agreement that it is the perfect wine for these summer days. Sip it on its own, or pair it with comfort food, the 2016 Armurey Clairet will put a smile on your face and save you some cash to boot!
FACT: Most Bordeaux wine is inexpensive. One fact that often goes unmentioned is that in many cases, estates in Bordeaux are passed down in families for generations, taking real estate costs off the table. The majority of Bordeaux producers are farming families living off the land, producing wine for their own consumption, and allowing the excess to be sold in the marketplace. We’re just happy that we came across the Armurey Clairet a few years ago, as it has become a symbol of summertime for many of you and all of us. Wishing you all good health and fortune for the summer of ’17. – Peter Zavialoff
PS: VinExpo was held in Bordeaux earlier last week, which means that all pricing for the 2016 Futures has now been released (these are for the wines in the less than 5% category). We have been actively buying the wines, as the vintage is destined to be an all-time classic. Should any of you have any questions about the 2016 Bordeaux vintage or if you are interested in any of the wines, please contact me at peter@wineSF.com or at 415.355.9463 and I will be happy to discuss it with you.
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 notify us 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.
Domaine Paul Pernot et ses Fils
When asked about the 2015 vintage, Paul Pernot said, “It gave us a relatively easy growing season, which was a welcome relief after the last three years where things were constantly in doubt. Basically, the weather was hot in the spring, hot during the summer, and hot right up to the point the fruit was set to pick, and finally the temperatures broke. When it did, we began picking. The fruit was spotless with very good potential alcohols that averaged right around 13%. As to the wines, I would describe them as both very ripe and rich, yet they manage to remain well-balanced and refreshing. They should drink well early on and should very much please those consumers who enjoy young whites.” For his Puligny-Montrachet bottling, Pernot sources the fruit from four lieux-dit vineyards whose average age is 50 years. This 2015 is raring to go with its wide array of aromas: snappy apple, citrus blossom, and a hint of mint. The palate is round and rich, held together with buoyant acidity. It has a sneaky, long finish. Drink 2018-2026.
2014 Fixin-Hervelets 1er Cru
We featured the 2013 vintage of Martin Bart’s Fixin-Hervelets 1er Cru back in the October 2015 installment of our TOB. Due to popular demand, we now feature his 2014! Now run by nephew, Pierre, with Martin looking on, the Barts tend some 22 hectares of vines in the north of Côtes de Nuits. There are five 1er Cru vineyards in Fixin, three of which are monopoles. The other two are Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets. The fruit for this bottling comes from a 1.5ha parcel between the two. Fruit from Arvelets may be included in bottles labeled Hervelets, but not vice-versa. The two vineyards enjoy their perch on the gentle slope which sits just above the other 1er Cru vineyards. Apart from a mediocre summer, Pierre has said the growing season was relatively easy. Commenting on the ripeness and structure of his 2014’s, Pierre went on to say, ” there is a roundness, even tenderness to the textures which should make them approachable young.” Mineral notes abound in this refined, medium-bodied wine. Drink 2019-2030. – Peter Zavialoff
The Rosés have landed! The Rosés have landed! The one I took home first, was the one I took home most often last vintage: Domaine des Aspras à Lisa Rosé. The 2016 is as delightful as was the 2015. What’s not to love? Fragrant strawberry aromas give way to nuanced berry and melon flavors on the palate.I believe my affinity for Rosé has been well established, and now that I’ve reached a certain age, I am not afraid to admit that I prefer Rosés with a fruitier profile. I still want a dry finish but I want fruit – if I want a white wine, I’ll drink one. The à Lisa Rosé gives me the fruit I am looking for along with the fresh and lively finish I crave.
Aspras in Winter
Domaine des Aspras is located in the unique Provençal village of Correns. What makes Correns unique is that the entire village is BIO. It is the first village in France to become so, which means everyone farms organically and the community has agreed to pursue sustainability in everything they do. Michael Latz, the proprietor of Domaine des Aspras, is also the Mayor of Correns. Michael’s parents, Lisa and Gottfried established the winery in the 1960’s, after first fleeing their native Germany in the thirties and then escaping the Congo Crisis of the early sixties. Neither Lisa nor Gottfried knew anything about viticulture when they settled in Correns, but they made a go of it.
A Room With A View
The à Lisa is the domaine’s entry-level line of wines (there is also a white and a red). As you could probably guess, the name is in honor of Michael’s mother. The Rosé is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Cinsault grown on vineyards along the banks of the Argens River. A direct-press Rosé of 100% de-stemmed fruit, the quality here is on par with pricier Cotes de Provence and Bandol Rosés. A delicate salmon-pink hue is both pretty to look at and delicious to drink – And, there is enough weight on the palate to take this Rosé from aperitif to the dining table.
The night I tasted the 2016 à Lisa Rosé was not nearly as warm as the evenings we’re experiencing this weekend across most of the US, but that didn’t stop me from making one of my all-time favorite warm weather dishes, Salade Niçoise. Salade Niçoise is on regular rotation at my house for the next several months and my first choice to serve with it is a Rosé. It’s a match made in heaven.
A special thanks goes out to my brother and sister-in-law who shared their photos of Domaine des Aspras. I was able to arrange for them to visit the winery this past March after they took a river cruise along the Rhone. Though still winter with a glimmer of spring on the horizon, the photos convey the sheer beauty of the region. Hey Kiki – next time we go together!– Anya Balistreri
It’s June and that means summer is almost here! The kids are our of school, Fathers’ Day is almost here, and the summer solstice is right around the corner. For these exciting times, it’s always a great idea to have some solid, versatile wine at the ready, ’cause one never knows just what may arise. The June Dirty Dozen features 12 bottles, all chosen for their versatility and quality, packed in one box, ready for you to enjoy. Cheers!
Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2016 Rosé, Balancing Act $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Only 400 cases were made of this charming Washington State Cabernet Franc Rosé. The pale apricot color hints at the delicate melon and strawberry fruit. At only 12% alcohol, this Rosé has a light and easy palate feel. Perfect on a hot summer evening while dining alfresco. Food pairing options here are vast, though a big garden salad would be nice!
2014 Erbaluce di Caluso, Giacometto $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder
Erbaluce is an Italian white grape variety that has high levels of natural acidity and is grown mainly in northern Piedmont. The estate of Bruno Giacometto is located in the commune of Caluso, about 30 kilometers northeast of Turin. Super refreshing and full of vigor, this wine is ideally suited for raw seafood, especially oysters on the half shell.
2014 Devon Riesling, Richard Böking $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder
This dry/off-dry Riesling is a blend of fruit grown from the winery’s top 5 steep-slope vineyards that don’t end up in their single-vineyard bottlings. The grapes are picked early to retain freshness and minerality. Classic juicy notes of green apple and minty herbs finish tart and tangy. Serve with Korean fried chicken, Thai curries or a pan-fried pork chop.
2015 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto, Ernesto Picollo $15.49, $12.39 reorder
Made from 100% Cortese, Gianlorenzo Picollo ferments and raises this Gavi di Gavi in all stainless steel tank. This gives the wine its freshness and clean expression. Quality-wise, you’ll be hard pressed to find a white wine close to this price. Gavi di Gavi is the wine of choice on the Italian Riviera, so feel free to pop it with your mussels or shrimp scampi.
2015 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Tour de l’Isle $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Whaddya get when you blend fairly equal parts Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc? To Robert Rocchi, proprietor of Tour de l’Isle, you get a delectable, balanced white wine that’s long on character and short on price. With summer on the immediate horizon, this is a great go-to white for those warm evenings. Serve it with seared scallops.
NV Vouvray Brut, Domaine d’Orfeuilles $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder
Speaking of outstanding values – the Vouvray Brut from Domaine d’Orfeuilles has to be our favorite budget sparkler with its Granny Smith Apple-like fruit and dusty minerality. Anya swears that it is the only sparkling wine that she can drink and not wish that it was Champagne. Sparkling wine pairs particularly great with salty foods like fried chicken.
2016 Barbera d’Asti, Il Falchetto $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
This is some Barbera d’Asti! Here you will find red cherry fruit buoyed by Barbera’s telltale acid freshness and soft tannins. It’s essentially a single-vineyard bottling from the commune of Agliano Terme called Pian Scorrone. The bottles have a unique dimple under the back label, but don’t fret, this wine is perfect for a bowl of olives, a fresh baguette, and a salumi platter.
2015 Blaufränker, Pneisl 1L $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
Sisters Birgit and Katrin make this dynamite Blaufrankisch from their family’s estate in Austria. Just across the border in Hungary, they also make wine from their ancestral vineyards. This versatile red is fruity and dry with notes of cherry and rose petal. It comes in a screwcap liter-sized bottle, so there is more to enjoy! Serve at cellar temp to retain vibrancy.
2013 Dão Reserva, Porta dos Templarios $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
This is a sturdy, fruit-driven Portugese red made from a blend of three grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz and Jaen. The overall quality of wines being imported from Portugal has improved dramatically over the past decade. If you are looking to find quality and bang for your buck, its time to explore this wine region. Match it up with chorizo or merguez.
2013 Syrah/Grenache, Grange des Rouquette $10.99, $8.79 reorder
No fuss, no muss – TWH pal Thierry Boudinaud blends tank-fermented Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre for his Grange des Rouquette red. Its round purple fruit flavors and aromas are easy to like and its price point makes it easy to stock up on. No need to overthink any pairing ideas – it’s great on its own, or will suit burgers, pizza, or pasta perfectly.
2015 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $14.59, $11.67 reorder
Speaking of pasta-pairing wines, this spaghetti red made by another TWH pal, Enrico Pierazzuoli, is just the kind of wine you get if you stop somewhere in the Tuscan countryside and order a bicchiere di vino rosso. Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Barco Reale gets a touch of new barrel treatment which gives it its complex character.
2014 Château Couronneau Bordeaux Supérieur $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder
Winemaker Christophe Piat is fully on the biodynamic train these days with a handful of vintages under his belt. Say what you want, but we’ve noticed a big difference in the expression of his wines of late – as in, they’re explosive! The purity of fruit combined with the sense of place makes this an ideal bottle to open with a juicy, sizzling porterhouse.
The contents of another new container arrived in our warehouse this week, and it was full of goodies from France! Our 2016 Rosé selections have arrived, and you will be hearing all about them in the coming weeks. Of course, there were other wines on that container; wines from the Loire Valley, Alsace, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. Actually, quite a few different 2014 red Bordeaux wines have made their way to our sales floor, so if you haven’t been here in a while, we strongly recommend checking it out. The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux was a very good one, particularly on the Left Bank, and pricing was very reasonable. One of these reasonably priced wines, which I have enjoyed over the years, turned out a stellar 2014 – Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac.
The Island Of 2014 Bordeaux
Often lost in the shuffle when discussing famous Pauillacs, Château d’Armailhac sits just between Mouton Rothschild and Pontet Canet – talk about location, location, location!!! The Mouton team has had a hand in making this wine since it was acquired by the Rothschilds in the 1930’s. I have personally witnessed the significant rise in quality from this estate over the past decade, and must say, pound for pound, it’s a super value. I remember being particularly struck by the 2011 out of barrel – my barrel tasting note concludes with, “Terrific expression of fruit and terroir. Parker ain’t gonna like it, but Neal Martin and I do!” Of course that was a mere presumption, however the two Bordeaux appraisers for The Wine Advocate did eventually score it that way. Skip to the 2014 vintage which in many places is a downright bargain, and as my barrel tasting note concludes, “Soft tannnins, medium acidity, all tied together nicely. Another winner here.”
I recently mentioned that I sat in for David at a recent Thursday Tasting Group tasting of 2014 Bordeaux. There were 9 wines, all tasted single blind. (At a single blind tasting, the wines are known, yet tasted blind – At a double blind tasting, nothing is known.) The line-up that evening was: d’Armailhac, Branon, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Clerc Milon, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, La Lagune, Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Poujeaux. Quite a line-up with several favorites! My single blind note for what turned out to be the 2014 d’Armailhac:“Tough to coax at first. Some iron, salami, meaty … concentrated cassis fruit and hint herbal, zippy fresh and elegant with a slightly rustic feel. Clerc Milon.” Not a bad guess as Clerc Milon is also a Baron Philippe property, so at least I identified the terroir. One facet of the TTG experience is to rank the wines tasted in order of preference. I ranked the 2014 d’Armailhac first! Well sure, I may have thought it was Clerc Milon, but that extra aromatic dimension put it over the top for me. I wasn’t alone. A friendly competitor who also travels to Bordeaux each year was at this tasting, and he too was full of praise for the “elegant, old-school nuanced” d’Armailhac (though he guessed it was Gruaud Larose). Priced under $40 per bottle, for a Pauillac no less, we are safe to say that the 2014 d’Armailhac is a downright bargain!
It’s been pretty crazy around here lately – pricing for the highly acclaimed 2016 Bordeaux vintage should finish up by the end of this week, as the city of Bordeaux prepared to host VinExpo the following week. If you are interested in any wines from the 2016 vintage, please feel free to send me an email and I will be happy to help with any questions you may have. We are trying to keep up with pricing each release as we receive our allocations, and this past week saw a frenzy of popular chateaux releasing their respective prices. The 2016 d’Armailhac was pretty darned impressive, that I will say, and I do believe it is fairly priced at $46 on pre-arrival. It won’t get here until sometime in 2019. So if you want to taste some old-school Bordeaux goodness from the team behind Mouton Rothschild that won’t break the bank, the 2014 Château d’Armailhac is here now. The price? How about $35.98 per bottle. Downright. Bargain. – Peter Zavialoff
I had a lovely chat this week with a customer who had just relocated to SF from overseas. Among the many wine-related topics we discussed was the price of entry for interesting, high quality, non-mass produced California wine. I threw out the number $25, saying you could find really exceptional wines starting at this price point, but added you have to do your research to find them. I then threw out a few names of producers that offer such wines, starting off my list was Bedrock.
To illustrate my point, I pointed to Bedrock’s 2015 North Coast Syrah. The North Coast Syrah is primarily made from three vineyards: Hudson, Alder Springs and Weill a Way. Hudson Ranch is located in Carneros, Alder Springs is in Mendocino, and Weill a Way is in the Sonoma Valley. The barrels of Syrah from these vineyards that did not end up in the vineyard-designated bottlings were blended together, along with some co-fermented Viognier, into the North Coast Syrah. Bear in mind, Bedrock makes three Syrahs from the Weill a Way Vineyard (highly allocated) that in 2013 received 100 points for two of them and the other 99 points from Robert Parker, Jr. Now I am not suggesting that the North Coast Syrah is any way like the Weill a Way Syrahs, but it is the same fruit. Boom!
For the North Coast Syrah, winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson likes to vinify using native yeasts and some whole-cluster pressed fruit. The wine is raised in 100% French oak, but none of it is new. In his liner notes for this wine, Morgan writes “I am always channeling my favorite producers of St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. I want a wine that is perfumed, spicy, peppery and delicious, something long on flavor and low on pretense.” In a review by Antonio Galloni, he put it simply like this, “A huge, richly textured wine, the 2015 North Coast Syrah offers unreal quality for the money.”
Our limited, or in the parlance of the day, curated domestic wine section always has several offerings from Bedrock. I will gladly accept any allocation from this winery, as I’ve followed and admired them from their inception. The quality is there, the price is fair and Bedrock’s emphasis on vineyard sites aligns with my own interest in providing TWH customers the best wine values. Check out our entire Bedrock inventory here.
The number of school days left before summer break begins are down to single digits. My little family, which includes my husband (a teacher) and my daughter (a middle-schooler) is counting down the days. I am so looking forward to sleeping in past 7:30! My natural sleep cycle does not jive with early wake-up times. But most of all, I am looking forward to welcoming spontaneity to rule the day and schedules to take a back seat. And in that space, I expect to be enjoying a glass or two of 2015 North Coast Syrah. No more pencils, no more books… – Anya Balistreri
May 27, 2017. In search of tidbits of information about our habits over Memorial Day Weekend, I came across one which purports that 75% of Americans participate in some sort of barbecue activity over the three day period. Sounds about right, as my recollections of the unofficial start to summer are full of memories of good eats, good friends, and yes, good wines. A fortnight ago, I wrote a bit about Carolina Furque’s 2015 Malbec, and last week, Anya showcased a stunning 2014 value in the form of Château Sénéjac.If you purchased either one (or both), you’ve got some great grillin’ wine on your hands. But let’s have a look forward. Summer IS coming. There will be plenty of wines to chill and enjoy over the warm months, but some wines warrant stocking up on. David just slashed prices on a whole lot of our Burgundy selections, and two of these wines strike my particular fancy: The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Boutonniers and Les Hautés.
Auxey-Duresses is located in the Côtes de Beaune, just west of Volnay and Meursault. Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted there, the former planted on the Volnay side and the latter near Meursault. Gilles Lafouge is the 6th generation vigneron for the property which can trace its lineage back to the 17th Century. He makes good, honest Burgundy, wines with wonderful expression and balance. 2012 was another very good vintage for white Burgundy, joining a long line of high-quality vintages going back to 2004!
Though both vineyards border Meursault, it is the Les Boutonniers which is most like its neighbor. The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Boutonniers is awash with orchard fruit aromas mixed with dusty minerals with a soft, inviting palate. There is balance and lively acidity midway, with the ever-present Meursault-like softness caressing the palate throughout. The Les Hautés vineyard is further up the slope from the valley floor, and its soils are rich with limestone. The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Hautés is a lively, mineral driven expression of Chardonnay, much in the direction of a village Puligny-Montrachet. It has fresh aromas of citrus blossom, stony minerals, and hints of apple/pear fruit. The palate is sleek and nervy, and the fresh white fruit falls right in line with the wine’s structure. The finish is crisp, complex, and harmonious. These two wines are well worth their retail price of $39.99 per bottle, but now that they’re marked down to $19.95, it’s time to stock up. Warning: We don’t have a whole lot of either wine, and a little educated guesswork has me thinking that they both will sell out in the coming weeks. If you want to stock up on some delicious go-to white Burgundy for summer 2017, we suggest you act sooner than later.
Yep. Summer is on its way. The signs are everywhere. Just today on my drive in, as I passed St. Mary’s Cathedral (which was built on the site of a former Lucky supermarket where I remember grocery shopping with my parents as a small child), there were scores of caps and gowns roaming about, as Sacred Heart College Prep was holding their graduation ceremonies inside the church. Our local baseball team is not giving us any reason to be excited or optimistic this summer, but if one can stock up on some quality white Burgundy for an entry-level price, and enjoy them throughout the season, that is good reason to be excited and optimistic! – Peter Zavialoff