It always happens. During our Anniversary Sale, the distractions are everywhere. Case in point; one of our regular customers who always participates in the Anniversary Sale popped in for a few special bottles today, and after he gave me his parameters, I quickly whittled down my mental list to a trio of contenders. He wanted something red and I had one red Bordeaux, one red Rhône, and a red Burgundy all set to recommend. Then I physically walked over to our Burgundy section. Oh, if price signs could talk …. Actually they were talking to me. All of them. But there was one in particular. I immediately replaced the 3 bottles in my head with the one in my hand. “You want something nice. A red wine from France. Something that can be laid down and drink well in 5 years’ time. Something special, but less than $75, right? This is it right here.” That is what I said to him. What was the bottle? The 2012 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Faconnières from Stephane Magnien.
A little background on this. When I was a budding wine taster/collector, I worked for a guy who was less than pleasant to work for. In true “there’s an exception for every rule” fashion, this dude must have gone into a fine wine shop and asked a staffer to recommend two very nice bottles of red wine. He gave those two bottles to me during the holidays as a thank you. One was a Corison Cabernet and the other was a Clos Saint Denis from Domaine Dujac. At the time, I knew nothing about either one, and I’m sure that my benefactor didn’t either. I graciously accepted the gifts, and years later, when I opened the Dujac, I was overwhelmed. That was my introduction to Burgundy. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to have tasted something more affordable as a first Burgundy experience, but what can you do? That was all I knew about Burgundy at the time, and that led me to taste more wines from Morey-Saint-Denis and its environs. So let’s say that the village is a particular favorite for me.
A few years ago, when I found out that David had signed up Stephane Magnien to TWH stable, I was thrilled to see some Morey-Saint-Denis (and Clos Saint Denis!) in our bins. We don’t get to taste fancy wines like those often, but when we do, the occasions are memorable. Of his Premier Cru wines, I usually favor Stephane’s Les Faconnières. All I can say is that I like the other wines as well, but there’s an expression there that just fits with my palate and olfactory senses. Having tasted several 2012 red Burgundies over the past couple of years has solidified my opinion that it is a vintage to have in my cellar. In fact, a while back while researching the vintage for A Taste Of Burgundy write-up, I stumbled upon a note from Clive Coates, MW, “But in the end – quality-wise – 2012 has turned out, not merely ‘all right’, but really very good indeed, if not perhaps even very fine. I have already heard the wines refered to as ‘classic’. There are some who regard the potential of 2012 reds as superior to anything recent, and that includes 2010, 2009, 2005 and other years.” I don’t know about you, but if Clive Coates says something like that, I take note. A serious note.
As one can see, Les Faconnières lies just below the Grand Cru vineyards in Morey-Saint-Denis. As a matter of fact, you can draw an equilateral triangle whose three points would be in Clos-Saint-Denis,Clos de la Roche, and Les Faconnières. That’s some special sod, indeed. The wine is already showing its potential, but after another 5 years of cellar time, I anticipate it will be entering its optimal drinking plateau and staying there for many years. Its aromas express dark red berries, herbs, a healthy dose of earthy mineral and tar, and a kiss of vanilla bean. The palate is sturdy, yet balanced. The fruit is part of the package, which at this time is coiled, needing either aeration or a few more years of cellaring, but there’s no question that the fruit is just waiting for the structure to back off one small step for it to shine. The mouth feel is medium bodied with fine tannins, and the finish is balanced and all in line. The wines from Morey-Saint-Denis can be very expressive, and this young Morey has the ingredients to become a great wine some day in the not too distant future. Did I say it can be enjoyed now? Sure, but I highly recommend decanting for 90 minutes.
I’m hoping that you all are enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend! It has been a fun one for me. Of course I continued my Thanksgiving tradition of giving thanks and enjoying some fine Sauternes … or in this case, Barsac. ‘Cause that’s how I roll. You can probably guess the chateau. But with two months of special days ahead, there will be occasions for fine red wine as well. I see an opportunity to slip a 2012 Morey-Saint-Denis Les Faconnières from Stephane Magnien! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Thanksgiving, our 39th Anniversary Sale, Bordeaux, Barsac, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
Q. What’s better than a bottle of wine? A. A magnum of wine! So true, so true; though enjoying a magnum requires a little assistance. Funny, we are steamrolling into the time of year where group affairs are likely to occur. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a fine magnum of mature red Bordeaux from an excellent vintage to take to ________’s house this year? Sure, but magnums of mature red Bordeaux from excellent vintages are expensive, man. Not today they’re not. Just in time for November’s festivities and beyond, we’ve got a small cache of 2000 Château Cap de Faugères, Côtes de Castillon in magnums. The price: $48.98.
Château Cap de Faugères is located in the village of Sainte-Colombe, which sits just across the border between Saint-Émilion and Castillon. In fact, the Saint-Émilion Chateau Faugères is just a stone’s throw west of the property. The vines grow on the gentle slopes rich with clay soils and limestone deposits. It was acquired by the Esquissaud family in 1823 and remained in the family when it was inherited by cousin Pierre-Bernard (Péby) Guisez in 1987. Along with his wife Corinne, Guisez went about making some improvements. In 1992 he sought out the architects responsible for the renovation of Pichon Longueville in Pauillac, and built a new, state of the art fermenting and storage cellar.
The vintages of the early 1990’s were challenging for many in Bordeaux, though things improved by 1995. So when the classic 2000 vintage came along, Cap de Faugères was in the right place at the right time. Speaking after tasting his last barrel sample of 2000 Cap de Faugères, Robert Parker had this to say,
“The finest Cap de Faugeres I have tasted, the full-bodied, dense 2000 is unquestionably a sleeper of the vintage. It possesses impressive extraction, a dense ruby/purple color, and notes of fudge, black currants, toast, and spice box. Enjoy it over the next decade.”
When our staff tasted it a few months ago, we were all impressed by its sturdiness. Fully mature, it showed some classic secondary characteristics that come from bottle age: herbs, tobacco, and forest floor, and the fruit is very much alive and kicking. It’s well structured and complex, and will likely benefit if decanted for 30 minutes or so. This wine has entered its drinking plateau, ready to be enjoyed. You can most likely hold on to it for another 5 years or so, but its so dang good now, why risk forgetting about it? In the scheme of things, the 2000 Cap de Faugères is a perfect example of why it’s a good practice to check out some of Bordeaux’s off-the-radar wines in great vintages.
What’s better than a bottle of wine? There you go. Believe it or not, a magnum of mature Bordeaux from a great vintage can be had for less than $50! Supplies are limited, and we apologize in advance when this wine sells out. With the holidays in the not too distant future, it makes a lot of sense to pick up a mag or two, ’cause everything tastes better out of magnum!
The Chianti sub-zone of Colli Senesi covers a large area, so as a whole, its reputation for quality does lag behind the more famous and narrowly defined Chianti Classico. But discerning eyes and palates know that drawn borders and appellations only tell part of the story. Take Le Rote as an example, located just a mile north of the famous towers of San Gimignano, you might also notice that it is just 16 miles due west of Castellina, the sweet spot of Chianti Classico. The soil, climate and altitude are quite similar to each other.
To continue the story, Le Rote is owned by Massimo Scotti and his family. They run a successful agriturismo business, make olive oil and produce wine. Their wine production is small, most of it consumed by the guests staying at their restored 18th century farmhouse and also sell a large portion of their fruit to off-set costs. Their Sangiovese is grown on a south-west facing hill with a 100 meters of separation from top to bottom. Depending on vintage conditions, they may either harvest from the top, the bottom, or the middle of the slope. Because they can afford to harvest by altitude, their Chianti has incredible consistency. The importer for this wine explained to me that “we’ve never met anyone else with the circumstance and ability to be so surgical in their harvest”. Their enologist, Paolo Caciorgna, who also makes wines nearby for Andrea Bocelli, is a native of San Gimignano and appreciates the approach the Scotti’s take to viticulture. The historic clone Sangiovese grapes are hand-harvested, sustainably farmed and dry farmed. Total production of the Chianti Colli Senesi is shy of 600 cases with yields averaging a bottle a plant.
The 2011 Chianti Colli Senesi from Le Rote is jam-packed with black cherry flavors, some sweet earthy aromatic notes, and a satisfying, easy-going finish. It’s drinking optimally right now and should stay so for months to come. To inaugurate The Wine House’s 39th Anniversary Sale, the 2011 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi is now on sale for $14.95 per bottle, down from $19.98. To sweeten the pot even further, we are also offering the enticing special full-case price of $142 – that’s less than $12 per bottle! Now that’s a deal, non ci piove! Take advantage of this deep discount to spread holiday cheer far and wide. A bottle for your neighbor perhaps who pet-sits in a moment’s notice or for the friend who is always available to help out on demo-days? Stashing a case is going to make last minute gift-giving a cinch. Who wouldn’t love a bottle of Chianti?
During my research for this write-up, I felt it compulsory to test out a bottle with a bowl of classic red-sauced pasta. Talk about comfort food. You could put a candle on it and serve it to me in lieu of a birthday cake. No joke. There is something magical about the combination of Sangiovese and a tomato-based pasta sauce. The fruit flavors of Sangiovese waltz seamlessly with the acid of the tomato. A dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano completes the sweet/salty balance to achieve flavor nirvana. Cook up a pot, open some bottles of 2011 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi and invite a bunch of friends over for dinner. Do it – it’ll be good for you! – Anya Balistreri
Over the course of any given day here at TWH, we have conversations about a great many things. With two musicians on staff and our speakers tirelessly serenading us, music comes up a lot. But this is a wine shop, so conversations about food and wine are a daily occurrence. The other day, Chris and I were talking about Nouveau Beaujolais. He said that he’s never tasted it. I told him that it is usually a light, simple, fruit driven wine. He went on to say that sometimes, the situation may call for simple, yet enjoyable. I get it, but from a value standpoint, it’s overpriced. If you want to taste good value wines from Beaujolais, their top wines, the Cru Beaujolais are pretty darned good values; and they’re pretty tasty too!
In brief, Beaujolais is a region that sits just south of Burgundy in central France. Its red wines are made from Gamay Noir. The wines tend to be light in body, with aromas of wild berries, flowers, herbs, forest floor, and mineral. Of course, vintages, producers, and terroir vary, so different wines will have different characteristics. The finest vineyards of the appellation are called Beaujolais’ Growths, or Crus in French. There are 10 of these Crus, you can find them on the map above. Fleurie is often described as having the prettiest name, reflective of its wines’ personality. I won’t argue with that. I’ve written about Château de Raousset’s Fleurie before. Now that the 2014 Fleurie “Grille-Midi” is here in stock, I’m writing again.
Comparing this Cru Beaujolais to Nouveau isn’t fair. So I won’t. The 2014 vintage was exceptional in the region. Some are saying that it is the best vintage in Beaujolais since 2005, and that’s saying something, as they’ve had 5 great vintages since then. The wines are expressive in the fruit department and are brimming with aromatic complexity. They can be enjoyed now, though most will benefit from another 3-6 years of aging. When Jeanne-Marie de Champs was here last month, we tasted a lot of Burgundy. I did mention there were other wines. The 2014 Fleurie from Raousset was one of them. And it did not disappoint. The aromas are rich and striking. Layers of wild berry fruit. Spice. Forest floor and a little bit of earthy something. The palate – fresh and intensifying. It’s all about the red berry fruit, with the forest floor spice, and lively acidity holding it all together. It’s another winner from the producer who Jeanne-Marie always describes as “a great grower.” I mean it’s great just tasting it here in the tasting room, but I am imagining how good it would be with the right meal.
I took a little time out from my usual Friday routine last night and enjoyed a nice dinner with a longtime buddy of mine whom I haven’t seen in well over a month! This particular pal of mine is one of my wine tasting friends, and it’s always a pleasure to hear his descriptors when tasting. Any of my stories that have ever featured smoked or barbecued meat occurred at his house. Quite the handyman, he’s in the process of renovating his kitchen … as in tearing everything out, including the drywalls. So with nowhere to whip up any side dishes, we went out. We hit a quandary when it came time to choose the wine. He was going with red meat and I wanted chicken. We ended up settling for wines by the glass, which set off some negative comments about by the glass pricing in some restaurants. If only I had thought to bring a bottle of 2014 Fleurie from Château de Raousset, then we both would have been happy! – Peter Zavialoff
PS: If you’re going to have red wine at the traditional Thanksgiving table, Cru Beaujolais is a mighty good choice!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Thanksgiving wine, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
Leaves on the ground, logs on the fire, and now we’re moving our clocks back an hour. It’s November! Autumn is such a cozy season, with its brisk weather and longer nights moving our lives indoors. Then there’s Thanksgiving coming up – and with that in thought, we present the November Dirty Dozen. 12 wines, all chosen for their versatility, with a special consideration for the big day. Pick up your November Dirty Dozen today.
Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2015 Vintner’s Blend, Liana Estates $15.95 sale price, $15.15 reorder
Liana Estates is the second winery from the Peju Family and is located in Carneros. Released at $24 a bottle, we were able to include the Vintner’s Blend in this month’s DD thanks to some friends and family pricing. Mostly Chenin Blanc and all tank-fermented, it is zippy, racy and chock-full of citrus flavors. Pair with pre-dinner snacks and appetizers.
2014 Chardonnay, Dreyer Sonoma $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This Chardonnay over delivers for the price. The fruit hails from Carneros, is whole cluster pressed then fermented in new and neutral barrel. All the classic flavors are there: citrus, pineapple, pear. Rich but not too oaky, this can work for many occasions. Bring it to your next house party or, if staying in, pair with rotisserie chicken and an herby green salad.
2014 Silvaner alte Reben, Dr. Heyden $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
This dry Silvaner, the third most widely planted grape in Germany, comes from vines over 30 years of age! Beautiful, herbaceous aromas meet with crisp, vibrant peach fruit. Compatible with most veggies (even asparagus!), a first course vegetable terrine or cream soup would be a perfect match here and a fine start to an elegant meal.
2015 Rosé Les Cimels, Château d’Or et de Gueules $13.99, $11.19 reorder
Tipping her cap to the style of pink wines made in Provence, Diane Puymorin uses mostly Mourvèdre and Cinsault for her Les Cimels Rosé. Les Cimels means “bouquet of fruit,” and maybe it’s the 80 year old Mourvèdre vines that lend this wine its distinct bouquet. It’s versatile enough to pair with all sorts of cuisine, especially those which appear on Turkey Day.
2014 Unoaked Chardonnay, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder
Down in Stellenbosch, South Africa, English expat Alex Dale makes a bright, crisp Chardonnay free from any oak influence. Fermented in steel tank from free-run juice only, the aromas are pure, deep, and classy. There’s a distinct mineral drive to go along with the crisp, citrus-like fruit profile. It will suit poultry dishes very well … hint, hint!
2014 Bordeaux Blanc, Château Couronneau $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder
Winemaker Christophe Piat has been on a qualitative roll since first going all organic over a decade ago, and now he has embraced biodynamism. For his blanc, he blends equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, and the result is a refined white Bordeaux with a great balance of fruit and liveliness. A spinach salad with goat cheese pairs well here.
2009 Puerto Salinas, Sierra Salinas $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
What a tremendous value! This big, bold Spanish blend of Monastrell, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in new and 2-year old French oak. Spicy, dense, black-fruited, no wonder it received a whopping score of 92 points from Robert Parker. Time in the bottle has settled down the tannins. Serve with roasted or braised meats and spicy sausages.
2013 Zinfandel, Il Cuore $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Too often value-priced Zinfandels are marred by off-putting, oaky flavors. Not this one from Il Cuore. Instead the zesty, berry fruit is left alone to charm and delight the palate. Fruity and easy-going, much of the fruit was sourced from Mendocino County. This Zin can wear many hats … bring to a friendsgiving potluck or order in with your favorite pie.
2010 Merlot, Giacato $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
The whimsical label is in juxtaposition to the firm, grippy Merlot fruit found inside the bottle. Renowned winemaker, Fabrizio Moltard, who began his career at Gaja, is responsible for this plummy red. Careful when you get to the bottom of the bottle, it throws a little sediment, but that only helps to explain the wine’s complexity. Try with lamb chops!
2012 Carmignano, Le Farnete $19.59, $15.67 reorder
According to legend, the Cabernet Sauvignon which grows alongside the native Sangiovese in Carmignano, was a wedding gift from the French to Italy when Catherine di Medici married into French Royalty. For the wine, its presence adds backbone and structure. It’s a fancy wine, maybe one for special occasions, like a standing rib-eye roast.
2013 Côtes-du-Rhône La Boissière, Domaine Boudinaud $13.49, $10.79 reorder
Côtes-du-Rhône always delivers. It has to be one of the most reliable viticultural regions for high quality, reasonably priced wines in the world. Our friend Thierry Boudinaud has several irons in the fire in and around the Rhône, but his La Boissière is such a great all-purpose red, we will stop there. It will solve all of your pizza and pasta wine needs.
2012 Château Les Gabriaux, Médoc $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
Just like we did last month, we’re including a red Bordeaux which we discovered on our annual En Primeur tasting trip. Again, to suss out quality samples in the sub $10 category is a difficult task, but occasionally we get lucky. Back in February, Neal Martin wrote, ” Check out 2012 Les Gabriaux – a delightful Médoc. That’s not advice. That’s an order.”
He ended the phone conversation with “and I’m going to the store to pick up some cans of 6 in 1”. Music to my ears! My husband is making red sauce, or if you like, gravy. I know what I’m bringing home tonight: 2015 Dolcetto d’Alba from Aurelio Settimo. The 2015 Dolcetto d’Alba landed earlier this month and just in time as the 2014 has been sold out for nearly a month. We introduced the wines of Aurelio Settimo in early 2016, dubbing them “Time Machine Wines” because they move the style dial towards “traditional” and away from “modern/international”.
Settimo’s Dolcetto Vines
Winemaker Tiziana Settimo took production over from her father in 2007 upon his passing. She had worked with her father for twenty years and continues the same traditional winemaking she learned from him. Settimo owns a little over two acres of Dolcetto which is east facing and grown on calcareous soil. Calcareous soil is optimal for growing Dolcetto. Dolcetto is reputed to be difficult to cultivate and vinify. This coupled with the fact that demand for Piedmontese Nebbiolo is at an all time high, helps explain why the total acreage of planted Dolcetto is decreasing. And this is a real shame. Nebbiolo can certainly make some of the world’s greatest wine, but what about the joy of a well-made “everyday” wine? Dolcetto has charming, grapey flavors, with bright acidity and medium tannins. It’s versatility and freshness make it the perfect everyday/any day red.
Harvest 2016 at Settimo
At Settimo the Dolcetto grapes are hand harvested with careful selection of the bunches. Tiziana gently presses the grapes, leaves the wine on the skins for a short seven days, with frequent pump overs and ages it in concrete tanks for about six months. Because Dolcetto tends to be reductive, the pump overs allow for oxygenation, keeping the flavors and aromas fresh. Making good Dolcetto can take as much (or more) effort than it does Barolo. Settimo’s Dolcetto d’Alba is redolent of plum and cheerful red cherry fruit and finishes with perky acidity. It’s got a lot of zing. When the 2015 Dolcetto d’Alba was delivered to our warehouse, we were happy to see that David upped the numbers from what we purchased of the 2014. About the 2014 we joked that it was the wine that sold without ever writing about it. It found its way home repeatedly with many customers who shop at the store. The 2015 Dolcetto d’Alba is here and in good quantity…for the moment.
Picture perfect Dolcetto bunches
6 in 1 All-Purpose Ground Tomatoes is essential to making gravy, at least the Balistreri way. No other canned tomatoes will do. My husband makes a large batch; some to eat now while the remainder is frozen for future meals. A red-sauced pasta is going to need a wine with palpable acidity like a Dolcetto d’Alba to make a merry match. It has been a satisfying week with poured concrete (yeah, no more dirt path!), measurable rain and a daughter who went to her 7th grade school dance and said it was fun. As to the weekend, I’ll be putting out Halloween decorations and stock-piling candy. Our well-lighted, close to the curb house typically sees over 500 trick-or-treaters. This is not an exaggeration! I won’t even bother closing the door, but will pull up a chair to the front door to greet the masses. Here’s hoping everyone has a safe and sweet Halloween!– Anya Balistreri
Two weeks ago, the dust had just settled after one of Jeanne-Marie De Champs’ bi-annual visits to TWH.As I wrote at that time, the protocol had changed … over 20 bottles of Burgundy were opened, and when the dregs of these sample bottles made their way back to us, we were able to taste through a wide spectrum of quality Burgundy much like a La Paulée tasting. The result is that the experience is fresh in our collective minds, so if you have any questions about any of our new Burgundy wines, we all have some recent experience with them. Which gets me around to my topic of the week: crab season.
On my day off this past week, I wandered in to one of my favorite lunch spots only to bump into a former colleague from my days in the finance biz. I hadn’t seen him in a decade, so we began to catch up on things a bit. It was the usual small talk. He’s been living in New York for the past 8 years and he was visiting because his daughter is going to school out this way. Since he wasn’t in California last fall, he didn’t know about demoic acid and our lack of a crab season. So I was surprised to hear any optimism associated with the question, “How long until crab season?” Really? My eyes got big. A mutual friend who was seated between us matter-of-factly nodded his head and said, “I’m hearing situation back to normal, the season should start in mid-November.” Understanding his not being an authority on the subject, I made a mental note to get some verification. I asked Anya and Christian about it earlier this morning, and they seemed to echo his sentiments. Then, in walked one of our favorite customers whom we know is a crab enthusiast. “If anyone knows the answer, HE certainly does,” I thought to myself. So I asked him. He answered. Crab season here in northern California will begin November 5, with the commercial season beginning two weeks later. Really? Yes.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where I’m going here. I can make a case for pairing a lot of different white wines with crab. The things to look for are expression, balance, complexity, and acidity. If your white wine has these components, your crab experience will be enhanced. With all of the recent Burgundy tasting with Jeanne-Marie and my colleagues, I remember one particular facet which occurred after everyone went home for the day and Chris and I were left with some 12-15 open bottles of Burgundy. They were all close to being empty, but there was still enough in each of them to be able to get a decent sized taste. With Jeanne-Marie and the others gone, and punk rock radio blasting in our warehouse, we took a less studious approach to our tasting. I’m a firm believer in the concept that discovery often occurs when not searching. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was. Delicious white Burgundy from an unassuming appellation; relatively inexpensive, but what sent me over the top was that I prefered it to the next wine I tasted, which was a Meursault. The Meursault was fine, don’t get me wrong, but the previous wine at half the price was the better wine; to me anyway. What was it? The 2014 Rully La Folie from Claudie Jobard.
Decanter Magazine’s Stephen Brook’s note from January 2016: “Firm nutty nose, toasty and assertive. Rich, full-bodied, and concentrated, with spiciness and fine acidity, a gutsy Rully, with swagger, pungent and long.”
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about crab season, Burgundy, Bordeaux, or The Special One’s return to Stamford Bridge tomorrow: peter@wineSF.com