Blank is the new blank, i.e. gochujang is the new sriracha, or poke is the new ceviche. You get the idea. Statements like these are everywhere, especially where wine is concerned. Allow me to give it a go – Albariño is the new … Sancerre. Albariño is a fresh, mineral-driven white wine full of attack just like Sancerre. And “Albariño” is fun to say just like “Sancerre”. But these types of statements can only go so far, so let’s dispense with the nonsense! Albariño is the name of a grape variety. In its native Spain (though Portugal can claim it as its own too), the grape is grown along the north Atlantic edge in the province of Galicia. In the early ’80s the appellation was named Albariño but was changed to Rias Baixas when Spain entered the EU (EU wine laws did not recognize DOs named after grape varieties). Almost all wine from Rias Baixas is white and of that most is made from Albariño.
A leader in advancing quality to the region, Granbazán was established in 1980 and today is spearheaded by the founder’s nephew, Jesús Álvarez Otero. The winery sits within the sub-zone of Val do Salnés, which is considered by many to be the best area for growing mineral-driven Albariño. The soils are mostly granitic. It is the wettest and coolest climate of any Rias Baixas subzone with an average annual temperature of only 55ºF. The gently sloping vineyards are susceptible to the maritime influence of the Atlantic, so the tradition is to grow grapes on pergolas. The pergolas can be as high as 7 feet and when the grapes ripen they are harvested by folks who stand on wine bins to reach the fruit. The visual effect of people walking beneath the green canopy of the grapes is extraordinarily beautiful, but it serves a purpose for the grapes. As the grapes grow high above the ground, air flows beneath preventing mildew and promoting even ripening. It amuses me to no end to see how inventive we can be when it comes to viticulture – wine will be made!
Granbazán makes a few types of Albariño. The Etiqueta Ámbar, my favorite, comes from their oldest vines which are 30+ years old. Only the free-run juice is used. The wine ages on the lees for about six months, giving the wine an exotic roundness and attractive softness to the finish. The intensity of the fruit flavors remind me of how free-run juice sets apart Montenidoli’s Vernaccia Fiore from their other Vernaccias. The combination of the free-run juice and lees aging, while it doesn’t take away from the inherent minerality of Albariño, does enhance the overall texture of the wine.
Its been two weeks since school let out and somehow my family is feeling more tired than ever. My husband, a physical education teacher, runs a summer sports camp for kids. My daughter goes to camp with him and is one of his “counselors in training”. It’s a lot of work for my husband and a lot of fun for my daughter. They both come home exhausted. We’re due for a quick jaunt up north to the family dacha. That bottle of 2014 Granbazán Etiqueta Ámbar chilling in my fridge should come along too. After a day of swimming and sunning, some grilled shrimp and Albariño should cap off the day perfectly. Gotta make it happen! – Anya Balistreri
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.
2014 Mâcon-Verzé, Domaine Leflaive
Domaine Leflaive needs no introduction. Their array of wines are some of white Burgundy’s most prized, highly allocated wines the world over. We can say with certainty that no wine from Leflaive has ever been in our Taste of Burgundy sampler. Legendary for their Grand Cru and Premier Cru holdings in and around Puligny-Montrachet, the domaine purchased nearly 10 hectares in Mâcon-Verzé a little over a decade ago. The late Anne-Claude Leflaive was a pioneer in biodynamic viticulture, and régisseur, Eric Remy continues to implement the techniques in the vineyards. The wines gain in precision and expression of terroir. The 2014 vintage for Burgundy’s white wines was fantastic. The 2014 Leflaive Mâcon-Verzé is rich and complex. Aromas of pears and citrus are framed by a speck of spice and apple pie. The palate is bright and pleasant with hints of minerals and the orchard fruit. There’s plenty going on here, but that’s what you get from anything with the vaunted Leflaive name on it. Drink 2017-2026.
*NOTE: This wine is allocated – meaning that after distribution to club members, a very small quantity will be left over for further purchases. After it sells out, we will be happy to substitute a wine of equal or greater value.
2014 Volnay 1er Cru Les Aussy, Domaine Michel Bouzereau
Allen Meadows of Burghound states that, “It is rare when almost every wine in a given domaine’s range outperforms for its level … It is even rarer when it happens again the next year but this is again what happened in 2014,” at Domaine Michel Bouzereau. The 2014 vintage got off to a smooth start with a warm, dry spring. Things changed in late June, as a hailstorm hit the Côtes de Beaune for the third year in a row, damaging vines in Volnay and Pommard. Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau said that he and his team “worked as hard as they ever have” to produce such a pure, gorgeous, penetrating Volnay that showcases the silver lining of having warm, dry weather that led up to the light, yet easy harvest. The wine has sturdy structure and reveals wonderful wild cherry and berry aromas. Jean-Baptiste made just 3 barrels of his Volnay in 2014, with one barrel being new. That’s 75 cases for the world. Bouzereau went on to say that, “I like the 2014’s, and I’d gladly make wines like these every year.” This will be best from 2019-2030. – Peter Zavialoff
It’s almost over … What, basketball season? Yeah, well that too; but I’m talking about the release of Bordeaux futures, of course. Prices have been released little by little since I returned from the region in April, and after a one week pause during Vinexpo in Hong Kong, they have now become fast and frenzied. With a nine hour time difference, David has been sleeping with one eye open to be certain we get our proper allocations of some of Bordeaux’s hard to get wines from 2015. With less than a dozen of famous names left to release, we anticipate the campaign will conclude next week. I am working as fast as I can to get these wines priced and entered onto our website in order for you all to be able to secure your allocations, as some of the 2015s are fantastic examples of how good red Bordeaux can get in a very good vintage. We will send out a few more emails about the 2015 futures in the coming days, but tonight I want to talk about a quality Bordeaux already in bottle. Let’s have a look at the 2012 Chateau Mazeyres from Pomerol.
I begin with a disclosure, I am a Bordeaux consumer. Coincidentally, I am employed by a wine importer/distributor/retailer who happens to represent Bordeaux among others, but I am a consumer before anything else. Just this past week, I fell prey to a different merchant’s Bordeaux offer. I bought 10 bottles of red Bordeaux because I can’t help myself. I don’t do it often, as I can usually get anything I want right here, but when I saw what I know as quality red Bordeaux for the right price, I bought it. I had to. The same goes when we were perusing a supplier’s price list a few months ago. In April 2015, Robert Parker re-tasted the 2012 vintage after bottling and raised quite a ruckus by stating that the vintage was showing much better than he originally thought. He called out the wines from Pomerol in particular. When something like that happens, the wines sell. Especially the affordable ones. So I was quite surprised when I saw the 2012 Château Mazeyres from Pomerol on this list, knowing that we could sell it for just under $30. Thinking it a misprint, I sent the supplier an inquiry rather than an order. They responded that they indeed had 9.5 cases left. Not anymore. We have them now. Not for long.
Château Mazeyres is the westernmost château in Pomerol sitting just on the Libourne city limit. It has been managed by Alain Moueix since 1992, and the quality of Mazeyres has risen consistently under his watch. My first contact with Mazeyres was in April 2011 while in Bordeaux tasting the 2010 barrel samples. 2010 was a monster of a vintage and I must say my palate was pretty beat up by the time the tastings concluded. It was during one of my bouts with palate fatigue when a negociant with whom I am friendly noticed my struggle. He poured a taste of the 2010 Mazeyres and walked over to me. “Taste this one, it may cheer you up.” It did. What I loved about it was its liveliness and its elegance. It made sense; this gent is English, and the wine very well suited for the English palate. I was just relieved that it wasn’t over the top as oh so many 2010 barrel samples were. I carry the memory to this day, and when we saw the price and availability of the 2012, we jumped. Again, it’s frustrating to wait for wines like this to arrive, because we want you to be able to taste them too! The good news is that it is now here for us to enjoy.
The aromas are sensational. Briary, plump, purple Merlot fruit and incense waft from the glass with layers of crunchy berries and herbs. The palate is fresh and invigorating. It is medium bodied, light on its feet, and gives a well-integrated, complex tasting experience. I popped a bottle and shared it with Anya and Tom earlier and they both loved it. Citing its “completeness,” it went over extremely well as we all welcomed the very adult profile of this Pomerol.
The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had this to say about the 2012 Château Mazeyres, “Tasted twice with consistent notes, Alain Moueix has fashioned just a beautiful, floral, almost Margaux-like bouquet that I think will be special once in bottle. The palate is medium-bodied with fleshy ripe tannins, wonderful acidity and a satin-textured finish that boasts superb fruit concentration and elegance at this early stage. This is a great wine from an under-rated estate.” So yes, we don’t expect this to be around very long.
It’s almost over. The Bordeaux futures campaign, that is. My email inbox is full every morning with offers for the newly priced 2015’s and from customer looking to secure allocations of them. The phones are ringing off the hook as well. As I said, I am working as fast as I can to get these wines priced and onto our website. Most of them are, but there will be more to come this week. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions about anything relating to 2015 Bordeaux futures. The 2015’s will arrive sometime in 2018. The 2012 Château Mazeyres is here now; but not for long! – Peter Zavialoff
PS: To all the Dads out there, Happy Fathers’ Day!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Bordeaux, 2015 futures, or the Euro 2016 tournament: peter@wineSF.com
I like to boast about the fact that The Wine House started carrying Carlisle winesfrom the very first vintage when Mike Officer, then a customer of ours with a taste for Rhônes, began making small lots of Zinfandel. Eighteen vintages later, we continue to still stock Carlisle wines only now their repertoire has expanded to include several single-vineyard and appellation-designated Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah (to name a few) and of late, white wine too. The 2013 The Derivative is a complex blend of several white grape varietals from multiple vineyard keeping in line with Carlisle’s zeal for sourcing old-vine fruit.
Semillon at Monte Rosso Vineyard
The base of the wine is Semillon, about half of the blend, from the famed and historic Monte Rosso Vineyard. Monte Rosso Vineyard is named for its rich, red volcanic soils and lies on the last high flank of the Mayacamas Range. The Semillon grown here was first planted in 1890. To this Mike adds Muscadelle from three different vineyards, and Colombard from Mancini Ranch. At the corner of Piner and Olivet Roads just west of Santa Rosa, Mancini Ranch was planted by Lucca Mancini in 1922. The Colombard adds a significant acid component, adding lift and zip to the wine. Only the Semillon was fermented in oak and of that, only 20% was new. The rest of the grapes were fermented in tank. Phew, that was a lot of information I realize, but I find it interesting to know how the pieces fit together to make a harmonious, complex wine. The wine is golden-hued with honey, grapefruit and beeswax notes. It has firm structure and the acid is notable and pleasant.
On a recent Monday morning, Peter said to me “guess what I drank yesterday?”. I of course had no idea, but my best guess was “Bordeaux”. Nope, he drank a glass of The Derivative with Sunday lunch at a restaurant. I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I asked what he thought of it. He told me he liked it very much and that it reminded him of White Bordeaux. Hmmm…that sounded intriguing to me. The winery notes on The Derivative specifically suggest that fans of White Bordeaux would find this wine “right up your ally”. I have to admit that when I took the wine home to try for myself, because of the percentage of Semillon, I had in mind a much different flavor profile. I expected it to be oily and round, but what I tasted was far more stealth and lively … like White Bordeaux. The grapefruit and spearmint flavors are followed by a slight oxidative note reminding me of the bottles of 1998 Domaine de Chevalier I polished off just a while back. In flavor and in structure, this wine suggests it will age quite comfortably. I would be curious to know how this wine evolves over time. For right now though, it is pretty delicious.
I siphoned off a bit of The Derivative into a vial to share with the guys at the store. I served them a taste blind just to make it more interesting. Chris, David and Pete liked it immediately and with some deductive reasoning, Pete recognized the wine as being the one he had at Sunday lunch. Chris remarked that he wished he could taste the wine with food, thinking that it would perhaps show differently. I got excited by his comment because I knew it to be true. As the cliché goes, The Derivative is a food wine. The Derivative takes on a much broader flavor spectrum with food and its acidity cradles rich, creamy flavors to higher heights. I write this because I know – at home the glass I tried became far more opulent and showy when I drank it with my dinner.
2013 The Derivative
Over the last eighteen vintages, I have witnessed the evolution of a winery go from a small unknown to one widely recognized as being one of the finest producers in California. An online wine forum that I follow from time to time – they claim to be “The World’s Largest and Most Active Online Wine Community”- even has a thread that reads “Which Carlisle are you drinking”? The thread has over 6,000 posts. Not just any winery can command that much interest and devotion.
School’s out for Summer! Alice Cooper’s lyric looped inside my head as I drove my daughter to her last day of 6th grade. I think I may be more excited than she is about the start of summer. I am hoping to slow down the pace, go outside, explore. As someone wisely said in a movie I watched with my daughter (her choice) last weekend, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”– Anya Balistreri
Whew! Who knew? Put some Burgundy on sale, and things get hopping! Or as one customer who came in today said, “Burgundy sales are the only way mere mortals can buy and enjoy the stuff.” True, true. When we introduced this little surprise sale, we did mention that it was more than just Burgundy, and many of you found some other goodies by clicking around our website. On the heels of my recent blurb about affordable reds, I just kicked the proverbial rock and uncovered another beauty, and IT’S ON SALE for $9.95 per bottle: the 2011 Domaine Fondrèche Fayard!
On the heels indeed, of my recent write-up and Anya’s recent post about the 2013 Ventoux Rouge. I hesitated for a moment to put fingers to keyboard about this wine thinking it too similar to these two recent posts, but no, it’s a different wine; for sure. This baby has been getting some nice beauty rest and is in a fine place to treat our taste buds this summer! When I first approached the bottle to pour myself a taste, I brought some expectations. As Anya mentioned about the 2013, it needed air. We have always enjoyed Sébastien Vincenti’s wines over the years, but we know that his wines tend to be in need of oxygen when they’re young. That’s just how he rolls; we decant the wines, and they’re great. I remember tasting the 2011 Fayard when it was young. It was dense and jammy; the fruit was in the forefront and it was a challenge to perceive the overall framework of the wine because of it. Time has been kind to this wine. With those expectations in the back of my mind, I looked; I swirled. I reached for the light switch as I wanted to closely examine the color – it had changed. It’s not bricking or anything, but it has grown deeper in the maroon department and away from the magenta/purple hue it shined in its youth. A positive sign of a little age. I sniffed. Whoa. Tar, earth, there’s fruit, but it’s more mature, less jammy and more in line with the complex notes that one perceives now that it’s not so fruit forward. On the palate, it has a medium bodied mouth feel. It’s bright, the acidity is very much alive, and the fruit is smoky leading me to check the percentage of Syrah in the blend: 30%. It’s half Grenache, 30% Syrah, and the rest equal parts Carignan and Mourvèdre. Did I mention it was 10 bucks? If I sat down in a nice restaurant and they poured me a glass of this wine for 10 bucks I would be doing backflips, not to mention I would return again and again for more. I know that I grabbed a case of that 2010 Tradicional to keep my new apartment stocked with an underpriced delicious red, but I’ve got to have a case of this too! If you like southern Rhône Valley reds with smoky, Syrah character and a little bit of bottle bouquet, don’t walk, run to this one.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, we had a busy week. In the timing department, along with the sale, the week was marked by the release of the 2015 prices for some of Bordeaux’s marquis names. David has been staying up in the middle of the night as these prices are released, making sure that our allocations are confirmed. I’ve been trying my best to get all of these purchases into our system and website, and you will soon see more offers for 2015 Bordeaux futures. This week promises to be chock full of even more releases as the campaign is soon to reach its pinnacle. So please keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, this latest little sale of ours continues, and hits like the 2011 Fondrèche Ventoux Fayard keep coming. Talk about pleasant surprises! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2015 Bordeaux futures, our sale, the 2011 Fayard, or the state of English Football: peter@wineSF.com
Happy June, everybody! We’re super excited about the Dirty Dozen we’ve put together this month, as the wines are versatile, suit the season perfectly, and provide huge value as a mixed case. June is always about Dads and grads, but summer is coming, and there will be plenty of occasions to head off for a picnic, barbecue, or day at the beach! Just don’t forget the vino! The June DD has got you covered. Enjoy the season!
Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2013 Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Panizzi $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder
The only white wine to reach DOCG status in Tuscany, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is famed for its floral bouquet and persistent acidity. True to the varietal, this one from Panizzi has a satisfying bitter almond finish. Straw-colored with greenish reflections, this white can start the meal with an antipasto platter then continue on with light pasta or fish.
2013 Bordeaux Blanc, Château Suau $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Château Suau began converting to organic farming in 2008 after its proprietress came to the conclusion that using conventional products on the vines was having a harmful effect on vineyard workers. The soil here is a combination of clay and gravel. A charming citrus-laden white, serve chilled with fresh goat cheese or alongside grilled fish.
2015 Chardonnay, Milou $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Hands down, one of the best values for Chardonnay, especially if you are looking for one that is simply fermented and attains its richness from the fruit and not from oak chips. The vines grow on marl soils with clay and limestone in south France’s Languedoc region. A harmonious marriage of peach and pineapple flavors, pair with poultry or pork dishes.
2013 Macon Les Tilles, Domaine Sainte Barbe $19.99, $15.99 reorder
Whoa! What’s going on here? White Bordeaux, and now white Burgundy? This is the Dirty Dozen, right? Sure, this direct-imported Mâcon is fresh and zesty, with layers of complexity ranging from pears and citrus, to dusty mineral and baking spices. There’s no new oak involved here, so tee this one up with things like crab salad or a lobster roll.
2014 Rose l’Instant, Domaine Fondrèche $12.95 sale price, $12.30 reorder
The perennial winner of the palest Rosé in da house award, we’re big fans of this sleek, crisp offering from the Rhône Valley’s Ventoux region. Sébastien Vincenti is the winemaker, and we have found (after years of experience) that his Rosé drinks very well into its second year! The faintest bit of red fruit suggests pairing it with a sunny day on the beach.
2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Domaine Boudinaud $13.99, $11.19 reorder
TWH pals Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud have several vineyard sources to draw from, and this white is ALL Côtes-du-Rhône. It’s 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Rousanne, so it’s fuller bodied and round on the palate, yet is fresh as a daisy. It’s another one that can be served as a cocktail wine, but bring it to the table and start carving that chicken!
2013 Minervois, Astruc Ste. Eulalie $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
A blend of Syrah, Carignan, and Grenache, this herb scented, dusty fruited red is medium bodied and pure. Languedoc’s Minervois appellation takes its name from the village of Minerve named after the Roman goddess of wisdom. This sun-drenched red will compliment a wide array of cuisines, particularly those found along the Mediterranean.
2012 Lagrein, Cortaccia $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Lagrein is most likely native to Alto Adige, or Sudtirol, in northeast Italy. Despite the high elevations, during growing season days can reach warm temperatures to ripen grapes. At its best, Lagrein is noted for its deep plum and cherry flavors and firm acidic structure. It begs for food and pairs nicely with roasted and grilled red meats or strong cheeses.
2013 Bonarda, Argento $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
In Argentina, Bonarda is only second to Malbec in the number of plantings. It originally hails from France and also grows in the Napa Valley where it is known as Charbono. A late ripener, this rustic varietal produces deeply colored reds with strong tannins. Aromatically spicy with plumy fruit, match it with hearty, comfort foods, pizza or gourmet burgers.
2014 Malbec, Alberto Furque $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Representing one of the best value red wines in the shop, we’ve been big fans of the Furque’s Malbec for over a decade! What’s not to love? All tank-fermented, big bold aromas of purple fruits and olallieberries, the palate is full bodied, yet all in balance with sweet tannins. It’s another barbecue friendly red, we’re thinking cowboy steak with chimichurri.
2014 Luberon, Tour de l’Isle $15.59, $12.47 reorder
The bouquet of fresh purple and black berry fruit is up front and center at first whiff, but Robert Rocchi’s Tour de l’Isle Luberon has plenty of substance to seduce the taster to pour a second glass. It’s mostly Syrah, with some Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault blended in. Its light tannins make it a great all purpose red: Pizzas, pastas, meatballs, etc.
2012 Montravel Terrement, Château Puy-Servain $19.99, $15.99 reorder
Last but certainly not least is Daniel Hecquet’s ringer of a Montravel that we feel can hold its own in a blind Saint Emilion tasting. Made from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, it has bold aromas of brambly fruit, a hint of spice, and a touch of mocha. On the palate it is firm, yet fruity; the red to open up with good company and rack of lamb.
Zinfandel reached American shores approximately 200 years ago. Soon after arriving, Zinfandel travelled west to California where it flourished, achieved success and has become so respected and adored that it is now commonly accepted to refer to it as America’s grape. A true American wine tale. I understood its allure early in my wine life. Zinfandel makes a wine that is easy to grasp and appreciate. The flavors are bold and forward; the pleasure is immediate. For me the connection is Zinfandel + Russian River = family + summer + good times. That’s why to mark the unofficial start of summer, a bottle of Zinfandel will trek up north with me to the family dacha this weekend. What will I be toting along? Poco a Poco’s 2014 Russian River Zinfandel.
Winemaker Luke Bass
Poco a Poco is a line of wines made by Luke Bass of Porter Bass Vineyards. Luke sources organic grapes along with his own biodynamically grown grapes to make easy, immediately accessible, well-crafted wine at more than fair prices. Thinking about this now, I can’t really come up with too many other producers who are deliberately using grapes of this quality to make value-priced wine on a small scale. Maybe there is no glory in it or probably the economics don’t play out well enough. All this means is that this wine buyer spends a lot of time combing through offers, meeting with vendors and keeping her eyes and ears open to who’s doing what to find such a gem.
Luke and Son on tractor
The 2014 Zinfandel is sourced from the Forchini family that owns a 24 acre vineyard 1/2 mile east of the Russian River just south of Limerick Lane. The vineyard is farmed organically. Luke, as he does with all his wine, approaches winemaking by celebrating the grape. For this Zinfandel, he fermented the grapes with native yeast and aged the wine in neutral French oak. Pretty straightforward, if you ask me. The resulting wine captures the zesty berry burst of Zinfandel allowing the tanginess of the fruit to emerge. Not soupy or marred by oak notes, this is a resoundingly bright natured Zinfandel. The inherent acidity will play nicely at the table, especially with bold-flavored grilled fare and won’t shy away from American barbecue.
I called my mom to find out what was on the menu for the family get-together dinner. She said “the usual Zaharoff cook-out…Bulgogi, rice, fresh cabbage salad, bean sprouts salad and a bunch of other stuff”. For years growing up I thought the classic Korean Bulgogi was actually a Russian dish. It is not a far stretch to imagine how a Russian immigrant family came to adopt classic Korean dishes as their own and turning it into their American tradition, serving it on National Holidays at family gatherings. I am excited to see how the Poco a Poco Zinfandel will soak up the savory flavors of the rum-marinated beef and sesame seed oil seasoned salads. I think its going to be a sensational pairing. And yes, Kon, I really am bringing a bottle of this wine to the River! – Anya Balistreri