Time is flying. In a recent email back-and-forth with one of our suppliers in Bordeaux, she exclaimed, “It seems like we’re still dealing with the 2015 campaign; and now, it’s time for the 2016’s! Crazy!” That’s just how it is. Time flies. And because time is fleeting, some things must be done sooner than later, as there are finite windows of time. Wait too long and opportunities may pass. Alas, contrary to that, there are also closed windows which will open sometime in the future. That’s where patience is required. It’s funny, patience and Bordeaux just go together. One of the secrets of patient people is that we are very much aware how time flies, so every day of waiting brings us closer to whatever it is we are waiting for. Like a wine.
It’s been an eventful week here at TWH. The Wine Spectator released its Top Ten Wines of the year over the course of this week, and we were greeted with ringing phones and many orders for Wine #9 first thing Monday morning. (We still have a very limited amount of the 2012 Château Clos Fourtet available on Pre-Arrival – Expected early 2016). More of the same for Wine #6 on Wednesday (though that wine is now sold out), and then we watched the rest of the show in somewhat peace and quiet. It triggered some fine conversation around here.
It started out as a concept brought to light while fighting off a bout of insomnia, but after five years, it seems to have stuck. A Top Ten Wines of the Year list. We taste so, so many wines each year – whether in the form of reps pouring samples on site, to airfreighted samples that arrive from overseas, the occasional trade tasting, here in SF, LA, Chicago, or New York, or the litany of wines that come at us on tasting trips overseas. Add them up, and we’re talking about thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers! Keeping that in mind, just making the selections as to which wines to stock is a fairly severe exercise which endorses a paltry few bottles compared to all that we taste. Now, take those wines and choose our ten favorites; that is a tough assignment! For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wine lists from 2013,
The phantom. Depending on your timing, you may have seen it on our sales floor, or maybe not. You see, the “Apud Sariacum” Sancerre has been the darling of a high-profile, wine-centric restaurant in the Los Angeles area for a few years. Funny thing is, this resto is known for switching out its wine list often, yet the “Apud” resided there for FOUR VINTAGES! Yep, it’s that people-pleasing. It was a difficult task making sure that there was enough to keep them pouring it continuously, many times resulting in our pulling it from the sales floor. All good things must come to an end, and after a very long ride, the restaurant’s policy of mixing it up resulted in the “Apud’s” replacement. That’s good news for the rest of us! A phantom no more. This bright, refreshing Sancerre is full of life with its zesty citrus aromas framed in stony minerality. Easy to like, you can pour it as an aperitif, or pair it with those dishes that beg for a zippy Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’d have asked any of us last year if there would be a wine from the Republic of Georgia in our annual top ten, we may have reacted inquisitively, as in “really?” As you probably already know, we look all over the world for wines to stock here in our shop. And when we say all over, we mean ALL OVER! The Orgo Saperavi took us by storm with its juxtaposition of softness and solid structure. Kind of reminds us of the “fist in a velvet glove” analogy. It comes with a great story too. I love it when a wine gets us talking about history, clay kveri, and Teinturier grapes!
As David continues to travel to Burgundy (and beyond!) in search of new wines and producers, we are collectively excited at the prospect of welcoming them to our shelves! If you think about it, it takes a lot of work. On these road trips, one tastes a lot of wine. Those outside the wine business make light of this with quips like, “tough job,” “it must be nice,” and “somebody’s got to do it.” Let’s just say that finding wines to bring back home takes a lot of time and patience. One thing that David does regarding new producers is he tastes several vintages before pulling the trigger. He tasted young Stephane Magnien’s wines again and again, and after a few years, bam! Here they are. The entire line is impressive, as Stephane’s holdings include some fancy locales! But we were all quite taken by the 2011 Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru “Aux Petites Noix.” One thing that is never looked for, yet always mentioned in my tasting notes when present is “X-tra D,” or extra dimension. This one has it.
And from right here in our own backyard, from the Sonoma Coast, we were introduced to a new wine made by some old friends. The celebrated vintner Steve Kistler and business partner Mark Bixler teamed up once again to produce an amazing Pinot Noir under the Occidental label. There isn’t a whole lot of production, so when we saw the chance to get our hands on a teeny-tiny allocation, we jumped at it. You should have been in the tasting room when we all tasted the sample, it was poured into one glass, each of us taking tiny sips and emerging with wide eyes and happy disbelief! We weren’t the only ones who jumped at the chance. The Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir disappeared from our shelves literally hours after they were placed there!
This one was an example of a wine coming to us! Though there are wine reps here pouring wines multiple times per week for Anya, it is a rare occasion when a rep pours for Anya, Chris, Tom, and myself collectively. This meeting was set up by David, who knew of the 7 or 8 samples to be poured, and strongly advised us to pay close attention to the 2012 Saumur Rouge from Hauts de Sanziers. In retrospect, he didn’t need to mention it. However, mentioning it did create an expectation level that was not only met, but surpassed! It’s a light-styled herbaceous Cabernet Franc from Saumur that has a Burgundian feel, and as Anya once said, “It’s light, but without being thin.” More wine-geek wine here. Loire Valley Cabernet Franc is not for everybody, but if you like the woodsy herbal quality one finds in them, this one’s for you too.
So there we are, already well into 2015! The UGC de Bordeaux passed through town pouring the 2012’s from bottle back at the end of January. 2012 is not a “vintage of the century,” but a solid one with plenty of wines to like. There are containers on the water. David will be headed to France next month, and I will follow shortly thereafter. All of that means we are hard at work, not only looking for our Top Ten of 2015, but for a fine stable of solid wines that we can present for your enjoyment. Onwards and upwards!! – Peter Zavialoff
Here’s a Cinderella story about passion, friendship, hard work, and good fortune. This tale begins with my first visit to Bordeaux. To say it was eventful would be a massive understatement. For a Bordeaux enthusiast to visit the region for the very first time and basically hit ALL of the most famous chateaux and taste their wines was about as memorable as it gets! As we wound down our final day, I was awash in gratitude for all I had experienced. Aha! I was in store for one more memorable event. After a wrong turn or two, and then some right turns, I parked the car at Tertre Roteboeuf. We walked down into the cellar, and I was introduced to François Mitjavile.
From The Wine Advocate: “The 2011 has a wonderful, pastille-like bouquet with unerring intensity, with a Burgundy, Vosne-Romanee-type mineralite. The palate is very pure with filigree tannins, a crystalline composition with wonderful balanced and precision on the finish. This is a stunning Roc de Cambes that makes you wonder why they bothered back in 1855. Tasted March 2012. 91-93 points” – Neal Martin
*(Top picture from candbscene.net, middle picture from wine.com.tw)
It was like a splash of cold water in the face. Bam! World Series over and done, and all memory of summer with it. Throw in a rain shower, the time change, hoops and hockey on the TV, and all of sudden it’s, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Sheesh! I saw it coming, but I sure didn’t feel it coming. My perception of Thanksgiving has changed in recent years, so I’m looking forward to it, but whoa, there’s a lot of stuff to do between here and there! Things that you’re all going to be hearing about soon, like the Anniversary Sale, Thanksgiving itself, and a dinner in January with Chateau Brane Cantenac, are all coming into view; full steam ahead! Since we still have more than a couple of weeks until the fourth Thursday in November, let me tell you about a very special wine that you may find ideal for this fall’s (and beyond) celebrations. Our final allocation of 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet is here and ready for you all to enjoy!
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!!!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
|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)”