Category Archives: 2014 Bordeaux

Value 2014 Pauillac – Chateau d’Armailhac


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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Pauillac, Peter Zavialoff

A Prime 2014 Bordeaux Value – Chateau Senejac


A good-sized parcel of 2014 Bordeaux has landed at TWH! Though several others are still en route, many have now hit our sales floor. I have been closely listening to Peter talk up the vintage, making a strong case for its quality and comparable value, especially on the Left Bank. With Peter’s guidance, TWH seized the opportunity to load up on high-quality, value-oriented Bordeaux from 2014 in addition to the region’s high-flyers. Only after customers who bought wines on futures were notified and the last pallet was broken down, did I buy my first bottle of 2014 to take home – the 2014 Sénéjac.


I selected the 2014 Sénéjac for three reasons:
1) It’s under $20
2) In really good vintages, Sénéjac always ends up on “sleeper of the vintage” lists
3) The crown logo and script font reminds me of another one of my favorite Bordeaux chateau, Branaire Ducru.

I took home the bottle, popped open the cork and poured a glass for myself for no other reason than to edify myself on 2014 Bordeaux. I need a reference point, a place to start all future comparisons. A sub-$20, Haut-Médoc seems like a reasonable place to start.

When I was first introduced to Bordeaux, working here at TWH, I either tasted young Bordeaux in order to acquaint myself with TWH stock or I was treated to cellared, well-aged fine Bordeaux courtesy of David and Company. I got spoiled fast and as a result liked to claim that I didn’t like young Bordeaux, only Bordeaux with some age on it. There was both truth and pretentiousness to this declaration. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy young Bordeaux more and more. I think some of it has to do with changing wine styles as well as the overall advancement of quality in the region. In some years, 2009 comes to mind, young Bordeaux tastes great from the get-go. No need to wait, but if you find one you like in particular, buying some to cellar is a good thing too.


On Mother’s Day I hosted dinner for nine including my mother, mother-in-law, sister and spiritual mother. I promised to keep it low-key, but it was work nonetheless. I made a pork tenderloin in an agrodolce sauce studded with dry fruit and citrus zest and paired it with the Le Nid 2013 Moulin-à-Vent. As much as I enjoy making a meal for others, this year a long held fantasy was actualized. My daughter made me a special Mother’s Day breakfast. She planned the meal and shopped for it. In the morning, she quietly got out of bed, closed my bedroom door to allow me to sleep longer undisturbed. It was one of the tastiest meals of my life!


Speaking of all things tasty, the 2014 Sénéjac is one of those young Bordeaux that tastes pretty darn good right now. Maybe not as dense as I remember some of the 2009 to be, what the 2014 Sénéjac has going for it is overall balance. The components are all there in harmony: fruit, acid, tannin. The aromas are undeniably Bordeaux with plum and red currant notes, a hint of oak that sneaks out of the glass but gets buried in the fruit on the palate. A classy expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I am looking forward to revisiting the rest of the wine tonight!Anya Balistreri

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Barbecue Wine, Haut-Medoc, Petits Chateaux, Value Bordeaux in San Francisco

Boots On The Ground In Bordeaux And 2014 Chateau Couronneau


Bordeaux – 1 April 2017. After two reasonably smooth flights, I arrived in Bordeaux on Wednesday afternoon, preparing to take part in the annual En Primeur tastings. If you follow these kind of things, you probably have heard some pretty good news so far. As I type this, I have only tasted six of them, so I will reserve judgement, at least until after tomorrow, where a warehouse full of barrel samples awaits. In addition to the barrel samples, I am also here to taste already bottled wines and to take in the zeitgeist of this year’s proceedings.


It’s great – each year, there are always new things to see, to learn, to taste, and to figure out. But there are also many familiar things as well. One such exercise is now bordering on ritual, and that would be the Saturday rental car pickup and the drive out to Sainte Foy la Grande to visit the Hecquets in Montravel and the Piats in Ligiuex which I did again early this morning. First stop was at Château Couronneau to visit Bénédicte and Christophe Piat.

The three of us sat in their living room pictured above and caught up on things. They’re on the fast track to becoming empty nesters, as their youngest will be leaving the family home soon to finish her studies abroad. And in the wine department, Christophe explained to me that beginning with his 2015’s, he has changed the type of filtration he uses. The net-net of this is that the wines need a bit more time after bottling before they are fully resolved and ready to drink. I tasted through their entire line of 2015’s, which were all recently bottled, save the blanc, which was bottled in late December. Change in filtration or not, the 2015’s were going to need some time in bottle regardless. We also spoke at length about the 2016 vintage, and they asked me if I had tasted any barrel samples yet. “Just six,” I said, yet still smiling, for the first three were at Château Margaux. With a chuckle and a wry smile, Christophe matter-of-factly inferred it was standard practice to taste Margaux and then Couronneau due to their similarities (his idea of an April Fool’s joke).

16th Century Château Couronneau – 1 April 2017

Yep, That’s a 16th Century Moat – 1 April 2017
Christophe went on to say his 2016’s were plentiful and the quality was outstanding. They too were going to need some time. The wines from Couronneau are usually ready to go once they’re released, but the Piats cautioned me that the past two vintages will be at their respective best five years after release. So what vintage to drink now? The 2014, of course. I asked Christophe his thoughts on the matter, and he feels that the 2014 exhibits lighter acid levels than the past two vintages, and that the fruit is more supple and silky. He admits that the 2014 Couronneau is fine to drink now, but it will be at its best 2 to 5 years from now. I popped a bottle shortly before leaving San Francisco, and I just loved the aromatic expression and the medium-full body of this lovely wine. The Piats’ biodynamic practices have obviously paid off!

The Vines Will Follow Soon, But The Vineyard Is Alive

We recently received our final drop of the 2014 Couronneau, so it’s in stock at the moment. So try a bottle today. If you like it, we’ve got a super deal for you. If you already know and enjoy this wine, the deal is good for you as well. Beginning tonight, we are offering a “special full case discount.” It’s much better than our normal discount, and we do not want to be disorderly and advertise this unheard of price in all the usual online places. If you would like to know what the discount is, simply load 12 or more bottles into your online shopping cart and you will see what it is. ***Please note: You can easily remove the items from your cart should you not wish to make the purchase.

Alors. The (semi-) mellow part of the trip is now finished. Over the next 7 days, I am going to be hit with a barrage of barrel samples from the 2016 vintage. I am ready. Should any of you be curious about any particular 2016 sample, please feel free to drop me a note, and I will do my best to taste it and report back with my observations. In the meantime, should you wish to profiter from a super deal on a fine bio-dynamically farmed wine from a seriously great vintage grab a full case (or two) today!Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about the 2016 Bordeaux En Primeurs, Bordeaux in general, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Barbecue Wine, Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, Value Bordeaux in San Francisco

New Arrival – 2014 Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc


Last weekend we mentioned the fact that we have had several visitors from Bordeaux drop by over the past week and a half. This is an annual occurrence, as this has been the week that the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings of the 2014 vintage, now in bottle, take place across the continent. They started last Friday in Miami, and have now moved through Philadelphia, New York, Toronto, Chicago, and they are in Los Angeles tonight. The traveling junket arrives in our fair city tomorrow for a tasting at the Saint Francis Hotel. UGC Tastings are usually well attended affairs, and this one promises to be packed. Large crowds are not exactly my cup of tea, but I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to taste the 2014’s now that they’re bottled.



The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux was a very good one … with very fair prices! It was a homogenous vintage, as each of Bordeaux’s appellations turned out well-balanced, classically styled wines. In the scheme of things, tasting the red wines from 2014 out of barrel was not as challenging as in some other vintages. But still, the debut of bottled 2014s promises to provide us with purple teeth and plenty of tannins tomorrow, though the tasting is not confined to red wines only. The dry whites of Pessac-Léognan will be represented; and I may be in the minority here, but out of barrel, I preferred the 2014 dry whites to their 2015 counterparts. I’ve gone on the record declaring my admiration for dry white Bordeaux on several occasions, and one of my favorite dry white producer’s 2014 wine has just landed here at TWH: Château Carbonnieux!
Like I said, the vintage was a very good one for the reds and dry whites, and Carbonnieux turned out another tempting barrel sample. I picked up some fleshy yellow fruit and melon on the nose, its palate entry was bright and zippy, with the acidity and complexity expanding mid palate. There were hints of chalky minerals present, framing a promising barrel sample. And tomorrow, I will have an updated tasting note which begins, “From bottle, UGC SF 1/27/17.” I’m excited.

I’m guessing Neal Martin has tasted this from bottle by this point, but here are his words about 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc from barrel: “The Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2014 has a pretty nose in the making: precise apple blossom and blackcurrant leaf aromas that gently waft from the glass. The palate is crisp on the entry, the acidity not as shrill as some of its peers, thus rendering it a more “languid” Pessac-Léognan. There is already a very elegant, gravelly finish that lingers in the mouth-a very promising Carbonnieux Blanc that may merit a higher score after bottling.”

Tomorrow’s tasting promises to be a great event! It’s always educational to discover how the finished wine is a couple of years after tasting its respective barrel samples. And if the young red wines get to my palate with their youthful structures, it sure is good to know that there will also be an array of high-quality dry white Bordeaux in the house! – Peter Zavialoff

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Peter Zavialoff, Semillon

White Bordeaux For $10?


There are deals and then there are deals. As I mentioned the other day, there are great wines with their prices slashed all over the shop. In a way, almost too many; it’s our way of saying thanks to our customers! When there are so many choices, sometimes some of the best deals go unnoticed. Make that under-noticed, as evidenced by a visit from one of our long-time regular customers. This gent has been known to pick up a Dirty Dozen on a fairly regular basis, and he also peruses our bins mixing and matching an additional case or so. This past week, he went about his usual business, but with one exception. “Can you grab me a case of the 2014 Château Couronneau Blanc? I love that wine, and that’s just too good a deal to pass up,” he said. I agreed.

chateaucouronneaugate

My first experience with Château Couronneau’s white wine came in the spring of 2008. John and I were in Bordeaux for En Primeurs, and as the hectic week came to a close, we found ourselves in Sauternes and Fargues on a Friday morning. Sauternes for breakfast? If you know me, this is a rhetorical question. But what was for lunch? John seemed to know, so I just enjoyed the scenery. We blazed a trail through Entre Deux Mers, it was quite bucolic. I do remember that we made a stop in Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, which was cool, but I was getting hungry. We continued out past Sainte-Foy-la-Grande and arrived at Château Couronneau. It was then when I met Bénédicte and Christophe Piat for the first time. They welcomed us to their home, we tasted through their red wines and then, what’s this? Couronneau Blanc? I didn’t know that they made a white wine. I loved it. It came in particularly handy as the Piats served up a platter of assorted shellfish. It was the first warm, sunny day of the week, and the blanc fit the bill perfectly.

christopheetbenedicte2016
Christophe and Bénédicte at Couronneau, April 2016

As he did back then, Christophe continues to blend 50% Sauvignon Gris with 50% Sauvignon Blanc for his white wine. In the time since that first visit of mine, Piat has attained organic certification, and now also is certified biodynamic. His passion for improving his techniques in the vineyard and winery is plain for all to see – and taste! The quality of their entire line of wines has steadily risen every vintage since. This 2014 Bordeaux blanc is delightfully balanced; fresh citrus fruit, a hint of a floral component, and fresh herbs are present on the nose. The palate is medium in body, clean and fresh with that citrus fruit mingling with the flowers and herbs. The finish is all in balance and crisp. It’s modest $15.98 price tag is a solid bargain for the quality you get here. Lowering the price to $11.95, or $10 each per solid case, is bargain city, baby. Just saying.

couronneauvines

The holidays are upon us, that much is true. Things have become kind of crazy around here, good-crazy that is! We’re thrilled to help everyone pick out wines for every occasion that December brings. With the sale extended through the end of the year, it’s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. Though if you like a nice, easy-drinking white Bordeaux for a crazy unheard of price, I strongly suggest you try a bottle of the 2014 Couronneau Blanc. After all, there are deals, and there are deals.Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about white Bordeaux, Bordeaux in general, our Anniversary Sale, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, fish-fry wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauvignon Gris, White Bordeaux

Working Saturdays & Bordeaux Barrel Samples – 2014 Château Sénéjac


We’re hoping that you all had a happy and safe Halloween, wherever you may be. We had a bit of a parade in the shop today with folks in costume; little and not so little alike. It got me to thinking. Earlier in the week, on my usual Wednesday off, I was finishing up a little business with some people whom I wasn’t familiar with, and was asked, “Do you always have a day off during the week?” I answered affirmatively, but explained that I work on Saturdays, which balances that out. But Saturdays are good days here at TWH; that’s the day that we receive the most foot traffic. More foot traffic means more interaction with more customers! A fairly regular Saturday customer popped in for another case of 2010 Château de Malleret (it wasn’t his first!), and as I helped him out, we got to chatting about it.




As anyone who has done so can attest to, bringing up Bordeaux with me will be met with much enthusiasm as well as a story or two. It started with the Malleret, and how pleased I was when I tasted it from bottle at a negociant’s office in Bordeaux. I explained to this gent that I was proud that I found such a wine that has been enjoyed so much by our customers (and staff) for such a reasonable price. I also pointed out that I probably don’t get to taste it if I just went to Bordeaux for the barrel samples. He then began to ask about the barrel samples and how one can appraise a wine not yet in bottle. This warrants a long story, so I’ll spare you that one. The short of it is, speaking for myself, you can’t. At least I can’t tell you what it’s going to taste like 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years down the road. I explained that a bottle of wine is a living thing, and that tasting a barrel sample and describing its complexity 20 years in the future is tantamount to pointing at an infant and declaring it to be a Senator. BUT – tasting a barrel sample does give you an overall impression of a wine’s potential structure, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and most important, balance. Taste enough samples from various appellations, and one gets an impression of the overall character of the vintage. I know, I know. It must be nice … It’s work. Trust me on that one.


Back in late March/early April, I was in Bordeaux for the annual tastings. I arrived on the Wednesday before the hectic week, giving me time to visit growers and negociants. The UGC tastings are important, as that is where many of the well-known chateaux pour their samples. But these days we know there aren’t any bargains at a UGC tasting; hence the negociants’ tastings. I’ve come in habit of hitting one major tasting of barrel samples (see above photo) on Sunday. Hundreds of wines; many of which are petits chateaux. I said it was work, right? With the 2014 vintage, I found many samples to my liking. I get particularly excited when I like one and I know that it’s going to be inexpensive. This year the barrel sample that packs the most quality for the lowest price for me is the 2014 Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc. Not being used to the current dollar/euro conversion rate, I was thinking $18-$20 in my head when I tasted it. I felt it worthy. My tasting note ended with “The right stuff.” Underlined. “Good, honest wine”, I called it. It had excellent weight, pleasant extract, the right amount of acidity and tannin, and most importantly, all in balance. When I got back and we crunched the numbers, we offered it as part of our 2014 futures. $13. Not a typo. $13. For a bottle of Bordeaux. Okay, not yet a bottle, but for a bottle in the future. $13. What?

Okay, one must have a modicum of patience when they buy Bordeaux futures. They take 3 years after vintage to arrive stateside. The 2014 Château Sénéjac will arrive here by the end of 2017. When it does, it probably won’t be $13 (if any is unsold in the first place). Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had to say about the 2014 Sénéjac:
“The Château Sénéjac 2014 has a fresh, lively bouquet, energetic blackberry and boysenberry fruit leaping from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied and tones it down a little. But there is commendable energy here, well-judged acidity and plenty of blackberry and raspberry fruit on the finish that linger long in the mouth. This comes recommended. (89-91 points)”


With Halloween behind us and November upon us, we will be unveiling our 38th Anniversary Sale very, very soon. Keep an eye out for that. For those of you who are experienced with buying Bordeaux futures, a six-pack of Sénéjac is a no-brainer. For those of you who have never bought them, here’s a low cost opportunity to partake in the exercise, which is actually quite fun and exciting once the wine arrives. Seriously, $13. Do you like wine? $13. Boom!Peter Zavialoff

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Haut-Medoc, Peter Zavialoff