Category Archives: Malbec

Bordeaux Update & 2015 Alberto Furque Malbec


While vacillating over whether or not to write about Bordeaux earlier this morning, I discovered that there are a couple of things that must be addressed before I tackle the subject of this week’s Saturday night wine.


#1) The 2016 Bordeaux Futures campaign is in motion. We sent our first offer out a couple of weeks ago, just after Cos d’Estournel released their price. The email included a handful of petits chateaux which we feel showed well at the En Primeur tastings, offering great value in this remarkable vintage. Several other estates have released their pricing since, and we are preparing another offer which we will send early next week. Doubtless, there will be more price releases next week, and the campaign will grow quite busy until the middle of June, at the soonest. Should you have interest in any 2016 Bordeaux wine, released yet or not, please feel free to send me an email: peter@wineSF.com and we can discuss it, reflect pricing (once released), and source it for you, should you approve of the price.

#2) We recently received a new container with a lot of 2014 Bordeaux on it. These wines will be hitting our sales floor sometime later next week. If you have spoken to me about the 2014 vintage, then you already know I’m a big fan, and highly recommend the wines, especially from the Left Bank. I was graciously welcomed to the Thursday Tasting Group’s tasting of 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux the other day. After looking at the roster (d’Armailhac, Branon, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Clerc Milon, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, La Lagune, Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Poujeaux), I knew I would be in for a treat. Part of the TTG experience is to rank the wines from 1 to 9 in order of one’s preference. At the conclusion, it was said by several tasters that if they were served the wine they respectively ranked 9th, they would enjoy them very much. When I reported this back to David, he just smiled and said, “Well, that’s Bordeaux for you. It’s not uncommon for ALL the wines to show well.” From a price-to-quality perspective, 2014 offers the best value from this impressive trio of vintages.


To say it’s been hectic around here would be an understatement. Juggling the pricing for the futures with the arrival of the “presents” can be daunting. One thing that I am looking forward to is standing around a grill this weekend with friends, preparing some delicious barbecue. There’s a new vintage of one of our staff favorites that I tasted this past week that will be perfect for this grilling affair: 2015 Alberto Furque Malbec.

It’s not Bordeaux, but Malbec’s roots can be traced back to the region, as it was historically used in Bordeaux blends. The plants’ susceptibility to rot and disease saw it lose favor among French vignerons, and now very few Bordelais grow the variety. Sometime in the mid 1800’s, vine cuttings made their way over to Argentina, and they thrived. The rest is history. Malbec is grape variety numero uno in Argentina.

Carolina Furque

How time flies … we’ve been carrying the Alberto Furque Malbec for over a decade! It’s now made by Alberto’s daughter Carolina, and we just love the pure expression of her wines. Everything is hand-harvested, the wine ferments in steel tank, and its elevage takes place in concrete vats; all contributing to the wines’ fresh fruity aromas and profile. Heck, I wasn’t expecting to take to this wine like I did the other night when I took it to a dinner, but its freshness and seductive fruit contributed to a speedy depletion of the bottle’s contents. When I went in for my second glass, all I got were the lucky drops! Having no oak influence gives the fruit the spotlight. It has a plummy character, both in the aromas and on the palate, there are notes of cherries, raspberries, and black currants. The palate is medium to fuller bodied with well-dialed-in balancing acidity, and the tannins are finely integrated. All in all, it’s a superb wine that will suit meals such as steak with chimichurri, pastas with meatballs or sausages, or pulled pork. This weekend, I will pair it with a dry-rubbed tri-tip, grilled to perfection. With barbecue season upon us for the next several months, this is a great wine to have around … for two reasons: Quality and price. The case price is ridiculous.


To all of you Moms out there, we wish you a Happy Mothers’ Day tomorrow! I’m looking forward to visiting my Mom around midday. We will be preparing her favorite, salmon; pairing it with a crisp Rosé. Afterwards, I am planning on attending a memorial reception for a San Francisco restauranteur whom I was lucky to have known and have enjoyed the “family treatment” from his progeny for decades. Later in the evening, I will head over to visit some friends, and we’ll get busy grilling up the tri-tip and pulling a couple of corks of Malbec. A topic of conversation sure to arise around said grill will be English Football and the newly crowned champions. Though my support remains on the sidelines until a certain unsporting individual leaves the club, I am happy for the Blues and for my family of Chelsea brothers and sisters. I’ve got a lot on my plate tomorrow, so by the time I get to that footy conversation, I will be ready for that tri-tip, perfectly paired with Carolina’s 2015 Malbec!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2016 Bordeaux Futures, 2014 Bordeaux, great dry-rub recipes, or the Champions of England: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Alberto Furque, Argentina, Barbecue Wine, Malbec, Peter Zavialoff

2013 Alberto Furque Malbec – Juicy, Bold, and Grill Friendly!

2013 Alberto Furque Malbec
Alberto Furque’s 2013 Malbec is the 10th vintage The Wine House has stocked from this family-run winery. It has a seductive combination of explosive fruit, bold flavors and impeccable balance. And, because no oak is used, the fruit takes center stage allowing the terroir to shine through.

A view of the Andes from the winery

Bodegas Aconquija is the name of the farm established in 1938 that Alberto Furque purchased to start his venture into wine-making. The estate is located in a prime area of Argentina’s wine growing region, the Uco Valley. This area is about an hour south of the city of Mendoza. Bodegas Aconquija is in La Consulta at the southern end of the valley. In this part of the valley, extreme high altitudes keep grape yields low and flavors concentrated.

Winemaker Carolina Furque

Carolina Furque, Alberto’s daughter, is the winemaker at the estate. The grapes are all hand-harvested and fermented in steel tanks. The wine then rests in concrete tanks before bottling. I truly appreciate this style of winemaking; it relies heavily on bringing quality fruit to the winery. The wine is lush, deeply fruited but also displays a floral aspect that is prized and characteristic of Uco Valley Malbec.

Grilling the Furque-way!

Cooking outdoors during summer months can be necessary but it is also a lot of fun! Our gas grill was decommissioned, so out came the Weber, dusted off from sitting in the corner of the garage all year. The classic Weber grill reminds me that grilling outside does not have to be that complicated. A fire with something to act as a barrier between the ashes and food is all you need. Just look at the photo above, that’s grilling the Furque-way. I love the spontaneity that photo conveys of just throwing down fire and cooking up something delicious. You can bet that back at the table, Furque Malbec was filling everyone’s glass. – Anya Balistreri

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August 2012 Dirty Dozen

How fortunate that summer gives us not 1, but 2 months with 31 days in them. Let’s revel in that! That leaves plenty of time for more picnicking and barbecuing, among other fun summer endeavors. Whether you’re on vacation, a staycation, or are enjoying the longer daytime hours that summer gives us, let the Dirty Dozen satisfy all your vinous needs.

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2011 Chardonnay, House Of Independent Producers $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
The House of Independent Producers Chardonnay is an unoaked, terroir-driven quaffer from the Columbia Valley AVA in Washington state. The nose has a solid core of pale yellow fruit wrapped with minerals; the palate is fresh and crisp with hints of apples and citrus. A great food wine, this will pair well with seared scallops, lentils, and corn.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Koura Bay $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Here at TWH, we’re always on the lookout for wines of quality and character. When we taste one that has a very modest price tag, well, that’s when we act. Such was the case when the Koura Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was poured for us. It has a citrus-like profile and an amazing amalgam of herbal notes. Serve it with a cool garden salad.

2011 Vinho Verde, Vera $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Every DD wine is picked for its versatility, and the Vera Vinho Verde from Northern Portugal is exactly that. Meaning “green wine” this Vinho Verde has a citrusy profile reminiscent of grapefruits. Pour it along side a light pasta dish.

2010 Chardonnay/Viognier, Laurent Miquel $10.48 net price, $9.43 reorder
Winemaker Laurent Miquel blends 65% Chardonnay with 35% Viognier sourced from his vineyards in France’s Languedoc region and the result is a winner! The aromas are fruity and rich with hints of peaches, apricots, and lemon-lime. On a hot August night, a chilled glass of Miquel’s Chardonnay/Viognier makes for a terrific by the glass sipper.

2011 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $14.99, $11.99 reorder
In Italy’s Lake Garda region lies the Lugana DOC. Ca’Lojera is run by Ambra and Franco Tiraboschi, and we are happy and proud to resume our relationship with them with the 2011 Lugana. Made from 100% Trebbiano di Garda, or Turbiana (as the locals call it), it’s fruity and crisp with hints of melons and citrus throughout. It’s perfect with grilled chicken.

2011 Touraine Rosé, Domaine des Corbillières $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Nearly every summer, the Touraine Rosé is the most popular Rosé among our staff and customers. What’s not to like? Its pale salmon color gets you straight away. Made from Loire Valley stalwart Pineau d’Aunis, it shows aromatic hints of herbs and lemon blossoms. On the palate, it’s perfectly balanced with hints of light citrus fruit. Bring it on a picnic.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, R8 Wine Company $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Especially chosen for this month’s DD is a fine Cabernet Sauvignon from the R8 Wine Co. Sourcing their fruit from California’s Central Coast, the folks at R8 deliver a sturdy, fuller bodied Cab at a more than reasonable price. It shows spicy cedary aromas combined with lush dark brambly berries. It’s the wine you’re going to want with that grilled filet.

2010 Tempranillo, Tapeña $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Hailing from Tempranillo’s original home, Spain, Tapeña’s take on it is a traditional one. The wine has an overall roundness of medium purple fruit, yet shows an abundance of leathery, earthy, and tobacco like notes. You will certainly have no problem pairing it with any kind of tapas you deem appropriate, though we think meatballs in tomato sauce is best.

2007 Tempranillo, Tempusalba $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Over in Argentina, they’re growing Tempranillo as well. The grape is the same, but the New World’s take on it is unmistakeable. With a little bottle age, some of that youthful up-front fruit has mellowed with the herbal profile resulting in a smooth, balanced red wine. This will be perfect with a veal chop with chimichurri sauce.

2011 Malbec, Alberto Furque $14.99, $12.74 reorder
Unusual for us, but this month’s DD boasts a trio of reds from Argentina. #2 is produced by Alberto Furque. The estate is now run by Alberto’s daughter Carolina, and she makes outstanding Malbec from vineyards planted 3,000 feet above sea level. It’s power packed and is further proof of the grape’s success in Argentina. Pair it with a rib eye steak.

2007 Carmenérè, Inacayal $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Staying in Argentina, here’s another grape that’s found a new home. Carmenere, just like the Malbec above, was once commonly found growing at the various châteaux in Bordeaux’s Médoc. Think of it as the best of both worlds, combining the characteristics of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s spicy, full bodied, and delectable. A lamb chop works.

2010 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $13.99, $11.19 reorder
Easing up a bit, we conclude this month’s DD with a medium-bodied blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Enrico Pierazzuoli’s Le Farnete sits just west of Firenze in the Tuscan countryside and his wines speak of the place. His Barco Reale is fresh and clean, it spends 4 months in 1 year old barrel and 4 months in bottle before release. This is a great all-purpose wine that drinks well on its own, yet will shine along side pizza and saucy pasta dishes.

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Filed under Alberto Furque, Argentina, Malbec, Mendoza, New Zealand, Peter Zavialoff, Portugal, Rose, Tempranillo, The Dirty Dozen, Touraine, Washington State

January 2012 Dirty Dozen

Happy New Year! As the whirr of the holi-daze shrinks away in our rear view mirrors, we look forward to many more vinous discoveries coming in 2012! The new year brings hope and optimism, resolutions, and the NFL playoffs! There’s something going on there for us locals, and for you, how about the January 2012 Dirty Dozen? 12 bottles, all chosen for their versatility, packed in a box, for an incredible price. Go SF!

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2009 Cheverny Le Domaine du Moulin, Hervé Villemade – $14.98 net price, $13.49 reorder
Brand new for us is this white blend from Cheverny in the Loire Valley. Cheverny is located just between the cities of Tours and Orleans and boasts one of the Loire’s most famous chateaux. Certified orgainic, Monsieur Villemade blends approximately 70% Chardonnay with 30% Sauvignon Blanc and the result is a delightful balanced wine that shows ample fruit and a crisp finish. A crab salad works fine here.

2009 Mâcon les Tilles, J.M. Chaland – $19.99, $15.99 reorder
Every now and then the Dirty Dozen gets a surprise visit from some highly esteemed appellation; this time it’s Burgundy! Jean-Michel Chaland crafts wonderful terroir driven Chardonnays from his vineyards in and around Mâcon. The vines for les Tilles are approximately 40-50 years old, and the wine is vinified all in steel tank. Rich, round, fleshy white fruit with a hint of the tropics. Drink with that lobster.

2009 Chardonnay, Lalande – $13.49, $10.79 reorder
Grassa. Yves Grassa. He’s the man behind the wines from Domaine Lalande in Gascogne. Seasoned DD veterans are familiar with the name and the wines, which are delectable vintage after vintage. Oscar Wilde once said, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” We imagine Oscar never had a glass of Lalande Chardonnay. We also imagine an open face turkey sandwich with this.

2010 Rosé de Ecuyer de Château Couronneau – $11.99, $9.59 reorder
In Bordeaux, you hear a lot of fuss about the prices of the finest wines, but less often, do you hear about all the production (the famous wines represent around 5% of Bordeaux’s total output). Christophe and Bénédicte Piat are keeping it real for us, proudly sporting the Agricole Biologique banner on their property at Bordeaux’s eastern frontier. This Rosé is fresh and fruity and goes well with bbq.

2010 Scaia Bianco, Tenuta Sant’Antonio – $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Now what do you get when you blend Garganega with Chardonnay? Tom likes to call it a “Super Soave”, and we can’t blame you if you do too as this wine has that soft, fleshy fruit sensation, yet is backed up with a fresh crisp finish. Toss some scampi and serve with pasta.

2010 Montravel Blanc, Château Calabre – $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Next up could very well be the best white wine bargain in the shop! Made just outside Bordeaux in Montravel, Daniel Hecquet blends 50% Sauvignon Blanc with 40% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle resulting in a knock-off White Bordeaux. All steel tank here, the wine is bright and fresh, with plenty of complexity on the palate, and will have you scratching your head as to how it can be done for this price.

2010 Zinfandel, Old Vines, Rail 2 Rail – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
In Lodi, there is an 82 year old farmer named Andy D’Arrigo. He grows lettuce, prickly pears, and grapes. His Zinfandel vines are more than 45 years old, and he has no intention of selling any of his land because, “I don’t know how to grow buildings.” Surf enthusiast/winemaker Eric Laumann came upon Andy and the result is Rail 2 Rail Zin. Tee this up with a rich pizza with sausage and olives.

2008 Monastrell Hécula, Bodegas Castaño – $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
Nestled in Spain’s Yecla DO (appellation of origin) you will find Bodegas Castaño. This 100% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) is grown at altitudes of approximately 750 feet on vines 35 years of age or more. We have nothing but praise for this wine, as it outperforms its price point by a long shot. We’re not the only ones; Steven Tanzer says that it could be a Bandol and Robert Parker heaps praise on wine prospector Eric Solomon, saying, “Solomon’s wines are intense expressions of terroir.” This one could use a big juicy t-bone steak.

2009 Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, The Royal – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Grab the passport, we’re off to South Africa. Though after one sip of this silky smooth Shiraz/Cab blend, you may think you’ve gone to the land down under, but alas, The Royal is from Africa’s southern tip. Adding 40% Cabernet Sauvignon to the blend gives the spicy Shiraz a blackberry backbone with just a hint of mocha spice. What to pair here? Think Africa. How ’bout ostrich fillet? Yum.

2009 Touraine Les Demoiselles – Domaine des Corbillières – $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Not new to us are the wines from Domaine des Corbillières. What IS new to us is Maurice Barbou’s Les Demoiselles cuvée, which is roughly 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Côt (Malbec), and 30% Cabernet Franc. Ding! Ding! Woot! Woot! Winner! Winner! The wine is an aromatic masterpiece of dark red, purple, and black berries, tobacco leaf, and cracked pepper, all singing around a mineral core. Fermented in tank, it’s fresh and juicy. We have a feeling that this one is a keeper. Enjoy with pasta with red sauce.

2007 Chianti Colli Sinese, Montenidoli – $19.99, $15.99 reorder
Oh wait, that pairing suggestion was meant for this wine! Oh well, we can have two pasta with red sauce wines in the same DD. Tuscan wine royalty Elisabetta Fagiuoli brews up some old-school Chianti using Sangiovese and Canaiolo. The wine is dense and rich with an herbal component that screams Old World. It is a Chianti that can be enjoyed now, but will gain in complexity if cellared properly.

2010 Malbec, Alberto Furque – $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Wine without filtration is the motto at Bodega Aconquija, better known to us as Alberto Furque. Winemaker Carolina Furque does not filter any of her wines. She feels that filtration removes important nuances in both aromas and flavors. Sometimes this may result in a little sediment, but the trade-off is worth it. This Malbec is grown at altitudes of around 3000 ft in the Andes Mountains, which is important for acidity levels in the wines. This wine will shine along side a roast pork tenderloin with chimichurri sauce.

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Filed under Alberto Furque, Chianti, Malbec, Monastrell, Peter Zavialoff, Rose, Southwest France, The Dirty Dozen, Touraine

Alberto Furque: 2005 Tempranillo, 2009 Malbec and 2009 Syrah

IMAGINE living in a place where over 80% of the year you are basking in sunshine, and yet, have at your disposal elevations of over 3000 feet, immense diurnal temperature swings, and a river from which to source water (otherwise absent due to lack of rain). What do you do with such extraordinary gifts from Mother Nature? You plant grape vines, that’s what! As it turns out, such a “Grape Utopia” exists in the Uco Valley of Argentina. The Uco Valley is literally an oasis west of Mendoza, situated directly in front of the Andes mountain range and along the northerly course of the Tunuyan River. Argentine winemakers, who have historically based themselves in central Mendoza, are now exploring the Uco Valley, homing in on spots like La Consulta, where amazing, if not previously forgotten, old-vine vineyards can be found.

Moreover, it’s no secret that the world has gone absolutely gaga for Argentine Malbec in recent years, forcing sommeliers and retailers to reorganize their once California and Bordeaux-dominated selections. That said, while Malbec may be king down there, Argentina’s wine industry is not a one-grape show. Apparently, Alberto Furque had a sixth sense about all of this when he purchased the estate called Aconquija (meaning “snow near the moon”) in 1995. Now run by his profoundly dedicated and energetic daughter, Carolina Furque, the estate boasts 74 hectares of what could be the most attentively-tended Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the area. Carolina harvests much later than many other growers in the area, working with an agronomist to be sure that the grapes have achieved total physiological ripeness. Then, after hand-harvesting the fruit, she ferments her grapes in temperature-controlled tanks, and finally, bottles everything unfiltered in order to preserve the intense color and structure of the wines. Uco Valley wines are famous for their incredible concentration of dark currant, plum, and blueberry flavors (the likes of which aren’t seen in other sub-regions of Mendoza) and Carolina’s wines are the epitome of quality in terms of showcasing these trademark characteristics. No wonder they are well-established on list of TWH’s darlings.

Of course, like everyone else we love the story behind the wines, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what’s in the bottle. These wines not only instantly transport you to the heart of Mendoza wine country upon every sip, but they will transform the way you think about South American wines in general. Salud!

2005 Tempranillo
Typical of this variety, this wine displays a deep red color in the glass, serving as the perfect sensory precursor to the rich raspberry, blackberry, and currants that inundate your nose upon first whiff. After a moment, the classic leather and fresh tobacco leaf nuances are revealed, letting you know that this is an old world grape with one H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS of a new world makeover. With 5+ years of age in the bottle, its tannins are sweet and sultry in the mouth, but don’t worry, this is one wine that hasn’t lost its backbone.
2009 Malbec
Malbec lovers rejoice for we’ve a contender for your all-time favorites list. Regarding the 2009 harvest in Argentina, Julia Harding MW said “Malbec seems to be the great champion of the vintage” (cue image of Malbec showing off gold medal on Wheaties box). When customers ask about this wine, we tell them it’s like blueberry preserves but with ample acidity, firm tannins, and just the right amount of black pepper to pique your senses. You’ll have to drink it to believe it, but Furque’s Malbec proves that it’s possible for a wine to be densely concentrated without being overly ripe or baked. As far as food pairings go, sky’s the limit, for this is a versatile wine if ever one existed. 

2009 Syrah
If anyone has any doubts about the origin of Furque’s vines, drink this! Only grapes situated 3000+ feet above sea level could reveal such vibrant acidity as those in this Syrah, especially in South America. Which is not to say it is lacking in the fruit and structure departments. Up front the Syrah is lush and full-bodied, but the burst of acid comes through on the back-end, like a little voice whispering (ok, shouting) in your ear that this wine needs to be paired with some grilled flank steak, peppers, onions, and chimichurri sauce. Oh excuse me! I just drooled on my keyboard… – Emily Crichton

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Filed under Alberto Furque, Argentina, Emily Crichton, Malbec, Mendoza, Syrah, Tempranillo, Uco Valley