Category Archives: Pauillac

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

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Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Pauillac, Peter Zavialoff

Holidays, Favorite Wines, and Memories


Twas the night before Christmas … and the first night of Hanukkah too! Pretty cool, if you ask me, as I’m all for celebrations. Considering the timing of my fortnightly ramble, I’m not expecting as wide an audience to be reading this evening. That takes all the pressure off, as there’s really no need to speak of any specific wine tonight. I figure that we’ve all got our wines for the holiday weekend in place, ready to be shared and enjoyed. So, for the sake of exercise, and since it’s the time of year to break out the good stuff, I will reminisce about some of my very favorite wines.

*I will go on the record here and declare any 1982 red Bordeaux ineligible from this list; much like the Beatles’ exclusion from favorite musical acts lists.
1985 Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac
This wine was served as the final act of a dinner/tasting with some very good friends, and we formed a Bordeaux tasting group that evening. The concept was a good one. Back in the days when one could purchase First Growth Bordeaux for less than $200 per bottle, I was thinking out loud to a couple of friends. “I would love to try a bottle of Mouton, but wouldn’t necessarily want to splurge and just have the one bottle. But if you chipped in $200, and you chipped in $200, and we got a couple more friends to do the same, we could taste 6 bottles of great Bordeaux, and that would be worth it!” This idea caught fire and Carsten and I were in charge of acquiring the special bottles. The evening’s lineup, in order: 1978 Pontet Canet, 1985 Pichon Lalande, 1985 Margaux, 1982 Leoville Las Cases, 1978 Lafite Rothschild, and 1985 Mouton Rothschild. Such a memorable evening with close friends, great food, and amazing wine. The 1985 Mouton took the blue ribbon for its amazing complexity and sublime mouth feel. I hope to taste this wine again someday.
1985 Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard
My all-time favorite California wine. I have been lucky enough to have tasted ’85 Martha’s a handful of times. The very first was with some trader buddies back in my days as a NASDAQ marketmaker at The Little Nell in Aspen. But the most memorable tasting was at “A Taste For Life,” which was a charity tasting put on by Wine Commune in 2001. Due to the generosity of a good friend, I found myself seated at the 1982 Bordeaux table with several Bordeaux enthusiasts. Our conversations were free-flowing and full of passionate stories about Bordeaux. The lineup at our table was: Lafite, Margaux, Mouton, Latour, Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Pichon Lalande, and La Mission Haut Brion. At some point after I tasted the aforementioned, I caught Shaun Bishop walking through the crowd with a bottle sporting that unmistakeable 1985 Heitz Martha’s label (well, it could have been the 1974). You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I asked if I could possibly have a taste. Not only did he oblige, he was quite generous about the pour. I took the glass back to the table and shared it with the rest of those seated. Not only did the Heitz hold its own, it stood out with its abundance of cassis, earth, spice, and that quintessential Martha’s Vineyard menthol/mint/eucalyptus. I didn’t think a wine from California could stand up to some of Bordeaux’s legendary wines from a legendary vintage. I was wrong.
1988 Chateau Margaux
Back to my trader days here. A trader buddy (and one of the boys from the ski trip) from New York recommended I stay at the Eden Hotel when I visited Rome. He strongly advised me to eat in the hotel’s top floor restaurant, which sported a panoramic view of Rome’s skyline. The Colosseum, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, and St. Peter’s were all visible from the dining room. My guest and I dined there the very first night and had such a blast during and after dinner that I tracked down the maitre d’ and asked if we could eat there again on our last night in town. “For you, Mr. Zavialoff, the finest table in Rome.” That’s what he said; no kidding. Two nights later, that’s what we got. That special table in the corner window with the view. Wow. So I decided to go for it and get the Margaux. This experience had a lot to do with why I’m here typing today. It was my first Bordeaux epiphany. Never, at that time, had I tasted such a complex red wine. It had depth, richness, silky tannins, and aromas galore. Our server was wise to keep the decanter out of arm’s reach. This way it lasted all through dinner. It was more spectacular than the finest table in Rome.
1985 Leoville Las Cases
I consider myself very lucky to have tasted 1985 Leoville Las Cases. I was given a bottle as a gift several years ago, and I was saving it for a special occasion. In 2014, my boyhood baseball team won its third World Series in five years, so that was special enough to pop the ’85. (I’ve got a thing for 1985 red Bordeaux.) I brought the bottle to Restaurant Picco in Larkspur, where I pop in fairly regularly. The complexity, mouth feel, and aromatic sensations that I experienced with the 1985 Las Cases, I would put up against anything I’ve ever tasted. My friends and I shared tastes with the manager, assistant manager, several servers, and Chef de Cuisine, Jared Rogers. Every single one of us were completely blown away. 30 year old Bordeaux, still tasting rather fresh, yet showing layers and layers of Bordeaux goodness which comes from time in the cellar. We collectively shed a tear when the bottle came up empty. All we had was a memory. A very happy memory. And the good news is that the generous gent who gave me that bottle has given me another. Thank you! I look forward to that special occasion.
2005 Chateau Coutet, Barsac
Not even a short list of favorite wines would be complete without the 2005 Coutet. It all started when someone came to our shop on Carolina Street and spent a long time in our Sauternes section. I engaged him in conversation and it turned out he was with Chateau La Tour Blanche. He was in town for a 2005 Sauternes tasting at Fort Mason. David made a couple of phone calls, and I went to the tasting. The lineup included Doisy Vedrines, Doisy Daene, Rayne Vigneau, Clos Haut Peyraguey, La Tour Blanche, Coutet, Guiraud, Suduiraut, and Climens. Each wine was tasted by the group at the same time, and all the wines were showing very well. I will never forget what happened when we all tasted the ’05 Coutet. The noise level in the room erupted and smiles and praise beamed from all the tasters. It was quite incredible. My own notes concluded with “Cover off the ball.” It gets better. I put my staff pick sign on this wine and somehow it got back to Chateau Coutet – to Aline Baly specifically. Together, we have hosted three awesome all-Sauternes tasting dinners, and Aline and her uncle Philippe have treated me like family ever since. Having grown up in the Boston area, Aline suggested I try it with lobster. What a great idea. I have very fond memories of 2005 Coutet and lobster shared with my sister for several years. This will always be a special wine for me.

Well, if you made it this far, I thank you. Without reason to flog a wine, I thought it fun to remember some of the great wines I’ve tasted. I don’t mean this to appear as a brag of any sort; but in writing this, I’ve come to remember the people and occasions which got these bottles open in the first place. For me, the most important thing about a good bottle of wine is sharing it. 2016 has been a tumultuous year; we can all agree with that. As I grow older, I become painfully aware that life is short. Some of the people with whom I shared the above wines are no longer with us. Well, we’ve all still got each other, so let me raise a glass and toast: To all of us, may we enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, share some good times, wonderful meals and fine wine, may we live in good health and in peace. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Favorite Wines, Bordeaux, Holidays, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Barsac, Bordeaux, Margaux, Napa Valley, Pauillac, Peter Zavialoff, St. Julien

Quality Is Quality: 2012 Pontet Canet (Pre-Arrival)

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And just like that, Bam!, thanks to the folks at Air France, I’m back in California. En Primeurs 2015 has come and gone, and all I have to show for it are pages and pages of tasting notes, a bunch of emails to catch up on, bills and expense reports, and of course, the memories. In general, the trip was successful as I found many 2014 barrel samples showing the potential for becoming wonderful wines after bottling. I also made time to visit several negociants to taste some back vintages in hopes of finding wines to ship sooner than later. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to taste at two of my favorite chateaux this year, but that happens too. A fellow Bordeaux Scout who works for a local competitor popped in this afternoon and we chatted about our respective impressions. As we were wrapping up, he asked me, “So what was your #1 highlight?” Hmmm. I had several personal highlights; but professionally, it was a conversation.
stemilion
At lunch in St. Emilion, I was with one of our suppliers waiting for her colleague and his two clients to join us at the table. She turned to me and asked, “So now that Robert Parker is not covering Primeurs any longer, who will take his place in the eyes of Americans?” I’m not going to get into my answer today, as time and spacial constraints do not allow for me to answer in full here and now. It was a fairly serious answer, certainly not one for a “Sunday Email,” though I will air it in the form of a blog post soon. I continued to explain that, despite Mr. Parker’s physical absence from Bordeaux in the spring of 2015, his influence was being felt once more. This time, due to a post he placed on The Wine Advocate’s online bulletin board. He wrote, “Just finished tasting over 700 bottles 2012 Bordeaux. Still have about 40 or so to finish, but my initial report in April, 2013 looks to be on the money….with a big exception…the wines are performing better than I originally estimated…which is great considering the ultimate truth is after bottling.” He specifically pointed to Pomerol and Graves, but also mentioned some St. Emilion and some Médoc. Tom and I both attended the 2012 UGC tasting at the end of January, and we both agreed that the wines from Margaux, St. Julien, and Pauillac were stand-outs. Just thinking out loud here, if the Pauillacs of 2012 are showing better than expected, would the 2012 Pontet Canet be of First Growth quality, yet selling for less than $100? I’d bet on it.
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Back in April 2013, I tasted the 2012 Pontet Canet out of barrel, it was one of Pauillac’s standouts. Dense and concentrated, it showed a solid core of dark, lush fruit and earth with captivating structure. The quality of wine Pontet Canet has released for the past 15 years is of the highest standard, and needs to be in the conversation of Bordeaux’s best wine in any vintage. They just do everything right here. When I tasted at Pontet Canet 12 days ago, I asked Mélanie Tesseron about their 2nd wine, Les Hauts de Pontet. She told me there was no reason to show it as there really isn’t very much of it. In fact, it once was comprised of fruit harvested from their youngest vines, but those vines have since matured and in essence, over 90% of their total crop now goes into the grand vin. Operating with the Agence Bio organic certification since 2010, there is a distinct purity of fruit and terroir expression to their wines. This is especially so with their 2012.
horseandvines

So despite not being in Bordeaux personally, Robert Parker’s presence was felt, as word of his upcoming synopsis of 2012 Bordeaux in bottle was all the buzz on both sides of the Gironde. We’ve received many inquiries from customers about the wines of Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan (and Graves), as those were the first two appellations he mentioned in his bulletin board post; but quality is quality, and Pontet Canet has quality in spades. Pass at your own peril.Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about 2012 Bordeaux, 2014 Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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2010 Château Tour Du Roc Milon, Pauillac

It’s always exciting around here when new Bordeaux containers arrive. As we wrote last week, we are in a fortunate position as direct-importers to bring over only the wines that suit our standards. A couple of our suppliers in Bordeaux have begun the practice of sending sample packs with up to 24 bottles for us to taste. We like to go about tasting these samples five or six at a time, and it usually takes a few weeks before we’re finished. Back in the spring, we were at it again, and as reported, of the 24, we chose five red wines. Quality and price are THE two determining factors. Four of these petits chateaux wines fall into the “everyday quaffer” price range of $10-$25, but there was a sample a little beyond this price range ($38.98) that swept us all off of our feet. We were still talking about it a week later, citing its honesty, authenticity, and elegance. What was this pearl of a wine? The 2010 Château Tour du Roc Milon, Pauillac.

 

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Our entire staff was abuzz that day about the 2010 Pauillac being so reasonable in price, considering the vintage and place of origin. But it was its stunning quality that pushed us all over the top! Though it may be true what they (and we) say about great Bordeaux vintages; that is, look out for the smaller, lesser-known chateaux, because everybody got good grapes. But then again, Château Tour du Roc Milon isn’t exactly a little guy. It belongs to Château Fonbadet, a property that sits in the southern part of Pauillac just north of the two Pichons, on the way to Lynch Bages. It gets more interesting. Their vines grow in three different places. Four hectares neighbor Château Latour and Pichon Lalande. Another three hectares are in central Pauillac bordering Lynch Bages. The bulk of their holdings, 13 hectares, are in the north, surrounded by Mouton Rothschild! So yeah, not exactly a little guy. This wine has it all. Complex aromas, sense of place, concentrated dark fruit, zippy acidity, fine tannins, and a lengthy satisfying finish.The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, with the final 5% comprised of both Petit Verdot and Malbec. Overall, it is an elegant, complex Pauillac made by an established producer in a great vintage. Coming in at 13.5% alcohol, it’s not exactly “old-school,” but its medium-full body does smack of more elegant Pauillacs. Maybe it’s the suggestive nature of its name, but it really reminds me of Château Clerc Milon. We enjoyed the youthful sample so much that one could easily make a case for drinking this wine in its youth. Yet patience will reward those who wait. With proper cellaring, it will continue to improve, and hit its peak in 5-15 years.
pauillac map
Yes, a new container: new wines; exciting times. Based on the responses to our petits chateaux offers, this concept is resonating with you all. We don’t consider the 2010 Château Tour du Roc Milon to be a petit chateau, because it isn’t. It is an under the radar Pauillac from a great vintage for a very fair price. Wines like this are exactly what we look for. It’s not often enough that we tap into an undiscovered supply of great wine, but we found a winner with this one!

Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2010 Bordeaux, Pauillac, Peter Zavialoff, Petits Chateaux

Synthetic First Growth: 2007 Château Pontet Canet

chateau Gah! There goes the phone again. Hello. Good Morning. How are you doing today? There’s no mistaking it, our anniversary sale is on!!! The reaction is typical – phones ringing, incoming emails and online orders, and customer visits. Yep, the sale has begun. While we frantically do our best at helping you all select the best sale wines for you and your respective budgets, please allow me to shine a light on a particular sale wine that has me scratching my head thinking, “Hmmm. Remember the time Chuck asked me to help him buy a gift for JT, and we selected a 1983 Latour for less than $100?” Yes, I hate being one of those geezers who says, “I remember when this used to cost …”, but I do. First Growth Bordeaux for less than $100; I remember. A Fifth Growth is not a First Growth, no argument there. But those cloaked appraisers of numerical Growth status came to their conclusions sans the commercial availability of the light bulb. Though the famous 1855 classification still stands (with only 1 change in 1973), the quality and price points of the various wines are not necessarily beholden to a consensus formed when Franklin Pierce was president. Which leads me to divulging WHY I am choosing to point out that the 2007 Château Pontet Canet could very well be the superstar of our 35th Anniversary Sale. For several vintages now, I have referred to Pontet Canet as a “synthetic First Growth.”

horse Why a “synthetic First Growth?” I’ll try to spare you all the long story, but in a past life, I toiled on the Pacific Exchange Options Floor. For us math geeks, there were a myriad of interesting positions one could trade into using calls, puts, and the underlying stock. Using the right combination of 2 components, one can create a long or short position in the third. Those are known as “synthetic” positions; they are every bit as profitable (or losing) as it would be if you had a position in the real thing … blah, blah, blah. Sorry.
 

I’m not rebellious by nature, but when I see something one way, and the “official source” declares it otherwise, I usually stick with my observation. I have plenty of baseball scoresheets marking hits that were “officially” scored errors, and vice-versa. I’ll tip my cap to, and continue to try to memorize the 1855 classification, but let’s face it, that was 1855, man. I’m not building a case ready to reclassify the Médoc, I just want to point out that there is still First Growth quality Bordeaux out there for less than $100.
 

The reason for Pontet Canet’s climb to the upper echelon of Paulliac producers is Alfred Tesseron. Since he took over the château in 1994, they have been making better and better wine every year. They have certainly been regularly outperforming their archaic 5th Growth ranking for well over a decade. I’ve written about Pontet Canet before, they’re essentially across the street, just south of Mouton Rothschild. Their respective terroir is similar. When I first visited the château in 2008, it was quickly pointed out that there were horses working the vineyard. At the time, they were working towards the Agence Bio organic certification. They earned it beginning with the 2010 vintage.

After attending the En Primeur tastings in 2008, and the subsequent UGC tasting in January 2010, it was apparent that the 2007 Pontet Canet was a huge standout from what seems to be an under appreciated vintage. The wine press (and many a Bordeaux lover) has had much praise for the 2007 Pontet Canet. Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had to say:

“Tasted at Bordeaux Index’s Pontet-Canet dinner at The Ledbury. The 2007 continues to be a great Pauillac considering the vintage. Here the nose closed at first back opens up nicely with blackberry and graphite, less of the Margaux element that I noticed a few months ago. The palate has volume so atypical for the vintage with soft caressing tannins and a very harmonious blackcurrant, mulberry and vanilla tinged finish. Tasted February 2011. 93 points.”

There you have it. Day one of our 35th Anniversary Sale has been a doozy. I probably heard the customer quote of my entire tenure here at TWH today. Seriously. Anya, Tom, and I were running around crazy all day helping many customers wrestle away some trophy bottles for crazy good prices. 3 liter bottles of 2005 Bordeaux, some fancy Burgundy, and many a bargain case, all made their way out of here today. But hey, that’s what the sale is all about. Somehow, I (barely) found a few minutes to tell you all about a wine that I think should not be missed. The “synthetic First Growth”, 2007 Château Pontet Cantet. The official scorekeeper’s ruling? A hit!Peter Zavialoff

Please note: The 2007 Pontet Canet was purchased by The Wine House as usual: directly from La Place in Bordeaux, and shipped to our warehouse in refrigerated container. The wine has always been in pristine condition throughout its trip to our shop.

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about the 1855 Bordeaux classification, options trading, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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Filed under 2007 Bordeaux, Pauillac, Peter Zavialoff