Category Archives: Petits Chateaux
this video of Julien discussing geobiology in the vineyard). I know for many the principles of biodynamic farming are controversial and verge on the cult-like, but in my anecdotal experience with wineries who embrace biodynamics, I see a direct connection between the exhaustive, conscientious work down in the vineyard and the quality of the wine. This under $15 Bordeaux blanc is impressive because of the effort that went into it and the final outcome, its deliciousness.
“How do you guys make your Bordeaux selections?” We may have heard that question once or twice before. Our usual answer is that we buy the majority of our Bordeaux selections En Primeur, or as futures, shortly after the barrel samples for the wines are presented to the trade. Sometimes, we also buy additional stocks after bottling, either as a result of one of our suppliers shipping over sample bottles to choose from, or if I taste something too good to pass up when I meet with negociants while attending the tastings. It’s not often when we buy Bordeaux from another importer. But, just like all rules, there are (have been) exceptions.
Greetings. Another weekend in San Francisco. No big deal. The President is in town. It’s Fleet Week, as our streets are dotted with various uniformed service people. The Blue Angels are whizzing about up in the sky to the chagrin of San Francisco’s canine population and anyone trying to drive across town. There’s a rather large convention coming next week assuring our streets will continue to be a traffic-tangled mess. Oh well. As I mentioned to Chris after work yesterday while sitting in a pocket of traffic, I sure am glad I’m not a white-knuckled, need-to-get-there-now, angry kind of driver anymore. I just try to be patient and keep things in perspective. Speaking of patience, and I know I’m not the only one in this camp, I’ve been waiting all summer for the arrival of a particular wine. What’s so special about it? Well, it’s delicious, easy on the pocketbook, unique, and rare to find outside of its place of origin. Of course I’m talking about the 2013 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet. The waiting is over!
The 2012 Château Armurey Clairet took us all by storm last year. We witnessed many a curious customer (and staff members) (and former staff members) come in, pick up a bottle, only to return with requests for more, more, more! It all started a few years ago when former TWH colleague, Emily, asked me if I had ever tried a Bordeaux Clairet on any of my trips there. My answer was beyond “no.” I had no idea what she was talking about. And the investigation began. It sounded like a very interesting concept. Made like a Rosé, Bordeaux Clairet simmers with its skins for a longer time period than a Rosé, lending more color and fruity flavor to the wine. It is made in the style of wine that was shipped to England in the middle ages, and is the origin of the Brits’ reference to Bordeaux’s red wines as “Claret.” So it’s not some newfangled thing some hipster somm came up with. One of the best things about it (besides the price) is that it goes with just about anything. It’s like a red wine, but it’s not a red wine. It’s like a Rosé, but it’s not a Rosé. Its aromas are certainly more in the direction of a red wine, but it’s structure light and refreshing, or as we like to call it, “Fruit punch for French wine lovers.”
Those Blue Angels shook things up a little around here today, I can only imagine the traffic situation left in their wake. I’m not headed home though, just like last fall, I’m headed to the home of some good friends to watch some post-season baseball. Traffic or no traffic, I will endure the drive patiently; after all, there are a couple of bottles of 2013 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet chilling right now that will be making the trip with me. My friends’ glasses are empty, I’m on my way to fix that! – Peter Zavialoff
So far we’ve told you all about two out of the five petits chateaux wines that just arrived from Bordeaux, the extraordinary 2010 Tour du Roc Milon, Pauillac and the almost sold-out 2009 La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru. Back in spring, we received 24 sample bottles from one of our suppliers in Bordeaux. Over the span of 5 weeks, we tasted 4 at a time, and decided from there which ones we wanted to import. Most of the samples are of good quality, but we insist on focusing on the great ones. The great ones that offer great value, that is. The price spectrum amongst this current quintet ranges from $11 to $39. We’ve told you about a $25 and a $39 wine so far. Now it’s time to talk about the $11 number, the 2010 Château de Blissa, Côtes de Bourg.
Okay, 2010 Château de Blissa. First off, let’s just say that when we’re talking about Bordeaux wines in this particular price range, the percentage of wines that make the cut are EXTREMELY low. We continue to ask for samples. We continue to taste the wines. Without being too insulting, let’s just say that not only do we pass on over 90% of these wines, the remains of the respective sample bottles aren’t even packed up by our staff to come home with us. Things were different with the 2010 Château de Blissa. There was much to like about it. It won’t make you forget about Pomerol … because it’s not Pomerol. It is a well-balanced red Bordeaux at a price point that enables us to pop the cork for any occasion, any day of the week. Made from 40% Merlot, 30% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc, it’s an honest wine that outperforms its price point by a long shot. Currently run by Stéphane Destrade whose family acquired the property in 1950, de Blissa can trace its roots all the way back to 1640!!!
I was recently contacted out of the blue by someone looking for Bordeaux Clairet, and got into an email conversation about her last trip to Bordeaux and Côtes de Bourg in particular. She informed me that she and her husband really loved the red wines from Côtes de Bourg because they were honest Bordeaux wines made by farmers for their family estates. The prices of the wines are very fair considering the quality. So she came in last week and picked up a bottle of the 2013 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet (yes, it’s in stock!) and a bottle of the de Blissa. She came back this week and bought a full case of the de Blissa. So that’s saying something. We offered a Côtes de Bourg as part of our petits chateaux offer last year. It was gone quickly. This, of course, makes us all proud here at TWH. Our efforts (and much spitting of wines that we don’t dare purchase) truly pay off, and we take great pride handing our customers a bottle that says “Imported by Wine House Limited,” because if that’s what’s written on the back label of the bottle, you know what’s inside is going to be great! – Peter Zavialoff
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.
– Peter Zavialoff
|We are often asked, “How do you decide which wines to import?” While there are many ways to answer this question, one thing we DO NOT do is accept sub-par wines in exchange for allocations of hard-to-get wines. We won’t and don’t play that game. Being an importer and distributor gives the retail arm of TWH the leverage to say “no” when we don’t feel a wine is up to our standards. There is one factor that rings consistently with every method we undertake in making our selections: taste. So simple, so true. Taste. As in one (or more) of us actually sticking our noses in a glass, sipping, and spitting (most of the time). Last summer saw the arrival of 5 little-known red Bordeaux wines to our new Petits Chateaux section. To say that they were well received by our staff and customers would be a massive understatement. They sold out quicker than you could blink; it seems great value Bordeaux struck a major chord among our customer base. In fact, one of the wines sold out before we could even promote it!|
|What do 2012 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet, 2009 Château Beauguérit, 2009 Château La Fleur Grands Landes, 2009 La Fleur Boireau, and the 2009 Château La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru have in common? They were the 5 wines we collectively selected from 24 bottles of samples provided by one of our suppliers in Bordeaux last year. The Croix Calendreau was all gone before we could even write about it like we did for the others! Why? This kind of St. Emilion Grand Cru quality for less than $25 is why!!! First of all, it’s from the amazing 2009 vintage. Vintages with optimal weather offer great opportunities to discover smaller producers, and in 2009 (and 2010), we tasted a whole lot of samples, finding many lesser known chateaux with outstanding wines. Our favorite part of the whole exercise though, is when the wines we selected finally arrive here after their long journey from Bordeaux.
A container just arrived bursting with goodies from all over France, among them are a handful of new petits chateaux wines and one re-order, the 2009 Château La Croix Calendreau, St. Emilion Grand Cru. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw the wine become available again (perhaps someone cancelled their order?), and acted swiftly to reserve some. We added to our order by again choosing 5 wines among the last 24 sample bottles supplied. We’ll be telling you about the others very soon, but in case it becomes the first to sell out again, we thought this time we’d lead off with the 2009 La Croix Calendreau.
The château sits among just over 2 hectares of vines in Saint Christophe des Bardes, just east of the medieval village of St. Emilion. The blend for the 2009 is 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Malbec. It’s vinified in cement vats and aged 50/50 in vats and oak barrels, of which 25% are new. This is a St. Emilion Grand Cru worthy of its appellation status. The aromas are bursting with complexity: dark fruit, earthy mineral, a hint of spice and licorice. The palate is fresh and balanced, tannins integrated, the fresh fruit buoyed by the lively acidity leading to a long, complex finish. If you think about what it is and where it’s from, factoring in the price, it is a screaming bargain! That would explain its disappearance last summer – those of you lucky enough to know how good this wine is need no explanation. For those of you who haven’t yet tasted the 2009 La Croix Calendreau, we recommend you act quickly. Seriously, 2009 St. Emilion Grand Cru for $25. And THAT is one of the best things about direct-importation.
So here we go! You’ll be hearing all about the other wines that just landed very soon, including the other petits chateaux Bordeaux wines. If you have any questions, or want to know more about our new arrivals, please contact us or come visit us in Dogpatch -we’ll be happy to tell you all about them! We thought we bought plenty of this wine last year, and were surprised as to how quickly it sold out. Taking that into consideration, we bought a little more this time, so hopefully more of our customers will get to try it. Predicting the future is a difficult exercise, but saying that the 2009 La Croix Calendreau is going to sell out again isn’t exactly predicting, now is it? – Peter Zavialoff