Category Archives: Barsac

2012 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

It is once again, with great pleasure, that we announce the American release of an extraordinary dry white wine from Bordeaux! By now, many of you are familiar with Opalie de Château Coutet, as we were the first wine merchants to offer both the inaugural 2010 and its successor from 2011. These are two stunning wines: opulent, textured and complex, both reflective of the prized terroir they’re sourced from and of their distinct vintages. Unique in its vivacity, Opalie is a first-of-its-kind dry white wine from Barsac produced in extremely limited production. And now comes the 2012, another gem extracted from Château Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyard in Barsac.


When we unveiled the inaugural 2010 vintage, we pointed out how the dry white wines from Bordeaux can count themselves among the finest wines in the world. They have a committed following of in-the-know wine consumers snapping up what little is produced, and prices for the top echelon wines can be astronomical. The Opalie de Château Coutet is a truly unique white Bordeaux wine that at once encapsulates richness, layers of complexity, opulence, nerve, and texture in unwavering harmony.

With the 2011 Opalie, we again pointed out in what short supply these wines are in, and further praised their ability to age. If you’ve ever tasted a dry white Bordeaux with the additional complexity that comes with age, you already know what we’re talking about. These wines can age for much longer than most of us think. At TWH’s holiday party this past January, we poured a dry white Bordeaux from 1992 out of half-bottle with one of our dinner courses, and it blew us away! Are we saying that you should age your Opalie 20 years before you drink it? NO! It’s in a lovely place, drinking very well right now. But if you find the odd bottle or two in your cellar a few years down the road, you’ll be in for a treat.

So, what about the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet then? Well, for starters, it has to be my sentimental favorite, because it was in April 2012 that I had my very first taste of Opalie while visiting Aline and Philippe Baly at Château Coutet. The 2010 was already in bottle and the 2011 in barrel, but for the 2012, it was just the beginning. After that initial tasting, I shared my glowing impressions of the wine with them. Citing how much I appreciated the wine’s richness, complexity, and sense of place, Philippe persistently inquired as to how I would improve the wine if I could. Again, we all have different taste, but I do have a fairly high tolerance for acidity in white wines. I mentioned this to them, and Philippe agreed stating that the recipe going forward would be to increase the amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the cuvee. For the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet, the blend is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. The wine is aged for 9 months in oak barrels, with 40% being new. In a word, the wine is fantastic! Its fresh aromas captivate the taster with nuances of citrus blossoms, baking spices, stony minerals, and green tea. The body is lively and zesty, plenty of zip provided by the Sauvignon Blanc, and the palate is rich and complex, with the mineral laden framework enduring through the finish. I tasted the 2012 Opalie on my final day in Bordeaux last year, leaving a long lasting impression on me. Class and distinction. Class and distinction for a very fair price, that is.


Here’s what The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth had to say about the 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet:
“Juicy, with lots of tangerine, white peach and green almond notes that bounce along, carried by vivacious acidity. Hints of melon rind and green plum show on the finish, leaving the impression this could stretch out a little more. Drink now through through 2018. 291 cases made. Score 91.”


So there you have it. Château Coutet’s one-of-a-kind dry white wine, the 2012 Opalie. Right now, the only place you can get it on pre-arrival in the US is here at TWH!

The time keeps ticking as Bordeaux prepares for its annual En Primeurs barrel tastings which commence on Tuesday, March 31. I will be representing The Wine House SF at the tastings, scouting the 2014 vintage (and more) for our customers. My appointment book is filling up with visits to growers, suppliers, and chateaux. I will continue to scout for lesser known wines that represent great values for their various price-points and it looks like I will be visiting some of Bordeaux’s most famous chateaux in addition to tasting at the UGC events. In keeping with tradition, I will take the time to visit Sauternes and Barsac in particular. There’s a very good chance that I’ll get to taste the 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet, and to that, I am looking forward.Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any specific requests in regard to tasting the barrel samples. Please know that time constraints will not allow for me to taste everything, but I will do my best to share my impressions of any particular wines you may be interested in that I do taste.

Click Here To Purchase 2012 Opalie de Château Coutet on Pre-Arrival

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Filed under 2012 Bordeaux, Barsac, Peter Zavialoff, Semillon, White Bordeaux

The Wine House SF – Our Top 10 Wines Of 2014

The Wine House SF – Top 10 Wines of 2014

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,




and 2009.

There are no rules. They don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. They don’t need some sort of numerical justification from someone who prefers Pepsi over Coca-Cola. They could be surprise packages from unusual locales, well established producers with an exceptional vintage, terrific expressions of terroir, or the ineffable. Favorites are favorites. Some of the wines have sold out, but deserve to be listed due to their merits. Not in any particular order, The Wine House San Francisco’s Top Ten Wines of 2014:
NV Pascal Doquet
Grand Cru Le Mesnil Sur Oger Champagne
Starting things off the same way we recently kick-started our annual Post-Holiday Party. With Grower Champagne. Grand Cru, no less. Laure and Pascal Doquet own and run this 8.66 hectare estate which includes plantings in some of the finest Grand and Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte de Blancs. Pascal’s dedication to quality is relentless. Pascal took the reins of the family’s domaine in 1995, and since 2004, he and Laure are the sole proprietors. Pulling the curtain aside, Pascal shares a great deal of information about his wines on their back labels, such as disgorgement date and contents. For our current stock of Non-Vintage Grand Cru Le Mesnil, it is made up of the following vintages: 2003 (40%), 2002 (40%), and 2001 (20%). We taste a lot of Champagne during the year, and we chose to serve this one at our party! Life’s too short not to enjoy fine Grower Champagne like Doquet’s.



2012 Domaine Raimbault Sancerre “Apud Sariacum”

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.



2012 Domaine Sainte Barbe Macon-Burgy “Terres Rouges”
Throughout the course of each calendar year, we receive over a handful of containers packed with wines from France and Italy. The arrival of each one is highly anticipated as there are always ‘little secrets’ on board. I say ‘little secrets’ because that’s what it’s like when we taste something new overseas, and return home only to wait for what sometimes feels like a long, long time before we can put it in your hands. We waited patiently for this one to arrive, but once it did, patience flew out the window. David continues to find cool new wines from producers familiar to us and beyond. He hit paydirt with this little red from Macon. Wait. Red wine from Macon?? Yes, indeed. Made from Gamay Noir, we all got a big kick out of Sainte Barbe’s “Terres Rouges”, and if you like Old World charm and sour cherry, wine-geeky Gamay, you will too.


2012 Orgo Saperavi

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!


2011 Domaine Stephane Magnien Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru

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.


2012 Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

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!



2012 Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers Saumur Rouge

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.


2012 Domaine Michel-Andreotti Montagny 1er Cru
“Les Coères”
We were already on board with Michel-Andreotti courtesy of their “Les Guignottes” bottling which landed them in our Top Ten list in their rookie year! Back in early 2014, before the move, we noticed a slightly different label coming from a box of their Montagny. Upon further investigation, we discovered that they make a Premier Cru wine called “Les Coères.” It swept us off our feet! Plenty of fresh, fleshy white fruit, a pleasant caress on the palate, sturdy structure, and a zippy, complex finish. Factor in the price, and it’s no wonder that it’s all gone.



2011 Roc de Cambes, Côtes de Bourg
For red Bordeaux, 2011 was not like 2010 nor 2009, but just as each vintage is its own, there are almost always some successful efforts. 2011 was like that. A sensational vintage for the dry whites and gold wines, things were a little challenging for those who made Claret. Having tasted the wines out of barrel in the spring of 2012 and again from bottle in 2014, there were several wines that I would like in my cellar. None more than François Mitjavile’s Roc de Cambes. I vividly recall tasting this wine from barrel in François’ cellar in 2012. Interesting note, François chose to present the Roc de Cambes sample AFTER his Tertre Roteboeuf sample … something he hasn’t done for me before nor since. He knew the potential of this wine back then. When I tasted it out of bottle last spring, it stole the show. Considering that it’s roughly 1/3 the price of Tertre Roteboeuf, it’s always a great opportunity to taste one of Bordeaux’s most charismatic winemaker’s wines without paying full fare. The 2009 and 2010 Roc de Cambes were both stellar, the former coming in a close 2nd to the latter in a local wine society’s annual taste-off in 2014. The 2011 Roc de Cambes will give both a run for their money!


2011 Château Coutet, Barsac
Since April of 2012, I had a feeling that we would get here. It is fairly well documented that I am a fan of Château Coutet. Their terroir and style suit my palate to a T. They are not alone. There are several Bordeaux chateaux that I count as favorites in most vintages. Any kind of pre-conceived notion of liking something before I taste it goes right out the proverbial window once the time comes to actually taste. I’ve been disappointed plenty of times when a château that I fancy comes up short in a particular vintage, and Coutet is not immune to that. But when I tasted the 2011 Coutet out of barrel, sparks flew. All of the components I look for in a barrel sample were right there! As mentioned above, 2011 was a sensational vintage for white and gold Bordeaux, and from that day up until I tasted it out of bottle in January 2014, all I could say about it was, “best Coutet barrel sample I’ve ever tasted.” The 2011 Coutet was the hit of the UGC tasting for me, but I was nowhere near being alone on this. Glowing reviews and huge scores from wine critics followed, topped by The Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth, who gushed forth with a 97 point review. In his review, Molesworth said, “This just makes you feel special when you drink it.” We concur. A week or so after the UGC tasting, when we all were here, we popped a bottle of 2011 Château Coutet, and it was a smash hit with all of us, leading Anya to pen this post. One for the cellar, I hope to enjoy this wine for many years to come!


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

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Barsac, Cotes de Bourg, Kakheti, Peter Zavialoff, Sonoma Coast, Stephane Magnien

2011 Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!

Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!

So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 

Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri

Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Barsac, Sauternes, Semillon, Spicy food

The Wine House SF: Our Top Ten Wines Of 2013

Where does the time go? It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years since we listed our first Top Ten Wines of the Year in January 2010, but it has! 2014 promises to be a great year of discovery, as we have plans to receive more wine from producers new to us. Let us not forget our stalwarts, we’ll have plenty from them as well. We’re expecting visits from some of our friends overseas, keep on the look-out for information about winemaker dinners and events coming soon. All in all, 2014 is shaping up to look like a very exciting year!Before we blaze further into the new year, let’s relive our Top Ten Wines of 2013.

 Again, we taste a lot of wine here at TWH throughout the year, and we enjoy the exercise of reminiscing our tasting experiences. Our first Top Ten listing was for the year 2009. We have continued the tradition, and you can view our Top Ten lists from 2010, 2011, or 2012 by clicking on each year. It’s not an easy exercise, as we taste so much throughout the year, and it’s hard to narrow it down to just ten. But somehow we manage. Here at TWH, for our Top Ten Wines of the year, it’s not about highest scoring, most well-known, big names, nor big prices. It’s about quality, it’s about diversity, it’s about value, it’s about wines that we all love! Some of the wines are sold out, but have earned a place on our list due to their merits. Here it is folks, TWH SF’s Top Ten Wines of 2013:

2012 Chateau Armurey Bordeaux Clairet
This one was two years in the making! Back in 2011, our former teammate Emily asked if I had ever tasted Bordeaux Clairet. Not only hadn’t I tasted it, I had no idea it existed! A little research revealed that Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, almost like a heavy Rosé that is rarely seen outside Bordeaux. The wine is made in the style of the Bordeaux wines shipped to England during the middle ages. Rumor has it that it was Bordeaux Clairet that inspired the contemporary English term, Claret. Having been on our radar since 2011, we were excited to see it listed on a negoce’s price list in December 2012. We had a sample shipped. We tasted it. We loved it. Now the tricky part; how much should we order? Well, we slightly missed the mark on that one. It sold out way too fast! Not only was it a huge hit for our customers, members of our staff snapped it up a case at a time. What’s not to like? 12.5% alcohol, fresh, crisp, refreshing light red wine (served chilled) for less than $10? I’m responsible for the depletion of over 2 cases. We’ll be tasting the 2013 soon. If it’s anything like the 2012, we can all look forward to cooling our palates this summer with more Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet!

2011 Claudie Jobard Rully ‘Montagne La Folie’ 
White Burgundy. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? We love white Burgundy, and when we find one of high quality in the sub $30 range, we get very excited. We welcomed Claudie Jobard to TWH family in 2013 via two bottlings of Pommard that she makes for her aunt and her mother at Domaine Gabriel Billard. Her mother being Laurence Jobard, head oenologist at Domaine Drouhin for over 30 years. Taking a step back, Laurence has tasked her daughter to make the wine for the domaine. If Claudie is good enough to make wine for her celebrated mother, she’s certainly good enough for us!  Claudie also bottles red and white Burgundy from vineyards she’s been handed down from her father’s side of the family in Rully. As far as price to quality goes, the wines are in the sweet spot. When Anya wrote the wine up last May, she observed that Claudie’s 2011 Rully Montagne La Folie was what many California Chardonnay producers are shooting for, but “miss the mark.” With the case price, it’s actually less than $25 per bottle! However you see it, it’s terrific white Burgundy, deserving its spot in our Top Ten. Welcome to TWH family, Claudie!
2011 Claudie Jobard Rully Montagne La Folie
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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2009 Grange des Rouquette Syrah ‘Agrippa’ 
Now for one from a couple of our longtime friends, Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud. We’ve been representing Thierry and Véronique for many years, first as their California distributor, and now as their importer. They make a range of wines, but they’re mainly good quality, inexpensive country French wines. Wines that you would expect to be poured at any of the bistros, cafés, and brasseries that dot the southern French landscape. A year ago, on a visit to their property, David was poured a barrel sample of something Thierry called Agrippa. The wine is, in essence, a reserve wine. Thierry doesn’t make it every year, and when he does, he only makes 10-15 barrels. Well, David was impressed! If you love northern Rhône Syrah, you owe it to yourself to give the Agrippa a try. This 100% Syrah comes from a 3 hectare parcel of 20+ year old vines planted in sandy loess soils, similar to those in the north.

I had a surprise, aha moment with this wine one night. As the day grew to a close, I grabbed a couple of random bottles and put them in my wine bag. Once in the wine bag, you can’t see their labels, but I had thought that the bottle of red wine that I grabbed was a 2010 Boudinaud Syrah/Grenache. I put my groceries away, and grabbed a couple of pots, ready to get dinner started. With my concentration entirely on what I was preparing, I grabbed my corkscrew and opened the bottle of red. I poured a glass, went back to the stove to stir some onions and garlic, and then I took a sip. Whoa! That’s not inexpensive French country wine, that was something entirely different. A closer look at the bottle revealed that it was indeed the Agrippa, and my love affair with this wine began. But ask any of us, the 2009 Boudinaud Agrippa Syrah is a special wine. If you factor in the $16.14 case price, it is pretty much unbeatable.

2009 Vignobles Boudinaud Syrah Agrippa Vin du Pays d’Oc
Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Languedoc-Roussillon;
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2011 Palmina Dolcetto
There has been such a buzz lately amongst wine industry people in regard to winemaker Steve Clifton and the wines from Palmina! A recent trip to SF restauranteur Bruce Hill’s revamped Fog City revealed that Palmina is well represented on Gregory Altzman’s list; both by the glass and by the bottle. Well, Anya was on to the concept quite a while ago, as the wines are indeed made for those interested in Italian varietals from California rather than the “Cal-Ital” crowd. The 2011 Dolcetto is sublime, it has Old World character, with just enough fruit to balance out its rich complexity. Medium in body, it’s the kind of wine that pairs well with all of the dishes you would imagine. From a simple Pizza Margherita to a more serious Osso Buco. We’re so pleased with the full line of wines that we received this year from Palmina, but the Dolcetto, that’s something very special indeed!

Warning: Less than a case of the 2011 is left. We will soon be moving on to the 2012. Stay tuned for that.

2011 Palmina Dolcetto Santa Barbara County
Red Wine; Dolcetto; Central Coast;
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2010 Domaine Pernot-Belicard Meursault 
Another of David’s solid recent discoveries was not entirely a “new” discovery. How do you classify that exactly? He’s (fairly) new to us, but he’s the grandson of one of our stalwarts. We’re talking about Philippe Pernot, who in addition to helping his grandfather (and father) at Domaine Paul Pernot et ses fils, makes his own wine sourced from vineyards acquired from his wife’s family. The young Pernot has 5 hectares of vines in 9 different climats, but get this, his Meursault comes from a single parcel and the vines are 65-70 years old! Talk about layered and complex! We were all wowed by this wine when it first arrived, and continue to be. If you love Meursault, and who doesn’t, we recommend you taste the 2010 Pernot-Belicard Meursault.
2010 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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2011 Domaine Pernot Belicard Meursault
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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Just in!!! Philippe’s 2011! Build a vertical.

2011 Domaine Pichat Cote Rotie ‘Loss’
During a recent conversation with another importer, we came to the conclusion that discovering new producers who make high-quality, value wine was nearly impossible. Especially when it comes to famous wine regions whose production is severely limited. It’s a theory, yes, with a boatload of truth and logic to back it up. David has been working diligently with his friends and various agents looking specifically for a “new” Côte Rôtie producer for several years now. That means he’s tried a bunch of them over the years, but in each case, graciously said no. Well, that has changed now. He’s liked what he’s tasted from Domaine Pichat for several vintages, and that’s what it takes for him to graciously say yes! When the Pichat wines landed we all got to taste them, and they are indeed special wines with that signature smoky, meaty goodness that Syrah exhibits when originating from the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie. It was unanimous amongst us, the fancier cuvées were great, and will be spectacular wines someday, showing immense concentration, texture and structure. When we tasted the Löss, we were blown away by its balance and drinkability. The complexity was dazzling, and we could swear that Stéphane used some new barrel on it as well, but were assured no, only neutral barrel is used for this wine. Proving again that Syrah is “a ballerina who can kick-box”, Pichat’s 2011 Löss delivers plush, dark plum and red berry flavors framed in a classic smoky, meaty structure. Another great discovery; this time from an almost impossible source!
2011 Domaine Pichat Cote-Rotie Loss
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
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2011 Domaine Sebastien Dampt Chablis 1er Cru ‘Cote de Lechet’
It was during that same conversation with the other importer where a modicum of possibility did emerge: find someone new or someone young. Sure, that doesn’t guarantee quality, but if you’re going to find the diamond in the rough of unclaimed producers, that’s the place to look. Chablis is much bigger than Côte Rôtie, yes, but finding the new producer wasn’t easy.  Patience is a virtue, because after graciously saying no several times, David found us a bona fide all star, Sébastien Dampt! My, my, what a fine line of wines. The youngster’s family has been making wine for over 150 years! Sébastien had been working with his brother, Vincent, together with their father at his eponymous Domaine Daniel Dampt before setting off on his own in 2007. What this young winemaker can do with Chardonnay is astounding! His 2011 Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet wowed us at first whiff! Its fresh, focused white fruit, floral, and mineral aromas were captivating; the palate was as bright and nervy as expected; the finish long and harmonious. The very fair price, a result of patience and direct importation. Bravo!

The 2011 Côte de Léchet has sold out, but its stablemate, the Premier Cru Les Vaillons is another outstanding example of what this young winemaker does with Premier Cru fruit!

2011 Sebastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons
White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules ‘La Bolida’
Making her second appearance in a TWH SF Top Ten is our pal in Costières de Nîmes, Diane Puymorin with her 100% old vine Mourvèdre La Bolida. Old vine? Yes, these twisted, weathered vines are between 80 and 100 years old!  Crazy, right? This has always been a prized bottling for our staff as many of us squirrel away a few each year, as they deliver much joy after only a short time in the cellar. Her 2009 La Bolida is all that and more! Mourvèdre has the reputation for yielding big, powerful wines that, in many cases, need cellar time. This is true with many of the wines coming from Bandol. It is a very late ripening grape and only flourishes in a handful of locales around the world. One place it flourishes is in Diane’s vineyard! When discussing La Bolida, she often points to the juxtaposition between the wine’s power and its roundness. It definitely has the stuffing to go the long haul, but is short of any hard edges that may interfere with its charm. The southern Rhône has had a string of successful vintages, and 2009 was one of the best. 
2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Other France;
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2009 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Bolida Rouge (in magnum)
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
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2010 Opalie de Chateau Coutet
Talk about new discoveries … how about a first time EVER wine? The team at Château Coutet had been working on a secret project for a couple of vintages: to make a top-flight dry white Bordeaux. With the assistance of Philippe Dhalluin and his team at Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Mouton), two particular plots of their Barsac/Sauternes First Growth vineyard were chosen as the source for the new wine. As the wine from the 2010 vintage developed, it was determined that the quality was outstanding and it was time to unveil Opalie de Château Coutet to the world! The Wine House San Francisco were the first merchants in the world to offer the wine on a pre-arrival basis in the summer of 2012. As other merchants in the world began to offer the wine for sale, Decanter Magazine listed us as its exclusive US merchant. It was shipped to us in 2013 and was a huge hit with staff and customers alike. It is a wine of pedigree and refinement, brimming with opulence and richness, yet finishing dry and crisp.

The 2010 sold out long ago, however, we are now offering the 2011 Opalie de Coutet, also on pre-arrival. Warning: we have already sold half of our allocation of the 2011. The wine is due to be shipped to us sometime in the spring of 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
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Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
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2010 Chateau Fleur Cardinale
In the red Bordeaux department, 2010 was a stellar vintage. It was a great follow-up to 2009, a spectacular vintage in its own right, but 2010 was spectacular for a different reason. Sadly, this of course, meant higher prices, which turned more and more Americans away from the wines from Bordeaux. Aha, but let’s not let those who now bottle commodities rather than wine spoil the party for us wine drinkers! It has been reported here, once or twice that a chateau in St. Emilion was not only cranking out fantastic wine, vintage after vintage, but they were pricing their wines where they could be enjoyed by people who love Bordeaux. Since taking over the property beginning with the 2001 vintage, Dominique and Florence Decoster have turned this St. Emilion property into a champion in the quality to price department. They have been on a great run of consecutive vintage successes, and then came 2010. Arguably, their finest vintage to date, the 2010 Château Fleur Cardinale is representative of the hard work and investment made by the Decosters and their team. Their motive is simple. Dominique once told me that if you are going to make wine and travel the world pouring it, you’re going to have to drink it a lot. So make something good! Bravo, Dominique and Florence!

Sadly, we sold out of the 2010 weeks ago, but we are selling the 2011 Château Fleur Cardinale on pre-arrival for an unbelievable price. This is quality juice, folks, take it from me.

Or, if you would like Robert Parker’s synopsis, “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)”

2011 Chateau Fleur Cardinale Saint-Emilion (Pre-Arrival)
Red Wine; Merlot; Bordeaux;
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So there you have it. We’re a month into 2014, and we’re already making more vinous discoveries! Many 2011 Bordeaux (now in bottle) were tasted at the UGC tasting in Los Angeles last week. We’ve got winemakers and property owners from wineries in France and Italy lined up to visit us in the first part of this year, and the samples keep coming! We’ll try to stay in front of the onslaught, forever echoing our sentiments here for you all. Or as Anya says, “We taste a lot of bad wine so you don’t have to!” Happy 2014. – Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2010 Bordeaux, Barsac, Bordeaux Clairet, Costieres de Nimes, Peter Zavialoff, Rully, St. Emilion

2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

White Bordeaux is one of the wine world’s true treasures. Produced in tiny quantities compared to their red counterparts, the wines offer a vast array of complexity, the ability to pair with a litany of dishes, and a surprising ability to age. Some white Bordeaux wines can last for years and years if properly stored, and still dazzle the olfactory sense and palate with exciting nuances. The wines have a dedicated following, thus making them difficult to source. 

Last summer, Barsac First Growth Château Coutet introduced us to their 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet. It marked the inaugural vintage of the château’s very special dry white wine, produced in very small quantity. The Wine House San Francisco was the first merchant in the world to offer this special wine (on a pre-arrival basis), and the response from our customers was overwhelming! The 2010 Opalie sold out shortly after arrival, and judging from the feedback we have received, a great many of you have been charmed by this gem of a wine. One good turn deserves another, so just like the 2010, please allow us to introduce the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!

Again, this is a very special dry white Bordeaux. The 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet comes from the quintessential parts of the Grand Cru vineyards.  Sourced from a few rows of 40 year old vines, sitting on the thickest layers of clay and limestone, the fruit is hand selected and harvested using small baskets for collection, so as not to bruise the grapes. It is comprised of half Sémillon and half Sauvignon Blanc, the former providing the depth and richness, with the latter contributing liveliness and verve. The wine is fermented and aged for 9 months in 45% new French oak barrels. It is an elegant, harmonious dry white wine that displays Coutet’s inherent richness framed by crisp minerality and freshness.

The 2011 vintage heavily favored those growing white grapes in Bordeaux. Warm weather in April sped up vineyard activity by two weeks, and the dry weather forced the vines to dig deep into the clay and limestone for nutrients. Cooler weather in summer was beneficial for the grapes to achieve the proper levels of acidity. That was followed by a warm, sunny Indian summer which provided the ideal conditions in which to harvest. In other words, if you prefer dry white wines with good mineral definition and harmonious balance of fruit and acid, the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux is for you! (If you’re a fan of Bordeaux’s Gold Wines, aka Sauternes and Barsac, 2011 is for you too. The 2011 was the best Château Coutet barrel sample I have ever tasted.)

I was lucky enough to taste the 2011 Opalie back in April at Château Coutet, with a table full of wine enthusiasts (including, at least, one MW!). Pale straw-like in color, the wine had rich aromas of citrus blossoms and stony minerals with that hint of a beeswax shadow. The oak barrel regimen has lessened from 60% new to 45% from the 2010 vintage, and that is recognizable on both the aromatics and palate. The palate is deep and rich, the citrusy Sauvignon Blanc bracing the complex elements of the Sémillon. It is a truly unique tasting experience, the richness from the esteemed Coutet terroir in a dry wine. Compared to their 2010 bottling, the 2011 seemed to have less oak spice on the nose, yet the barrel’s influence was still present in the wine’s texture, which again, seemed to be brighter and even more fresh than the 2010! There were smiles and praise all around the table as the Opalie de Château Coutet is a one-of-a-kind wine. Class and distinction.

Production of the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet is very small, just 250 cases.We have received our allocation, and are happy and grateful to be the first US merchant to offer this wine to all of you! We are selling the 2011 Opalie on a pre-arrival basis.  The first half of our allocation has arrived, but it has sold out to those who purchased the wine on pre-arrival. The balance will arrive sometime in early 2014. Here’s another chance to be the first on your block with the brand new vintage, introducing the 2011 Opalie de Château Coutet!!! – Peter Zavialoff

2011 Chateau Coutet Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
White Wine; other white varietal; Bordeaux;
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6-Pack 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
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Full Case of 12 Bottles 2011 Opalie de Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)
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Filed under 2011, 2011 Bordeaux, Barsac, Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, Semillon

2010 Opalie de Château Coutet

Choosing a wine to write about for tonight’s email took no time nor effort. And no thought either. In tonight’s case, the wine chose me. Seriously. Since my last Sunday ramble, not a day has passed without my being involved in some way with the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet! Now that it has arrived, I’ve been helping the many of you who purchased the wine on pre-arrival by setting up shipping and/or having it ready for pickup. My best friend had his case personally delivered 10 days ago.  It is special wine. It is such a special wine that I’m going to go out on a limb and declare it 2013’s Valentine’s Day wine! I’ve heard from more than one party that it will indeed be included in this year’s Valentine’s Day celebrations. It’s that special.  Now that it’s here, you can see what all the fuss is about. Now that it’s here, you can partake in the Valentine’s Day festivities with a bottle yourselves. It’s here now, but not for long if recent sales are any indication. 
When we introduced the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet last year, we received a great response, as many of you are connected to Coutet or TWH or both! We went through a double digit percentage of total production, and for months were the only merchants in the country selling the 2010 Opalie on pre-arrival, which is something that we are very grateful for. It is a wine of class and distinction. The fruit is sourced from a select few rows of 40 year old vines in the heart of Coutet’s Grand Cru vineyards. It is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, all hand picked, and vinified in French oak barrels. Class and distinction.

So not a day has passed in 2 weeks without some Opalie involvement, but that involvement has now hit fever pitch! Customers are tasting it. Customers are loving it! At closing time yesterday, I opened a bottle from my personal stash (Yup, I was the very first Opalie customer) for our staff to taste. Smiles and praise all around the tasting table. I poured off a sample for Tom who is out on Fridays, and took the rest home to share with my neighbors who let me into their kitchen early one morning last year so I could email back and forth with the folks in France about Opalie before 17:00 European time. More praise. More smiles. Tom hadn’t quite gotten to his sample yet this morning when the cellarmaster of a regional Bordeaux tasting group arrived to pick up his case of 2010 Opalie. In an amazing display of harmonic convergence, David happened to be in the shop at this moment. Having just tasted it the previous evening, David spoke about the wine at length, and after inquiring as to the availability of it, the cellarmaster decided to buy another 6 pack. As he was leaving, David gave him the sample and guess what? He returned asking for another 6 pack. If one is to be a cellarmaster for a Bordeaux tasting group, one must know Bordeaux … well. Very well.

And so it goes. After my normal Wednesday off, I arrived at my workstation and fired up my computer. Apparently Chris loaded a photo of this Opalie display that he built onto my computer as my new screensaver! The image was met with a chuckle as I began my workday. Minutes later, I heard my first connection between Opalie and Valentine’s Day. Later that day, another … and so it goes. So yeah, why not?  Valentine’s Day is Thursday, and all indicators are pointing to the 2010 Opalie de Château Coutet as this year’s Valentine’s Day wine! Happy Valentine’s Day all! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on 2010 Opalie de Coutet, Valentine’s Day, my band’s upcoming gig this week, or English Football:

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Filed under 2010 Bordeaux, Barsac, Peter Zavialoff

Vintages, Verticals, And The Delectable Chateau Coutet

btlsOne of the most interesting things about the world of wine is the fact that with each new vintage comes a swath of new bottles from all over the world. One will often hear critics and oenophiles compare newly released vintages with older ones that they perhaps have experienced enough to draw such comparisons. Well, in the scheme of things, we understand some folks’ need to label something in order to move on. However, just as 2011 was different from 2007, it’s exciting to experience different vintages because they are just that: different. Sure, there will always be similarities due to terroir, grape varieties, etc., but each vintage IS different. This is why the vintages are listed on the labels. You won’t see a bottle of 2009 Bordeaux that says parenthetically, (just like the 1982!). You just won’t.

With variety being the spice of life and all, many of us collect things. Much of the time these collections consist of different individual components with a common theme. A favorite novelist’s works for instance, can represent clear snapshots in time revealing where the writer was, mind and spirit, with each book. A catalog of a musical artist’s albums serves a similar purpose. With each read/listen, one gains a better and better understanding of the author/artist, and observes the changes that may occur over time.

Taking all this into consideration, we can make a strong point stating that tasting a single producer’s wine over several vintages reveals not only a history of vintages past, but an ever focusing understanding of the true essence of said producer and their terroir. It is common practice among customers (and staff!) to collect multiple vintages of a particular producer’s wines for these very reasons. In most circumstances, it takes patience and a concentrated effort to build a vertical, as it’s sometimes difficult to source several vintages all at once. By virtue of our connections in Bordeaux, we’ve been able to source and offer you a 6 bottle vertical from Château Coutet.

a&pGranted 1st Growth status in the 1855 Sauternes Classification, Château Coutet is 1 of only 2 Premier Cru chateaux in the village of Barsac. The unique terroir is comprised of clay on a limestone subsoil which is ideal for producing wines with fresh, lively acidity levels balancing harmoniously with the yummy botrytis-affected fruit. “Coutet” is not a family name, but a derivative of the Gascon word “couteau” or knife, as the wines’ fresh acidity “cuts” through the fruit in the finished product. We’re huge fans of Château Coutet, having co-hosted not 1, but 2 dinners last year with Aline Baly from the Château. It was a great honor last year, during the time of the En Primeur Bordeaux tastings, that I was able to visit Aline and Philippe at Château Coutet and see about their unique terroir firsthand! It was an experience I won’t be forgetting any time soon … if ever.
For the vertical, we have 3 vintages in stock and 3 vintages in France awaiting transport. To play it safe, we’ll say that the 3 pre-arrival vintages are expected to arrive in mid to late 2012.

This is a great way to observe what has been done with a focused effort by the Chateau to make no compromises in the vineyard and cellar, and by making the right investments to continue its tradition of producing fresh, lively First Growth wines reflective of each individual vintage. The proof’s in the pudding!Peter Zavialoff

Château Coutet In-Stock:

2007 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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The overwhelming favorite from last year’s Bastille Day dinner at Range,tasting the 2007 Coutet is an ethereal experience indeed. – PZ
“This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more ‘pixilated’. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ – 94 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Marin
2006 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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The wine I drank on my birthday in 2010. The 2006 is perfect to be enjoyed now and will gain in complexity over the next 10-15 years. – PZ
“This is a little flatter on the nose than other ’06 Sauternes: marmalade, orange peel and tangerine, with less delineation that I would hope for, with petrol aromas developing with time. The palate is rounded on the entry, more sugary than botrytized fruit, viscous honeyed notes and a touch of barley sugar with a linear, quintessential Barsac finish. – 90 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin
2005 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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It was back in ’08,at a 2005 Barsac/Sauternes tasting at Fort Mason, that I first tasted the delectable 2005 Coutet. Unforgettable. – PZ
“Passion fruit, white peach and nectarine, then a hint of white flowers. The palate has a good level of botrytis, quite minerally, nice tension with dried apricot and spicy, quince flavours coming through on the linear finish. Time should mellow this out. Excellent. Drink 2012-2025. Tasted January 2009. – 92 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

Château Coutet On Pre-Arrival:
Please note: Pre-arrival wines are expected to arrive mid to late 2012. You will be contacted when the wines arrive.

2009 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Recently tasted at the 2009 UGC tasting in Santa Monica, this is a decadent Coutet, with all the bells and whistles firing as they should be! – PZ
“The Coutet 2009 is a sensational effort from Philippe Baly and his team. It has a fragrant nose of honey, vervain tea, pineapple, frangipane and apple-blossom, well defined if needing a little more vigour at the moment. The palate is vibrant on the entry, informed by touches of apricot and orange peel, very focused and tensile towards the long, sensuous, viscous finish. It has the same minerality exuded by Doisy-Daene and reminds me of a stellar ’62 tasted just a few weeks previously. A magnificent Coutet. – (96-98 points)” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin
2008 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Tasted January 2011 at 2008 UGC tasting at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, I found it to be an aromatic masterpiece with complex layers upon layers. If it’s showing this well in its youth, it is sure going to be tough to wait and see what it will be like 10-15 years down the road! – PZ
“The 2008 Chateau Coutet has a very extroverted bouquet, with notes of tangerine, pink grapefruit, guava and pear drop, showing fine definition. The palate is well-balanced, with Coutet’s trademark citrus-driven entry segueing into a pure honeyed, mineral-rich finish that is linear, but very composed at this stage. This will need time, but it already displays that trademark race and tension that are the hallmarks of a great Coutet. Drink now-2040. – 92 points” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin
1999 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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Believe it or not, I have not tasted the 1999 Coutet … yet! – PZ
“Quite candied on the nose without the floral aspect that makes the 2002 so much more charming. Chalk dust, almond and white flowers. The palate is cohesive with good weight, quite minerally but does not fan out on the finish as I would wish. Starts well, but does not quite fulfill its promise on the finish. Medium-term Coutet, but quietly impressive. Tasted July 2006. – (90-92 points)” The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin

Château Coutet Vertical:
Chateau Coutet 6 Bottle Vertical: 10% Off!!!
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Save 10% on this normally non-discountable wine! 1 bottle each of 2009 (pre-arrival), 2008 (pre-arrival), 2007, 2006, 2005, and 1999 (pre-arrival)!

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Filed under Barsac, Gold Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes