Category Archives: White Bordeaux

Entre-Deux-Mers: Drink Responsibly

Could it be because Pete just returned from Bordeaux, or that it’s Earth Day and I am thinking about human stewardship of the planet? Or is it because it is a wine I have frequently purchased for my own personal pleasure that I have selected to write a few words about the lovely white Entre-Deux-Mers from Chateau Ferran? For all the above reasons and more, I have the 2015 Chateau Ferran Entre-Deux-Mers on my mind. Entre-Deux-Mers is a expansive Bordeaux appellation but within it are a few choice sub-appellations. One of note is Haut Benauge and this is where you will find Chateau Ferran. Haut Benauge is directly across the Garonne River from Graves and because it is on high ground it is considered a choice location to grow wine grapes.


Chateau Ferran is a family-run estate that converted to organic and biodynamic farming nearly ten years ago. In preparation for this write-up, I visited Chateau Ferran’s website. The website has plenty of information about the winemaking, the farming philosophy and such, but there is practically no mention of the people who make the wine or run the estate. I think this is a deliberate exclusion. It suggests to me that the Ferran family places more importance on the land, the soil, the biodiversity of the vineyards, than on human intervention.

This Entre-Deux-Mers is a blend of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 10% each of Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. I am drawn to the yellow fruit flavors, reminiscent of peaches and apricots, that linger long on the palate. It has no pungent, grassy flavors so often associated with Sauvignon Blanc. All tank fermented, with some time on the lees, it has gorgeous floral aromatics that bring to mind citrus blossoms and acacia. The finish is slightly creamy and is very fresh. It has filled in very nicely as my Friday Night Fish Fry wine, making a lovely match with baked, breaded Petrale Sole.


Julien Ferran is the current winemaker who took over from his father, Alain. Julien is a biologist by trade, so his interest in biodynamic farming is not unexpected (check out
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.


Samples of Chateau Ferran were sent to us by another French winery who included them among their own samples. We had no prior relationship to Chateau Ferran when we tasted the samples. We knew nothing of them other than they were friends of a wine family with whom we were starting to do business. Based solely on the quality (and price) of the samples, we purchased a pallet of Chateau Ferran. This is atypical of TWH to pull the trigger so quickly, but good wine is good wine – we recognized it immediately, so we felt there was little risk.

The last few weeks have had a recurring theme for me that centers around the question, “what do you believe in?” I have been asking myself a lot of questions about what I am willing to stand up for personally, socially and spiritually. I’ll spare you my existential angst, but if I’m comparing two wines of equal pleasure to me and one is made by a small family who farms organically and/or biodynamically and the other is mass-produced, industrially made, I am going to pick the former every time. The 2015 Entre-Deux-Mers is coming home with me tonight. I am not sure what is on the menu, but I’ll start the evening with a chilled glass of it. Tastes good and it’s good for you! – Anya Balistreri

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Filed under 2015 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Entre-Deux-Mers, fish-fry wine, Petits Chateaux, Sauvignon Gris, Semillon, Value Bordeaux in San Francisco, White Bordeaux

White Bordeaux For $10?


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

chateaucouronneaugate

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

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Christophe and Bénédicte at Couronneau, April 2016

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

couronneauvines

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

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

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

The Wine House SF – Top Ten Wines Of 2015


 

The Wine House SF
Our Top Ten Wines Of 2015

 

As we begin to settle in to 2016, we look forward to all of the new wines and new discoveries that await us. But before we head full-steam into the new year, a brief recap of 2015 in the form of a list of our Top Ten Wines is in order! Here at TWH, over the course of a year, we taste thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers. From all of these tastings, one can only imagine the difficulty in choosing which wines to import and/or to stock on our shelves. A very small percentage indeed. Taking all that into consideration, paring the list of those wines down to a neat Top Ten is quite the challenge. So many wines deserve a mention, but one important criterion consistent in each year’s Top Ten is this: A good story. After all, a bottle of wine is a living thing. And so are we. Good wine is meant to be shared, and that is the only tidbit of instruction that we offer to accompany this list. Life is short. Live a little. Share your wine. Smile. Repeat as often as you can.

For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wines from:

 


A few of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned on their merits. In no particular order, here are our Top Ten Wines of 2015:

 

2010 Domaine Sainte Barbe
Perle de Roche
Crémant de Bourgogne
We begin with bubbles. How can we not? With New Year’s Day festivities in our wake, it just makes sense. The 2010 Perle de Roche Crémant de Bourgogne from Domaine Sainte Barbe is very special indeed. In the day and age of mega-corporate Champagne producers flooding the market with their hundreds of millions of bottles, it’s refreshing to come across a small producer in Burgundy who cares for their Crémant like artisanal Grower-Champagne producers do. This fizz is dry, as only 4g/l of sugar are used, which is much lower than most wines labeled as “Brut.” Stony minerals are at its core, and its zippy nerve leads to a crisp, elegant finish. Winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland has not made this wine since his 2011 (which was produced in tiny quantities), and currently there isn’t any new Crémant in the pipeline. So what is left is all there is. For now.

 

2012 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Truly a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lovers’ CdP, Domaine du Pegau is a standard bearer for traditional, old-school wines from the wine capital of the southern Rhône. The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck puts it thusly, “Without a doubt, Domaine du Pegau is one of the top reference point estates for traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
He goes on to describe the wine, “One of my favorite wines, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is a classic. Beautiful on the nose, with notions of ground pepper, wild herbs, minerality and smoked plum and dark fruit, it’s medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and has plenty of tannin that comes through on the finish. Similar in style to a lighter-weight 2010, drink this beauty anytime over the coming 12-15 years. 94 points”

 

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache
On a field trip last summer, Anya paid a visit to the Scherrer winery during their annual open house. Having been on their mailing list since the winery’s early days in the 1990’s, she was very familiar with their various bottlings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. After another fine visit and tasting, as she was saying her good-byes, Fred Scherrer asked if she had time to taste one more wine. That’s a proposition that few wine geeks can resist, and Anya wasn’t about to buck the trend. He reached behind a barrel and revealed his 2012 Sonoma County Grenache. Knowing a bit about our selections of Grenache-based Rhône wines, Fred felt his Grenache would be a good fit with our customers. It is literally a single-vineyard bottling from Kick Ranch. Let’s just say that it went over so well that we are all in agreement about the wine’s ability to integrate the liveliness of southern Rhône Grenache with the juicy fruit expression of Sonoma County. We’re very happy to include the Scherrers in our Top Ten of 2015!

2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard Les Vaumuriens
It’s all in the family. Laurence Jobard and her sister, Miraille own Domaine Gabriel Billard. You may be familiar with Laurence from her 30 year tenure as oenologist at Maison Joseph Drouhin. The sisters now entrust Laurence’s daughter, Claudie with winemaking duty. Claudie has hit TWH’s Top Ten in the past, and does so again with this 2012 stunner. The domaine is a bit of a secret; they do not submit samples to any well-known publication or critic, and production is remarkably low.
After doing the research (delish!), and composing the write-up for the June 2015 Taste Of Burgundy, I asked David the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?” We popped a bottle at the end of a busy Friday during the Anniversary Sale/Holiday frenzy. I think Anya summed it up best when she said, “You know, I always love the inexpensive wines that we have in abundance here. I take a bottle of Gavi or a bottle of Côtes du Rhône home for dinner, and they always deliver, making me think, wow, what a goldmine. But then I taste a wine like this one and I get it. This is in another league; this is special.” The 2012 Pommard Vaumuriens is, for all intents and purposes, sold out. We do have a few bottles left of the 2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru Charmots, which is a qualitative upgrade from the Vaumuriens; but ultimately it’s about 2012 red Burgundy and the Jobard family magic!

2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s
The hits just keep coming! As the story goes, a sample bottle of the 2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s went out on a sales call to some fancy restaurants, and
when the remains showed back up in the shop after we closed that day, Chris and I were treated to more of that “another league” special kind of wine! Layers of all of the goodness a quality Côte Rôtie can provide, smoky, meaty, gamey, dark savory fruit, spice, and earthiness in a glass! It took every bit of willpower we had to not finish the bottle in order for Anya and Tom to get a taste the following day, and after they did, our euphoria for this wine is unanimous! The 2012 has sold out, but we still have some 2011 in stock, and 2013 on the way. I’m building a vertical of this one!
Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Pichat Champon’s, “Aged two years in 30% new oak, the 2012 Côte Rôtie le Champon exhibits gorgeous notes of black raspberry, sweet black cherry, smoked earth, herbs and dark chocolate. Pure, fine, elegant and layered, with medium to full-bodied richness, it too has a modern ting, but still has plenty of Côte Rôtie style. Drink it over the coming decade. 93 points”
And the 2011, “Comprised all of Syrah and aged 24 months in 40% new French oak, the 2011 Cote Rotie Champon’s exhibits a perfumed, complex bouquet of black raspberry, smoke, incense, saddle leather, violets and underbrush. This is followed by a medium to full-bodied, supple, elegant and pure 2011 that can be consumed any time over the coming 10-15 years. 92 points”

2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir
Sometimes you never know what might be coming your way; so it’s a good idea to be open to new things. Introduced to us by David through a connection made via one of his tasting groups, winemaker Matthew Iaconis visited TWH last year and introduced us to Brick & Mortar. By the time he left, we were all convinced that we were on to something. And that’s the beauty of small, family-style run wine shops – If you’re new and under-the-radar, have a good story, and bottle a quality wine, folks like us are approachable. We don’t need fancy marketing, big scores, or any other bells and whistles. If the wine is high in quality and represents good value, bam; everyone wins. Especially our customers! Speaking of which, I took a look at the list of customers who bought the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir, and it reads like a who’s who of Pinot Noir-centric customers who appreciate small production, off the radar, quality wines (a handful of which were in on Anthill Farms in the days before they caught on). We were delighted with the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir (and their other wines too!), and are looking forward to the next vintage!

2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole
The 2010 vintage for Barolo was an outstanding one. But hold on folks – Rather than gushing about the perfect conditions, we’d like to mention the challenges. First off, winter did not go away easily. Frosty conditions continued through March which delayed the start of the growing season. Temperatures remained cool throughout the spring and summer, and a fair amount of rain fell in June and October. Most estates harvested around mid-October which made for a long growing/ripening season. What we’ve got here is a modern classic vintage. Wines that will age very well and reward those with patience.
Giuseppe Vajra paid us a visit last year and poured some exquisite wines for us, including the 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole. Taking all that into consideration, this is yet another wine begging the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?”

2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna

Island wines. Who knew? We heard quite a bit about island wines in 2015. And when we purchased and subsequently offered the 2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna, we had no idea what was about to happen! First off, we sold through our stocks in record time. Then, we continued to receive inquiries in hopes that we could acquire more wine. Then, this posting received the most hits of the year on our blog. We ordered this wine on pre-arrival, so what was shipped to us was all there was going to be. The good news: All being said, we will be getting the next vintage soon. Stay tuned.

Cannonau is what they call Grenache in Sardinia. As written above, we are big fans of Grenache-based wines, both from the southern Rhône Valley and Sonoma County. Well, we can add another place of origin to the list as this island Cannonau exhibits wonderful round cherry fruit with layers of earth and herbs. Taking all of its quality into consideration, coupled with its value price, it’s no wonder that it was literally swept up in less than a week! Island wines? Now we know.

2012 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan Blanc

The 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc underlines one of our more important strategies when scouting for wines to import. Upon tasting Bordeaux’s 2012 vintage En Primeur in the spring of 2013, I visited negociants, the UGC Tastings, and had several appointments at some fancy chateaux. It takes a lot of concentration to not let bias and perceived quality differences distract from being in the moment and appraising what is in the glass at any given time. It is well documented that I am fond of dry white Bordeaux, though one can probably say that about all styles of wine from the region. Sticking with the dry whites, I usually taste samples of Haut Brion, La Mission Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, and several others; wines that will retail for close to $100. In the case of the first two I mentioned, it’s more like $700 per bottle. So yeah, the quality/price model is a bit out of whack here, so uncovering great value is a challenge. I vividly remember tasting the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc out of barrel at the UGC tasting at Château Olivier. It had the structure and balance that I look for in a barrel sample. In the back of my mind, I had an idea of what its approximate price would be, and had it on a short list of must haves.

Later that same day, I was sitting at dinner at my favorite chateau, when I was asked by the other guests to “defend” a wine. I mentioned how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated. Citing the tiny production, significant demand, the overall quality and ability to age well, I called out the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc as a dynamite value from a sector known for pricy wines. After the wine arrived here in our warehouse last summer, I was happy to read of The New York Times’ Eric Asimov’s endorsement of the 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc.This article, of course, helped the wine sell out. Last spring, I tasted the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc and I liked it every bit as much. With the stronger dollar, the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc is an even better value! Hmmm. Perhaps one of the Top Ten Wines of 2017?

2012 Château d’Issan, Margaux

Red Bordeaux. Margaux. The 2012 Château d’Issan. It’s funny. I never think about our Top Ten Wines list when I’m out tasting. But this one goes all the way back to the spring of 2013 and Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings. I tasted this at a large negociant tasting, as Château d’Issan does not participate in the UGC tastings. Tasting at this negociant’s can be quite overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of wines available. I try to pass on most of the wines that I will have other opportunities to taste in order to get to as many as possible. The barrel sample of 2012 d’Issan floored me. Using descriptors such as classy, silky, sexy, expressive, and nothing overboard meant this wine was a textbook example of a great barrel sample. My note ends with, “The star so far.” I was asked several times during this tasting by various members of the negociant’s staff what my impressions were and if I had any favorites. I pointed them all to the d’Issan and witnessed their happy reactions after tasting. When I returned from Bordeaux, I sat down with David to discuss the 2012 vintage. I told him that I liked the reds and whites from Pessac-Léognan, the wines from Barsac, Margaux, and Pomerol. David answered that yes, he had read about Pessac and Pomerol, but regarding Margaux, he said, “You’re kind of on your own here, because nothing I’ve read had anything great to say about Margaux.” Hey, what can I say; I taste what I taste. Maybe it was the d’Issan in particular, though there were other Margaux wines that I felt confident enough in to include the appellation among my favorites.

Fast forward to November of 2014. Augustin Lacaille from Château d’Issan visited us here at TWH and poured a few wines including the newly bottled 2012. My expectations were not in line with reality. Fortunately, neither was the wine. It’s off the charts! The best thing is that it isn’t off the charts when it comes to price. Bravo to the team at Château d’Issan for their outstanding 2012!

And there you have it. Another exciting year in wine has passed, another new year awaits. Well, we’re not waiting. It’s only the 13th of January, but we’re already out there tasting new wines to stock on our shelves. Trips to Europe are being planned, and of course, the Bordeaux UGC tastings of the 2013 vintage are set to hit the US at the end of the month. There’s no rest in the wine biz. All the best for a great 2016!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2012 Red Burgundy, Cannonau, Cremant de Bourgogne, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Pessac-Leognan, Peter Zavialoff, Pommard, Top Ten Wines Of The Year, White Bordeaux

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.

peter@wineSF.com

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

In Defense Of White Bordeaux: 2012 Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc


As usual, the crazy month of January has come to a close with a visit from the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. Some members arrived Thursday, and others early Friday. We were very fortunate to co-host a dinner with Marie-Hélène Dussech from Château Brane Cantenac at Chef Gerald Hirigoyen’s “West Coast Basque” restaurant Piperade on Thursday evening. A small gathering of customers joined Marie-Hélène, Anya, a négociant, and myself and we were treated to some wonderful wines, courtesy of the Second Growth Margaux property. Served alongside Chef Gerald’s excellent pairing menu, the event was a smashing success! As was reported in a past email about New Year’s resolutions, we are already brainstorming our next event, stay tuned.

mariehelene

The main event for the UGC was, of course, the unveiling of the 2012 vintage, now in bottle, to the wine trade of California and the West Coast. On Friday afternoon, hundreds of wine industry folks packed a crowded Palace Hotel for the tasting. Now remember, these wines are mere babies, just beginning their respective lives, and many need time before they show their best. The chatter around the room seemed reflective of my own observations that the wines from Margaux, St. Julien, Barsac, and Pessac-Léognan (both red and white) showed best. As it worked out, the last dry wines I tasted were the dry whites from Pessac-Léognan. I fondly remembered tasting them out of barrel at Château Olivier back in April of 2013, and I can now say that my instincts served me well as many of them turned out to be fine specimens of one of Bordeaux’s somewhat unheralded breeds of wine. The thing about white Bordeaux? There’s just not a lot of it. David Peppercorn MW wrote back in the 1980’s that more and more Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon vines were being uprooted in favor of red varieties and that would severely impact supply of dry white Bordeaux for decades to follow. If you’ve ever checked into the going rates for the finest white Bordeaux, you know what I’m talking about. But just as with the reds, there are values among the dry whites, and one need not drift too far from the heart of the appellation to find them.
 peteugctasting

 

Whether from bottle or barrel, when I am at a UGC tasting, I have a general idea of the approximate price of the wines I’m tasting. So when I tasted the 2012 Château Carbonnieux blanc back in 2013, I was particularly taken by it. So much so that it stayed in my mind all day, availing itself for an exercise later that evening. After the long day of appointments and tastings, I braved the traffic on the rocade for a dinner at a château. Joining me were around 10 staff members of an American chain of wine & liquor stores. I can’t remember when during the dinner this occurred, but at one point the ringleader of this group asked everyone at the table to “defend a wine” amongst the barrel samples we tasted. They graciously went first, giving me an idea of what exactly this exercise entailed. The wines some of them “defended?” Margaux, Latour, Léoville las Cases, Cheval Blanc, and Haut-Brion. Not judging here, but I didn’t quite understand why some of Bordeaux’s most famous names needed defense. When my turn came, I stood up and proceeded to “defend” the 2012 Carbonnieux blanc. I formulated my defense initially on how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated, and how complex and age-worthy the wines can be. Further explaining their scarcity and the lofty prices demanded by the elite, I cited the 2012 Carbonnieux as a great example of the freshness and complexity that can be found in a great dry white Pessac. Factoring in what I believed the price would be (under $50), I declared it a steal and an example of everything a dry white Bordeaux should be. Dinner’s main course was duck confit and Pauillac. At least it was until said ringleader saw what wine was to come and requested we drink gold wine from Barsac with the confit. I certainly was elated! If you haven’t tried it, just know that a wine from Barsac or a fresh Sauternes will accompany duck confit perfectly. After dinner, the large group was reunited with their driver and left the party. I said my goodbyes from the table and remained there as our hosts escorted the group outside. Once back in the château, the first words I heard were, “You know, you were the only one that defended a wine.” Perhaps I was at the time, but after having tasted the 2012 Château Carbonnieux blanc from bottle yesterday, I don’t think it needs any “defense” either!

 

carbonnieuxvines

 

Looking back at my tasting notes from the barrel sample that inspired this (sorry) lengthy write-up, they read:” Classy Sémillon aromas – fresh, fresh, fresh – citrus, yeah – wood in check. Palate: Zippy, comes to life, intensifies, … OFF THE CHARTS!!! Very nice. I buy. Squiggly line.

 

For something more formal, here are Robert Parker’s and Neal Martin’s respective takes on the 2012 Carbonnieux:

 

Robert Parker:Another full-throttle 2012 dry white, this 2012 offers lots of honeysuckle notes as well as a full-bodied mouthfeel and beautiful purity, elegance and length. Lemon zest, grapefruit and subtle wood characteristics are found in both the aromatic and flavor profiles. Drink this stunning Pessac-Leognan over the next 6-10 years.”

 

Neal Martin:The Carbonnieux Blanc has a well defined bouquet with lovely scents of lime flower and orange blossom that is very well defined – more complex than recent vintages. Hints of custard cream emerge with aeration. The palate is well balanced with a pleasant fatness in the mouth. This is certainly a concentrated Carbonnieux and although I would have liked a little more acid bite on the finish, this is certainly one of the best white wines from the estate in recent years.”

 

Whew! January is always the most hectic month for me and this year was no exception. I’m just glad our Bordeaux dinner went well, and that I had a toothbrush and toothpaste handy after the UGC tasting. Today started with a huge match pitting #1 vs. #2, which ended in a draw, but in English football, a five point lead going into February is a good thing to have. If it’s your thing, have a great Super Bowl Sunday!!  May the best team win. Today’s footy was the sports highlight of the weekend for me! Tomorrow will be all about commercials and Katy Perry. – Peter Zavialoff

 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2012 Bordeaux, dry white Bordeaux, future events or dinners, and of course English Football: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under 2012 Bordeaux, Pessac-Leognan, Peter Zavialoff, White Bordeaux, Winemaker Dinners

White Bordeaux For $25, Alex

Customers please note: We will be closed Monday, September 7 in observance of Labor Day. We will be back to our regular schedule beginning Tuesday, September 8.

2005 Chateau Olivier Pessac-Leognan Blanc
White Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$24.98
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Happy Labor Day weekend, all! We hope you are resting and enjoying the long weekend, and we toast you, our customers, for your continuing patronage. Cheers!
I know Labor Day traditionally marks the spot where we turn from our summer holidays to focus on the autumn and winter that lay just ahead. But as I said to my colleague Anya this morning as I sliced open yet another summer heirloom tomato, I’m hanging on to summer until I’m insanely standing in shorts knee deep in the snow! If you know me well, you also know that this is not only possible, but inevitable. Good thing I don’t live in the mountains. This has truly been a magnificent summer. In many ways, for me, it has been the summer of Wilco. Their current lineup are at the absolute top of their game, as witnessed four times live, here and abroad. Their new album has been the virtual soundtrack of my summer. Another constant this summer has been my re-embracing of White Bordeaux, which I have been raving about here and yet again, here. Oh yeah, then there was this one last year. These wines are crisp, expansive, and complex, and though they shine all year, it is in the summer heat where they become exponentially superior to anything else I may find in my glass.If you do see me out on the street in November sometime, shivering, eating something I may argue is a tomato, sipping chilled white Bordeaux, please show me a calendar.
There is a wine tasting group known as the “Thursday Tasting Group” that counts as members several of our customers as well as management, and their theme for September is dry white Bordeaux. They are in the process of selecting the wines, and as I’ve noted before, there are two basic different levels of dry White Bordeaux. First is the sub $20 white Graves and Entre Deux Mers category, which are perfectly quaffable, but pale in comparison to any grand cru classe de Graves. Unfortunately for the consumer, the cru classe wines are in huge demand and in short supply. No need to be an econ major to figure out what happens next, as some of the price tags can be quite shocking. We’ve got one currently in stock that has the quality-price paradigm turned on its head, the 2005 Chateau Olivier Blanc. It a a grand cru classe de Graves from the princely appellation of Pessac-Leognan. I’m certain the Thursday group will have their usual eight quality selections, and I’m sure the 2005 Chateau Olivier blanc will be among them.It’s a classy offering which reveals what these complex wines are all about. And the best part is it’s only $25 per bottle!
As stated earlier in this email, no matter what you all are doing this long weekend, whether it be closing down the summer cottage, giving the outdoor grill one more major ride, or just relaxing with friends and family, I hope you enjoy it. I will be staying local, celebrating what remains of my birthday weekend, and I will raise a glass to you all. It would not be a shocker if that glass were to contain a cool, crisp white Bordeaux. Tasting notes below. Peter Zavialoff
Tasting Notes
I’m really easy to please. Really, you had me at Bordeaux. The color is of pale straw, the nose gives and gives. There’s apple, pear, citrus blossom, notes of something tropical … (could it be banana?) and a hint of clovespice. On the palate, it dazzles with magnificent weight, light as a feather, yet full of fruit, spice and a mineral lift. The moderate level of acidity binds it all together, and makes this, all in all, one of Pessac-Leognan’s super bargains of the vintage.It’s ready to go now, but will gain in complexity if you drink it over the next 8 years or so.
 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on the Wilco shows at Vicar Street in Dublin, white Bordeaux, Chateau Olivier, Labor Day weekend, or which wines I may be drinking to celebrate my birthday weekend: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2005 Chateau Olivier Pessac-Leognan Blanc
White Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
$24.98
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Filed under 2005 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, White Bordeaux