Category Archives: Peter Zavialoff

Peter’s thoughts on wine.

2013 Pernot-Belicard Meursault Vieilles Vignes – Relief At Last



And just like that, thanks to the folks at Air France, it’s back to San Francisco and here I am at the keyboard with another ramble. The Bordeaux En Primeurs trip to taste barrel samples of the 2015 (among other wines) was a great success! The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux did something new this year, and though I heard differing opinions about it, it certainly made my schedule easier to handle. On Monday, April 4, a day that is usually spent at chateaux appointments, they held a grand tasting at the new Stade Matmut Atlantique at which all 8 UGC appellations poured their wines. It was there that I was able to taste from 3 of these, and that freed up my schedule for the following three days to taste a whole lot of other wines. I’ve got a lot to say about the trip and the wines I tasted, and I plan to do so very soon, but tonight I’ll try to keep it light and general.



The 2015 Bordeaux vintage is a very good one for red wines. There, I said it. Was it the vintage of the century? No. Was it the vintage of the decade? No. Was it a great vintage? No. Were there some great barrel samples with the potential to become great wines? Yes. Were there disappointments? Yes. What appellations’ samples showed the best? Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan, and Margaux in general terms. Will there be some great, affordable, high-quality petits chateaux wines? Yes, but here we must be very selective. It was a challenging vintage for those kind of wines.


After compiling my schedule prior to departure, I already knew that I would probably taste more wine this year that I ever had on the annual Bordeaux trip. After I returned last Monday, I put off going back through my notes and actually counting how many wines I tasted. Earlier today, I counted them. The tally: 599 wines in all; 439 barrel samples from 2015, 136 bottled wines from recent vintages, and 24 bottles that I actually got to drink from. Funny, it should have been 600, but there was one sample that earned this note in my tasting book, “Something’s wrong here; I’m not tasting this.” I am occasionally asked how I can possibly taste so many wines without suffering from palate fatigue. I can’t. I get palate fatigue all the time. When all of the sensations, acidity, and tannins begin to run into each other, I just take a time out. Sometimes I can recover by just smelling my notebook, sometimes I carry around a piece of bread and smell it from time to time to keep the olfactory fresh. Other times, I’ll take a full time out and eat some bread and cheese and drink some water. I am aware that there are others who taste way more wine than I do and I can only imagine their techniques to get back in the saddle and finish their respective jobs. Hats off to them.

So here I was, it was my last appointment on my last working day. Tasting wine at this particular appointment is a challenge to say the least, as they are all usually very modern, fully extracted barrel samples with loads of concentration and tannins. So I approached it expecting to suffer from lack of refreshment. Upon my arrival, I waded through the various rooms and salons of this complex that was not only showing off 2015 barrel samples, but finished wines from other parts of France. It was a bit maze-like, and I went through, then doubled back, and then through again when something caught my eye – MEURSAULT! Do you want to put a smile on the face of someone who has tasted a boatload of tannic, acidic barrel samples and who is bracing himself for one final purple assault? Offer them Meursault. That will do the trick. Every time.

Meursault has quite a following. It enjoys a fine reputation of being one of the “Big Three” white Burgundy appellations, and its Premier Crus are famous enough to cause Pavlovian salivation from its fans at the mere mention of its hallowed name, Meursault. We’ve been importing the wines from Paul Pernot’s grandson Philippe for several vintages now, and we continue to be happy with his wines which sport the Pernot-Belicard label. His 2013 Meursault Vieilles Vignes is an amazing wine with superb fruit definition, the classic Meursault soft mid-palate, and a fresh, crisp finish showcasing its complexity harmoniously. In a word, it is refreshing. Thinking of all of the pairing ideas that come with a wine like this is enough to make my head spin. The vines are in excess of 70 years old, and the complexity that you get from vines like this is impressive. The 2010 was stunning enough to get Anya to pen this write-up a couple of years ago. The 2013 is every bit as good with lively freshness. The sub $40 per bottle case price is as good a white Burgundy deal as we’re likely to find.

I am happy to report that the Bordeaux trip went very well. I met with several good friends, made some new friends, and was even handed a guitar in a restaurant at one point and played a song. Part of the exercise was to look out for some “under the radar” wines that are long on character and short on price. I found more than a handful of these kind of wines that I’m anxious to see here on our sales floor sometime later this year. They will be coming. The 2015 barrel samples? There were many successes; and they will be coming too. They’re just going to take a little longer. What to drink now? MEURSAULT!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Chardonnay, Meursault, Pernot-Belicard, Peter Zavialoff

A Taste of Burgundy – April 2016


A Taste Of Burgundy

TOB-BANNER Basic Facts for those of you who are new to the program: Every two months we select two Burgundies, one red and one white. We include write-ups detailing the background of the grower, the vineyard source, and the wine. Finally we knock a significant percentage off the prices of the wines, making the Sampler price $89.98. If you would like us to add you to the Sampler Club and receive the wines regularly, please notify us in the comments field, and we will charge your card accordingly. If you would like us to ship faster than the standard ground service, please specify this as well.

 

2013 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly Domaine Sylvain Langoureau

Having directed this 9 hectare domaine since 1989, Sylvain Langoureau now farms 100% organically. In an atypical vintage such as 2013, this could present some challenges, though Langoureau describes his 2013’s as, “completely classic with great energy and transparency.” He went on to say, “I like the style of the vintage quite a bit as it’s tighter and fresher if less generous than 2012.” This, of course, is great news for those of us who enjoy sleeker styled white Burgundy teeming with freshness. Saint-Aubin spreads out among the hillsides above and west of the Côte de Beaune’s cluster of Grands Crus vineyards. The Premier Cru En Remilly vineyard is adjacent to, and extends around the corner from Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet with direct western exposure. In Burgundy, it’s all about location, location, location, and rubbing elbows with such prestigious neighbors, Sylvain’s Saint-Aubin En Remilly is pure class in a modest package. This 2013 shows a degree of ripeness with a solid core of saline-like mineral. Drink now – 2025.

2013 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers Domaine Stéphane Magnien

Youthful Stéphane Magnien represents the fourth generation at the helm of this domaine which according to Burghound’s Allen Meadows, “comprises only 4.5 ha, but has some lovely appellations.” This Magnien domaine can trace its roots to 1897, though the cellars and family’s house are from 1789! Stéphane began assisting his father, Jean-Paul in 2002, and took over in 2008. He has old-school tendencies, as he is not a big fan of new oak barrels, using them sparingly to deftly add a touch of texture to his terroir driven wines. His 1er Cru Les Sentiers is his most expensive Premier Cru, as it lies just under the hallowed Bonnes Mares Grand Cru in Chambolle-Musigny. Again, the 2013 vintage had its challenges weather-wise, and production was very low. The good news is that the fruit that made it to harvest was of top-notch quality. This 2013 is rich in aromatic profile with lovely layers of fresh, dark berry fruit and the palate is structured harmoniously. It’s a serious wine whose proximity to Bonnes Mares is apparent. Drink 2020-2030. – Peter Zavialoff

Reg. $126.98
On Sale $89.98

buy A Taste Of Burgundy

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Filed under Burgundy club in San Francisco, Chambolle-Musigny, Peter Zavialoff, Saint Aubin, Saint-Aubin En Remilly, The Dirty Dozen, Wine Clubs/Samplers

The Starlet: 2012 Chateau Couronneau Cuvee Pierre de Cartier




March 27, 2016. It’s that time of year again! The folks in Bordeaux are bracing themselves for the upcoming onslaught of wine professionals who will be attending the En Primeur tastings which officially commence on Monday, April 4. Several well known wine people are already there tasting the wines, and I will follow suit next week. As always, my schedule is pretty full of appointments and chateau visits during the crazy week, but for the days before and afterwards, the pace is a bit more laid back. One day next week, I’m going to (hopefully – if it’s not raining) walk down to Gare Saint-Jean, cross under the tracks, hear the SNCF jingle, pick up a rental car, and drive out to Sainte Foy la Grande. 10 minutes north of Sainte Foy is where Daniel Hecquet tends to his vines at Château Puy-Servain. 10 minutes south? Bénédicte and Christophe Piat and their Château Couronneau.

We’re well into our second decade of importing the Piats’ wines, and since Christophe’s commitment to, first organic farming, and now Demeter certified Biodynamism, we’ve noticed an annual uptick in the quality of their wines. Currently in stock is the 2012 Couronneau Cuvée Pierre de Cartier. You may remember the 2010 version of this wine which earned the nickname, “The Monster.” If the 2010 was “The Monster,” the 2012 must be “The Starlet.” It is all elegance and grace. Again, the Cuvée Pierre de Cartier is 100% Merlot sourced from Couronneau’s oldest vines which grow in clay upon limestone soils. The wine is deftly aged in oak barrel, some of it new, though isn’t “lost in the woods” when tasting it. The aromas are seductive with dark red and plump purple fruit, hints of clove, violets, and earth. Bracing myself for the attack of the monster from memory, I was calmed by the adult-like, expressive, and seamless palate. The finish is spot-on classy, leaving me with the conclusion that this wine is in a very good place right now, and I have the feeling it will drink very well for a decade or more. It’s elegant enough to broaden one’s pairing ideas away from the typical rack of lamb or rib-eye steak (though those are still applicable) to simpler fare such as a duck breast or simple pasta with red sauce. Having just tasted it minutes ago, I am thinking that it would be a great by-the-glass wine at my local brasserie.


Well, it looks like rainy days will welcome me to Bordeaux this year. I just hope that I can get from the bus to the hotel without getting completely soaked. The 2015 vintage for red Bordeaux is getting some very favorable press, as many are citing the “perfect conditions” of the growing season. I will begin my stay with several negociant visits tasting already bottled wines that are available in the Bordeaux marketplace. I will start tasting 2015 barrel samples next Sunday, and it will be mostly 2015s over the following 5 days. The rain is expected to clear up by next Friday, which should make my drive to Couronneau a pleasant one. I will make a point of telling Bénédicte and Christophe how much I enjoyed their 2012 Cuvée Pierre de Cartier!Peter Zavialoff

If there are any particular samples that any of you may be interested in hearing about, please drop me a note and I will do my best to taste them and send along my impressions: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under 2012 Bordeaux, Peter Zavialoff, Value Bordeaux in San Francisco

Back In Stock – 2012 Pinot Noir From The Ehrharts



2012 Domaine St. Rémy Rosenberg Pinot Noir

Every now and then we receive inquiries from customers regarding our stocks of particular wines. Most customers that do ask us about quantities ask because they like a particular wine and don’t want it to sell out before securing a few bottles/cases for their own consumption. So when the answer to the quantity question is greater than 10 cases, most customers feel relieved and assume that the wine will still be in stock the next time they visit us. As with all rules, there have been exceptions that have made us scratch our heads.


Back in the summer of 2010, as we rolled out the 2009 Bordeaux futures, a customer came into the shop inquiring about an inexpensive Haut-Médoc wine that was one of those great bargains from a super vintage. When we told him that we had 130 bottles left, he left promising to return the following week and put together a futures order. That very same day, we received a phone call from another customer asking about futures. One can never predict what might occur, we told him about a few of our favorites, and he listened attentively, and said that he would call back before the end of the day with an order after doing a little further research. He called back and, get this, ordered 120 bottles of said Haut-Médoc wine! Wow. When the first customer returned the following week, he was disappointed that he couldn’t get a solid case, but he did buy the rest. We learned a valuable lesson. If we want a wine for ourselves and it’s here, buy it now or else that could happen to us.


So last summer, our friends Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart began exporting their Rosenberg Pinot Noir. It is everything non-Burgundian French Pinot Noir should be. Expressive aromas of berries and herbs with a good mineral representation. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, and shows off its layers of sensation in an elegant fashion. It’s a delectable wine that you can drink on its own, but its real home run potential is at the table. Mmmmm. I can imagine a fine rotisserie chicken with Herbs de Provençe and a glass of the 2012 Domaine St. Rémy Pinot Noir. That’ll transport you to France in a heartbeat! We were swooning over this wine last year, Anya even penned a great email praising the Ehrharts and their Rosenberg Pinot Noir. We began recommending it to customers whom we knew would appreciate it. “We just got it, so it should be around for a while,” was the foolish answer I gave to a couple of customers who liked it enough to inquire about quantities. Little did I know that there was a big fish out there and it was thirsty for Alsatian Pinot Noir, the 2012 St. Rémy Rosenberg Pinot Noir that is. The big fish was a big event for thousands of people and they would need it all. Like a whole pallet of it. So, poof! Just like that, no more St. Rémy Pinot Noir. Those customers whom I assured the wine would still be in stock when they returned were disappointed, but luckily weren’t cross with me. No one saw the big fish coming. Moral of the story is that every time going forward that someone asks me about current inventory, they are regaled with these two stories.


The good news is that the 2012 Domaine St. Rémy (formerly known as Domaine Ehrhart) Rosenberg Pinot Noir is back in stock and drinking beautifully. This is great for all of us as it out-drinks its price point by several degrees. It’s a great one to bring to friends’ houses – one taste and they think you’ve splurged, when you know that it was only a modest sum that was spent. There are a few rows of stacked boxes of the Rosenberg Pinot Noir now in our warehouse, and it should stay in stock for much of the spring season, but, but, but; well, you know.Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Alsace, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir

2013 Opalie de Château Coutet (Pre-Arrival)



2013 Opalie de Château Coutet
(Pre-Arrival)

Dry white Bordeaux wines are some of the wine world’s finest treasures. Typically made by blending Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon, and sometimes Sauvignon Gris or Muscadelle; the top wines are smartly snapped up by collectors, and due to short supply, their prices can be astronomical. But just like any famous wine region, there is still value to be had! One doesn’t need to win the lottery to enjoy a fine bottle of white Bordeaux, one just has to know where to look. Entry level pricing for the elite white Bordeaux producers usually starts at around $80 per bottle and ranges much higher for the two wines with “Haut-Brion Blanc” in their name. Savvy white Bordeaux lovers know that for around half the entry level price, high quality can still be had. We are happy and proud to once again be the first wine merchants in the world to offer the 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet on pre-arrival!


In the spirit of “Y” d’Yquem, “S” de Suduiraut, or “G” de Guiraud, the Opalie de Coutet is a dry white wine made by a producer better known for their sweet wines. The only difference is that Opalie de Coutet is from Barsac! The soil here is clay upon limestone, and what makes Opalie different from the “single letter gang,” is the freshness and nerve that Coutet is known for.


The 2013 vintage in Bordeaux heavily favored those making dry white and gold wines, as the spring and summer were unusually cool which is essential for the development of fresh acidity in the grapes. August saw a heat wave that ripened things up a bit, and by harvest, we had a winner of a white wine vintage! (Check out the 2013 Sauternes too, they’re fantastic.) With such well balanced, zippy fruit, the blend was 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It was 70/30 for the 2012. I was able to taste the bottled 2013 last spring while visiting Aline Baly and her uncle Philippe at Château Coutet, and I was very impressed. As in past vintages, it’s truly a unique wine. The aromas are deep, rich, and complex. Citrus fruit, beeswax, wet rocks, and a faint hint of vanilla. Once again, the wine is aged in oak barrels, 40% being new. The barrel imparts more texture than flavor, and it seems that 40% is the magic number, as the 2013 Opalie continues the trend of slightly upstaging its previous incarnation. The palate is rich and decadent, dry and crisp, and carries with it an amalgam of complexity ranging from stone fruits to citrus, with the mineral/beeswax/vanilla texture holding together nicely. Top that off with a nervy, grand finale of a finish, and we’ve got another blue ribbon on our hands courtesy of Château Coutet. Production is limited to 250 cases; that’s just 250 cases for the whole world!! Opalie de Coutet is a rare gem, indeed!


The time has come to prepare to travel to Bordeaux as members of the wine trade have already begun to descend upon the region, meaning it should be a proper madhouse by the time the En Primeur tastings begin on Monday, April 4. I will be there by the middle of next week, and I will hit the ground running with negociant visits begining the following day. Aline and Philippe were kind enough to invite me to visit them at Coutet, and as always, I am looking forward to that. On the agenda: Tasting the 2014 Opalie amongst others …Peter Zavialoff

Click Here To Purchase 2013 Opalie de Château Coutet on Pre-Arrival

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Filed under 2013 Bordeaux, Barsac, Peter Zavialoff, Semillon

Spring Forward With Fondrèche Rosé



Wow! Can it be spring already??!! Seriously, we’re turning the clocks ahead, baseball is being played, NCAA Basketball brackets will be revealed tomorrow, and I’m booking appointments at various Bordeaux chateaux to taste barrel samples of the 2015 vintage; it must be March. Taking a trip like that can be a bit disruptive to my normal schedule and duties around here, so I have much to do before saying bonjour to the folks aboard Air France flight #83! This of course is weighing upon me and my stress level has ratcheted up just thinking and worrying about all the i’s to dot and t’s to cross. That’s when the little voice in my head says, “Stop. Chill. Relax. Do what you can; take ’em one at a time.” What relaxes me? No need to overthink this one: a nice cool glass of Rosé, now that sounds relaxing.


This past Monday, some bottles were opened for a wholesale customer, and Chris, Tom, David, and I got to sample them after we closed that night. There were Côtes-du-Rhônes, both red and white, some crisp Italian whites, and one Rosé, the 2014 Domaine Fondrèche l’Instant. It’s a hit with both staff and customers in every vintage, as it is always the palest, sleekest Rosé among the range we carry. When it arrived last spring, it was its usual self: pale, with just a hint of salmon tinting, lipsmacking fresh, dry, nice and crisp with mere hints of something resembling a cross between a nectarine and an orange blossom. Those of us who love our Rosés in that Provençal style snapped up the palate of cases in a month or so, and more was ordered. They arrived at the end of January, though with all of the post-holiday going on around here, we didn’t get a chance to re-taste it until last Monday. The verdict? Fantastic. Somehow, it got even better.


We’re longtime supporters of the wines from Sébastien Vincenti and Nanou Barthélemy’s Domaine Fondrèche. They always represent great value from the southern Rhône’s Ventoux region. For the Rosé, Sébastien blends 50% Cinsault with equal parts Syrah and Grenache, and as I stated, the wine is always clean and crisp. With a little time in the bottle now, it seems to have gained a little complexity. Though still fresh and bone dry, there are nuances of other aromas like pink peppercorns, herbs de Provençe, minerals, and berries. Chris was first to remark of the fact that as good as we expected it to be, it somehow exceeded those expectations. I’ve splurged for some famous Rosés in the past while dining out, and I’ve got to say that none of those fancier Rosé wines are any better than what we had in our glasses last Monday. In fact, I backed that up by passing on the other wines and grabbed what was left in the bottle to have with my dinner later that night. Dinner was delicious indeed, complemented by the cool, crisp Provencal-styled Rosé. There’s something about that sensation that just takes me back to the first time I visited the Côte d’Azur and just chilled in one place for two weeks, pretty much only drinking Rosé. I finished the glass, and guess what? I began to relax.

The trip to Bordeaux for En Primeur 2015 is still over two weeks away, so I will chime in one more Saturday before I leave. Hopefully the Rosé will do its thing and all will be prepared in a cool, organized fashion. I’m going to grab a bottle to take home so I can relax tomorrow as my to-do list is a big one and I will have one less hour to deal with it. There will be something in knowing that as I’m out dealing with traffic, shopping, and paperwork, there will be a nice, cool, crisp glass of 2014 Fondrèche Rosé waiting for me when I’m done! À Santé!Pierre Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Provençal-styled Rosé, the Côte d’Azur, English Football, or the upcoming 2015 En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux: peter@wineSF.com

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Filed under Peter Zavialoff, Rose, Ventoux

A Pure Value Play – 2014 Chateau Calabre Montravel Blanc



When customers enter TWH for the very first time, they often inquire about what it is that we do and how we go about sourcing the wines to put in the bins that line our sales floor. While there are no general, party-line answers to those questions, there is one major criterion that is consistently present in our wines, whether they’re $10 per bottle or $200: Value. As in, “Is this worth it?” To a Pomerol collector with a much larger wine budget than mine, the 2012 Vieux Chateau Certan is a great wine from a great producer that is every bit worth its $168.98 price tag. Oh how I would love to taste this wine 10 years from now. To a Dogpatch neighbor who walks their dog every afternoon and occasionally pops in for good, inexpensive dry white wine, we have several to choose from. One such white wine, not to be missed, would be the 2014 Montravel Blanc from Château Calabre.



Coming on the heels of Anya’s recent email about longtime relationships in the wine business, TWH is happy and proud of our ongoing association with Daniel Hecquet and his wines from Montravel and Bergerac. We’ve been stocking Daniel’s wines for 20 years! Why? Value. Are they worth it? Unquestionably. The Château Calabre Montravel Blanc is Hecquet’s entry-level white, made in the style of dry white Bordeaux blends. The blend for his 2014 is 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, and 10% Muscadelle. It’s fresh and clean, all tank fermented, and ready to go with its screwcap enclosure. The palate is zippy and lipsmacking with fine balance, and it clocks in at 13% alcohol. It’s a great little versatile white that delivers pleasure at a very reasonable price: $10.99 (or $9.34 by the case). As someone who has worked on sourcing the wines in our Dirty Dozen sampler for a decade can attest to, it is much more difficult to find good quality inexpensive white wine than red. I don’t know why that is, but it is true. If there were more producers out there like Daniel Hecquet, sourcing the Dirty Dozen each month would be a little easier.


It just makes good sense that a shopper doesn’t make a purchase unless they perceive there to be value in said purchase. Please keep in mind that before we offer these wines to you, we ourselves must buy them! That of course makes us wine shoppers also. When tasting and appraising a wine, we have an idea of what its price tag is going to be. That’s where the decision is made. Is it worth it? The 2014 Château Calabre Montravel Blanc sure is; the $9.34 by the case price makes it a no-brainer.Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under fish-fry wine, Montravel, Peter Zavialoff, Semillon

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