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 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perrières, Domaine Pernot-Belicard
Despite the challenges presented during the growing season, the bottled 2013 white Burgundies have proven to be of fine quality. Much like 2007, it’s a great vintage for those who enjoy sleek, crisp, snappy wines with balance and freshness. TOB regulars need no introduction to Philippe Pernot, grandson of Puligny legend, Paul Pernot. Marrying into a family of winegrowers with holdings in both Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, Philippe and his wife farm over 6 hectares of them. In Puligny-Montrachet, you can find Premier Cru Les Perrières along the same slope as neighboring Clavoillon. Continuing in a southwesterly direction, Les Pucelles comes next, followed by Bâtard-Montrachet. That is one special slope! The 2013 Pernot-Belicard Puligny Perrières is a racy, mineral-driven Puligny with fine lemon peel, wet stone, and spicy vanilla aromas. The palate is crisp and complex as the fleshy apple pie fruit stays in balance with the zesty freshness leading to that snappy finish. Drinking window: Now – 2023.
2013 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Boudriotte, Château de la Maltroye
Jean-Pierre Cornut couldn’t help mentioning his good fortune as his holdings were spared from the hailstorms that hit the northern part of the Côte de Beaune in 2013. And believe it or not, despite the overall reports of diminished yields from the vintage, Jean-Pierre’s reds came in as expected with very little sorting required! “The quality of the 2013’s was a huge surprise as I honestly didn’t expect it,” Cornut added. He also mentioned that he felt that the transparency of the terroir was more significant in 2013 than any recent vintage, including 2010. His Premier Cru La Boudriotte vineyard in Chassagne-Montrachet produced an outstanding wine in 2013. The nose is alive with fresh red berry fruit, earthy minerals, herbs and spice. The brambly fruit and earthy tones are concentrated mid-palate, with the zippy freshness holding the structure all together. There is rich complexity on the finish, suggesting the wine can be enjoyed in its youth, though we recommend you drink it from 2018 through 2029. – Peter Zavialoff
It sure has been an interesting week. On one hand, it’s the middle of August. Most of France is on holiday and I’ve always been under the impression that these waning summer days before school begins again are the official “dog days.” This perception needs updating. While having lunch at a restaurant the other day (still in search of the best French Dip in the North Bay), I overheard two people talking about school starting. As in this week! What??!! It’s August 14th! Anya confirmed this today as her daughter is less than a week from her first day. Seriously, where does the time go? It’s a good thing we have wine in our lives. Meant for pleasure rather than scrutiny; each bottle is a living thing made from a combination of elements including soil, grape variety, winemaker, and vintage. In the wine biz, we sometimes get caught up in only thinking about a wine region’s quality during a given year, but it also leaves us an opportunity to reminisce. This week, I am reminiscing with 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas.
To start, I must confess that I am a longtime fan of Gigondas. Back in the day, each night after my band finished practicing at Lennon Studios South of Market, we would pack it up and head over to Ruby’s Restaurant on 3rd Street where a friend worked as chef de cuisine. He always took good care of us, and would usually join us at the table after his shift. They had a reasonably priced Gigondas on the list, and it was our go-to dinner wine for years. It was probably around the 5th or 6th time we ordered it, that Mr. Ruby himself took a seat at our booth and inquired exactly how a group of 20-something rockers came to order Gigondas. “Michael (the chef) told me that you’re really into food and wine, but what makes this wine so special that you keep ordering it?” Ruby asked.
“It’s a food wine,” I replied. “There are all sorts of fancy wines out there, many of them are made to impress critics, and that provides no service for the diner. This Gigondas is balanced and elegant. It was made to enjoy with dinner. And you can’t beat the price.”
This seemed to put him at ease, and he agreed wholeheartedly. As we continued our patronage, Ruby would often sit with us for dinner and conversation. He would offer us tastes of the many other wines that he had on his list, but we would always drink the Gigondas with our dinner. Nobody complained. Ever.
When the first Tour de l’Isle wines arrived at TWH, I was excited to see that they made Gigondas, and was not going to waste any time waiting to taste it. I did, and that’s why I’m typing. At the helm of the Tour de l’Isle label is Robert Rocchi. Robert has been involved with the wines of the southern Rhône Valley for over 35 years! Rocchi works with a select handful of growers in the area and assists and advises them on how to produce the finest wine from their holdings. As Anya likes to say, “He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” The 2012 Gigondas is comprised of 70% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, and 12% Syrah, all aged in large foudre. The Mourvèdre gives it some gamey backbone, the Syrah some smokiness, but this is an Old World Grenache lover’s dream. It displays aromas of red and black fruit, spice and herbs, some forest floor earthiness, and a hint of iron. The palate is focused and layered, the elegant fruit persists long after the finish. No, he’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.
2012. Sure, I have opinions on vintage quality, particularly in Bordeaux, but also the southern Rhône Valley. But seeing this particular year on the label got me reminiscing about the year itself. Looking back, it was a pretty good one. For me, it was the year of the live show.I went to more concerts than I had in any other year, and by the time it ended, it was me back on stage after taking a few years off from performing live. It was a magical year for European Football as the club I support won club football’s grandest prize in dramatic fashion. A local baseball team did very well also! The trip to Bordeaux was a successful one, especially considering it was in 2012 when I was able to taste Château Coutet’s dry white, Opalie for the very first time. Shortly thereafter, the 2010 vintage of the wine was released to the world and The Wine House San Francisco was the world’s first wine merchant to offer it! So yeah, great year.
Well, it is mid-August. That’s a fact. I suppose just like any other time of the year, it means different things to different folks. Thousands of kids in the North Bay will be back in school this week, but the French will remain on holiday. My perception of the dog days will continue, as will my quest for the best French Dip. When I find it, it may be a good idea to have a bottle of 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas handy. After all, it’s a great food wine! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about summer’s dog days, French Dip sandwiches, Gigondas, or Bordeaux: peter@wineSF.com
We interrupt this summer time to bring you … wait. It’s almost August. These are truly the dog days of summer. We all need to just chill. I don’t want to interrupt anybody’s summer. Relax. Have fun. Visit with friends. Visit with family. Travel. Repeat. This is what August is all about. No need for any deep thinking here. When I come home from work and start prepping dinner on a summer evening, I want something cool and crisp in my glass. Sure, I would love some Burgundy, but that’s special wine. Burgundy is better suited for company and more special an occasion than Monday night dinner prep. In order to have this bottle properly chilled by Monday night, I need to bring it home when I leave work on Saturday. The wine that I keep grabbing each Saturday so far this summer? The 2015 Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire.
Do you remember Domaine de Pouy? Many of us have fond memories of Domaine de Pouy and the affordable quaffability it provided. I’ve heard many customers romanticize about how it “got me through grad school,” or “just pairs with everything.” Anya even served it at her wedding and also informed me that it was the cornerstone of The Dirty Dozen, as it was a consistent component during the DD’s early days. The Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire is essentially the same wine as the Domaine de Pouy. Both labels are owned by the same family, formerly run by Yves Grassa, and are now in the hands of his two sons Rémy and Armin. Both wines are blends of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Gros Manseng. Both wines are delightfully light and crisp, and they both have that kiss-of-honey finish. They are the same wine.
Historically, the Gascogne region produces distillates, and the Grassa family’s bas-Armagnac is prized for its quality. The family thought high enough of the quality of their grapes to make wine from them as well, and what a service they have provided for us! Every now and then I peruse the wine selections when I’m shopping at supermarkets and grocery stores. In general, I haven’t found anything below $10 per bottle that give me any reason to revisit. That is why I’ve been leaving with a bottle of Les Tours every weekend. It’s a no-brainer white. It’s not an interruption; it’s delicious, inexpensive, and low in alcohol (10.5%).
Call it coincidence, but this coming Monday is the first of August. How kind of the calendar makers to give us back to back 31 day months in summer. However you plan to spend August 2016, we hope it is full of wonderful moments, great meals, your favorite people, and memorable wines. Please excuse this interruption. I tried to be brief. I could have just said, “2015 Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire. It’s $9.17 per bottle by the case. It’s light, crisp, and delicious.” Happy summer! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Domaine de Pouy, wines from southwest France, summer plans, or the upcoming football season: peter@wineSF.com
The above photo may look romantic, right? Who doesn’t like a lit up vineyard at night? Unfortunately, it’s not romantic. This picture Sébastien Dampt sent David back in early May shows what sometimes is done in hopes of fending off any severe damage from forecasted overnight frost by keeping the newly broken buds warm. 2016 has been a nightmare for Chablis producers as they had not only frost to contend with, but suffered through two hailstorms. Damage was so severe in some communes that the vintage itself has come into question, as in “Will we make wine in 2016?” As far as we know, Sébastien will make his wines in 2016, but how much is anybody’s guess. Taking that into consideration, one could come to the logical conclusion that in order to keep his business running, he may need to raise his prices slightly to recoup lost revenues due to lost fruit. It’s a sad reality, but it is reality nonetheless. Let’s keep that in the back of our minds and focus on what’s in front of us now, in the present, and currently in-stock: 2014 Domaine Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet and its incredible low price.
When David is on assignment in France, he usually stays in touch by sending us notes and comments from some of his tastings. Last winter, he sent this in an email, “Lots of good tastings. I tasted a couple of ’15s at Dampt today – they’ll be nice, round, early maturing. I went through all the ’14s and they are THE BOMB! I actually prefer the 1er Crus to the Grand Crus. The Vaillons, Léchet, and Beugnons are just fantastic.” I probably don’t need to add anything to that; if David is going to recommend something with that kind of enthusiasm, I would say we would be depriving ourselves if we don’t heed his advice.
We’ve mentioned Sébastien Dampt before, as we’ve been directly importing his wines for a few years now. That’s directly importing, as we deal with Sébastien himself, not a negociant or special contact who have their hands open for a “finders’ fee.” This, of course, is great news for all of us as prices are as low as possible. Take that fact and then read Burghound’s Allen Meadows’ comment that, “As the scores and comments suggest, these are well-made wines and at the prices the Dampt wines generally sell for, they are first-rate bargains.” And yes, they’re all that.
I have a soft spot on my palate for wines from Côte de Léchet. Long ago, back when one could tell my hair color was once brown, we had a different producer’s Côte de Léchet, and I loved it. It was $44.99 per bottle. Obviously, we weren’t the importer for that wine. But while we had this other producer’s line of Chablis, it was a rite of late spring to grab one bottle of each vineyard and head over to a buddy’s house to taste them against each other while noshing on sautéed shrimp and scallops. Go figure that the Côte de Léchet was always the standout. So when we began importing Dampt’s wines, it was not a surprise that I gravitated toward the Côte de Léchet. As if I needed further encouragement, the sub $30 price tag was a huge bonus! Don’t you love it when you’re ready to pay $50 for something, but are then told it’s only $30?
The Chablis, shrimp and scallops tradition may have waned in recent years, but tasting Sébastien Dampt’s newly released Côte de Léchet has picked up right where we left off. I tasted the 2014 the other night, this time with some baked chicken with garlic and herbs. Bingo! I think that the thing about Côte de Léchet that tips the scale for me is its richness. When I’m about to take my first sip of Chablis, I am prepared for sleek, zippy acidity and a mineral underlay. From the aromas to the finish, this 2014 Sébastien Dampt Côte de Léchet delivers some rich, fleshy, white and yellow Chardonnay fruit; kind of like a green apple with a little lemon blossom. That fruit is propped up and balanced by the sleek, fresh profile, and the harmony of the finish is quite the upside surprise. I’m a fan.
As summer continues, it just makes sense to have wines on hand that are delicious when chilled.Holy cow! The Thirst Gamay that Anya wrote up last weekend has earned a permanent place in my refrigerator door! Though, just in case I find some nice looking shrimp or scallops at the market on my way home, I’m going to want a bottle of 2014 Sébastien Dampt Côte de Léchet on that shelf too! The new treehouse is finally taking shape and I enjoyed a glass of something nice last night out on the deck while the sun set behind the canopy of trees. Now that’s romantic. – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions about Chablis, Côte de Léchet, Bordeaux, European Football, Sauternes, or treehouses: peter@wineSF.com
When Robert Parker retired from tasting Bordeaux En Primeur in the spring of 2015, it created a bit of a stir. For those who relied on his palate to make wine buying decisions, it would be like having to change dentists, accountants, or mechanics. It was going to be different, but is that all so bad? There’s an old saying, “Different is not always better, but better is always, by definition, different.” We let this play out, and one of a few key talking points around the En Primeur tastings this past spring was that the vignerons knew he would not be tasting their wines as barrel samples anymore, and so to the rest of us, they appeared “Un-Parkerised.” Let me just say that when tasting barrel samples, less extract and more terroir transparency are very welcome! Coincidentally, in the spring of 2015, I had lunch with one of our suppliers at Château la Dominique’s La Terrasse Rouge. The wine we drank at lunch? 2008 Château Bonalgue, Pomerol. It was delicious. Old school dusty, earthy mineral aromas, savory black olive-like fruit with hints of brambly red berries, a kiss of sarsaparilla spice all wrapped up in a medium-bodied elegant mouth feel.
Château Bonalgue sits in the very west of Pomerol just near the Libourne city limit. The property consists of approximately 7.5 hectares planted mostly to Merlot with around 10% Cabernet Franc. The soils are a mixture of sand, clay, and limestone. The property traces its history back to before the French Revolution with the current owning family having purchased the chateau in 1926. Ironically, it was Robert Parker himself who had this to say about Château Bonalgue, “This over-achieving estate is one of the most consistent performers in Pomerol. Always a well-made, fleshy, succulent, hedonistic wine.”
We placed our order for the 2008, and then noticed the 2009, 2010, and 2012 were available. We couldn’t help ourselves; if a quality vertical is so easy and affordable to stock, why not indulge. So we can’t blame those of you who wish to profiter, and build a vertical of this authentic Pomerol for your cellars! – Peter Zavialoff
2012 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol
Early indications pointed to Pomerol as again the hot spot for the 2012 vintage and now that the wines have been bottled, it certainly is one of the more homogenous appellations for the vintage. The wines are showing decadent fruit and dazzling structure suggesting that they’ll age very well. Here’s what RP said about the 2012 Bonalgue, “This excellent blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc is always one of the best value wines of Pomerol, thanks to the leadership and vision of proprietor Pierre Bourrotte. Deep ruby/plum/purple, with loads of mulberry and black cherry fruit, soft tannins, medium body and excellent concentration, this is a plump, mouthfilling Pomerol that lacks complexity, but offers generosity and loads of fruit. Drink it over the next 10-15 years.” 13.5% ABV
Another great Pomerol vintage, another rock-solid Bonalgue. This has a little more grip than its two older bottlings, just as we feel the 2009 needs a little time to gain in complexity, we would advise the same for the 2010. Patience is a virtue and with the 2010 Château Bonalgue, it will serve you well. If you are planning on opening either the 2009 or 2010 any time soon, we strongly recommend you decant them for 60-120 minutes before serving. Again, from Señor Parker, “A delicious wine from proprietors Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Bourotte, this frequent sleeper of the vintage is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Like its older siblings, the 2010 offers loads of tasty mulberry and black cherry fruit and medium to full-bodied texture, It does not have the greatest complexity, but the 2010 Bonalgue is satisfying and charming. Drink it over the next decade.” 14.5% ABV
2009 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol
Part II of the dynamic duo of great back to back vintages, the 2009 has dense, purple fruit and a solid mineral expression. It has gained in intensity since bottling, and we feel it needs another 4-5 years before it begins revealing further complexity. That being said, here are Mr. Parker’s notes, “Another sleeper of the vintage from this very consistent estate that always seems to over-achieve no matter what the vintage conditions, big ripe black cherry and mocha notes intermixed with some forest floor and underbrush jump from the glass of this seductive, dense, full-bodied, fleshy fruit bomb from Pomerol. It is rich, pure, and just irresistible. Drink it over the next 7-8 years.” 14% ABV
2008 Chateau Bonalgue Pomerol
Another great vintage in Pomerol. Most of Bordeaux needed an Indian Summer to save the vintage, which luckily occurred; but Pomerol was going to be good regardless. The Indian Summer made it great. From Parker, “Bonalgue’s 2008 is a sleeper of the vintage. Its deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by sweet black cherry and plum-like fruit, a fleshy texture, and a heady, long finish with ripe tannin and good freshness. It is a pretty wine for drinkers, not speculators.” 13.5% ABV
Shortly before the wine world descended upon Bordeaux in the spring of 2015, The Wine Advocate himself, Robert Parker, announced that he would be retiring from traveling to Bordeaux each spring to attend the En Primeur tastings. He also announced that he had chosen longtime Wine Journal blogger and TWA contributor Neal Martin to replace him each spring in Bordeaux. We applauded this decision as here at TWH we have a great amount of respect for Mr. Martin, his professionalism, and his integrity.
With that news in the air just a few days prior to my landing at Merignac, you can imagine all the questions. “What do you think about Ro-Bear Par-Care’s retirement?” “Do Americans trust Neal Martin?” “How will this impact Americans’ perception of Bordeaux?” Those were just a few. The most poignant conversation I had about it came at lunch somewhere in the middle of the crazy week of Primeurs. After fending off the familiar string of questions, I got this one, “Who will replace Parker in the eyes of Americans now that he has retired?” Hmmm. That’s a good one. The answer was simply, “No one.”
Parker had excellent timing. In the late 1970’s, he was a lawyer who greatly admired consumer advocate Ralph Nader. He had a taste for French wine and arrived on the scene when NO ONE was serving the consumer in regard to the quality of the wines from Bordeaux being offered as futures.The rest is history and that ship has sailed. Anyone thinking that they can be “The next Robert Parker” needs to come to grip with some key facts, as in time does not stand still, and we evolve. Parker doesn’t need replacing. His legacy leaves us all with an improved ability to articulate what we sense when tasting, and more importantly, most Bordeaux producers are now making much better wine than they did prior to Parker’s arrival on the scene. It’s up to professionals across the board, especially those of us who come into direct contact with consumers. Sommeliers and retailers can provide some of the best direction because we forge relationships with our clientele, and in knowing an individual’s likes and dislikes, can provide better advice than the often-misused 100 point scale.
Of course, in addition to Parker’s legacy, which played a role in this, is the fact that American wine consumers are more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more trusting in their own perceptions than to blindly trade their money for Parker points (or anyone’s points for that matter) anymore. Just like anything else, there will be people new to the arena, and especially with wine, lack of experience can be very intimidating. We remind those new to wine that it is a beverage created to promote joy and to complement our meals. We encourage new wine drinkers to stay within their budgets and discover their likes and dislikes. What any wine critic/advisor has to say about a wine that you like means nothing. You like it, that’s all that matters. In fact, if you like a wine and a critic publishes something negative about it, you win, as the wine is more likely to be available and not in danger of going up in price.
The American wine consumer has come a long way in the past 40 years. Regardless of any personal feelings or biases, Robert Parker deserves a great amount of recognition for his contribution to that. In this technological age of blogs, apps, and social media, it seems there will always be a forum for anyone to express their perception of what they taste. Professional bloggers and wine journalists will continue to publish tasting notes, for a price. They work very hard, and their experience and knowledge of the subject is well recognized. Many Americans, ourselves included, listen to some of the more objective tasting notes from these folks, yet we tend to treat them more as advice rather than gospel. And that is a sure sign that American wine consumers are more sophisticated than we were 40 years ago. It is yet another rite of passage; just like leaving home, finishing school, and going out into the world, we’re now on our own. I am grateful to Mr. Parker for his legacy as a consumer advocate, and I am also grateful for his decision to retire and leave the rest to us. Again, “Who will replace Robert Parker in the eyes of Americans?” No one. – Peter Zavialoff
Wow; how did it get to be July already??!! Having just endured most of what it takes to work through a Bordeaux En Primeurs campaign from the importer/retailer side, it’s easy to lose track of time. Just a reminder, we have plenty of 2015 Bordeaux futures available, please see our website or feel free to contact us should you have any questions about Bordeaux futures. Apart from that, with the long holiday weekend upon us, there’s plenty to do. Several customers have asked about my plans for the long weekend. I’m sticking around; as simple as that! Since I got back from Bordeaux, I’ve been crazy busy … oh yeah, somewhere in the middle of all that I moved too. This will be the first year in a long time that I won’t have the annual 4th of July parade pass my driveway, but I’m planning to catch a glimpse of it while hiking high above it! My plan for the 4th is to eat well, exercise, enjoy the company of some good friends, and share some nice wine. Some grilled steaks and boy-oh-boy, have I found the wine!
I was tasting through some samples the other day when I pulled the cork on a fairly new acquisition: the 2014 Domaine des Aspras Les Trois Frères Côtes de Provence. Domaine des Aspras? Oh yeah, they’re another new grower that David found while attending a tasting in Chicago many months ago. He liked the wines. They shipped some samples to us. We liked the wines. We bought the wines, and now they’re here!
The story is a soulful one. Driven from Germany in the 1930’s, Gottfried and Lisa Latz sought refuge in Congo until its independence suddenly sent them back to Europe in the early 1960’s, and to Domaine des Aspras. With no winemaking experience for either of them, Gottfried and Lisa’s passion, patience, and perserverence guided the way. In 1995, Gottfried and Lisa’s son, Michael, an agricultural engineer, began managing the property. Nowadays, Michael runs the property with his wife, Anne, and their three sons, Raphael, Sébastien, and Alexandre.
The property consists of 25 hectares of vines grown in clay-limestone soils. Surrounded by limestone hills, the region has enjoyed a reputation for producing excellent wine that goes back to the 13th century. The property gets its name from the Latin, asper-apera, or rough and rocky. The village of Correns sits in the middle of Provence, and since 1996, has been the first French vinous village in which all the farmers have chosen to farm organically. Their Les Trois Frères Rouge is a Syrah based blend with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Les Trois Frères means the three brothers and is named for Raphael, Sébastien, and Alexandre. The three of them represent the third generation of Latz’s running Domaine Aspras, and they adhere to the family philosophy of caring for their land and making the best wines possible from their holdings in the Côtes de Provence.
The 2014 Les Trois Frères is an aromatic beauty. The first whiff reminded my of a Minervois we used to carry. Their wines were Syrah dominated blends and I used to love the savory aromas of forest floor and tobacco. This has a hint of that forest floor for sure, but the tangy red fruit pops out and there is a hint of orange bitters on the nose. There is oak influence both in the bouquet and on the palate, though it dissipates over time. The palate is medium bodied and very lively. I salivate thinking of the food that would go with this wine. The finish is fresh and balanced and that pleasant little pinch of bitterness (much like Diane Puymorin’s wines) caps it all off. This wine speaks of a place. It has a certain rusticity which I chalk up to terroir. The tannins are present, yet they’re fine and integrated. This is a great food wine, I’m going to need more than one bottle for the long weekend!
Yes, long weekend. It’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to some R & R. Whatever it is that you do, from all of us here at TWH, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy Independence Day Weekend! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about long weekends, Côtes de Provence wines, 2015 Bordeaux Futures, or European Football: peter@wineSF.com