While we patiently await the results of the ongoing harvest all across the northern hemisphere, it’s a good time to remember the vintages past. All of them. The interesting ones. The underrated ones. The classic ones. And, of course, the legendary ones. Looking back upon the past decade of red Bordeaux vintages, it has become a given that 2009 and 2010 have etched their places among the latter two. Before we knew of the power and structure the 2010 vintage gave us, 2009 was eye-opening for its precocious expression and charm. Though, let us not dismiss its potential for aging. We are speaking of red Bordeaux after all. For the classified growths, well, discipline is in order. You’re going to want to hold onto those. Savvy Bordeaux enthusiasts well know that in these type of years, the weather blessed everyone, therefore bargains abound. We could go back and count them, but who has the time? There is a 2009 red Bordeaux that we thought enough of out of barrel, that we bought a modest amount of. We sold about half our allocation as futures, but when it landed here at TWH, the balance was swept up before I could get my hands on a single bottle after taking off a poorly timed three day weekend. Somehow, some way, we were able to get a little more 2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc!
For those who know this wine, not much more needs to be said. As I stated, our first drop was gone in a heartbeat. We bought another pallet. Gone. Then another. Gone. Oh well, time moves on, and there are new wines waiting to be discovered. Hold on a second. When we receive new stock lists from our suppliers in Bordeaux, I usually look them over pretty thoroughly. What? 2009 Larrivaux? Really? “David, you’ll never believe what XYZ negoce is offering!” We bought what was left (not much). And now it’s here, back in stock.
Briefly – Château Larrivaux is in the commune of Cissac in the northern sector of Bordeaux’s Haut-Médoc. It is really a 3-wood west of Saint-Estèphe. The property is run by Bérengère Tesseron, and she has been cranking out some impressive wines for quite some time, a bit under the radar. We’re not talking about big, extracted, over-oaked monsters. Her wines are nuanced, elegant, and complex. The 2009 has what it takes to lay down for another decade or more, but it’s so enjoyable now, why not indulge? Seriously, for the price, it’s easy to imagine a Wednesday evening’s slow roasted beef ribs with the fixin’s, a bottle of this, and who cares if you can’t get a reservation at (insert fancy resto name here). It just makes sense; from a flavor standpoint and a budget one, it just makes sense.
We’ve written a blog post, or two (scroll down), or three, about this wine. After this email lands in our inboxes, this too, will live as another one. There’s really not much more to say. 2009 Château Larrivaux is back in stock; most likely, for a short time.
Speaking of harvest, I have spent the past week, and will spend the next on assignment in Slovenia, where the harvest is in full motion. From one perspective, it’s not optimal, as everyone is so busy, it’s difficult to grab the attention of any winemakers around here. That being said, it’s a beautiful country, and it’s almost enough to be stomping around the vineyards, observing the hard work which they undergo, gathering their fruit from the vines. They make time to explain things to us when they can, and it has been a great learning experience. Heck, when all is said and done, I look forward to stashing some 2016 Slovenian wines in my cellar. I probably have some time to achieve that. As far as the 2009 Château Larrivaux goes, I will have to act now. There might not be anything left by the time I return. Na Zdravje! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2009 red Bordeaux, Bordeaux in general, European Football, the six Bay Area Wilco shows, or anything Slovenia: peter@wineSF.com
As our end of summer sale continues, it’s hard to just point at one or two wines as “must haves” because there are some great values in every corner of the shop. If every corner means that there are wines from Bordeaux on sale, well, that’s where I’m headed first! Today’s stroll through our Bordeaux bins stopped dead in its tracks in front of this bin.
Come on. Really? This is Malescot St. Exupery. It’s a Cru Classé (3rd Growth). The 2010 goes for $85. The 2009 goes for a hundred. While 2011 may not be as famous a vintage as either of those, there is plenty to like about this wine apart from its below-market price.
I remember tasting the red wines from Bordeaux’s 2011 vintage from barrel very well. It wasn’t as fruit forward or charming a vintage as 2009 was, and it wasn’t a bombastic vintage with big fruit, big structure, and big alcohol as 2010 was. As far as the fruit expression went, in general terms, it was a little bit on the shy side. There were many wines with ample structure and balance, they just seemed like they were going to need time in the cellar before they would be pleasurable to drink. I remember the Malescot St. Exupery had a big profile for a Margaux out of barrel. There was a solid core of dark cherry fruit, but being a barrel sample, it was still shrouded in tannins and acidity. There was certainly potential there. Fast forward two years, now in bottle, and the black cherry fruit character was enhanced. The structure still ate it all up; the tannins were grippy, though if you knew where to look, you could have made a good argument that the wine would be something special some day. After reading through the notes on this wine in CellarTracker, and taking them into consideration with my own opinions and observations, I’m guessing that this wine is about 2 or 3 years from hitting its drinking window, and when it gets there, it will provide pleasure for another 15-20 years.
Funny thing, as underrated as the 2012 vintage turned out to be, the 2011 vintage seems even more under the radar. When I was in Bordeaux this past spring, I had several conversations with suppliers and chateau owners about these two vintages. Something I heard again and again was that 2012 was indeed the better of the two. Right now, that is. All involved were of the opinion that beginning around the year 2020, the 2011’s would begin to strut their stuff, and we will then be able to recognize how successful the vintage really was. The wines just need time. The time is almost at hand.
Here are Robert Parker’s notes for the 2011 Château Malescot St. Exupery:
“This small estate (only 130,000 bottles were produced in 2011) has been on a qualitative tear for a number of years. A fragrant perfume of spring flowers, black raspberries, blueberries and cassis is followed by a wine with medium-bodied, juicy flavors, sweet tannin and a broad, generous mouthfeel. A terrific 2011, it should be at its peak in 2-4 years, and last for 15 or more. Bravo!”
I must admit that I have a soft spot for Margaux. Saint Julien is my favorite Bordeaux appellation, but it was in Margaux where I had two lapses in professionalism during my first En Primeur trip. As we were headed north on that first day of tastings, John was behind the wheel. I started seeing the signs … Château La Lagune. A while later came Cantemerle. Still further up the road, Siran, and then one turn and BAM!!! My jaw dropped. “Chateau Paaaalllmmmerrrrr,” I must have sounded like a kid who sees Disneyland for the first time. We spent the day in Saint Estephe, Pauillac, and Saint Julien, and as we headed back, our last appointment was fittingly at Château Margaux (my Bordeaux epiphany occurred with the 1988). As we headed to the chai to taste, we walked in front of the columned château and I broke down and asked John to snap a photo of me with the château in the background. Not exactly unprofessional, but still, not exactly what a pro would do.
Further blurring the lines between work and play, rather than heading home each day this week after we close, I’ve been commuting to the Fillmore Auditorium to spend time with Wilco and some friends. It has become rather work-like in its scheduling and routine of meeting up with friends, heading into the show and enjoying live performances from yet another new album. As I said to my best friend during a moment of musical mastery during Wednesday night’s show, “I’m just pointing out how lucky we are.” I have happily met a few customers at the shows, and I would think that trend will continue. Last night, our good friend Tim (whom I’ve seen at Wilco shows in the past) saw me in the line to get in and introduced me to his pals as his “wine pusher.” Well Tim, if you’ve got wines along the lines of 2011 Château Malescot St. Exupery in your cellar, I’m perfectly okay with that title. Happy Weekend! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Wilco’s new album, Schmilco, the 5 shows at The Fillmore, 2011 Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
Every once in a while, a customer will ask us how we resist temptation, working in a place surrounded by bottles of wine from all over the world. The answer is: we don’t resist it; we like wine, so we drink it. Okay, we spend far more time here in the shop than any customer would, so from a time spent in shop per bottle purchased ratio, it may appear that we do resist temptation … most of the time. While stocking our sales floor this morning, it wasn’t a surprise to find several empty bins that needed refilling. Apart from their emptiness, the other thing these bins had in common were the orange sale signs; there are a solid dozen or so wines around the shop that I would consider outright steals now that they have been marked down. On the short list of the finest of these wines is the NV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Le Mesnil Sur Oger Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
For me, Champagne is one of those wines that I unfortunately don’t get to drink as often as I would like, but before the orchestra of the world’s smallest violins starts up, I will say that I do make a point to do so from time to time. For celebrations, it’s a given. To pair with fried chicken, it’s a must. To share a meal and some time with someone special, a toast with real Champagne makes it complete. Several years ago, I wrote about summer and Champagne, and heeding my own advice, I’m not going to let summer go by without continuing the tradition.
We’re all fans of quality Grower Champagnes in general, though we’re even bigger fans of the wines produced by Pascal and Laure Doquet! The wines have layers of complexity which have garnered the attention of esteemed critics and TWH customers who love Champagne. This non-vintage, 100% Chardonnay Grand Cru Champagne has expressive aromas of citrus blossoms, apricots, pears, and a sleek, stony mineral nerve. On the palate, one gets a hint of brioche in addition to the fresh fruit, mineral, and a hint of hazelnut. The finish is high-toned and perfectly balanced. It’s a stunning wine at a very fair price. Champagne isn’t cheap, but the sale price on this one makes it one sweet deal!
We’re one week shy of Labor Day Weekend, which for some of us comes with an extra celebration. Another TWH tradition worth mentioning is that birthdays for staff members are celebrated with something sparkling at the end of the day. I think we now know what I’ll have a hankering for next week: The NV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Sur Oger Blanc de Blancs Champagne. What temptation? – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments regarding sale wines, Champagne in summer, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
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