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
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
2013 Opalie de Château Coutet
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
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
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