Category Archives: Peter Zavialoff

Peter’s thoughts on wine.

Thanksgiving 2015: Some Pairing Ideas

All of us here at TWH were shocked to see and read the news of the tragic events that occurred in Paris on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the French populace.

Not such a pleasant way to commence this week’s Sunday email. Somehow, the topic I’ve had in mind to write about is applicable. Seeing that this is my last Sunday email before Thanksgiving, I will continue the tradition of giving thanks. A good friend of mine summed his feelings up pretty well on his Facebook feed last night. “Very sad day indeed. Could have happened anywhere. Give your loved ones a hug and be grateful for what you have.” A sentiment that I share with many is that giving thanks is an every day activity, not something to be saved exclusively for the fourth Thursday of November.

I’ve written about my early perceptions of Thanksgiving before. Most of my life, it was a holiday that I didn’t really celebrate. If I wasn’t skiing, I was bored. I didn’t care for any of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. It was always nice to get together with extended family and good friends, but that was it. Of course this all has changed now that I have lobster and Sauternes on Thanksgiving. I’m planning on doing this again, and the wine I’m choosing this year is the 2005 Château Clos Haut Peyraguey. Why? A pair of cosmic tumblers falling into place.

Tumbler #1 – The property was purchased by Bordeaux chateaux mogul Bernard Magrez in 2012. TWH was just paid a visit by a Magrez’s export director last Monday, and he commented on our having a couple of back vintages of Clos Haut Peyraguey in stock. We spoke about Barsac and Sauternes at length, and I’m pretty black and white about my feelings for the wines. I think he got my drift.

Tumbler #2: It’s a 2005, a fantastic vintage for the wines of Barsac and Sauternes. I can recall John’s excitement about the quality of Bordeaux’s sweet wines when he returned from the region in the spring of 2006. Ben went so far as to purchase some ’05 Clos Haut Peyraguey futures citing its geographical proximity to Yquem. Then there was the tasting of 2005 Sauternes that I attended in 2008, leaving me with quite the impression, especially for Château Coutet. I last had 2005 Coutet on my birthday back in September and it was showing brilliantly! 10 years has worked its magic on the wine which was revealing some bottle bouquet and secondary characteristics. It was still fresh and youthful, yet layered and intellectual. We are trying to get more. I’ll get back to you on that.

Back on Wednesday evening, I was invited to the home of a very good friend to celebrate the end of his six year quest for a particular certification. To celebrate he picked up a USDA Prime Tri-Tip, marinated it, and slow cooked it for hours. He finished it off in a pan and popped a 1993 Penfolds Grange. It was my very first taste of what is considered Australia’s finest wine. It was a great experience, and along with another good friend we discussed many of the finest food and wine pairings we’ve enjoyed over the years. He humbly dismissed the tri-tip/Grange pairing from being among the best (it belongs in the argument), and poured full praise for “The year you brought that magnum of Fleurie to Thanksgiving dinner.” There’s a lot to say in support for Cru Beaujolais at the Thanksgiving table. It’s light. It’s complex. It’s versatile. It smells like fall. As the holiday approaches, we have helped many customers with their “Beaujolais for Thanksgiving” orders.

As I stated above, giving thanks is something that should be done daily, and I have reason to be grateful for many people and things these days. 2015 has been a very challenging year for me personally, and I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in without the tremendous support that I have received from so very many. Giving thanks, BIG TIME! Happy Thanksgiving!!!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Beaujolais, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Gamay, Gold Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes

The November 2013 Dirty Dozen

Grab your coat and hat, it’s November! The chill in the air and the long nights make it easy to stay indoors and hang out with friends and family. And while doing so, why not have a box of twelve different wines, all chosen for their versatility, for one low price to choose from. Tick-tock goes the clock. Thanksgiving is almost here, and the holidays are right around the corner. The Dirty Dozen is a simple solution for all your vinous needs!

Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines

Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2014 Viognier Pays d’Oc, Grange des Rouquette $11.99, $8.79 reorder
TWH pals Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud produce this Viognier (85%) and Marsanne (15%) blend from the balmy VDP d’Oc. Its aromas are of Granny Smith apples, white peach, and apricot with a hint of white pepper. On the palate, it’s well-balanced and has a lively finish. If you want to go all out, pair this with grilled halibut with asparagus.

2014 Ventoux Blanc, Domaine de Fondrèche $16.59, $13.59 reorder
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a white wine from Domaine de Fondrèche. Not because we haven’t tried (we’ve begged them), but because so little is made, barely any makes it out of the Rhône Valley, let alone France. It’s a fancy tasting blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, and Rolle. Get the good stemware and serve pan-fried trout.

2014 Montravel Blanc, Château Calabre $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Just beyond Bordeaux’s eastern frontier, north of the commune of Ste. Foy la Grande is Montravel. Given its proximity to the vineyards of Bordeaux, the same grapes grow there. This fine, inexpensive copycat of white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle) is crisp and balanced. A roasted vegetable torte with goat cheese is perfection here!

2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Copain $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Winemaker Wells Guthrie was a “regular” at TWH long before he started Copain and became known for making some of the most lauded Pinot Noir and Syrah in California. Balance over power is the approach here, and this pink made from Pinot Noir reflects that delicate touch. Freshness, red fruit, and citrus abound. Try it with flatbread with olives.

2014 Chardonnay, Apaltagua $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This tropical fruit-laden Chardonnay is rich in the fruit department, yet finishes clean and crisp. No oak helps to keep this wine lively and bright. The grapes are grown in the San Antonio Valley, west of Chile’s capital, Santiago, and near the Pacific Ocean. Pair with a sandwich, panini, grinder, hoagie, sub, or po’boy.

2014 Pinot Gris, 99 West $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Pinot Gris is Oregon’s most widely planted white variety. This one hails from Willamette Valley in western Oregon. Spiced pears permeate the clean, subtle fruit notes on the palate. A versatile white that can be enjoyed by itself or with a wide array of cuisines. Try with pork tenderloin accompanied by quince paste or applesauce – yum!

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bliss Family Vineyards $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
A rarity: estate-grown California Cabernet Sauvignon for under $15! Grapes growers in Mendocino County for three generations, the Bliss family makes this spicy Cabernet in a straightforward manner, offering value and character. Black plum and berry flavors lead the way. Can’t go wrong with braised short ribs, lamb shanks or slow-roasted pot roast.

2012 Tempranillo, Ercavio $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
This is a crazy good value red for those who are looking for bolder, juicier flavors. Old vine Tempranillo grown on limestone and clay soils at elevations above 2000ft east of Toledo equate to a saturated purple color in the glass and flavors of black currant with a slight hint of licorice. Divine! This wine will stand up to spicier fare like chili or posole.

2012 Teroldego Rotaliano, Lechthaler $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
Teroldego makes its debut in a DD! A deeply pigmented varietal, Teroldego thrives on the flat plateau above Trento where the vines are trained on pergolas to limit vigor. Fruity and bursting with black cherry flavors, this red is fermented in tank and spends less than a year in barrel. This one would be lovely for the Thanksgiving table.

2012 Syrah, Domaine de St. Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder
When driving up to St. Antoine, one immediately gets it; it’s not a winery, it’s a farm. No fancy fountains, Ionic columns, or manicured hedges. Instead, there are green fields, tractors, and grizzled farm workers. But don’t think for a second that Jean-Louis Emmanuel’s focus is not on his wines! This Syrah is fresh and complex and drinks great with that pizza.

2012 Tradicional, Quinta do Alqueve $11.29, $9.03 reorder
Alpiarca, some 40 miles north of Lisbon is where you’ll find Paulo Saturnino Cunha and Quinta do Alqueve. For his Tradicional, he blends Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Trincadeira, and Castelao, and the result is one of the best bang-for-your-buck reds out there. Über versatile, you can pair this with all your favorite red wine dishes.

2012 Vinsobres, Tour de l’Isle $17.99, $14.39 reorder
Once part of the more general Côtes du Rhône Villages designation, Vinsobres has been able to label their wines as their own village since 2006; they’re that distinct. Deep aromas of red and purple fruit surround an earthy core in this medium-full bodied red. This will pair great with steaks and chops of all sorts and sizes.

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Reg. $161.62
On Sale $109.00

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Peter Zavialoff, The Dirty Dozen, Wine Clubs/Samplers

Working Saturdays & Bordeaux Barrel Samples – 2014 Château Sénéjac

We’re hoping that you all had a happy and safe Halloween, wherever you may be. We had a bit of a parade in the shop today with folks in costume; little and not so little alike. It got me to thinking. Earlier in the week, on my usual Wednesday off, I was finishing up a little business with some people whom I wasn’t familiar with, and was asked, “Do you always have a day off during the week?” I answered affirmatively, but explained that I work on Saturdays, which balances that out. But Saturdays are good days here at TWH; that’s the day that we receive the most foot traffic. More foot traffic means more interaction with more customers! A fairly regular Saturday customer popped in for another case of 2010 Château de Malleret (it wasn’t his first!), and as I helped him out, we got to chatting about it.

As anyone who has done so can attest to, bringing up Bordeaux with me will be met with much enthusiasm as well as a story or two. It started with the Malleret, and how pleased I was when I tasted it from bottle at a negociant’s office in Bordeaux. I explained to this gent that I was proud that I found such a wine that has been enjoyed so much by our customers (and staff) for such a reasonable price. I also pointed out that I probably don’t get to taste it if I just went to Bordeaux for the barrel samples. He then began to ask about the barrel samples and how one can appraise a wine not yet in bottle. This warrants a long story, so I’ll spare you that one. The short of it is, speaking for myself, you can’t. At least I can’t tell you what it’s going to taste like 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years down the road. I explained that a bottle of wine is a living thing, and that tasting a barrel sample and describing its complexity 20 years in the future is tantamount to pointing at an infant and declaring it to be a Senator. BUT – tasting a barrel sample does give you an overall impression of a wine’s potential structure, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and most important, balance. Taste enough samples from various appellations, and one gets an impression of the overall character of the vintage. I know, I know. It must be nice … It’s work. Trust me on that one.

Back in late March/early April, I was in Bordeaux for the annual tastings. I arrived on the Wednesday before the hectic week, giving me time to visit growers and negociants. The UGC tastings are important, as that is where many of the well-known chateaux pour their samples. But these days we know there aren’t any bargains at a UGC tasting; hence the negociants’ tastings. I’ve come in habit of hitting one major tasting of barrel samples (see above photo) on Sunday. Hundreds of wines; many of which are petits chateaux. I said it was work, right? With the 2014 vintage, I found many samples to my liking. I get particularly excited when I like one and I know that it’s going to be inexpensive. This year the barrel sample that packs the most quality for the lowest price for me is the 2014 Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc. Not being used to the current dollar/euro conversion rate, I was thinking $18-$20 in my head when I tasted it. I felt it worthy. My tasting note ended with “The right stuff.” Underlined. “Good, honest wine”, I called it. It had excellent weight, pleasant extract, the right amount of acidity and tannin, and most importantly, all in balance. When I got back and we crunched the numbers, we offered it as part of our 2014 futures. $13. Not a typo. $13. For a bottle of Bordeaux. Okay, not yet a bottle, but for a bottle in the future. $13. What?

Okay, one must have a modicum of patience when they buy Bordeaux futures. They take 3 years after vintage to arrive stateside. The 2014 Château Sénéjac will arrive here by the end of 2017. When it does, it probably won’t be $13 (if any is unsold in the first place). Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had to say about the 2014 Sénéjac:
“The Château Sénéjac 2014 has a fresh, lively bouquet, energetic blackberry and boysenberry fruit leaping from the glass. The palate is medium-bodied and tones it down a little. But there is commendable energy here, well-judged acidity and plenty of blackberry and raspberry fruit on the finish that linger long in the mouth. This comes recommended. (89-91 points)”

With Halloween behind us and November upon us, we will be unveiling our 38th Anniversary Sale very, very soon. Keep an eye out for that. For those of you who are experienced with buying Bordeaux futures, a six-pack of Sénéjac is a no-brainer. For those of you who have never bought them, here’s a low cost opportunity to partake in the exercise, which is actually quite fun and exciting once the wine arrives. Seriously, $13. Do you like wine? $13. Boom!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2014 Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Haut-Medoc, Peter Zavialoff

A Taste Of Burgundy – October 2015

October 2015

For those seeking savings on two bottles of Burgundy; whether you’re a beginner, and want to learn more about the region, or if you know a little and wish to learn more, or even if you’re an established Burg lover, our bi-monthly Taste of Burgundy club is for you! Sign up today.

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 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Vigne Blanche
Château de la Maltroye

Château de la Maltroye dates back to 1940 when the Burgundian property was purchased by current owner/winemaker Jean-Pierre Cornut’s grandfather. Jean-Pierre’s father, André worked at the château for 20 years before handing the reins to his son in 1993. Their holdings consist of 15 hectares planted to both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Premier Cru Morgeot Vigne Blanche vineyard lies in the southern part of Chassagne, along a contiguous belt of Premier Cru vineyards that wind down in a southerly direction from the château. Jean-Pierre admits that the quality of his 2013s was “a huge surprise”, as the cold, damp spring was a challenge for many growers. Though yields were lower than average, Jean-Pierre went on to say that his 2013s are, “very floral and elegant and I’m not sure that even 2010 was as transparent to the underlying terroir as is 2013.” The aromas are of citrus and spice with a floral overtone. The palate is powerful and concentrated, yet well balanced. A cellar selection, this will be at its best from 2020 to 2030.

2013 Fixin-Hervelets 1er Cru
Domaine Bart

Martin Bart and his nephew Pierre run this 22 hectare estate which has holdings in some prime vineyards in the northern Côte de Nuits. Of Fixin’s five main Premier Cru vineyards, three of them are monopoles, the other two, Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets are not. Wines that come from Les Arvelets can be bottled as Les Hervelets, but not vice-versa. This wine comes from a 1.5 hectare parcel that is literally split 50/50 between them. These two vineyards lie just north of the other Premier Crus on a gentle slope which is less rocky. The wines from these two vineyards have a reputation for being fine and elegant. Though in 2013, the wine bears a strong resemblance to a top-notch Premier Cru from Gevrey-Chambertain. Bart compares the 2013 vintage to the 2012, citing lower than average production, yet of excellent quality. The elegant bouquet is alive with violets and purple berries with a distinct earthy mineral framework. The palate is fairly sturdy with a round middle exhibiting the expressive fruit with its earthiness and a hint of rusticity. The finish is balanced and focused. This should hit its window starting in 2021 and last well over a decade.Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under A Taste of Burgundy, Burgundy club in San Francisco, Peter Zavialoff, Wine Clubs/Samplers

The October 2015 Dirty Dozen

As the days grow ever shorter, there’s a distinct chill in the air lately, especially in the evenings. It’s time to begin thinking about moving the party indoors as fall is indeed upon us. No need to worry. If you’re looking for something fun and seasonal, check out the October 2015 Dirty Dozen. 12 bottles, all chosen with the season in mind, all different, all versatile, in one box for a super-bargain price. The October Dirty Dozen!

Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines

Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2014 Rosé, Upside $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
At A.P. Vin, Andrew Vingiello makes small lot, single-vineyard Pinot Noir in SF’s Mission district. He also makes this cheery, strawberry-laden Rosé of Pinot Noir. Bright and spicy with enough fruit to make it pleasant to sip on its own or accompany a meal. We think it’s a perfect choice for a hillside sunset viewing with toast points and smoked trout.

2014 Bianco Siciliane, Cantine Colosi $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Cantine Colosi was established in 1987 on Salina, a small island in the Eolian Archipelago, producing wine from Sicily’s native varietals. This white is a blend of Inzolia, Catarrato and Grillo, grapes grown in Sciaccia, along the southwest coast of Sicily. It’s zippy, floral and dry. Serve with tempura-batter foods or any deep-fried specialty.

2013 Paso a Paso, Bodega Volver $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Bodegas Volver is a joint venture between legendary Spanish importer, Jorge Ordonez, and renowned oenologist, Rafael Cañizares. Paso a Paso is made from organically grown grapes in the region of La Mancha situated in Spain’s interior. It’s pale yellow in color with flavors of pear and citrus and a lively finish. Try with a quinoa and kale salad.

2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Tour de l’Isle $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Not only are white Côtes-du-Rhônes fairly priced, some of them are outstanding; like this one! We directly import Robert Rocchi’s Tour de l’Isle blanc for its seamless expression of four grape varietals. Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Clairet are the grapes, and the wine has plenty of fleshy fruit, mineral undertones, and a crisp finish.

2013 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $17.79, $14.23 reorder
Made from the grape Turbiana (others call it Trebbiano di Lugana), this direct-import is made by and shipped to us by Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi from the idyllic commune of Sirmione. It’s a truly unique wine, at once showing off notes of ripe white fruit with zippy citrus backbone framed in a mineral rich, saline-like package. Fried calamari goes well here.

2011 Chenin Blanc, Vinum Africa $17.49, $13.99 reorder
Decanter magazine recommended Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc earlier this year, and we say it’s about time. South African Chenin Blancs have taken off, and this one is a right good deal. It’s bright, apple-y, and the deft touch of new barrel gives it a little spice and texture. It tastes fancy and would be great paired with some yummy barbecue chicken.

2012 Hi-Rollr Red, Yorkville Cellars $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
An uncommon blend of organically grown Zinfandel and Malbec, this vibrant red showcases flavors of boysenberries, plum and warm spices. Aged in neutral barrel and bottled lightly filtered, this is a fabulous value from Mendocino County. Thin-crusted pizza, slow-roasted beef or an eggplant and chickpea tangine are all good options for pairing.

2014 Rouge, Le Chaz $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Merlot go into this delightful Languedoc wine. Spearheaded by winemaker Benoît Chazallon, Le Chaz offers value and distinction sourcing grapes from vines aged 12-20+ years. Smooth and supple with long, silky tannins, this red can be matched with a multitude of dishes like butternut squash risotto or chili.

2013 Carmenere Reserva, Apaltagua $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Carmenere is the progenitor of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. What enterprising 19th century Chilean vignerons thought were Merlot cuttings taken from Bordeaux turned out to be Carmenere. This Carmenere comes from the Colchagua Valley in central Chile. It is rich, bold and full of black fruit and tobacco flavors. Try with lamb curry, rack of lamb or lamb.

2012 Côtes-Du-Rhône, André Brunel $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
André Brunel makes some of the Rhône Valley’s most sought-after wines. Applying his knowhow to the working class Côtes-du-Rhône appellation, he crafts some pretty high quality bottlings which are bargains for sure. Sturdy dark red and purple fruit surround themselves with an earthy French mineral, suggesting this will pair well with a grilled steak.

2013 Grenache/Syrah, Mas de Guiot $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Speaking of bargains, we just love the G/S blend from Mas de Guiot! It is fruity, peppery, earthy, and boasts that signature southern French leatheriness. The palate is medium/full in body and the finish is balanced and long lasting. It’s another versatile red, so you can pair it with all the usual suspects like pizza and pasta with tomato based sauces.

2011 Touraine Les Demoiselles, Domaine des Corbillières $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Last call for the 2011 Loire Valley blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Côt (Malbec)! You truly get a sense of all 3 varieties here. The complex, berry-like aromas exemplify the Pinot Noir. The next level of complexity, especially the crunched up leafy character, is from the Cab Franc, all held up by the backbone of the Côt. All systems go here.

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2012 Chateau Puy-Servain Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes

Time flies. That’s what it does. I’m not going to get philosophical about that, though I struggle getting my head around the fact that it is October. I was reminded of this first thing this morning as I awoke with the morning sun beaming down on my pillow. This biannual occurrence lasts for around a week each time, and it is a reminder that the next time the sun plays its wake up game with me it will be time to head to Bordeaux for Primeurs! And though the barrel tastings are the primary focus of my annual visit, there is so, so much more. I typically hang out in the city for the first few days, but once the weekend hits, I take a stroll under the tracks at Gare Saint Jean and pick up a rental car. This year, I picked up the car and drove for 90 minutes out near Saint Foy la Grande and headed north. Up in the rolling hills north of Saint Foy is the appellation of Montravel. That’s where you find Château Puy-Servain and its owner/ambassador, Daniel Hecquet.

Daniel is not new to us. We are well into our second decade of stocking the wines from Puy-Servain. We first carried his wines via our association with importer Robert Kacher, but their mutual relationship ended around 10 years ago. That was when Daniel paid us a visit. He knows we love his wines and he likes that. His English skills are more than adequate and he informed us that we could continue our relationship by importing his wines directly. To hear Hecquet speak about his wines is extraordinary. Talk about passion! After you taste the wines, you can’t help falling for them. So we agreed to move forward and import them. I visited him and tasted through the line the following spring, but we hit a snag with our follow-through. Nothing was done and time passed, and I was a little apprehensive about scheduling a visit with him the next time I was in Bordeaux thinking that he would not be so receptive to the idea. I was wrong. He was as cheerful and charming as always and invited me to his home to have a meal and meet his wife, Catherine. All went well, the conversation was upbeat and informative and their hospitality was greatly appreciated. After I returned, there were no snags, the wines arrived in the fall, and I continue to visit Daniel and Catherine each spring when I’m nearby.

I made great time this year and got to Puy-Servain a little early, as Daniel was not yet there. I don’t mind, I’ve got patience. I did owe him, as I was around an hour late the very first time I visited. The views from his hilltop winery are beautiful. When he arrived he was apologetic and I reminded him of the time that I was an hour late, so we let that all go with a good laugh. (I would be happy to share the story behind why I was so late, but not in print.) I tasted through his line-up as he makes around a dozen different wines, all very well priced for their levels of quality. His signature bottling is his Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes, and I’ve got to say, the newly arrived 2012 version is spot-on delicious! I have always felt that 2012 was an underrated vintage in Bordeaux, and Montravel is Bordeaux’s neighbor. And as the bottled 2012’s arrive and are tasted, this sentiment is spreading. Made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc (that’s what the label says, Daniel told me it was 90/10), it’s got that brambly Merlot fruit in the aromas and on the palate with elegant expression. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t knock you on the head or overwhelm you in the fruit department. It spends a year in large casks, of which 30% are new, so you get a little bit of spice and texture from the wood. There is an earthy note that complements the brambly fruit and the faintest hint of gamey leather. All in all, it’s the real deal. Here’s the best part: It tastes like fine, Right Bank Bordeaux. But it’s not Bordeaux. That’s why it’s less than $20 per bottle.

So many people, friends and family included, rib me about traveling to Bordeaux each spring. “It must be nice,” or “Someone’s got to do it,” are common statements, but it’s a work trip. Driving alone for 90 minutes gives me no pleasure whatsoever, even if it’s through the French countryside. What does give me pleasure is when I see a pallet of wine arrive in our warehouse, knowing that wine is both delicious and a great value. How do I know? Because I tasted it. You can count on the fact that I will be looking to uncover more wines just like this one right around the next time the sun wakes me up with it’s blinding rays.Peter Zavialoff

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NV Pascal Doquet Horizon Champagne

September 20, 2015; the last Sunday of summer. Time flies, that’s for sure. But unlike the stock market, traffic on the bridge, or the fortune of your favorite team, the fact that time moves on is predictable with 100% accuracy. Keeping that in mind, without getting too far ahead of myself, this means October, November, and December are coming next. What might be a good idea to stock up on for these 3 upcoming months? Something that was recently poured for me comes to mind: The NV Pascal Doquet Horizon Champagne might come in handy as we ride out Q4 of 2015.

Seeing how we’re like a family here at TWH, it has become a tradition to celebrate birthdays around here with bubbles. Our most recent family birthday happened to be mine and toward the end of the day, after looking for something in the back, I was greeted by Anya and David holding Champagne flutes. No bottle, just glasses. Chris joined the party and we clinked them (it was Tom’s day off, otherwise he’d have been there too, sorry Tom). I took a very small ceremonial sip and took a step back to admire the nose. It had layers of complexity that were enjoyable yet perplexing; seeing that it was my birthday, I had to guess the wine. This isn’t as difficult as one would think as a dollop of educated guesswork helps a great deal. The fruit component was fairly well pronounced. There were lemons, snappy green apples, a little of the classic Champagne brioche-like sensation, as well as dusty mineral. The palate was bright, fresh, and seamlessly balanced. Adding all of this up I began to think about special Champagne; expensive Champagne. But we don’t open fancy Champagne for birthdays. Imagine the worst hitter swinging a baseball bat trying to hit a housefly. That’s how effective my guesswork was in this case. Anya went to get the bottle for refills, but David stopped her. At one point I verbally ruled OUT the producer. David said to Anya, “He hasn’t guessed yet. He’s getting colder and colder, and the one conclusion he’s come to is that it’s not what it is!” Sometimes my coworkers have fun at my expense.

The kidding subsided and Anya brought the bottle back to top everyone off. I was a bit surprised as I hadn’t tasted Doquet’s latest release of his Horizon. I don’t usually think of that kind of fruit expression or the yeasty, brioche-like characteristics when I taste one of Pascal’s wines. This was truly a revelation, and it was unanimous, the four of us quaffed our fizz with praise and smiles, nary a critical thought or word. It was a great way to end the work day. There would be more wine to taste that evening including a Sauternes, or in this case Barsac (I think you may know which chateau) which could be my favorite birthday tradition of them all.

Alas, time flies and birthdays end; even for those of us ludicrous enough to drag the celebration out for 21 days! I am grateful for all that was shared with me during the annual ‘fest. As stated above, here come October, November, and December … in that order. Off the top of my head I can think of 7 occasions to open a bottle of Champagne between now and 2016. I guess I’ll just buy a case and make up reasons for the other 5 bottles!Peter Zavialoff

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