Category Archives: Peter Zavialoff

Peter’s thoughts on wine.

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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Back By Popular Demand! 2009 Chateau La Croix Calendreau, Saint-Emilion

To say that the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux was a successful one would be a big understatement. We don’t have the statistics handy, but I’m pretty sure that we sent more emails out about 2009 Bordeaux than any other vintage. Such was the quality of the vintage; from the First Growths down to the Bordeaux Supérieurs, the weather benefitted everyone. I will always remember my first appointment in March 2010, when I asked a negociant how the barrel samples were showing and he replied, “You will find them hard to spit!” Charming as infants, charming after bottling, and now that they’re putting on weight at the young age of 5 years old, charming still. We bought a whole lot of wine from the 2009 vintage; in some instances, the same wine several times. Hey, if it’s that good, and that popular, why not reload? Our recent container brought forth one of those wines, the 2009 La Croix Calendreau, Saint Émilion.

The first drop of La Croix Calendreau landed here at TWH in June of 2013. It was gone by August. Funny thing was, we didn’t list it in our newsletter, nor did we mention it in an email. It sold out because we were all taken by it, and chances are, if you came in during that time and were looking for a medium/full bodied red wine with charm, structure, and balance, you walked out with a bottle or two. Many of you came back and bought more, then boom! It sold out. Round two was no different. This time, at least we had a chance to get in front of it and send out an email announcing its re-arrival. This, of course, didn’t help in keeping it in-stock, and it was gone in less than 3 months.

We love new containers! Who knows how long it will last this time around, but the 2009 La Croix Calendreau, Saint Émilion is back in the house! It sold out at $25 per bottle. Due to a favorable currency situation, we can offer this final batch at $22.98 per bottle.
Ready, set, go!Peter Zavialoff

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The September 2015 Dirty Dozen

September? Have no fear, summer is not over. Not yet. It will be later this month, but let’s not let that put a damper on our spirits. There’s plenty to look forward to as fall approaches. Pigskin lovers are happy, the leaves will be changing, baseball will be turning into its serious phase, and the nights are getting longer. To accompany these changes, how about 12 wines, all different, for one low price? The September 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 Ventoux Rosé l’Instant, Domaine de Fondrèche $16.29, $13.03 reorder
In the eastern section of the southern Rhône Valley, Sébastien Vincenti makes some fine wine in the Ventoux appellation. His Rosé l’Instant is another great example of a southern French Rosé made in the Provençal style. It’s sleek and crisp with hints of citrus and dried flowers. It’s a great food wine and will pair best with a seared ahi tuna salad Niçoise.

2013 Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $13.99, $11.19 reorder
From the Côtes de Gascogne in southwest France comes this snappy little sipper inspired by the white blends from Bordeaux. 85% Sauvignon Blanc and a little Sémillon combine for a bright, fresh, citrus-like aromatic profile. The palate is light and the finish clean. A versatile table white, salads work well, especially those with goat cheese.

2012 Unoaked Chardonnay, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder
Englishman Alex Dale grew up with wine, and in the 1990’s he invested in vineyards near Capetown, South Africa, and founded The Winery of Good Hope. No fancy label, no marketing, it’s all about the wine. 100% unoaked Chardonnay is what you get, no tricks, no makeup. The screwcap enclosure makes it great with picnics and chicken salad sandwiches.

2014 Entre-Deux-Mers, Tertre de Launay $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
The Greffier family has been making wine for over 6 generations and exporting Chateau Tertre de Launay to the US for nearly 40 years. We think they’ve got this thing down. A classic Bordelaise blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle goes into this intense, yet classy wine. Apart from shellfish, try it with grilled lemony-chicken.

2014 Xarel-lo, Bohigas $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Bohigas, a family-run winery an hour north of Barcelona, can trace their history back to the 13th century. Today, father and daughter make a dry white from Xarel-lo, best known for being one of three grapes used for Cava. Zippy flavors of pineapple and white fruit are supported by a solid acid backbone. Try with salty snacks and tapas.

NV Gála Sec, Törley $11.98, $10.78 reorder
At the end of the 18th century, after working at Roederer and Delbeck in Reims, József Törley returned home to Hungary to make sparkling wine. His image is on the neck of every Törley bottle. The Gála Sec is indeed dry and made up of three varietals, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and Királyleányka. A Prosecco look-alike; it’s yummy with fried chicken.

2013 Poggio d’Elsa, Bruni $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
A 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, this hearty red from the wine region of Maremma, along Tuscany’s coastal flank, offers up ripe flavors of Morello cherries and black plums wrapped up in a smooth tannin finish. Beef brochettes topped with a pungent salsa verde would do nicely here, especially served outside on the terrazza.

2011 Minervois Cuvée Spéciale, Chateau de Paraza $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
After a period of neglect, the Danglas family has brought this historical estate back to its former glory. Along with renovation of the château, emphasis has been on elevating wine quality. The Cuvée Spéciale is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and the rest Mourvèdre. Spicy, juicy, round and delicious! Try with flavors inspired by the Middle East.

2013 Santofimia, Niel $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Black as night in the glass, this Garnacha Tintorera, aka Alicante Bouchet, is a bold, zesty Spanish red wine. The vines are 30 years of age on average and are grown at high altitudes in nutrient-poor soils. Blackberry liqueur and juicy cassis fruit flavors are backed up with formidable acidity. It’s a tooth-stainer! Try with bleu cheese topped grilled steak.

2013 Merlot, Domaine Saint Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder
We’ve been carrying the wines from Domaine Saint Antoine for well over a decade, one of the main reasons is for the price, they’re quite a deal! This Merlot is not to be taken lightly. It speaks of ripe cassis and cherries, tobacco and lavender. Tee up a rotisserie chicken, baked potatoes with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, and asparagus. Yum.

2012 Syrah/Grenache, Grange des Rouquette $11.99, $9.59 reorder
You may have heard us extoll the virtues of Thierry Boudinaud and the panoply of wines he produces from in and around the southern Rhône. This Syrah/Grenache blend is all business; all tank-fermented, so it’s pure and fresh. What you get are aromas of red and purple berries, a medium-bodied palate and a bright finish. A great all-purpose table red.

2011 Costières de Nîmes Cuvée Trassegum, Château d’Or et de Gueules $22.99, $18.39 reorder
Cuvée Trassegum. In the local Occitan dialect it means “love potion,” and we are smitten. This is serious stuff here. Wine wizard Diane Puymorin blends 20% each Carignan and Mourvèdre (both from 80 year old vines) with Syrah and the result is spectacular. Get the fancy stemware out, grill up a nice grass-fed ribeye and share it with someone special!

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

2014 Chateau Armurey Bordeaux Clairet – Rare And Delicious!

Visiting Bordeaux each spring to attend the En Primeur tastings is always an interesting experience. Full of challenges and deadlines, but also rife with learning opportunities and plain old dumb luck, I try to approach the week as open and accepting as possible. It is not a time for stress or mood swings. You never know what is going to happen. Not being much of a planner, Primeurs is the one week that I keep a list of appointments, from 9am until 6pm, every day, and I cram a lot of tastings and appointments into those time slots! Monday was spent in the Médoc with appointments at 11 châteaux, including 2 First Growths, 5 Seconds, 2 Thirds, and 2 Fifths. Tuesday was again spent in the Médoc, only 3 appointments, but all 5 UGC tastings were there. Wednesday morning began with the UGC Pessac-Léognan tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Between the reds and whites, that was 31 wines, so it was rather amusing as to why I busted my tail after this tasting to drive to Pomerol for a noon appointment to taste one wine. What was the wine? Believe it or not, it was the 2014 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet.

You may have heard the story before, a few years ago, former TWH staffer Emily asked me if I had ever tasted Bordeaux Clairet. The answer was no, but more than that, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Once again, Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, made in the style reminiscent of the wines shipped to England in the middle ages. It’s made like a Rosé, yet sits with its skins for a longer period of time, hence the red wine aromas and palate. We just love it! With a little chill on it, it’s fresh, it’s fruity, it’s light, but definitely more substantial than a Rosé. Around the table, it’s incredibly versatile too; you can pair it with almost anything. The best part: its price. $10 by the bottle or $8.50 by the case, it’s no wonder my fall invoice usually has a bottle or seven on it. Here is our post about the 2012 version. Also, you can read our write-up on the 2013 here.

Unlike the past two vintages, the supplier did not air-freight out any samples of the 2014 for our staff to taste, and we weren’t about to buy something we hadn’t tasted, so I made arrangements to do so while in Bordeaux. It must be amusing from the négociant’s perspective as well, as she interrupted her hectic Primeurs schedule to grab a sample of inexpensive Clairet, chill it, and meet with me so I could taste it. We went to lunch afterwards, where we did discuss more serious matters with some serious wine from a Pomerol estate called Château Bonalgue (You will be hearing a bit about Bonalgue in the near future). After lunch, I was off to four appointments at various celebrated Pomerol châteaux, then two more just across the border in Saint Émilion. When I look back on the day as a whole, it cracks me up to think about leaving Smith-Haut-Lafitte and high-tailing it across the two rivers to make my noon appointment to taste the Bordeaux Clairet. I was confident that it would be to my liking, but I needed first hand knowledge before we went ahead and bought a bunch. It exceeded expectations.

It’s container season here at TWH! The 2014 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet recently arrived on the first of three containers due in the next several weeks! Both Anya and I took bottles home last weekend, and it looks like we’ll be doing it again after we close today! First thing this morning, Tom asked Anya if she had tried the Clairet. “I love it! It’s great, so easy to drink, so plump, so juicy. I like this year’s version better than last year as it’s fresher and less herbal.” Who need boring tasting notes when you have Anya’s enthusiasm? – Peter Zavialoff

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2013 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc: Not Your Ordinary Bourgogne!

As we wade through the enormity of a newly arrived French container, we are always excited to find wines that are new to us. Sometimes, it is equally exciting to find “old friends”; as in wines we have known and loved in past vintages, now to be greeted by their latest incarnations. This past Tuesday, a handful of new wines went out on tour, poured by our reps for their wholesale customers. At the end of the day, the remaining bottles made their way back to headquarters, and our staff were able to sample them. A few of them were indeed new incarnations of old friends, one of which being a wine it seems we love in every vintage. After tasting the 2013 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc this past Tuesday, we can confirm that last sentence!

The wines from Domaine Michel Bouzereau are very special wines. Winemaker Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau has a loyal following of Burgundy lovers, and many of his top bottlings are in very short supply, despite prices that hover around the $100 threshold. Lovely wines are these, but some of us can’t burn a Benjamin every time we drink white wine. Something our staff is all clued in on, as well as the many customers who have inquired about Jean-Baptiste’s wines, is that Domaine Michel Bouzereau is located in the village of Meursault. He makes a Bourgogne blanc, but it’s no ordinary Bourgogne blanc. The fruit is sourced from in and around Meursault, and that’s pretty much all we need to know. Heck, there is a litany of evidence in our wake as to how much we love this wine. His 2009 made our Top Ten Wines of 2011 list, and Anya and I have taken turns writing about this wine for several vintages.

2013 was yet another challenging vintage in Burgundy. There was trouble at the stage of flowering. There was rain. There was hail. There was damage. Jean-Baptiste was lucky to not be affected by the hail, but did point out that there were times when it was so wet that he couldn’t get his machinery into the vineyard to treat the vines as usual. After the harvest, when speaking to Burghound’s Allen Meadows, Bouzereau declared, “I would gladly sign a contract today to make the quality that I did in 2013 every year. However, I wouldn’t want to sign up for the same amount of stress and work every year as I would be an old man pretty fast.” He went on to tell Meadows, “As to the wines, I love this style as they’re racy, refreshing and very terroir driven with just the right amount of citrus character that stops short of being aggressive. In terms of style, I would compare the 2013s aromatically to the 2007s but with better overall concentration.”

The 2013 made a considerable impression on me. The layers of complexity one senses with this wine is beyond the mere Bourgogne designation. I picked up a delicate, floral nuance on the bouquet in addition to orchard fruit and lemon zest. The fruit on the palate was subtle and nuanced, with lively acidity keeping it in focus. It was indeed very Meursault-like. The conservative Meadows had this to say, “An exuberantly fresh nose offers up notes of citrus, floral and apple while introducing textured, sleek and delicious middle weight flavors that conclude in a clean, dry, precise and notably complex finale. This is unusually good for its level and would make a fine all-around choice for a house white plus it should improve for a year or three as well.” As a matter of fact, in his listings on Burghound, occasionally you will see a heart symbol next to a wine, which means, “outstanding.” Meadows reviewed 10 wines from Bouzereau in 2013, they all have heart symbols next to them!

We will delve further into this container as time goes forward. As we taste the goodies, we promise to report back. Try the 2013 Michel Bouzereau Bourgogne blanc, you won’t be disappointed! – Peter Zavialoff

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Little Stones From The Rhone: 2011 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles

The Northern Rhône, to be exact. One of my favorite pairing memories from my early days here at TWH was when I was invited to some friends’ house after work for “something that has been on the smoker for hours.” With little first hand experience of tasting the wide selection of red wines on our shelves, I consulted our pal Ben, and he put a 5 year old bottle of Northern Rhône Syrah in my hands. “It’s got structure and ample fruit, but this Syrah has a smoky-meaty quality that will work perfect with your dinner.” The words are seared in my memory because the pairing was perfect. So perfect that my friends loaded up on the wine because their smoker and grill were used pretty often. That wine is long gone, but in the world of 5 year old (okay, 4.5 years) Northern Rhône Syrah, we’ve got a pretty dang good deal!

Crozes-Hermitage surrounds the tiny, and much more expensive appellation of Hermitage on the east bank of the Rhône River just north of the commune of Valence. Syrah is the red grape of the region, and many of the wines from this part of the world have a distinct smoky-meaty-gamey nuance to them. That was certainly the case with the wine I mentioned in the above paragraph. Tonight’s wine has it as well, but there’s more!

One of the wines in the August 2015 Dirty Dozen is the 2011 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles. Due to the budget of our monthly sampler, we could only include a half bottle in the DD, but as Anya advised me,“Our Dirty Dozen customers deserve a treat like Crozes-Hermitage!” A treat it is. The best way that I can describe it is that it’s a red wine that can do it all. It’s got enough fruit and balance to be enjoyed on its own, and now that it’s spent some time in bottle, it has the complexity to be enjoyed with your victuals.

The Wine Advocate’s Rhône specialist, Jeb Dunnuck had this to say about the 2011 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles:

“Starting off the 2011s and another delicious, classically constructed effort from this producer, the 2011 Crozes Hermitage Les Pierrelles exhibits ample blackberry, pepper, underbrush and textbook northern Rhone meatiness to go with a medium-bodied, fruit forward and nicely textured profile on the palate. Despite the up-front feel here, it firms up nicely on the finish and should have a gradual evolution. This was a rock solid lineup from this tiny, family owned estate. 89 points”

Being August, I’ve made a point of hitting the farmers’ market each Sunday. The assortment of summer’s bounty is fantastic, with sights and smells that only come this time of year. Speaking of smells, I’ve had to wash a lot of clothes lately, mostly because I’ve been standing around a lot of smoking barbecues. I don’t necessarily want to do more laundry on my day off tomorrow, but if I have to, I have to. That’s the good thing about taking home a bottle of the 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles: The barbecue is optional. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about smoked meats, grilling, the northern Rhône, Bordeaux, or English Football:

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Filed under Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone, Peter Zavialoff, Syrah

2010 Domaine Alain Michelot Bourgogne Rouge

Isn’t it great when things come full circle? It happens a lot here at TWH. An example of the traditional route of things coming full circle here would be when we travel overseas, taste a slew of wines, make some decisions, purchase the wines that we like best, return home and wait until they finally make it here, and then we put them in your hands. That’s the traditional route. I was recently made aware of one further step to “full circle.” That’s when something we taste overseas makes it over here, a customer takes it home, and then a few years later, the customer pours it in a glass and hands it to me. Now that’s FULL circle! In an effort to put it out there to the universe, that’s what I am attempting to do here. If you buy this wine and don’t share it with me a few years down the road, I won’t mind, but just know that you will possess a wine that will provide pleasure for yourself and those who you do choose to share your wine with!

It should go without saying, but all of my close friends who like wine are TWH customers. That’s not a stretch. In fact, it was my best friend who tossed out this line to me before my first interview with David all those years ago: “Tell him you’ve got an order for a case of Bordeaux in your pocket if he hires you … if that helps.” Too cool, right? Well, this buddy of mine just got married last month, and the newlyweds threw a little shindig to celebrate at their home. Of course beverages were served and I was in charge of making sure that those who were drinking wine, myself included, were taken care of. The wines being served were selected before my arrival, and I was delighted to see 3 bottles of an old favorite on the table when I got there. When I took my first sip, I proudly smiled and silently celebrated the victory. I aspire to repeat this feat a few years down the road with the 2010 Bourgogne Rouge from Domaine Alain Michelot.

Red Burgundy can be pricey. Something that we strive to do, and succeed at, is finding wines of quality that aren’t pricey. We’ve been importing the wines from Michelot since the 1990’s; their nearly 8 hectares of vineyards are located in Nuits-Saint-Georges and Morey-Saint-Denis. The domaine dates back to the 1880’s, and Alain’s daughter Élodie represents the fifth generation running the show there. With a little bit of modern know-how, yet in keeping with the domaine’s traditional style, Élodie makes wine that expresses her respective terroirs. Her Premier Cru offerings have quite the following among Burgundy lovers and the 2010 vintage was outstanding, producing wines of substantial structure and expression, all with marvelous balance. The Premiers and Grands Crus will need lots of time in the cellar to show their best, but her Bourgogne is a more modest wine that can be enjoyed today or up to another 7 years down the road. It is a fuller-bodied Bourgogne, yet the fruit manages to stay in focus throughout the entire tasting experience. Serve it blind, and you may hear some guesses that it is a Nuits-Saint-Georges, as the fruit is sourced from vines in the south of the appellation. The wine is well worth the regular price of $28.99, but for this weekend only, starting now, it’s just $19.95 a bottle. This is going to sell out, and we apologize for that, but there’s a container about to land and we need the space!

So there you go; I’m putting it out to the universe. Actually, I was a little more proactive than that. I have what we call an “open order,” or the authorization to assign particularly good deals to some of my close friends. I’m hoping they can be patient enough to hang on to a few bottles of the 2010 Bourgogne Rouge from Domaine Alain Michelot for a party a few years down the road! – Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under Burgundy, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir


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