Category Archives: Peter Zavialoff

Peter’s thoughts on wine.

White Burgundy Value – 2014 Rully La Folie From Claudie Jobard

Two weeks ago, the dust had just settled after one of Jeanne-Marie De Champs’ bi-annual visits to TWH. As I wrote at that time, the protocol had changed … over 20 bottles of Burgundy were opened, and when the dregs of these sample bottles made their way back to us, we were able to taste through a wide spectrum of quality Burgundy much like a La Paulée tasting. The result is that the experience is fresh in our collective minds, so if you have any questions about any of our new Burgundy wines, we all have some recent experience with them. Which gets me around to my topic of the week: crab season.

On my day off this past week, I wandered in to one of my favorite lunch spots only to bump into a former colleague from my days in the finance biz. I hadn’t seen him in a decade, so we began to catch up on things a bit. It was the usual small talk. He’s been living in New York for the past 8 years and he was visiting because his daughter is going to school out this way. Since he wasn’t in California last fall, he didn’t know about demoic acid and our lack of a crab season. So I was surprised to hear any optimism associated with the question, “How long until crab season?” Really? My eyes got big. A mutual friend who was seated between us matter-of-factly nodded his head and said, “I’m hearing situation back to normal, the season should start in mid-November.” Understanding his not being an authority on the subject, I made a mental note to get some verification. I asked Anya and Christian about it earlier this morning, and they seemed to echo his sentiments. Then, in walked one of our favorite customers whom we know is a crab enthusiast. “If anyone knows the answer, HE certainly does,” I thought to myself. So I asked him. He answered. Crab season here in northern California will begin November 5, with the commercial season beginning two weeks later. Really? Yes.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where I’m going here. I can make a case for pairing a lot of different white wines with crab. The things to look for are expression, balance, complexity, and acidity. If your white wine has these components, your crab experience will be enhanced. With all of the recent Burgundy tasting with Jeanne-Marie and my colleagues, I remember one particular facet which occurred after everyone went home for the day and Chris and I were left with some 12-15 open bottles of Burgundy. They were all close to being empty, but there was still enough in each of them to be able to get a decent sized taste. With Jeanne-Marie and the others gone, and punk rock radio blasting in our warehouse, we took a less studious approach to our tasting. I’m a firm believer in the concept that discovery often occurs when not searching. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was. Delicious white Burgundy from an unassuming appellation; relatively inexpensive, but what sent me over the top was that I prefered it to the next wine I tasted, which was a Meursault. The Meursault was fine, don’t get me wrong, but the previous wine at half the price was the better wine; to me anyway. What was it? The 2014 Rully La Folie from Claudie Jobard.

We’ve already touched upon how good the 2014 vintage was for white Burgundy. In a word, it was great. We’ve also already mentioned Claudie Jobard and her winemaking prowess over the past few years. Having a mother as famous as Laurence Jobard must have put a little pressure on Claudie as she began making wine. She has already landed a wine in our annual Top Ten twice! Did I say that I liked her 2014 Rully blanc better than a Meursault? Yes, I did. What does a wine like this cost? $27.99. With case discount? $23.79. Crab season here I come!Peter Zavialoff

Decanter Magazine’s Stephen Brook’s note from January 2016: “Firm nutty nose, toasty and assertive. Rich, full-bodied, and concentrated, with spiciness and fine acidity, a gutsy Rully, with swagger, pungent and long.”

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about crab season, Burgundy, Bordeaux, or The Special One’s return to Stamford Bridge tomorrow:

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Filed under Chardonnay, Cote Chalonnaise, Cote Chalonnaise wine, Peter Zavialoff, Rully

A Taste Of Burgundy – October 2016


TOB-BANNER 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.



2014 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Chateâu, Château de la Maltroye

The 2014 vintage for Burgundy’s white wines is already receiving praise for perhaps being the finest white vintage since 2008 (If not better!). The ingredients were all there; a mild winter and the right amount of rainfall in early March got things going. The remainder of spring stayed dry. A cool, damp summer gave the fruit healthy acidity levels, an Indian summer finished things off, balancing the acidity with fine ripeness. Former aeronautical engineer-turned-winemaker, Jean-Pierre Cornut has already enjoyed a fine reputation over the past decade, but it was Burghound’s Allen Meadows who had this to say after tasting his bottled 2014’s, “I would observe that Cornut continues to push his wine quality even higher, and these 2014’s are definitely worthy of your attention.” We agree wholeheartedly. This signature Clos du Château blanc has fine aromas of citrus and stone fruit, mineral, and spice. The palate feel is bright, with layers of balancing fruit and a clean finish. Give this a little time to let it shine: Drink from 2018-2028.

2014 Marsannay Les Champs Salomon, Domaine Bart

According to Clive Coates MW, in September 2014, “The sun has shone almost without exception throughout the month.” This was especially important for the Pinot Noir that had endured the cool summer. When the month began, the fruit needed to ripen and as Coates puts it, “It is sunshine rather than heat which ripens fruit.” He went on to say, “We have not had such splendid harvest weather for many years. This will ensure high quality across the board.” Pierre Bart feels that his 2014’s are ripe and structured, with a tender, round texture suggesting they will be approachable young. There’s plenty to like about the 2014 Bart Marsannay Les Champs Salomon. The aromas are fresh and complex: dark berry fruit, herbs, minerals, and allspice. On the palate, the wine is silky with good mineral definition framing the complex, medium-bodied fruit. The finish is a well balanced display of fruit, mineral and spice, with the fresh acidity keeping it interesting. It’s enjoyable now, but little cellar time will benefit this wine. We suggest drinking from 2018-2029. – Peter Zavialoff


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Filed under A Taste of Burgundy, Burgundy club in San Francisco, Chardonnay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Château de la Maltroye, Domaine Bart, Marsannay, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir

It Was Like La Paulée This Week – 2014 Château de la Maltroye Bourgogne Pinot Noir

Whew! It’s been quite a week. Returning to work after a two week break always comes with a readjustment period, but what happens when two days into that period, Jeanne-Marie de Champs from Domaines et Saveurs in Beaune comes to town? Burgundy. We open bottles of Burgundy. And other wines too. Each time Jeanne-Marie has visited us over the years, she fills us in on the goings on around Burgundy (and other French viticultural areas). We are always interested in her updates and introductions to the wines and the producers she represents. Then come the wines themselves. Usually, when David takes Jeanne-Marie out to visit wholesale accounts, he grabs 6 to 9 sample bottles to open and pour. Sometimes 6, sometimes 9. This year’s visit was different. There were over 20 sample bottles of Burgundy opened on Wednesday and Thursday, and they all made their way back to TWH for a staff tasting. I’ve never been to a La Paulée tasting, but I imagined that what we were doing was very much in line with the spirit of those fancy Burgundy tastings. You know, comparing the different Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachets, or different vintages of Premier Cru Morey-Saint-Denis. This pretty much never happens, so we made the most of it, and tasted some mighty fine wines in the process!

Tasting flight #2 of 3 – Thursday, 6 October


We tasted several wines from producers such as Paul Pernot, Stéphane Magnien, Pernot-Belicard, Claudie Jobard, Sylvain Langoureau, and Château de la Maltroye. So if you have any questions about those producers and their new releases, please feel free to ask any of us! As we tasted through them, the wines went from strength to strength; at every price point. Yet before the exact prices were known to us, one red wine stood out for its aromatic expression, firm structure, and balance: The 2014 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Château de la Maltroye. It held its own while being tasted with a group of Premier Crus, and we had a ballpark idea of what price range it was in, but when we looked up the exact price, we knew 20 cases wasn’t going to be enough.

Jeanne-Marie at the trade tasting

It was during flight #3 that we finally got around to tasting the Maltroye Bourgogne, so my palate had already gone back and forth between reds and whites a couple of times, yet I still prefer to taste red wines first if there are whites to be tasted also. So I got to it before my colleagues, and it had me at first whiff. Dark, brambly, red and black berry fruit, a hint of cola spice, and forest floor waft from the glass. “My kind of wine,” I thought. Then I tasted it. Very nice. The entry is bright and lively, the fruit enters and expands on the palate, the structure is medium bodied with healthy acidity and fine tannins. The finish is all in harmony and long lasting. It’s a Bourgogne that is long on character, and it’s less than $30 per bottle. Actually, by the case, it’s less than $23! I grabbed the bottle and held it up for the others, “This one right here; Wow!” That’s all I had to say. A few minutes later, Anya, Chris, and Christian tasted it as well, and we were all in agreement; we had a sub $30 red Burgundy that is underpriced. 20 cases is not going to be enough. You may want to act sooner than later on this one.

What a week, indeed! I awoke Monday morning, predawn, in a hotel in Ljubljana. Three flights later, I was back in San Francisco at 5:30PM PDT. My goal was to stay up until at least 9:00PM to get my body clock back in synch with Pacific Time. Mission accomplished. My trip to Slovenia was fantastic in so many ways. The natural beauty of the country and the outdoorsy spirit of its natives proved to be infectious. The wine culture is strong, vibrant, historic, and thriving. Each producer whom I visited, in addition to their main wines, had some kind of experimental project going on. Whether through extended skin contact, under water fermentation, or making a sparkling version of each of their still wines, they all displayed a bit of playfulness which brings me back to a quote uttered by a California winemaker during my first week on the job, “Don’t take wine too seriously. It’s for joy!” There’s a lot of joy to be had with the 2014 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Château de la Maltroye.Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about this week’s Burgundy tastings, Slovenia, Bordeaux, or English Football:

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Filed under Burgundy, Château de la Maltroye, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir

2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc – Do we Really Get A Fourth Chance?

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:

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2011 Château Malescot St. Exupery, Margaux

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:

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Grower Champagne For Summer: NV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Le Mesnil Sur Oger Blanc de Blancs

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:

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Filed under Champagne, Chardonnay, Peter Zavialoff, Sparkling wine

A Taste of Burgundy – August 2016

A Taste Of Burgundy

TOB-BANNER 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

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Filed under A Taste of Burgundy, Burgundy club in San Francisco, Chardonnay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Peter Zavialoff, Pinot Noir, Puligny-Montrachet, Wine Clubs/Samplers