Category Archives: Nebbiolo

On Value – 2010 Barolo From Aurelio Settimo


What constitutes good value? Well, M-W.com defines the word as, “A fair return or equivalent for goods, services, or money for something exchanged.” Keeping in mind that the word “fair” is subjective; we all want our money’s worth when purchasing anything. Here at TWH, we always seek good value when tasting and deciding which wines to import and stock on our shelves. At every price point, there is value to be had here.

SettimoLineup

 

If one is searching for the best values among our bins, it is obvious to begin with wines that we import ourselves. It just makes sense – as there are no middlemen taking their cuts as the wine moves from producer to our shelves. We pride ourselves on being able to provide good value at every price point, from the $10 bottle well into the hundreds. In the world of fine wine, there exists a law of diminishing returns. After all, is a $100 bottle of wine really twice as good as a $50 bottle? There are many reasons for a particular wine’s price to exceed that of similar wines from similar locales. Some brands have excellent marketing arms and are able to command more due to a heightened reputation – deservedly or not. Taking all this into consideration, I have quietly enjoyed a very special wine recently. It’s from a fancy appellation – one that includes wines which sell for hundreds of dollars. I’m talking about Barolo. Specifically, the 2010 Barolo from Aurelio Settimo.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about an Italian white wine which we directly import. Within the write-up I mentioned a tasting room experience in which Tiziana Settimo suggested we try a line of wines made by a friend of hers. The fact that we all really fell for those wines further solidified Tiziana’s reputation in our eyes.
AurelioTonneaux
Around a year ago, we introduced Aurelio Settimo in the form of a Sunday email, calling them “Time Machine Wines.” Please click here to access it. Tiziana Settimo, after taking the reins from her late father in 2007, has continued the winemaking tradition in the family, maintaining the estate’s style. Her wines sing beautifully of quality fruit expression and sense of place. When the line of Barolo arrived last year, I was surprised to find that her 2010 Barolo was not only outstanding, but with a little decanting, it could be enjoyed now! I put my money where my mouth was and brought a bottle to Restaurant Picco in Larkspur to enjoy with dinner. I am friendly with several members of their staff, and shared tastes of the Barolo with many of them. The response was unanimous. They all loved it! It is a true Old World wine. The aromas are marked by the quintessential tar and a hint of rose petal, there is some wild cherry in there too, as well as dusty sandstone and herbaceous notes. The palate is medium bodied and elegant, dare I say silky. It’s altogether balanced, and the finish is prolonged by the buoyant acidity. It’s a fancy wine without being flashy. In other words, it’s a classy Old World wine.

2010 was an excellent vintage in Barolo, and among the famous labels, marketing departments or not, prices can be pretty steep. Due to the benefits from direct importation, the 2010 Aurelio Settimo Barolo is not $100 per bottle; not even $50. It comes in at $41.99, and even better, as part of any mixed case, the price gets down to $35.69. For Barolo.

It has been a banner week here at TWH. We co-hosted an intimate dinner at the aforementioned Restaurant Picco in Larkspur this past Tuesday with the Cru Classé wines from Bordeaux’s Bernard Magrez, represented by his daughter, Cécile Daquin. It was a great success, and we hope to have more opportunities to host more dinners in the future. Speaking of Bordeaux, we’re less than a month away from the annual En Primeurs tastings. There are still some loose ends to tie up for me schedule-wise, though I am confident they will be in order sometime this coming week. We’re hearing good things about 2016, but I will reserve judgement until I taste them for myself. That’s what we do here at TWH, and there’s a whole lot of value in that!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Barolo, direct importation, Bordeaux, or the current state of the English Premiership: peter@wine SF.com
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Filed under Barolo, Nebbiolo, Peter Zavialoff, Piemonte

Aurelio Settimo del Piemonte – Time Machine Wines


The arrival of a new container ’round here is always exciting, but the excitement always builds when wines from a new (to us) producer are on it! How do we find new producers? There are several ways, but each winter there is a trade tasting featuring many Italian producers in search of importers in New York City. It was at this tasting where David first met Ambra Tiraboschi, and signed up Ca’Lojera for direct importation. It may have taken a trip or two to find another Italian producer, but we are super excited to be able to introduce the wines from Aurelio Settimo to you! The Settimo line includes Dolcetto, Langhe Nebbiolo, and a few Baroli.

In this day and age where so many wines are being made in the “International Style,” it is so refreshing to taste high-quality wines made the old school way! In their cellars, one will find no new barrels. As a matter of fact, there are no small barrels of any age to be found! Everything is made using large wooden casks, concrete and stainless steel tanks. The wines have the unmistakeable character of the terroir they come from and reflect their unique personalities due to minimal intervention. They’re real “Time Machine” wines!

aureliotonneaux
The Settimo story goes back to 1943 when Aurelio’s parents settled into an old farmhouse in the hamlet of Annunziata, north of Barolo. They had chickens, cows, and rabbits. They grew fruit and nut trees and grape vines. The vast majority of wine grapes were sold off to local wineries, with a very small portion retained to make wine for
friends and family. By the end of the 1950’s Aurelio’s father, Domenico, was bottling his own wine under the Settimo Domenico label. Aurelio began to understand how special the family’s land was, and after his father’s passing in 1962, he scrapped the farming biz and committed to viticulture and expanded their holdings. This commitment was costly, as a new home and winery were built during this time. Aurelio was still selling half of his grapes to larger, local wineries, but that ended in 1974 when all production was vinified right there at the estate. The family style is to maintain traditional practices in their winemaking, letting the fruit and terroir do all the talking. Little has changed since Aurelio’s passing in 2007, as his daughter and right-hand woman, Tiziana runs the estate and continues the family tradition.

We were able to land a small amount of 2011 Barolo and 2008
Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata, though they’re both currently in short supply. Don’t worry. We LOVE these old-school wines; we’ve already loaded up on more, and we’ll be getting more of the ’08 Rocche, and the 2010 Barolo and Rocche later this spring. We will not hesitate to alert you all when they arrive! In the meantime, check out the Dolcetto and the Langhe Nebbiolo. Both offer great character and amazing value. Won’t you join us in welcoming Tiziana and the entire Aurelio Settimo team to our ever-growing lineup of producers! Benvenuto!

 


2014 Aurelio Settimo Dolcetto d'Alba 750ML

2014 Aurelio Settimo Dolcetto d’Alba 750ML

 

The 2014 Dolcetto d’Alba from Settimo has dusty forest floor aromatics with a bright cherry fruit profile. Lively and fresh on the palate with a tangy finish. The dial is clearly pointed to old-school styled Dolcetto here as the grapey aspect of modern Dolcettos is absent.

12% ABV

Reg. $15.59
buy 2014 Aurelio Settimo Dolcetto d'Alba 750ML

 

 


2009 Aurelio Settimo Langhe Nebbiolo 750ML

 

2009 Aurelio Settimo Langhe Nebbiolo 750ML

6+ years since harvest, the 2009 Langhe Nebbiolo has those snappy tar & roses aromas that the variety is known for … and then some! Showing impressive layers of complexity such as leather, all-spice, and forest floor, this Nebbiolo is as honest as it gets.
14% ABV

Reg. $23.99
buy 2009 Aurelio Settimo Langhe Nebbiolo 750ML

 

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Filed under Barolo, Nebbiolo, Peter Zavialoff, Piemonte

The Wine House SF – Top Ten Wines Of 2015


 

The Wine House SF
Our Top Ten Wines Of 2015

 

As we begin to settle in to 2016, we look forward to all of the new wines and new discoveries that await us. But before we head full-steam into the new year, a brief recap of 2015 in the form of a list of our Top Ten Wines is in order! Here at TWH, over the course of a year, we taste thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers. From all of these tastings, one can only imagine the difficulty in choosing which wines to import and/or to stock on our shelves. A very small percentage indeed. Taking all that into consideration, paring the list of those wines down to a neat Top Ten is quite the challenge. So many wines deserve a mention, but one important criterion consistent in each year’s Top Ten is this: A good story. After all, a bottle of wine is a living thing. And so are we. Good wine is meant to be shared, and that is the only tidbit of instruction that we offer to accompany this list. Life is short. Live a little. Share your wine. Smile. Repeat as often as you can.

For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wines from:

 


A few of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned on their merits. In no particular order, here are our Top Ten Wines of 2015:

 

2010 Domaine Sainte Barbe
Perle de Roche
Crémant de Bourgogne
We begin with bubbles. How can we not? With New Year’s Day festivities in our wake, it just makes sense. The 2010 Perle de Roche Crémant de Bourgogne from Domaine Sainte Barbe is very special indeed. In the day and age of mega-corporate Champagne producers flooding the market with their hundreds of millions of bottles, it’s refreshing to come across a small producer in Burgundy who cares for their Crémant like artisanal Grower-Champagne producers do. This fizz is dry, as only 4g/l of sugar are used, which is much lower than most wines labeled as “Brut.” Stony minerals are at its core, and its zippy nerve leads to a crisp, elegant finish. Winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland has not made this wine since his 2011 (which was produced in tiny quantities), and currently there isn’t any new Crémant in the pipeline. So what is left is all there is. For now.

 

2012 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Truly a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lovers’ CdP, Domaine du Pegau is a standard bearer for traditional, old-school wines from the wine capital of the southern Rhône. The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck puts it thusly, “Without a doubt, Domaine du Pegau is one of the top reference point estates for traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
He goes on to describe the wine, “One of my favorite wines, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is a classic. Beautiful on the nose, with notions of ground pepper, wild herbs, minerality and smoked plum and dark fruit, it’s medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and has plenty of tannin that comes through on the finish. Similar in style to a lighter-weight 2010, drink this beauty anytime over the coming 12-15 years. 94 points”

 

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache
On a field trip last summer, Anya paid a visit to the Scherrer winery during their annual open house. Having been on their mailing list since the winery’s early days in the 1990’s, she was very familiar with their various bottlings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. After another fine visit and tasting, as she was saying her good-byes, Fred Scherrer asked if she had time to taste one more wine. That’s a proposition that few wine geeks can resist, and Anya wasn’t about to buck the trend. He reached behind a barrel and revealed his 2012 Sonoma County Grenache. Knowing a bit about our selections of Grenache-based Rhône wines, Fred felt his Grenache would be a good fit with our customers. It is literally a single-vineyard bottling from Kick Ranch. Let’s just say that it went over so well that we are all in agreement about the wine’s ability to integrate the liveliness of southern Rhône Grenache with the juicy fruit expression of Sonoma County. We’re very happy to include the Scherrers in our Top Ten of 2015!

2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard Les Vaumuriens
It’s all in the family. Laurence Jobard and her sister, Miraille own Domaine Gabriel Billard. You may be familiar with Laurence from her 30 year tenure as oenologist at Maison Joseph Drouhin. The sisters now entrust Laurence’s daughter, Claudie with winemaking duty. Claudie has hit TWH’s Top Ten in the past, and does so again with this 2012 stunner. The domaine is a bit of a secret; they do not submit samples to any well-known publication or critic, and production is remarkably low.
After doing the research (delish!), and composing the write-up for the June 2015 Taste Of Burgundy, I asked David the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?” We popped a bottle at the end of a busy Friday during the Anniversary Sale/Holiday frenzy. I think Anya summed it up best when she said, “You know, I always love the inexpensive wines that we have in abundance here. I take a bottle of Gavi or a bottle of Côtes du Rhône home for dinner, and they always deliver, making me think, wow, what a goldmine. But then I taste a wine like this one and I get it. This is in another league; this is special.” The 2012 Pommard Vaumuriens is, for all intents and purposes, sold out. We do have a few bottles left of the 2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru Charmots, which is a qualitative upgrade from the Vaumuriens; but ultimately it’s about 2012 red Burgundy and the Jobard family magic!

2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s
The hits just keep coming! As the story goes, a sample bottle of the 2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s went out on a sales call to some fancy restaurants, and
when the remains showed back up in the shop after we closed that day, Chris and I were treated to more of that “another league” special kind of wine! Layers of all of the goodness a quality Côte Rôtie can provide, smoky, meaty, gamey, dark savory fruit, spice, and earthiness in a glass! It took every bit of willpower we had to not finish the bottle in order for Anya and Tom to get a taste the following day, and after they did, our euphoria for this wine is unanimous! The 2012 has sold out, but we still have some 2011 in stock, and 2013 on the way. I’m building a vertical of this one!
Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Pichat Champon’s, “Aged two years in 30% new oak, the 2012 Côte Rôtie le Champon exhibits gorgeous notes of black raspberry, sweet black cherry, smoked earth, herbs and dark chocolate. Pure, fine, elegant and layered, with medium to full-bodied richness, it too has a modern ting, but still has plenty of Côte Rôtie style. Drink it over the coming decade. 93 points”
And the 2011, “Comprised all of Syrah and aged 24 months in 40% new French oak, the 2011 Cote Rotie Champon’s exhibits a perfumed, complex bouquet of black raspberry, smoke, incense, saddle leather, violets and underbrush. This is followed by a medium to full-bodied, supple, elegant and pure 2011 that can be consumed any time over the coming 10-15 years. 92 points”

2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir
Sometimes you never know what might be coming your way; so it’s a good idea to be open to new things. Introduced to us by David through a connection made via one of his tasting groups, winemaker Matthew Iaconis visited TWH last year and introduced us to Brick & Mortar. By the time he left, we were all convinced that we were on to something. And that’s the beauty of small, family-style run wine shops – If you’re new and under-the-radar, have a good story, and bottle a quality wine, folks like us are approachable. We don’t need fancy marketing, big scores, or any other bells and whistles. If the wine is high in quality and represents good value, bam; everyone wins. Especially our customers! Speaking of which, I took a look at the list of customers who bought the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir, and it reads like a who’s who of Pinot Noir-centric customers who appreciate small production, off the radar, quality wines (a handful of which were in on Anthill Farms in the days before they caught on). We were delighted with the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir (and their other wines too!), and are looking forward to the next vintage!

2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole
The 2010 vintage for Barolo was an outstanding one. But hold on folks – Rather than gushing about the perfect conditions, we’d like to mention the challenges. First off, winter did not go away easily. Frosty conditions continued through March which delayed the start of the growing season. Temperatures remained cool throughout the spring and summer, and a fair amount of rain fell in June and October. Most estates harvested around mid-October which made for a long growing/ripening season. What we’ve got here is a modern classic vintage. Wines that will age very well and reward those with patience.
Giuseppe Vajra paid us a visit last year and poured some exquisite wines for us, including the 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole. Taking all that into consideration, this is yet another wine begging the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?”

2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna

Island wines. Who knew? We heard quite a bit about island wines in 2015. And when we purchased and subsequently offered the 2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna, we had no idea what was about to happen! First off, we sold through our stocks in record time. Then, we continued to receive inquiries in hopes that we could acquire more wine. Then, this posting received the most hits of the year on our blog. We ordered this wine on pre-arrival, so what was shipped to us was all there was going to be. The good news: All being said, we will be getting the next vintage soon. Stay tuned.

Cannonau is what they call Grenache in Sardinia. As written above, we are big fans of Grenache-based wines, both from the southern Rhône Valley and Sonoma County. Well, we can add another place of origin to the list as this island Cannonau exhibits wonderful round cherry fruit with layers of earth and herbs. Taking all of its quality into consideration, coupled with its value price, it’s no wonder that it was literally swept up in less than a week! Island wines? Now we know.

2012 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan Blanc

The 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc underlines one of our more important strategies when scouting for wines to import. Upon tasting Bordeaux’s 2012 vintage En Primeur in the spring of 2013, I visited negociants, the UGC Tastings, and had several appointments at some fancy chateaux. It takes a lot of concentration to not let bias and perceived quality differences distract from being in the moment and appraising what is in the glass at any given time. It is well documented that I am fond of dry white Bordeaux, though one can probably say that about all styles of wine from the region. Sticking with the dry whites, I usually taste samples of Haut Brion, La Mission Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, and several others; wines that will retail for close to $100. In the case of the first two I mentioned, it’s more like $700 per bottle. So yeah, the quality/price model is a bit out of whack here, so uncovering great value is a challenge. I vividly remember tasting the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc out of barrel at the UGC tasting at Château Olivier. It had the structure and balance that I look for in a barrel sample. In the back of my mind, I had an idea of what its approximate price would be, and had it on a short list of must haves.

Later that same day, I was sitting at dinner at my favorite chateau, when I was asked by the other guests to “defend” a wine. I mentioned how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated. Citing the tiny production, significant demand, the overall quality and ability to age well, I called out the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc as a dynamite value from a sector known for pricy wines. After the wine arrived here in our warehouse last summer, I was happy to read of The New York Times’ Eric Asimov’s endorsement of the 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc.This article, of course, helped the wine sell out. Last spring, I tasted the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc and I liked it every bit as much. With the stronger dollar, the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc is an even better value! Hmmm. Perhaps one of the Top Ten Wines of 2017?

2012 Château d’Issan, Margaux

Red Bordeaux. Margaux. The 2012 Château d’Issan. It’s funny. I never think about our Top Ten Wines list when I’m out tasting. But this one goes all the way back to the spring of 2013 and Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings. I tasted this at a large negociant tasting, as Château d’Issan does not participate in the UGC tastings. Tasting at this negociant’s can be quite overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of wines available. I try to pass on most of the wines that I will have other opportunities to taste in order to get to as many as possible. The barrel sample of 2012 d’Issan floored me. Using descriptors such as classy, silky, sexy, expressive, and nothing overboard meant this wine was a textbook example of a great barrel sample. My note ends with, “The star so far.” I was asked several times during this tasting by various members of the negociant’s staff what my impressions were and if I had any favorites. I pointed them all to the d’Issan and witnessed their happy reactions after tasting. When I returned from Bordeaux, I sat down with David to discuss the 2012 vintage. I told him that I liked the reds and whites from Pessac-Léognan, the wines from Barsac, Margaux, and Pomerol. David answered that yes, he had read about Pessac and Pomerol, but regarding Margaux, he said, “You’re kind of on your own here, because nothing I’ve read had anything great to say about Margaux.” Hey, what can I say; I taste what I taste. Maybe it was the d’Issan in particular, though there were other Margaux wines that I felt confident enough in to include the appellation among my favorites.

Fast forward to November of 2014. Augustin Lacaille from Château d’Issan visited us here at TWH and poured a few wines including the newly bottled 2012. My expectations were not in line with reality. Fortunately, neither was the wine. It’s off the charts! The best thing is that it isn’t off the charts when it comes to price. Bravo to the team at Château d’Issan for their outstanding 2012!

And there you have it. Another exciting year in wine has passed, another new year awaits. Well, we’re not waiting. It’s only the 13th of January, but we’re already out there tasting new wines to stock on our shelves. Trips to Europe are being planned, and of course, the Bordeaux UGC tastings of the 2013 vintage are set to hit the US at the end of the month. There’s no rest in the wine biz. All the best for a great 2016!Peter Zavialoff

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Filed under 2012 Red Burgundy, Cannonau, Cremant de Bourgogne, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Pessac-Leognan, Peter Zavialoff, Pommard, Top Ten Wines Of The Year, White Bordeaux

2010 Barolo from G.D. Vajra

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2010 Barolo from G.D. Vajra
If you haven’t yet heard, the 2010 vintage in Barolo was outstanding. When word began spreading about the fine quality of the vintage, it was natural for some to wonder if all the high praise was mostly hype. Not so it seems. As with all great vintages, the story begins with the growing season and in 2010 the season began late as winter lingered long into March. Overall 2010 had cooler than normal temperatures, promoting a long ripening season. Most producers harvested in mid-October. The 2010 vintage is characterized by power, intensity and precision. Neither austere nor over-ripe, the 2010’s are perhaps best summed up as modern classics, for they achieve fruit ripeness without losing site specificity.
Bricco

Bricco delle Viole courtesy G.D. Vajra’s Facebook page

The Wine House is offering two beautiful examples of 2010 Barolo from a family-run estate, G.D. Vajra. We’ve been stocking their entry-level Barolo Albe for several vintages now, as it offers elegance and class at a very reasonable price (yes, like fine Burgundy, Barolo can be expensive).

 

G.D. Vajra began when Aldo Vaira fled city life and returned to his family’s estate, situated in Vergne – the highest elevation village in the Commune of Barolo – to farm the land. This was the early 70’s, a time when most people were looking for a way out of rural life and wanted to head to the city. Not Aldo. From the beginning, Aldo devoted himself to making the highest quality wine possible. Over time and with careful planning, Aldo was able to expand his vineyard holdings to the current 40 hectares of which 10 are planted to Nebbiolo for Barolo. Today, his son Giuseppe is the winemaker and brand ambassador. The Wine House was pleased to meet him for the first time back in January when he visited our store, bringing along a gorgeous line-up of G.D. Vajra wines. – Anya Balistreri
Giuseppe
Giuseppe Vaira courtesy winery’s Facebook page
The 2010 Barolo Albe comes from three vineyards, Fossati, Coste di Vergne and La Volta. The vineyards are all between 400-440 meters above sea level, with both young and older plantings. Here is a review by Antonio Galloni:
Rose petal, mint, sage and licorice meld together in a supple, racy Barolo endowed with both tons of near-term appeal and the potential to develop beautifully in bottle. Vajra crafts the Albe to be accessible young, but 2010 is a vintage in which a few years in bottle will only help. The Albe is one of the very finest Barolos in its price range.” 93+ points.

The 2010 Barolo Bricco delle Viole is magnificent. Bricco delle Viole is one of the highest altitude crus with clay/calcium rich soils. Only the oldest vines go into this bottling. Antonio Galloni had this to write about the wine:
“The 2010 Barolo Bricco delle Viole is going to need quite a bit of time to fully come together. Dark cherries, plums, tobacco and spices burst from the glass in an intense, structured Barolo that hits all the high notes. Next to the Ravera, the Bricco delle Viole is more floral, lifted and finessed, especially with time in the glass. Rose petals, savory herbs and sweet spices add the last nuance of complexity. The 2010 is fabulous; it’s as simple as that.” 96+ points.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Barolo, Nebbiolo