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 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Champlot
Domaine Sylvain Langoureau
Saint-Aubin sits along the hillsides above and around the corner from the Côte de Beaune’s Grand Cru vineyards. Premier Cru Le Champlot enjoys full-on western exposure, situated just above the village of Gamay in the appellation’s rolling hills. Winemaker Sylvain Langoureau continues to farm his 9 hectares organically, and for his 2014’s, Langoureau praises the “remarkably clean fruit” which was harvested in mid-September. He also went on to say, “I really like the style of the ’14s because while everyone always says that a given vintage will be good young and old I really do believe that 2014 gave us wines that will in fact fulfill those promises!” We couldn’t agree more; 2014 is clearly one of the region’s exceptional vintages. In an effort to express the hallmarks of the terroir and vintage, Langoureau kept bâtonnage to a minimum and limited the amount of new barrel used to 20%. What he produced is a clean Le Champlot with focused structure, good tension, and expression. It’s good to drink now through 2029.
2013 Pommard 1er Cru Les Chanlins
Pommard has enjoyed a long history of notoriety for producing classic wines which are deep in color, profoundly aromatic, structured, and reliable. The village sits between Beaune in the north and Volnay to the south. Premier Cru Les Chanlins lies on the upslope just south of the famous Les Rugiens vineyard, south of the village. For Anne Parent to be energetic and upbeat while discussing her 2013 vintage would mean that considering the challenges (cool, wet spring, trouble during flowering, and a hailstorm in July), she was happy with the overall quality of her bottled wines. Production was less than 50% of average, and there was a bit of sorting which needed to be done. Anne quickly recognized that the fruit was in a delicate state, which caused her to vinify her wines softly and to use less than half the new barrel she would from an average vintage. She went on to say, “I absolutely love the fresh fruit as the flavors are racy and refreshing.” 100% organically farmed, this will be at its best from 2019-2030. – Peter Zavialoff
In my last post I wrote that Enrico Pierazzuoli was in San Francisco to pour his wines at Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri World Tour held at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavillon. Enrico is a practical man who does not place too much importance on scores, awards and such, but when his estate in Carmignano, Le Farnete, received a “Tre Bicchieri” for their 2013 Carmignano Riserva, he was clearly honored. It feels good to be recognized for your efforts, especially when it’s by Italy’s most influential wine and food publication.
Tuscany’s Carmignano is a lesser-known appellation, but its history of wine growing traces back centuries. In 1716, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici legally recognized and identified this area for wine growing. Enrico appreciated the timing of receiving his first-ever “Tre Bicchieri” while celebrating Carmignano’s 300th Anniversary! The 2013 Carmignano Riserva is a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in small oak barrel for a year and then another year in bottle before being released to market, it is a full-bodied expression of Sangiovese. The inclusion of a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is enough to give the wine significant back-bone and structure. Less than 200 cases are produced of the Riserva and only in the best years. It is a wine with a long life ahead of it.
The Pierazzuoli’s run a traditional osteria on their estate in Chianti Montalbano. They sent out a notice earlier this week that they no longer have any reservations open for Easter. Of course there is lamb on the menu, so I am guessing patrons will be enjoying the 2013 Carmignano Riserva as it should be a perfect match. Shame I can’t be there! Buona Pasqua! -Anya Balistreri
Bordeaux – 1 April 2017. After two reasonably smooth flights, I arrived in Bordeaux on Wednesday afternoon, preparing to take part in the annual En Primeur tastings. If you follow these kind of things, you probably have heard some pretty good news so far. As I type this, I have only tasted six of them, so I will reserve judgement, at least until after tomorrow, where a warehouse full of barrel samples awaits. In addition to the barrel samples, I am also here to taste already bottled wines and to take in the zeitgeist of this year’s proceedings.
It’s great – each year, there are always new things to see, to learn, to taste, and to figure out. But there are also many familiar things as well. One such exercise is now bordering on ritual, and that would be the Saturday rental car pickup and the drive out to Sainte Foy la Grande to visit the Hecquets in Montravel and the Piats in Ligiuex which I did again early this morning. First stop was at Château Couronneau to visit Bénédicte and Christophe Piat.
The three of us sat in their living room pictured above and caught up on things. They’re on the fast track to becoming empty nesters, as their youngest will be leaving the family home soon to finish her studies abroad. And in the wine department, Christophe explained to me that beginning with his 2015’s, he has changed the type of filtration he uses. The net-net of this is that the wines need a bit more time after bottling before they are fully resolved and ready to drink. I tasted through their entire line of 2015’s, which were all recently bottled, save the blanc, which was bottled in late December. Change in filtration or not, the 2015’s were going to need some time in bottle regardless. We also spoke at length about the 2016 vintage, and they asked me if I had tasted any barrel samples yet. “Just six,” I said, yet still smiling, for the first three were at Château Margaux. With a chuckle and a wry smile, Christophe matter-of-factly inferred it was standard practice to taste Margaux and then Couronneau due to their similarities (his idea of an April Fool’s joke).
16th Century Château Couronneau – 1 April 2017
Yep, That’s a 16th Century Moat – 1 April 2017
Christophe went on to say his 2016’s were plentiful and the quality was outstanding. They too were going to need some time. The wines from Couronneau are usually ready to go once they’re released, but the Piats cautioned me that the past two vintages will be at their respective best five years after release. So what vintage to drink now? The 2014, of course. I asked Christophe his thoughts on the matter, and he feels that the 2014 exhibits lighter acid levels than the past two vintages, and that the fruit is more supple and silky. He admits that the 2014 Couronneau is fine to drink now, but it will be at its best 2 to 5 years from now. I popped a bottle shortly before leaving San Francisco, and I just loved the aromatic expression and the medium-full body of this lovely wine. The Piats’ biodynamic practices have obviously paid off!
The Vines Will Follow Soon, But The Vineyard Is Alive
We recently received our final drop of the 2014 Couronneau, so it’s in stock at the moment. So try a bottle today. If you like it, we’ve got a super deal for you. If you already know and enjoy this wine, the deal is good for you as well. Beginning tonight, we are offering a “special full case discount.” It’s much better than our normal discount, and we do not want to be disorderly and advertise this unheard of price in all the usual online places. If you would like to know what the discount is, simply load 12 or more bottles into your online shopping cart and you will see what it is. ***Please note: You can easily remove the items from your cart should you not wish to make the purchase.
Alors. The (semi-) mellow part of the trip is now finished. Over the next 7 days, I am going to be hit with a barrage of barrel samples from the 2016 vintage. I am ready. Should any of you be curious about any particular 2016 sample, please feel free to drop me a note, and I will do my best to taste it and report back with my observations. In the meantime, should you wish to profiter from a super deal on a fine bio-dynamically farmed wine from a seriously great vintage grab a full case (or two) today! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about the 2016 Bordeaux En Primeurs, Bordeaux in general, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
This year’s visit from the Enrico and Gianlorenzo Show coincided with the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri World Tour’s stop in San Francisco on February 15. Enrico was pouring his wine on the tour and Gianlorenzo Picollo, his friend, fellow winemaker, and traveling companion, came along too. Those two usually travel to the States together, which works out perfectly for us because we get the pleasure of meeting with two of our favorite Italian producers at the same time. I lovingly call their visit a “show” because they remind me of a duo á la Jay and Silent Bob, as Enrico is the talkative one and Gianlorenzo, shy and less sure of his English, taking on the role of the sidekick.
Enrico, Gianlorenzo and David
The “show” begins with Gianlorenzo pouring his fabulous Gavis. Pete wrote about the Rovereto earlier in the year. Since there are only two Gavis and the winemaking here is fairly straight forward, this portion of the show is quick. Next up is Enrico with his line-up from two estates; one from Chianti Montalbano and the other from Carmignano. This can take a while because Enrico is adamant on explaining all aspects of his wine production, not to mention that he is not one to hold back on sharing his opinion on, well, most things. I for one relish these presentations by Enrico. His enthusiasm and devotion to his work comes through with equal parts seriousness and humor. Enrico has a dry wit and delivers it with grand hand gestures and animated facial expressions.
2015 Chianti Montalbano
The first wine Enrico poured for us was the 2015 Chianti Montalbano and it was clear right off the bat that this is one of his finest efforts. Enrico, swinging his arms up and folding them behind his head, explained it this way, “in 2014 you really needed to make the wine, in 2015 it made itself…you could go to the beach”. 2015 was a favorable vintage across Italy and Montalbano was no exception. The Sangiovese fully ripened while retaining all the necessary structure, acid and tannin to make great wine. In general, Enrico’s Chianti Montalbano tends to be fruit-driven and light-to-medium bodied, but the 2015 is noticeably fuller and dense. The vines are now over twenty years old and that also contributes to the quality of the grapes.
TWH staff and Enrico spoke at length about the challenges of making and selling Chianti. So much of what is produced is what Enrico calls “industrially made”. These mass produced Chiantis are antithesis to the approach Enrico and his family take to making wine. For the Pierazzuoli’s, it is a real family affair. In addition to making wine, they produce their own olive oil as well as other food delicacies like vegetable conserves and fruit jams. They renovated their farmhouse into an agriturismo and most recently converted an ancient hayloft into a traditional Tuscan osteria. Last summer, my niece had the pleasure of staying a night at one of their apartments during a tour through Italy. She and her fiancé had dinner at the osteria. It was the highlight of their trip. I think I’m due a trip there myself! In the meantime, it’ll be bowls of pasta Puttanesca and glasses of 2015 Chianti Montalbano to tie me over until then.– Anya Balistreri
Time is flying. In a recent email back-and-forth with one of our suppliers in Bordeaux, she exclaimed, “It seems like we’re still dealing with the 2015 campaign; and now, it’s time for the 2016’s! Crazy!” That’s just how it is. Time flies. And because time is fleeting, some things must be done sooner than later, as there are finite windows of time. Wait too long and opportunities may pass. Alas, contrary to that, there are also closed windows which will open sometime in the future. That’s where patience is required. It’s funny, patience and Bordeaux just go together. One of the secrets of patient people is that we are very much aware how time flies, so every day of waiting brings us closer to whatever it is we are waiting for. Like a wine.
Five years ago, I tasted a barrel sample from the 2011 vintage. I liked it a lot. While not from a famous, high-pedigree chateau, the winemaking team is high-pedigree. I liked that too. We bought it. After it arrived, we tried it. While it continued to display the structure and balance which first attracted me, it had shut down and was not expressive. This is not uncommon with red Bordeaux wines. Patience would be required. That was over three years ago. We waited. Patiently. The window is now open on the 2011 Château de Fonbel.
I still remember it well, though visiting Château Ausone is always memorable. Yes, Château Ausone. The Vauthier family who own and make the wine for Ausone also own and make the wine from de Fonbel. The property was acquired by Alain Vauthier in the early 1970’s and it sits just down the hill from Ausone. Alain’s daughter, Pauline manages the property these days. So yes, it was the first appointment after lunch on the Wednesday of En Primeurs, and after tasting the de Fonbel, I was particularly impressed by its herbal/forest floor aromas, not to mention its bright red fruit meets cassis notes, leading me to jot down a particular nod to Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up 20% of the blend. The palate was quite lively with bright acidity balanced by the red fruit, cassis, and sturdy tannins. Balance and expression are two important things to recognize when tasting barrel samples, and this wine displayed both in fine fashion. When the wine arrived, I was excited to taste it because I remembered that barrel sample well. Let’s just say that I was mildly disappointed that it had shut down. I knew all we needed to do was to wait a while and this wine would someday spring to life.
For anyone who purchased the 2011 de Fonbel, from that day forward I strongly recommended that if they were to be opening the wine shortly thereafter, to allow for a couple of hours of decanting. This obviously helped, but the wine still needed time. We opened a bottle just before our Anniversary Sale last fall, and immediately after I opened it, I poured out a glass. Still closed? It seemed so, but I revisited it just 15 minutes later and happily proclaimed it was beginning to fulfill its potential. I opened another bottle last night, and that is why I am writing today. A little air will still enhance the tasting experience, but straight after opening, the 2011 Château de Fonbel is open for business! The nose is complex with bright red cherry fruit with hints of cassis, blackberries and thicket; forest floor and fallen apple tree leaves, and there’s a tar-like note in there too along with the slightest note of cedar. The palate entry is soft and medium bodied, the acid kicking in mid-palate to project the various fruity, herbal, and earthy complexity on to the blank screen of the palate. The finish is carried by the fruit/acid interplay with fine, delicate tannins. It has blossomed into a classic, honest claret which can be drunk now or cellared for at least another decade. In fact, I would love to taste this wine in 2027!
It’s that time of year again. The annual En Primeur tastings will take place in Bordeaux from April 3rd through April 6, and I am proud to represent TWH to taste the 2016 wines from barrel. My schedule is shaping up with appointments and tastings for the majority of my 10 day visit, as I always choose to visit suppliers and taste back vintages in search of values for both our Cru Classé and our petits chateaux sections. I also usually allow room for the serendipitous, and I’ve managed to continue this practice. All in all, I’m excited to taste the new vintage, meet old friends, make new friends, find new back vintage wines, and take part in the city of Bordeaux’s recent renaissance. Who knows which windows will open for me this year? – Peter Zavialoff
Moulin-à-Vent is considered by most to be the king of Cru Beaujolais. Keeping this in mind, you can imagine our excitement when a recent container brought with it a brand new producer, Le Nid, to our warehouse from this region. But for some strange reason we didn’t taste it as a staff right away. David was playing it cool, down-playing his recent acquisition. He obviously forgot how jazzed we get over Cru Beaujolais. He was probably just waiting for the right time to pull the cork. This week was finally the time and the response from the staff was unanimous – Le Nid’s 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle is a delight! For a Moulin-à-Vent, which is noted for its structure and fullness, the Le Nid is perfectly polished and rounded despite its underlying structure.
The Lardet family purchased an existing domaine and its six hectares of vines in 2012, renaming it Le Nid. Le Nid, or nest en français, not only reflects their raison d’être approach to farming but also to the notion of bringing family back home to the nest. Paul and Danielle Lardet are joined by their three children in this endeavor. Moulin-à-Vent’s mostly east-facing slopes are made up of a soil called gore or grès which has deposits of crumbly pink granite with seams of manganese in it, giving the wine its distinctive characteristic. The 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle comes from a single one hectare parcel, producing less than 200 cases. The average age of the vines are fifty years old. They partially de-stem the fruit and age the wine in neutral barrel for at least 12 months. The wine has the wild strawberry fruit, notes of undergrowth and mineral typical of quality Beaujolais, but has none of those tank-y, tutti-frutti aromas or flavors. It has a whole lot of black fruit on the palate with a delicious thread of vanilla on the finish. I enjoyed how rounded the flavors sat on the palate, but clearly has the structure that begs for food.
The Lardets were fortunate to debut their wine with the 2013 vintage. The 2013 growing season in Beaujolais was blessed with a sunny July and August. The favorable weather continued on through a late harvest. This slow, long growing season produced small berries, allowing for a high skin-to-juice ratio. They submitted the 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle to the Concours des Grands Vins de France, receiving a gold medal. Not a bad way to start out! This is positive validation that they are on the right path to making noteworthy Moulin-à-Vent. Right now, Le Nid, is way under the radar, but I think fans of Cru Beaujolais are going to quickly change that fact.
So I’ve been sitting on pins and needles while writing this newsletter. I am missing my daughter’s play-off basketball game and haven’t heard any news. The game has added drama to it because it was scheduled at the same time my daughter was to perform in a production of Beauty and the Beast. It was a tough decision to make. She chose to miss this one performance (with the blessing of the director) to join her teammates, despite knowing the coach wouldn’t play her much, but felt she was needed there to emotionally support the team. Got to admire her for that! Finally got the call…they won by a point! Bringing home a bottle of Le Nid to celebrate, as it too is a winner in my book! – Anya Balistreri
Yay! It’s March. There’s something special about this month. Maybe it’s because the days are getting longer. Maybe it’s because the weather is warming up. Maybe it’s because baseball season is less than a month away. Whatever the reason, we’ve made your wine purchasing decisions really easy. The March Dirty Dozen contains plenty of interesting, versatile wines, sourced from all over the map. Get your March DD today!
Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines
2015 Orvieto Classico Vignarco, Palazzone $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
In 1969, the Dubini family purchased their property in the Umbrian hills, planting grapes soon after. By 1982 they had made their first Orvieto. The Vignarco is made up of 80% Garganega and is entirely vinified in stainless steel. Golden-hued, fresh with a lovely floral scent, it’s perfect for light meals and appetizers; try it with crab cakes atop dressed greens.
2015 Moscato Secco, Uvaggio $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Don’t let the “Moscato” scare you … this is “Secco” so it’s dry, dry, dry. Yes it has lovely exotic aromatics, but it has so much more going for it. A dead-ringer for a Ribolla Giallo from Alto Adige, this perfumed and alluring white is extremely versatile as a stand-alone sipper or a meal enhancer. Match-ups include pasta alla Vongole, vegetable gratins or frittata.
2011 Mottobello, Brigatti $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This wine hails from Colline Novaresi, which is situated in Piedmont’s northeast corner. Here the grape Erbaluce (or locally known as Greco Novarese) is the exclusive white varietal. It’s known for producing higher acid wines, though the 2011 Mottobello has tempered acidity, crisp fruit flavors and a light overall palate feel. It’s great with oysters.
2015 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi’s Ca’Lojera is located in Sirmione, on the southern shore of Lake Garda. Caution: If you search images for a picture of Sirmione, you may feel the need to visit. The grape they use for their Lugana is Turbiana, the local name for Trebbiano di Garda. It has a bright yellow fruit and floral bouquet and finishes crisp and clean.
2015 Sauvignon & Sémillon Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $14.49, $11.59 reorder
Modeled after the white blends from nearby Bordeaux, this Côtes de Gascogne is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. It’s all tank-fermented, so it’s fresh and vibrant with aromas of pears, kiwi, and apricots. The palate is crisp and expansive, and the finish balanced and lipsmacking. This is the kind of wine to serve with breaded filet of sole
2014 Ventoux Blanc, Domaine de Fondrèche $16.99, $13.59 reorder
White wines from the southern Rhône Valley may be among the most overlooked wines from France, but quality to price-wise, they are some of the most value driven wines out there! This 4 grape blend (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Rolle) is teeming with complexity. Think pears and nectarines – this is great on its own, or you can pair it with pork chops.
2014 Toro, Yaso $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
100% Tinta de Toro, aka Tempranillo, the Toro region of Spain produces robust, hearty reds – this one from Yaso is no exception. Just 40 miles east of the Portugese border, viticulture here dates back to pre-Roman times. Deep purple with lush fruity flavors, it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kinda red. Some take-out from your favorite BBQ place is a wise option here.
2013 Red Wine Blend, MF Wines $15.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Matthew Fritz wines frequently appear at TWH because they offer tremendous value. They are aces at sourcing high quality fruit at below market prices, then passing along the savings. This particular Red Wine Blend is a delicious combo of 85% Merlot and 15% Petite Sirah, all from Napa Valley. It’s super with a French Dip, Osso Buco or a calzone.
2014 Ribera del Duero, Sembro $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Another Spanish Tempranillo, this one comes from further inland in Ribera del Duero. Ribera del Duero sits on a high plateau at about 2800 feet above sea level, where summers are hot and winters are harsh. The Sembro has vibrant red cherry fruit, easy tannins and a medium-bodied texture. Try pairing it with Merguez lamb sausages, chorizo or fajitas.
2014 Fronton, Château Coutinel $8.99, $7.19 reorder
The seldom heard of grape Negrette thrives in the Fronton region, which is near the city of Toulouse, France. Think of it as a cross between Gamay Noir and Malbec. Its aromas are of cherries and forest floor and it’s medium bodied. The dark plummy notes take over mid-palate, and the finish is rich and complex with a hint of amaro. It’s great with spare ribs.
2012 Bergerac, Château Calabre $7.95 sale price, $7.55 reorder
About 100km north of Fronton, as the crow flies, is the appellation of Bergerac, of Cyrano fame. Its proximity to Bordeaux shows in the grapes grown for the local red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. This easy-drinker shows bright red and purple fruit with an herbaceous quality. It’s a great wine to pop with burgers of any sort.
2012 Château Les Clauzots, Graves Rouge $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Speaking of Bordeaux, this month’s DD has one of those too! Château Les Clauzots is located in the region’s southern tip, near the city of Langon. It’s 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and does it deliver for its modest price! Dark berries and cassis dominate the aromas and the palate is rich, balanced, and refined. Here’s your steak night wine.