Happy New Year! It’s that time of year again where we pick the top ten wines that were released and passed through our shop in the calendar year 2011. We first did this in 2009, and the reaction was so positive that we did it again last year. It’s a fun exercise for us here; we taste a lot of wine throughout the year, most of which doesn’t even make it to our sales floor. Of all that DOES meet our standards and make it to the floor, it becomes a difficult task to narrow it down to just 10. But we get there; the most fun part of the exercise is that while discussing the wines, we get to relive the past year in tasting. Remember, some of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned here based on their merits.
| 2010 Lugana – Ca’Lojera
Kicking things off here is the first of 7 direct TWH imports in this year’s top 10! Speaking for those of us who have not met her, we’re so jealous that first David, and then Anya met with Ambra Tiraboschi at successive Italian tastings in New York City. The wines that come from Ambra’s Ca’Lojera are a rare breed indeed. Ambra’s Cabernet Sauvignon is a gem that is not to be missed. But it’s what she can do with the Turbiana variety that lands her in our Top Ten of 2011. Her 2010 Lugana is one of our favorite Italian whites that came this way in 2011. It’s yummy goodness of fresh white fleshy fruit and zippy acidity, not to mention modest price, pushes it right into the Top Ten. If this is only the first of ten of this caliber, you might want to grab a seat.
| 2009 J-M Chaland Vire-Clesse
Speaking of terrific white wine imports … David was (again) lucky enough to be tasting wine in Burgundy last winter and when he tasted through the unoaked Chardonnays from Jean-Marie Chaland he had an epiphany. Brand new for us are a whole line of delicious Maconais wines which scream “White Burgundy Values”. The top of the line Thurissey is made from vines over 90 years old! Seriously, run don’t walk to this wine.
| 2008 Claude Thomas Zinfandel
Here’s a real TWH story. You should see our calendar. I mean Anya’s calendar. It’s got names and times jotted down for every day she works. There is a line out the door for the opportunity to have Anya taste (and hopefully, buy) the respective wines that each wine rep sells. It’s gotten so out of hand that one producer periodically sends his friends in specifically asking for his wine. Ah, what some people resort to just to make a sale. Sometimes, one of these encounters results in an extraordinary upside surprise, “winemakers to watch” and all. Yet it happened again in 2011 with a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. When the 2008 Claude Thomas Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was poured for her, Anya, who by the way loves Zinfandel, was all in! Ripe, brambly berry and spice, we’re all in too. What a pleasure for all of us here at TWH when Tom Stanley drops off cases of his wine! Well done, Tom.
| 2008 Vignobles Boudinaud Côtes du Rhône Mataro
Back to France. You love Mourvèdre. We love Mourvèdre. What’s not to love? Big, gamy, muscular, earthy wines always have a home with those who love the style. It says Côtes du Rhône on the label. It says Mataro on the label as well, which is what some people in Spain, and apparently in the south of France call Mourvèdre. It’s a Côtes du Rhône made from 100% Mourvèdre. We love that! All of us here at TWH were wowed by this wine in 2011.
| 2010 Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray
One of our favorite Loire Valley producers, Domaine d’Orfeuilles, you know, the ones that make sparkling Vouvray. Or maybe you’re familiar with their sparkling Touraine Rosé made from Côt, or Malbec as it’s known elsewhere. Maybe you’ve heard of their demi-sec Vouvray “les Coudraies”. Obviously, we’re big fans of these guys! The wine that brought us to them? It was the 2005 Vouvray “Silex”. That was so long ago that there isn’t even a blog link to attach to it. But the ’05 Silex? Crisp and bone dry with that lovely apple-ey goodness that Chenin Blanc is known for … but the mineral swirl? The stuff of legend. So when the 2010 recently went out to wholesale accounts and the sample bottle returned to the shop, we poured out some tastes for our staff … Chris and I took one swirl and taste … “Dude, can you believe that?” (Yes, we talk that way. Mostly just to each other.) “That acidity? That freshness. The mineral. The Fruit? This is better than the ’05!” It was. And it is. And it will be.
| Pleiades XX – Sean Thackrey
Ever been to Bolinas? It’s a fun little town just northwest of Stinson Beach in Marin County. It’s tough to find, though. Locals like to take down the sign pointing the way whenever Caltrans puts up a new one. This keeps a lot of tourists out; or at least that’s the locals’ rationale. But Bolinas is home to Sean Thackrey’s winery. Sean Thackrey has been making wine for three decades! And his wines are our kind of wines; he embraces unique winemaking techniques, and sources his fruit from all over California. He brings it all back to his winery in Bolinas and makes wine with his hands. Thackrey’s Pleiades XX cracks the top 5 due to its serious amalgam of complexity and intensity. We are ALWAYS on the lookout for wines like this one! We sold out of the XX, be on the lookout for the XXI!
| NV Giavi Prosecco
Prosecco. Serious Prosecco. The NV Giavi Prosecco. You’ve never tasted Prosecco like this before. We’ve got a serious Champagne customer. Serious. This gent will ONLY buy the best highly allocated Grower Champagnes we can get our hands on. He loves this Prosecco. He is actually talking this wine up to restaurants he dines in. Word is out in the restaurant world. We haven’t been able to offer this in our retail shop for months due to the demands of fine restaurants here in the Bay Area and in LA! We’re finally back on track, and once again have the wine in stock for you to try. This is Top Ten kind of Prosecco. Try one and see for yourself.
| 2009 Château Puy-Servain Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes
“Everybody loved it.” That’s what a customer said about the 2009 Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes from Château Puy-Servain. What a great 2011 discovery this was!! Instead of relaxing in Bordeaux on the Saturday after the En Primeur tastings, I was off to Montravel to meet with Daniel Hecquet at his Château Puy-Servain. When I tasted his 2009 Montravel Rouge Vieilles Vignes I got butterflies thinking about how cool it was going to be to get the wine over here and onto your tables. And even cooler, the wine sold out quickly. We bought more from Daniel and the next batch should be here by the end of March.
| 2009 Domaine Michel Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc
Back to White Burgundy. David has been tasting the wines from Domaine Michel Bouzereau for several vintages, and he’s liked what he’s tasted. But just as he pointed out in regards to the J-M Chaland wines, he likes to taste several vintages before pulling the trigger. Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau is the winemaker these days and he makes some of the finest Premier Cru Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet that we stock here at TWH. You could pick any of Jean-Baptiste’s Premier Crus and put them in the Top Ten, but that’s kind of like cheating. But what’s this? He makes a Bourgogne too! Not only that, it’s a “Bourgogne” though most of the grapes are sourced from in and around Meursault. One taste will have you hooked!
| 2008 Château Branaire Ducru, St. Julien
Keeping with tradition, we’re going to Bordeaux. It’s so hard to pick just one wine. In 2011, it was the 2008 Bordeaux vintage that hit the market. There were standouts in all categories Red, White, and Gold! But the wine that struck me greatest had to be the 2008 Branaire Ducru. It has everything I look for in a young claret. Its fruit is expressive, the aromas are deep and complex. On the palate, it has a round feel with noticeable structure and more fruit expression braced by the zippy acidity. Great weight and great balance. The finish is long and complex; a perfect reminder as to why I love the wines from St. Julien most. We only have a few bottles left, so sorry when it sells out.
| Honorable Mention: 2001 Château Lanessan
Narrowing all that wine tasted over the course of a year down to only 10 is a very difficult task indeed. One main criterion for the list is that the wine be newly released and available to us in said calendar year. But there is one more wine that wowed us in 2011 that deserves a slight mention, the 2001 Château Lanessan. It too was an amazing discovery that was made in the office of one of our negociants in Bordeaux this past April. We sold out of our stock rather quickly, quick enough to still have a chance to buy more! We did, and it’s on its way here. It should arrive at the end of March. – Peter Zavialoff