Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2014 Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 4

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Wednesday April 15th 2015

Another early morning today as Christian, Michael and I head out to the Right Bank for the first time in this vintage. The reports around Bordeaux are that this vintage is stronger in the Left Bank than the right. More substantial rainfall in Pomerol and Saint Emilion coupled with the fact that Merlot did not benefit from as much of the Indian summer mean that things are supposedly less uniform on this side of the Gironde. Today we will see for ourselves if these wines can match the stunning 2014s we’ve tasted thus far in the Medoc.

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Our first appointment is 9:15 am at one of our favorite properties in the world: Vieux Chateau Certan. This is a magical terroir is located directly adjacent to Chateau Petrus and one could make a case that they have surpassed their neighbor in several recent vintages. We are welcomed warmly by our old friend Alexandre Thienpont who has shepherded VCC since he took over for his father in 1986. There is only one wine to taste:

2014 Vieux Chateau Certan
-Pure, deep, soft red fruit on the nose. There is a lovely purity to the red fruit and fine mineral driven flavors here. Good weight on the palate with a powerful, structured, building finish. A muscular VCC with amazing depth and great precision, this has to be one of the top wines of the vintage.

Leaving VCC we head to the offices of JP Moueix in nearby Libourne. This legendary negociant firm is headed by Christian Moueix, proprietor of Chateau Petrus. Today we will be meeting with Christian’s son Edouard who is in the process of taking over the reins of the family business. Edouard leads us into their drawing room where their illustrious stable of wines are laid out for us to taste at our own pace. Leaving us to taste in private we now get to try the 2014s from some of the greatest terroirs in the right bank. The highlights include:

2014 Chateau Plince
-Lovely, harmonious nose of berry fruit with complex herbal tones. There’s a current of sweet tobacco running through the silkly, elegant palate that displays nice volume and texture. A very good Plince, best since 2009.

2014 Chateau Bourgneuf
-A fairly ripe, deep nose of red fruit with mocha tones. Muscular and tannic with nice length and good persistence of the mocha-driven flavor profile which follows through on the palate. Recommended.

2014 Chateau Gazin
-Dark Chocolate and blackberry fruit on the nose. This has a sweet balanced palate with a vein of minerality running through. Nice power.

2014 Chateau Latour A Pomerol
-A complex, resonant, spicy nose leads into a balanced ripe berry fruit driven palate with hints of truffle and spice in the background. Great texture and a long, nicely integrated finish. Harmonious and seamless. Not a big wine but totally complete and well-balanced.

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2014 Chateau Lafleur
-Complex, powerful, class nose. Deep. Sweet silky flavors of pure red berries with nice weight and texture. Elegant and feminine but keeps pumping through on the finish with serious muscle and length. Textbook Lafleur. Excellent.

2014 Chateau La Fleur Petrus
-Wow, this has a gorgeous polished nose of high toned plum and raspberry. Merlot driven. Great texture, medium bodied, good structure. Harmonious and long.

2014 Chateau Trotanoy
-Smoky and spicy with lovely plum fruit and truffles on the nose. Long, powerful and buttoned up. There’s something aristocratic about this Trotanoy’s personality. The palate is seamless and supple with great purity and depth. Excellent.

2014 Chateau Belair-Monange
-Expressive, powerful nose that leaps out of the glass with ripe herbal toned dark fruit. Slightly more modern than the Pomerol stable tasted before. Nice structure, good balance and freshness. Finishes long with pepper and dark chocolate tones. We are just starting to see what this property can do with the addition of the former Magdelaine vineyards. A fascinating estate to watch that could one day be one of the top estates in Saint Emilion.

After concluding the tasting, we head to Saint Emilion with Edouard to tour the vineyards of Chateau Belair-Monange. Since the Moueix family took over this historic estate in 2008 they have vastly upgraded the chateau and vineyards. There is currently a massive effort underway to replant several large parcels and we are struck by how many hectares are fallow at the moment. For Edouard this is a lifelong project, it will be decades before we really see what this well situated terroir is truly capable of.

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Edouard leads us down into the limestone quarry beneath the vineyard. This labyrinth of caves, carved out over hundreds of years, just completed a retrofit to strengthen and stabilize the limestone. It’s a reminder of the history of the place (much of the limestone harvested was used to build the town’s buildings, streets and walls) as well as the truly ideal soil composition here in Saint Emilion.

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Leaving Saint Emilion we head to Pomerol and Chateau La Fleur Petrus where we enjoy a wonderful lunch paired with the beautifully mature 1989 La Fleur Petrus and an absolutely delicious magnum of 2000 Trotanoy (just entering maturity, full bodied, plush and deep). Saying our goodbyes, it’s a long journey back across the Gironde to some afternoon appointments in Pessac-Leognan.

Highlights of the afternoon visits include:

2012 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
-Deep, dark fruit on the nose with a lactic element. The palate is midweight and beautifully silky. Soft, plush and very accessible early.

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2014 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
-Reticent nose, wow this is very tannic and muscular. Slightly austere but with amazing structure, one for the cellar.

2014 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
-A gorgeous nose of citrus, pure mineral and melon. Very expressive aromatically. Rich on the palate but with plenty of racy acidity, finishes very long.

2014 Chateau Le Thil
-Primary red fruit and floral notes, very sweet on the attack, port-like. Pure Merlot. Finishes smoky and decadent.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge
-Dark fruit and the essence of stones. A touch of blackberry leaf. This is tannic, but midweight with excellent volume, rock solid midpalate. Finishes with nice freshness that balances the considerable fruit here. An excellent Smith Haut Lafitte that will likely be one of the best values of the vintage.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc
-Reticent nose, soft on the entry but the acid pumps through on the end, very good for the vintage, but not at the level of the stunning 2013. A very nice, midweight vintage of SHL Blanc.

2014 Le Dragon de Quintus
-Ripe, well defined red fruit on the nose. Punchy, intense flavors, primary, slightly jammy and exotic but with nice tension. A very attractive second wine, well done.

2014 Chateau Quintus
-Lovely nose of plum compote, sexy and liqueur-like on the palate but balanced and with good tension. Very well made, can’t wait to see where this property goes over the next 5-10 years under Haut Brion’s ownership.

2014 Le Clarence de Haut Brion
-Very pretty blackcurrant pastille with hints of scorched earth. Black fruit and incense. This is substantial but expertly balanced. A great second wine with lots of Haut Brion character, this should be more accessibly priced this year and is recommended.

2014 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
-Slightly closed nose with graphite and herbaceous notes. Sweet and silky on the attack with blackcurrant and licorice, finishing with persistent flavor and lots of freshness.

2014 Chateau Haut Brion
-Deep and opaque with dark fruit, tobacco and spice. Palate is pretty with a strong notion of scorched earth. Midweight with good acid and a strong tannic backbone.

2014 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
-Gorgeous white flowers, lanolin and pure grassy, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc fruit. Incredibly focused with laser sharp acid on the attack, midweight and seamless. Very fine.

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Dinner tonight is at Chateau Haut Brion with Director Jean-Philippe Delmas. After a long day of tasting we relax over Champagne in the chateau’s beautifully appointed drawing room while talking of the campaign, the recent rise in popularity of La Mission Haut Brion and Wally’s plans for growth. Dinner is elegant and beautifully paired with 2011 La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (Astonishingly precise with beautiful minerality, salinity and laser like acidity), 2003 La Mission Haut Brion (very youthful for an 03, definitely showing the decadence of the vintage but with plenty of room to age) and 1999 Chateau Haut Brion (In a great place for drinking, substantial but with resolved tannins, this is a pure Haut Brion with lots of incense, licorice and truffle). Being presented with a humidor full of Habanos is tempting after dinner but we decide we’ll have to pass if we are going to make it through tomorrow morning’s comprehensive tasting of nearly 100 wines! Heading back to the hotel we marvel at the incredible day we have just had…from lunch with a Moueix to dinner at a First Growth. Just one more day to go!

-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports

Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 3

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2014 Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 3

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Tuesday, April 14th

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Another early start today, heading out of Bordeaux at 7:45am to return to the Medoc. Today we will visit the rest of the major Left Bank chateaux, beginning with morning appointments at Leoville Barton, Montrose, Calon Segur, Latour, Leoville Poyferre and Rauzan Segla. Highlights of this morning’s tastings:

2014 Chateau Langoa Barton
-A complete, deep, open knit nose of dark red fruit with hints of spice box. This is medium bodied but classic Langoa with accessible exuberant fruit for a St Julien. Very nice.

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2014 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
-A somewhat reticent dark fruit and dusty stone driven nose. Really good weight and richness on the powerful palate, tannic. This is a more muscular Tronquoy Lalande, really shows the quality of St. Estephe in this vintage, clearly their best since the 2010.

2014 Chateau Montrose
-A lovely beguiling nose. Pure, fine dark fruit and crushed stones, sensual on the seamless palate. Velvety with very good weight, but not overly heavy. Gorgeous texture, the tannin and oak are well integrated. Powerful, terroir-driven and polished. Montrose has really gone to another level over the past few years and this is nearly as good as the 100 point 2010. Clearly one of the wines of the vintage, it’s astonishing the way Montrose has been able to make substantial improvements while retaining an un-erring purity of character. Bravo!

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2014 Chateau Calon Segur
-Expressive dark berry fruit and kirsch on the nose, nice texture, but very tannic at this stage. Good freshness, this has a somewhat perfumed, feminine profile but with power. Marked by a more modern style than in years past. We are starting to see the new direction of the new ownership and it appears they are taking their stylistic cues more from Cos than Montrose. Rather flamboyant with little of the rusticity of the old regime.

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2014 Chateau Latour
-Reticent with hints of iron, cassis and gravel. Nice fruit on the attack. Powerful, muscular and tannic. Midweight and somewhat austere at this point, but the finish is very long. Not offered en Primeur.

2003 Chateau Latour
-Sexy, musky, truffles and sous bois. Decadent oak tones, walnuts, leather, cigar box on the nose. Sweet on the attack, nicely mature at this stage. Finishes soft, but well wrapped up with good length. A rather exotic, hedonistic Latour but certainly providing a lot of pleasure right now.

2014 Chateau Leoville Poyferre
-Dark color, sexy, crème de cassis on the nose. Plush and ripe. Nice mid-palate weight with a good amount of fat along a tannic backbone. Forward, round and charming. This is very generous and seems somewhat atypical for the vintage. A lot of sweet tannin and rather low in acid. This will likely drink well relatively early.

2014 Chateau Rauzan Segla
-Sweet and earthy on the nose, lovely silky palate with excellent volume and a strong tannic backbone. Medium plus body. This has a floral red fruit character on the palate that is classic Margaux, but its serious and long.

Lunch today is at Rauzan Segla with the chateau’s longtime Director John Kolasa. This will be John’s final vintage at Rauzan as he is retiring later in the year. Joining us for lunch is new winemaker and director Nicolas Audebert who was previously the winemaker at Cheval des Andes in Mendoza. We have a fun lunch discussing the history of Rauzan Segla and the new direction of the estate. Nicolas’ sensibilities are very closely aligned with John’s so it seems the chateau’s trademark style will remain elegant and classical. Lunch is accompanied by some treats from the cellar. 2001 Segla (a nice mature vintage of Rauzan Segla’s second wine, tannins are completely resolved and this is drinking really well 13 years after release), 1998 Chateau Canon (barely an adolescent, this shows the fantastic quality of ‘98 in the right bank. Earthy and powerful but very elegant), 1983 Chateau Rauzan Segla (beautifully mature, another sleeper vintage that is legendary in Margaux. Drinking perfectly right now.) and 1966 La Lagune from magnum (a real treat, completely resolved but this shows no signs of fading, delicate with fine fruit from the warm ’66 vintage.)

After saying our goodbyes we head back up to Pauillac to continue our appointments. Highlights of the afternoon’s tastings:

2014 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
-87% Cabernet Sauvignon. A dark opaque color, this is dense and inky with that classic Lafite graphite and gravel buried under black and blue fruit and toasty oak. Very concentrated and muscular, this is somewhat austere at the moment but with lots of potential. Should be long-lived.

2014 Chateau Pichon Baron
-80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Pretty, ripe dark fruit with cedar and pencil lead on the nose. Classic Pauillac. Excellent volume in the mouth, good concentration. Nice tannic structure and good freshness in a midweight style. A very zen expression of Pichon Baron, the muscle is there, it’s like 2010 just with the volume turned down a bit. Like so many in this vintage, it’s like a welterweight fighter as opposed to a heavyweight.

geoffff2014 Chateau Palmer
-Very dark, plums, earth, mineral and animal on the nose. Delicate and silky in the mouth but finishes with substantial structure. Fresh with crisp acid. Lots of length, chewy and taut on the finish. A dark, muscular, masculine expression of Palmer, should be quite age-worthy.

Dinner tonight is at the brand new La Grande Maison Joel Robuchon with Frederic Engerer, Director of Chateau Latour. Walking in it’s clear this is the finest restaurant in Bordeaux aiming squarely at three Michelin Stars. The stunning tasting menu is an intricate parade of Robuchon’s trademark dishes with beautiful presentation and the highest level technique. Service is at the highest level of professionalism and attentiveness. A bottle of 2008 Domaine d’Eugenie Clos Vougeot is showing beautifully, just beginning to shed its tannin with lovely fruit, displaying the pure, transparent character of the 2008 vintage. The 2000 Chateau Latour on the other hand is unbelievably youthful. Guessing blind I’d almost peg it as the 2005 it’s so primary and tightly wound. A massive wine, it will need another 10 years before thinking about touching it, but it’s fun to check in on its evolution tonight.

After an absolutely flawless dinner it’s time to head home and get some rest before we head for the right bank and Pessac-Leognan tomorrow. I can’t help but marvel at what Robuchon has done here in Bordeaux. La Grande Maison is truly as good as any 3-Star in Paris. Wow!

-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports

Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 2

Achaval-Ferrer Tasting at Wally’s – Thursday, March 13

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achavalWally’s is thrilled to host Eclio Dumon, who has been the US Brand Ambassador for Achaval Ferrer Winery since 2011, for this unique opportunity to taste the magnificent wines of Argentina’s Achaval-Ferrer, on Thursday, March 13, from 6 – 7:30 pm.

“Achaval-Ferrer, under the direction of CEO Santiago Achaval and winemaker Roberto Cipresso, stands at the summit of Argentina wine producers”. – Robert Parker

Located in Mendoza, Argentina, and founded in 1998, Achaval-Ferrer is widely considered to be one of Argentina’s top producers – producing impeccable single vineyard Malbecs capable of being cellared up to 25 years or more. They also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon from two vineyards – one dating back to 1890.  They are also recognized as one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World by Wine & Spirits.

Here is a little taste of company history, straight from their website: “In 1998, a group of Italian and Argentinian friends joined forces to realize a then extremely ambitious dream – the creation of world class Argentinian wine.
From the outset, the aim of Achaval-Ferrer was not only to produce exceptional quality but also to remain faithful to the wines’ origins. This is fundamental to the company’s philosophy which echoes the ideals of all of our major principals in that the vineyard is seen as fundamental, the very essence of the finished wine. The importance of this is too often belittled by emphasis on winemaking skills alone – not here, although Roberto Cipresso as winemaker is a phenomenal asset.”

To be poured:

2012 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, 91 pts, WS
2012 Achaval Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Achaval Ferrer Quimera, 93 pts RP, 90 pts ST
2007 Achaval Ferrer Bella Vista, 96 pts RP, 95 pts WS, 93 pts ST
2008 Achaval Ferrer Bella Vista, 98 pts RP, 93 pts WS, 92 pts ST
2005 Achaval Ferrer Mirador, 94 pts RP, 93 pts WS, 92 pts ST
2011 Achaval Ferrer Altamira, 96 pts WS

Don’t miss this exceptional event! Buy Here.

Sandhi and Domaine de La Cote In Store Tasting with Rajat Parr

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Wally’s is proud to present an evening tasting with celebrated sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr. As Wine Director of the Mina Group, Parr has built a reputation over the past decade as one of the world’s most renowned sommeliers. In the past few years he has taken on new pursuits including authoring the James Beard Award winning book, “Secrets of the Sommeliers”, and focusing on his winery projects, Sandhi and Domaine de La Cote. Based in Santa Barbara’s famed Sta Rita Hills, these two wineries are focused on creating powerful yet elegant examples of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, from some of the region’s finest terroirs. Join us on March 6th to experience a range of wines including their flagship single vineyard bottlings.

Wines to be tasted:

2012 Sandhi Chardonnay Santa Barbara County
2011 Sandhi Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict
2011 Sandhi Chardonnay Rita’s Crown
2011 Domaine de La Cote Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills
2011 Domaine de La Cote Pinot Noir Bloom’s Field
2011 Domaine de La Cote Pinot Noir La Cote

Buy tickets here for this amazing tasting!

Burgundy “Off the Grid” In-Store Tasting with Daniel Johnnes

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Off the GridUPDATE – February 18, 2014

The “Off The Grid” Burgundy tasting with Daniel Johnnes is Tonight at Wally’s Wine & Spirits!

Tonight at Wally’s, a hidden list of treasures will be poured. These superlative wines will prove that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the splendor of Burgundy. And, these wines will also be discounted for purchase this evening. Cheese and bread from Wally’s Cheese Box will also be served. This will be a true steal at $20.

Robert Parker awarded the 2011 Jadot Moulin A Vent Chateau des Jacques 91 points, and if you join us tonight you’ll have a chance to taste this beauty for yourself:  “Reflecting the inclusion of all of Chateau des Jacquess fruit from Champs de Cour and Clos des Thorins as well as the usual selected lots from all of their other Clos holdings, a generic 2011 Moulin-a-Vent mingles ripe dark cherry, plum and cassis with marrow-rich savory suggestions of meat stock. Salt, stone, iodine, mocha and toasted nuts add intrigue to a sustained finish in this lovely, tenderly textured and relatively gentle offering that pales slightly only in comparison with the active impingement that characterizes this years Chenas and Fleurie tasted immediately before. Incidentally, this was brought-up in one-third each in new barriques, used barriques and tank, in contrast with the nearly 100% new barrels in which the estates single vineyard Moulin-a-Vents continue to be raised. An outstanding value, it should reward following at least through 2017 and quite possibly beyond.”

And, the 2011 Jadot Moulin a Vent Chateau des Jacques Clos de Rochegres received a 92-point score from Mr. Parker: “Clove and cinnamon accents to the ripe cherry and purple plum of Chateau des Jacquess 2011 Moulin-a-Vent Clos de Rochegres suggest that a dollop of Gewurztraminer was administered. Singed meat and crushed stone set-off the luscious fruit and deep spice on a polished palate that projects an almost pasty sense of sheer concentration, but at the same time not a hint of heaviness, let alone heat, in its succulently sustained finish. This is far from the brightness, charm and wafting florality of the corresponding Grand Carquelin, whose personality might well have much to do with that sites high quartzite content, but it surprises me that the highest-elevation site in the des Jacques collection generally harvested a week after the others has rendered such a richly, exotically ripe style. Plan to enjoy this through 2017.”

Here is the complete list of Burgundies that Mr. Johnnes will be sharing with us tonight. How many of these undiscovered gems will become your favorites?

2011 Domaine Pierre Morey Aligote

2011 Ch. Fuisse Pouilly Fuisse Tete de Cru

2011 Laroche Chablis St Martin

2011 Moreau Chablis Vaillons Grand Cru

2010 Alain Gras St Romain Blanc

2011 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Blanc

2009 Domaine Denis Pernard Vergelesses 1er cru Sous Fretille

2010 Francois Mikulski Meursault

2010  Domaine Marchand Grillot Bourgogne Rouge Grand Ordinaire

2011 Labruyere Moulin a Vent

2011 Jadot Moulin a Vent Ch Jacques

2011 Jadot Moulin a Vent Ch Jacques Rochegres

2011 Ch Fuisse Morgon Charmes

2010 Alain Gras St Romain Rouge

2010 Clos Salomon Givry 1er Cru

2010 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands 1er Cru

2009 Domaine Jacob Girard Savigny les Beaune 1er cru Les Marconnets

 

 

 

Wally’s Wine & Spirits is thrilled to be hosting an in-store Burgundy tasting featuring Daniel Johnnes, on Tuesday, February 18, 2014. Tickets will be available at the door – but call now to reserve your place (310) 475-0606. Tickets are $20.

Daniel Johnnes is currently the Wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, including Restaurant Daniel, DB Bistro, Cafe Boulud, Bar Boulud, DBGB and Boulud Sud. He was previously Wine Director for Montrachet and the Myriad Restaurant Group for 20 years. Also widely respected as an author, and an importer, he is the founder of La Paulée de New York and San Francisco, which has been called ‘the greatest bacchanalia on the face of the earth’ by the Financial Times. Amongst his numerous achievements, Mr. Johnnes was named ‘2006 Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year’ by the James Beard Foundation. All of this from the same man whom Robert Parker called ‘our nation’s finest (and nicest) sommelier.’

He is also the author of a highly regarded book on wine, Daniel Johnnes’s Top 200 Wines, An Expert’s Guide to Maximum Enjoyment for Your Dollar, and has written articles Food & Wine, Gourmet, Wine & Spirits, and Santé, and additionally has been featured and quoted in The New York Times, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Newsweek, Business Week, Vogue, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wine Spectator, Market Watch, Art Culinaire, Elle Décor and others. And, if that was not enough, he has also appeared on numerous television shows, such as CBS This Morning, NBC Today Show, Food Network, and Martha Stewart Living. Calling him an expert on Burgundy is perhaps an understatement.

Don’t miss this opportunity to taste an amazing selection of Burgundy with Mr. Johannes himself, at Wally’s Wine & Spirits.

La Paulée is an annual event started in 2000 by sommelier Daniel Johnnes in the spirit of an event known as La Paulée de Meursault, which has been held since 1923, as a wine producer’s dinner, in and around the commune of Meursault, just south of Beaune, France. It is considered by many to be perhaps the greatest Burgundy tasting held outside of France, and has evolved into a magnificent and luxurious feast, and fortunately for all wine lovers, has been imported to San Francisco and New York.

Burgundy is all about terroir, craftsmanship and character. At this unique tasting, Daniel will help us celebrate the six regions of Burgundy: Beaujolais, Mâconnais, Chalonnais, Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits and the Yonne, which includes Chablis. The wines showcased at the tasting represent great values from up-and-coming producers well worth discovering; and will most certainly be a tasting event that you will not want to miss.

A central reason for this tasting, and for all the La Paulee events, is Daniel’s desire to bring the wines of Burgundy to the “next generation”. As prices of many Burgundies have soared astronomically in recent years, many future devotees have been left in the dark – but thanks to Daniel, we will see how there is more to the region than Grand Gru wines we can only dream about or drink infrequently. We will also taste wines from numerous hard-to-find appellations.
And coming in March from Daniel Johnnes: La Paulée de San Francisco.

La Paulée Off Grid: A Tasting of Burgundy’s Hidden Gems. Wednesday, March 12. Go off the grid and experience all that Burgundy has to offer by sampling a selection of exciting wines curated by a group of our nation’s top sommeliers. Guests will also enjoy fine food from a selection of San Francisco’s top restaurants and connect with the sommeliers on hand who will share their picks from Burgundy and provide tips on great value wines, up-and-coming winemakers and surprising vintages.

La Paulée Gala Dinner. Saturday, March 15. The flagship La Paulée event is a formal, seated dinner prepared by culinary giants — chefs Michael Mina, Jean-François Bruel, Traci Des Jardins and César Troisgros — paired with wines served from all of the attending growers. In the generous Burgundian spirit and in the tradition of La Paulée de Meursault, guests are invited to bring wine(s) from their cellars to share with their other attending guests and winemakers. The Gala will feature keynote speaker Guillaume d’Angerville of Domaine Marquis d’Angerville and the jovial voices of Les Chanteurs de Bourgogne, as well as a live charity auction to benefit Meals on Wheels of San Francisco.  

Tickets to all events can be found here.

A spring tasting in Napa Valley

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It’s beautiful day when I arrive at Napa Airport – clear skies and classic California seventy-degree temperatures.   A nice surprise this time of year.

Often on purpose, I never set out to taste new wines alone. And on this visit, I have the privilege of tasting a new blend by winemaker and viticultural consultant Andy Erickson.  Andy has been around the wine block in the past two decades, growing grapes and blending wines for several Napa Valley vintners, including  Spottswoode, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Newton Vineyard, Dalla Valle, Ovid, Screaming Eagle, and his highly sought-after Favia.

Winemaker Andy Erickson

In the laboratory room, Andy shares samples of a new Sauvignon Blanc blend he’s crafting for a label that doesn’t even have a name yet!  The wine is delicious, with bright fruit, very fresh mineral tones and a spicy bitter grapefruit finish.  To little surprise,  it crossed my mind more than once that this wine could rival the very best Sauvignon Blancs in Napa.  Stay tuned for the greater details, this tasty wine is expected to be released in the fall, with a name, of course.

Next I ventured to Dana Estate, which is in the epicenter of the Rutherford American Viticultural Area (AVA), nestled in the valley floor referred to as the “Rutherford Bench”.  The estate owner, Jae Chun, greets us with an appropriate celebratory glass of bubbly.  Chun along with his father-in-law, Hi Sang Lee, bought the property back in 2005, and spent time turning the 19th century, rundown winery into a state of the art, gorgeous sanctuary, recruiting the expertise of renowned architect Howard Bracken.

Courtesy Dana Estate Napa

After the tour Jae has a special lunch prepared by chef Sean O’ Toole, who is an accomplished chef you may know from San Francisco’s Quince.  He’s currently engrossed in the rigorous process of opening a new restaurant in Napa.  If our luncheon was any indication, continued success is on the horizon for Sean. My favorite course was a white asparagus split down the middle and filled with caviar and uni!

Dana Estate LunchJae chooses a few French wines that pair beautifully with the food (a 1989 Haut Brion, and the 2005 Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Pucelles)  – which is part of his approach.  He’s a believer that to be a great Napa Valley vintner, you have to understand the great wines from the rest of the world. And many of those wines – especially the greats of the Old World – are designed for not just the glass, but the table.  The Dana Estate 2008 Lotus showed extremely well with dark cassis, tobacco and a fine, rich finish.   The wine is powerful, exudes class and rates right up there with the world’s best.  A testament to Jae’s concept, and a rare opportunity one can only be grateful for, and remember as long as possible.

Harlan Estate Napa

After lunch we head to a tasting at Harlan Estate. The vineyards of Harlan are perched high above the rest of the valley in Western Oakville, providing spectacular views in every direction, and spectacular terroir for their proprietary red blend.

Bill and Will Harlan share a relevant vertical with us of what Robert Parker has called “profound” wine.  To assess the aging power of Harlan, the first taste is a 1993 with a red, evolved color that washes delicate and smooth over the palate. The 2007 lends dark chocolate and herbs, while the 2008 is deep red in color with purple edges, and flavors that are long, rich and firm – nice wine!  The latest release, the 2009, is also dark with awesome mocha java on the palate and a delicate herb essence. After our visit I fully understand why Harlan makes one of the world’s greatest wines.

Harlan Estate Vertical Tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss the Grande Marque Champagne Tasting, Sunday June 2, 2013

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This is a spectacular event every year – and after you first experience at the Grande Marque, you will be hooked for life! The tradition continues as Wally’s stages the 21st edition of its annual Grande Marque Champagne Tasting on Sunday, June 2nd from 5-8pm at Le Merigot Hotel in Santa Monica. Once again over 50 Grande Marque Champagnes will be poured, including Dom Perignon, Krug and Cristal, alongside signature dishes offered from over fifteen leading restaurants. Among those set to return this year: Café del Rey sporting a sumptuous raw bar, complete with oysters, along with Enoteca Drago, Angelini Osteria, Mélisse, Michael’s, Brentwood, Maru, Locanda del Lago, Pastina, Cézanne at Le Merigot, Sweet Butter Kitchen, Tin Roof Bistro and others. Additional taste-treats will include Petrossian Caviar, delicacies from Wally’s Cheese Box, Weaver’s Coffee…plus other surprises. The David Arana Quartet will again provide its unique, energizing array of wonderful live music.

A majority of the proceeds raised for this event benefit the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, Vista del Mar Child and Family Services, and Food on Foot. Last year $35,000 was donated to our beneficiaries. bringing to nearly $1 million the grand total raised since our inaugural Grande Marque Champagne Tasting in 1992. Sign up for this fantastic event today!

Scheduled to pour:
Armand de Brignac
Billecart-Salmon
Canard-Duchene
Drappier
Deutz
Domaine Carneros
Dom Perignon
Henriot
Iron Horse
J. Lassalle
Krug
Lanson
Laurent-Perrier
Louis Roederer
Pol Roger
Moët & Chandon
Paul Bara
Perrier-Jouët
Roederer Estate
Rothschild
Ruinart
Scharffenberger
Schramsberg
Veuve Clicquot
Taittinger

Special Grande Marque Room Rates Available at Le Merigot — Phone 888-228-9290 and request Wally’s Champagne Tasting rate of $259 for a superior room.

The Wines of David Ramey

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We have always loved the wines of David Ramey – who is not only of California’s most legendary winemakers, but has also worked in Pomerol, France at legendary Chateau Pétrus, and has created numerous California wines which have earned him elite status (Dominus, Chalk Hill, and Rudd Estate). When asked what constitutes a great wine, David answered “a combination of richness and finesse, power and elegance”, and those elements have become a signature touch of his never-ending pursuit of greatness.

Perhaps his own website says it best: David Ramey is widely acknowledged to be among the wine pioneers whose efforts helped raise the bar for all American winemakers and brought California to the forefront of the international wine world. David’s groundbreaking work with indigenous yeasts and malolactic and barrel fermentation yielded a new California style that was richer, more lush and silky smooth than previously known. As a result, he created a benchmark style now emulated by many.

Bursting flavors of berries and currants which intermingle with spice and tobacco – Ramey’s Cabernets have the structure to be cellared for decades and will stand up to wines costing over three times the price! These voluptuous and silky Cabernets display both the rich flavors of a great Napa red wine, and also the structured elegance of a right-bank Bordeaux. These wonderful Napa reds only get more complex and evocative over time, and pair beautifully with anything from steaks and burgers to pastas and rich cheeses. Take this to your favorite steakhouse (American or Brazillian!) or make your favorite gastropub burger on your grill at home with blue cheese, red onion, aruglula, and Dijon mustard, call some friends and uncork a bottle!

The Greatest Wine Tasting Value In The Nation?

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We certainly think our Napa/Sonoma All-Stars Tasting fits the bill! Not many tastings feature this many top labels in the same place, all wrapped in a fun and laid-back atmosphere (wine tastings shouldn’t feel like a seminar!) And the list keeps growing– we just confirmed “The Prisoner” today! The trick here is early RSVP. Though we have plenty of room, you’ll be saving some dough, the super-low $39.99 per person fee increases to $50 the day of the event. So be sure to get your name on the list soon. We look forward to seeing you under the tent on Sunday, April 17th!

RSVP ONLINE AND MORE DETAILS HERE

Napa Sonoma All-Stars

Tent Sale Starts This Friday, Feb. 11!

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That’s right, it’s time for Wally’s Annual Winter Tent Sale! Grab a shopping cart (or two) and roll on in anytime starting Friday (2/11) until Sunday (2/13) from 9am-5pm. All the big names, the hard-to-find stuff, Bordeaux, California Cabs, beer, cheese, spirits, you name it, it’s all under the tent, all up to 80% off. And our expert staff will be on hand to assist you,  advise you, whatever you may need. All in all, if you’ve never been, its quite a fun experience whether you’re just getting one bottle of our too-low-to-advertise price on 2006 Silver Oak, or 60-cases of 2002 Dom Perignon.

Click here to download the Tent Sale flyer (pdf format)