2014 Holiday Wine Dinner

Champagne – Sherry – Burgundy – Bordeaux – More Bordeaux – Port

On Monday, December 15th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our 2014 Holiday Wine Dinner featuring wines from Champagne, Jerez (Sherry), Burgundy, and Bordeaux as well as a 1966 Colheita Port, all paired with Chef Schuster’s holiday menu.

The MENU
Walleye Pike Quenelles with
Louis de Sacy “Cuvee Inedite” Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV

Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with
Lustau East India Sherry, NV

Moulard Duck “Choucroute garnie” with
Domaine de la Pousse d’Or Volnay “Clos des 60 Ouvrees” 1er Cru, 2010
Mugneret Gibourg Nuits St. Georges “Les Chaignots” 1er Cru, 2010
Michel Gros Vosne Romanee “Clos des Reas” 1er cru, 2010

Red Beet Sorbet

Black Angus Hanger Steak with Marrow Butter and Roasted Potatoes with
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac Leognan, 2008
Ch. Canon la Gaffeliere, St. Emilion, 2008
Ch. Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien, 2008
Ch. Pichon Baron, Pauillac, 2008

French Cheeses with
Ch. Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien, 2005
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac Leognan, 2005

Chef Schuster’s Pecan Pie with
Messias Colheita Port 1966

This Holiday Wine Dinner will cost $220.00 per person including a 5% discount for cash or check or $$231.58 regular. All taxes and tips are included. Attendance at this dinner is strictly limited to 22 people (including me). For reservations, please call Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 (or email BearDalton@mac.com).

Charivari is located at 2521 Bagby (77006) in Mid-Town Houston.

Thinking About Thanksgiving

Several people have called to ask about my Thanksgiving Wine Picks and “Can you send me those recipes?” and “How do you …?”

Thanksgiving is America’s feast day. We’ve all participated in it but we only do it (this particular sort of feast) once a year so there can be pressure and confusion. So here’s the whole Thanksgiving Food and Wine deal. Please click on the links below. Enjoy your friends and family. Enjoy your food and your wine. Enjoy the time before and after. And don’t forget to give thanks.

Click here for my Thanksgiving Page. Or click on the links below to go directly to those topics.

Thanksgiving Wine Picks for 2014
My picks for before, for the meal, for dessert, and for later

Tweaking the Turkey: Pairing the Thanksgiving Feast with Fine Wine
Here’s what I do for the Thanksgiving meal with recipes for the bird and sides and more and a section on how to tweak the turkey to go with specific wines.

My Thanksgiving Time Line

My Thanksgiving Blessing

Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving holiday.

Champagne Friday: DOM RUINART Blanc de Blancs 2004

dom-ruinart-2004-bouteilleThe Forgotten Dom.
Dom Perignon everyone knows. Dom Ruinart – not so much. Which is a shame as Ruinart is the oldest Champagne house (established in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinart in Reims). While Ruinart makes an excellent Non-Vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($44.64) it is the vintage-dated tete de cuvee Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs that stuns. A recent tasting of the 2004 showed a wine too good to ignore.

DOM RUINART Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2004 ($129.99)
A 12% alcohol, 100% Grand Cru, 100% Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs) blend from the Côte des Blancs (69%) and the Montagne de Reims (31%).      Gold-straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics.  Fine, and quite elegant, but somehow juicy with citrus and tree fruit. Lovely feel and great flavors with fully integrated chalk-mineral and toasty yeast notes. Complete. Refreshing and delicious even as it satisfies. BearScore: 97.

Champagne_Ruinart-Mucha

CHAMPAGNE QUOTE:
I’m only a beer teetotaller, not a Champagne teetotaller. I don’t like beer. – George Bernard Shaw

Two New Wine Events: Port and Champagne

12/02/14 – PARSING PORT
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for “PARSING PORT” at 7pm on Tuesday, December 2nd at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française. Port wines are numbered among the classic wines of the world and are quite collectable. Nevertheless, there is a mystique about them so a little information goes a long way toward understanding Port. Topics of discussion will include types of Port (why and how they are different), the origins of Port wine and how it evolved, Serving and Drinking Port, “Pass the Port” (Port Customs), and Decanting (including a decanting demonstration). The tasting will include a flight of 4 wines over 10 years old, a flight of 3 wines over 20 years old and a flight of two wines coming up on 30 years old. Twelve wines will be tasted and bread and cheese will be served.

SmithLBVWe will taste:
Dow’s Fine Ruby Porto, NV
Kopke Anniversary Tawny, Porto, NV
Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Porto, NV
Kopke 10 Year Old Tawny, Porto, NV
Kopke Colheita, Porto, 2001
Smith Woodhouse Late Bottled Vintage, Porto, 2001
Rozes Vintage Porto, 2000
Smith Woodhouse 20 Year Old Tawny, Porto, NV
Kopke Colheita Porto, 1992
Smith Woodhouse Vintage Porto, 1994
Messias Colheita, Porto, 1985
Smith Woodhouse Vintage, Porto, 1985

Parsing PORT will cost $60.00 per person cash ($63.16 regular). To reserve your spot, please call 713-854-7855. L’Alliance Française is French Cultural Center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., it is on the Southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

12/09/14 – FABULOUS FIZZ: Drinking and Enjoying Champagne
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for “FABULOUS FIZZ: Drinking and Enjoying Champagne” at 7pm on Tuesday, December 9th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française. We will discuss Champagne in all its facets: How Champagne is Made, Champagne Vocabulary, Champagne Styles, Terroir and Grape Varieties, Serving Champagne, Champagne Glassware, and Champagne and Food.

Perrier-Jouet-2006-Belle-Epoque-BrutThe following 12 Champagnes will be served:
Abel Charlot Brut NV
JP Marniquet Brut Tradition
Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV
Bonnaire Brut NV
Bonnaire Variance Brut NV
Andre Clouet Silver Brut Nature NV
Louis de Sacy Cuvee Inedite NV
Lancelot Royer Cuvee Chevaliers Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV
Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs, NV
Andre Clouet Brut Rose Grand Reserve NV
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne 2006
JP Marniquet Champagne 1989

Fabulous Fizz: Drinking and Enjoying Champagne will cost $60 per person (Cash) or $63.16 (Regular). To reserve your spot, please call 713-854-7855. L’Alliance Française is French Cultural Center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., it is on the Southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

11/18/14 – A PAUILLAC PERSPECTIVE

Grand_Puy_Lacoste1On Tuesday, November 18 at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Pauillac Perspective, a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring four verticals from four great PAUILLAC chateaux: Ch. Haut Bages Liberal, Ch. Batailley, Ch. Clerc Milon, and Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste. Did I mention that all of these are Pauillacs? Each is from a little bit different area of Pauillac and together they tell the story of Pauillac’s fabled terroir. We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties (for a total of 16 wines.

This is the third in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. It will be fun and informative. This Pauillac Perspective tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 18, 2014. To reserve your spot, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

Three Upcoming Wine Events

RidgeLytton1210/28/14 – PARSING ZINFANDEL – Last Call!
On Tuesday, October 28th, at 7pm, please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Parsing Zinfandel. It’s been a few years since we’ve dug into Zin and with the arrival of the 2012s in Texas, I think we’re due. We’ll look at 14 wines from all over Sonoma County (the spiritual home of Zinfandel) and a couple from Napa as well, all from the 2012 vintage. We’ll talk about Zin and blends, the terrors and techniques used to make it, and the food we ravenswood-teldeschi-vineyard-dry-creek-zinfandel__69702.1410645635.1280.1280eat with it. The class will include bread and a selection of fine cheeses to accompany the tasting. We will taste Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Clone, Trig Point Railyard, Seghesio Sonoma, Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel 2012, Bedrock Old Vine, Ridge East Bench, Hartford Court Russian River Valley, Ridge Geyserville, Ridge Lytton Springs, Ravenswood Old Hill, Ravenswood Dickerson, Ravenswood Teldeschi, Biale Black Chicken, and Bedrock Monte Rosso Zinfandel 2012. Parsing Zinfandel will cost $60.00 per person (cash or check) or $63.16 regular, and will meet at 7pm on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at l’Alliance Française at 427 Lovett Blvd.*

CalonSegur11/04/14 – MORE FUN WITH BORDEAUX
Sixteen Wines – Four Chateaux – Four Verticals

On Tuesday, November 4 at 7pm, please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring four verticals from four great Haut Medoc chateaux: Ch. d’Armailhac in Pauillac, Ch. Branaire Ducru in St. Julien, Ch. Calon Segur in St. Estephe, and Ch. Cantenac Brown in Margaux We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties. BranaireDucruThis is the second in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. It will be fun and informative. The cost of this unique tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular, and will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 4, 2014 at l’Alliance Française at 427 Lovett Blvd.*

11/05/14 – Port Wine with Rupert Symington
Graham – Dow – Cockburn – Smith Woodhouse

grahams2000On Wednesday, November 5th at 7pm, please join me in welcoming the entertaining and informative Rupert Symington at l’Alliance Française for a tasting of Port Wines from his family’s companies including Graham, Dow, Cockburn, and Smith-Woodhouse. Representing the 12th generation of his family to be involved in the Port wine trade, Rupert Symington is co-CEO of Symington Family Estates. He will be here in Houston for a talk and tasting of nine of his family’s wines. Bread and appropriate cheeses will be served. We will taste Dow’s Vale do Bomfim 2010 (a dry Douro red), Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto, Smith Woodhouse 2000 Colheita Porto, Cockburn’s 2003 Canais Vintage Porto, Graham’s 1999 Malvedos Vintage Porto, Smith Woodhouse 1994 Vintage Porto, Graham’s 2000 Vintage Porto, Graham’s 1983 Vintage Porto, and Dow’s 1985 Vintage Porto. Admission to this talk and tasting is a $20.00 (cash or check) or $21.05 (regular), $15.00 of which is a donation to the Houston Area Women’s Center. The class will meet at 7pm on Wednesday, November 5, 2014.*

*To reserve for any of these events, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com.

l’Alliance Française, the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Boulevard, l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

BEAR’s WEEK IN WINE

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and/or tickled my palate this week (ending 10/25/14) in wine.

From SPEC’s FINE WINE
The Friday Fizz: BARONS de ROTHSCHILD Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV
The three wine-growing branches of the Rothschild family have joined together to start a new Champagne house. They wanted to work at a high level and so went to numerous grower/producers and bought up (at great expense) small lots of reserve wines with which to start so their three cuvees would have real depth and richness. The three wines are a Brut, a Blanc de Blancs, and a Rosé. (Read More)

The Daily Drinker: EXPRESSION 38° “Russian Camp” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2012
Expression Wines are just that – expressions of the terroir found at different latitudes along the west coast of the US. Expression 44° is Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon. Expression 39° is Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Expression 34° is Santa Rita Hills in California’s Central Coast. And Expression 38° is the Sonoma Coast (which includes the Russian River Valley). Bill Hill developed and for the most part has subsequently sold vineyards in all these area but he continues to buy fruit from his “grown children” with which to make these wines which he feels are the very Espression of the terroir found in these sites. (Read More)

Upcoming Events:
10/28/14 – PARSING ZINFANDEL
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton on Tuesday, October 28th, at 7pm for PARSING ZINFANDEL. It’s been a few years since we have dug into Zin and with the arrival of the 2012s in Texas, I think we’re due. We’ll look at and taste 12 wines from all over Sonoma County (the spiritual home of Zinfandel) and a couple from Napa as well, all from the 2012 vintage. We’ll talk about Zin and blends, the terrors and techniques used to make it, and the food we eat with it. The class will include bread and a selection of fine cheeses to accompany the tasting. (Read More)

11/04/14 – MORE FUN WITH BORDEAUX
Sixteen Wines – Four Chateaux – Four Verticals
d’Armailhac – Branaire Ducru – Calon Segur – Cantenac Brown
On Tuesday, November 4 at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring four verticals from four great Haut Medoc chateaux: Ch. d’Armailhac in Pauillac, Ch. Branaire Ducru in St. Julien, Ch. Calon Segur in St. Estephe, and Ch. Cantenac Brown in Margaux We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties. This is the second in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. I think it will be fun and informative. (Read More)

From DRINKS BUSINESS
A very good and very thorough if long article on aging Champagne before and after disgorging.
A QUESTION OF TIME IN THE BOTTLE
By Patrick Schmitt
… Champagne’s top tier, prestige cuvée, is increasingly promoting pricier expressions of the same products based on the complex concept of extended ageing on lees. The idea that something might cost more because the production is tiny, the packaging is pretty, and the object has been genuinely hand crafted is easily communicated. Furthermore, most consumers in wine and spirits are happy to incur an added expense for something older, especially if it is directly sourced from the producer. But telling consumers they are paying more for the interaction of a wine and its sediment, including the by-products of a secondary fermentation in bottle, is harder, and especially when the science of this relationship is little understood. (Read More)

From The MAIL ONLINE
HAS THE FIZZ GONE OUT OF FLUTES?
By Khaleda Rahman
Champagne tastes better from a normal wine glass, say scientists. Normal white wine glass emphasises aroma and fizz in more complex wines, says Frederico Lleonart, global ambassador for Pernod Ricard But simple sparkling wines should still be served in flutes as it shows off bubbles better. Experts say champagne tastes better when served in an ordinary wine glass. When toasting a special occasion with a bottle of bubbly, classy champagne flutes are the obvious choice for many. And while it may go against tradition, experts are urging drinkers to ditch their crystal flutes in favour of an ordinary wine glass. (Read More)

From WINE SEARCHER
TERROIR GIVES CHAMPAGNE ITS SOUL
by Elin McCoy
(Elin McCoy declares that she’s a terroirist when it comes to Champagne and that its winemakers are among the most avant-garde.)
My Champagne ideal is not just a glass of dependable, consistent bubbly to toast a promotion or celebrate an anniversary. Yes, I know the region is a place where concepts of brand, blend and house style reign supreme, but I think the most exciting development taking place now in Champagne is the antithesis of all that. The growing number of producers departing from tradition to make single-vineyard and single-village wines that reveal the region’s micro-identities are providing the thrills. (Read More)

PONTET CANET SECOND WINE RELEGATED TO TABLE WINE
Bordeaux fifth growth Pontet-Canet will have to sell the 2012 vintage of its second wine as Vin de France.

By Wink Lorch
Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, the second wine of Château Pontet-Canet, will not bear the prestigious AOC Pauillac label for the 2012 vintage after the wine was rejected by the official tasting panel. Instead its legal definition will be Vin de France. When Alfred Tesseron, owner of Château Pontet-Canet learned about the decision, he told the regional newspaper Sud Ouest: “I do not understand. This has never happened in my 30 years of work here. Fortunately, my négociant customers have put their trust in me: almost none have cancelled their orders.” (Read More)

The Busy Wine Lover’s Guide to CLOS DES PAPES
Family-owned Domaine Paul Avril has roots almost as deep as the vines of Châteauneuf du Pape, and its wines have turned into an investment favorite.
By Jane Anson
One of the stalwarts of Châteauneuf du Pape, Clos des Papes is an intrinsic part of the history of the appellation – the plot of vines that gave the estate its name is located within the walls of the former Papal vineyard where the popes of Avignon had their summer palace; you can’t get much more authentic than that. The Avril family has been popping up as consuls, treasurers, councilors and mayors of the village of Châteauneuf since the 1700s, and the first ever Clos des Papes was produced way back in 1896. If all that’s not enough, the current owner’s great-grandfather, Paul Avril, was instrumental in setting up the first appellation rules here that were, incidentally, the first of their kind in France. Down the generations came Régis, then Paul and now Paul Vincent Avril (who – perhaps not surprisingly – goes by the name Vincent). The current Avril-in-residence has built on his father’s legacy to turn the estate from a local legend to a global star. (Read More)

And an interesting article on cocktails
From The NEW YORK TIMES
RESTAURANT COCKTAILS THAT AIM TOO HIGH
By Pete Wells
All mixed drinks can be divided into two categories: good and not good. A cocktail that you finish involuntarily, that moves to your lips again and again without requiring you to decide to raise your arm, is a good one. A cocktail that you finish because you hate to waste alcohol, or one that you don’t finish at all, is not good. This is the binary theory of cocktail criticism. Lately, an awful lot of the cocktails I’ve had in restaurants have landed with a splat in the “not good” category. Some are rudely sour, or pointlessly bitter, or ickily sweet, or phonily complicated, or just too reminiscent of a spoonful of Robitussin with a hangnail of lemon peel floating on top. Others aren’t actively bad in any of those ways, but they don’t glide down the back of your throat, either; they’re simply not good. (Read More)