UPDATED – ANNUAL “MOSTLY CRU CLASSÉ” BORDEAUX TASTING at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, please join Spec’s as we host 45 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 65 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the 2012 vintage in a walk-around tasting format at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice. This is our fourth time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux. As each of the last three years’ events were smashing successes, the chateaux are coming back and they are bringing friends – so we will be showing more wines. Please scroll down for the complete list of well-known and highly-regarded chateaux.

The tasting will open at 4:30pm and run until 8:30pm, giving tasters ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a spread of artisanal cheeses and breads chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses. The 2012 Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will cost $80.00 total per person cash ($84.21 regular). To reserve your spot for this unique Bordeaux Event, please call Marlo at 832-660-0250 or email MarloAmmons@specsonline.com. The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available.

THE WINES:
Dry Whites: Ch. Martinon (Entre Deux Mers), Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, and Smith Haut Lafitte (all Pessac Leognan Blanc).
Sweet Whites: Ch. Coutet (Barsac) and Suduiraut (with Lions de Suduiraut – both Sauternes)
Haut Medoc: Camensac, Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, La Tour Carnet, Mauvesin, and Senejac
Margaux: Chx. Cantenac Brown, Ferriere, Brane Cantenac (and Baron de Brane).
Pauillac: Chx. d’Armailhac, Clerc Milon, Lynch Bages (with Echo de Lynch Bages), Haut Batailley, Grand Puy Lacoste (with Lacoste Borie), Haut Bages Liberal, Pibran, Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande (with Reserve de la Comtesse)
Pessac Leognan Rouge: Chx. Carbonnieux, Clos Marsalette, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clément and Smith Haut Lafitte
Pomerol: Chx. Clinet, le Croix St. Georges, Gazin, La Pointe (with Pomerol de la Pointe)
St. Emilion: Chx. Grand Corbin Despagne, Berliquet, Canon La Gaffeliere and Clos de l’Oratoire, la Confession, Daugay, Fombrauge, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie MacQuin, and Vieux Clos St. Emilion.
St. Julien: Chx. Branaire Dudru, Gloria and St. Pierre, Hortevie, Langoa-Barton and Leoville-Barton, Leoville-Poyferre, and Talbot
Other Appellations: Chx. le Conseiller, Croix Mouton, and 20 Mille (all Bordeaux), Ampélia and d’Aiguilhe (both Castillon), and Puygueraud (Francs)

Four Upcoming Wine Events during January 2015

Two Wine Classes, a Grand Bordeaux Tasting,
and 
a Southern Rhone Dinner …

01/08/15 – ENJOYING WINE:
Tasting, Buying, Drinking, Serving, Pairing, Storing
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for Enjoying Wine, an entertaining and informative way to learn more about wine and the some of the topics that inevitably go along with it. As we taste through 10 fine wines (sparkling, white, rosé, red, and sweet), we’ll cover topics such as tasting wine, buying wine, drinking wine, serving wine (temperature and glassware), pairing wine with food, and storing wine. All tasting will be from Riedel Degustazione stemware. Course notes will be distributed via email and may be found at BearOnWine.com. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class. Enjoying Wine will cost $50 per person cash ($52.63 regular). The course will meet at 7pm on Thursday, January 8th, 2015To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or email BearDalton@mac.com.

01/12/15 – TASTE WINE LIKE A PRO:
The Basics of Tasting and Understanding Wine
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for this introduction to truly tasting wine. Tasting is the basis of understanding wine, learning more about wine, and finding what sorts of wines we like best. Properly tasting wine with purpose helps all of this happen faster and with less frustration. Taste Wine Like A Pro will get you on the right track.

Topics will include:
- The basics of tasting
- The physiology of taste (sounds intimidating; it’s not)
- Tasting wine versus drinking wine
- Types of tasting
- Blind tasting and playing “The Options Game”
- Proper tasting glassware
- Tasting notes
Ten wines will be tasted. All tasting will be from Riedel Degustazione stemware. Course notes will be distributed via email and may be found at BearOnWine.com. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class. Taste Wine Like A Pro will cost $60 per person cash ($63.16 regular). The course will meet at 7pm on Monday, January 12th, 2015To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or email BearDalton@mac.com.

Both of these Wine School classes will be held at l’Alliance Française, the French cultural center in Houston.  Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, Texas 77006), l’Alliance Française is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

01/20/15 – ANNUAL “CRU CLASSÉ” BORDEAUX TASTING
at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice
On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, Spec’s will host approximately 45 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting over 60 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the 2012 vintage in a walk-around tasting format. This is our fourth time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux. As each of the last three years’ events were smashing successes, the chateaux are coming back and they are bringing friends – so we will be showing more wines. The complete list of well-known and highly-regarded chateaux is still coming together and will be announced soon.

The tasting will open at 4:30pm and run until 8:30pm, giving tasters ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a spread of artisanal cheeses and breads chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses. The 2012 Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will cost $80.00 total per person cash ($84.21 regular). To reserve your spot for this unique Bordeaux Event, please call Marlo at 832-660-0250 or email MarloAmmons@specsonline.com. The Crystal Ballroom is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available.

01/22/15 – A SOUTHERN RHONE DINNER at Charivari
On Thursday, January 22nd at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our Southern Rhone Dinner offering a tour of 11 wines (a dry white, a dry Rosé, eight reds, and a sweet white) from seven appellations (plus a fine Champagne) perfectly paired with Chef Schuster’s menu of French classics.
 
The MENU
American Caviar, Goat Cheese Crème Fraîche aux Tartine with
Castelnau Brut Reserve, Champagne, NV

Bouillabaisse Marseillaise with
Domaine Vieux Chene “Blanc Seigneurs” Cotes du Rhone Villages Blanc, 2012
Domaine de “le Rosé de Marie” Cotes du Rhone Villages Rosé, 2013
Chateau St. Cosme “les Deux Albions” Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon  & Fresh Egg Tagliatelle with
Domaine Cabasse “les Deux Anges” CdRV Sablet, 2013
Domaine Mourchon “Tradition” CdRV Seguret, 2011
Domaine l’Espigouette CdRV Rasteau, 2011
Montmirail “Cuvee Deux Freres” Vacqueyras, 2012
Chateau St. Cosme Gigondas 2012

French Cheeses with
Domaine Grand Tinel “Alexis Establet” Chateauneuf du Pape, 2009
Domaine Pegau “Cuvee de Reserve” Chateauneuf du Pape, 2011

Apple Tart Flambé with Salted Caramel with
Domaine Bernardins Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2012

This Southern Rhone Dinner will cost $140.00 per person including a 5% discount for cash or check or $147.37 regular. All taxes and tips are included. Attendance at this dinner is strictly limited to 24 people (including me). For reservations, please call Susan at 713-854-7855 or reply by email to BearDalton@mac.com.

Save The Date: Wine Trip to Champagne and Bordeaux

May 22 through May 31, 2015
For a Wine Trip to Champagne and Bordeaux

The Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux

The Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux

Your job is to be at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris by 10am Friday morning, May 22, 2015.

My job is to get you from there (via Luxury Coach – aka “the bus”) to Champagne where we will visit 6-7 Champagne houses (J.P. Marniquet, Louis Sacy, Perrier-Jouet, Bonnaire, Bollinger, etc.), eat and drink well, and stay at the five-star Hostellerie La Briqueterie. On Sunday, we’ll take a train (TGV) to Bordeaux where we will be staying at the four-star Pullman Hotel Bordeaux Lac located on the north-side of the city where we will have easy access to all the roads leading to the chateaux. Monday and Tuesday will find us in the Medoc (Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac, and St. Estephe) visiting the likes of Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Batailley, Cantenac Brown, Pontet Canet, Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Calon Segur, Montrose, Pontac Lynch, Senejac, Branaire Ducru, etc. On Wednesday we’ll be in Pessac Leognan and Sauternes visiting properties such as Smith Haut Lafitte, Carbonnieux, Coutet, Haut Bailly, etc.

St. Emilion

St. Emilion

On Thursday and Friday, we will be on the Right Bank visiting the likes of Croix St. Georges, Vieux Ch. Certan, Figeac, Canon La Gaffeliere, Laplagnotte Bellevue, Canon, Daugay, Pavie MacQuin, and Puygueraud. Saturday will be a mix of wine and tourism with a concluding dinner. Each day in Bordeaux will include breakfast at the hotel and lunches and dinners, mostly at the chateaux. Sunday morning will bring an early morning flight back to Paris to fly home that day. Once you are on the plane from Bordeaux to Paris (or not if you chose to extend your trip), my job is done.

We will leave the hotel about 8:30-to-9am each morning and will return after dinner by about 10:30-11pm (unless we are dining at the hotel). This is a wine intensive trip with unusual access to great properties and their wines.

Sarah Donaho of Frosch Travel and I are teaming up to get the hotels, transport, meals, logistics, and most importantly winery visits coordinated. From lunch on Friday May 22 through dinner on Saturday May 30, all meals and wines are included. We should have the budget completed in the next 7-10 days. All of the payments will be through Frosch. At this time, my educated guess is that the cost (double occupancy) will be under $5000 per person (Airfare to/from France not included). The single supplement likely will be in the neighborhood of $900. This trip will be limited to 30 total travelers (including me).

More information soon.
Inquiries should be directed to BearDalton@mac.com and sarah.donaho@frosch.com.

Champagne Friday: KRUG Grande Cuvee

Sometimes we forget about the classics. We get caught up in the buzz about the new or the different and forget about the things that established our interest in a category in the first place. It is at that point that Dr. Samuel Johnson’s idea that people don’t need to be educated nearly so much as they need to be reminded best serves us. In the category of Champagne, please allow me to be your Dr. Johnson for the day. Here is one of those classic, defining, doing everything right sort of wines: Krug Grand Cuvee.KrugGC

KRUG Grande Cuvee Brut, Champagne, NV ($146.89)
A 12.5% alcohol blend of 37% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, and 19% Meunier with some barrel aging and lots of reserve wines. Oldest wines in the blend are from the 1990 vintage and the youngest from 2005. The cuvee spent over 7 years en tirage (on the yeasts).  Every bottle has a blend, disgorgement, and bottling information code on the back that can be scanned or entered into the App or Web Site. This sample was disgorged in the winter of 2012/2013.   Sensory: medium golden straw in color, fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics.  Citrus and peel and red fruit with toast and lots of mineral. Real depth and richneess while still fresh and ALIVE. Yum. Great Champagne and great food Champagne. BearScore: 96.

Champagne Quote:
“I’ll drink your champagne. I’ll drink every drop of it, I don’t care if it kills me.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald from Gatsby Girls

Two New January Wine Classes

The Wine School at l’Alliance Française presents …

ENJOYING WINE:
Tasting, Buying, Drinking, Serving, Pairing, Storing
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for Enjoying Wine, an entertaining and informative way to learn more about wine and the some of the topics that inevitably go along with it. As we taste through 10 fine wines (sparkling, white, rosé, red, and sweet), we’ll cover topics such as tasting wine, buying wine, drinking wine, serving wine (temperature and glassware), pairing wine with food, and storing wine. All tasting will be from Riedel Degustazione stemware. Course notes will be distributed via email and may be found at BearOnWine.com. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class. Enjoying Wine will cost $50 per person cash ($52.63 regular). The course will meet at 7pm on Thursday, January 8th, 2015To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or email BearDalton@mac.com.

TASTE WINE LIKE A PRO:
The Basics of Tasting and Understanding Wine
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for this introduction to truly tasting wine. Tasting is the basis of understanding wine, learning more about wine, and finding what sorts of wines we like best. Properly tasting wine with purpose helps all of this happen faster and with less frustration. Taste Wine Like A Pro will get you on the right track.

Topics will include:
- The basics of tasting
- The physiology of taste (sounds intimidating; it’s not)
- Tasting wine versus drinking wine
- Types of tasting
- Blind tasting and playing “The Options Game”
- Proper tasting glassware
- Tasting notes

Ten wines will be tasted. All tasting will be from Riedel Degustazione stemware. Course notes will be distributed via email and may be found at BearOnWine.com. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class. Taste Wine Like A Pro will cost $60 per person cash ($63.16 regular). The course will meet at 7pm on Monday, January 12th, 2015To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or email BearDalton@mac.com.

Both of these classes will be held at l’Alliance Française, the French cultural center in Houston.  Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, Texas 77006), l’Alliance Française is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

About the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
In 1988, Bear Dalton began teaching wine classes at l’Alliance Française. Those classes evolved into the Wine School at l’Alliance Française. Throughout the year (generally at least twice a month), the Wine School offers classes on such diverse topics as Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, Zinfandel, Cabernet, South America, the Basics, and many more. 

About Bear Dalton
Since 1996, Bear Dalton has been the corporate fine wine buyer for Spec’s Wines and Spirits. He has over 35 years experience in the wine business (wholesale, retail, restaurants, and national distribution) and has been a wine educator since 1994. He buys, tastes, drinks, sips, spits, teaches about, reads about, writes about, eats, sleeps, and dreams wine. For more on Bear, go to http://bearonwine.com/about-2/about/.

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.