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)

11/04/14 – MORE FUN WITH BORDEAUX

CalonSegurSixteen 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.

BranaireDucruThis 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. The cost of this unique tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 4, 2014. To reserve your spot for this four-week class, 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).

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.

The List:
DRY CREEK VINEYARDS Zinfandel Heritage Clone 2012
TRIG POINT Railyard Zinfandel The Alexander Valley 2012
SEGHESIO Zinfandel Sonoma 2012
RIDGE Three Valleys Zinfandel 2012
BEDROCK Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma, 2012
RIDGE East Bench Zinfandel 2012
HARTFORD COURT Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2012
RIDGE Geyserville 2012
RIDGE Lytton Springs 2012
RAVENSWOOD Old Hill Zinfandel 2012
RAVENSWOOD Dickerson Zinfandel 2012
RAVENSWOOD Teldeschi Zinfandel 2012
BIALE Black Chicken Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2012
BEDROCK Monte Rosso Zinfandel 2012

Parsing Zinfandel will cost $60.00 per person cash ($63.16 regular). .
To reserve your spot, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com. The class will meet at 7pm on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at l’Alliance Française, the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Boulevard, l’Alliance is on the south-east corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

The Week in Wine (10/17/14)

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and/or tickled my palate this week (ending 10/17/14) in wine.

TaittingerMillesimeLabelFrom SPEC’s FINE WINE
The Friday Fizz: TAITTINGER Brut Millesime, Champagne, 2005
This vintage cuvee from Taittinger has been one of my favorite Champagnes since I first tasted it back in 1984. I starts of with lots of flavor but the bottles I have kept for a few extra years have developed into something spectacular. The price is not too much above the Brut NV level for a lot of producers but the quality (for me, at least) approaches that of many tete de cuvee (luxury tier) bubblies. (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:
10/30/14 – PAUILLAC and St. JULIEN 2011 Dinner at Charivari
On Thursday, October 30th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our Pauillac and St. Julien Dinner featuring a lucky thirteen great Bordeaux wines from the under-rated 2011 vintage (plus, as always, a fine Champagne) with Chef Schuster’s fall menu. (Read More …)

01/20/15 - ANNUAL “MOSTLY 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 standup-and-walk-around tasting format. This is our fourth time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux. Each of the last three years’ events was smashing a success so 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. (Read More …)

Aline Baly of Ch. Coutet

Aline Baly of Ch. Coutet

From The Drinks Business
WINE: THE ‘KEVIN BACON OF INDUSTRIES’
“Wine is the Kevin Bacon of industries. It’s related to art, music, food, people. It links everything to everything”, according to Château Coutet’s Aline Baly. Born in Paris and raised in the US, Aline joined her uncle and father in the wine business after attending a Decanter wine tasting in London with them, when she became hooked. Aline, 33, had attended Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and left behind a more predictable career path in the pharmaceutical industry. Despite the unpredictability of winemaking, the chance to work with family and think generationally was more compelling to Aline than chasing quarterly profits. And she finds the wine business conducive to a family-run enterprise: “It requires a long-term vision. We are not thinking in terms of three months, we are thinking fifteen years ahead, for the next generation.” (Read More …)

From Dr. Vino:
Kate Moss Makes A Champagne A-cup
Kate Moss has launched a new line of champagne stemware taken from a mold of her breast. The model famously displayed her skin-and-bone frame (topless) in ads for Calvin Klein’s Obsession. Which might lead one to think the champagne coupe is called the A-cup? (Read More …)

From Tim Atkin:
I’m Not 100 Points On That
What’s the definition of a 100-point wine? Depending on who’s handing out the numbers, a cynic might say it’s something you can’t afford and don’t want to drink anyway, but the question deserves a more considered answer. Scores are an increasingly big deal in the wine world, relied upon by merchants, auction houses and investors as a short hand for buying and selling wine. They are even used by real consumers from time to time. We all have our own views of perfection – Roger Federer’s backhand, Ella Fitzgerald’s voice and Citizen Kane are all flawless to me – and wine is no different. By definition, a 100-point wine is exceptional to someone. It’s rare that I get to taste bottles that have been given 100 points by other critics, at least with a few years of age, when prices tend to have climbed beyond my budget, but I sampled three such icons blind at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival recently. More importantly, I didn’t know that they’d been anointed with the ultimate rating, so there was no journalistic agenda on my part. (Read More …)

From Wine Searcher:
Changes for the Hospices de Beaune
Corton Bressandes is the wine of choice for the President’s Barrel at this year’s Hospices de Beaune auction. As the Hospices prepares for its famous barrel auction in November, a successor is found for winemaker Roland Masse. Ludivine Griveau will take over as winemaker and vineyard manager of the Hospices de Beaune in 2015, writes Laurent Gotti of Bourgogne Aujourd’hui magazine on his blog. She will be the first woman to run the illustrious and ultra-traditional wine estate. The 36-year-old Griveau received her enology degree at Dijon and has been the enologist for the Burgundy négociant Corton André since 2004. She will take on the position at the Hospices in January on the retirement of Roland Masse, who has been in the role for the last 15 years. (Read More …)

10/30/14 – PAUILLAC and St. JULIEN 2011 Dinner at Charivari

On Thursday, October 30th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our Pauillac and St. Julien Dinner featuring a lucky thirteen great Bordeaux wines from the under-rated 2011 vintage (plus, as always, a fine Champagne) with Chef Schuster’s fall menu.Unknown-1

The MENU
Walleye Pike Quenelles with
Bonnaire Brut Variance NV, Champagne NV

Wild Mushroom & Freekeh stuffed Quail with
Ch. Echo de Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 2011
ChGloriaLabelCh. Lacoste Borie, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Gloria, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Langoa Barton, St. Julien, 2011

Sorbet

Black Angus Hanger Steak with Beef Marrow Butter and Roasted Potatoes with
Ch. Haut Batailley, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Batailley, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Lynch Moussas, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac, 2011
pontet_canet2011Ch. Pontet Canet Pauillac, 2011

Cheese Tart Flambe with
Ch. Branaire Duru, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Beychevelle, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Leoville Barton, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien, 2011

Swiss Chocolate Tart & wild berries

This Pauillac and St. Julien 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 20 people. For reservations, please reply by email to (MarloAmmons@specsonline.com) or call Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250.

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