A Wine Dinner Benefitting ECHOS – Friday October 13th

ONLY FIVE SEATS LEFT as of 1pm 9/22/17

Dear Friends,
People in the wine trade from around the world have been calling and emailing to ask how I fared during and after Hurricane Harvey. My initial response is that even though we had water lapping at our front porch, Carol and I “got no water in our house or vehicles and so we were unaffected.” But we are not “unaffected.” Harvey has affected everyone on the Texas coastal plain from below Corpus Christi to up past Beaumont. I was back in the office on Tuesday August 29 so I haven’t been out volunteering – but I have been donating and listening to family and friends and customers who are very affected. And I’ve been doing some plotting and scheming. What-if-I-were-to host a wine dinner to benefit ECHOS (an organization in southwest Houston that helps a lower-income, mostly immigrant population with such basic issues as healthcare, housing, food, and English-as-a-second-language that has been doing yeoman work with their clients in the wake of Harvey)? What-if-I-were-to cook and serve really elevated comfort foods? What-if-I-were-to pair those foods with some of the very best wines from around the world? What-if-I-were-to say that ALL the proceeds were to go to ECHOS? What-if-I-were-to tell you that David Weekley Homes promises to match the funds we raise? What-if-I-were-to plan it all for Friday October 13th? Well, all that “What-if-I-were-to” has come together so …
On Friday October 13th at 7pm, I will host (and cook along with Denise Ehrlich and others) a wine dinner benefitting ECHOS (see more about ECHOS below). This dinner-for-24 will be held in the Parish Hall at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (which conveniently has a full commercial kitchen). We’ll start with a Champagne reception with nibbles and then sit down to a five-course dinner of “elevated comfort foods” served with extraordinary wines. Elevated comfort foods? Extraordinairy wines? Take a look at the menu. You may have to loosen your belt. And I think each of the selected wines represents the very best of its type. 


RECEPTION
Assorted nibbles (including Champagne Nachos)
Barons Rothschild Blanc de Blancs Champagne, NV
Barons Rothschild Rosé Champagne, NV

DINNER
Potato-Leek-Parsley Soup with a purple-potato-chip and lardon garnish
Lustau East India Sherry

Confit Quail and Seared Duck over dressed Mesclun with toasted pine nuts and lardons
Rochioli Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2014
Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2014 

Short-Rib-and-Ox-Tail Boeuf Bourguignon over Tagliatelle
Quintessa, Rutherford, 2014
Opus One, Oakville, 2014
Ridge Monte Bello 2014

Cheese
Araujo Eisele Estate 2002 (from magnums)

Individual Apple Tarts with pecan and bacon served with an infused whipped cream
Ch. Rieussec Sauternes 2011

Graham’s Vintage Porto 1994

So come eat and drink knowing that every dime will go to a great cause; have fun and feel good about it. This ECHOS Wine Dinner will cost $500.00 per person (check payable to ECHOS or a credit card charge which will be processed by ECHOS). The reception will start at 7pm on Friday October 13, 2017. To reserve your spot for this unique and very special wine dinner, please reply by email to me at BearDalton@mac.com. I suggest coming by Uber or other car service as the wine pours will be generous. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is located at 9600 South Gessner Road (the southwest corner of Gessner and Bissonnet).


ECHOS (Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services) is a non-profit organization (501(C)3 corporation) connecting people in need with the health, social, and educational resources that can improve their lives. ECHOS’ mission is to connect people in need with health, social and educational resources that can improve their lives.
ECHOS  provides on-site help to families who are unable to access affordable health care and who do not have medical insurance coverage in completing and submitting applications for healthcare and social services. 
ECHOS offers on-site health care services and screenings promoting healthier and more productive lives including Children’s Immunizations, Blood Pressure and Glucose Screenings, Vision Screenings, Well and sick child check ups, and Dental care
ECHOS also assistclients in meeting basic needs and self-sufficiency.  Assistance is free and includes: Food from the Food Pantry, Food Fairs and Mini Health Fairs, English-as-a-second-language, Computer literacy, and Domestic violence support groups on campus.
ECHOS is located on the campus of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.

The “E” in ECHOS, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is located at 9600 South Gessner Road. Epiphany is where I go to church and where I raised my kids. While I no longer live in the area, I went to Sharpstown High School and used to pass Epiphany on the way to and from school. The area has changed since then; Epiphany has changed along with it and now boasts one of the most diverse congregations in Houston. ECHOS is Epiphany’s outreach to the local community.

ABOUT THE WINES
All the wines are among my favorites and fall in the range of “best in class.”
The Barons Rothschild Champagnes are amongst my very favorite fixzz and both completely over deliver at their just under $100 per bottle price points.
The Lustau East India Sherry is the Sherry I buy most often and serve with the soup at all my family holiday meals.
The Rochioli Pinot Noir and Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir each offer best of Sonoma and best of Willamette quality as well as precise expression of their place(s).
The Quintessa, the Opus One, the Ridge Monte Bello, and the Eisele Estate (then Araujo) are my quartet of the definition of great Cabernet-based wine from California. All are farmed either sustainably, organically, or biodynamically. All are given an indigenous yeast fermentation. All are Layered-Textured-Dimensional wines of stunning quality.
Ch. Rieussec is one of my four favorite Sauternes producers. 2011 is a great Sauternes vintage. Bliss.
Graham’s Vintage Porto 1994. Legal-drinking-age Vintage Port from one of the greatest Port houses. Hope its cool that night.
All but one of the wines is provided for this event by the producer/supplier.
SOLD OUT! – An Evening with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba

SOLD OUT! – An Evening with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba

NOW SOLD OUT!

 

On Friday, September 22 at 7pm, please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton, in welcoming our always-entertaining-and-ever-informative friend Jane Ferrari, traveling winemaker of Yalumba, to the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a tasting of Yalumba’s excellent Australian wines. The net proceeds of this event will benefit ECHOS (see below).

The ever-popular Ms. Ferrari will talk about where the wines come from and how they are made as well as the history and traditions of both Yalumba and the Barossa Valley. A native of Australia’s acclaimed Barossa Valley, Jane Ferrari is a trained winemaker – a graduate of Australia’s Roseworthy College (one of the top three winemaking schools in the world) – who gets her hands dirty both in the vineyards and the wineries in Barossa but also travels the world telling the Yalumba story. She is down-to-earth and very entertaining in a way that must be experienced. Jane first visited Houston in October of 2003 and utterly charmed a group of over 60 wine fans. She has been back almost every year since and has wowed us all each time. In addition to information about wine, you may hear about Australian and American culture (or lack thereof), Baseball, Elvis, and other tangentially related topics.

We will taste:
Jansz Brut, Tasmania, NV
Jansz Rosé, Tasmania, NV
Yalumba Y-Series Riesling, 2016
Yalumba Viognier, Eden Valley, 2015
Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache), Barossa, 2014
Yalumba The Triangle (Shiraz – Viognier), Barossa, 2013
Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz, Barossa, 2014
Yalumba The Strapper (Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre), Barossa, 2014
Yalumba The Scribbler (Cabernet-Shiraz), Barossa, 2013
Yalumba The Signature, Barossa, 2013
Yalumba The Cigar Menzies, 2012
Yalumba Museum Antique Tawny NV

An Evening With Jane Ferrari will cost $30.00 (Cash or Check made out to the ECHOS only please). The class will meet at 7pm on Friday September 22, 2017. To reserve your spot for this event, please contact Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.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).

About ECHOS
Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services (ECHOS) is a non-profit organization connecting people in need with the health, social and educational resources that can improve their lives. ECHOS’ mission is to connect people in need with health, social and educational resources that can improve their lives.
ECHOS  provides on-site help to families who are unable to access affordable health care and who do not have medical insurance coverage in completing and submitting applications for healthcare and social services.
ECHOS offers on-site health care services and screenings promoting healthier and more productive lives including Children’s Immunizations, Blood Pressure and Glucose Screenings, Vision Screenings, Well and sick child check ups, and Dental care
ECHOS also assistclients in meeting basic needs and self-sufficiency.  Assistance is free and includes: Food from the Food Pantry, Food Fairs and Mini Health Fairs, English-as-a-second-language, Computer literacy, and Domestic violence support groups on campus.
ECHOS is a non-profit 501(C)3 corporation.

From Our Friend François Labet in Burgundy

Chateau de la Tour in the Clos Vougeot

Dear All,
That’s it, the long harvest marathon starts again.
An easy growing season despite a light drought plus some frost damage means that we will not get the quantities we expected but great quality will be there.
We will start with the whites from Beaune and Meursault, then the reds of Côte de Beaune and finish with Gevrey and Chateau de la Tour (Clos Vougeot).
Thank you for your confidence, support and enthusiasm.
Sincerely,
François Labet

This photo was simply too beautiful not to share.
Bear

Nothing is Normal Now – Including the Wines I’m Drinking

In Houston and the surrounding area, in fact on the whole post-Harvey Gulf Coast of Texas, nothing is normal now. And what passes for normal won’t return for a while yet, maybe not for a very long while. Yet life goes on. If we were affected by the storm and the subsequent floods, we  may be stunned or shocked or angry or all of them. If we came through with little or no loss or damage, we may feel guilty or blessed or both. In either case though, we sleep and wake, we eat and drink – and we continue living.

I know that during the Saturday night and the Sunday of the actual storm (August 26 and 27), a lot of us (me certainly included) were drinking very good wines in the spirit of the hurricane party. I know some legendary bottles were consumed then. But after that something seemed to change. Some have been doing heroic work helping their neighbors even before the water has subsided. Some have donated materials and monies. Some were almost immediately back at their jobs – even as others in the city couldn’t get to or from their homes. As one who was back in the office on August 29, I can say that I am back in my routine but that it is anything but normal. My routine at work is not normal and my routine at home is not normal. We are sleeping and waking, eating and drinking but the eating and drinking is different. More meals at home whether dinner for 2 or dinner for 10. More comfort foods and fewer steak nights. And while we are still drinking wine, the wines are in some ways different. We have drunk a few bottles of a lovely Sancerre and a fine Alsace Pinot Gris (we rarely drink white wine at home). We have drunk several bottles of Zinfandel (both some Ridges and some Ravenswoods with my Bolognaise – which for me is much more of a winter thing), and we have drunk (with my turkey-and-andouille-sausage-gumbo) a couple of the best bottles of Beaujolais I’ve tasted in years. All of which is not to imply that we have abandoned bubbles. We are still a fizz friendly family but we are drinking more basic bubbles (Perelada Brut Cava, Mercat Brut Rosé Cava, and Jansz Rosé) and less actual Champagne just now.

Here are my notes on some of the unusual drinking we’re doing of late:

Domaine FREY-SOHLER Pinot Gris Rittersberg, Vin d’Alsace , 2015 ($19.94)
100% Pinot Gris from the Rittersberg terroir (a microclimate 8° warmer than average for Alsace with shallow, granitic soils on slopes. Famed with alternating rows of clover cover). Pneumatic press, fermented and aged 9+ months in classic old wooden foudre, Residual sugar of 16.4 grams-per-liter (1.6% RS).     Straw color with good legs; off dry, medium light-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics.    Supple, ripe, rounded with ripe soft pear and ripe lime and lime peel fruit to go with a mineral freshness. Exactly what I am looking for in an Alsace Pinot Gris. Fine with fish, pork, or veal. Has enough residual sugar to be able to handle some spice (including a bit of curry or Asian spice) in a dish. BearScore: 91+.

FRANÇOIS LE SAINT Calcaire Sancerre, 2015 ($26.49)
Under the organic label from Domaine Fouassier (the largest landholder in Sancerre), this 100% Sauvignon Blanc grown in Calcaire soils. From the pneumatic press, the free-run juice is transferred by gravity to stainless steel tanks for an indiginous yeast fermentation. The Sancerre is briefly aged on fine lees to add complexity.     Green straw color with good legs; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Delicious supple ripe citrus and tree fruit Sancerre with a fine mineral character. Textured and dimensional with layers of flavor unusual in under $70.00 white wines. Hints at tropical. A great wine from a great vintage. BearScore: 95. (revised score – this may be the best under $40 white wine I have tasted in the last five years)

Domaine DUBOST, Beaujolais Villages, 2015   ($14.99)
100% Gamay from 40 year old vines on rolling slopes of sand, limestone, and granite over a sandstone shelf in the heart of the Villages appellation between Beaujeu and Villie Morgon. Biodynamic and cropped at 36 hl/hc, handpicked grapes. Whole grape fermentation in concrete and steel tanks, 6-8 day at 20-25°, pressing and first racking, completion of alcoholic fermentation at 25° with daily pumping over for 20 minutes each day. Malolactic fermentation at 20°, racked and then raised undisturbed in concrete and steel tanks through the winter at 15°. No fining, light filtration.     Red-purple color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and medium phenolics. Fresh, juicy, ripe, dark red fruit and a lot of it. Some earth and a bit more spice. Delicious ripe drink of reference standard Beaujolais. YUM. BearScore: 92. (revised score)

Chateau de SAINT AMOUR, Saint Armour – Beaujolais Cru, 2015   ($18.89)
100% Gamay from 20-year-old-vines grown in south-facing vineyards fermented using a semi-carbonic technique and aged in tank (no oak).     Red-purple color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics. Utterly delicious, supple. Fresh, almost crunchy red and darker red fruit and spice with a subtle mineral earth. Has a lovely sweetness of fruit. Pure and complete. WOW. BearScore: 94. (revised score)

At some point, things will get back to normal and I’ll resume my routines but for now I am feeling blessed  – and enjoying drinking some different wines.

News from Bordeaux from Ivanhoe Johnston of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnston:

On September 1, our friend Ivanhoe Johnston (who many of you have met at our annual Bordeaux event at the Rice downtown) sent me the flowing information from Bordeaux which I share with you with his permission.

Ivanhoe writes:

At the end of August, we’d like to give a last update before the harvest:

August in Bordeaux has been fairly dry (+/-20 mm of rain in general) and fairly sunny and hot but not extremely hot. This was very good for the maturation of the white and will likely prevent from having a “too sunny” vintage.

The first white grapes were harvested the last week (August 21-26 with Haut Brion picking on August 22nd) and the first of reds picked this week (August 28 – September 2) even if some real action will begin next week (after September 3).

Most properties will be in full harvest by the week of the September 11 altough in the Medoc most likely the week of the 18th…so this is an early harvest vintage so far running about 10 days ahead of last year (2016).

After some days of extreme temperatures the last 2 week (few day at 30°C and some even over 35°C which raises sugars and makes alcohol potentials increase quickly) , weather should be more normal the next weeks (highs around 24°C) with cold nights (which is extremely good for maintaining acidity).

For those who have not suffered from the spring frosts, there is a nice quantity of grapes but they are rather small with not too much juice which is a reason why people would be pleased with a little of rain.

Still, it all looks very good with the potential of a rich and intense vintage. We all are afraid of a hail strom as it happens around Potensac last Sunday…but apart from that we should do again have at least a very nice vintage.

In other summer Bordeaux news :

Ch. Phelan Segur has been sold with some details still to be finalized but it looks as though the management team will remain in place.

Ch. Troplong Mondot had been sold and Aymeric de Gironde (former GM of Cos d’Estournel) will now run the property.

Ch. Berliquet has been taken over by Canon but the wines will be kept separate (here again some details are not yet final).

Due primarily to the spring frosts, total 2017 production is forecast down 41% in Bordeaux but, due to their superior terroir, many of the top château are far less affected.

 

On July 24, 2017 Ivanhoe Johnston provided the following:

As most of you know, Bordeaux has been quite affected by the frost at end of April. This as a massive impact on the global quantity that Bordeaux will produce but has little or no impact at this stage on the potential quality of the vintage.

Here is a closer look at the situation, area by area:

Medoc: most of properties along the Gironde Estuary were not affected by the frost because they were “protected” by the warmer water. Therefore most classified growths from the Medoc are ok, especially with their first wines (grand vin) that are usually mainly done on the best terroir. Their second wines may be more seriously affected. Property like Lagrange for example suffered more on terroir for the Fiefs de Lagrange. Properties like Poujeaux, Chasse Spleen, Camensac, and Latour Carnet that are further from the river were more affected. Ch. Mauvesin Barton will not have a crop.

Pessac is fine even if Pape Clement had been affected. Leognan was more affected with Fieuzal suffering heavily this year.

St Emilion: The plain (lower lying and closer to the Dordogne) is heavily affected as well as the area of Corbin (with almost no crop left) but the plateau is mostly fine. Of the major names, the most affected, as far as we know, are Canon Gaffeliere and to a lesser lesser extent Figeac & Cheval Blanc.

Pomerol: In general, the plateau is fine but the rest of the appellation is heavily affected. Lower lying chateaux such as like La Pointe and Taillefer were really strongly affected.

If we speak only about the chateaux that had no frost, situation is quite nice. Flowering went well with potential quantities looking good (maybe slightly less than last year but it is too early to say with certainty). Veraison has started. Here and there people did a light green harvest and only light leaf thinning to avoid sun-burned grapes.

It is likely to be a early harvest, which is rather a good sign for quality. Some whites are likely to be picked the week of August 20th and some reds by the 4th of September. This early harvest might offer the one who suffer more of the frost to harvest some “2nd crop” grapes in the middle of October so there can be a delay of a +/- one month the general harvest and a potential second harvest from recovering frost affected vineyards.

Some of the growers say that things are now looking good but the weather over the next two months will ultimately determine the quality of the vintage.

The Bordeaux weather forecast is now predicting a rather hot and dry August and a “normal” September.

Monday August 28th Anderson Valley Pinot Class has been cancelled

Due to the approach of and projected extended stay of the the uninvited white rabbit (Harvey) and its associated rain event, our Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley class scheduled for Monday August 28th is canceled. At some time after things get back to what passes for normal, I will reschedule it. In the mean time, please be safe, stay dry, and drink good wine while you’re hunkered down. And if you need some good wine or other adult beverages (or even water), SPEC’s is open.

Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley

CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER EVENT (HARVEY)

WILL RESCHEDULE


On Monday, August 28th at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley, the second in a series of Pinot Noir classes planned before the end of the year. Anderson Valley is the new frontier for Pinot Noir and a source of both top wines and great values. We will look at and taste Pinot Noir from Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. Discussion will include some history of Pinot Noir, how it is made, how it came to Anderson Valley, the special attributes of Anderson Valley, and pairing Pinot Noir with food. Fourteen Anderson Valley Pinot Noir wines will be tasted. Bread and a selection of fine cheeses will be served. Prepare your palate.

The line up:
Handley Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
Brutocao Pinot Noir Slo Lope’n Vineyard, Anderson Valley, 2013
Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble, Anderson Valley, 2014
Expression 39 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2013
Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins, Anderson Valley, 2014
Expression 39 Pinot Noir Ordway, Anderson Valley, 2012
Expression 39 Pinot Noir Anderson Creek, Anderson Valley, 2013
La Crema Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2014
Failla Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2015
Copain Wendling Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
Copain Monument Tree Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2012
Goldeneye Pinot Noir Gowan Vineyard, Anderson Valley, 2013
Goldeneye Pinot Noir Ten Degrees, Anderson Valley, 2013

Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley will cost $80.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $84.21 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, August 28th at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.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).

If you buy a ticket and will not be able to attend, please cancel at least 24 hours before the class or you may be charged. Later cancellations will not be charged if we can fill the seat. This is often case as we regularly have waiting lists for these classes.

With almost 40 years experience in the wine business and 30-plus years experience teaching about wine, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton is one of the top wine authorities as well as the most experienced wine educator in Texas.