MAKING A LIST . . .

The other day, I bumped into a friend-of-some-years (thereby avoiding referring to her as an “old friend”) who asked if I’d made my list yet. Even though I look more-than-a-bit like Santa Claus, I generally wait until after all the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone to start thinking about Christmas stuff. And I said as much.

She replied “No. Not that list. Your value wine list.”

I told her that it had been a few years since I’d done that. She said I should do it again as she needed a new one … and then she pulled a much-taped-and-folded, very-beat-up piece-of-paper from her purse and showed me one of my old value wine picks lists she’d been carrying around for several years. The vintages were all way out-of-date but a good chunk of the wines that are still available are wines I’d still recommend. After I looked at it (with some wonderment on my part), she carefully refolded it and put it safely back in her purse saying “See. I need a new one … but I’ll hold on to this one until you get around to it.”

Well, OK. Good idea. And since she’s what I refer to as a “church lady” (although not all church ladies go to my church), her “request” is really more of a command anyway.

You may well ask “What makes a ‘Value Wine?’” (You also may ask “What makes a Church Lady?” but that‘s a topic for another time and place.) In the general parlance, “value wine” is a good or recommended wine below a certain price point. That well-worn list my friend had saved was all under $15.00 per bottle. And that’s fair as far as it goes but to make my list, the wines have to consistently over-deliver. That being the case, not many heavily-marketed, national brands make my list as, while many of them offer a fair value, seldom do they over-deliver (and almost never do they over deliver over a series of vintages).

bearonwinelogoWhat you’ll find on this list are my picks (wines I actually buy and drink at home) with First-of-December-2016 prices under $20 (Spec’s cash bottle price – if you’re buying six-mixed at a time or by-the-case, the prices will be lower). The prices listed will likely change (some up, some down) over time. The vintages on the list are those that are current as I compile it but don’t worry too much if you bump into a vintage that’s younger. These wines tend to be pretty consistent from vintage-to-vintage. These are wines with enough production that they are available most of the time; I’m not including anything where we don’t get at least a couple of pallets a year. Finally, these are wines that I recommend. Which means they are wines I like to drink. Which means they offer plenty of fruit but are not over-ripe or over-manipulated. Which is to say that they taste of the grapes from which they were made and (generally) of the specific place they were grown.

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PRINT THE LIST

The State of Zin: America’s Wine

7pm   Monday December 5th at
The Wine School at l’Alliance Française

ridgelyttonPlease join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for The State of Zin. We’ll dig into Zinfandel and look at 14 Zin-based wines, mostly from Sonoma County – the spiritual home of Zinfandel – that represent the best of what is in the market (2013s and 2014s). We’ll talk about Zin and blends, the terroirs 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:
Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma 2014
Dry Creek Old Vines Zinfandel 2014
Hartford Zinfandel Russian River 2012
Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel 2013
Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel 2013
Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel 2013
Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel 2013
Rock Wall Reserve Zinfandel Monte Rosso 2013
Ridge Vineyards pagani Zinfandel 2014
Ridge Vineyards Geyserville Zinfandel 2014
Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2014
Turley Zinfandel Fredericks Vineyard 2014
Seghesio Home Ranch 2013
Martinelli Guiseppe & Luisa Zinfandel 2013

The State of Zin will cost $70.00 per person cash ($73.68 regular). The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, December 5th 2016 at l’Alliance Française. To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

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).

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 over 35 years in the wine business and 30 plus years experience teaching about wine, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton is one of Texas’ top wine authorities as well as the state’s most experienced wine educator.

More Classes Coming Soon:
12/12/16 Port
01/09/17 Pulling the Cork: What you need to know to more fully enjoy wine.
01/18/17 2014 Bordeaux at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice (Houston)
01/19/17 2014 Bordeaux at the Trinity Groves (Dallas)

Bubbly Basics

As we are coming into the season (which for me is really year round) for sparkling wines, click here for a refresher on Bubbly Basics from BearOnWine.com.

Bear’s Bubbly Basics

The Simple Hows, Whats, and Whys of Sparkling Wine

andreclouetroseHere are the basics on bubbly with the tech stuff toned-down and/or explained and a minimum of jargon …What is Sparkling Wine?
Whether it is called Champagne, Cava, or Cremant, whether “bubbles,” “sparkles,” or “fizz,” sparkling wine is just wine with carbonation (CO2 or carbon-dioxide gas). There are several ways to get carbon dioxide into a wine. It could be as simple as injecting CO2 into a tank full of wine (as is done with soda pop) or as complicated as the Champagne process (Méthode Champenoise). While at its most basic, sparkling wines  may be … (READ MORE)
Rosé Sparkling and Champagne Class and Tasting

Rosé Sparkling and Champagne Class and Tasting

champagnerosestrip7pm   Monday November 28th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française

Please join us for this third of our series of three classes focused on sparkling wines.

In Rosé Sparkling and Champagne, we will focus in on, taste, and discuss only Rosé Sparkling wines wines from around the world with an emphasis on Champagne. We’ll look at how they’re made (all methode champenoise), how they get their color (a variety of ways), their styles and nuances, where and from what grapes they’re made, as will pink fizz with food. We will taste through the diversity of dry Champagne as we look at a total of 15 wines.

The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware and a selection of cheeses and bread will be served

The lineup includes:
Mercat Brut Rosé Cava, NV
Labet Rosé, Cremant de Bourgogne, NV
Lucien Albrecht Rosé Cremant d’Alsace, NV
Jansz Brut Rosé, Tasmania, NV
Roederer Estate Rosé Anderson Valley, NV
Mumm Napa Brut Rosé Sparkling, Napa, NV
Barons Rothschild Rosé Champagne, NV
Andre Clouet Brut Rosé Grand Reserve Champagne, NV
Jacques Picard Berru Brut Rosé Champagne, NV
Ch. de Bligny Brut Rosé Champagne, NV
Camille Saves Brut Rosé, Champagne, NV
Henriot Rosé Champagne, NV
Perrier Jouet Blason de Francé Rosé Champagne, NV
Bollinger Special Cuvee Rosé Champagne, NV
Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne, NV
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Rosé, NV

Rosé Sparkling and Champagne will cost $70 per person (cash or check) or $73.68 (regular). To purchase your ticket, 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., it 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 over 35 years 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.

More Classes Coming Soon:
12/05/16 The State of Zinfandel (America’s great red)
12/12/16 Port
01/09/17 Pulling the Cork: What you need to know to more fully enjoy wine.
01/18/17 2014 Bordeaux Tasting at the Crystal Ballroom in Houston
01/19/17 2014 Bordeaux Tasting at Trinity Groves in Dallas

Champagne Friday: JACQUES PICARD

José Lievens

José Lievens

In the late 1950s, Roger Picard (who was then mayor of Berru) planted vines on parcels of land that had just been granted the Champagne Appellation d’Origine Controlée. In the early 1960s, his son Jacques Picard started his business and produced the first bottles of champagne under his own name. Over the years Picard invested to build and sustain the champagne house and build its reputation for quality. The vineyard was developed, the cellars were enlarged and the buildings wer extended. By then, Jacques Picard performed all the different tasks of champagne production – everything from from planting grapes to selling the finished wine – at their Champagne estate. In the 1990s, Jacques Picard’s two daughters Sylvie and Corinne (with their husbands) took over the business. Together, the family has continued to develop and modernize the business, respecting its traditions, philosophy and high-quality production which characterizes the brand Jacques Picard. As winegrowers and producers, the whole production process from growing the grapes to putting the finished bottles into cases still takes place on the Picard estate. The winemaking now falls to José Lievens, husband of Corinne and son-in-law of Jacques Picard. Here his three cuvees brought into Texas.picardbrut-w-2

JACQUES PICARD Brut, Champagne, NV ($39.89)
A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Meunier, and 5% Pinot Noir (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are from Berru. and the Pinot Meunier is from nearby Montbré). This cuvee is based on 2011 with 50% reserve wines (2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 and 5% of the estate’s solera). After the second fermentation in the bottle, it is aged three years on the yeasts and dosed to 8 grams per liter (true Brut). Straw in color with green highlights and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. The nose offers coconut, toast, spice, citrus and some red fruit and the palate follows. A core of mineral earth holds it together. This is a bigger richer style of Brut NV. BearScore: 91+.

picardrose
JACQUES PICARD Brut Rosé, Champagne, NV ($52.99)
A unique estate-bottled blend of 90% Chardonnay with 10% Pinot Noir Champagne Rosé. The color comes from the red grapes/juice getting a 6-7 day maceration (with no alcoholic fermentation) before being blended and co-fermented with Chardonnay and 8 months of vat aging before bottling. This bottling is based on 2010 with 30% reserve wines added for depth and richness. Aged over 4 years on the yeasts before it was disgorged in October 2015. Dosage at 8 grams/liter.   Pale-salmon-orange in color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Integrated complete style of Rosé with enough red fruit and lots of Chardonnay (citrus and focus) character. the fruit, mineral earth, and yeastiness all knit together. More elegant aperitif style of Rosé. BearScore: 92+.

picardartdevigneJACQUES PICARD Art de Vigne, Champagne, 2005 ($69.99)
An estate-bottled blend of 60% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier all from vineyards over 40 years old in Berru to the northeast of Reims. Barrel-fermented and aged with batonage (lees stirring) in a mix of used Burgundy barrels and some new barrels. 5 years en tirage (on the yeasts) as it develops in the bottle. Finished with a dosage of 4 grams of sugar per liter.   Medium gold straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Focused and fresh with lots of depth and development. Contrasty and complex but with good integration. Complete. The citrus is more dominant but the red fruit is there along with lots of richness from the barrels and the extended lees aging. Textural complex compelling Champagne. BearScore: 94+.