MURDER HE TASTED

Something fun I wrote back in January of 2012 that recently resurfaced.

MURDER HE TASTED … or Death in the Desert

By Charles M. Bear Dalton

Monday. 10:00am. A dame walks into my office. Short dress, denim jacket, tricolor cowgirl boots. Intriguing. And she’s packing. A 750ml of “So Rare” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. She tells me it won a Champion buckle at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition. It clicks into place. The boots, the denim …

“100% Cabernet.” she says, interrupting my thoughts.

“20 months in a 100% new oak.” she says before I can answer.

“All French” she adds.

“Rutherford” she says.

“Actually Bella Oaks vineyard that Heitz isn’t getting anymore.” she says.

“Really?” I ask, finally getting a word in.

“Really.” she answers, defiantly.

“Serve it up.” I say.

She pulled the cork. It pops like a .38 snub-nose fired through a feather pillow. She pours the wine into my glass. A drop falls to my desktop blotter – a stray droplet of scarlet blood. As it splatters, I think of DNA evidence. Is it really Bella Oaks? Is it really all Cabernet? Is the oak really all French? And then she pours into her own glass. I swirl my glass and look at it against bright white backdrop of my desk blotter. Surprisingly, the wine is more red than purple. There’s a hint of black in the red and there’s a little haziness. Nothing unusual there but not exactly what I expected. I swirl it some more and then sniff. Red fruit. Now I’m surprised. I think about the judging panel. How did a red fruit-dominant Cabernet make it past the judging panel in an over $50 per bottle Cabernet class in Houston? Seems unlikely at best. I taste. I swish the wine around my mouth. Yes, red fruit – some tobacco, some black pepper, a bit of dust. The fruit is muted, the wine lacks complexity. A mystery. This is a $70.00 bottle of Cabernet? Not in my Cabernet section. I tell her. She sighs – but she knows the wine isn’t there. Then I notice she has another bottle.

I ask: “You want to open that other bottle?”

“Sure” A dame with nothing to lose. She gets fresh glasses.

This time the cork really pops out of the bottle. Not muffled but clear like the bark of .22 on a cold January morning. She pours. The wine is purple. A drop hits my blotter and the contrast is evident. More evidence. But of what?

I tilt the glass and the color is richer and more saturated but at the same time both darker and brighter. The wine glistens with dark richness in the glass. I swirl some more and sniff. Dark purple-black fruit with hints of red fruit. More alive. Accents of tobacco and cedar … and dark spice. It grows richer in the mouth. Dark red and black fruit perfume. Vivid. Vibrant. I could see how a Houston panel would give this wine a Champion buckle. I could see how a Texan would pay $70.00 to drink a bottle of this winner. It was worthy.

Could these two bottles be the same wine? I notice the labels are numbered. Only fifteen apart.

I question her.

She says “I don’t understand. They’re the same wine. Maybe its bottle variation…”

I say “Bottle variation?! Not likely. Something else is wrong here. Show me the cork.”

She hands me the cork from the second bottle. It looks perfect. A dark stain on the bottom where it had touched the wine and pristine on the sides. As it should be.

“No.” I say. “The cork from the first bottle.”

She reaches under the desk.

I wait for it.

She brings her hand up to reveal the first cork. The other cork. The cork with the stains running up the side of it. The piece of evidence that makes all the rest of the evidence irrelevant. As I looked, she looked too … and she knew what I knew. The first wine had been killed. Murder. Somewhere in the desert between California and our slice of heaven on earth – Texas as we call it – the bottle had gotten hot. Cooked. Baked. Fried. Roasted. Fricasseed.

In the moment, she starts to say something. She stops. She begins and stops again. Her memory defeats her as she yields to the obvious. She confesses. The first bottle had been shipped to her via FedEx or UPS ground. She had used both. She blamed it on the winery but she knew. She was complicit. She had let it happen. And it didn’t matter which. Both are notorious for taking the life away from innocent wines in their prime. That bottle had been cooked and its fruit – its very life – had slowly ebbed until only the husk of red fruit was left. The second bottle had come via refrigerated truck to the wholesaler in Texas. It was intact, enticing, perfect. Why had she done it? Why had she scorned the first bottle? She had played Russian roulette and the wine was lost.

I asked her “Why’d you do it?”

She answered, “I needed the sample.”

I replied “But you had to know …”

She pleaded: “But it was in December. It’s OK to ship in December. Everyone ships in December. It’s not too hot in December …” She whimpered. All platitudes, but now she knew. She was wrong. They were all wrong. The dice had rolled and she had crapped out. The risk had always been there and now a bottle was dead. It could have been a case. Or several cases.

It would never come to trial. Did it happen in Nevada? Was it Arizona? New Mexico? West Texas. Could it have happened in a broiling tin-roofed, non-climate-controlled Houston warehouse under an unforgiving sun? We’d never know for sure. But I knew. And she knew. Her lack of regard for that villain packing heat – whether in a metal trailer crossing the desert or a Houston warehouse, heat had killed that bottle.

Murder in the desert. A sad and sordid tale. And so unnecessary. If only she had shipped the wine the right way using temperature control. If only …

RIDGEVIEW English Sparkling Wines

ridgeviewbloomsbury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been tasting (and liking) English sparkling wines for a few years now … but only when I’m in Europe. Noe that can change. Check out my notes (on the Spec’s Fine Wine site) on the Ridgeview English Sparkling wines which have just arrived in Texas.
https://specsfinewine.com/…/ridgeviews-english-sparkling-w…/

An Haut Brion Event – Clarence Dillon Wines Tasting

An Haut Brion Event – Clarence Dillon Wines Tasting

A CLARENCE DILLON WINES TASTING
(Chx. Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, etc. )

7pm   Thursday, January 12th   at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française

hautbrionPlease join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) in welcoming Joan Mourgues and Emmanuel Mathe of Clarence Dillon Wines for a tasting of and virtual visit to the properties of Clarence Dillon. We will taste 10 wines covering the range of their wines. The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware and a selection of cheeses and bread will be served.

The lineup includes:
Clarendelle Rosé, Bordeaux, 2016
Clarendelle White, Bordeaux, 2015
La Clarté de Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan Blanc, 2012
Clarendelle Rouge, Bordeaux, 2012
Dragon de Quintus, St. Emilion, 2012
Chapelle de la Mission Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Le Clarence de Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Ch. Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Clarendelle Amberwine, Monbazillac, 2012

The Clarence Dillon Wines Tasting will cost $100 per person (cash or check) or $105.26 (regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn 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 are not 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 – which is often the case as we regularly have waiting lists for these classes.

(Now Sold Out) A Wine Trip to Champagne and Bordeaux

THIS YEAR’S TRIP HAS SOLD OUT. If you’d like to get an early notification of our next trip, please send me a note at BearDalton@mac.com.

May 5 through May 14, 2017

Your job is to be at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris by 9:30am Friday morning, May 5, 2017. I recommend (but do not require) that you get to Paris a day or two early so that you are acclimated before the action starts.

My job is to get you from there (via Luxury Coach – aka “the Bus”) to Champagne where we will visit 6-7 Champagne houses (such as J.P. Marniquet, Andre Clouet, Perrier-Jouet, Ch. de Bligny, Jacques Picard, 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 plan to stay 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. Sunday evening plans include a Bordeaux River Cruise (with tasting on board) and dinner in the city. Monday and Tuesday will find us in the Medoc (Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac, and St. Estephe) visiting such properties as Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Batailley, Cantenac Brown, Pontet Canet, Pichon Lalande, Calon Segur, Pontac Lynch, Gruaud Larose, Branaire Ducru, etc. On Wednesday we’ll be in Pessac Leognan and Sauternes visiting properties such as Smith Haut Lafitte, Carbonnieux, Coutet, Carmes Haut Brion, etc. On Thursday and Friday, we will be on the Right Bank visiting properties such as 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. I am working on getting 3 of the first growths on the schedule. The trip will end with check out in Bordeaux on Sunday (5/14/17) morning (or you may extend your stay in Bordeaux or head out to a different destination in Europe). At that point, my job is done.

Each morning, we will leave the hotel about 8:30-to-9am and will return after dinner by about 10:30-11pm (unless we are dining at the hotel). Each day includes breakfast at the hotel and all lunches and dinners, mostly at the chateaux or properties, with older wines from the properties. This is a wine intensive trip (with quality over quantity) with unusual access to great properties and their wines.

We are in process in arranging transport (bus and train), logistics, and hotels and I am now scheduling winery visits and meals at the chateaux. From lunch on Friday May 5th through dinner on Saturday May 13th, all meals and wines are included.

The trip is priced at $5000 per person (double occupancy, airfare to Paris / from Bordeaux is not included). The single supplement is $900. A $1000 deposit will be due by January 20th. Final payment of the balance is due by March 22nd. Payment may be made by check or credit card.

This trip is already 2/3 filled by people who began asking to go after they heard about my last trip to Champagne and Bordeaux 2 years ago. If want to come, please respond quickly to BearDalton@mac.com.

This is going to be a good one.

2014 (Mostly) Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting At the Crystal Ballroom

4:30 – 8:30pm   Wednesday January 18th at
The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017 from 4:30 to 8:30pm, Spec’s will host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 59 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the fine 2014 vintage in a standup- and-walk-around tasting format. This is our fifth time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux and each of the previous events have been smashing successes. The list of well-known and highly regarded wineries has come together. By appellation, they include …

Pomerol: Chx. Clinet, Gazin, Croix St. Georges, and La Pointe (along with 2nd vin Ballade de La Pointe)
St. Emilion: Chx. Canon la Gaffeliere, Clos l’Oratoire, Canon, Daugay, Grand Corbin Despagne, La Confession, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, and Berliquet
Castillon and Francs: Chx. d’Aiguilhe and Puygueraud
Bordeaux: Chx. Croix Mouton and le Conseiller
St. Estephe: Chx. Phelan Segur and les Ormes de Pez
Pauillac: Chx. Pichon Lalande (with 2nd vin Reserve de la Comtesse), Pichon Baron (with 2nd vin Les Griffons), Pibran, Lynch Bages (with 2nd vin Echo de Lynch Bages), Grand Puy Lacoste (with 2nd vin Lacoste Borie), Haut Batailley, and Haut Bages Liberal
St. Julien: Chx. Branaire Ducru, Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton, Leoville Poyferrre, Talbot, St. Pierre, and Gloria
Margaux: Chx. Rauzan Segla, Cantenac Brown, and Ferriere
Haut Medoc: Chx. Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, Camensac, Mauvesin Barton, and Senejac
Pessac Leognan Reds: Chx. Carmes Haut Brion, Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Clos Marsalette
Dry Whites: Chx. Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Blanc de Lynch Bages (2014)
Sweet Whites: Chx. Suduiraut (along with 2nd vin Lions de Suduiraut) and Coutet

The four-hour window of the tasting should you 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 2014 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 contact Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

The Crystal Ballroom is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available.

The State of Champagne 2016

Sometimes I get a little bit crazy about some aspect of wine. Right now that aspect is Champagne. ‘Tis the season so I’ve but together a 40 page overview of the State of Champagne today with a particular focus on Grower Champagnes.

Please click below for a .pdf  which you can read on screen or print to read later.

The STATE of CHAMPAGNE 2016

champagne