New Posts on SpecsFineWine.com

I’ve been busy this week on SpecsFineWine.com. Check out the links below.

Revealing Rosé: BONNARD ROSÉ, SANCERRE, 2016

Looking for a delicious, refreshing Pinot Noir Rosé to complement your summer grilled salmon and veggies? Look no further. Serious wine with a Rosé thrill.

BONNARD ROSE, SANCERRE, 2016   ($19.69)
100% Pinot Noir direct pressed and fermented at very low temperatures, aged on its fine lees for a short term period before being racked in order to preserve its freshness and aromatics.     Rose-pink color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and light phenolics.  Very red fruit and very Pinot with enough citrus and a quite salty mineral character. Delicious, balanced, fresh, and refreshing Rosé. BearScore: 92.

 

Le CLARENCE de HAUT BRION, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011 with a 95 point rating?

Well, yes.
Why is this rating so high? Because I think the wine deserves it.
Sure, Le Clarence is the second wine of Ch. Haut Brion but I will argue that, after Ch. Haut Bron and Ch. La Mission Haut Brion, Le Clarence is the best red wine made in Pessac Leognan. Yes that means I prefer it to Ch. Pape Clement and Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte (which I really like) and a few other big names (many of which I really like). And it – justifiably – sells for more than those other wines. So why don’t the critics rate it higher? Because it is a “second wine” and they are prejudiced against second wines. How can it be this good? The answer is simple. Le Clarence (named for Clarence Dillon who bought Ch. Haut Brion in 1935 by his descendant and Domaine Clarence Dillon Président Directeur Général Prince Robert of Luxembourg)  come from the terroir of Ch. Haut Brion which is inarguably the best terroir in Pessac Leognan. And it is made by the Haut Brion team who make the three best red wines made in Pessac Leognan.
Don’t believe me? Try it.

Le CLARENCE de HAUT BRION (2nd vin de Ch. Haut Brion), Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011  ($116.84)
A blend 71.5% Merlot, 22.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Cabernet franc and 1.2% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using pump-overs and aged in all French oak barrels (coopered at the estate, 25% new).     Deep purple-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Juicy ripe as much black as red fruit with resolving tannins along with gravel-mineral earth, sweet dark spice, and integrated oak. Complete, complex, delicious. BearScore: 95.
(This score is based on three recent tastings in the spring of 2017.)

 

A “Higher Grace” Indeed

The Eisele Vineyard was started by the Eisele family who mostly sold the grapes to other producers such as Ridge and Joseph Phelps. in 1990, the vineyard was purchased by Bart and Daphne Araujo who made and sold their top wine (grand vin) as Araujo Eisele Vineyard. They took the farming first to organic and then to biodynamic and introduced a second wine (called Altagracia) from the estate in the same manner as a second wine from a top chateau in Bordeaux. Everything was all about quality; not ripeness or extraction but quality. The Araujos eventually sold to François Pinault (owner of Ch. Latour in Bordeaux) whose team has renamed the winery Eisele Vineyard Estate. As Les Forts is the second wine of Ch. Latour and Le Clarence is the second wine of Ch. Haut Brion, so Altagracia is the second wine of Eisele Vineyard Estate. As with these top second wines of Bordeaux, this second wine is often underrated. I can make (and often have made) the case that Araujo (now Eisele Vineyard Estate) makes the best Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine in Napa Valley. I would also contend that the estate’s second wine –  Altagracia – bests many fancier, more expensive wines that carry big names and bigger price tags but under-deliver on focus, elegance, balance, and finesse.  Check out a “Higher Grace.”

ALTAGRACIA Eisele Estate, Napa Valley, 2012   ($129.99)
An all Eisele Vineyard blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, and 4% Malbec aged 21 months in oak barrels (all French, 99% new).      Purple-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly  balanced acidity and medium-plus phenolics.  Supple fresh lively and ripe with red and darker red fruit accented with tobbaco, spice, dust, and oak. Delicious, lovely, amazingly accessible. Elegant and balanced with no hint of harshness or over extraction and no sweet over-ripeness so common in higher priced Napa Cabs. While this is the second wine from the Eisele estate (a frankly special place in the Palisades area near Calistoga), it is in its own right one of the very top Cabernet-based reds made in Napa Valley. WOW. BearScore: 95+.

 

Delicious Bordeaux Pick: Ch. LAPLAGNOTTE BELLEVUE, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2014

Check out this family-owned-and-produced, artesinally-made, small-production winner from southeast of the village of St. Emilion.

Ch. LAPLAGNOTTE BELLEVUE, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2014 ($25.99)
A blend of 77% Merlot with 23% Cabernet Franc including a few Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Fermented in concrete tanks. and aged 12 months in all French oak barrels (25% new)     Red-violet color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Lovely pure red fruit St. Emilion offering fine mineral earth and subtle oak. For winemaker Arnaud de Labarre, it is all about translating fruit and place into the bottle and here he absolutely succeeds. Delicious.
BearScore: 93.

DOMAINE de l’HERRE Gros Manseng 2015

It seems like at least once a week I taste a new wine that tastes pretty good but I don’t know and can’t immediately figure out who the customer is for that wine. That’s usually not a good thing and it’s usually best to not buy those wines. But sometimes that odd duck is so good and such a value that it seems to introduces a new category. This Domaine de l’HERRE Gros Manseng is such a wine. Delicious, exuberant, thrillingly balanced, a little sweet, and quite refreshing – in fact, just the thing to go with some of the spicier foods resulting from that special fusion of cuisines found in modern Texas cooking. If you like a moderate level of spice in your food, you gotta check it out.

DOMAINE de l’HERRE Gros Manseng, Côtes de Gascogne, 2015 ($12.49)
100% Gros Manseng harvested cool, made inert with nitrogen displacing air for a non-oxidative skin-contact maceration before pressing and a  cool controlled temperature,  21 day fermentation. Aged in tank (no oak barrels) on its lees with occasional stirring.      Richer straw color with well-formed legs; semi-dry, medium-light-bodied with refreshing acidity and scant phenolics (from the skin contact).  Supple and fruity with sweet fresh peach and pineapple and sweet grapefruit. If Jolly Rancher made a grapefruit candy, it would taste a lot like this. Fresh, vivid, and, alive, and frankly delicious … as well as fairly unique. Try it with spicier seafood or Asian dishes, even with ceviche. BearScore: 90++.

 

ALL OF IT GOOD STUFF that over-delivers on flavor and, while none of it’s cheap, all offers value. Isn’t that what you’re looking for?

 

Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011

Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011

I’m just back from Bordeaux where I tasted and drank a lot of 2011 wines that are now opening up very nicely. On Monday, April 17th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011. 2011 is a “Classic Bordeaux Vintage” which is to say that it allows the typicity and terroir of each very specific place to shine through. 2011 is the sort of vintage that proves Bordeaux’s place as a maker of great wines. Discussion will include details of the vintage and how the wines have developed. We’ll taste through 14 excellent red wines covering all the major appellations of Bordeaux and a couple of value appellations, all from the classic 2011 vintage that is beginning to really show its stuff. Within the context of 2011, we will especially focus on Pessac Leognan, Pauillac, and Margaux tasting second-wines-of-first-growths from all three appellations.

The line up:
Ch. Puygueraud Francs 2011
Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon 2011
Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2011
Ch. la Croix St Georges Pomerol 2011
Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Le Clarence de Haut Brion (2nd vin de Ch. Haut Brion) Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Ch. Cantemerle Haut Medoc 2011
Ch. Rauzan Segla Margaux 2011
Pavillon Rouge de Ch Margaux (2nd vin de Ch. Margaux) Margaux 2011
Ch. Gruaud Larose St. Julien 2011
Ch. Batailley Pauillac 2011
Ch Pichon Longueville – Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 2011
Les Forts de Latour (2nd vin de Ch. Latour) Pauillac 2011
Ch. Calon Segur St. Estephe 2011

This Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 20011 will cost $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, April 17, 2017 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.

BORDEAUX 2016: Day 3

Tasting at Nathaniel Johnston With Spec’s Christina Walther (aka Audrey Hepburn) and Ivanhoe Johnston

9:00am the morning of Thursday March 30th brought us to the offices of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnson on the Coeur du Medoc in Bordeaux for a brisk tasting of 34 wines. After that it was off to the right back for a series of chateau visits to taste mainly 2016s.

2016 Highlights from the office tasting include Ch. Tour St. Bonnet Medoc 2016 (90+), Ch. Senejac Haut Medoc 2016 (91+), Ch. Mauvesin Barton Moulis en Medoc 2016 (91), and Ch. D’Issan Margaux 2016 (93+). Highlights of some of the currently available wines include Ch. Tour Salvet Haut Medoc 2014 (91), Ch. Daugay St. Emilion 2005 (92+), Ch. Lalande Borie St. Julien 2014 (92), Duluc de Baranaire Ducru St. Julien 2014 (92), and Margaux de Brane Margaux 2015 (91+).

Old Cabernet Vines at Ch. Daugay in St. Emilion

First stop on the right bank (after a traffic jam near Libourne) was Ch. Daugay St. Emilion with the irrepressible Jean Bernard Grenie. Both the 2015 (92+) and the 2016 (93) are showing very well.

Daugay then gives way to a tasting with Stephan von Neipperg at Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere. You will be shocked to learn that the count  was wearing neither an ascot or a scarf nor did he have a sweater draped over his shoulders. He did however ably present seven excellent wines: Ch. Clos Marsalette Pessac Leognan Rouge 2016 (93+), Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon 2016 (92+), Clos de l’Oratoire St. Emilion 2016 (93), Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2016 (96+), and Ch. La Mondotte St. Emilion (96) along with the rarer white Ch. Clos Marsalette Pessac Leognan Blanc 2016 (92), and Ch. d’Aiguille Castillon Blanc 2016 (92).

Count Stephan von Neipperg with his signature scarf and sweater on his bottles rather than his person

 

Our next stop was Grand Corbin Despagne to taste both that wine and special Ch. Ampelia with François Despagne. Ch. Ampelia Castillon 2016 (92+) is the best Ampelia yet. Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne St. Emilion 2016 (93+) also stands out. After our visit and tasting, we were treated to lunch at Grand Corbin Despagne that included the lovely 1970 served blind. Bragging a bit, I did guess the vintage so my record at Grand Corbin Despagne is intact at 2-0 (since I also correctly guessed the 1959 he served three years ago).

As Grand Corbin Despagne is next to Pomerol, we headed to our three Pomerol stops to taste Ch. La Pointe 2016 (92+), Fugue de Nenin 2016 (91), Ch. Nenin 2016 (93) and Ch. Clinet 2016 (94). After Pomerol,  we visited and tasted at Ch. Tour St. Christophe in St. Emilion. While these wines (owned by Mr. Kwok) were well received by others, I struggled with what seemed to me to be too much wine making to the point where the winemaking overwhelmed the terroir. At this point, I will say that these are wines I don’t understand very well and so am not going to score.

Our last appointment of the day was with Jean Philippe Janouiex at his Ch. La Confession St. Emilion where warmly greeted with both the Texas and American flags flying. We tasted the range:

Ch. Croix Mouton Bordeaux 2016 (90+ – best Croix Mouton yet))
Ch. Le Conseiller Bordeaux 2016 (91)
20 Mille Bordeaux 2016 (93)
Ch. Cap St. Georges St. Georges St. Emilion 2016 (92)
Ch. La Confession St. Emilion 2016 (94)
Sacre Couer Pomerol 2016 2016 (92 – a new wine I hadn’t tasted before)
Ch. Croix St. Georges Pomerol (94)

The Spec’s Bordeaux Crew with Jean Philippe Janouiex and Ivanhoe Johnston

 

BORDEAUX 2016: Day Two

Christina with Champagne looking awed by the Plat du Mer

After a business meeting in Talence this (Wednesday) morning, I headed to BOD (aka Bordeaux Merignac Airport) to pick up the rest of my Spec’s crew: Christina Walther and Jim Cubberley from Austin and Mirek von Springer from Dallas. After a quick lunch involving an enormous Plat du Mer and a bottle of Champagne, we dropped their bags at the hotel and got to work. First stop Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou where we were warmly greeted by Bruno Borie followed by stops (in the company of Noel Richard of negoçiant Borie Manoux) at Ch. Pontac Lynch and Ch. Batailley. So on our first less-than-half-day together, “Team 2016” tasted a not insignificant 31 wines.

Best Wine of the Day: Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou St. Julien 2016 (98)
Favorite wine of the day not from Ducru: Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux, 2015 (95)
Best Value of the Day (Tie): Ch. Pontac Phenix Haut Medoc 2016 (92)  and Les Hauts de Lynch Moussas Haut Medoc 2015 (92)
(Both should be close to $20 when they arrive)

The visit to Ducru Beaucaillou started off with a lovely Ch. Ducluzeau 2016 (91) from the southern part of Listrac which offers an incredible mouthful of richer more modern style, Merlot dominant red Bordeaux that ultimately should sell around $25.00 per bottle. We also tasted the more elegant and riper Ch. Forcas Borie Listrac (91+, a wine that is raking the bar for Listrac), Ch. Lalande Borie St Julien 2016 (92, an elegant balanced Cabernet-dominant red from the team at Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou), Croix de Beaucaillou St. Julien 2016 (93+, a more elegant and refined cuvee from a single contiguous block on the Ducru Beaucaillou estate), and the afore mentioned ethereal grand vin, Ch Ducru Beaucaillou 2016.

We finished at Ducru with rarest wine from the estate: the Croix de Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou Cuvee Colbert 2016 (93+). This lovely elegant expression of the estate’s terroir is a unique selection made even more unique as it was aged in a special Foudre commissioned by Borie from the wood of what is thought to be the last living oak tree planted in the time of Louis XIV’s naval minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert (who also has had 6 French naval ships named after him, most recently a cruiser).

The late Marie Christine Bondon and Bear Dalton in March of 2016

After Ducru, we headed to Ch. Pontac Lynch in Margaux where I saw my old friend Bijoux the bull dog, made the acquaintance of the new owner, the sister of the late owner Marie Christine Bondon, and tasted the 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages of both Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux and Ch. Pontac Phenix Haut Medoc. This all are pure focused old school (in the best sense of that term) wines showing fruit and place and a refreshingly non-interventionist style of winemaking. The Pontac Phenix wines come from two parcels just outside the appellation of Margaux. One is behind and below Ch. Margaux and the other is behind Ch. d’Issan. The wines are the closest thing you will find tot he flavor and style of classic Margaux at a $20 or under price point. All three vintages sparkled. Ch. Pontac Lynch is a jewel of a Margaux estate on a mix of gravel and sand touching Ch. Margaux, Ch. Rauzan Segla, Ch. Palmer, and Ch. d’Issan (how’s that for a fancy address). All three wines were excellent with the still developing 2015 edging the others for the best wine of today’s visit. This was a tough visit for me because it was my first time back since the passing of Madam Bondon, a friend I liked and admired despite our not speaking the same language. And I am afraid that I won’t see Bijoux again as at 11 years old he seems to be sliding down hill. Nevertheless, these are wines I love and this is a place where I feel at home.

Bijoux of Ch. Pontac Lynch and Bear Dalton

After Pontac Lynch, we headed to Ch. Batailley Pauillac to taste the 2014, 2015, and 2016 wines from all the Left Bank properties of Borie Manoux including the wines of Beau Site, Haut Bages Monpelou, Lynch Moussas, and Batailley. Everything was better than good and the Ch. Batailley wines have moved to the next level (2014 – 94, 2015 – 95, and 2016 – 96) showing more charm and elegance along with their classic Pauillac Cabernet-Sauvignon-and-gravel-terroir character.

At some point I will follow this up with some detail on these vintages from these northern Haut Medoc properties but right now the bed is calling my name.

Tomorrow will find us soon enough on the Right Bank with my friend Ivanhoe Johnston (of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnston) as our guide for the day.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, 2016 (at least so far) is living up to its hype.

BORDEAUX 2016: Day One

Starting the week off slow, I just had two appointments today with negoçiants Thibault Lacoste of Duclot and Jean Rouge (aka Austin Powers) of Barriere. Between the two, I tasted over 50 wines today. While 50 wines would not be an unusual number to taste on a normal day in my office, today pretty well kicked my butt because I am singing the jet lag blues. Tomorrow WILL be better. God Willing. Of those 50-plus wines (about 1/3 were 2016s), there were no dogs and a few where glorious.

Best Wine of the Day: Ch. Beychevelle St. Julien 2015 (95).

Best 2016 of the day: Ch. Beychevelle St. Julien 2016 (94).

Biggest Surprise of the Day (Tie):  Ch. Beaumont Haut Medoc 2016 (92 and hands down the best Beaumont I have ever tasted) AND Ch. Taillefer Pomerol 2016 (91+ to an elegant, balanced, red-fruit Pomerol that is a pleasure in the mouth).

Had lunch today at an excellent new Italian restaurant called Murano located just off the Boulevard in Bordeaux. It’s a hidden jewel with a beautiful setting including a fabulous courtyard for al fresco dining and (at least what we ordered) excellent food and friendly service. I will go back.

The rest of my crew (Posse? Bordeaux Posse?) arrives tomorrow about noon. We’ll get them started with visits to Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou and a few of the Borie-Manoux properties (Chx. Pontac Lynch, Batailley, Lynch Moussas, and Beau Site).

An Evening with BOUCHARD Pere et Fils

7pm  Thursday March 9, 2017 at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française

Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton in welcoming Bouchard Pere et Fils winemaker Philippe Prost who will guide us through a tasting of 10 of Bouchard Pere et Fils fine red and white Burgundy wines. The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered.

We will taste:
Bouchard Bourgogne Chardonnay
Bouchard Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Bouchard Meursault du Domaine 2011
Bouchard Meursault les Clous 2013
Bouchard Beaune de Chateau Blanc 2013
Bouchard Beaune de Chateau Rouge 2011
Bouchard Clos Landry 2011
Bouchard Beaune Greves Vigne l’Enfant Jesus 2013
Bouchard Volnay Caillerets Cuvee Ancienne Carnot 2011
Bouchard Chambolle Musigny 2011

An Evening with Bouchard will cost $30.00 total cash per person ($31.58 regular). The class will meet at 7pm on Thursday March 9 at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

About BOUCHARD Pere et Fils:
Founded in 1731 by Michel Bouchard as a negoçiant and established as a vineyard owner in 1775 and passed through generations of the Bouchard family until this negoçiant-proprietaire was purchased by Champagne maker Joseph Henriot in in 1995, Bouchard Pere et Fils is a top land owner and leading producer of high quality Burduny wines with distribution around the world.

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 the 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.

What I’m Drinking and Why

On Monday, March 6th at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for What I’m Drinking and Why. After almost 40 years as a wine professional who tastes over 9,000 wines a year, I think I know a bit about quality and value. These are the wines I personally am drinking right now – as in these are the wines I spend MY MONEY ON. They are delicious and, at their price points, I think they offer the best values available. All of them over-deliver on price. Each of them has a story and each makes a point. I am confident that you will enjoy them as much as I do. (I did this a couple of years back and a number of you have been asking for this kind of class/tasting again.)

The line up includes:
Perelada Reserve Especial, Cava, NV
Varichon & Clerc Sparkling Blanc De Blancs, Savoie, NV
Mercat Rose, Cava, NV
Marcel Moineaux Chouilly Millesime Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Champagne 2008
Losen Bockstanz Wittlicher Lay Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, 2015
Frey Sohler Pinot Gris Rittersberg, Alsace, 2014
Chablisienne La Pierrelee Chablis, 2014
Averaen Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2015
Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Clos de Clos Genet 2014
Ch. Senejac Haut Medoc 2012
Ch. Batailley Pauillac 2012
Yalumba Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz VT
Montmirail St. Maurice Gigondas 2014
Ridge Vineyards Pagani Ranch Zinfandel 2014
Kopke Porto Colheita 2006

What I’m Drinking and Why will cost $70.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $73.68 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday March 6, 2017 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.