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.

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 …