Of Interest

LUXURY CHAMPAGNE Tasting Benefiting Sonoma Fires Relief – 
There are still a few seats left for this coming Monday’s (12/4/17) extraordinary and (at least in my experience unprecedented) look at most of the very top Luxury Cuvee Champagnes in a comparative format. For more information, please see https://bearonwine.com/2017/11/27/luxury-cuvee-champagne-benefit-tasting-for-sonoma-fires/

BORDEAUX 2017
For a good, informed, even first look at the 2017 vintage in Bordeaux from one of the best Bordeaux writers working today, please see Jane Anson’s Decanter article at
http://www.decanter.com/learn/vintage-guides/en-primeur/bordeaux-en-primeur/bordeaux-2017-how-it-is-shaping-up-380695/

MAYBE THE BEST NAPA VALLEY CHARDONNAY I’ve tasted in over two years!
I don’t often drink California Chardonnay but when I do, this 2016 from Trefethen is the kind that gets me going. Delicious, balanced, elegant. The integrated oak and subtle richness are components here but fruit and freshness are what this is all about. This is not “Cougar Juice.” Rather, it is Chardonnay that a Burgundian winemaker would recognize and drink.

TREFETHEN Estate Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley CA, 2016  ($29.99)
100% sustainably grown Chardonnay, half of which is given an indigenous yeast fermentation and half of which is innoculated. 69% is barrel fermented witht he balance fermented in tank. 8% gets malo-lactic fermentation. the assemblage is aged 9 months in all French oak barrels (19% new).      Straw color with well formed legs; dry, medium light-bodied with fresh acidity. Best Trefethen Chardonnay I have ever tasted and maybe the best Napa Chardonnay I’ve tasted in two or three years. Citrus and a bit of mixed apple fruit with mineral and freshness. Integrated and pure. California answer to 1er cru Chablis. Delicious.  BearScore: 93+.

Heitz Cellar Seminar and Tasting

Please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton, at 7pm on Monday, November 27th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française in welcoming Heitz Cellar’s Daniel Vu for a Heitz Cellar Seminar and Tasting. In this single winery tasting, we will taste through and discuss the range of wines from the legendary Heitz Cellar of Napa Vallley as we look at how they are made, their styles, and from where and what grapes they are made. We will taste the full range of their classic wines available in Texas including 5 vintages of the iconic Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. All wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered.


The lineup includes:
Heitz Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley 2016
Heitz Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2016
Heitz Ink Grade Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2013
Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2012
Heitz Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2010
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004

The Heitz Cellar Seminar and Tasting will cost $80 per person (cash or check) or $84.21 (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 purchase 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 40 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:
12.04.17          Monday          Tete de Cuvee Champagne Tasting benefitting Sonoma fires relief
12.11.17          Monday          Sparkling Rosé (Mostly Champagne)
12.18.17          Monday          Wine School Christmas Party and Toy Gather
01.08.18          Monday          TBD
01.16.18          Tuesday          Big 2015 Bordeaux Tasting at Crystal Ballroom (Houston)
01.17.18          Wednesday     Big 2015 Bordeaux Tasting at Trinity Groves (Dallas)

Domaine FONTAINE GAGNARD 2013 Class & Tasting

Domaine Fontaine Gagnard is among my favorite white wine specialists in Burgundy. Based in Chassagne Montrachet, the Domaine was founded in 1985 after the wedding of French Air Force officer Richard Fontaine to Laurence Gagnard (daughter of long-time Chassagne vignerons Jacques and Marie-Joseph Gagnard), the Domaine is now run (since 2011) by their daughter Celine who has worked with her father since 2007. There is a passion for the terroir of Chassagne in its many expressions that runs back through the generation in this domaine. With the respectful winemaking of a family that gets “place,” each wine reflects the specificity of its place. Farming is by organic principles and winemaking features indigenous yeast fermentations.
On Monday, October 9th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for this tasting of Fontaine Gagnard’s 2013s. We’ll taste through all twelve available crus including one red and eleven whites with special attention paid to the specificity of place and process of each wine.

The line up:
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru Caillerets 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru Clos Saint Jean 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru La Boudriotte 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru La Grande Montagne 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru Les Vergers 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru Morgeot 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru Chenevottes 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru La Romanée 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Batard Montrachet 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Le Montrachet 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Rouge 2013

Domaine Fontaine Gagnard 2013 will cost $120.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $126.32 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, October 9, 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 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.

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

White Wines of Chablis and the Cote d’Or / Upcoming Events

7pm  Monday August 29, 2016 at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française

Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for this in-depth look at the Chardonnay-based white wines of BURGUNDY’s Cote d’Or and Chablis (plus one from the Cote Chalonnaise). We will examine the intricacies and differences to be found in a region with hundreds of legally delimited vineyards split into thousands of plots farmed by myriad producers large and small.   We will discuss appellation, heirarchy, terroir, tradition, style, technique, and personality. The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class.

We will taste:
Daniel Dampt Chablis 2015
Daniel Dampt Chablis Cote De Lechet 1er Cru 2014
Daniel Dampt Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2014
Dom Jessiaume Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013
Domaine Thenard Givry Clos Du Cellier Aux Moines Blanc 1er Cru 2013
Vincent Latour Saint Aubin Cuvee Les Frionnes 1er Cru 2014
Dom Jessiaume Santenay Gravieres Blanc 1er cru 2013
Vincent Latour Meursault Les Pelans 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 2013
Fontaine Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Chenevottes 1er Cru 2013
Jerome Castagnier Puligny Montrachet Le Cailleret 1er Cru 2013
Domaine Thenard Montrachet 2009

This White Burgundy class will cost $100 per person cash ($105.26 regular). The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, August 29th 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.

UPCOMING WINE CLASSES and EVENTS
09/12  Red Burgundy – Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise (Monday, 7pm)
09/19  Red Burgundy – Cote de Nuits (Monday, 7pm)
09/26  Zinfandel (Monday, 7pm)
10/03  TBD (Monday, 7pm)
10/05  An Evening with Quintessa benefitting the Houston Area Women’s Center (Wednesday, 7pm) – A tasting of Quintessa vintages and components presented by Larry Stone of Quintessa
10/10  Bordeaux Basics benefitting the Houston Area Women’s Center (Monday, 7pm)
10/25  Bordeaux Basics benefitting the Houston Area Women’s Center (Tuesday, 7pm)  – These Bordeaux Basics classes are identical so please sign up for one or the other but not both.
10/18  Bordeaux and Champagne Tasting at the Crystal Ball Room at the Rice (Tuesday, 4:30pm – 8:30pm)  – 30 Bordeaux wines (mostly dry red) and over a dozen Champagnes

New Wine Class: Considering California Chardonnay

patz-hall-2013-chardonnay-hyde-vineyard-carneros-napa-valley-2On Monday, August 22nd at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Considering California Chardonnay. We will discuss some history of Chardonnay in California, America’s on-again-off-again-on-again love affair with Chardonnay, how Chardonnay is made, where it is best grown in California, and pairing Chardonnay with food. Fourteen top quality Chardonnay wines will be tasted. Bread and a selection of fine cheeses will be served.

The line up:
Banshee Chardonnay Sonoma Coast, 2014
Expression 38 Chardonnay Russian Camp Russian River Valley, 2015
Hanzell Chardonnay Sebella Sonoma Valley, 2014
Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, 2013
Patz & Hall Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2014
Lynmar Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2012
Cakebread Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2014
Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2013
Flowers Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2014
Rochioli Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2014
Patz & Hall Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard, Carneros, 2013
Dumol Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2013
Lynmar Quail Hill Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2012
Mount Eden Chardonnay Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2012
Hanzell Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, 2013

Considering California Chardonnay will cost $80.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $84.21 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, August 22nd 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).

Cancellation Policy: 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.

Utterly Unique: Henriot Cuve 38

2___cuve_38____dition_2___henriot__1820.jpeg_north_600x_whiteIn 1990, the late Joseph Henriot (1936-2015, former head of Veuve Clicquot and owner of Henriot in Champagne and Bouchard Pere et Fils in Burgundy) set aside one vat to add a portion of outstanding Blanc de Blancs each year, capturing the essence of every harvest in a sort of solera. The idea was to create a perpetual blend of 100% Chardonnay from 100% Cote de Blancs grands cru vineyards (Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly, Avize and Oger). In 2009, the first 1,000 magnums were drawn and put through the Champagne process. After another 5 years aging on the lees in Henriot’s cellars in Reims, the wine was disgorged and given a final dosage of less than 5 grams per liter. Each year, another 1,000 magnums will be released.

From Henriot:
“Its dosage of less than 5g/l gives full rein to the aromas of its terroir.  It is a beautiful pale yellow with golden highlights and a gently efferevescent mousse, leading into a bouquet of fresh butter and white flowers. Cuve 38 also reveals both mineral and slightly creamy notes underpinned by hints of liquorice. On the palate, its richness is elegant and there are avours of citrus and ripe apricot. Finally, the wine delivers elements of both honey and viennoiserie, redolent of the Henriot style.

From Bear:
HENRIOT Cuve 38, Champagne, NV     ($669.74)
100% Chardonnay all from Grand Cru vineyards fermented and aged in a reserve wine solera representing 19 vintages made using Methode Champenoise in in Magnum, aged another 5 years on the yeasts and then finished only with a less-than-0.5 dosage. (The tank or cuve holding the wine is Cuve 38 – hence the name.)     Pale-gold-straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics.  Deep dense, unique wine. Pure expression of Chardonnay and chalk, mineral and yeast but most of all development. The wine evolves in the glass as if slowly flattens and warms. It really succeeds as wine, not just as sparkling wine. My first impression score was 94+. Three hours later it was 97. Two days later (the still 2/3s full magnum stored cold and tightly stoppered) it was 100. This is stunningly good, utterly unique champagne that almost demands decanting to help it develop in a reasonable time. Or you could keep it for a few years and then … WOW! Only 2 magnums available only at Spec’s at 2410 Smith Street in Houston.