CH. MARIS and MARIS: Delicious Terroir-driven Organic and Biodynamic Wines

Ch. Maris is a 79-acre estate planted to Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan in the Minervois cru La Liviniere. Minervois is one of the villages of the Languedoc with itss own applellation producing some of the best wines of the Languedoc. La Liviniere has long been considered the best part of the appellation of Minervois and has stricter rules for wines labeled “Minervois La Liviniere” than for wines labeled simply as “Minervois”. Ch. Maris is an estate growing grapes using organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyard and making wines in and environmental masterpiece of a winery (made from hemp bricks) with a focus on organic practice and a clean but not sterile biome to make wines ranging from fine to stunning. The 79 acres (divided into a non-contiguous patchwork of plots and blocks) is a good-sized estate for the area.

Although founded earlier, the modern history of Ch. Maris began in 1997 when the current ownership group bought the winery and installed Robert Eden (one of the ownership group) as winemaker. Under Eden’s guidance, Ch. Maris moved away from commercial chemical farming toward first organic and then Biodynamic vineyard practices. As they did, life returned to the soil, the vine got heathier, and the quality of the grapes improved. Ch, Maris gained EcoCert status in 2002, Biodyvin since 2004 and Demeter in 2008. Ch. Maris was certified a “BCorps” in 2016. All these certifications remain in effect. Minervois has never tasted so good. La Liviniere has never tasted so good.

British-born Robert Eden is the winemaker and co-owner of Ch. Maris. He has lived in France since 1994 after traveling in Australia, Italy, Burgundy, Spain and California where he worked with renowned winemakers. Since 1997, he has pursued organic and biodynamic viticulture at Chateau Maris. Robert has been actively involved in the protection of the environment going so far as to build the first hemp cellar that passively consumes Co2. He regularly presents on the advantages of biodynamic viticulture and the importance of taking steps to reduce the impact on the environment in the wine industry.

All well and good but how are the wines? In a word: Stunning. I was expecting this tasting in my office to be a courtesy appointment ending sooner rather than later in a “Thanks for coming by.” Instead, it stretched out over two hours as I tasted wine after wine that both surprised and delighted me. I’ve been tasting wines from Minervois (and its Languedoc neighbors) for over 30 years and I have never tasted wines like these. I have never before thought that this area could produce a wine I would score 97 or 98 points. I was both stunned and elated. Please see my notes below. And come taste the wines for yourself on Monday October 14th (7pm) at the Wine School at l’Allaince Française.

MY NOTES (Wines arriving at Spec’s on Thursday October 10th):
MARIS Vermentino, Pays d’Oc , 2018
100% Rolle (Vermentino) from all certified organic vineyards (both estate and under contract) pressed off before fermentation and 4 months aging in concrete tanks.  Straw color with well-formed legs; dry, light-bodied with refreshing acidity and scant phenolics with a long finish.     Fresh with more lemon and lemon peel fruit with a hint of fruit stones with mineral earth. Light, bright, and alive.   BearScore: 90+.
126827   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $13.99

MARIS Rouge Organic, Pays d’Oc , 2018
An Organic Wine from all certified organic vineyards (both estate and under contract). 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache fermented and aged 4 months in concrete tanks.  Deep-red color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-light-bodied with very-freshly-balanced acidity and medium-light phenolics with a long finish.     Supple, fresh, easy drinking red fruit with some spiciness and a subtle mineral earthiness.   BearScore: 91.
126828  Spec’s Cash Bottle: $13.99

MARIS Le Zulu, Vin de France, 2018
An all certified organic vineyards (both estate and under contract) blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache fermented and aged 4 months in concrete tanks. No sulfur added  SO2 at bottling was 2 parts per million. No fining / light filtration.    Magenta color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-light-bodied with very-freshly-balanced acidity and medium-plus phenolics with a long finish.     Supple fresh, lively, chewy red fruit accompanied by garrigue and black pepper spice.   BearScore: 91+.
126830   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $15.99

CHATEAU MARIS La Touge, Minervois La Liviniere, 2017
All certified biodynamic, estate-grown, 60% Syrah 40% Grenache. The Syrah was fermented in foudre and pressed in a basket press before 12 months aging  in 500 liter demi-muits. Grenache was fermented in concrete, basket pressed, and aged in concrete eggs for 12 months before blending. The blended wine is then aged 6 months more in concrete eggs before bottling. No fining/filtering. (SO2: 54 ppm).     Red-purple color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with very-freshly-balanced acidity and medium phenolics with a really long finish.     Fresh and lively red fruit with spicy garrigue. Bright fresh and alive. Vivid.   BearScore: 92+.
126831   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $18.99

CHATEAU MARIS Les Planels, Minervois La Liviniere , 2016
All certified biodynamic, estate-grown, 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache. Syrah fermented in Foudre, basket pressed, and aged 12 months in 500 liter demi-muits. The blended wines is then aged 3 months in concrete eggs before bottling.      Red-purple color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with very-freshly-balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics with a really long finish.     Supple, fresh, lively but full of red fruit flavor with hints of spice and garrigue. Layered-Textured-Dimensional.   BearScore: 93+.
126832   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $24.99

CHATEAU MARIS Savoir Vieillir, Minervois, 2018
An estate grown, certified biodynamic 100% Syrah Organic Wine that is in fact an earlier-bottled, no-sulfite version of “Les Planels”. Stabilized and bottled in Dec/Jan to avoid oxygen. As it is bottled early, it is classified as Minervois AOP. Since it is labeled “Minervois” and not “Minervois La Liviniere,” it does not need to have the normal 5% Grenache as part of the blend. Sulfites at bottling: 3 ppm.   Red-magenta color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with balanced-plus acidity and medium-plus phenolics with a really quite long finish.     Lovely pure, fresh red and darker red raspberry fruit with black and white pepper spice. Fresh and focused. Thrilling in the mouth.   BearScore: 93+.
126837   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $24.99

CHATEAU MARIS Las Combes, Minervois , 2017
All certified biodynamic, estate-grown, 100% Grenache fermented in 1500-liter wooden egg then aged 4 months in a concrete egg. Bottled early so declassified from Minervois La Liviniere to Minervois AOP. SO2 at bottling: 35 ppm.     Red-magenta color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with very-freshly-balanced acidity and medium phenolics with a really quite long finish.     Lovely pure sweet red fruit with only hints of garrigue and spice. Ethereal feel with a certain weightlessness in the mouth.   BearScore: 94.
126833   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $27.99

CHATEAU MARIS les Anciens, Minervois La Liviniere , 2016
All certified biodynamic, estate-grown, 95% Carignan and 5% Grenache. Basket Press. Fermented and aged in concrete eggs. No fining/filtering.  500 bottles made.  Deep-purple color with very-well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics with a really quite long finish.     Vivid, fresh, lively, slightly dusty red and darker red fruit with spice and liquid mineral. Wow and wow. Absolutely stunning. Layered-Textured-Dimensional.   BearScore: 97.
126835   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $31.99

CHATEAU MARIS Dynamic, Minervois La Liviniere , 2016
All certified biodynamic, estate-grown, 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache fermented in foudre, basket pressed, and aged 18 months 224-liter oak barrels. No fining/filtering. Only 500 bottles made.     Red-magenta color with very-well-formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with very-freshly-balanced acidity and medium phenolics with a really quite long finish.      Fresh, ethereal, alive. Vivid red fruit with an almost crystaline structure. Thrilling in the mouth with lots of lingering flavors. Lasts and lasts. Layered-Textures-Dimensional.   BearScore: 97.
126834   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $75.99

CHATEAU MARIS les Amandieres, Minervois La Liviniere , 2016
All certified biodynamic, estate-grown 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache fermented in foudre, basket pressed, and aged in oak barrels. No fining/filtering. 500 bottles made.  Deep-purple color stains the glass with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics with a really quite long finish.     Has the fruit of Australia, the structure of Cote Rotie, and the ethereal weightlessness of a fantasy.  I have never had a Syrah like this before. Dark and darker red fruit with hints of coffee grounds and black pepper spice with a trill of white pepper. Vivid fruit with a finish that goes on and on. Oh, what a thrill. Layered-Textured-Dimensional. Would love to taste this next to Hill of Grace.  BearScore: 98.
126836   Spec’s Cash Bottle: $75.99

Domaine du Pegau and Chateau Pegau Wine Tasting

CORRECTION:
Please reply to BearDalton@mac.com. Susan is NOT handling the reservations for this.

On Friday May 31 at 7pm, please join me in welcoming my friend Laurence Feraud, proprietor of and winemaker for Domaine du Pegau in Chateauneuf du Pape and Chateau Pegau in the Cotes du Rhone, to the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a class and tasting of 11 of her wines. Laurence, a five-foot tall force-of-nature, is arguably the best winemaker working in the southern Rhone where she makes some of the very best Grenache-based wines in the world.

The line-up includes:
Pegau Pink Rosé 2018
Ch. Pegau Lone Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2018
Domaine du Pegau Reserve Blanc Chateauneuf du Pape 2018
Ch. Pegau Maclura Cotes du Rhone 2016
Ch. Pegau Setier Cotes du Rhone Villages Rouge 2016
Ch. Pegau Setier Cotes du Rhone Villages Rouge 2015
Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reserve Chateauneuf du Pape 2016
Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reserve Chateauneuf du Pape 2015
Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reserve Chateauneuf du Pape 2012
Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Laurence Chateauneuf du Pape 2013
Domaine du Pegau Cuvee du Capo Chateauneuf du Pape 2015

This Laurence Feraud – Pegau Class and Tasting costs $70.00 per person (cash or check) or $73.68 regular. The class meets at 7pm on Friday May 31 at 7pm at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact BearDalton at 713-854-7855 or BearDalton@mac.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (77006), 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.

SAVE THE DATES:
06/03/19 – Domaine de la Pousse d’Or 2015 Class and Tasting with Bear Dalton and David Smith at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
06/17/19 – Albert Bichot Burgundy Class and Tasting with Bichot’s assistant technical director Matthieu Mangenot at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
06/22/19 – Bear Dalton’s Pop-Up Champagne and Bordeaux Wine Dinner in the Parish Hall at the Church of the Epiphany (Corner of Gessner and Bissonet)
06/24/19 – Annual Rosé Class and Tasting at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française

SOLD OUT! – An Evening with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba

SOLD OUT! – An Evening with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba

NOW SOLD OUT!

 

On Friday, September 22 at 7pm, please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton, in welcoming our always-entertaining-and-ever-informative friend Jane Ferrari, traveling winemaker of Yalumba, to the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a tasting of Yalumba’s excellent Australian wines. The net proceeds of this event will benefit ECHOS (see below).

The ever-popular Ms. Ferrari will talk about where the wines come from and how they are made as well as the history and traditions of both Yalumba and the Barossa Valley. A native of Australia’s acclaimed Barossa Valley, Jane Ferrari is a trained winemaker – a graduate of Australia’s Roseworthy College (one of the top three winemaking schools in the world) – who gets her hands dirty both in the vineyards and the wineries in Barossa but also travels the world telling the Yalumba story. She is down-to-earth and very entertaining in a way that must be experienced. Jane first visited Houston in October of 2003 and utterly charmed a group of over 60 wine fans. She has been back almost every year since and has wowed us all each time. In addition to information about wine, you may hear about Australian and American culture (or lack thereof), Baseball, Elvis, and other tangentially related topics.

We will taste:
Jansz Brut, Tasmania, NV
Jansz Rosé, Tasmania, NV
Yalumba Y-Series Riesling, 2016
Yalumba Viognier, Eden Valley, 2015
Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache), Barossa, 2014
Yalumba The Triangle (Shiraz – Viognier), Barossa, 2013
Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz, Barossa, 2014
Yalumba The Strapper (Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre), Barossa, 2014
Yalumba The Scribbler (Cabernet-Shiraz), Barossa, 2013
Yalumba The Signature, Barossa, 2013
Yalumba The Cigar Menzies, 2012
Yalumba Museum Antique Tawny NV

An Evening With Jane Ferrari will cost $30.00 (Cash or Check made out to the ECHOS only please). The class will meet at 7pm on Friday September 22, 2017. To reserve your spot for this event, 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., l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

About ECHOS
Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services (ECHOS) is a non-profit organization connecting people in need with the health, social and educational resources that can improve their lives. ECHOS’ mission is to connect people in need with health, social and educational resources that can improve their lives.
ECHOS  provides on-site help to families who are unable to access affordable health care and who do not have medical insurance coverage in completing and submitting applications for healthcare and social services.
ECHOS offers on-site health care services and screenings promoting healthier and more productive lives including Children’s Immunizations, Blood Pressure and Glucose Screenings, Vision Screenings, Well and sick child check ups, and Dental care
ECHOS also assistclients in meeting basic needs and self-sufficiency.  Assistance is free and includes: Food from the Food Pantry, Food Fairs and Mini Health Fairs, English-as-a-second-language, Computer literacy, and Domestic violence support groups on campus.
ECHOS is a non-profit 501(C)3 corporation.

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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Varietal Focus: GRENACHE


On Monday, September 14th at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a VARIETAL FOCUS on GRENACHE. We will trace and taste Grenache from its homeland in northeastern Spain through the south of France and on to the new world. Discussion will include the history of Grenache, what makes it special, and how it is made and its blending partners (mainly Syrah and Mourvedre) as well as Grenache with food. Fourteen Grenache-based wines will be tasted, the final four of which are icon wines. Bread and a selection of fine cheeses will be served.

The line up:
Honoro Vera Garnacha (Spain), 2013
Domaine de Cabasse Deux Anges Cotes du Rhone Villages – Sablet, 2014
Pagos Del Moncayo Garnacha / Syrah (Spain), 2012
Casa Gran del Siurana “Gr-174” Priorat (Spain), 2013
d’Arenberg Custodian Grenache, McLaren Vale, 2012
Yalumba GSM “the Strapper”, Barossa Valley, 2012
Mourchon “Tradition” Cotes Du Rhone Villages – Seguret, 2012
Montmirail “Cuvee deux Freres” Vacqueyras, 2012
Domaine de Cabasse Gigondas,  2012
Bois Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape, 2012
D’Arenberg Ironstone Pressings, 2009
Mourchon “Family Reserve Grenache” Seguret, 2011
Chateau St. Cosme Le Claux Gigondas, 2012
Domaine Pegau Reserve Chateauneuf Du Pape, 2012

This Varietal Focus on Grenache will cost $60.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $63.16 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday September 14, 2015 at l’Alliance Française. To reserve your spot, 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).