SIPPING DIFFERENT

SIPPING DIFFERENT

Summer is here and it’s getting (gotten?) hot. If you’re at all like me, your pace has slowed a bit, you’re eating some different (lighter) foods, and maybe thinking about drinking some different (cooler and more refreshing) drinks. Now, about the only spirits I drink any more are cool refreshing Margaritas (and that’s a year-round thing) so my different drinks for summer are all wine – or at least wine-based. Yes, I drink different wines during the summer: No oak whites, some with a little residual sugar, Rosés (but we have a dedicated Rosé class coming soon),  lighter, more chill-able reds, and the occasional wine concoction. So on Monday, June 26th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for SIPPING DIFFERENT. We’ll discuss and taste through fifteen summer sippers (all wines I love) that cover the gamut from wine concoctions to chill-able reds. Come cool. Be cool. Get cool. Sip Different

The line up:
Green Sangria (Bear’s Award Winning Recipe)
Carpano Bianco Vermouth
Lillet Blanc
l’Herre Gros Manseng, Cotes Gascogne, 2016
Losen Bockstanz Wittlicher Lay Riesling Kabinett 2015
Paternina Verdejo, Rueda, 2014
Frey Sohler Pinot Gris Rittersberg, Alsace, 2015
François le Saint Sancerre Calcaire, 2015
François le Saint Sancerre Rosé, 2016
Duboeuf Ch. de St. Amour, St. Amour (Cru Beaujolais), 2015
Chamisal Pinot Noir Stainless, Edna Valley, 2014
François le Saint Sancerre Rouge, 2013
Casa Gran Siurana Gr-174, Priorat, 2015
Besserat Bellefon Brut Rosé, Champagne, NV
Quady Elysium Black Muscat, California, 2013

Sipping Different will cost $50.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $52.63 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, June 26, 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.

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.

READ MORE

PRINT THE LIST

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).

Two Classes and Two Events

BearTeachingRANGING THE SOUTHERN RHONE – Last Call
Beginning at 7pm on Tuesday, September 9th
, The Wine School at l’Alliance Française will offer RANGING THE SOUTHERN RHONE in which we will look at Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape and a bit of everything in between. This class will be held at l’Alliance Française located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, 77006). For all the details and complete list the wines to be served, click here.

ALAIN JUNGUENET – WINES OF FRANCE RHONE TASTING
On Wednesday, September 10th 2014 at 6:00pm
(at Spec’s 2410 Smith Street Warehouse Store, 2nd floor), please join me (Bear Dalton) in welcoming second generation Rhone importer John Junguenet (son of “Wines of France” founder Alain Junguenet) for a tasting of some of the famous Rhone reds from their portfolio. For all the details and complete list the wines to be served, click here.

CAHORS MALBEC DINNER at l’Etoile
On Thursday, September 11th 2014 at 7:00pm
, Please join Bertrand Vigouroux (the “King of Cahors”) and restaurant l’Etoile for an adventurous five-course Cahors Malbec dinner at l’Etoile. Price per person is $105.00. Booking is directly through l’Etoile (click here) or call 832.668.5808

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WINE
Tasting, Enjoying, and Appreciating Wine
Beginning at 7pm on Monday, September 15th
(and running four consecutive Mondays), please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WINE. This four-week class will focus on tasting, enjoying, and appreciating wine even as you learn more about your favorite drink and maybe even which kinds of wine you like the most. This class will be held at l’Alliance Française located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, 77006). For all the details and complete list the wines to be served, click here.

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY or Back to School

It’s been a busy last few weeks what with my trip with 22 customers to Napa and Sonoma, and the preceding 4 day business trip through the central coast of California (including visits to Calcareous and Ridge), along with the inevitable log-jam on returning to the office. I’d like to say I am catching up or at least catching my breath but things haven’t slowed down a bit and a busy events schedule is now kicking off.

On Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 at 7pm, The Wine School at l’Alliance Française will offer our high-end BURGUNDY CRU CLASS & TASTING featuring some of the top wines from the Cote d’Or. This filled up quickly but we were able to add a some more space so we have 4 or five seats still open (as of 6pm on 8-29-14). This class will be held at l’Alliance Française located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, 77006). For all the details and complete list the wines to be served, click here.

On Wednesday and Thursday, September 3rd and 4th, 2014, Spec’s welcomes Eric Perrin of Ch. Carbonnieux and Noel Richard of Bordeaux negoçiant Borie Manoux who together will host two events.
The first, A TOUR of BORDEAUX featuring seven top wines from the acclaimed 2010 vintage is at 6:30pm on Wednesday September 3rd. For more information and list of the wines, please click here.
The second, a FOCUS on Chx. CARBONNIEUX & BATAILLEY featuring four wines from each property (for a total of eight wines), will follow at 6:30pm on Thursday September 4th. For more information and list of the wines, click here.
Both of these events featuring Messrs. Perrin and Richard will be held on the second floor at Spec’s Warehouse Store located at 2410 Smith Street in Houston. Admission to each event is a $20 donation to the Houston Area Women’s Center.

Beginning at 7pm on Tuesday, September 9th, The Wine School at l’Alliance Française will offer RANGING THE SOUTHERN RHONE in which we will look at Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape and a bit of everything in between. This class will be held at l’Alliance Française located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, 77006). For all the details and complete list the wines to be served, click here.

Beginning at 7pm on Monday, September 15th (and running four consecutive Mondays), please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WINE. This four-week class will focus on tasting, enjoying, and appreciating wine even as you learn more about your favorite drink and maybe even which kinds of wine you like the most. This class will be held at l’Alliance Française located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (Houston, 77006). For all the details and complete list the wines to be served, click here.

See what I mean? Busy, Busy, Busy … and there is more to come.

Back to school indeed.

 

WINE 201: A Four-Week Course on Wine Beyond the Basics

For the last few years, I have offered (at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française) a four-week introduction to wine and wine tasting that a lot of folks refer to as Wine 101. In that class we covered wines basics in a way to help the student organize what they already know about wine and fill in the holes so they have the basics down pat. This new class will start there with the assumption that you have a good grasp of the basics. Welcome to …

WINE 201:  A Four-Week Course on Wine Beyond the Basics

BearClassPlease join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for this new four-week Wine Basics course. Wine 201 is for those who have a developed interest in wine. The class will work on understanding and improving tasting skills. In order to understand wine today, you have to understand its roots in Europe. This class will focus on the old world presenting classic wines in an organized fashion. We’ll spend 2.2 weeks looking just at France. While focused on the more avid wine consumer, this class would be a good exposure for a service professional looking to move more into the wine side of the restaurant business or anyone in or looking to move into the wholesale or retail wine trade. The focus of each class will be more on the regions covered and how their wines have influenced the rest of the world of wines than on individual producers. The wines tasted will be “classic” examples chosen for their typicity of both variety(s) and region.

Week 1 (02/10/14): Tasting Review. Part one of the wines of France: Bordeaux and the Loire. Why is Bordeaux so important? The power and popularity of Cabernet and Merlot. Ten wines will be tasted.

Week 2 (02/17/14): Part two of the wines of France: Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone. Ten wines will be tasted. The relationship between these regions and the relationship between these wines and their new world equivalents will be explored.

Week 3 (02/24/14): Alsace, Germany, and Italy. Ten wines will be tasted focusing on the classic wines that both express and transcend a local identity.

Week 4 (03/03/11): Spain and Portugal. Ten wines will be tasted with a strict focus on the classics including Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cava, Port, and Sherry.

The four-week Wine 201 will cost $240 total per person cash ($252.63 regular) for all four sessions. The course will meet at 7pm on four Mondays: February 10th, 17th and 24th and March 3rd of 2014. To reserve your spot for this unique four-week class, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or Marlo Ammons@specsonline.com.

All sessions of this class will be held at l’Alliance Française, 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).

Wines To Drink Now: RHONE RANGERS

saint_cosme_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_2012To me the most useful notes are on the wines I can walk into a store and buy right now. These are available wines that go with the kinds of food I’m eating at that time of year. With our current dose of cold weather, I’ve been eating my share of braised meats. Since nothing goes better with braised meat than the Rhone blends, here are several of my favorites selected from the Rhone Range. Being an equal opportunity imbiber, these picks represent France (the Rhone), Spain (the origin of Grenache), Australia (G-S-M anyone?), and the USA (Paso Robles is the New Rhone Range). Prices range from everyday to the top of the weekend range but all these picks offer a great bang for the buck at their respective price points. And all of these are wines I have drunk (as opposed to just tasted) in the last month.

SAINT COSME, Cotes du Rhone, 2012 ($12.99)
A ripe 14.5% alcohol, 100% Syrah fermented and aged in a mix of concrete and stainless steel tanks at the winery in Gigondas.    Red-purple in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Supple, fresh, juicy, mostly black fruit Cotes du Rhone offering notes of coffee and black pepper and a hint of garrigue. Easy to drink and like. Rich, warming, satisfying. Great everyday red to go with braised meats and other cool weather favorites. BS: 90+.CabasseDASablet

Domaine de CABASSE “Les Deux Anges”, Cotes du Rhone Villages – Sablet, 2012 ($11.39)
A 13% alcohol  blend of 70% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 3% Carignan fermented and aged in a mix of concrete and stainless steel tanks.      Red-violet in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Spicy fresh, lovely elegant, dark red cherry berry (even strawberry) fruit with spice and mineral and just a bit of garrigue. Pure, precise, pretty. YUM. Great wine for cooler weather and the braised and roasted meats that go with it. BS: 90+.

gr174CASA GRAN del SIURANA (Castillo Perelada) GR-174, Priorat, 2012 ($14.99)
A 15% alcohol blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 5 months in all oak French barrels (no new barrels).   Sensory: Purple red in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with softly balanced acidity and medium chewy phenolics.  Rich but bright dark red and some black fruit. Supple feel. Rich in the mouth. Juicy and supple but still shows the graphite and a bit of garrigue. Utterly delicious. BS: 92.

StrapperYALUMBA “The Strapper” Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre (GSM), Barossa, 2011 ($17.99)
A 14.1% alcohol blend of 48% Grenache, 47% Shiraz, 5% Mataro picked separately and fermented in small batches – some in oak vats and some in stainless steel – and then aged in a mixture of all seasoned large oak vats, small oak vats, puncheons, and smaller oak barrels, to allow the wines to develop without the influence of a lot of new oak. Made to be suitable for vegans and vegetarians.     Sensory: Purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity; medium-chewy phenolics.  Supple and rich but still lively. Dark red spicy raspberry and strawberry fruit. Some earth and notes of black and white pepper with a hint of black fruit in the background. YUM. Satisfying and delicious. The Mourvedre is there more as texture than flavor. Perfect with a braise or a barbecue. Or a movie night snuggle on the couch. BS: 91. (In Australian horse racing parlance, the “strapper” is the person who tacks up – straps the saddle on –  the horse.)

TresVioletCALCAREOUS Tres Violet, Paso Robles, 2009 ($33.59)
A 15.4% alcohol blend of 36% Mourvedre, 34% Syrah, and 30% Grenache (all cropped under 2 tons per acre) aged 28 months in all French oak barrels (50% new).     Purple-violet in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Rich and Rhoney. Hits the “Paso sweet spot” as well as anything. Yes there is Violet to go with the juicy, almost sweet, succulent red and black fruit. Has a nice mix of earth and spice and floral. Elegant and perfumed. YUM! A party in the mouth. BS: 93.

CalcareousMooseCALCAREOUS “The Moose,” Paso Robles, 2010 ($33.99)
A 15.4% alcohol blend of 89% Syrah and 11% Petite Verdot aged 28 months in all French oak barrels; (55% new).   Rich purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with fresh enough acidity and chewy phenolics.  Supple and delicious. Fine mix of bright but darker, still juicy fruit with dusty earth and supple sweet oak. Rollicking big red with exuberant fruit and a lovely fresh perfume. Yum. BS: 92.

PLEASE check the EVENTS PAGE for the annual 2011 CRU CLASSÉ BORDEAUX TASTING on January 21st at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice.