A Port Primer with Rui Ribeiro of Symington

Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at 7pm on Monday, December 10that the Wine School at l’Alliance Française to welcome Rui Ribeiro of Symington and taste through a range of 15 of Symington’s fine Port wines.

Port wines are numbered among the classic wines of the world and are quite collectable. The most desired are Vintage Ports of which we will taste four. As there are many styles of Port wine, a little information goes a long way toward understanding what you’re drinking. Topics of discussion will include types of Port (and why and how they are different), the origins of Port wine and how it evolved, Serving and Drinking Port, “Pass the Port” (Port Customs), and Decanting Port (including a decanting demonstration). Fifteen Port wines will be tasted and bread and cheese will be served.

We will taste:
Graham’s Six Grapes Porto
Graham’s River Quinta Porto
Dow’s 2012 Late Bottled Vintage Porto
Cockburn’s Special Reserve Porto
Smith Woodhouse 2004 Late Bottled Vintage Porto
Graham’s 10yr Tawny Porto
Dow’s 10yr Tawny Porto
Cockburn’s 10yr Tawny Porto
Graham’s 20yr Tawny Porto
Dow’s 20yr Tawny Porto
Smith Woodhouse 2000 Colheita Porto
Smith Woodhouse 2016 Vintage Porto
Cockburn’s 2016 Vintage Porto
Graham’s 2016 Vintage Porto
Dow’s 2016 Vintage Porto

The Port Primer will cost $70.00 per person cash ($73.68 regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com. 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.

Symington family member Rui Ribeiro has always had a love for wine but his interests become more serious when he received his degree in Agronomics at Vila Real University in the Douro. Once filled with knowledge Rui was ready to put his skills to work and started as a winemaker and harvest trainee in 2000.  With a passion for nature and viticulture Rui quickly fell in love with the Douro Valley.  He was captivated by the impressive beauty of the terraces and the surrounding atmosphere of the Douro.  This solidified his career goals to educate the world about the wines of the Douro Valley. Working under Rupert Symington’s leadership, Rui is the US Market Manager at Symington Family Estates.

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).

Mature Bordeaux Dinner – SOLD OUT!


At 7pm on Thursday, November 2nd, please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton, at Lucio’s on Taft Street for a fun and delicious look at mature Bordeaux paired with Lucio’s simple-but-food-friendly menu.  We’ll start with Champagne after which we will go directly to two 1996s paired with duck. After that, three 1995s with hanger steak will be followed by two 1989s with the cheese. We’ll finish up with a glass of 1977 Cockburn’s Vintage Porto, a wine whose very existence was long denied.

Passed Mini Crab Cakes with
Andre Clouet Cuvee 1911 Champagne, NV

Grilled Duck Breast with fennel puree,  spinach, date marmalade, and duck jus
Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 1996 
Ch. Calon Segur 1996

Hanger Steak with stacked potato and chimichurri
Ch. Rauzan Segla 1995  
Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 1995 
Ch. Cos d’Estournel 1995   

A selection of Cheeses with
Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 1989
Ch. Pichon Baron, Pauillac, 1989 

The Port
Cockburn’s Vintage Porto, 1977

This unique Mature Bordeaux Dinner will cost $270 per person including a 5% discount for cash or check (or $284.21 regular). All taxes and tips are included. For reservations, please reply by email to BearDalton@mac.com. Please include a call back number in your email reply. Lucio’s is located at 905 Taft. Hope to see you there.

A Wine Dinner Benefitting ECHOS – Friday October 13th

SOLD OUT – Have started waiting list.

Dear Friends,
People in the wine trade from around the world have been calling and emailing to ask how I fared during and after Hurricane Harvey. My initial response is that even though we had water lapping at our front porch, Carol and I “got no water in our house or vehicles and so we were unaffected.” But we are not “unaffected.” Harvey has affected everyone on the Texas coastal plain from below Corpus Christi to up past Beaumont. I was back in the office on Tuesday August 29 so I haven’t been out volunteering – but I have been donating. I have been listening to family and friends and customers who are very affected. And I have done some plotting and scheming. What-if-I-were-to host a wine dinner to benefit ECHOS (an organization in southwest Houston that helps a lower-income, mostly immigrant population with such basic issues as healthcare, housing, food, and English-as-a-second-language that has been doing yeoman work with their clients in the wake of Harvey)? What-if-I-were-to cook and serve really elevated comfort foods? What-if-I-were-to pair those foods with some of the very best wines from around the world? What-if-I-were-to say that ALL the proceeds were to go to ECHOS? What-if-I-were-to tell you that David Weekley Homes promises to match the funds we raise? What-if-I-were-to plan it all for Friday October 13th? Well, all that “What-if-I-were-to” has come together so …
On Friday October 13th at 7pm, I will host (and cook along with Denise Ehrlich and others) a wine dinner benefitting ECHOS (see more about ECHOS below). This dinner-for-24 will be held in the Parish Hall at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (which conveniently has a full commercial kitchen). We’ll start with a Champagne reception with nibbles and then sit down to a five-course dinner of “elevated comfort foods” served with extraordinary wines. Elevated comfort foods? Extraordinairy wines? Take a look at the menu. You may have to loosen your belt. And I think each of the selected wines represents the very best of its type. 

Assorted nibbles (including Champagne Nachos)
Barons Rothschild Blanc de Blancs Champagne, NV
Barons Rothschild Rosé Champagne, NV

Potato-Leek-Parsley Soup with a purple-potato-chip and lardon garnish
Lustau East India Sherry

Confit Quail and Seared Duck over dressed Mesclun with toasted pine nuts and lardons
Rochioli Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2014
Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2014 

Short-Rib-and-Ox-Tail Boeuf Bourguignon over Tagliatelle
Quintessa, Rutherford, 2014
Opus One, Oakville, 2014
Ridge Monte Bello 2014

Araujo Eisele Estate 2002 (from magnums)

Individual Apple Tarts with pecan and bacon served with an infused whipped cream
Ch. Rieussec Sauternes 2011

Graham’s Vintage Porto 1994

So come eat and drink knowing that every dime will go to a great cause; have fun and feel good about it. This ECHOS Wine Dinner will cost $500.00 per person (check payable to ECHOS or a credit card charge which will be processed by ECHOS). The reception will start at 7pm on Friday October 13, 2017. To reserve your spot for this unique and very special wine dinner, please reply by email to me at BearDalton@mac.com. I suggest coming by Uber or other car service as the wine pours will be generous. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is located at 9600 South Gessner Road (the southwest corner of Gessner and Bissonnet).

ECHOS (Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services) is a non-profit organization (501(C)3 corporation) 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 located on the campus of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.

The “E” in ECHOS, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is located at 9600 South Gessner Road. Epiphany is where I go to church and where I raised my kids. While I no longer live in the area, I went to Sharpstown High School and used to pass Epiphany on the way to and from school. The area has changed since then; Epiphany has changed along with it and now boasts one of the most diverse congregations in Houston. ECHOS is Epiphany’s outreach to the local community.

All the wines are among my favorites and fall in the range of “best in class.”
The Barons Rothschild Champagnes are amongst my very favorite fixzz and both completely over deliver at their just under $100 per bottle price points.
The Lustau East India Sherry is the Sherry I buy most often and serve with the soup at all my family holiday meals.
The Rochioli Pinot Noir and Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir each offer best of Sonoma and best of Willamette quality as well as precise expression of their place(s).
The Quintessa, the Opus One, the Ridge Monte Bello, and the Eisele Estate (then Araujo) are my quartet of the definition of great Cabernet-based wine from California. All are farmed either sustainably, organically, or biodynamically. All are given an indigenous yeast fermentation. All are Layered-Textured-Dimensional wines of stunning quality.
Ch. Rieussec is one of my four favorite Sauternes producers. 2011 is a great Sauternes vintage. Bliss.
Graham’s Vintage Porto 1994. Legal-drinking-age Vintage Port from one of the greatest Port houses. Hope it’s cool that night.
All but one of the wines is provided for this event by the producer/supplier.

2014 Holiday Wine Dinner

Champagne – Sherry – Burgundy – Bordeaux – More Bordeaux – Port

On Monday, December 15th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our 2014 Holiday Wine Dinner featuring wines from Champagne, Jerez (Sherry), Burgundy, and Bordeaux as well as a 1966 Colheita Port, all paired with Chef Schuster’s holiday menu.

Walleye Pike Quenelles with
Louis de Sacy “Cuvee Inedite” Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV

Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with
Lustau East India Sherry, NV

Moulard Duck “Choucroute garnie” with
Domaine de la Pousse d’Or Volnay “Clos des 60 Ouvrees” 1er Cru, 2010
Mugneret Gibourg Nuits St. Georges “Les Chaignots” 1er Cru, 2010
Michel Gros Vosne Romanee “Clos des Reas” 1er cru, 2010

Red Beet Sorbet

Black Angus Hanger Steak with Marrow Butter and Roasted Potatoes with
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac Leognan, 2008
Ch. Canon la Gaffeliere, St. Emilion, 2008
Ch. Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien, 2008
Ch. Pichon Baron, Pauillac, 2008

French Cheeses with
Ch. Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien, 2005
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac Leognan, 2005

Chef Schuster’s Pecan Pie with
Messias Colheita Port 1966

This Holiday Wine Dinner will cost $220.00 per person including a 5% discount for cash or check or $$231.58 regular. All taxes and tips are included. Attendance at this dinner is strictly limited to 22 people (including me). For reservations, please call Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 (or email BearDalton@mac.com).

Charivari is located at 2521 Bagby (77006) in Mid-Town Houston.

Two New Wine Events: Port and Champagne

12/02/14 – PARSING PORT
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for “PARSING PORT” at 7pm on Tuesday, December 2nd at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française. Port wines are numbered among the classic wines of the world and are quite collectable. Nevertheless, there is a mystique about them so a little information goes a long way toward understanding Port. Topics of discussion will include types of Port (why and how they are different), the origins of Port wine and how it evolved, Serving and Drinking Port, “Pass the Port” (Port Customs), and Decanting (including a decanting demonstration). The tasting will include a flight of 4 wines over 10 years old, a flight of 3 wines over 20 years old and a flight of two wines coming up on 30 years old. Twelve wines will be tasted and bread and cheese will be served.

SmithLBVWe will taste:
Dow’s Fine Ruby Porto, NV
Kopke Anniversary Tawny, Porto, NV
Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Porto, NV
Kopke 10 Year Old Tawny, Porto, NV
Kopke Colheita, Porto, 2001
Smith Woodhouse Late Bottled Vintage, Porto, 2001
Rozes Vintage Porto, 2000
Smith Woodhouse 20 Year Old Tawny, Porto, NV
Kopke Colheita Porto, 1992
Smith Woodhouse Vintage Porto, 1994
Messias Colheita, Porto, 1985
Smith Woodhouse Vintage, Porto, 1985

Parsing PORT will cost $60.00 per person cash ($63.16 regular). To reserve your spot, please call 713-854-7855. 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).

12/09/14 – FABULOUS FIZZ: Drinking and Enjoying Champagne
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for “FABULOUS FIZZ: Drinking and Enjoying Champagne” at 7pm on Tuesday, December 9th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française. We will discuss Champagne in all its facets: How Champagne is Made, Champagne Vocabulary, Champagne Styles, Terroir and Grape Varieties, Serving Champagne, Champagne Glassware, and Champagne and Food.

Perrier-Jouet-2006-Belle-Epoque-BrutThe following 12 Champagnes will be served:
Abel Charlot Brut NV
JP Marniquet Brut Tradition
Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV
Bonnaire Brut NV
Bonnaire Variance Brut NV
Andre Clouet Silver Brut Nature NV
Louis de Sacy Cuvee Inedite NV
Lancelot Royer Cuvee Chevaliers Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV
Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs, NV
Andre Clouet Brut Rose Grand Reserve NV
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne 2006
JP Marniquet Champagne 1989

Fabulous Fizz: Drinking and Enjoying Champagne will cost $60 per person (Cash) or $63.16 (Regular). To reserve your spot, please call 713-854-7855. 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).

Three Upcoming Wine Events

RidgeLytton1210/28/14 – PARSING ZINFANDEL – Last Call!
On Tuesday, October 28th, at 7pm, please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Parsing Zinfandel. It’s been a few years since we’ve dug into Zin and with the arrival of the 2012s in Texas, I think we’re due. We’ll look at 14 wines from all over Sonoma County (the spiritual home of Zinfandel) and a couple from Napa as well, all from the 2012 vintage. We’ll talk about Zin and blends, the terrors and techniques used to make it, and the food we ravenswood-teldeschi-vineyard-dry-creek-zinfandel__69702.1410645635.1280.1280eat with it. The class will include bread and a selection of fine cheeses to accompany the tasting. We will taste Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Clone, Trig Point Railyard, Seghesio Sonoma, Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel 2012, Bedrock Old Vine, Ridge East Bench, Hartford Court Russian River Valley, Ridge Geyserville, Ridge Lytton Springs, Ravenswood Old Hill, Ravenswood Dickerson, Ravenswood Teldeschi, Biale Black Chicken, and Bedrock Monte Rosso Zinfandel 2012. Parsing Zinfandel will cost $60.00 per person (cash or check) or $63.16 regular, and will meet at 7pm on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at l’Alliance Française at 427 Lovett Blvd.*

CalonSegur11/04/14 – MORE FUN WITH BORDEAUX
Sixteen Wines – Four Chateaux – Four Verticals

On Tuesday, November 4 at 7pm, please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring four verticals from four great Haut Medoc chateaux: Ch. d’Armailhac in Pauillac, Ch. Branaire Ducru in St. Julien, Ch. Calon Segur in St. Estephe, and Ch. Cantenac Brown in Margaux We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties. BranaireDucruThis is the second in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. It will be fun and informative. The cost of this unique tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular, and will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 4, 2014 at l’Alliance Française at 427 Lovett Blvd.*

11/05/14 – Port Wine with Rupert Symington
Graham – Dow – Cockburn – Smith Woodhouse

grahams2000On Wednesday, November 5th at 7pm, please join me in welcoming the entertaining and informative Rupert Symington at l’Alliance Française for a tasting of Port Wines from his family’s companies including Graham, Dow, Cockburn, and Smith-Woodhouse. Representing the 12th generation of his family to be involved in the Port wine trade, Rupert Symington is co-CEO of Symington Family Estates. He will be here in Houston for a talk and tasting of nine of his family’s wines. Bread and appropriate cheeses will be served. We will taste Dow’s Vale do Bomfim 2010 (a dry Douro red), Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto, Smith Woodhouse 2000 Colheita Porto, Cockburn’s 2003 Canais Vintage Porto, Graham’s 1999 Malvedos Vintage Porto, Smith Woodhouse 1994 Vintage Porto, Graham’s 2000 Vintage Porto, Graham’s 1983 Vintage Porto, and Dow’s 1985 Vintage Porto. Admission to this talk and tasting is a $20.00 (cash or check) or $21.05 (regular), $15.00 of which is a donation to the Houston Area Women’s Center. The class will meet at 7pm on Wednesday, November 5, 2014.*

*To reserve for any of these events, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com.

l’Alliance Française, the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Boulevard, l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

Q & A: Decanting and Preserving Wine

Q.   I know that aged Vintage Ports can be shot after a day or two, tawnies and others aged in wood can be kept for several months after opening. What about the ‘01 Warres LBV I want to drink? Thanx.

A.   Treat “Traditional” LBVs (Late Bottles Vintage Port) such as those from Warre’s and Smith Woodhouse as if they were true Vintage Port. Other LBVs are more like fancy Ruby Ports which don’t need to be decanted and can be kept stoppered on the bar (or even better in your temperature controlled wine ‘frige) for at least a couple of weeks.

For Vintage Ports, Traditional LBVs, and Crusted Ports (all wine intended to throw a sediment as they age in the bottle) that you don’t plan to drink in one evening, use the following procedure:

1) Gently decant them into a clean decanter or clean empty wine bottle. There are two types of decanters: those for aerating young wine and those for decanting older wines that would be damaged by aeration. If you use a decanter, use the kind for older wines. YOu do not want the decanted wine to have a large surface area.

2) Rinse the original bottle very thoroughly with cold water and thoroughly drain it.

3) With minimal splashing, return the decanted Port to its original bottle.

4) Pour the wine and then gas (with Private Preserve or other nitrogen and/or argon-based wine preservation gas) and stopper what is left in the bottle.

Or you can decant and then pour from and gas the decanter, as long as it has a stopper. Gassed and stoppered decanters can keep the Port as well as a gassed and stoppered bottle. Or, if you know you will drink half the bottle, you can fill (from the decanter) a half bottle and then gas and stopper it and save this half bottle for another day. As long as you gas the wine early and seal it, it will keep for at least a week. It will keep even better if you keep it in the refrigerator (but not in the door).

You can use these same techniques for decanting and preserving any bottle of wine. The key to success is to expose the wine to as little air as possible. Decant gently using a funnel that runs the wine down the side of the bottle rather than one that sprays the wine out. The truly concerned wine geek might gas the empty decanter before decanting to displace the air from the decanter to further diminish the effect of oxygen. It is best to use a decanter that will be filled into the narrow neck to minimize surface area where the wine can be in contact with air.

I’ve tried every other technique I have heard of to preserve opened wine. Gassing and refrigerating the wine is the way to go.