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

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.