New Posts on SpecsFineWine.com

I’ve been busy this week on SpecsFineWine.com. Check out the links below.

Revealing Rosé: BONNARD ROSÉ, SANCERRE, 2016

Looking for a delicious, refreshing Pinot Noir Rosé to complement your summer grilled salmon and veggies? Look no further. Serious wine with a Rosé thrill.

BONNARD ROSE, SANCERRE, 2016   ($19.69)
100% Pinot Noir direct pressed and fermented at very low temperatures, aged on its fine lees for a short term period before being racked in order to preserve its freshness and aromatics.     Rose-pink color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and light phenolics.  Very red fruit and very Pinot with enough citrus and a quite salty mineral character. Delicious, balanced, fresh, and refreshing Rosé. BearScore: 92.

 

Le CLARENCE de HAUT BRION, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011 with a 95 point rating?

Well, yes.
Why is this rating so high? Because I think the wine deserves it.
Sure, Le Clarence is the second wine of Ch. Haut Brion but I will argue that, after Ch. Haut Bron and Ch. La Mission Haut Brion, Le Clarence is the best red wine made in Pessac Leognan. Yes that means I prefer it to Ch. Pape Clement and Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte (which I really like) and a few other big names (many of which I really like). And it – justifiably – sells for more than those other wines. So why don’t the critics rate it higher? Because it is a “second wine” and they are prejudiced against second wines. How can it be this good? The answer is simple. Le Clarence (named for Clarence Dillon who bought Ch. Haut Brion in 1935 by his descendant and Domaine Clarence Dillon Président Directeur Général Prince Robert of Luxembourg)  come from the terroir of Ch. Haut Brion which is inarguably the best terroir in Pessac Leognan. And it is made by the Haut Brion team who make the three best red wines made in Pessac Leognan.
Don’t believe me? Try it.

Le CLARENCE de HAUT BRION (2nd vin de Ch. Haut Brion), Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011  ($116.84)
A blend 71.5% Merlot, 22.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Cabernet franc and 1.2% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using pump-overs and aged in all French oak barrels (coopered at the estate, 25% new).     Deep purple-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Juicy ripe as much black as red fruit with resolving tannins along with gravel-mineral earth, sweet dark spice, and integrated oak. Complete, complex, delicious. BearScore: 95.
(This score is based on three recent tastings in the spring of 2017.)

 

A “Higher Grace” Indeed

The Eisele Vineyard was started by the Eisele family who mostly sold the grapes to other producers such as Ridge and Joseph Phelps. in 1990, the vineyard was purchased by Bart and Daphne Araujo who made and sold their top wine (grand vin) as Araujo Eisele Vineyard. They took the farming first to organic and then to biodynamic and introduced a second wine (called Altagracia) from the estate in the same manner as a second wine from a top chateau in Bordeaux. Everything was all about quality; not ripeness or extraction but quality. The Araujos eventually sold to François Pinault (owner of Ch. Latour in Bordeaux) whose team has renamed the winery Eisele Vineyard Estate. As Les Forts is the second wine of Ch. Latour and Le Clarence is the second wine of Ch. Haut Brion, so Altagracia is the second wine of Eisele Vineyard Estate. As with these top second wines of Bordeaux, this second wine is often underrated. I can make (and often have made) the case that Araujo (now Eisele Vineyard Estate) makes the best Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine in Napa Valley. I would also contend that the estate’s second wine –  Altagracia – bests many fancier, more expensive wines that carry big names and bigger price tags but under-deliver on focus, elegance, balance, and finesse.  Check out a “Higher Grace.”

ALTAGRACIA Eisele Estate, Napa Valley, 2012   ($129.99)
An all Eisele Vineyard blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, and 4% Malbec aged 21 months in oak barrels (all French, 99% new).      Purple-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly  balanced acidity and medium-plus phenolics.  Supple fresh lively and ripe with red and darker red fruit accented with tobbaco, spice, dust, and oak. Delicious, lovely, amazingly accessible. Elegant and balanced with no hint of harshness or over extraction and no sweet over-ripeness so common in higher priced Napa Cabs. While this is the second wine from the Eisele estate (a frankly special place in the Palisades area near Calistoga), it is in its own right one of the very top Cabernet-based reds made in Napa Valley. WOW. BearScore: 95+.

 

Delicious Bordeaux Pick: Ch. LAPLAGNOTTE BELLEVUE, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2014

Check out this family-owned-and-produced, artesinally-made, small-production winner from southeast of the village of St. Emilion.

Ch. LAPLAGNOTTE BELLEVUE, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2014 ($25.99)
A blend of 77% Merlot with 23% Cabernet Franc including a few Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Fermented in concrete tanks. and aged 12 months in all French oak barrels (25% new)     Red-violet color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Lovely pure red fruit St. Emilion offering fine mineral earth and subtle oak. For winemaker Arnaud de Labarre, it is all about translating fruit and place into the bottle and here he absolutely succeeds. Delicious.
BearScore: 93.

DOMAINE de l’HERRE Gros Manseng 2015

It seems like at least once a week I taste a new wine that tastes pretty good but I don’t know and can’t immediately figure out who the customer is for that wine. That’s usually not a good thing and it’s usually best to not buy those wines. But sometimes that odd duck is so good and such a value that it seems to introduces a new category. This Domaine de l’HERRE Gros Manseng is such a wine. Delicious, exuberant, thrillingly balanced, a little sweet, and quite refreshing – in fact, just the thing to go with some of the spicier foods resulting from that special fusion of cuisines found in modern Texas cooking. If you like a moderate level of spice in your food, you gotta check it out.

DOMAINE de l’HERRE Gros Manseng, Côtes de Gascogne, 2015 ($12.49)
100% Gros Manseng harvested cool, made inert with nitrogen displacing air for a non-oxidative skin-contact maceration before pressing and a  cool controlled temperature,  21 day fermentation. Aged in tank (no oak barrels) on its lees with occasional stirring.      Richer straw color with well-formed legs; semi-dry, medium-light-bodied with refreshing acidity and scant phenolics (from the skin contact).  Supple and fruity with sweet fresh peach and pineapple and sweet grapefruit. If Jolly Rancher made a grapefruit candy, it would taste a lot like this. Fresh, vivid, and, alive, and frankly delicious … as well as fairly unique. Try it with spicier seafood or Asian dishes, even with ceviche. BearScore: 90++.

 

ALL OF IT GOOD STUFF that over-delivers on flavor and, while none of it’s cheap, all offers value. Isn’t that what you’re looking for?

 

BEAR’s WEEK IN WINE

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and/or tickled my palate this week (ending 10/25/14) in wine.

From SPEC’s FINE WINE
The Friday Fizz: BARONS de ROTHSCHILD Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV
The three wine-growing branches of the Rothschild family have joined together to start a new Champagne house. They wanted to work at a high level and so went to numerous grower/producers and bought up (at great expense) small lots of reserve wines with which to start so their three cuvees would have real depth and richness. The three wines are a Brut, a Blanc de Blancs, and a Rosé. (Read More)

The Daily Drinker: EXPRESSION 38° “Russian Camp” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2012
Expression Wines are just that – expressions of the terroir found at different latitudes along the west coast of the US. Expression 44° is Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon. Expression 39° is Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Expression 34° is Santa Rita Hills in California’s Central Coast. And Expression 38° is the Sonoma Coast (which includes the Russian River Valley). Bill Hill developed and for the most part has subsequently sold vineyards in all these area but he continues to buy fruit from his “grown children” with which to make these wines which he feels are the very Espression of the terroir found in these sites. (Read More)

Upcoming Events:
10/28/14 – PARSING ZINFANDEL
Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton on Tuesday, October 28th, at 7pm for PARSING ZINFANDEL. It’s been a few years since we have dug into Zin and with the arrival of the 2012s in Texas, I think we’re due. We’ll look at and taste 12 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 eat with it. The class will include bread and a selection of fine cheeses to accompany the tasting. (Read More)

11/04/14 – MORE FUN WITH BORDEAUX
Sixteen Wines – Four Chateaux – Four Verticals
d’Armailhac – Branaire Ducru – Calon Segur – Cantenac Brown
On Tuesday, November 4 at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) 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. This is the second in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. I think it will be fun and informative. (Read More)

From DRINKS BUSINESS
A very good and very thorough if long article on aging Champagne before and after disgorging.
A QUESTION OF TIME IN THE BOTTLE
By Patrick Schmitt
… Champagne’s top tier, prestige cuvée, is increasingly promoting pricier expressions of the same products based on the complex concept of extended ageing on lees. The idea that something might cost more because the production is tiny, the packaging is pretty, and the object has been genuinely hand crafted is easily communicated. Furthermore, most consumers in wine and spirits are happy to incur an added expense for something older, especially if it is directly sourced from the producer. But telling consumers they are paying more for the interaction of a wine and its sediment, including the by-products of a secondary fermentation in bottle, is harder, and especially when the science of this relationship is little understood. (Read More)

From The MAIL ONLINE
HAS THE FIZZ GONE OUT OF FLUTES?
By Khaleda Rahman
Champagne tastes better from a normal wine glass, say scientists. Normal white wine glass emphasises aroma and fizz in more complex wines, says Frederico Lleonart, global ambassador for Pernod Ricard But simple sparkling wines should still be served in flutes as it shows off bubbles better. Experts say champagne tastes better when served in an ordinary wine glass. When toasting a special occasion with a bottle of bubbly, classy champagne flutes are the obvious choice for many. And while it may go against tradition, experts are urging drinkers to ditch their crystal flutes in favour of an ordinary wine glass. (Read More)

From WINE SEARCHER
TERROIR GIVES CHAMPAGNE ITS SOUL
by Elin McCoy
(Elin McCoy declares that she’s a terroirist when it comes to Champagne and that its winemakers are among the most avant-garde.)
My Champagne ideal is not just a glass of dependable, consistent bubbly to toast a promotion or celebrate an anniversary. Yes, I know the region is a place where concepts of brand, blend and house style reign supreme, but I think the most exciting development taking place now in Champagne is the antithesis of all that. The growing number of producers departing from tradition to make single-vineyard and single-village wines that reveal the region’s micro-identities are providing the thrills. (Read More)

PONTET CANET SECOND WINE RELEGATED TO TABLE WINE
Bordeaux fifth growth Pontet-Canet will have to sell the 2012 vintage of its second wine as Vin de France.

By Wink Lorch
Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, the second wine of Château Pontet-Canet, will not bear the prestigious AOC Pauillac label for the 2012 vintage after the wine was rejected by the official tasting panel. Instead its legal definition will be Vin de France. When Alfred Tesseron, owner of Château Pontet-Canet learned about the decision, he told the regional newspaper Sud Ouest: “I do not understand. This has never happened in my 30 years of work here. Fortunately, my négociant customers have put their trust in me: almost none have cancelled their orders.” (Read More)

The Busy Wine Lover’s Guide to CLOS DES PAPES
Family-owned Domaine Paul Avril has roots almost as deep as the vines of Châteauneuf du Pape, and its wines have turned into an investment favorite.
By Jane Anson
One of the stalwarts of Châteauneuf du Pape, Clos des Papes is an intrinsic part of the history of the appellation – the plot of vines that gave the estate its name is located within the walls of the former Papal vineyard where the popes of Avignon had their summer palace; you can’t get much more authentic than that. The Avril family has been popping up as consuls, treasurers, councilors and mayors of the village of Châteauneuf since the 1700s, and the first ever Clos des Papes was produced way back in 1896. If all that’s not enough, the current owner’s great-grandfather, Paul Avril, was instrumental in setting up the first appellation rules here that were, incidentally, the first of their kind in France. Down the generations came Régis, then Paul and now Paul Vincent Avril (who – perhaps not surprisingly – goes by the name Vincent). The current Avril-in-residence has built on his father’s legacy to turn the estate from a local legend to a global star. (Read More)

And an interesting article on cocktails
From The NEW YORK TIMES
RESTAURANT COCKTAILS THAT AIM TOO HIGH
By Pete Wells
All mixed drinks can be divided into two categories: good and not good. A cocktail that you finish involuntarily, that moves to your lips again and again without requiring you to decide to raise your arm, is a good one. A cocktail that you finish because you hate to waste alcohol, or one that you don’t finish at all, is not good. This is the binary theory of cocktail criticism. Lately, an awful lot of the cocktails I’ve had in restaurants have landed with a splat in the “not good” category. Some are rudely sour, or pointlessly bitter, or ickily sweet, or phonily complicated, or just too reminiscent of a spoonful of Robitussin with a hangnail of lemon peel floating on top. Others aren’t actively bad in any of those ways, but they don’t glide down the back of your throat, either; they’re simply not good. (Read More)

The Week in Wine (10/17/14)

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and/or tickled my palate this week (ending 10/17/14) in wine.

TaittingerMillesimeLabelFrom SPEC’s FINE WINE
The Friday Fizz: TAITTINGER Brut Millesime, Champagne, 2005
This vintage cuvee from Taittinger has been one of my favorite Champagnes since I first tasted it back in 1984. I starts of with lots of flavor but the bottles I have kept for a few extra years have developed into something spectacular. The price is not too much above the Brut NV level for a lot of producers but the quality (for me, at least) approaches that of many tete de cuvee (luxury tier) bubblies. (Read More …)

The Daily Drinker: EXPRESSION 38° “Russian Camp” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2012
Expression Wines are just that – expressions of the terroir found at different latitudes along the west coast of the US. Expression 44° is Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon. Expression 39° is Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Expression 34° is Santa Rita Hills in California’s Central Coast. And Expression 38° is the Sonoma Coast (which includes the Russian River Valley). Bill Hill developed and for the most part has subsequently sold vineyards in all these area but he continues to buy fruit from his “grown children” with which to make these wines which he feels are the very Espression of the terroir found in these sites. (Read More …)

Upcoming Events:
10/30/14 – PAUILLAC and St. JULIEN 2011 Dinner at Charivari
On Thursday, October 30th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our Pauillac and St. Julien Dinner featuring a lucky thirteen great Bordeaux wines from the under-rated 2011 vintage (plus, as always, a fine Champagne) with Chef Schuster’s fall menu. (Read More …)

01/20/15 – ANNUAL “MOSTLY CRU CLASSÉ” BORDEAUX TASTING at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice
On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, Spec’s will host approximately 45 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting over 60 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the 2012 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. This is our fourth time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux. Each of the last three years’ events was smashing a success so the chateaux are coming back and they are bringing friends so we will be showing more wines. The complete list of well-known and highly regarded chateaux is still coming together and will be announced soon. (Read More …)

Aline Baly of Ch. Coutet

Aline Baly of Ch. Coutet

From The Drinks Business
WINE: THE ‘KEVIN BACON OF INDUSTRIES’
“Wine is the Kevin Bacon of industries. It’s related to art, music, food, people. It links everything to everything”, according to Château Coutet’s Aline Baly. Born in Paris and raised in the US, Aline joined her uncle and father in the wine business after attending a Decanter wine tasting in London with them, when she became hooked. Aline, 33, had attended Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and left behind a more predictable career path in the pharmaceutical industry. Despite the unpredictability of winemaking, the chance to work with family and think generationally was more compelling to Aline than chasing quarterly profits. And she finds the wine business conducive to a family-run enterprise: “It requires a long-term vision. We are not thinking in terms of three months, we are thinking fifteen years ahead, for the next generation.” (Read More …)

From Dr. Vino:
Kate Moss Makes A Champagne A-cup
Kate Moss has launched a new line of champagne stemware taken from a mold of her breast. The model famously displayed her skin-and-bone frame (topless) in ads for Calvin Klein’s Obsession. Which might lead one to think the champagne coupe is called the A-cup? (Read More …)

From Tim Atkin:
I’m Not 100 Points On That
What’s the definition of a 100-point wine? Depending on who’s handing out the numbers, a cynic might say it’s something you can’t afford and don’t want to drink anyway, but the question deserves a more considered answer. Scores are an increasingly big deal in the wine world, relied upon by merchants, auction houses and investors as a short hand for buying and selling wine. They are even used by real consumers from time to time. We all have our own views of perfection – Roger Federer’s backhand, Ella Fitzgerald’s voice and Citizen Kane are all flawless to me – and wine is no different. By definition, a 100-point wine is exceptional to someone. It’s rare that I get to taste bottles that have been given 100 points by other critics, at least with a few years of age, when prices tend to have climbed beyond my budget, but I sampled three such icons blind at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival recently. More importantly, I didn’t know that they’d been anointed with the ultimate rating, so there was no journalistic agenda on my part. (Read More …)

From Wine Searcher:
Changes for the Hospices de Beaune
Corton Bressandes is the wine of choice for the President’s Barrel at this year’s Hospices de Beaune auction. As the Hospices prepares for its famous barrel auction in November, a successor is found for winemaker Roland Masse. Ludivine Griveau will take over as winemaker and vineyard manager of the Hospices de Beaune in 2015, writes Laurent Gotti of Bourgogne Aujourd’hui magazine on his blog. She will be the first woman to run the illustrious and ultra-traditional wine estate. The 36-year-old Griveau received her enology degree at Dijon and has been the enologist for the Burgundy négociant Corton André since 2004. She will take on the position at the Hospices in January on the retirement of Roland Masse, who has been in the role for the last 15 years. (Read More …)

The Week in Wine

Here are some of the things that caught my eye and/or tickled my palate this week (ending 10/10/14) in wine.

From Spec’s Fine Wine (SpecsFineWine.com)
The Friday Fizz: BOLLINGER Grand Annee, Champagne, 2004
According to the Bollinger web-site, 2004 was a delicate year in Champagne. It started with a dry winter and spring but a cold, wet August. The grapes were picked during a warm “Indian summer.” With the 1976 vintage, “Bollinger Vintage” was renamed “Bollinger Grande Annee.” In 2004, it became “Bollinger La Grande Année.” I would say that 2004 was an eventful year for Bollinger which happens to have produced a Lovely vintage Champagne that has many years of improvement in from of it. As it ages, the sore can only go up. (Read More …)

The Daily Drinker: CASA GRAN del SIURANA GR-174, Priorat, 2012
“GR-174″ is the name of a well-known hiking path that crosses Priorat. Perelada (owners of Casa Gran Siurana) feel that this path is a great introduction to the rustic beauty of Priorat just as I feel that this wine (their entry level) is the best introduction (regardless of price) to the wine of Priorat. (Read More)

Upcoming Events:
10/14/14 – FUN WITH BORDEAUX: Four Chateaux – Four Verticals – Sixteen Wines
On Tuesday, October 14 at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring vertical selections from four of my favorite chateaux: Ch. d’Aiguilhe in Castillon, Ch. Lynch Moussas in Pauillac, Ch. La Croix St. Georges in Pomerol, and Gravette de Certan (the 2nd wine of Vieux Ch. Certan) in Pomerol. We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties. (Read More …)

10/16/14 – October Right Bank Bordeaux Dinner at Charivari
On Thursday, October 16th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our October Right Bank Bordeaux Dinner featuring twelve great Right Bank red Bordeaux wines from the 2011 vintage (starting of course with Champagne and ending with a favorite from Barsac) paired with Chef Schuster’s Autumnal seasonal offerings. (Read More …)

10/21/14 – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WINE: A Four Week Class focusing on the Essentials of Wine
Beginning at 7pm on Tuesday, October 21st (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.

From Drinks Business:
NEW REFERENCE DATES HAUT-BRION TO 1500s
A new historical reference mentions Bordeaux first growth Haut-Brion in 1521, over 100 years before Samuel Pepys’ famous diary entry. The famed English diarist mentioned drinking “Ho Bryan” in 1663 and the estate is mentioned in the cellar book of Charles II in 1660 but the new shows that the estate was in existence over a century before, with two documents from the early 16th century noting orders of wine from a Pessac estate called “Aubrion”.The documents were uncovered in the Gironde Departmental archives by art historian Laurent Chavier as part of the “Historical Challenge” laid down by the estate’s owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, in May of last year. The challenge was for a researcher to uncover a reference to the estate that pre-dated the 1660 mention. (Read More …)

PASO ROBLES DIVIDES TO CONQUER:
The Californian wine region of Paso Robles has been granted permission to set up 11 new distinct appellations within its borders.
The ruling was passed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) – a subsidiary of the US Treasury – in Washington DC on Thursday (October 9) to create the 11 appellations. The 59 members of the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area Committee, a trade body of the area’s winemakers, petitioned for the change in 2007, but it wasn’t until September 2013 that federal regulators issued the proposal to the TTB. In a press statement, the TTB is said that the new regulation is “in response to a petition from an association of local vintners and grape growers. TTB designates viticultural areas to allow vintners to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase.” Stacie Jacobs, chief executive officer of Visit San Luis Obispo County, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that all districts will remain a part of the larger Paso Robles American Viticultural Area, but winemakers will now be able to label their wines with these more specific areas, which will help promote tourism in the wine region. “The new 11 AVAs give wine tourists an even greater knowledge base and interest in further exploring the wines of Paso Robles.” (Read More …)

Wine Humor:
Anosmia Dogs and Other Failed Master of Wine Dissertations

One of the requirements for becoming a Master of Wine is an original and rigorous research paper of between 6,000 and 10,000 words. The words must be placed in sentences, or it doesn’t count. There is no similar requirement for becoming a Master Sommelier, though they are asked to write an original limerick — said to be the hardest part of the exam, after the colonoscopy. As far as I know, the great unwashed public isn’t privy to the dissertations produced by MWs. However, as Commander of Wine, I have uncovered several dissertations that didn’t pass muster. As brilliant as some of these papers are, they were not good enough to gain their authors acceptance into fine wine’s version of contestants on “The Bachelorette,” the Institute of Masters of Wine. (Read More …)

From Wine Searcher
Bordeaux’s Crus Bourgeois Say “Oui” to a New Classification
Médoc producers agree to another attempt to reclassify their châteaux, after several previous failures.
Bordeaux’s cru bourgeois wineries have announced an ambitious project to launch a new classification, seven years after the last attempt dissolved in acrimony and lawsuits. The latest attempt to bring in a classification system for the 250-plus properties currently holding cru bourgeois status comes after five years of strict quality control and tireless promotion under the banner of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc. “On September 16, we took a blind vote with our members during an extraordinary general meeting; there were 78.1 percent ‘yes’ votes,” said Frédérique Dutheillet de Lamothe, director of the alliance. Their goal is to have the new classification in place by the time the 2014 vintage hits the stores, which means 2016 – just two years away, which Dutheillet de Lamothe admits is an ambitious target for a group with something of a history of disagreement. (Read More …)

09/26/14 – The WEEK in WINE

SchramBldeBlIt’s been a busy week. In addition to a new look applied to and several new article pages (look under the “THINKING About Wine” tab) posted to BearOnWine.com, things have been hopping (sorry, can’t resist) at Spec’s and on Spec’s Fine Wine.

New Posts at Spec’s Fine Wine include:
The Friday Fizz: SCHRAMSBERG Blanc de Blancs, North Coast, 2010
In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies discovered the run-down Schramsberg winery on a mountainside above St. Helena. Their son Hugh was born the same year. The historic Schramsberg winery and vineyards had been abandoned for years; the antique Victorian mansion looked down on the tangled remnants of what used to be gardens behind which were the gaping entrances to Jacob Schram’s underground cellars hand-dug by Chinese laborers. (Read More …)

ChSmithHautLafitteSave the Date for our Annual Bordeaux Tasting at the Crystal Ball Room at the Rice
On Tuesday, January 20, 2015, Spec’s will host approximately 45 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting over 60 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the 2012 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. This is our fourth time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux. Each of the last three years’ events was smashing a success so the chateaux are coming back and they are bringing friends so we will be showing more wines. (Read More …)

cabassedeuxangeslabel1Daily Drinker: Domaine de CABASSE Les Deux Anges, CdRV Sablet, 2012
Here’s a wine I wish I could take credit for Spec’s selling but, even if I’d been there, I’d have missed it. Here’s what happened: back in 1998, Spec’s owners John and Lindy Rydman were on a trip to the Rhone and were offered a morning horse back ride through the vineyards that they turned down. Instead, they went early to the hotel restaurant (think country inn) where they were scheduled to have lunch. When they went in, they noticed that the hotel/restaurant was also a wine domaine. (Read More …)

ALSO OF INTEREST:
The Drinks Business (a British beverage industry site) reports that Winston Churchill is supposed to have drunk 42,000 bottles of Champagne in his lifetime. They say “Britain’s famous wartime leader drank 42,000 bottles of Champagne in his lifetime, according to a new book. Sir Winston Churchill’s fondness for fizz made headline news after it was reported by Mail Online that the British prime minister drank a staggering 42,000 bottles of Champagne. Along with other “dotty but true” facts, it was taken from 1,411 QI Facts to Knock You Sideways by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson and James Harken, the team behind the British TV show QI … The consumption between 1908 and Churchill’s death in 1965 works out at two bottles a day … (Read More …)

Also on Champagne, The Drinks Business reports:
As this year’s harvest in Champagne draws to a close, producers are heralding the quality of the Chardonnay grapes. Speaking to the drinks business on Wednesday this week, Veuve Clicquot senior winemaker Cyril Brun said that the vintage had produced “beautiful results with the Chardonnay”, with “a very good balance between the sugar and acidity”. Meanwhile, in a note sent to db yesterday evening, Bruno Paillard from the Champagne house by the same name, described Chardonnay as “the winner of the 2104 harvest”. Following a “bad summer” in Champagne according to Champagne De Castelnau’s Louis-Charles Pluot, with “cool and rainy” conditions, the vintage was rescued by a “very nice September, with two, warm sunny weeks”. (Read More …)

Wine-Searcher.com reports that
BURGUNDY BREATHES A SIGH OF RELIEF
Many Burgundy vintners finished picking earlier this week and Claude Chevalier, president of the BIVB said that yields are “almost back to normal” following a string of lower-than-average production vintages. At his own Burgundy estate – Domaine Chevalier in Ladoix-Serrigny – Chevalier said: “The berries have good concentration, with phenolic ripeness”, and – importantly – there were plenty of them. (Read More …)

In the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Dan Berger rants on “Natural Wine”
What’s behind ‘Natural Wine’?
No consumer would ignore a natural product for an unnatural one, and that distinction is at the heart of a huge wine controversy that, chances are, you haven’t heard about. Wine is basic: Grapes are crushed, fermented, aged, and packaged so we can consume the result with a meal. The rest is marketing. Ah, but the bizarre under-culture of wine is filled with strange movements, ideas, philosophies, strategies and pressures that prematurely turn winemakers’ hair gray and cause wineries to do all sorts of strange things to stay ahead of the curve. And among the most mystical is the phrase “natural wine.” (Read More …)