BORDEAUX REFRESH: A Look at the Lighter Side of Bordeaux Wines

Here it is the dog days of summer – so how about some cool refreshing Bordeaux? At first blush, maybe not. But if you look at this lineup featuring a rosé, 5 dry whites, 5 reds (but more elegant, prettier reds), and one very fresh-style sweet white (all from Bordeaux), you’ll see that Bordeaux can refresh. So please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at 7pm on Monday, July 29th at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for BORDEAUX REFRESH: A Look at the Lighter Side of Bordeaux Wines. In this seminar tasting, we’ll look at lighter and more refreshing wines from around Bordeaux that offer quality and value. Topics of discussion will include vintages, the styles of Bordeaux, and the grape varieties and techniques used to make the wines. Bread and cheese will be served. The ticket price will be donated to the ECHOS (Epiphany Community Health Outreach).

The following twelve Bordeaux wines will be served:
Pins des Dunes Rose Bordeaux 2018
Ch. Martinon Entre Deux Mers 2015
Ch. d’Archambeau Graves Blanc 2016
Clos des Lunes Bordeaux Blanc 2015
Les Charmes Godard Blanc Francs Cotes De Bordeaux 2016
R De Rieussec Bordeaux Blanc 2017
Ch. Camino Salva Haut Medoc 2015
Ch. Ampelia Cotes De Castillon 2016
Ch. Haut Vigneau Graves Rouge 2016
Ch. Laplagnotte Bellvue St. Emilion 2015
Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux 2015
Lions De Suduiraut Sauternes 2015

To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or The cost of this class is a $25 donation (cash or check only please) to payable to ECHOS.

About ECHOS:
ECHOS – Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services – was formed in 1999 in response to the health and social service needs of the rapidly increasing population of newly arrived immigrants and refugees who were re-settled in the community surrounding the Church of the Epiphany in southwest Houston. The original purpose was and continues to be to help families meet their basic needs on their path to self-sufficiency. Echos provides Benefits Application Assistance, Healthcare Mobile Clinics, Healthcare Screenings and Services, Support Groups (including working with the Houston Area Women’s Center), English as a Second Language (ESL), Computer Literacy, and Food Pantry and Food Fairs.

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).

With over 40 years experience in the wine business (including 23 years at Spec’s) 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. Over the last 23 years, he has spent well over a year in Bordeaux.



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

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.

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I’ve been busy this week on 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?


What I’m Drinking and Why

On Monday, March 6th at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for What I’m Drinking and Why. After almost 40 years as a wine professional who tastes over 9,000 wines a year, I think I know a bit about quality and value. These are the wines I personally am drinking right now – as in these are the wines I spend MY MONEY ON. They are delicious and, at their price points, I think they offer the best values available. All of them over-deliver on price. Each of them has a story and each makes a point. I am confident that you will enjoy them as much as I do. (I did this a couple of years back and a number of you have been asking for this kind of class/tasting again.)

The line up includes:
Perelada Reserve Especial, Cava, NV
Varichon & Clerc Sparkling Blanc De Blancs, Savoie, NV
Mercat Rose, Cava, NV
Marcel Moineaux Chouilly Millesime Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Champagne 2008
Losen Bockstanz Wittlicher Lay Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, 2015
Frey Sohler Pinot Gris Rittersberg, Alsace, 2014
Chablisienne La Pierrelee Chablis, 2014
Averaen Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2015
Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Clos de Clos Genet 2014
Ch. Senejac Haut Medoc 2012
Ch. Batailley Pauillac 2012
Yalumba Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz VT
Montmirail St. Maurice Gigondas 2014
Ridge Vineyards Pagani Ranch Zinfandel 2014
Kopke Porto Colheita 2006

What I’m Drinking and Why will cost $70.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $73.68 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday March 6, 2017 at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or

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.

Wines That Over Deliver

ChTourSalvetThinking about Value in Wine
Value is a funny thing. When we hear value, we tend to think of lower-priced wines (many of which do not deliver value) but low-priced wine is nowhere near the whole story. While it may be hard to think of $75 bottle of wine as a value, the fact is that many (which is not to say most) are. Saying that a wine offers value means that it over-delivers at its price point. Once viewed in that light, it becomes clear that there are values – wines that over-deliver – at every price point, just as there are wines that under-deliver at every price point.

What is hard for me is to say that “this $25 wine is ‘as-good-as-that’ $75 wine” – because in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t. If it were, the market would have pushed up the price of the $25 bottle and pushed down the price of the $75 bottle. Or both. If, over the long term, both wines are stable at their price points (meaning that they have achieved market equilibrium), then, at least for those who are buying them, they deliver at least fair value at their respective price points.

While much is made of the occasional blind tasting where a cheaper wine trounces a flashier bottling, it happens less often than you might think. You hear about it because it’s so unusual and because it becomes news. An expensive wine trouncing a cheap wine isn’t news (and so is not reported) because that’s what’s supposed to (and most often does) happen. So you read about the cheap wine that won. And you wonder if it really is better.

When I read about something like that, I ask some questions:
– How where the wines tasted and presented?
– Were they tasted or drunk?
– How much time did the tasters have with each wine?
– Could they directly compare back and forth?
– Did the tasters know the prices of the two wines?
– Was there an interest in the outcome or bias on the part of whoever was conducting the tasting?


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 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 (
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:
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 …)

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 …)

Rose Returns 3: Ch. MOURGUES du GRES “les Galets” Rosé

Here’s a Rosé on the richer side from the very Chateauneuf du Pape-like terroir of the Costieres de Nimes (the slopes around the city of Nime which is perhaps more famous for its namesake indigo cloth de Nimes or denim). Mourges du Gres is a top producer of both red and Rosé wines from the area and is under the same ownership but separate from Domaine La Tour de Berraud. mdg g r main

Ch. MOURGUES du GRES “les Galets” Rosé, Costieres de Nimes, 2013 ($12.99)
A 13.5% alcohol blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre, 70% of which are grown in vineyards with a deep covering of rolled stones (galets) made using a combination of free run juice and first press. Vinified and aged 6 months in stainless steel tanks. Pink-rose in color with good legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and a very light phenolic content. Richer and rounder style. Softer with riper fruit and plenty of mineral. Closer to being red wine with riper, richer, darker red fruit. Lovely, clean, fresh. BearScore: 90.

For more on fine dry French Rosé, check out our coming soon class Revealing Rosé.

Winery Profile: Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS Haut Medoc

Owned by since 1959 by the Terygeol family and now run by Eric Terygeol with consultation from the famous Boissenot family, Ch. Pontoise Cabarrus traces its roots back to the Baron de Brane (then also owner of Brane Mouton, now known as Ch. Mouton Rothschild) in the 1700s. Located just adjacent to the St. Estephe appellation in St. Seurin de Cadourne in the Haut Medoc appellation, this is adjacent to and shares the same terroir and exposures as Ch. Sociando Mallet.PontoiseWinery

The vineyard is planted to a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot, mostly on well-drained gravelly slopes close to and facing the Gironde estuary. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot are on deep gravel and the Merlot is on clay over limestone. The Caberent Franc is where they meet. The location and situation are ideal for producing elegant Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines in the classic style.

Alcoholic fermentation is in temperature controlled concrete tanks with pump overs. Malolactic fermentation and aging are in French oak barrels. The percentage of new barrels has increased from 25% to now 33% while time in the barrels has decreased a bit.

Rather than new world, these are classic claret-style reds with elegance and finesse to go with their generally more red than black fruit and distinctive notes of tobacco leaf, cedar, and gravel-dust terroir.

This personal favorite of mine is an every-day priced Bordeaux you can drink now (decant it roughly if you do) but that will reward your keeping it for up to 10 years. I can’t think of a more consistent or better value in a Cabernet-dominant, classically-built Bordeaux red.

Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS, Haut Medoc, 2008 ($18.99)Pontoise2010
Tech: 13.5% alc. A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks using pump-overs and aged 18 months in French oak barrels (25% new) and bottled after a traditional egg white fining.   Sensory: Purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics. Richer, juicy ripe fresh red and black fruit with gravelly dust (along with a hint of limestone) terroir and dusty oak accented with cedar, tobacco, black pepper, exotic sweet spice; long finish; Exciting, bright, and fresh; lovely-in-the-mouth. BS: 90+

Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS, Haut Medoc, 2009 ($19.99)
Tech: 14% alc. A blend of roughly 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks using pump-overs and aged 18 months in French oak barrels (25% new) and bottled after a traditional egg white fining.   Sensory: Deep-purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with fresh, balanced acidity and moderately chewy phenolics. Juicy evenly mixed black & red fruit with dusty gravelly earth and accents of tobacco, spice, black pepper, cedar; very long finish; focused and quite tasty. Exciting, bright, and fresh; lovely-in-the-mouth. BS: 91

Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS, Haut Medoc, 2010 ($19.99)
A 14.5% alcohol blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks using pump-overs and aged 12 months in all French oak barrels (1/3 new).   Sensory: Deep-purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics. Dark juicy rich blackberry-black cherry-blueberry fruit supple with gravelly earth and dusty oak accented with tobacco leaf and a hint of pencil shavings. Long finish; complete, delicious, lovely-in-the-mouth. Classic Haut Medoc and real “go to” for me. BS: 91.

UH OH, IT’S PARTY TIME (Budget Edition)

UH OH? Uh oh, indeed. The party season is here and you want to serve good wines but you’re on a tight budget. What to do? Glad you asked. First off, you need to know the range of wines you should buy. Just having white and a couple of bottles of red used to be OK but now, not so much. Now it’s “red, white, and bubbles” – and not just one of each. The name of the game is variety. Also, it’s nice if the wine somewhat matches the food you’ll be serving. It seems like a lot to consider but I’ve got you covered. Here are my preferred party picks (and some alternates) all priced under $12.00 per bottle.

Preferred Pick –
CASTILLO PERELADA Brut Reserva, Cava (Spain), NV ($8)PereladaCavaBrut
A blend of Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada together with Chardonnay fermented using Methode Champenoise and aged at least 18 months on the yeasts in the bottle.    Pale-gold-straw in color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Cheap Cava that both smells and tastes better than its price. Toasty, yeasty earth with citrus and tree fruit along with some earthy red fruit. Good grip in the mouth, quite long. So much better than it has to be at this price point. Great with appetizers and anti pastas. Perfect with potato chips or popcorn. BS: 90+.
Alternate Picks: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava ($9) -or- Zonin Prosecco ($10)

Preferred Pick –
NICOLAS HERMEN Riesling Qba, Pfalz, 2011 ($8)
100% Riesling fermented cold in stainless steel tanks with no oak and no ML.    Pale straw with green highlights; bright and clear. Semi-dry with a crisp balance. Offers fresh apple and lime fruit with a hint of peach and a wildflower floral note over a core of wet stone minerality. Fresh and refreshing. Great as a glug-able aperitif. And fine with shellfish and especially with shrimp or mussel dishes. BS: 88+.
Alternate Picks: Polka Dot Riesling from Washington State ($8) -or- Dr. Loosen “L” Riesling from the Mosel ($10)

Preferred Pick –
YALUMBA “Y  Series” Pinot Grigio, South Australia, 2012 ($10)
100% Pinot Gris fermented and aged sur-lie in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with its malo-lactic fermentation blocked.   Straw with green highlights with nice legs, medium-body, fresh acidity, and scant phenolics. The fruit ranges from pear and apple to lime with a hint of honey. Fresh and lively but with some richness in the mouth. Versatile, appealing white that goes with everything. BS: 89.
Alternate Picks: The Ned Pinot Gris New Zealand ($12) -or- Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris ($10)

Preferred Pick –
La NOBLE Chardonnay,  Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2011 ($10)LaNobleChardonnay
100% Chardonnay (from a mix of lower, more coastal vineyards and higher cooler mountain vineyards) fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and aged “sur lie” (on the lees) until bottling.  Medium straw in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity.  Fresh, lively, fruit-and-floral Chardonnay offering citrus and tree fruit with some leesy richness and enough mineral earth to keep it in focus. Because it does not go into oak barrels, this is a Chardonnay that works with lots of foods from shellfish through to pork and veal and even mushrooms. Very easy to appreciate and like. This could be your party wine. 88.
Alternate Picks: Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay ($9) -or-  Domaine de Gournier Chardonnay from Nimes in France ($10)

Preferred Pick –
Le VERSANT Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2012 ($11)
100% Pinot Noir, grown on north and east facing slopes in the highlands near Puisserguier & Cazouls in Southwestern France. Fermented using rack-and-return (most unusual for Pinot) and aged 5 months in 90% Stainless Steel tanks and 10% in older oak barrels.    Deep-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Supple dark red cherry and some berry fruit with accents of cola, a subtle earthiness and a bit of black pepper along with spice and a dark floral note. Lovely in the mouth. This is the value-priced, food friendly, everyday Pinot Noir you’ve been looking for. Grows on you as you drink it. Shockingly good for the price. Versatile enough to accompany almost anything you can serve red wine with. BS: 90.
Alternate Picks: Hahn Pinot Noir ($11) -or-  Louis Latour “Valmoissine” Pinot Noir ($12)

Preferred Pick –
CA’ MOMI Rosso di Napa, Napa Valley, 2010 ($10)CaMomiRosso
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Merlot aged 8 months in French and American oak barrels. Sensory: Deep red-purple in color with good legs; dry, medium full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics. Offers fresh, dusty red & black fruit showing spicy cherry berry character combined with gravelly earth terroir, dusty mixed oak, and accents of cedar, tobacco, black pepper, leather, and dark spice. Long, clean finish. Fresh elegant integrated focused, and precise; almost Sangiovese like. This is an American red wine to use as you would use Chianti; try it with pizza, pasta and red sauce, lasagna, eggplant Parmigiana, etc. BS: 88+.
Alternate Picks: Tudal “Tractor Shed” Red ($11) -or- Tiziano Chianti DOCG ($11)

Preferred Pick –
HEALDSBURG RANCHES Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2010 ($12)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 100% French oak barrels (none new).   Sensory: Medium-red-purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with fresh acidity; medium phenolics.  Supple more red than black fruit Cabernet with lots of spice, subtle oak, and a bit of mineral. tough to beat at this price point. Perfect with grilled meats, especially steak. BS: 89.
Alternate Picks: Yalumba “Y Series” Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia ($11) -or- Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Chile ($10)