More on SOBs

No, this is not a Grinchy post about bad actors in the wine business – although that might be fun even if I had to change some names to protect the guilty. Rather this is about the good SOBs: Sustainable – Organic – Biodynamic. One her website, Dr. Liz Thach, MW of Sonoma State University writes about a consumer survey indicating that a lot of folks are willing to pay more for wines made from grapes grown using Sustainable, Organic, or Biodynamic farming. This is great but it looks like more than few of those surveyed are willing to pay more mostly because of the “feel good” associated with doing-the-right-thing.

I have zero problem with that. But I think there’s a more compelling reason to buy SOB. That reason is quality. Assuming good winemaking practices suited to SOB-grown grapes, wines made from SOB grown grapes have a much better chance of expressing terroir or site specificity than commercially farmed grapes made using commercial winemaking practices. I would argue that SOB-grown grapes produce better, more complex wines that give the geek wine drinker (which I am and which, if you’re reading this blog, you likely are, too) more of the experience we are looking for when we drink wine.

Either way, buy SOB (Sustainable – Organic – Biodynamic).

Of Interest

LUXURY CHAMPAGNE Tasting Benefiting Sonoma Fires Relief – 
There are still a few seats left for this coming Monday’s (12/4/17) extraordinary and (at least in my experience unprecedented) look at most of the very top Luxury Cuvee Champagnes in a comparative format. For more information, please see

For a good, informed, even first look at the 2017 vintage in Bordeaux from one of the best Bordeaux writers working today, please see Jane Anson’s Decanter article at

MAYBE THE BEST NAPA VALLEY CHARDONNAY I’ve tasted in over two years!
I don’t often drink California Chardonnay but when I do, this 2016 from Trefethen is the kind that gets me going. Delicious, balanced, elegant. The integrated oak and subtle richness are components here but fruit and freshness are what this is all about. This is not “Cougar Juice.” Rather, it is Chardonnay that a Burgundian winemaker would recognize and drink.

TREFETHEN Estate Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley CA, 2016  ($29.99)
100% sustainably grown Chardonnay, half of which is given an indigenous yeast fermentation and half of which is innoculated. 69% is barrel fermented witht he balance fermented in tank. 8% gets malo-lactic fermentation. the assemblage is aged 9 months in all French oak barrels (19% new).      Straw color with well formed legs; dry, medium light-bodied with fresh acidity. Best Trefethen Chardonnay I have ever tasted and maybe the best Napa Chardonnay I’ve tasted in two or three years. Citrus and a bit of mixed apple fruit with mineral and freshness. Integrated and pure. California answer to 1er cru Chablis. Delicious.  BearScore: 93+.

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 …)

An Illustrative Story

One of my many quirks is that I have a great appreciation for Jewish humor. Courtesy of a link sent to me by a like-minded friend, I recently ran across this story and found it to be a great example of the process used in blind tasting to identify an unknown wine. I also hope it will set the stage for two of my coming-soon posts.

After months of negotiation, Avraham, a Jewish scholar from Odessa, was granted permission to visit Moscow. He boarded the train and sat down. At the next stop a young man got on and sat next to him. Avraham looked at the young man and thought …

This fellow doesn’t look like a peasant, and if he isn’t a peasant he probably comes from this area. If he comes from this area, he must be Jewish because this is, after all, a Jewish area. On the other hand, if he is a Jew, where could he be going? I’m the only one from our area to be allowed to travel to Moscow. Wait – just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and you don’t need special permission to go there. But why would he be going to Samvet? He’s probably going to visit one of the Jewish families there, but how many Jewish families are there in Samvet? Only two – the Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. The Bernsteins are a terrible family, so he must be visiting the Steinbergs. But why is he going? The Steinbergs have only girls, so maybe he’s their son-in-law. But if he is, then which daughter did he marry? Sarah married that nice lawyer from Budapest and Esther married a businessman from Zhadomir, so it must be Sarah’s husband. Which means that his name is Alexander Cohen, if I’m not mistaken. But if he comes from Budapest, with all the anti-Semitism they have there, he must have changed his name. What’s the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? Kovacs. But if he changed his name he must have some special status. What could it be? A doctorate from the University.

At this point Avraham turned to the young man and said, “How do you do, Dr Kovacs?”
“Very well, thank you, sir” answered the startled passenger. “But how is it that you know my name?”
“Oh,” replied Avraham, “it was obvious”.

What I’m Reading – January 2, 2014

Here’s a collection of link connections to a few of the interesting articles, essays, and blatant opinion pieces that I’m reading on wine this week:

A NEW YORK TIMES opinion piece about a controversy involving pesticides, organic agriculture, and French wine.
Click Here,

The WINE SPECTATOR’s recap of some of their top stories of 2013 (Click Here).

Joel-PetersonA really good interview with Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson (pictured) on the state of California Zinfandel (Click Here).

And here’s an interesting article I stumbled on about a virtually unknown but apparently resurgent French wine region called “Moselle” (Click Here).

Hope y’all find all this as fun and interesting as I do.