2017 Bordeaux Vintage Q & A

Spec’s Annual Bordeaux Cru Classé Tasting is coming up next Thursday January 16thWe’ll be tasting the 2017 vintage so I thought a little question and answer on Bordeaux 2017 might be in order.

Question: How is 2017 as a Bordeaux vintage?
Answer: 2017 is complicated.
 As a vintage, the wines are Very Good to Excellent with some Outstanding wines. So why complicated? Because 2017 is a “frost vintage” and most people don’t understand what that entails.

Q. What’s a “frost vintage?”
A. Just that – a vintage affected by frost.
Which is to say springtime temperatures dropping below freezing when the vines are at a vulnerable stage. In 2017, this happened on April 27th when temperatures in some parts of Bordeaux locally dropped to as low as 25°F. It should be noted that that most of chateaux in Bordeaux had at least some small part of their vineyard affected by the cold with a few properties suffering close to 100% frost effect.

Q. What was the effect of the frost?
A. There were two ways the frost affected the vines, primary and secondary.
 The vines that suffered the primary affect either didn’t bear fruit or yielded less than 20% of the crop of a normal year as the vine set a “second crop” after the initial crop was frost damaged. We’ll come back to the secondary effect (which turned out to be a bit of a blessing) in a minute.

Q. How did the primary frost affect effect quality?
A. It didn’t. 
The primary affect simply reduced production. The vines that were affected did not produce. The other vines did and what they produced was as noted above Very Good to Excellent with some Outstanding wines. One of the reasons why is the secondary frost effect. The vines that showed no primary frost damage were affected in that the cold stopped the vegetative growth of the vine which then had to restart and slowly regain momentum after a several-days pause (the secondary frost effect). This growth pause very likely explains the extraordinary freshness and pretty red fruit character the best of the 2017 wines exhibit.

Q. So you’re saying that 2017 is a high-quality Bordeaux vintage that made less wine than normal?
A. YES!
 2017 is the fourth in an unprecedented string of at least five and maybe six consecutive vintages (beginning with 2014) making high quality wines. Of them, 2017 is the freshest and “prettiest” of the lot. The wines are delightfull and delicious with an immediate appeal and the acid structure to age well. For many people, they will compare very well to 1999 which is one of the all-time pretty vintages that drank well on release and that is drinking beautifully now at 20 years. Except 2017 is better. Substantially better.

Q. Where can I taste these Pretty, Very Good to Excellent and even Outstanding wines?
A. 5:00 – 8:30pm  Thursday, January 16, 2020  at The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice. 
SPEC’s will host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 57 Cru Classé Bordeaux wines from the lovely, pure, fresh, enticing 2017 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. This is our ninth year in a row to host such a delegation from Bordeaux in Houston. This is the best lineup of wines we’ve had to date. We’ll be tasting great wines from every major appellation in Bordeaux. The tasting will open at 5pm and run thru to 8:30pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a snack buffet chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses.


The 2017 Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will cost $100.00 per person (including a 5% discount for cash or check, regular price is $105.26). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at coburnsusan2@gmail.com or at 713-854-7855.

The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available. Uber or Lyft are highly recommended.

2017 Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting

5:00 – 8:30pm  Thursday, January 16, 2020  at The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

On Thursday, January 16th, SPEC’s will host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 57 (Mostly) Cru Classé Bordeaux wines from the lovely, pure, fresh, enticing 2017 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. This is our ninth year in a row to host such a delegation from Bordeaux in Houston and this is the best lineup of wines we’ve had to date. Our list of highly regarded Bordeaux wines includes …

Dry White Wines: Ch. Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Blanc de Lynch Bages (2018)
Pessac Leognan Rouge: Ch. Carbonnieux, Ch. les Carmes Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Clos Marsalette, Ch. Haut Bailly.
Margaux: Ch. Brane Cantenac and Baron de Brane, Ch. Cantenac Brown, Ch. Giscours, Ch. du Tertre, and Ch. Ferriere.  
St. Julien: Ch. Branaire Ducru, Ch. Saint Pierre, Ch. Gloria, Ch. Talbot, Ch. Beychevelle, Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou with La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou and Ch. Lalande Borie, Ch. Leoville Barton, Ch. Langoa Barton, and Ch. Leoville Poyferre.
Pauillac: Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste and Lacoste Borie, Ch. Haut Bages Liberal, Ch. Pichon Longueville – Baron de Longueville and les Griffons de Pichon Baron, Ch. Pichon Longueville – Comtesse de Lalande and Reserve de la Comtesse, Ch. Lynch Bages and Echo de Lynch Bages, Ch. Haut Batailley, and Ch. Pibran.
St. Estephe: Ch. les Ormes de Pez, Ch. Phelan Segur.
Haut-Medoc: Ch. Cantemerle.
Pomerol: Ch. Clinet, Ch. Le Croix St. Georges, and Ch. Gazin.
St. Emilion: Ch. Troplong Mondot Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere, Clos de l’Oratoire, La Confession, Ch. Daugay, Ch. Pavie Macquin, and Ch. Larcis Ducasse.
Bordeaux, Cotes de Bordeaux, Satellites: Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon – Cotes de Bordeaux, Ch. Croix Mouton Bordeaux Superieur, Ch. Cap Saint Georges St. Georges St Emilion, and Ch. Puygueraud Francs – Cotes de Bordeaux.
Sweet Whites: Ch. Suduiraut and Lions de Suduiraut.
 
We’ll be tasting great wines from every major appellation in Bordeaux. The tasting will open at 5pm and run thru to 8:30pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a snack buffet chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses.

The 2017 Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will cost $100.00 per person (including a 5% discount for cash or check, regular price is $105.26). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at coburnsusan2@gmail.com or at 713-854-7855.

The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available. Uber or Lyft are highly recommended.

If you buy a ticket and will not be able to attend, please cancel at least 24 hours before the event. No shows and later cancellations will be charged.

Exploring Red Port

Please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton, at 7pm on Monday, December 9th at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Exploring Red Port. Port wines are numbered among the classic wines of the world and as such are quite collectable. The most desired are the red declared Vintage Port. In this class, we will be focusing only on those Vintage Ports and the other styles (LBV, Crusted Port, Reserve Port) that seek to emulate true Vintage Port. We will not be tasting anything with extended cask aging so no Tawnies or Colheitas. Topics of discussion will include types of red Port, the origins of Port wine and how it evolved, Serving and Drinking Port, Port Vintages, and Decanting Port (including a decanting demonstration). Sixteen Port wines will be tasted and bread and cheese will be served.  We’ll taste 16 wines of which eleven are Vintage Ports with a focus on the classic 2017 vintage but going back to 1985.

We will taste:
Graham’s Six Grapes
Graham’s River Quinta
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Porto  2012
Smith Woodhouse Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2004
Dow’s Crusted Port NV
Dow’s Senhora Da Ribeira Vintage Port 2009
Fonseca 2017
Taylor Fladgate 2017
Quinta de Vesuvio 17 Vintage
Cockburn  2017 Vintage
Graham’s 2017 Vintage
Graham’s Stone Terraces Vintage Porto 2017
Dow’s Vintage 2017
Dow’s Vintage 2016
Dow’s Vintage 1994
Dow’s Vintage 1985

Exploring Red Port will cost $100.00 per person cash ($105.26 regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Bear Dalton at 713-854-5129 or BearDalton@mac.com. (Susan is out recovering from shoulder surgery. Please keep her in your prayers.)

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (77006), 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 over 40-years experience in the fine 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.

Classic Cabernet Class and Tasting

Do you love great Cabernet Sauvignon? Do you thrill at the thought of elegant, balanced wines that taste of variety and place? If so, please join me, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton, at 7pm on Monday, December 2nd at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a taste of Classic Cabernet. We’ll taste and discuss fourteen Cabernet-dominant wines mostly from Napa Valley made using responsibly-farmed grapes using winemaking that respects the grapes and the places they are grown. We will discuss the farming and winemaking practices that make these wines taste as they do. At each price point, these wines represent the very best of the most balanced Cabernet being made in the US today. The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class.

The lineup includes:
Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley VT
Robert Mondavi Napa 2016
Snowden Cabernet The Ranch 2016
Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 6/cs 2015
Ridge Santa Cruz 2016
Robert Mondavi Oakville 2016
DuMOL Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 2017
Nickel & Nickel De Carle Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Robert Mondavi To Kalon Private Reserve 2015
Quintessa 2016
Ridge Monte Bello 2016
Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa 2015
Opus One 2016
Eisele Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

This Classic Cabernet Class and Tasting will cost $120 per person (cash or check) or $126.32 (regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Bear Dalton at 713-854-5129 or BearDalton@mac.com. (Susan is out recovering from shoulder surgery. Please keep her in your prayers.)

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (77006), 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 over 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.

The TOUR de FIZZ or “Around the World in Sparkling Wine”

When I first think of sparkling wine, the image is of a bottle or glass of Champagne, the real stuff from Champagne in France. And that is as it should be.
But …  There are outposts of quality in other parts of the world where fine and even excellent sparkling wines are made so please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) for a tour of some of those bubbly producers where quality is the goal – a sort of Tour de Fizz – ending (as it should) with an extended stay in Champagne. We’ll convene at 7pm on Monday, November 18th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for The TOUR de FIZZ.

We’ll taste and discuss the range of Champagne-process sparkling wines from around the world with stops in Italy, Spain, elsewhere in France (not Champagne), the US, The UK, and Germany, all on the way to Champagne as we look at how they are made, their styles, where and from what grapes they are made, serving, glassware, and bubbly wine with food. The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered during each class.

The lineup includes:
Zonin Prosecco NV
Perelada Cava Brut Spanish Sparkling NV
Mercat Rose Rose Cava NV
Can Xa Brut Rose Cava NV
Blason de Bourgogne Cremant de Bourgogne Brut NV
Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley – Sparkling NV
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 6/cs (england) NV
Schloss Vaux Reserve Riesling Brut Sekt Rheingauer 2014
JP Marniquet Brut Tradition Champagne NV
Andre Clouet Brut Grand Reserve Champagne
Denis Chaput “Promesse de l’Aube” Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) Champagne NV
Andre Clouet “Cuvee 1911” (100% Pinot Noir) Brut NV
Egly Ouriet “les Vignes De Vrigny” (100% Pinot Meunier) Champagne NV
Camille Saves Rose Brut Grand Cru Champagne NV

The TOUR de FIZZ will cost $60 per person (cash or check) or $63.16 (regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (77006), 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 over 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.

Ch. MARIS Wine Class and Tasting Featuring Robert Eden, Maris Winemaker and Co-Owner

On Monday, October 14th at 7pm, please join me in welcoming Robert Eden, winemaker and co-owner of Ch. Maris to The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a discussion and tasting of his organic and biodynamic wines from the Minervois cru of La Liviniere. I have recently tasted through this range and found them to be some of the most interesting and delicious wines I have tasted over the last five years. These are wines of purity and depth ranging in price from $13.99 to $75.99. These may well be the best wines you’ve never heard of.

The line-up includes:
Maris Vermintino 2018
Maris Rouge Organic 2018
Maris Zulu Organic 2018
Chateau Maris Les Combes 2017
Chateau Maris La Touge 2017
Chateau Maris Savoir Vieillir 2018
Chateau Maris Les Planels 2016
Chateau Maris Les Anciens 2016
Chateau Maris Dynamic 2016
Chateau Maris Les Amandiers 2016

This Ch. Maris Tasting will cost $40.00 per person (cash or check) or $42.10 regular. The class meets on Monday, October 14th at 7pm at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (77006), 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.

About Robert Eden:
Robert Eden, winemaker and co-owner of Château Maris has been in France since 1994 after having spent some time in Australia, Italy, Spain and California, where he worked with a number of famous winemakers. Robert is strongly committed to sustainable agriculture. Since 1997, Château Maris has strictly followed organic and biodynamic principles. He is a reference for organic and biodynamic winemaking in the Languedoc and very often gives lectures about how to reduce the negative impact on the environment in the wine industry.

About Ch. Maris:
Approachable, pure fruit, elegant style of wine.
Top-rated bottles from the South of France reaching up to 97 Pts by the Wine Advocate.
One of the pioneers in sustainability, Certified Biodynamic for 20 years.
The first and only European winery to achieve B Corp status.
Ranked as one of the top greenest wineries in the world.
UPCOMING WINE EVENTS
10/14 – Monday … Ch. Maris class and tasting (all organic and biodynamic wines – pure, fresh, and exciting) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/17 – Thursday … Royal Oporto Tasting (with David Smith and me) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/21 – Monday … Bordeaux Value (sponsored by Sopexa) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/25 – Friday … An Evening with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba
12/02 – Monday … Symington (Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s, Quinta do Vesuvio) Vintage Port Tasting at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
01/16 – Thursday … 2017 Bordeaux Vintage Preview at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice.

In addition, we’ll be scheduling some sparkling wine and Champagne classes and another general Port class as well as at least one dinner.

Domaine JESSIAUME Class and Tasting With Importer Bertand Leulliette and Bear Dalton

On Monday, September 30 at 7pm, please join me in welcoming my friend Burgundy import specialist Bertand Leulliette to The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a tasting of the wines of Domaine Jessiame. Domaine Jessiame is a small over-achieving domaine based in Santenay that is on the track to making some of the best wines of the area using farming moving toward certified organic and a thoughtful approach to wine making. So far, the results have been astounding with the already fine wines getting better vintage by vintage. (For more on the Domaine and on Bertand, please see below.)

The line-up includes:
Jessiame Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2016
Jessiame Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2017
Jessiame Santenay Blanc 1er Cru Gravières, 2016
Jessiame Santenay Blanc 1er Cru Gravières, 2017
Jessiame Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 2016
Jessiame Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 2017
Jessiame Santenay Clos de Clos Genet – Monopole, 2016
Jessiame Santenay Clos de Clos Genet – Monopole, 2017
Jessiame Santenay 1er Cru Gravières, 2016
Jessiame Santenay 1er Cru Gravières, 2017
Jessiame Beaune 1er Cru Cent Vignes, 2016
Jessiame Beaune 1er Cru Cent Vignes, 2017
Jessiame Volnay 1er Cru Brouillards, 2016
Jessiame Volnay 1er Cru Brouillards, 2017

This Domaine Jessiaume Tasting will cost $50.00 per person (cash or check) or $52.63 regular. The class meets on Monday September 30th at 7pm at l’Alliance Française. To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd. (77006), 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.

About Domaine JESSIAUME:
The Domaine was created in 1850 by the Jessiaume family. In 2006, after being run by many generations, the domaine was purchased by a Scottish businessman, Sir David Murray. A transition started between the two families. The Jessiaume family stayed until 2013 to manage the vines and the Domaine. The year 2014 marked a big turn for Domaine Jessiaume. A new team has arrived and the Domaine changed its direction. Megan McClune, the then new director (Estate Manager) of Domaine Jessiaume became the motive force behind the renewed domaine with responsibility for the general, commercial and financial management of the domaine as well as being a participant in various crucial stages of the wine making and elevage.
The wines are hand crafted with minimal intervention. In order to do that, new investments in equipment and renovating the winery took place immediately. Harvest and sorting are done by hand. Small elevators are used to fill the tanks. Vinifications are done with natural yeasts and the extractions are gentle and controlled. The goal is to obtain elegant and fine wines which respect the terroir.
In 2016, the domaine started the 3-year process of converting to organic viticulture. The 2019 vintage will yield the first organic wines at Domaine Jessiaume.  To be organic, what does it mean? First, we don’t use chemicals and pesticides in the vines. The wines are made with minimal intervention and less sulfites than in conventional wine. These changes are the philosophy of the team and the new Domaine Jessiaume.

About Bertrand Leulliette:
Bertrand was born in a small town near Dunkirk with a passion basketball. He played for the reserve team of the local pro team and had dreams of playing college in the United States. When that did not come about, he focused on his studies in International Trade and Logistics that brought him to the United States where his first job as an intern was in a wine department. After a week as an intern, the Beverage Manager that was supposed to oversea him quit and a gutsy offer was made to the then intern “do you think you’d have what it takes to be the manager”. The answer was swift… “Yes.” This is how at 23, discovered the world of wine
The connection with Burgundy and Beaujolais happened a year later when he started as a Regional Sales Manager for an Importer that represented Mommessin and the Clos de Tart.
In 2009, Bertrand left the United States to take an Export Director position in Beaune. In 2011 the company he worked for was bought out by a large group and they sent him and his family back to the USA the following year. The idea of working with Estate Burgundies was still very much there, growing stronger and stronger, and in early 2014 he parted ways with his employer and travelled back to Burgundy to offer his friends the possibility to represent their wines. In January 2015, Bertrand’s Wines was born with a handful of producers… that same year several well-known US based Burgundy Importers saw major changes and a few producers from Robert Kacher entrusted Bertrand with their wines, in 2016 it was producers from Esprit du Vin and in 2017 it was producers from Chateaux and Estates that joined the stable.
The portfolio focuses exclusively on family-owned Burgundy, Beaujolais and a bit of Minervois from the joint Estate of Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot, Bertrand’s Wines is also the exclusive importer of Varichon & Clerc a small Methode Traditionnelle wine from Savoie. “We have decided to incorporate the shields of Bourgogne and Beaujolais to reflect our commitment to stay within these areas only. I believe that being a specialist is better and from a geographical standpoint, it makes it easy to be with our producers and to take our partners from the different tiers of the business to the house that we purchased in Beaune in 2017. You have to see Burgundy and Beaujolais to truly understand what is so special about them.”
“We’ll have the ability to accommodate customers either with our producers or very close to them so that customers can experience what we experience as importer and guardians of these jewels for the United States” is proud to announce Bertrand. “The Vignerons come first, without them we would not have a job… it is our duty to share their wines and to hopefully make many lifelong friends along the way.”

UPCOMING WINE EVENTS
09/26 – Thursday …  ECHOS Chef’s Dinner at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice  (http://echos-houston.org/events/chefs-dinner/)
09/30 – Monday … Domaine Jessiaume Burgundy Tasting (importer Bertrand Leulliette and me) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/03 – Thursday … Women Of Wine Grand Tasting at the Czech Museum   (http://www.wowcharities.org/events-happy-hours/2019-grand-tasting-october-3/)
10/07 – Monday … Mostly White Burgundy Tasting (Fontaine Gagnard, Pernod Bellicard, etc. – David Smith and me) –  at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/14 – Monday … Ch. Maris class and tasting (all organic and biodynamic wines – pure, fresh, and exciting) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/17 – Thursday … Royal Oporto Tasting (with David Smith and me) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
10/21 – Monday … Bordeaux Value (sponsored by Sopexa) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française
12/02 – Monday … Symington (Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s, Quinta do Vesuvio) Vintage Port Tasting at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française

In addition, we’ll be scheduling some sparkling wine and Champagne classes and another general Port class as well as at least one dinner.