Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou – Vieux Ch. Certan Dinner

On Wednesday, March 2nd at 7pm, please join Bear Dalton of Spec’s along with Bruno Borie (of Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou), Alexander Thienpont (of Vieux Chateau Certan), and François Thienpont (of Wings) for a special dinner presenting the wines of St. Julien’s Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou and Pomerol’s Vieux Chateau Certan along with the cuisine of Chef Danny Trace at Brennan’s.

Castelnau Brut, Champagne,1998 (from Magnums)

Pate de Foie Gras
Strawberry Onion Soubise, GH Farm Petite Sprouts, Toasted Pecan Croustade and Port Wine Glaze
Croix de Beaucaillou 2013
Gravette de Certan 2013

Tabasco Smoked Rabbit & Collard Green Gumbo
Jalapeno Cornbread Croutons, Covey Rise Greens and Chef’s Blend of File
Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou 2006
Vieux Chateau Certan 2012

Whiskey Lacquered Hill Country Quail
Atchafalaya Crawfish Stuffing, Bacon Braised Red Cabbage and
Bird Dog Whiskey Glaze
Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou 2003
Vieux Chateau Certan 2005

Creole Mustard Crusted Rocky Mountain Lamb Chop
Lamb Sausage & Root Vegetable Hash, Charred Peppers and Mint Chimichurri
Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou 1996
Vieux Chateau Certan 1998

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake
Chicory Coffee Buttercream and Texicana Coffee Shot
Kopke Colheita Porto 1985

This unique wine and food event is $320 per person (all inclusive). To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or

Brennan’s is located at 3300 Smith Street, Houston, Texas 77006.

Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2008

The Wine School at l’Alliance Française presents
On Monday, March 2nd at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2008. As it is not 2005 or 2010, the 2008 vintage was largely dismissied or even ignored by the press. Nevertheless, 2008 is a “Classic Vintage” that allows the typicity and terroir of each very specific place to shine un-obscured by the ripeness and alcohol of a “great vintage.” 2008 is the sort of vintage that proves Bordeaux’s place as a maker of great wines. Discussion will include details of the vintage and how the wines have developed. We’ll taste through 12 excellent red wines, all from 2008 vintage.

The line up:
Ch. d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon, 2008
Ch. Trottevieille, St. Emilion, 2008
Ch. La Croix St. Georges, Pomerol, 2008
Ch. l’Evangile, Pomerol, 2008
Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac Leognan,2008
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac Leognan, 2008
Ch. Branaire Ducru, St. Julien, 2008
Ch. Calon Segur, St. Estephe, 2008
Ch. Rauzan Segla, Margaux, 2008
Ch. La Tour l’Aspic, Pauillac, 2008
Ch. Batailley, Pauillac, 2008
Ch. Pontet Canet, Pauillac, 2008

This Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2008 will cost $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, March 2, 2015 at l’Alliance Française. To reserve your spot, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or email Please note that when you reserve, you are “buying a ticket to an event.” If you are not going to attend the event, you must cancel at least 24 hours in advance or you may be charged.

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).


CalonSegurSixteen 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.

BranaireDucruThis 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. The cost of this unique tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 4, 2014. To reserve your spot for this four-week class, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 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).

BearOnBordeaux: Le PETIT HAUT LAFITTE 2010

SmithOver the 17 years that I have been regularly visiting and tasting in Bordeaux, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte has steadily grown on me. I’ve visited the chateau more than twenty times and have lost track of how many meals I have enjoyed in L’Auberge de la Table du Lavoir, the casual restaurant at Les Sources de Caudalie, the on-site hotel and spa also owned by the Cathiard family. (I know, its a tough job but someone has to do it.) Smith Haut Lafitte and the people that own and run it are now favorites of mine.

Florence and Daniel Cathiard of Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte

Florence and Daniel Cathiard of Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte

Over that time, I’ve watched both the chateau and the style of the wine evolve with a pleasure not unlike that of seeing a girl you like change from being young and pretty and maybe a bit shy into a woman who is  beautiful, gracious, confident, and even alluring. As this transformation in the grand vin (both red and white) took place, I was never able to grab onto the second wine – Les Hauts de Smith – in the same way that I liked say La Parde from nearby Ch. Haut Bailly or Les Tourelles de Longueville from Ch. Pichon Baron (in Pauillac). Then Dan Snook of the Bordeaux negoçiant house Joanne sent me a sample of a wine I had somehow not heard about – Le Petit Haut Lafitte. He said it was a sort of alternative 2nd wine. I tasted it and was dazzled. To me, this was the 2nd wine that made sense given the evolution of the grand vin.phl_rouge

Le PETIT HAUT LAFITTE, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2010 ($41.79)
One of the two red “second wines” (the other is Les Hauts de Smith) of Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, this  14% alcohol blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot all grown on deep gravel is destemmed and fermented (initially as whole berries) in small temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks utilizing a combination of pigeage (punch-downs) and pump-overs and aged 14 months in all French oak barrels (50% new – and all made at Smith Haut Lafitte’s almost-unique-in-Bordeaux in-house cooperage).     Dense purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics.  Smoky, dusty, coffee-scented oak accents mostly black fruit layered with black pepper, smoky tobacco leaf, graphite, and dark spice. Rich and ripe but with balance and focus. Lovely in the mouth. Develops in the glass and really lasts. Almost new world in some ways but the class (and the Cabernet-Merot balance) of Pessac Leognan is there. Delicious. Serve it with beef, lamb or birds featuring grilled or rich roast flavors. This 2010 is drinking well already. While it will certainly evolve, I don’t see it going very “dumb” and so it should drink well right through. BearScore: 93.

Wine of the Week: Ch. PUYGUERAUD, Cotes de Francs, 2010

Ch. Puygueraud has been on my go-to Bordeaux list for as long as I have had a go-to list. It is well grown and well made under the direction of one of the right bank’s best estate managers – Nicolas Thienpont. It tastes like what it is and where it’s from and there is no hint of over-manipulation or over-extraction or over-pricing. Instead, Ch. Puygueraud is solid and reliable and comforting all the while serving as a reference standard for right bank reds in a certain price range. If the appellation were fancier, the wine – exactly as it is – would sell for a lot more.

The chateau and its vineyards are located on the eastern edge of the Cotes de Francs (a Right Bank appellation which is itself located on the eastern edge the whole of Bordeaux). The soils are clay over limestone. Everything is done right but there is no fussiness.

Puygueraud2010Ch. PUYGUERAUD, Cotes de Francs, 2010 ($21.84)
A 14.5% alcohol blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec fermented using pump-over in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged 14 months in French oak barrels (40% new). Deep purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics. Juicy, lively, mostly black fruit with a limestone terroir note; supple dusty oak and accents of black pepper, black flowers, red flowers, cocoa, and dark spice. Long finish, fresh, alive-in-the-mouth, complete. It might repay some keeping (3 or so more years) but why would you? It is delicious now. BS: 91.

Wine of the Week: Ch. AMPELIA Castillon 2011

FrancoisDespagneAt last Tuesday’s (01/21/14) 2011 Mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice in Houston, a lowly unclassified Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux was a surprise star of the show. I have drunk many vintages of Ch. Ampelia and quite like them but I don’t remember the wine showing this well in such august company. This makes me particularly happy because owner winemaker François Despagne is such a good guy. Despagne is better known as  the owner/vigneron/winemaker of highly regarded St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne. He spends several days every year in Texas tasting and talking about his wines.

Ch. AMPELIA, Cotes de Castillon, 2011 ($17.99)ChAmpelia
An organically grown, 13% alcohol blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc  fermented half in stainless and half in concrete tanks using pump-over and aged 12 months in all French oak barrels (33% new) The grapes were hand-picked and sorted both in the vineyard and on the sorting table at the chateau.   Deep purple-red in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Dark juicy-dusty red fruit with spice and a hint of basil/mint over dusty earth and supple oak. Very well integrated and complete. Alive in the mouth. A pleasure to drink now but will improve with some time in the bottle. BS: 91.