Thinking About Cooking (with Wine)

“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food…”
– attributed to both Julia Child and WC Fields

I cook lots of different kinds of foods: Mexican and Italian, Chinese and Vietnamese, Argentine, French, Spanish and Texan. Some of my favorite food is a sort of Texas fushion which can incorporate bits and pieces of all of them. I like things like foie gras potstickers, cowboy snails, and sweetbreads tacos. Except for baking (which is as much chemistry as cooking) and Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon (out of respect), I generally don’t use recipes. I’m more of a technique guy. As much as I love to cook, I particularly like cooking with wine.

I use a lot of wine when I cook and it doesn’t matter what sort of food I’m cooking. And it’s something I’m regularly asked about. Why use wine? Which wine? How much do you use? When should I add it? Does the alcohol all evaporate? And so on.

I use wine in cooking for a variety of reasons. Wine can replace some of the water when I make rice (or polenta or masa for tamales). Wine can add acidity and/or sweetness. Wine can add richness and complexity and even a savory element. Wine adds alcohol, which along with fat and water, is one of the key vectors for flavor (some flavors are soluble in fat, some in water, and some only in alcohol). And, of course, red wine can add color.

Along with dry red and white wines, fortified wines – Port, Sherry, Madera, and Marsala – are often called for in recipes but there is more to it than just that. Red or white wine can be tart or smooth. Port can be tawny or ruby. Sherry, Madera, and Marsala can be bone dry, lushly sweet, or anywhere in between. Consider the dish to choose the wine. Even if no type is specified or you are – as I almost always do – winging it, think about the dish. The dish will tell you which wine to use and when to use it.

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ALBERT BICHOT 2015 Class and Tasting

ALBERT BICHOT is unique in terms of negoçiants in Burgundy with a business model more that of the owner of multiple domaines than a traditional negoçiant. Whether the grapes are estate grown or from other vineyards, Bichot farms their grapes and makes all their wines in their own wineries. No out-side wine is brought-in to be blended-and-bottled. Here the line between a negoçiant and a domaine gets very blurry. Based in Beaune but with wineries in Chablis, Vosne Romanee, Nuits St. Georges, Beaune, Pommard, and Beaujolais, Albert Bichot operates more like a collection of passionately run domaines … but domaines that have all the resources they could need. As to the vintage, 2015 (like 2005 before it) is that great vintage across most of France referred to as “the rising tide that lifts all boats.” In this tasting we have a unique producer making great wine from grapes it grows in top terroirs in a great vintage.

On Monday, February 12th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Tasting of Albert Bichot’s 2015s. We’ll taste through all 15 available 2015 wines including 8 whites (3 Chablis and 5 Cote d’Or) and 7 reds (2 Cru Beaujolais and 5 Cote d’Or) with special attention paid to the specificity of place and process of each wine. The tasting includes 5 grand crus.

The line up:
Bichot A.C. Chablis
Bichot Saint Romain Blanc
Bichot Santenay Blanc
Bichot Long Depaquit Chablis Les Vaucopins 1er Cru
Bichot Domaine Pavillon Meursault
Bichot Ch Gris Nuits St Georges Les Terrasses Blanc
Bichot Long Depaquit Chablis Mountonne Grand Cru
Bichot Domaine Pavillon Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
Bichot La Madone Fleurie
Bichot Rochegres Moulin A Vent
Bichot Aloxe Corton Clos Marechaudes 1er cru
Bichot Ch. Gris Nuits St Georges Rouge 1er Cru
Bichot Corton Clos Marechaudes Grand Cru
Bichot Latricieres Chambertin Grand Cru
Bichot Domaine Frantin Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru

ALBERT BICHOT 2015 will cost $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, February 12, 2018 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., 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 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.

LOUIS JADOT 2015 Tasting and Seminar – Rescheduled from 01/08/18

Rescheduled from 01/08/18 due to numerous flu cancellations.

Louis Jadot is among the very best negoçiants in Burgundy. But calling Jadot a negoçiant is a bit like calling an aircraft carrier a boat. Jadot is a proprietor with a substantial domaine and further farms most of the Cote d’Or vineyards where they source grapes. Based in Beaune, Louis Jadot was founded in 1859 by – wait for it – Louis Jadot. It is now owned by the American Kopf family (who also own wine importer and distributor Kobrand). Under second-generation estate manager Pierre Henri Gagey (the motive force behind Louis Jadot), the commitment to quality and the expression of terroir here is unsurpassed. 2015, like 2005 before it, is that great vintage across most of France sometimes referred to as “the rising tide that lifts all boats.” In this tasting we have a great producer making wine from grapes grown in great terroir in a great vintage.

On Monday, January 29th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Tasting of Louis Jadot’s 2015s. We’ll taste through all 15 available wines including 8 whites (1 Chablis and 7 Cote d’Or) and 7 reds (all Cote d’Or) with special attention paid to the specificity of place and process of each wine. The tasting includes 2 village wines, 8 premier cru wines, and 5 grand cru wines, all from the truly excellent 2015 vintage.

The line up:
Louis Jadot Chablis Fourchaume 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot Blanc Clos De La Chapelle 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet 2015
Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet la Garenne 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet Folatieres 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Chevalier Montrachet les Demoiselles Grand Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Santenay Clos de Malte Rouge 2015
Louis Jadot Savigny les Beaune la Dominode 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Beaune Boucherottes 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Nuits Saint Georges les Boudots 1er Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Corton Pougets Grand Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2015
Louis Jadot Chapelle Chambertin Grand Cru 2015

Louis Jadot 2015 will cost $180.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $189.47 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, January 8, 2018 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., 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 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.

Vintage 2015 (Mostly) Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting – New Date

RESCHEDULED for
Tuesday March 6, 2018 at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

As most know, this event was originally scheduled for Tuesday January 16, 2018 but we had to cancel due to extreme (for Houston anyway) winter weather conditions. We are sorry for any inconvenience that cancellation may have caused but safety considerations won out. The original plan was to host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers (aka “the Bordelaise”) presenting 62 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the superb 2015 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. The wines are here and will be served. The Bordelaise are working- it-out to come back in March. Many will make it but some won’t. In any case, there will be someone informed about the wine pouring each wine. In the end, we will have the 2015 tasting and you will get to taste …

Pomerol: Chx. Clinet, Gazin, Croix St. Georges, and La Pointe (along with 2nd vin Ballade de La Pointe)

St. Emilion: Chx. Canon la Gaffeliere, Clos l’Oratoire, Daugay, Grand Corbin Despagne, La Confession, Larcis Ducasse, and Pavie Macquin

St. Georges St. Emilion: Ch. Cap St. George

Castillon and Francs: Chx. d’Aiguilhe and Ampelia, Ch. Puygueraud

Bordeaux: Chx. Croix Mouton and le Conseiller

St. Estephe: Chx. Phelan Segur, Lafon Rochet, and les Ormes de Pez

Pauillac: Chx. Pichon Lalande (with 2nd vin Reserve de la Comtesse), Pichon Baron (with 2nd vin Les Griffons), Pibran, Lynch Bages (with 2nd vin Echo de Lynch Bages), Grand Puy Lacoste (with 2nd vin Lacoste Borie), Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac, and Haut Bages Liberal

St. Julien: Chx. Branaire Ducru, Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton, Leoville Poyferrre, and Talbot

Margaux: Chx. Giscours, Cantenac Brown, Ferriere, du Tertre and Brane Cantenac (along with 2nd vin Baron de Brane)

Haut Medoc, Moulis, Listrac: Chx. Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, Camensac, Mauvesin Barton, and Senejac

Pessac Leognan Reds: Chx. Carmes Haut Brion, Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Clos Marsalette, and Haut Bailly with 2nd vin La Parde de Haut Bailly

Dry Whites: Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Blanc de Lynch Bages (2014)

Sweet Whites: Chx. Suduiraut (along with 2nd vin Lions de Suduiraut) and Coutet

You can see that we’ll be tasting great wines from every major appellation in Bordeaux. After re-tasting all these wines on January 17 in Dallas, I can tell you that they are showing very well.
The tasting will open at 5pm and run until 9pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a spread of artisanal cheeses and breads chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses. The Vintage 2015 Mostly 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 at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

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

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.

TONIGHT’s BORDEAUX EVENT CANCELED

We are canceling tonight’s (1/16/18) 2015 Vintage Bordeaux Event at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice due to worsening winter weather conditions. I regret doing so as the Bordelaise are all here in town but it would be irresponsible to ask you to get out on the roads this evening. We will work on rescheduling some sort of 2015 Bordeaux tasting in the not-too-distant future. I will let you know as soon as we can work out a new date.
Bear

Some Thinking About Bordeaux

Writer Ethan Fixell sent me (in my role as the fine wine buyer for Spec’s) some questions to answer for his upcoming article on “Selling Bordeaux Today” for Beverage Media. I answered them but I have no idea how much of or even if he’ll use the information and opinion I gave him. Nevertheless, his questions with my answers offer a good look at how I (and, by extension, Spec’s) look at the wines of Bordeaux.

Q. Spec’s carries a lot of Bordeaux. Why do you believe in the region’s wine as a good buy for 2018? What do you feel it offers to customers?
A. Chateau-bottled Bordeaux wines offer the customer site specificity and the personality of an owner or winemaker or estate manager (who is the motive force behind the wine) – so person and place – at all price points (including even lower – as in under $10 – price points where many new-world wines can be pretty “corporate” in nature). So a chateau-bottled Bordeaux wine can offer a value and a story to the customer as well as a potentially delicious, food-friendly experience.

Q. Where is the most value in Bordeaux? Are there particular appellations or producers you think offer consumers the most bang for their buck.
A. Assuming that by “value” you mean moderate price points or wines for everyday consumption, the most value in Bordeaux can be found outside the classified growths and biggest names. There are lots of chateau in the Haut Medoc, Pessac Leognan and Graves, the Bordeaux Cotes (especially Francs and Castillon), and the satelites around St. Emilion and Pomerol, and even basic St. Emilion and St. Emilion Grand Cru that over-deliver on bang-for-your-buck under $30.00 per bottle. The best of these wines offer fruit and flavor and a story and a sense of place to go with their value price points. Of course this ignores the value to be found in Bordeaux when you compare fine Bordeaux at whatever price point (pick one) to comparably priced wines from around the world.

Q. How do you go about selecting the Bordeaux that you buy? Are there particular qualities of wines that you think resonate the most with today’s consumers?
A. I taste. In Bordeaux. In every vintage. When I taste, I look for fruit first, then quality and balance, and then consistency and value. I look for a clean package and a story to tell my customer. I look for wines I am happy to drink because I know I can sell those wines. I also look to buy those wines from trust-worthy, ethical people. Further, I think that each market in the US is unique. Texas is a more Cabernet Sauvignon-centric than most so, while we carry a good selection of Merlot-based wines from Bordeaux, we’re always on the look out for new Cabernet-based (read Left Bank) wines from Bordeaux. Most of those wines come from the Haut Medoc, Pessac Leognan, and Graves. I also think that our customers (when given the option) generally prefer fruit and balance to over-extraction and over-ripeness – so I look for more elegant but still flavorful wines.

Q. How do you position Bordeaux to consumers?
A. Simply put, Bordeaux offers the best experience at the table at the best price. Bold statement? Yes. But many value-priced new world brands either don’t taste good or don’t taste like anywhere. Many (not all) are over-ripe, over-blended, over-sweet, unbalanced messes more suited to standing-around-drinking (wine in lieu of cocktails) rather than drinking with food at the dinner table. If you’re looking to drink wine with dinner at $10 per bottle, there is a Bordeaux wine for you that will stack up well in comparison to wines from anywhere else in the world. The same is true at $15 and at $20, and at $30 and so on up to over $500. Chateau-bottled Bordeaux is real wine from real places made by real identifiable people from specified grapes grown using increasingly environmentally friendly practices in styles that work well with a variety of styles of food. Even if US consumers haven’t tasted Bordeaux, they know the name and know Bordeaux is one of the classics. And that often makes them willing to try a new (to them) Bordeaux wine.

Q. Any overall thoughts / suggestions on how to sell Bordeaux on the retail level?
A. The easiest way to sell Bordeaux is to give the customer a proper pour in a proper glass in a relaxed environment and let them taste it. Proper pour means a sample that is fresh, has been shipped and stored properly and is being served at the correct drinking temperature in an amount conducive to tasting (about 1.5 ounces). A proper glass is just that, a proper stemmed wine glass that is the right size and shape to taste from (A plastic cup that holds 2 ounces is not a proper glass) or the sort of glass the customer might use as an everyday wine glass at home. A relaxed environment means seated at a table with good (but not harsh) lighting in a comfortable room with a controlled level of noise and extraneous activity. Even better if food is involved. Tell them what they’re tasting and why it tastes like it does. Let them engage their brain as well as their senses of smell and taste. There is an intellectual appeal to the finer things and Bordeaux wine is one of those finer things. This is not snobbery; rather, it is reality. It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.

To sum up, I think chateau-bottled Bordeaux across all price ranges offers some of the very best values in the wine world today. Add in it’s ability to pair well with a wide variety of foods and ready availability, Bordeaux becomes an even more obvious choice. Do I drink wines from other regions around the world? Of course I do. I love Champagne and German Riesling, red and white Burgundy (and other well made Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays), Rhone wines, Zinfandel, Rioja, Napa Cabs, and more. But Bordeaux is my reference standard for most of the dry red wines and much of both the dry and the sweet white wines I taste from else-where in the world. And as much as I love a good glass of Burgundy (and I really do), Bordeaux generally offers a better-bang-for-my-wine-buying-buck.

Vintage 2015 (Mostly) Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

Spec’s will host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 62 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the suberb 2015 vintage in a standup- and-walk-around tasting format. This is our seventh time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux and each of the previous events have been smashing successes.

The list of well-known and highly regarded Bordeaux wineries includes …
Pomerol: Chx. Clinet, Gazin, Croix St. Georges, and La Pointe (along with 2nd vin Ballade de La Pointe)
St. Emilion: Chx. Canon la Gaffeliere, Clos l’Oratoire, Daugay, Grand Corbin Despagne, La Confession, Larcis Ducasse, and Pavie Macquin
St. Georges St. Emilion: Ch. Cap St. George
Castillon: Chx. d’Aiguilhe and Ampelia
Francs: Ch. Puygueraud
Bordeaux: Chx. Croix Mouton and le Conseiller
St. Estephe: Chx. Phelan Segur, Lafon Rochet, and les Ormes de Pez
Pauillac: Chx. Pichon Lalande (with 2nd vin Reserve de la Comtesse), Pichon Baron (with 2nd vin Les Griffons), Pibran, Lynch Bages (with 2nd vin Echo de Lynch Bages), Grand Puy Lacoste (with 2nd vin Lacoste Borie), Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac, and Haut Bages Liberal
St. Julien: Chx. Branaire Ducru, Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton, Leoville Poyferrre, and Talbot
Margaux: Chx. Giscours, Cantenac Brown, Ferriere, du Tertre and Brane Cantenac (along with 2nd vin Baron de Brane)
Haut Medoc, Moulis, Listrac: Chx. Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, Camensac, Mauvesin Barton, and Senejac
Pessac Leognan Reds: Chx. Carmes Haut Brion, Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Clos Marsalette, and Haut Bailly with 2nd vin La Parde de Haut Bailly
Dry Whites: Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Blanc de Lynch Bages (2014)
Sweet Whites: Chx. Suduiraut (along with 2nd vin Lions de Suduiraut) and Coutet

As you can see, We’ll be tasting great wines from every Major appellation in Bordeaux.
The tasting will open at 4:30pm and run until 8:30pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a spread of artisanal cheeses and breads chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses. The Vintage 2015 Mostly 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 at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

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

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.