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 https://bearonwine.com/2017/11/27/luxury-cuvee-champagne-benefit-tasting-for-sonoma-fires/

BORDEAUX 2017
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
http://www.decanter.com/learn/vintage-guides/en-primeur/bordeaux-en-primeur/bordeaux-2017-how-it-is-shaping-up-380695/

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+.

Estate-Bottled Champagne (Well, Mostly)

Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at 7pm on Monday, November 20th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Estate-Bottled Champagne. In Estate-Bottled Champagne, we will taste and discuss the range of interesting and sometimes idiosyncratic estate-bottled sparkling wines from Champagne. We will look at how they are made, their styles, and where and from what grapes they are made with a focus on each wine’s specificity. The tasting will start with a non-estate grand marque brut NV to serve as a baseline and will include one other negoçiant Champagne (the excellent Barons de Rothschild Blanc de Blancs). Everything else is estate bottled. All wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered.

The lineup includes:
Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV
JP Marniquet Brut Tradition NV
Bonnaire Brut Tradition NV
Jacques Picard Berru Brut NV
Chateau de Bligny Grand Reserve Brut NV
Camille Saves Carte Blanche Brut 1er Cru NV
Marcel Moineaux Chouilly Brut Blanc De Blanc Grand Cru NV
Bonnaire Variance Brut NV
Marcel Moineaux Chouilly Millesime Blanc De Blancs Brut Grand Cru 2008
Lancelot Royer Cuvee Chevaliers Champagne NV
Barons Rothschild Blanc de Blancs NV
Andre Clouet “Cuvee 1911” Brut NV
Godme Brut 1er Cru Les Romaines 2006
JP Marniquet Champagne 1995

Estate-Bottled Champagne will cost $80 per person (cash or check) or $84.21 (regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.


L’Alliance Française is French Cultural Center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., it 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 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.

More Classes Coming Soon:
11.27.17          Monday          Heitz Cellars tasting including 5 vintages of Martha’s Vineyard
12.04.17          Monday          Tete de Cuvee Tasting benefitting Sonoma fires relief
12.11.17          Monday          Sparkling Rosé (Mostly Champagne)
12.18.17          Monday          Wine School Christmas Party and Toy Gather
01.08.18          Monday          TBD
01.16.18          Tuesday          Big 2015 Bordeaux Tasting at Crystal Ballroom (Houston)
01.17.18          Wednesday     Big 2015 Bordeaux Tasting at Trinity Groves (Dallas)

Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley

CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER EVENT (HARVEY)

WILL RESCHEDULE


On Monday, August 28th at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton for Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley, the second in a series of Pinot Noir classes planned before the end of the year. Anderson Valley is the new frontier for Pinot Noir and a source of both top wines and great values. We will look at and taste Pinot Noir from Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. Discussion will include some history of Pinot Noir, how it is made, how it came to Anderson Valley, the special attributes of Anderson Valley, and pairing Pinot Noir with food. Fourteen Anderson Valley Pinot Noir wines will be tasted. Bread and a selection of fine cheeses will be served. Prepare your palate.

The line up:
Handley Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
Brutocao Pinot Noir Slo Lope’n Vineyard, Anderson Valley, 2013
Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble, Anderson Valley, 2014
Expression 39 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2013
Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins, Anderson Valley, 2014
Expression 39 Pinot Noir Ordway, Anderson Valley, 2012
Expression 39 Pinot Noir Anderson Creek, Anderson Valley, 2013
La Crema Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2014
Failla Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2015
Copain Wendling Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
Copain Monument Tree Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2012
Goldeneye Pinot Noir Gowan Vineyard, Anderson Valley, 2013
Goldeneye Pinot Noir Ten Degrees, Anderson Valley, 2013

Pinot Prism: Anderson Valley will cost $80.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $84.21 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, August 28th 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 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.

Pinot Prism: Sonoma

On Monday, August 7th at 7pm, please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Pinot Prism: Sonoma, the first in a series of Pinot Noir classes planned before the end of the year. We will look at Pinot Noir from Sonoma County in its various appellations from County and Valley, Russian River, Sonoma Coast and the real Sonoma Coast (Fort Ross). Discussion will include some history of Pinot Noir, how it is made, where it is best grown in Sonoma, and pairing Pinot Noir with food. Fourteen Sonoma County Pinot Noir wines will be tasted. Bread and a selection of fine cheeses will be served. Prepare your palate.

The line up:
Banshee Pinot Noir Sonoma County 2015
Expression 38 Gaps Crown Pinot Noir 2013
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2015
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Jenkins 2014
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown 2014
Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2015
Flowers Pinot Noir Sea View Ridge 2014
Hanzell Sebella Pinot Noir 2013
Rochioli Pinot Noir 2014
Dumol Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2013
Dumol Aidan Pinot Noir 2014
Dumol Finn Pinot Noir 2014
Dumol Ryan Pinot Noir 2014
Dumol Russian River Estate Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Prism: Sonoma will cost $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, August 7th 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 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.

Geek Speak: TERROIR

If you read about fine wine for more than a few minutes, you will run into the word “terroir”. Too often terroir is italicized either in print or verbally – I see some people make finger quotation marks each time they say terroir. One comment often made about terroir is that it is “an untranslatable French word that means blah, blah blah …”. Wine-writer and sometime l’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux lecturer Dewey Markham translates terroir into English as “terrain”. He’s not wrong but he is over-simplifying a bit; whole books have been written about terroir. I would propose that, at least for wine lovers, terroir has – through assimilation – become a word in English with the same meaning it has in French.

Terroir (pronounced tear whar) takes in the whole combination of soil, exposure, climate and microclimate, viticultural practice, and situation or “happenstance of location” that gives a wine its possibly unique particularity of place. Great terroir comes through in great wine. It is possible to make bad wine from great terroir but not the reverse. While terroir usually refers to the place, terroir also can denote that unique character of place found in the aromas and flavor of a wine. A wine from a single-site or a contiguous vineyard is more likely to reflect its terroir than a wine blended from multiple disparate sites.

Each of the following elements inter-relate with the others to create the terroir both in the sense of growing conditions and in the sense of flavor, of a particular wine or place.

Viticulture is the practice of grape growing. As a practical matter, a viticulturalist is grape grower (sometimes called a wine grower or, in French, a vigneron – which is another useful term we should assimilate into English). In most wine writing, viticulture refers to the science (and art) of grape growing in a more academic way than would be applied to the everyday farmer. Hence, someone called a viticulturalist is more likely to be a head of farming operations for a company or an outside consultant who advises the farmer or vigneron on anything from trellising to treatments as they relate to growing wine grapes. Viticulture encompasses all the farming practice in play in a particular area or vineyards or block. It includes the decision to farm conventionally, sustainably, organically, or biodynamically. It includes trellising and irrigation, and drainage decisions. It includes decisions about treatments and supplements and fertilizers and cover crops and even whether to use horses or tractors to plow. Viticulture, as it is broadly practiced in an area over a long period of time, is a key component of the area’s terroir.

Exposure refers to the orientation of the vineyard both to the sun and to weather patterns or other climate influences. An east-facing vineyard on a steep slope will be shaded in the afternoon but a south-facing vineyard on a steep slope will get sun all day. A vineyrd with a high ridge to the west may be shielded from weather coming in from the west. A vineyard on a slope may garner some frost protection as heavier cold air rolls down hill.

Situation refers to the physical site or “happenstance of location” that gives a wine from a single site its uniqueness. Part of this is exposure but part might include proximity to a river or pond that provides more water or a cooling or temperature moderation effect. Situation might have to so with a billboard or building that shades the vines for part of the day. Situation would include a natural occurrence like being on the flight path for certain birds which may feast on ripe grapes.

Climate is the average local weather as observed over a long period of time. Many microclimates will make up the average climate of the area.

A microclimate is a very local area where the climate may differ (slightly or not so slightly) from the surrounding area. Microclimates may exist because of a nearby lake, gulf, or river which may cool the local atmosphere, or because – as in Chateauneuf du Pape – a heavy concentration of stones on the surface absorb heat duing the day and radiate it at night which keeps the vines (and grapes) warmer. Slope can be an aspect of microclimate: south-facing slopes in the Northern Hemisphere and north-facing slopes in the Southern Hemisphere are exposed to more direct sunlight than opposite slopes and are therefore warmer for longer. Microclimates can be used to the advantage of vignerons to help choose which grape varieties (varietals) to plant in which part of a vineyard. The right microclimate can ripen grapes in one particular spot in an area that could not normally ripen the same variety.

A key component of terroir is the soil and what is beneath it. The vine is influenced by each layer both in terms of the layer’s mineral and organic content and by its physical properties including depth, density, temperature, and water holding capacity (water drains through sand and gravel but is held by clay).

Topsoil is the top layer of dirt where most organic activity takes place. Insect and microbial activity breaks down dead organic matter into humus. Most of the organic matter needed by the vine comes from the topsoil.

Subsoil is a mix of minerals and some humus near the top. Compared to the topsoil, subsoil is lower in organic matter. This is the layer where most of the soil’s nutrients are found. In non irrigated vineyards, vine roots come to and pass through the subsoil looking for water.

Below the subsoil, comes the weathered parent material from which the rest of the soils are typically formed. This could be broken limestone and limestone clay on top of solid limestone. Here the only biological activity is plant roots reaching down for water. This layer is full of minerals. Physical weathering breaks the parent material up into small pieces. This layer may contain rock particles that are different from the bedrock it sits on. Alluvial action brings in and mixes rock and other elements from other areas into this layer .

At the bottom is bedrock. Bedrock generally produces much of the soil above it. There is virtually no biological activity in the bedrock but grape vine roots will fine cracks and seek downward through bedrock looking for water.

You might think that the “place” of the vineyard finds its way into the grapes through the root system and the vine itself. If so, you’d be in agreement with most wine enthusiats from twenty years ago … but you’d also be wrong. Plant biologists and physiologists have concluded that the vine offers no mechanism for terroir to enter the fine.

 

The MECHANISM of TERROIR
So how does terroir get from the vineyard into the wine? As it turns out, via the micropes that live in and around the vineyard. Microbes? Yes, the yeasts, bacteria, fungi, and more that are present on and around the grapes. When the grapes are harvested and brought into the winery, the microbes come with them. When this population is healthy, the flavor of the place is trasmited to the wine as it ferments and ages. These microbes bring the dusty gravel taste to Pauillac and the mushroomy earth component to Chassagne. But this only happens in vineyards with healthy soils that provide a good environment for a robust microbial population. Commercial farming that utilizes chemical herbicides and pesticides and fungicides results in soils devoid of beneficial microbial activity and leads to simpler, commercial tasting wines. What sort of farming gives the desired result of a healthy microbial population? Sustainable (with no chemical inputs) is better but organic and biodynamic are best. Although yields may be lower with some natural pest issues and no chemical fertilizer, the resulting fruit often has more flavor and requires less manipulation in the wine making process. And the vineyard (which includes the soil and the inter row cover crops and the vines themselves) are healthier and able to support the critters (microbes) that make the difference between good wine and great wine.

So maybe the most important part of terroir is the native microbial population and the most important reason to embrace organics and biodynamics is to retain the character that the microbial mix brings to the finished wine.

SIPPING DIFFERENT

SIPPING DIFFERENT

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 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 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.

Taste Domaine de la POUSSE d’OR 2014

Taste Domaine de la POUSSE d’OR 2014

Domaine de la Pousse d’Or has long been among my favorites of Burgundy. I first tasted two of the Volnays in the early 1980s and got to know the range of wines better tasting some with Becky Wasserman (who was then their broker) in 1986. I’ve been tasting at the domaine for the last fifteen years. Over all that time, I have watched the domaine grow from a Volnay specialist with some Santenay and Pommard to include vines on the hill of Corton (1999), in Puligny Montrachet (2004), and Chambolle and Morey (2008). At this time Spec’s is able to purchase thirteen wines (one village appellation, nine 1er crus, and three grand crus) from the estate, all of which are consistently excellent. (There are four wines we don’t get – yet.)  On Monday, June 5th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Tasting of Domaine de la Pousse d’Or 2014. We’ll taste through all thirteen available Pousse d’Or crus from the fine 2014 vintage including twelve reds and one white with special attention paid to the specificity of place and process of each wine.

The line up:
Pousse d’Or Santenay 1er Cru Clos Tavannes 2014
Pousse d’Or Volnay 1er Cru en Caillerets 2014
Pousse d’Or Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la 60 Ouvrees 2014
Pousse d’Or Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Bousse d’Or 2014
Pousse d’Or Pommard 1er Cru Jarollieres 2014
Pousse d’Or Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru 2014
Pousse d’Or Chambolle Musigny Villages 2014
Pousse d’Or Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru les Feusselottes 2014
Pousse d’Or Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru les Charmes 2014
Pousse d’Or Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru les Amoureuses 2014
Pousse d’Or Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2014
Pousse d’Or Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2014
Pousse d’Or Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clos le Caillerets 2014

Domaine de la Pousse d’Or 2014 will cost $140.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $147.37 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, June 5, 2017 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 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.