Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011

Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011

I’m just back from Bordeaux where I tasted and drank a lot of 2011 wines that are now opening up very nicely. On Monday, April 17th at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 2011. 2011 is a “Classic Bordeaux Vintage” which is to say that it allows the typicity and terroir of each very specific place to shine through. 2011 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 14 excellent red wines covering all the major appellations of Bordeaux and a couple of value appellations, all from the classic 2011 vintage that is beginning to really show its stuff. Within the context of 2011, we will especially focus on Pessac Leognan, Pauillac, and Margaux tasting second-wines-of-first-growths from all three appellations.

The line up:
Ch. Puygueraud Francs 2011
Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon 2011
Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2011
Ch. la Croix St Georges Pomerol 2011
Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Le Clarence de Haut Brion (2nd vin de Ch. Haut Brion) Pessac Leognan Rouge 2011
Ch. Cantemerle Haut Medoc 2011
Ch. Rauzan Segla Margaux 2011
Pavillon Rouge de Ch Margaux (2nd vin de Ch. Margaux) Margaux 2011
Ch. Gruaud Larose St. Julien 2011
Ch. Batailley Pauillac 2011
Ch Pichon Longueville – Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 2011
Les Forts de Latour (2nd vin de Ch. Latour) Pauillac 2011
Ch. Calon Segur St. Estephe 2011

This Vintage Focus on Bordeaux 20011 will cost $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Monday, April 17, 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.

RIDGEVIEW English Sparkling Wines

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I’ve been tasting (and liking) English sparkling wines for a few years now … but only when I’m in Europe. Noe that can change. Check out my notes (on the Spec’s Fine Wine site) on the Ridgeview English Sparkling wines which have just arrived in Texas.
https://specsfinewine.com/…/ridgeviews-english-sparkling-w…/

An Haut Brion Event – Clarence Dillon Wines Tasting

An Haut Brion Event – Clarence Dillon Wines Tasting

A CLARENCE DILLON WINES TASTING
(Chx. Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, etc. )

7pm   Thursday, January 12th   at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française

hautbrionPlease join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) in welcoming Joan Mourgues and Emmanuel Mathe of Clarence Dillon Wines for a tasting of and virtual visit to the properties of Clarence Dillon. We will taste 10 wines covering the range of their wines. The wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware and a selection of cheeses and bread will be served.

The lineup includes:
Clarendelle Rosé, Bordeaux, 2016
Clarendelle White, Bordeaux, 2015
La Clarté de Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan Blanc, 2012
Clarendelle Rouge, Bordeaux, 2012
Dragon de Quintus, St. Emilion, 2012
Chapelle de la Mission Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Le Clarence de Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Ch. Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2011
Clarendelle Amberwine, Monbazillac, 2012

The Clarence Dillon Wines Tasting will cost $100 per person (cash or check) or $105.26 (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 are not 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 – which is often the case as we regularly have waiting lists for these classes.

The State of Champagne 2016

Sometimes I get a little bit crazy about some aspect of wine. Right now that aspect is Champagne. ‘Tis the season so I’ve but together a 40 page overview of the State of Champagne today with a particular focus on Grower Champagnes.

Please click below for a .pdf  which you can read on screen or print to read later.

The STATE of CHAMPAGNE 2016

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HENRIOT Cuve 38: Maybe the Most Unique Champagne Ever Made

In 1990, Joseph Henriot set aside one vat to add a portion of outstanding Blanc de Blancs each year, capturing the essence of every harvest in a sort of solera. The idea was to create a perpetual blend of 100% Chardonnay from 100% Cote de Blancs grands cru vineyards (Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly, Avize and Oger)

henriot-cuvee-38-grand-cru-blanc-de-blancs-brut-champagne-france-10676286In 2009, the first 1,000 magnums were drawn and put through the Champagne process. After another 5 years aging on the lees in Henriot’s cellars in Reims, the wine was disgorged and given a final dosage of less than 5 grams per liter. Each year, another 1,000 magnums will be released.

From Henriot:
“Its dosage of less than 5g/l gives full rein to the aromas of its terroir. It is a beautiful pale yellow with golden highlights and a gently efferevescent mousse, leading into a bouquet of fresh butter and white flowers. Cuve 38 also reveals both mineral and slightly creamy notes underpinned by hints of liquorice. On the palate, its richness is elegant and there are avours of citrus and ripe apricot. Finally, the wine delivers elements of both honey and viennoiserie, redolent of the Henriot style.

From Bear Dalton:
HENRIOT Cuve 38, Champagne, NV ($669.74 per Magnum)
100% Chardonnay all from Grand Cru Vineyards fermented using Methode Champenoise from all Reserve solera wines bottled in Magnum only with a less-than-.5 dosage.   Pale-gold-straw in color, fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Deep dense, unique wine. Pure expression of Chardonnay and chalk, mineral and yeast but most of all development. The wine evolves in the glass as if slowly flattens and warms. It really succeeds as wine, not just as sparkling wine. My first impression score was 94+. Three hours later it was 97. Two days later (the still 2/3s full magnum stored cold and tightly stoppered) it was 100. This is stunningly good, utterly unique Champagne that almost demands decanting to help it develop in a reasonable time. Or you could keep it for a few years and then … WOW!

Only 2 magnums available only at Spec’s at 2410 Smith Street in Houston.

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When the Steak Outshines the Sizzle

There’s an old salesman’s saying that goes “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” The idea was to sell the experience rather than the actual product. I’ve always been somewhat conflicted about that. The experience is an important and even integral part of the product but to support the experience, the product has to be good. And the bigger the experience is made out to be, the better the product has to be. My experience is that once someone starts selling sizzle, they often begin cutting corners on the steak. To me the steak is the most important thing. So here are some higher end Napa Valley reds that offer the best possible steak and (oh, by the way) the sizzle to go with it. You might think of it as great steak with elegant but exuberant (rather than flashy) sizzle – but in these cases, you are buying the steak and the sizzle comes along as part of the deal.araujoeiselevineyard

ARAUJO Eisele Vineyard Cabernet, Napa Valley, 2012 ($499.99)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Eisele Vineyard aged 20 months in oak barrels (all French, all new).       Purple-red with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium-plus phenolics. Rich, elegant, juicy. Lots of tobacco leaf and a bit of black pepper to go with dark and darker red fruit with little black fruit. hints at dark floral to go with subtle earth and oak. Pure. Lovely. Elegant. Textural and dimensional wine. BearScore: 97+.

ALTAGRACIA (Araujo) Eisele Vineyard, Napa Valley, 2012 ($129.99)
altagraciaEffectively the second wine of the Araujo Eisele Estate, this is an all Eisele Vineyard blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc 6% Merlot, and 4% Malbec aged 21 months in oak barrels (all French, 99% new).     Purple-red with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium-plus phenolics. Supple, fresh, lively, ripe with red and darker red fruit accented with tobacco leaf, spice, dust, and oak. Delicious, lovely accessible. While this is the 2nd wine from the Eisele estate, it may be one of the ten best Cabernet-based red made in Napa Valley. WOW. BearScore: 95+.

OPUS ONE, Oakville – Napa Valley, 2013 ($264.99)opuslabel
An estate blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. Component lots received an average of 18 days of skin contact. 17.5 months all new French oak barrels.     Purple-black with red highlights and well-formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium chewy phenolics. Complex still developing Cabernet blend offering dark and darkest red and some black fruit accented with tobacco leaf and cedar, black pepper and warm spice, and gravelly dusty earth and oak. Complex and evolving in the glass and even in the mouth. complex, satisfying. offers dimension and texture. BearScore: 96+.

QUINTESSA, Rutherford – Napa Valley, 2013 ($158.59)
quintessaAn all estate blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Carmenere, and 2% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged 21 months in all French oak barrels (85% new).   Red Purple with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium-plus phenolics. Supple, delicious, fresh. Darker red fruit with tobacco leaf and dust. Integrated oak and some spice. Delicious. Complete. Alive in the mouth. Best Quintessa yet? BearScore: 96.

Is there a theme here? You bet there is. All of these are stunningly good Cabernet Sauvignon or heavily Cabernet-based wines that offer elegance and balance, texture, and dimension. They push all my buttons. Having said that, I look for elegance and balance rather than extraction and extreme ripeness. I think Cabernet-based wines should offer some tobacco leaf and should not smell or taste of chocolate. Given those conditions, I think these are – at their price points – the best options in the market. Each is from a special and particular place. All practice pristine farming and land management. Each is made in a ‘spare no expense, make the best wine we can’ environment using meticulous process and respectful practice. All steak, no sizzle. But, in the best possible way, they will sizzle when you put them in your mouth.

MAKING A LIST . . .

The other day, I bumped into a friend-of-some-years (thereby avoiding referring to her as an “old friend”) who asked if I’d made my list yet. Even though I look more-than-a-bit like Santa Claus, I generally wait until after all the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone to start thinking about Christmas stuff. And I said as much.

She replied “No. Not that list. Your value wine list.”

I told her that it had been a few years since I’d done that. She said I should do it again as she needed a new one … and then she pulled a much-taped-and-folded, very-beat-up piece-of-paper from her purse and showed me one of my old value wine picks lists she’d been carrying around for several years. The vintages were all way out-of-date but a good chunk of the wines that are still available are wines I’d still recommend. After I looked at it (with some wonderment on my part), she carefully refolded it and put it safely back in her purse saying “See. I need a new one … but I’ll hold on to this one until you get around to it.”

Well, OK. Good idea. And since she’s what I refer to as a “church lady” (although not all church ladies go to my church), her “request” is really more of a command anyway.

You may well ask “What makes a ‘Value Wine?’” (You also may ask “What makes a Church Lady?” but that‘s a topic for another time and place.) In the general parlance, “value wine” is a good or recommended wine below a certain price point. That well-worn list my friend had saved was all under $15.00 per bottle. And that’s fair as far as it goes but to make my list, the wines have to consistently over-deliver. That being the case, not many heavily-marketed, national brands make my list as, while many of them offer a fair value, seldom do they over-deliver (and almost never do they over deliver over a series of vintages).

bearonwinelogoWhat you’ll find on this list are my picks (wines I actually buy and drink at home) with First-of-December-2016 prices under $20 (Spec’s cash bottle price – if you’re buying six-mixed at a time or by-the-case, the prices will be lower). The prices listed will likely change (some up, some down) over time. The vintages on the list are those that are current as I compile it but don’t worry too much if you bump into a vintage that’s younger. These wines tend to be pretty consistent from vintage-to-vintage. These are wines with enough production that they are available most of the time; I’m not including anything where we don’t get at least a couple of pallets a year. Finally, these are wines that I recommend. Which means they are wines I like to drink. Which means they offer plenty of fruit but are not over-ripe or over-manipulated. Which is to say that they taste of the grapes from which they were made and (generally) of the specific place they were grown.

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PRINT THE LIST