Catching Up

While this space has been quiet, I’m actually writing a lot right now. However, most of it is showing up at SpecsFineWine.com rather than here. Why? SpecsFineWine.com is the new fine wine only web-site I built for Spec’s and our fine wine customers. A lot of the content I have been generating for BearOnWine will be moving over there. Posts on Spec’s Fine Wine include regular features (The Big Deal, Daily Drinkers, The List, and The Friday Fizz) along with events and classes, winery profiles, articles, and opinion. And there are whole pages For Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, California, and more with a lot more content coming.

Here are some links you may want to check out:

ChGloriaLabelPATZ & HALL Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

THE BIG DEAL: One incredible deal each week on a great wine of Person and Place.
Ch. GLORIA, St. Julien, 2011

THE LIST: Each week a different list. Sometimes value, sometimes red, sometimes old favorites, sometimes nothing but new.
Five Fine Party Wines For Under $10

Ch. Martinon

Ch. Martinon

DAILY DRINKERS: A great pick on a fine wine (a wine made by a specific someone and from a specific somewhere) priced always under $20, most often under $15, and sometimes even under $10 per bottle. These are fine wines for daily drinking.
Ch. MARTINON Entre Deux Mers 2012

THE FRIDAY FIZZ: Check in every Friday for the week’s pick in bubbles, sparkles, and fizz. From Tasmania to Taittinger, from California to Cava, if it pops, it hops.
JanszLabelJANSZ Brut & Rosé

EVENTS and CLASSES
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WINE: A four week class starting on 10/21/14.

So what about BearOnWine? Change is on the way. We have a new look and some new features are coming soon, so stay tuned.

Champagne Friday: PJ Grand Brut

Today’s wine seems like an old friend I don’t see often enough. Every time I have Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, I think why don’t I drink this more often. The dominance of black grapes and higher percentage of Meunier give it a comforting toasty-biscuity character I especially like in a winter time bubbly. Of the bigger name Brut NV Champagnes, PJ Grand Brut may well be my favorite.PerrierJouetGB

PERRIER-JOUET Grand Brut, Champagne, NV ($39.89)
A base blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay with 15% reserve wines from previous vintages finished brut with a dosage of 11 grams per liter (1.1% residual sugar).     Straw in color. Dry, medium-light-bodied with fresh acidity. Fresh and toasty with ripe citrus, a bit of red fruit essence, and some tree fruit, some biscuity character, and something of a floral note. As always, it seems to be better than I remembered it. Pretty in the mouth. Quite tasty. BS: 92.

CHAMPAGNE QUOTE:
Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the ‘fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the ‘fridge.” – Hester Browne

PLEASE check the EVENTS PAGE for my upcoming WINE 101 class beginning January 6th at the Wine School and the annual 2011 CRU CLASSÉ BORDEAUX TASTING on January 21st at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice.

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY: Luxury PJs

I’m back.
And what better way to come back than with two great bottles of Champagne.perrier-jouet-belle-epoque-fleur-de-champagne-blanc-de-blancs-brut-millesime-champagne-france-10334806
How does it feel to drink two great Champagnes like this on a Friday Afternoon? About how it felt the other night when I walked into a party between two beautiful women both wearing mink coats (sort of the inside of a mink sandwich). Both felt pretty darn good.

The most famous of the PJs is the already luxurious Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque (aka Flower Bottle) Brut Champagne with its distinctive painted green bottle and its $150 SRP. This wine in the still available 2004 took the top spot in a recent competitive tasting by a number of top Texas sommeliers against such competition as Roederer Cristal 2005, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2004, Dom Perignon 2004, and Krug Grand Cuvee. But the two wines I have tasted here – the two PJs in the clear flower bottles – are something else. Layering Lux on Lux, they are among the ultimate expressions of Blanc de Blancs on the one hand and Rosé on the other. The yin and yang of Champagne, they are the ultimate PJs.

PERRIER JOUET Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2002
Tech: 12.5% Alcohol. A blend of 100% Chardonnay wines from Cramant and Avize in the Cote de Blancs aged 6 years en tirage (on the yeasts) and finished with a 0.9% dossage. Sensory: straw in color with green highlight and fully sparkling; dry, light-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Fresh and alive and vividly Chardonnay with lots of lemony ripe citrus, plenty of chalky mineral and a subtle pie crust yeastiness. Succeeds both as wine and a sparkling wine. BS: 96+. (SRP: $350)

PERRIER JOUET Belle Epoque Rose, Champagne, 2004

Tech: 12.5% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and 55% Chardonnay from Cramant and Avize in the Cote de Blancs aged 6 years en tirage (on the yeasts) and finished with a 0.9% dosage. Sensory: Copper-salmon in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-light-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Rich with notes of red fruit and citrus to go with mineral earth and subtle toast. Lovely, integrated complete. Delicious food friendly Rosé. BS: 96. (SRP: $300)

CHAMPAGNE QUOTE:
Too much of anything is bad but too much Champagne is just right. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Champagne Friday: DOM PERIGNON Oenotheque Brut Champagne, 1996

Riedel Vinum Riesling Glass

WHAT DOES IT TAKE to reduce three grown men with over 80 years of wine trade and tasting experience to giggling like a trio of tippling teenagers? Maybe it takes what may be the best bottle of Champagne I have ever tasted – Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1996. Back on October 5th of 2012, Wayne Hannah of Glazer’s, Robert Gilroy of LVMH, and I were tasting in my office when Robert opened and poured a bottle of Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1996 into Riedel Vinum Grand Cru Riesling glasses (which are both my standard tasting glass and my favorite for drinking vinous Chamapgne). I picked up the glass and tasted it and … nothing. The fizzy gold-leaning-toward-bronze liquid in the glass showed me nothing. The nose was completely closed and the first taste was just wet. I looked over at Robert who had just tasted the wine and he had a horrified look on his face. Rather than saying anything, I gently swirled the wine in my glass (yes, you can swirl Champagne). When I tasted it again, it was better. Actually it was excellent and it quickly moved to outstanding. After maybe five minutes, all three of us were giddy over how good it was. And we stayed giddy as we kept coming back to it as we tasted several other wines. Is this the best Champagne I’ve ever tasted? I can’t remember another that was better. This is a Champagne worthy of decanting.

DOM PÉRIGNON OENOTHÈQUE BLANC, Champagne, 1996  ($370.00 – price corrected down from $670)  

Tech Note: 12.5% Alcohol. The blend is unnpublished but the producer notes that typically, there is “a commensurate amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in any given year of Dom Perignon.” Whatever the blend, the cuvee was aged 15 years on the yeasts before disgorment and finishing.     Sensory Note: pale-gold-straw in color,  and  with sparkling; dry, medium bodied with fresh acidity and minimal phenolics.    Pale gold color. Starts with nothing and then … WOW!. Changes in the mouth with richness and flavor added to richness. The color actually lightened in the glass after it was poured. Has the minerality of a grand cru chablis along with lemony citrus and darker red fruit. The complex and complete flavors come in waves. Super length with the toasty Champagne character completely integrated. Stunning. This is Champagne as WINE and really outstanding wine at that. Drink this from wine glasses rather than flutes or tulips. Consider decanting it.  BS: 100.

Champagne Quote: (I never imagined I would use this one but it seems appropriate.)

I am drinking the stars. – attributed to Dom Perignon

Champagne Friday: GOSSET Brut Excellence

A few weeks back, I tasted Gosset Brut Excellence and thought “This is a winner.” Last weekend, it was. A winner that is. Gosset Brut Excellence won the award (a pair of chaps) for the top Sparkling wine in the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition. The chaps come in addition to the Class Champion belt buckle and Double Gold medal it had already won. A winner indeed. My note from a few weeks back:

GOSSET Brut Excellence, Champagne, NV ($41)
Tech: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, and 19% Pinot Meunier sourced primarily from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards. Gosset bases this blend on three vintages and then adds 20% reserve wines (wines aged in a sort of solera with many vintages blended together). The wine spends over 2.5 years en tirage (resting on the lees before disgorging). Sensory: Medium straw in color with a hint of green highlights. Dry, light-to-medium-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics. Focused, classy, classic, and delicious. Tart lemon-citrus fruit with some some subtle red fruit notes along with lots of toast and a lot of minerals. Fine style. Gets richer and more satisfying as it warms and flattens (which I like very much). Delicious. BS: 92.

This week’s CHAMPAGNE QUOTE: “One holds a bottle of red wine by the neck, a woman by the waist, and a bottle of champagne by the derriere.” – Mark Twain

Champagne Friday: DELAMOTTE Brut Champagne NV

So I really tasted this Delamotte (actually drank two bottles) at dinner at Vietnam on 19th Street in the Heights with a group of friends on Thursday. And I know today isn’t Friday. It’s still (barely) Monday but a lot has happened in the mean time, such as the whole Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition which I worked all day Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes life gets in the way but I am trying to post on a more regular basis. Any any case, this bubbly is worth the wait.

DELAMOTTE Brut, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier with all of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes coming from Grand Cru vineyards. The Chardonnay comes primarily from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, and Oger. The Pinot Noir is from vineyards along side the Marne river in Bouzy, Tours-sur-Marne and Ambonnay. The Pinot Meunier comes from the Vallée de la Marne.  Delamotte uses no oak, allows three years on the lees, uses no particular yeast selection, and uses only a little reserve wine to guide the wine.      Sensory Note: pale straw in color. Dry, medium-plus-bodied with fresh acidity. Toasty, earthy, rich. Lots of feel and flavor in the mouth. Ripe citrus and some red fruit. Lovely Texture. Enough mineral but not over the top.     Bear Note: Really Delicious in a lovely, fresh but satisfying, more aperitif style. I can’t get enough of it. BS: 94. ($39.00)

Do yourself a favor and let it warm up and flatten out a bit in the glass for more richness and depth. Or even decant it into a large carafe before serving into wine (as opposed to Champagne) glasses.

A Champagne Quote:

Gentlemen, in the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of Champagne. – Paul Claudel

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY “Two-fer” – KRUG Grande Cuvée and DOM PERIGNON Rosé 2000

So, its Friday (actually (2/3/12), about 6:15pm. We – Robert, Ned, and I – are sipping Jansz Brut (the subject of a recent Champagne Friday posting). The white stretch limo pulls into my driveway. We bring our Champagne glasses and get in. As the limo pulls out of the driveway and down the street, Robert pulls out a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee. He opens and pours. While the Jansz had been fine, this Krug is amazing (see note below). I don’t care what you are about to do, this is a good way to start. We sip the Krug all the way downtown to Toyota Center, finishing the bottle just as we arrive. We go inside to get a drink and find our seats (Mid-Court, 18 rows up – Sweet!) so we can watch the Houston Rockets embarrass the Phoenix Suns. After we walk out and find our car and driver, we load up and Robert pulls out another bottle, this time a Dom Perignon Rosé 2000, which we drink on the way home. Returning home took a lot less time so there is still some DP Rosé for Miss Carol to have a glass when we get there. She approves but retires from the living room as we are acting like three men who’ve been drinking Champagne and beer and … and, as she put it, being “guys” all evening. Miss Carol did not ride in the limo or go to the game as she would rather face an IRS audit conducted by a malevolent dentist than attend a professional sporting event. Here’s the run-down on the bubbles.

KRUG Grand Cuvée, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. An unspecified blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, possibly dozens of wines sourced from 6 to 10 vintages that, after blending and second fermentation, is aged another 6 years on the lees (en tirage). The complete, real-deal, specific tech info is unavailable. But, after drinking the wine, I don’t really care all that much. Sensory Note: Due to the siuation in which we enjoyed this wine, I have no color note. Dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant but still present phenolics. On pouring, there is the expected citrus fruit, toast, and mineral. As the wine warms and bubbles a bit in the glass, the citrus expands beyond lemon as some tree fruit (apple, pear?) and subtle red fruit essence comes in, the simple toast expands to toasted brioche served in a bakery, and the mineral combines with the acidity to provide structure and depth. Bear Note: The wine starts interesting but becomes complex and intriguing. It satisfies as if it were an aged red Burgundy. Truly delicious. Goes way beyond basic “Brut Non-Vintage.” BS: 95. ($125)

DOM PERIGNON Rosé, Champagne, 2000
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, of which 1/4 is still red Pinot Noir.     Sensory Note:  No color note due to dark limo. Dry, medium full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and light phenolics. Deep, rich, and satisfying with supple red fruit and enough ripe citrus to keep it balanced. There is richness from the red fruit and the distinctive toasty-yeasty biscuit character. So good in the mouth, you are reluctant to swallow.  Satisfying and delicious.     Bear Note: More than being Champagne that can stand up to food, this is Champagne AS food. YUM.  BS: 97 now and it will only improve with a few more years of age. ($375)

Thank you, Robert!

A couple of my favorite Champagne quotes seem to apply here:
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
and
“Champagne offers a minimum of alcohol and a maximum of companionship.” – David Niven

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV

I do try to do Champagne Friday on Friday but sometimes stuff gets in the way. This last Friday brought an inadequate bottle of bubbly (of which I will speak no evil) so I decided to use my note on a wine I tasted (well, drank) Thursday evening with Rupert Symington and some friends (aka “The Gang of Pour”) after our Vintage Port tasting. Yes, we were drinking Champagne AFTER a Port tasting. Shocking … but also quite refreshing. Come to think of it, by the time I finished sipping it – it may have been Friday. The wine was Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs imported by Hand Picked Selections. Here is a bit about Jean Laurent (distilled from the excellent HPS website  – www.handpickedselections.com – where you will find more on my friend Dan Kravitz and his excellent Hand Picked Selections), my note on the latest release of this perennial favorite, and a Dorothy Parker quote.

For more than 1,000 years Jean Laurent’s family has been growing grapes near Celles-sur-Ource in the Aube, an outlying Champagne district south of Marne that shares the same chalky soils as the heart of Champagne and Chablis. Jean farms 39 acres, split between Pinot Noir (30 acres) and Chardonnay (9 acres), with no Pinot Meunier. The Aube is Pinot Noir country and Jean Laurents bread and butter is this Blanc de Noir, typically blended from three vintages, and aged a minimum of 3 years on the yeast. As an RM (Recoltant Manipulant or Champagne estate bottler), Laurent makes Champagnes exclusively from his own vineyards. While an RM Champagne is not guaranteed to be high quality, it is your best chance for site specificity and actual terroir in Champagne. Jean Laurent offers all of that and high quality and all at a reasonable price.

JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% alcohol. 100% Pinot Noir blended from three vintages with an additional three years on the yeasts (en tirage) after the bottle fermentation. Sensory: Medium pale gold in color and fully sparkling. This is a more developed cuvee than the last I had but it is still fresh, juicy, flavorful, ripe, and fruit-and-yeast oriented with notes of yeast and chalky mineral. The fruit leans to red fruit (more strawberry than other) with some lemon drop citrus. It is long, focused, rich, and lively in the mouth with good weight and a nice mousse.     Bear Note: Solid and delicious with a fine rich feel. Finishes clean and dry. Fine food fizz. (I can’t resist alliteration.) BS: 92+. ($45.00)

FINALLY, I leave you with a Champagne quote from my favorite quip-mistress, Dorthy Parker:
Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content and sufficient Champagne.

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – CANARD DUCHENE Authentic Brut

OK – I’m a day late. I had some computer issues yesterday. And then there was dinner and some couch time with Connor and the Misses. To help make up for it, here is a lovely quote from Mme. Lily Bollinger.

Champagne? I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.

That about sums it up – sort of the Champagne equivalent of the Clay Walker song “Only On Days That End In Y”. Champagne is indeed lovely stuff. Here is another worthy of your consideration:

CANARD DUCHENE Authentic Brut, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Chardonnay from the Montagne de Reims crus of Ludes, Chingy, Verzy, Vertus, Tauxieres, and Cumieres.       Sensory Note: Dark-straw in color with a hint of green-gold. Fully sparkling; dry, medium full-bodied with very fresh acidity.    Toasty rich but balanced with plenty of citrus and some tree fruit. Lots of mineral and some earthiness. Has the acidity it needs to handle the 1% dosage. Improves in the glass. Delicious, alive.     Bear Note: This is one of those Champagnes I enjoy slowly sipping on as it warms and flattens a bit over the course of the evening. It is showing some development but is aggressively frothy when first poured. Give it some time in the glass and you’ll really enjoy it. BS: 91+.  ($34.00)

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV

IT HAS BEEN a busy week. I had 25 Bordeaux winery reps (owners, directors, winemakers, etc.) in town for a 2009 cru classé tasting (more on which later) and all the attendant busy-ness that goes with that as well as a lot of other STUFF. So this is the very first chance I have had to post since last Champagne Friday. I was due, even over-due, for some Champagne but, as last week, had no late Friday appointment so I have had to soldier on alone. Now, you know I love Champagne but you may not know of my particular fondness for that toasty-biscuity note that come from Pinot Meunier. I don’t want it all the time but when I want it, nothing else will do. It is the Champagne equivalent of comfort food. So many people think of Pinot Meunier as an inferior grape but I think of it as a sort of guilty pleasure. And of course it is essential for lower-priced Champagnes intended to be drunk young. But I digress. This Friday’s Champagne is J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition. Located in the Vallee de la Marne, J.P. Marniquet is a grower and estate bottler of Champagne I have been working with over the last four years. Spec’s carries three of the cuvées but the basic (and least expensive) cuvée – Brut Tradition – is a personal favorite for that particular Pinot Meunier-biscuit note. It was just what I needed.

J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of a shocking 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Noir from an RM (recoltant manipulant) producer.      Sensory Note:  Straw in color,  fully sparkling. Dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity.  Toasty-yeasty-biscuity with lively lemony citrus and some red fruit with limestone mineral and a hint of spice. Really very long finish.      Bear Note: Delicious,  focused, fresh, alive-in-the-mouth. Really hit the spot. Yum. BS: 92.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that this is not one of Miss Carol’s favorites (but she will drink it in a pinch).

To paraphrase from “I love Paris”:
   I love Champagne in the summer.
   I love Champagne in the fall.
   I love Champagne in the spring and winter.
   But I love Champagne Friday best of all!