Idiosyncratic Champagne

You may know that I sometimes (ok, regularly) put on classes that indulge my passion for a particular sort of wine. This is one of those times. I am getting-my-geek-on so please join me at 7pm on Tuesday, January 23rd at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for an indulgence in unapologetically Idiosyncratic Champagne. We will taste and discuss a range of unique Champagne wines arranged in five flights (see below) as we look at how (and from what) they are made and how that formed their flavors and styles. Each of these wines offers a particular and sometimes peculiar look at place and style. This is about as Burgundian as a Champagne tasting can get. All wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered.

The lineup includes:
Blanc de Noirs – Pinot Meunier
Serveaux Fils Brut Cuvee Pinot Meunier Champagne NV
Egly Ouriet 1er Cru Brut les Vignes de Vringy Pinot Meunier Champagne NV
Godme Brut Blanc de Noir 1er Cru Les Romaines Pinot Meunier Champagne 2006

Blanc de Noirs – Pinot Noir
Godme Brut Grand Cru Champs Saint Martin Pinot Noir Champagne 2006
Egly Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Vv Champagne NV

Rosé
Jean Vesselle Oeil de Perdrix Champagne NV
Egly Ouriet Brut Rose Champagne NV

Brut
Egly Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru Champagne NV
Jean Vesselle Le Petite Clos Champagne 2003
Egly Ouriet Grand Cru Les Champagne NV

Blanc de Blancs
Lancelot Royer Cuvee de Chevaliers Champagne NV
GH Mumm Cramant Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV
Godme Brut Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru Alouettes St. Bets Champagne 2006
Henriot Cuve 38 Brut Champagne NV

Idiosyncratic Champagne will cost $160 per person (cash or check) or $168.42 (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.

BEAR on BUBBLES: The Current State of Champagne

The older I get, the more Champagne I drink. Well, Champagne and other sparkling wines. Those others include other French Fizz, Cava, British Bubbles, California sparklers and even sparkling wines from Australia. It all has a place at the table but the undisputed king of sparkling wine is Champagne. To really understand all the others, you have to understand Champagne.

And Champagne has gotten more complicated than it once was. If you were a US consumer 30-40 years ago (which is when I was getting started in and learning the wine business) and you knew 12-to-15 brands (all grand marques), understood the difference between vintage and non-vintage, were aware that there was pink Champagne (which no one then much drank),  and knew the names of a few luxury  Cuvées (Dom Perignon, La Grande Dame, Comtes de Champagne, Cristal, Grand Siecle …), you were on top of your Champagne game. Much has changed.

Today’s informed Champagne buyer needs to know some things: How Champagne is made (Methode Champenoise), How dry is Extra Dry? Does Size Matter? Do Glasses Matter? Just who’s Brut is it? Other hot topics in Champagne include Grower Champagnes vs. Grand Marques, Sur Lattes (Champagne’s dirty little secret), the new wave of sweet Champagnse, Rosé Champagne, and Champagne with food.

For all of this and more in a 33 page .pdf,  please click on The Current State Of Champagne

 

UTTERLY UNIQUE x 3

I taste a lot of wine and certainly more than my share of great wine. Every-once-in-a-while, I taste something really unique. Every-once-in-a-great-while, I taste a something both great and unique. Great in terms of flavor and unique both in flavor and process. These are three of those:

TRASNOCHO
Ramirez de Ganuza Trasnocho is such a wine. Trasnocho means “overnight” and the wine is aptly named. After the fermentation and maceration for Ramirez de Ganuza’s excellent Rioja Reserva is complete, the tanks are drained and the free run wine is put into barrels to age. That’s when the trasnocho process starts. Plastic bladders are inserted into each of the drained tanks which still contain skins and pulp wet with trapped wine. The bladders are then filled with warm water and allowed to gently press the skins overnight. This smaller proportion of “overnight” wine that seeps from the tanks is kept separate and aged 2 years in all new French oak barrels. The result is Trasnocho Reserva. For me, it’s easy to think of the excellent Ramirez de Ganuza Reserva as the Ch. Margaux of Rioja while the utterly unique Trasnocho fills the role of Ch. Latour.

REMIREZ de GANUZA Trasnocho Reserva, Rioja, 2009 ($109.99)
A blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Viura-Malvasía from average 60 years vines, transported in boxes of 12kg and thermo-regulated specially designed cooling chambers during 24 hours (4-6°C degrees) prior to fermentation. Selection of grape on tables and separation of shoulders and bunch tips. This wine is elaborated from de-stemmed cluster shoulders (the ripest part of the bunch) only (the rest of the bunch is used to make an inexpensive carbonic maceration wine). Fermentation in 7,000 liter stainless steel tanks. After the tanks are drained, a bladder is inserted into the top of each tank, filled with warm water, and left overnight (hence “Trasnocho”) to gently press the remaining wine from the skins. This unique press wine is then aged 24 months in all new French oak barrels.       Purple-red color with well-formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics. Supple, ripe, juicy with some density but still elegant with spice and subtle-newer-leather to go along with the pure red Tempranillo fruit. Delicious and innovative but still identifiably Rioja. Avoids becoming a caricature. Layered – Textured – Dimensional. Utterly unique. BearScore: 96+.

 

HENRIOT CUVE 38
In 1990 Joseph Henriot set aside one vat (a “cuve”) to which toadd 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 grand cru vineyards (Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly, Avize and Oger). In 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.

HENRIOT Cuve 38, Champagne, NV   ($599.97 through 12/31/17)
100% Chardonnay all from Grand Cru Vineyards aged through a special reserve wine solera bottled in Magnum only re-fermented using Methode Champenoise, aged another 5 years on the yeasts and finished with a less-than-5-grams-per-liter dosage.      Pale-gold-straw in color and 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 three magnums came to Texas. Available only at Spec’s at 2410 Smith Street in Houston.

 

LA TYRE
Ch. Montus is the producer who put Madiran on the world quality wine map. The wines from Montus offer an elegant expression of Tannat, the red grape of Madiran and now the adopted grape of Uraguay. This La Tyre takes it to the Nth level. What’s unique here? First off Tannat as a base for a world class wine. And then, a very new world process applied with classic results.

Ch. MONTUS La Tyre, Madiran, 2009   ($138.99)
100% organically grown Tanat from a 25 year old vineyard southwest exposure on 5 hectares at the highest point (260 meters) in Madiran. Windswept, steep slopes, highly permeable, covered with smooth large stones with subsoils of brown and red clay. The grapes are totally de-stemmed and given a cold 4 week maceration with only occasional punch-downs (no pump-overs). The juice is then fermented (both alcoholic and malo-lactic) at 28°C in all new French oak barrels. The new wine is aged 16 months with infrequent racking before bottling. It then gets another 2 years of bottle age prior to release.      Black-purple color that stains the glass with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium chewy phenolics. Stunning rich ripe fresh red and black fruit Tannat with spice and earth and oak. Finesse with power. Layered, textured, dimensional. BearScore: 96.

Luxury Cuvee Champagne Benefit Tasting for Sonoma Fires

So I was thinking of how to raise some money to send out to California to help with the aftermath of the Napa and Sonoma Fires. And then Carl Zorn of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) walks into my office and says he wants to make available Dom Perignon and La Grande Dame and Krug Grand Cuvee for promotion. A plan begins to come together. Why not do a big (and pretty much unprecedented) Luxury Cuvee Champagne tasting as a benefit to help our friends in California who have been so effected by the September fires?

So, with special thanks to all the Champagne houses who are providing their top wines, on December 4th at 7pm, please join me at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for our Luxury Cuvee Champagne Benefit. We’ll taste through 15 of the most famous (and expensive) Champagnes in the market from the top Grand Marque producers.  Champagne-appropriate nibbles will be served. The wines will be tasted from Reidel Degustazion stemware. This will be a sit down tasting where you will have a separate glass for each wine so you can compare them all. All net proceeds will go to fire relief in and around Santa Rosa (the most heavily fire-damaged are) in Sonoma County.

The line up includes:
Dom Perignon Brut
Dom Perignon Rose
Dom Perignon P2 Late release
Krug Grand Cuvee
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rose
Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
Salon Blanc de Blancs
Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill
Roederer Cristal
Duvall Leroy Le Femme
Taittinger Comtes des Champagne Blanc de Blancs
Taittinger Comtes des Champagne Rose
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque (Flower Bottle)
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Rose

The Luxury Cuvee Champagne Benefit will cost $250 per person (cash or check) or $263.16 (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:
12.04.17          Monday          Tete de Cuvee Tasting benefitting Sonoma fires relief
12.11.17          Monday          2015 Domiane Dujac Tasting
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)

A Wine Dinner Benefitting ECHOS – Friday October 13th

SOLD OUT – Have started waiting list.

Dear Friends,
People in the wine trade from around the world have been calling and emailing to ask how I fared during and after Hurricane Harvey. My initial response is that even though we had water lapping at our front porch, Carol and I “got no water in our house or vehicles and so we were unaffected.” But we are not “unaffected.” Harvey has affected everyone on the Texas coastal plain from below Corpus Christi to up past Beaumont. I was back in the office on Tuesday August 29 so I haven’t been out volunteering – but I have been donating. I have been listening to family and friends and customers who are very affected. And I have done some plotting and scheming. What-if-I-were-to host a wine dinner to benefit ECHOS (an organization in southwest Houston that helps a lower-income, mostly immigrant population with such basic issues as healthcare, housing, food, and English-as-a-second-language that has been doing yeoman work with their clients in the wake of Harvey)? What-if-I-were-to cook and serve really elevated comfort foods? What-if-I-were-to pair those foods with some of the very best wines from around the world? What-if-I-were-to say that ALL the proceeds were to go to ECHOS? What-if-I-were-to tell you that David Weekley Homes promises to match the funds we raise? What-if-I-were-to plan it all for Friday October 13th? Well, all that “What-if-I-were-to” has come together so …
On Friday October 13th at 7pm, I will host (and cook along with Denise Ehrlich and others) a wine dinner benefitting ECHOS (see more about ECHOS below). This dinner-for-24 will be held in the Parish Hall at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (which conveniently has a full commercial kitchen). We’ll start with a Champagne reception with nibbles and then sit down to a five-course dinner of “elevated comfort foods” served with extraordinary wines. Elevated comfort foods? Extraordinairy wines? Take a look at the menu. You may have to loosen your belt. And I think each of the selected wines represents the very best of its type. 


RECEPTION
Assorted nibbles (including Champagne Nachos)
Barons Rothschild Blanc de Blancs Champagne, NV
Barons Rothschild Rosé Champagne, NV

DINNER
Potato-Leek-Parsley Soup with a purple-potato-chip and lardon garnish
Lustau East India Sherry

Confit Quail and Seared Duck over dressed Mesclun with toasted pine nuts and lardons
Rochioli Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2014
Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2014 

Short-Rib-and-Ox-Tail Boeuf Bourguignon over Tagliatelle
Quintessa, Rutherford, 2014
Opus One, Oakville, 2014
Ridge Monte Bello 2014

Cheese
Araujo Eisele Estate 2002 (from magnums)

Individual Apple Tarts with pecan and bacon served with an infused whipped cream
Ch. Rieussec Sauternes 2011

Graham’s Vintage Porto 1994

So come eat and drink knowing that every dime will go to a great cause; have fun and feel good about it. This ECHOS Wine Dinner will cost $500.00 per person (check payable to ECHOS or a credit card charge which will be processed by ECHOS). The reception will start at 7pm on Friday October 13, 2017. To reserve your spot for this unique and very special wine dinner, please reply by email to me at BearDalton@mac.com. I suggest coming by Uber or other car service as the wine pours will be generous. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is located at 9600 South Gessner Road (the southwest corner of Gessner and Bissonnet).


ECHOS (Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services) is a non-profit organization (501(C)3 corporation) connecting people in need with the health, social, and educational resources that can improve their lives. ECHOS’ mission is to connect people in need with health, social and educational resources that can improve their lives.
ECHOS  provides on-site help to families who are unable to access affordable health care and who do not have medical insurance coverage in completing and submitting applications for healthcare and social services. 
ECHOS offers on-site health care services and screenings promoting healthier and more productive lives including Children’s Immunizations, Blood Pressure and Glucose Screenings, Vision Screenings, Well and sick child check ups, and Dental care
ECHOS also assistclients in meeting basic needs and self-sufficiency.  Assistance is free and includes: Food from the Food Pantry, Food Fairs and Mini Health Fairs, English-as-a-second-language, Computer literacy, and Domestic violence support groups on campus.
ECHOS is located on the campus of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.

The “E” in ECHOS, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is located at 9600 South Gessner Road. Epiphany is where I go to church and where I raised my kids. While I no longer live in the area, I went to Sharpstown High School and used to pass Epiphany on the way to and from school. The area has changed since then; Epiphany has changed along with it and now boasts one of the most diverse congregations in Houston. ECHOS is Epiphany’s outreach to the local community.

ABOUT THE WINES
All the wines are among my favorites and fall in the range of “best in class.”
The Barons Rothschild Champagnes are amongst my very favorite fixzz and both completely over deliver at their just under $100 per bottle price points.
The Lustau East India Sherry is the Sherry I buy most often and serve with the soup at all my family holiday meals.
The Rochioli Pinot Noir and Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir each offer best of Sonoma and best of Willamette quality as well as precise expression of their place(s).
The Quintessa, the Opus One, the Ridge Monte Bello, and the Eisele Estate (then Araujo) are my quartet of the definition of great Cabernet-based wine from California. All are farmed either sustainably, organically, or biodynamically. All are given an indigenous yeast fermentation. All are Layered-Textured-Dimensional wines of stunning quality.
Ch. Rieussec is one of my four favorite Sauternes producers. 2011 is a great Sauternes vintage. Bliss.
Graham’s Vintage Porto 1994. Legal-drinking-age Vintage Port from one of the greatest Port houses. Hope it’s cool that night.
All but one of the wines is provided for this event by the producer/supplier.
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.

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.

henriot-cuve-38-avec-coffret