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

Bubbly Basics

As we are coming into the season (which for me is really year round) for sparkling wines, click here for a refresher on Bubbly Basics from BearOnWine.com.

Bear’s Bubbly Basics

The Simple Hows, Whats, and Whys of Sparkling Wine

andreclouetroseHere are the basics on bubbly with the tech stuff toned-down and/or explained and a minimum of jargon …What is Sparkling Wine?
Whether it is called Champagne, Cava, or Cremant, whether “bubbles,” “sparkles,” or “fizz,” sparkling wine is just wine with carbonation (CO2 or carbon-dioxide gas). There are several ways to get carbon dioxide into a wine. It could be as simple as injecting CO2 into a tank full of wine (as is done with soda pop) or as complicated as the Champagne process (Méthode Champenoise). While at its most basic, sparkling wines  may be … (READ MORE)

Meeting Minerality

One day last week, Sunny Brown of Michael Skurnik Wines and David Graves of Pioneer came by my office for a business meeting. As they are veteran wine guys, they brought three somewhat fancy wines to taste: PIERRE GIMONNET Oenophile Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2008, BRUNDLMAYER Riesling Helligenstein, Kamptal, 2013, and PAUL JABOULET Condireu Les Armandiers, Condireu, 2014. When I saw this line-up, I felt an inward cringe which I hope did not show on my face. I do not (generally) like Extra Brut Champagne (too dry). I do not (generally) like Austrian Riesling (often out of balance on the dry side). I do not (generally) like Condrieu as Viognier (from which Condrieu is made) is near the bottom of my hierarchy of wine grapes (right there with Torrontes). But, out of courtesy and maybe a bit of morbid curiosity, I agreed to taste through these three (initially at least) less than inspiring selections with them. Please pass the salt as I need to put a little on the humble pie I will now eat. Color me stunned! WOW! All three wines were stellar. Each seemed to be trying to out mineral the others. One might allow as to how “Rocks rock!” What a great way to meet minerality.

pierregimmonetoenophile_largePIERRE GIMONNET Oenophile Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2008   ($73.99)
100% Chardonnay (33.5% from Cramant, 32.5% Chouilly, 10% Oger, 22% Cuis and 2% Vertus) given a full malo-lactic fermentation (unusual for Champagne) and aged 8 months in stainless steel tanks (with two rackings) before the methode champenoise.  Aged 60+ months on the yeasts in the bottle before disgorgement. No dosage (added sugar).  Yellow-gold and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics.  Focused, delicious, supple style of Champagne offering more than enough richness to handle the dryness. Toasty, very ripe lemon and orange mostly citrus fruit and lots of mineral with ample yeasty richness. Integrated and complete. Really holds your interest. Lovely. BearScore: 94+.IMG_0930_1024x1024

BRUNDLMAYER Riesling Helligenstein, Kamptal, 2013 ($36.29)
100% Riesling fermented in stainless steel at 15-20°C and then racked into big neutral wooden casks to age on the fine lees.   Straw with green highlights and well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant (typical of higher-end, drier Rieslings) phenolics. Lovely pure dry Riesling with essence of peach and citrus and even some apple perfume but dry and restrained. Lots of mineral. Delicious. Holds your interest as it develops and opens up in the glass. BearScore: 94+.

PAUL JABOULET Condireu Les Armandiers, Condireu, 2014 ($108.99)
Condrieu-Les-Cassines-Label-500x500100% Viognier from biodynamically-farmed, 25+ year-old-vines planted on south-facing slopes cropped at very low yields of 20 hl/ha. Aged 55% in French oak barrels (5% new), 25% in small concrete eggs, and 20% in stainless steel tank. Gold-straw with green highlights and well formed legs. Dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics. Vivid, fresh, elegant, but supple mineral-centered Condrieu. Essence of peach and peach stone, citrus and peel and liquid stones. Lovely, pure, focused. About as good as Condrieu gets. BearScore: 95.

MARCH CHEF DINNER

At the same time I scheduled a wine dinner at Charivari for 7pm on Thursday March 12th, I discovered that March 12th is Chef Johann Schuster’s birthday  – so I asked him to pick the menu. As he is German and white Asparagus season is upon us, I knew that spargle would be involved. What Chef Johann initially came up with looked great to me but may have been a little challenging for many diners. Per my request, he dialed it back (from challenging to adventurous) to achieve a broader appeal. In choosing the wines to pair with these dishes, I went with some of my favorites (as my birthday is three days earlier). So we will have wines from Perrier Jouet (PJ), Pedro Romero (PR), Pinot Gris (PG), and Pinot Noir (PN).

The MENU
Grilled Halloumi – White Asparagus Skewers
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque, Champagne, 2006

White Asparagus Veloute with Marrow Dumplings
Pedro Romero Cream Sherry NV

Spiced Smoked-Miso-Maple-glazed Sable Fish fillet and grilled Asparagus with
Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rotenberg 2009
Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl 2009
Trimbach Pinot Gris Gold Label Hommage A Jeane 2000

White Asparagus – Wasabi Root Sorbet

Rack of Lamb herbed & Roasted and a Pinot Noir reduction,
Yukon Gold White Asparagus aux gratin with
Bouchard Pere & Fils Beaune Greves Clos de l’Enfant Jesus 1er cru 2009
Roblet Monnot Volnay Taillepieds 1er cru 2009
Michel Gros Morey St Denis Rue de Vergy 2009
Lecheneaut Nuits St. Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru 2009

Quark Donuts & melted Quark Ice Cream
Pedro Romero Pedro Ximenez Sherry NV

As always, we start with Champagne and in this case it is very fine Champagne indeed: Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 2006, a top luxury cuvee from a top grand marque house. With the white asparagus soup (a signature of chef Schuster), we will enjoy a Cream sherry. With the Sable Fish (a specialty of the northern Pacific also known as Black Cod) fillet we will have three Alsace Pinot Gris wines (all grand cru quality) which will offer a revelation about the quality potential of Pinot Gris. While lamb is (for me at least) more closely associated with Bordeaux, the coming of Spring and the Pinot Noir reduction led me to Burgundy and a selection of four fine terroir from four great domaines.

This Chef Dinner will cost $150.00 per person including a 5% discount for cash or check or $157.89 regular. All taxes and tips are included. For reservations, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or at coburnsusan2@gmail.com.  Charivari is located at 2521 Bagby (77006) in Mid-Town Houston.