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

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)


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).

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  Charivari is located at 2521 Bagby (77006) in Mid-Town Houston.

Champagne Friday: PJ Pink

blason-rosePolar vortex, rain, ice, and not knowing how to drive on ice seem to be the topics of the day. My solution is to go home and drink some Champagne. My choice is Perrier Jouet’s quite excellent Blason Rosé. With some truffle popcorn. And a favorite old movie. Or two.

PERRIER-JOUET Blason Rose, Champagne, NV ($75.99)
A 12% alcohol blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay.  The grapes are pressed in the grand cru village of Cramant (in the Cote de Blancs) in Perrier-Jouët’s traditional wooden presses. After it’s racked, the clear juice is transported to Épernay for primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks. After Champenization and 6 years of age en triage, the wine is disgorged and dosed to 11 grams of sugar per liter (about 1.1%).   Sensory: Salmon-pink in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with softly balanced (for a bubbly) acidity and light phenolics.  Offers riper red fruit with just a touch of citrus along with a darker floral note, some earthy richness, and subtle toast. This is much more vinous (with a bit of red wine character) tasting than most Rosé Champagnes. Delicious; GREAT food Rosé. BS: 94.

Champagne offers a minimum of alcohol and a maximum of companionship.” – David Niven

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.

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.


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)

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