Thursday, April 10, 2014

Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Tasting in Houston - A Selection of Old Vintages

During the Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Tasting in Houston last week, local wine trade and media professionals had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the wines of Burgundy. The day started with a seminar on the age ability of Burgundy wines from less than perfect vintages led by BIVB Marketing and Communication Chairman, Francois Labet and Jay Youmans, Master of Wine.

Jay Youmans led the tasting while Francois Labet shared his first hand experiences making wine during the years from which the chosen wines came.


My Notes:

The Whites from the Handpicked Selection of Old Vintages 

2004 was a more normal year with good ripening due to good weather prior to harvest. It was a better year for whites in the Maconnais, while most whites from this year have either peaked or are nearing that point; there are still some good ones to be found.
  • 2004 Chateau de Beauregard Pouilly-Fuisse, Vers Pouilly – Still fruity with lemon citrus, nutty with mushroom. Balanced, round, long rich smoky finish.
1998 had heavy early rain but finished dry and it had higher than normal yields for whites which can lead to lesser quality. Many white wines have reached their peak from this vintage as it is 16 years old but some vineyards produced wines that are still evolving in surprising ways. We tasted two examples of this, one from the north and one from the south, each interesting in completely different ways with no loss of quality.
  • 1998 Domaine Trouillet Pouilly-Fuisse, Aux Chailloux- fresh aromas of yellow apple with honey, surprisingly young tasting, crisp, long finish.
  • 1998 Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru, Les Fourneaux- Very evolved, mushroom, citrus, clean, nutty finish.
2003 was hot and sunny leading to rich, ripe wines with lower than normal acidity, atypical for Chablis in particular. Considered more of a drink now vintage at its time, it is still fresh and interesting over 10 years later.
  • 2003 Domaine Alain Geoffroy Chablis 1er Cru, Fourchaume- Clean, ripe peach aromas and flavors, white pepper and mineral finish.
The Reds from the Handpicked Selection of Old Vintages

2006 was warmer and sunnier than normal, this created fruitier and less structured wine.
  • 2006 Maison Albert Bichot Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Murots- this wine breaks the rules of the vintage as it was very structured, very masculine with “more shoulders” per Jay. Rich berry flavor, black tea and a long finish.
2005 was another warm year but it came with uneven rainfall and only average sunshine. Still a young vintage, the wines need more time to become more rounded.
  • 2005 Domaine des Remparts Irancy, Les Cailles- black potting soil, cherries and minerality.
At ten years old, the 2004 red wines of Burgundy are considered ready to drink now. This more normal vintage has crafted very aromatic and balanced wines. Francois called it a “grower’s vintage”.
  • 2004 Domaine Henri de Villamont Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru, Les Baudes- Dried fruit with a slight cured meat nuance, interesting, less ripe and more tannic than the others. Of this wine, Jay said that “texturally there is more there”. Francois said this wine seemed to be aging more quickly and cited August hail damage to the grapes.
  • 2004 Domaine Georges Lignier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Les Combottes- Red berries and baking spice, smooth finish.
2003 was an early harvest after a hot year and it created a unique vintage of red wine. Fuller bodied with lower acidity, the wines are aging surprisingly well.
  • 2003 Domaine Capitain-Gagnerot Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Charnieres- no notes
  • 2003 Chateau de Santenay Beaune 1er Cru, Clos du Roi- Raspberry, minerals, smooth finish.
  • 2003 Domaine Meo-Camuzet Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru, Boudots- Strawberry, cherry and black tea with a long finish.
2002 was a fantastic year which created great Pinot Noir wine that is showing well now according to Jay Youmans. It was very dry with a cool summer and had ideal conditions at harvest. The wines we tasted from this year were some of my favorites. Francois says these wines are perfect for aging or enjoying now.
  • 2002 Domaine Chanson Beaune 1er Cru, Clos des Feves, Monopole- Sweet, ripe strawberry aroma and rich flavor, supple, bit of earth and mineral, long finish. Upon tasting, Francois Labet remarked that it was “drinking marvelously with huge livability” and the group consensus at my table was that it was “difficult to spit.”
  • 2002 Maison Louis Jadot Santenay, Clos de Malte- smooth, red berries, very drinkable.
  • 2002 Domaine Parent Pommard 1er Cru, Les Epenots- fresh cherries, more tannic structure but still easy drinking.
2001 brought a mix of conditions, a cool frosty spring with a wet summer followed by a heat wave leading to a longer harvest. The grapes were in good condition and the wines created were balanced and structured with a range of aromas.
  • 2001 Domaine Rene LeClerc Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru, Combe aux Moines-Cherry, black tea and baking spice.
  • 2001 Maison Lou Dumont Corton Grand Cru- “power, richness and strength mellowed by age” per Francois Labet. Balanced structure, cherries and mint.
1999 was an ideal year though slightly warmer than normal which led to a higher volume year. It also helped to create very rich and aromatic wines.
  • 1999 Jean-Philippe Marchand Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes- Fresh red cherries and berries, leather and spice. Ripe and structured.  Jay felt it was fully mature now and Francois felt it could still go on to be even more. I would choose to have it both now and later.
1998 brought heavy rains and hail to some areas but a dry September led to a successful harvest.
  • 1998 Domaine Taupenot-Merme Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru- Surprisingly fruity and tannic. Pronounced aromas and flavors of black cherry with leather and spice, smooth finish. Francois Labet says that it isn’t quite ready to drink now despite its 16 years but our table felt it could easily be enjoyed.
The BIVB certainly showcased the age ability of the wines of Bourgogne with this seminar and tasting. We experienced some fantastic older Burgundies and learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to buy a bottle with some age even from a less than perfect vintage. Jay summed it up with this final thought, the wine of Burgundy “doesn’t need to age to be good but you are rewarded if you wait.” 



Monday, March 31, 2014

Tasting with Mark Beringer of Artesa Vineyards & Winery

I was pleased to have the opportunity to taste the current selections of Artesa Vineyards and Winery with winemaker, Mark Beringer, while he was in town. We sat down together at Cru Wine Bar on upper Kirby to talk about not only the five years that he has put into Artesa but where he started and how he feels about where he is now and what he is doing.

Growing up Napa for Mark meant growing up as a country kid. Napa had not yet become the wine destination that we all know and love today. As a direct descendant of Jacob Beringer, the co founder of Beringer Vineyards, Mark did have many opportunities to immerse himself in all the various aspects of the wine business. He started on the low end stocking shelves and cleaning up in his parent's wine store when he was young. His uncle put him to work at his winery while Mark worked on his degree in enology in college. This was followed by a short stint at Glen Ellen and then a more illustrious career at Duckhorn from 1992-2005. After a few years of consulting, Mark joined the Artesa team in 2009. The first few years that Mark was at Artesa, he was working with the previous wine maker's wine. He had a different vision for the wine that he wanted to create. 

The current selections were all overseen by him from start to finish so he was proud to show the direction that Artesa is taking their wine. As a Napa Valley native and someone who has worked the harvests for Napa and Sonoma for almost 30 years, he has great knowledge of what the different vineyard sites are able to produce. He blends these component wines to create a consistent, easy drinking style. He uses less new oak in order to showcase what the terroir creates for the more affordable Carneros line while the more expensive and complex Estate Reserve wines spend a bit more time aging in new oak barrels.

The Tasting:


  • 2012 Carneros Chardonnay (SRP $20) - An ideal growing season, this wine delivers the bright fruit character that Mark says you should expect from Carneros, fresh aromas of honeysuckle, citrus zest and ripe peach with matching flavors, a medium body with refreshing acidity and a smooth, mineral-laced finish.
  • 2011 Estate Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay (SRP $40) - A low yield year after challenging weather, the component wines were sourced from the estate's best vineyard blocks and fermented and aged in French Oak of which 50% was new. Malolactic fermentaion and aging on the lees created a rich and more full bodied wine while still maintaining its fresh fruit character and food friendly acidity. It had pronounced floral aromas of citrus flower with apricot and lemon flavors and a long mineral-laced finish from the vineyard's gravelly soil.
  • 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir (SRP $25) - The house wine at Mark's home, this had aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry with a bit of toast, medium body, smooth moderate tannins, fresh acidity and a long red fruit finish.
  • 2011 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (SRP $40) - Floral aromas of fresh rose petals with raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors, this wine was medium body with smooth moderate tannins, fresh acidity and a long slightly spicy finish.
  • 2010 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $45) - Pronounced aromas and flavors of rich, ripe blackberries and cassis with a full body, smooth ripe medium + tannins, fresh acidity and a long, toffee and black fruit finish.

All Recommended! 
The Carneros line is widely available in town and you should expect to see more of the Estate Reserve selections on restaurant menus.

Friday, March 28, 2014

2010 Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay

One of my husband's business associates stopped by after work. As he is a lover of Chardonnay, we opened up a bottle of the 2010 Jordan Russian River Valley for our before dinner drink. 

It had fruity aromas of apple, apricot and grapefruit with matching flavors, a medium body, refreshing acidity and a long citrus and mineral finish. Delicious with cheese and crackers, it would be even better with broiled lobster and drawn butter.

Highly recommended at approximately $25.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2012 Ipsum

The 2012 Ipsum is a 100% Verdejo wine sourced from vines that were grown organically in a high elevation vineyard in Spain's Rueda region. The wine was fermented with the grapes' natural yeast and aged in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation for a pure interpretation of what this terroir can produce.

I really enjoyed this refreshing wine and I will be looking for more! It had fresh aromas of citrus blossoms and peach with flavors to match. It had a medium body, medium + crisp acidity with a clean, mineral-laced citrus finish. The perfect patio sipper for spring and summer, highly recommended and a great deal at $12! 

*media sample

Friday, March 7, 2014

Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Tasting with Jean-Philippe Archambaud

The Houston Sommelier Association hosted another fantastic seminar and tasting. This week, members were treated to an in-depth discussion of the terroir of Chablis and how it influences the wines that are produced there. The seminar was led by winemaker Jean-Philippe Archambaud of Simonnet-Febvre.


We started with the 2012-2010 vintages from two Chablis Premier Cru vineyards, Vaillons and Fourchaume. They both have the famous Kimmeridgian limestone soil. Vaillons is located on the left bank of the Sereine River and Fourchaume is on the right. The Vaillons vineyard's history is to create more accessible wines. For both of these wines, Jean-Philippe prefers to use all stainless steel, no oak barrels in this production, he does allow full malo-lactic fermentation for complexity; he does not engage in any battonage or stirring of the lees during the 10-12 months that the wine ages with the yeast.


Jean-Philippe discussed 2012 as being a rather difficult year with a wet spring and a windy June, it ended with warm, dry weather which saved the vintage. Yields were down and the wines produced were not typical of the region but they were good.
2012 Vaillons - ripe peach aroma with fresh melon flavor, smooth, moderate acidity, fruity finish
2012 Fourchaume - slow to open, light floral aromas of citrus blossom with lemon zest flavor, citrus/mineral finish.

The prior year was also a difficult year with an early spring followed by a cold, windy May. This also led to lower volume production though it created a more typical Chablis wine.
2011 Vaillons - more austere, linear, lemon
2011 Fourchaume - rich lemon zest aroma and flavor with a touch of mint, longer finish

Fortunately, the year before was a more classic year for weather and wine in Chablis.
2010 Vaillons - fresh lemon citrus aromas and flavors, higher acidity with a long mineral-tinged finish.
2010 Fourchaume - more aromatic, citrus blossom and mint aromas with lemon zest flavor, higher acidity, long finish

Next, we looked at the Simonnet-Febvre Chablis from the Grand Cru vineyards of Les Clos and Les Preuses.  The Preuses vineyard is on the steepest part of the hillside on Kimmeridgian limestone with longer hours of sunshine and better drainage than other parts of this climat. Jean-Philippe feels this is the purest example of the terroir; he prefers to use only stainless steel with 15-18 months on the lees to try to achieve this expression in the wine. 
2011 Preuses - floral citrus blossom and honey aroma, lemon and mineral finish
2010 Preuses - honey, lemon and mushroom with a long mineral finish
2009 Preuses - lemon richness with a bit of mushroom followed by acidity with a long slightly saline mineral finish

Les Clos produces more powerful wines with great age ability, in fact, they need some aging for optimal enjoyment as they can be austere in youth. Because of this, Jean-Philippe Archambaud prefers to ferment half of the wine in barrel and half in stainless steel with the 15-18 months of aging on the lees.
2011 Les Clos - very closed, lemon.
2010 Les Clos - A slight reductive character that tells the winemaker that this wine is going to age well; citrus and a bit of baking spice, long finish
2009 Les Clos - lemon, dried herbs and mushrooms; rich, flinty minerality, long finish 


After three years of low yields due to the weather in Chablis, it was interesting to taste two of those vintages and see how good the wines were despite the hard growing season. The downside for consumers will be increased prices as availability decreases due to the lowered volume of production over multiple consecutive vintages, so get it now. 




Thanks again to the 
Houston Sommelier Association 
for providing these educational opportunities to our local wine professionals!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Coyam by Emiliana Organic Vineyards


Noelia Orts
 I had the opportunity to meet Coyam's resident winemaker, Noelia Orts, last week while she was in Houston hosting a tasting and lunch at Masraff's. Originally from Spain, Noelia worked for wineries there and in New Zealand before heading to Chile for the 2009 vintage. She began working for the Emiliana family shortly thereafter along with consultant winemaker, Alvaro Espinoza. Noelia talked about the vineyard and her feelings of responsibility not only to help create great wine but to help enhance the lives of the workers and the people that are involved in every facet of the vineyard and winery life.

Going organic and biodynamic not only means less chemicals, it means more work. This work requires more people for the manual labor. This labor includes planting multi-colored flower beds every five rows to draw insect attention away from the vines, it involves tilling lentils into the soil to release nitrogen organically, it means moving animals and chicken houses around for fertilization and to control insects. Noelia talked about teaching organic gardening and beekeeping to workers and other efforts taken by the winery to help uplift the surrounding community. She has felt this sense of responsibility to the people even more strongly since the earthquake in 2010 when she witnessed the spirit of the Chilean people as they worked to persevere and move forward in spite of the trying circumstances.

Regarding the wine, Noelia stated that the philosophy about the wine making comes from Alvaro Espinoza who told her, they were "not making Coca-cola", they wanted to express the year. The wine is produced in a state of the art gravity controlled winery using natural fermentations with mostly French oak barrels and they bottle on site. Each year the blend is different, there is no set recipe, the wine is a blend of the best that the year had to offer.

The Tasting: 
  • 2013 barrel sample- Clean, ripe black fruit, bit of spice and earth, dry, a bit astringent, good acidity, balanced alcohol. This vintage involved a mild winter with rain during fruit set.
  • 2010 Coyam (38% Syrah, 27% Carmenere, 21% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Mourvedere and 1% Petit Verdot) - This wine has aromas and flavors of ripe raspberry and plum with sage and a touch of graphite, it is full bodied with moderate slightly grippy tannins, clean acidity and a long herbal-laced red fruit finish. This was a colder than average year with heavier than normal spring rainfall, the warm, dry summer led to concentrated aromas and colors in the fruit and in the wine. 
  • 2007 Coyam (38% Syrah, 21% Carmenere, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17%  Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Mourvedre)- Similar to the 2010 vintage but bigger, more tannic.
  • 2004 Coyam (37% Syrah, 34% Carmenere, 14% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Mourvedere)- Rich, ripe plum, spice and earth. Balanced and smooth.
  • 2001 Coyam (36% Merlot, 21% Carmenere, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah and 4% Mourvedere) - Good vintage, however very little of this was made. Holding up well, leather, dried fruit and spice. 
  • 2007 Ge (60% Syrah, 21% Carmenere and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon) The name is Greek for Earth and the bottle depicts the moon, the sun and plants, a nod to each and the role that it plays in the making of the wine. Clean ripe aromas of red cherries and blackberries with a graphite minerality, light earthiness and bit of spice in the lengthy finish, full bodied and well-balanced. SRP $100.
The 2010 Coyam is now available at HEB, Spec's and Costco with a suggested retail price of $29.99. It is created from biodynamically grown grapes from Chile's Colchagua Valley. Recommended.