Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bourgogne Media Dinner in Houston

I started April off with a post about the Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Tasting of Select Old Vintages event that Houston wine professionals were fortunate to enjoy. I wanted to finish April up with more thoughts on that day. Following the event, I was pleased to be included in an intimate group of wine journalists for dinner at the Mockingbird Bistro hosted by Francois Labet, winemaker and chairman of the BIVB Marketing Commission. He had been the keynote speaker at the seminar and tasting and I was looking forward to to the chance to hear more about current vintages and what is going on in Burgundy. 


I was interested to learn about the BIVB's strong commitment to sustainable development and their efforts at raising awareness amongst their members. Producers and growers are promoting biodiversity to manage water consumption in wineries. They are doing such things as growing grass between the rows, they are involved with European projects such as LIFE+BIoDiVine (biodiversity in vines landscape) and they are part of the Vintage project in developing support tools to treat disease. As a result of these efforts, 70% of the region’s vines are no longer treated with chemical weed-killer. The BIVB is also launching a sustainable development diagnostic tool for wine growing businesses. 

Francois, himself, has been specializing in organic wines since the early 1990's and he avoids the addition of any additives. He feels this is the only way the wine can really showcase what the diverse terroir of Burgundy can produce.

Francois was interested in Houston's growing reputation as a "foodie city" pointing out that the wines of Burgundy have always been the greatest of food wines. From the crisp white wines to the rich red wines, to the elegant sparkling Crémants, the wines of Burgundy can be straightforward or complex, yet they all pair well with a wide range of food and that is exactly what we have here in the Bayou City. 

It was an exceptional night of food and wine and Francois Labet was an excellent host. His love of his home was evident as was his desire to share it with us that evening. I am more inspired than ever to plan a trip to Bourgogne and see it all for myself. In the meantime,

Be on the look out for an upcoming post about where I'm finding great wines from Burgundy in our area.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Taken in Austin

A college visit with my daughter timed well with an invitation to meet Josh Phelps of Taken Wine in Austin for a tasting of his newly released wines. Josh has only been out of college for five years himself; he started this company with childhood friend Carlo Trinchero. The two have known each other since they were five years old, they grew up in St Helena in Napa Valley and, as both have winemaker fathers, they were always immersed in the world of wine . 

Their first release was sold out locally before they had even come up with their company's name. Every label name they dreamed up was already taken so Josh in a moment of irony and frustration took the name Taken for the company. As the two are millennial winemakers, the name made them think of social media relationship status and Complicated was added to the line. 

With a group of local wine professionals, we tasted three wines over lunch at Perry's Steakhouse & Grille. All the wines were well received and more than one re-pour was requested. I thought the wines were all fresh, well balanced and a great quality for the price. I would recommend all three.

  • 2012 Complicated Chardonnay Sonoma County - Bright aromas and flavors of lime zest and peach with a hint of spice. Medium body, refreshing acidity and a lingering fruity finish. 
  • 2011 Complicated Red Wine Central Coast - This is a blend of 50% Syrah, 43% Grenache and 7% Carignane. It was particularly good with the pork chop. Ripe black berries with smoky meat and coffee. Medium+ body, fresh acidity with sweet ripe tannins and a long finish.
  • 2011 Taken Red Wine Napa Valley - This is a blend of 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot. Approachable and classic Napa Valley despite the difficult growing season. Pronounced aromas and flavors of ripe black berries and cherries with graphite, chocolate and toasted notes. Full body, fresh acidity and velvety tannins with a long finish.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Anna Blooms" in Houston


I had a fantastic time speaking at the "Anna Blooms" Houston event last week where I played host to local lifestyle writers who came to Ousie's Table for some how-to tips on entertaining this spring. 

Attendees tasted both the Anna de Codorniu Brut and Rosé Cava with an array of menu items showcasing the pairing potential of these two wines. Passed hors d'oeuvre ranged from fried oysters and asparagus to crab cakes to lamb in puff pastry and beyond. Guests loved the clean citrus and pineapple character of the Brut and the distinctly different fresh berry component of the Rosé along with the refreshing finish of both wines with the varied menu items.

In addition to holding its own at more formal cocktail or dinner parties, guests were surprised to learn that the low price point made it an anytime wine to make any occasion a bit more special, including enjoying it with popcorn on movie night at home or out on the back patio with the neighbors paired with any salty snack.

Some of the style writers commented on the beautiful new packaging and its potential for everything from "It's a girl" to "Pamper yourself" gift baskets. The look adds a bit of feminine elegance to girl's nights, bachlorette parties, Mother's Day brunch and to bridal and baby showers. 

Although these are stand-alone sparkling wines, guests liked the easy cocktail alternative of adding juice to the wine; from the classic orange and grapefruit for brunch to pineapple juice for Hawaiian mimosas at backyard luaus to cranberry for a pre-Thanksgiving aperitif. The availability of having both at Spec's and the Brut also at HEB makes it an easy go-to choice for year round entertaining.

The ability to elegantly entertain with ease this spring was taken a step further with a floral demonstration and workshop with Sue from Lexis Florist. Guests made their own arrangement of beautiful pastel colored flowers to take home for the holiday weekend. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my day as an “Anna ambassador”. I enjoyed sharing the story of the woman for whom the wine is named while tasting both namesakes with so many great Houston writers and wine professionals.

Ask yourself what you are celebrating this spring, then add Anna to the occasion; she not only makes it more elegant, she also makes it more fun!






Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Friendly Wine Picks

Happy Earth Day!
As originally seen in the April issue of Galveston Monthly magazine.

Certified Napa Green for both their winery and their land, St Supery’s Estate Vineyards has produced a crisp, fruity spring sipper. Their 2012 St Supery Sauvignon Blanc has pronounced aromas of grapefruit, guava and lime. It is medium bodied with mouthwatering acidity, the flavors match the aromas with just a touch of bell pepper in the long finish. Approximately $15, try it with tortilla chips with crab and mango salsa.

Benziger Family Winery has been a California leader in producing wines with a conscience. Their entire line is produced from earth friendly grapes from the certified sustainable program that produced the following Chardonnay on up to their organic and biodynamic wines. The 2010 Benziger Carneros Chardonnay is full bodied with fresh aromas and flavors of juicy ripe peach, green apple and coconut, with crisp acidity and a smooth finish. Approximately $12, serve it with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables.

Yangarra Estates produces wine biodynamically in McLaren Vale in South Australia. Winemaker, Peter Fraser grew up on a conventional farm but became inspired to go organic and then biodynamic after attending a seminar that resonated with him on this subject. In regards to some of the more unusual methods, he says “There is stuff that we do that I can’t explain why it works but it does, so I keep doing it. There is no science.” He is certain that he ends up with healthier soil and higher quality grapes. The 2011 Yangarra Shiraz has rich aromas and flavors of blackberries, pepper and potting soil with a full body, sweet ripe tannins, clean acidity and a long savory finish. Priced at $25, try this with Asian spiced short ribs. Check out Yangarra’s Viognier and Grenache, as well.

The 2010 Coyam is a red wine blend made from biodynamically grown grapes from the highly regarded Colchagua Valley in Chile. 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. I tasted this with winemaker, Noelia Orts, recently where she expressed the Coyam winemaking philosophy was “not to make coca-cola, but to express the year.” 2010 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. It is priced at $29, serve this with coffee rubbed filet and mushroom risotto. Emiliana Organic Vineyards also produces affordable organic wines from Chile under the labels Natura and Nova and a higher-end biodynamic premium wine called Ge.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spanish Wine under a Houston Sunset


I was asked to speak about Spanish wine and to conduct a tasting at the 30th birthday party of Kyla Kennedy on the rooftop patio of her and her fiancé, Jonathan Garrett's home this past Saturday. They invited a great group of friends with a new interest in wine tasting. Jonathan had the idea after the two had watched the movie "Somm" and had become interested in learning more about the wines of the world. 



For our tasting tour of Spain:

  • Anna de Coderniu Brut Cava* - Guests loved this Spanish sparkler! They found the history of the winery interesting and enjoyed the refreshing style of the wine. The birthday girl named the subtle tropical and citrus aromas like a pro.
  • 2012 Burgan's Rias Baixas Albarino - Guests talked about the fresh peach aromas and the crisp taste. Many felt this could be their summer sipper. 
  • 2012 Raimat Costers del Segre Albarino* - Guests were interested in learning about this lesser known area, the innovative winery and how the more extended time on the lees affected the texture of the wine. 
  • 2012 Naia Rueda Verdejo - Many found the aromas and flavors to be too subtle while others embraced this varietal as the type of white wine for which they had been looking.
  • 2012 Juan Gil Jumilla Monastrell - A party favorite, this varietal was new to all the guests. They loved the ripe black fruit, the spiciness and the interesting bit of earthiness. 
  • 2008 Vina Pomal Rioja Reserva* - Rioja was the red wine of Spain with which guests were most familiar although not many had not tasted it. Guests enjoyed the pronounced aromas and flavors naming characteristics like cherry, berries, vanilla, cedar and incense. They were interested in learning about what Reserva means and the different oak barrel options available. A couple of the men at the party commented that it made them want grilled meat.

Happy Birthday Kyla! 
It was wonderful to meet you and Jonathan and all your friends. 
I enjoyed hearing all the new wine drinkers Wine Thoughts and sharing a night of Spanish wine with you!


*Media Samples


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.”