I’ve had several memorable visits with wine folks over the last several weeks and I’d like to share their stories with you, at least briefly. In order, they were . . .
Yep, that Tony Parker, the basketball player, the guy who won four NBA championships over his 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and who, as of this weekend, is a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s also the part-owner of La Mascaronne, a gorgeous winery on a lovely spot in the Var above St. Tropez that American Tom Bove oversaw until he sold it to the entrepreneur Michel Reybier, who subsequently brought in Parker as a partner. Back in 2000, Reybier paid $115 million for the famed Bordeaux estate Cos d’Estournel and remains its proprietor.
Parker grew up French, of course, and began drinking wine as soon as he was old enough to buy it — well, maybe a little before then — but it was his long, fruitful relationship with Spurs coach Greg Popovich, a hyper-serious oenophile, that turned him into a knowledgeable consumer in his own right. If Parker and Popovich weren’t talking hoops on Spurs flights, they were talking wine. And they are still talking. Parker splits his time between Texas and Lyon, where he owns the men’s and women’s pro teams. He still frequently picks Pop’s brain on matters of personnel and strategy.
“It was nice to have a coach share his passion with me,” Parker said. He might have added, “And his palate.”
I spent quality time on the phone with Parker recently and I’m hoping to speak with Popovich, too, when the Spurs return from the All-Star break for a story I’ve been asked to write for the San Antonio Express-News. Basketball-wise, it has been a terrible year for the 74-year-old coach, his worst ever in fact, but he can find some solace in a wine collection that numbers in the thousands of bottles. I’d bet Pop even has a few left from the historically great 1982 vintage in Bordeaux, which also happens to be Parker’s birth year.
An intriguing coincidence, to be sure.
Pelissero, a third-generation grape-grower/vintner in Treiso in the heart of the Barbaresco country (pictured above with yours truly), has been making wines under his family name since 1989, 29 years after the first Pelissero vintage was released, and they are across-the-board excellent. He’s especially proud of his dolcettos because, rather than pull out those vines and replace them with nebbiolo like so many of his neighbors have done, he’s defiantly leaving them to thrive right where they are, in places he knows aren’t conducive to making Nebbiolo d’Albas.
Given nebbiolo’s exalted status in the world’s wine pecking order, is it a good business decision? He doesn’t care.
“(Winemaking) for me is a passion, not a business,” Pelissero explained. “I don’t like the word ‘business.'”
You’ll be able to taste Pelissero’s wines at Sofia in the Heights March 3 (see below) and hopefully the Long Now Langhe Rosso, a particularly compelling 50-50 nebbiolo-barbera blend, will be in the mix. The name pays homage to the Long Now Foundation, founded in 1996 to foster “long-term” thinking. Or, as the website explains, “Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.”
Yes, Pelissero’s wine is age-worthy.
Jaoude, who now lives in Houston, had been importing a variety of goods and food items from his native Lebanon for a number of years before he decided to explore the possibility of bringing in wines, too. But, while most consumers had heard of Lebanon’s most widely distributed producer, Chateau Musar, he would be starting ground zero with the wineries he began to consider for his portfolio.
Most were tiny, family-run businesses with no infrastructure for exporting, so they were eager to speak with him. Ultimately, he settled on a group of 15 that checked all the right boxes — from diverse producers, many of them relying heavily on indigenous grapes that grow no place else such as obaideh, merwah, meksassi, and sobbagiegh — then, fingers crossed, submitted samples to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition last fall.
He wouldn’t be disappointed. Some 21 of them earned medals with four claiming golds and a fifth, which garnered a silver, being saluted as a Reserve Class Champion. If you’re attending the Rodeo Uncorked! Best Bites event Sunday night, do make a beeline to Jaoude’s table and give them a taste. I have and you will not be disappointed.
I’ve got a comprehensive story coming for the Chronicle as soon as the wines arrive in bulk in Houston and find some kind of retail outlet, so watch this space. It will appear here as well.
Phelicia Colvin, Sheri Lawal Price and Tamesha Hampton, friends from Pearland who all have good day jobs and kids to raise, thought they needed another plate in the air. So they launched Wine Vibes (https://winevibes.revelup.online), a micro-winery in Missouri City where they make their own non-vintage wines from purchased grape juice from California, North Carolina and even Tennessee while serving chef Phillip Hare’s excellent munchies in a casual, airy bistro with a fine little patio out front.
For the moment, they’ve got a still moscato, a chardonnay, a cabernet and what they call — for obvious reasons — The Trio, an equal parts blend of syrah, petite sirah and zinfandel. It was my favorite, but all the wines are quite quaffable. Two more are coming, a reisling and a rosé, just in time for spring. They’ve also got a sangria they’re quite proud of, but it wasn’t available for sampling the night I visited.
The idea began to germinate for Colvin 14 years ago when she visited Napa Valley to attend a wedding and became intrigued by the whole winemaking thing. Many conversations with her eventual partners later and lots of heavy lifting, made way harder by the pandemic, Wine Vibes opened on Feb. 7 at 9018 Sienna Crossing Dr, Suite 100. They had wanted the business to be located in Pearland for convenience’s sake, but Brazoria County, oddly, doesn’t allow micro-wineries. Its loss, Fort Bend County’s gain.
Matthiasson, who wanted to be a farmer as far back as he can remember, took his first vineyard job in 1994. By 1999, he had co-authored the California manual on sustainable vineyard practices. He arguably knows as much as the myriad terroirs and micro-climates in Napa Valley as anyone alive or dead. We got to sample six very different Matthiasson cabs at a seminar he led for the Houston Sommelier Association last week at the Texas Wine School and it was eye- or, better, palate-opening.
Best of all, this so-called “new wave” winemaker, whose business attire is a T-shirt and blue jeans, is actually an old-school devotee in his “pursuit of balance” approach, which keeps the alcohol levels in his wines routinely below 13 percent.
He and his wife, Jill, will celebrate their 20th harvest in 2023. Today, they have their own winery and own three vineyards outright, one of which in West Oak Knoll features, besides cab franc, merlot and petit verdot, the way lesser known — in California anyway — ribolla gialla, tocai friulano and schioppettino varietals that are each well-suited for the alluvium soils around the nearby Dry Creek. In all, the Matthiassons farm some 55 acres, all of which are certified organic.
How much does soil type matter. A lot, he said. Grapes grown in volcanic dirt, for example, tend to deliver the most satisfying tannins.
2019 MacRostie Sparkling Brut
From the winemaker: “Expressive aromas of white flowers such as jasmine, as well as bright lemon citrus notes that are both lively and inviting. On the full, impeccably balanced palate, the wine’s crisp acidity melds elegantly with the mouth-filling, slow-forming bubbles.”
From me: If you’re intrigued by this delightful sparkler, which was made in the classic champagne style, you better pounce now. It’s listed on the MacRostie website as a “last call.”
$48 at macrostiewinery.com
2022 Sophie Marie Rose
From the winemaker: “Flavors of freshly picked cranberries, rose petals, and ripe raspberries. This wine has structure, a bright acidity, and light floral notes. It shows shows elegance, youthful sass and the beginnings of boldness and maturity.”
From me: Named for the Messina Hof founders first grandchild, it’s the first Sophia Marie made from sangiovese. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.
$19 at http://messinahoforderport.net
2018 Newton The Puzzle Napa Valley
From the winemaker: “Deep ruby color with a purple hue. Notes of black fruit, bay leaf and sage mingle with iodine and oyster shell characteristics, creating an extremely complex and pleasant bouquet. Wonderful now, but can age for another two decades.”
From James Suckling, who awarded a score of 95: “Dried violets, potpourri, pine, blackcurrants and cloves on the nose. Ash, too. It’s medium-to full-bodied with firm, silky tannins. Layers of juicy blue and purple fruit and flowers. So sleek and refined. Builds on the palate. From organically grown fruit.”
From me: It’s a beautiful cab-centric Bordeaux-style blend with all five grapes playing nicely in the mix. But the percentages vary slightly from year to year, which presumably explains the “puzzle” thing. Suckling suggested holding it until 2024 and I would except, sadly, I don’t have another bottle.
$135 at http://newtonvineyard.com
Updated Feb. 23
Fantinel Wine Dinner — 7 p.m. Thursday, February 23 at Roma. 713 664-7581. $89 plus tax and gratuity http://romahouston.com
Bordeaux Undiscovered — 6-8 p.m. Monday, February 27, at Studio 3. http://eventbrite.com
A Night in Friuli — 4-Course Wine Dinner with Volpe Pasini & Schiopetto
6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, at Sofia. $150 713 804-0429. http://www.tratoriasofia.com
A Night In Piemonte with Pelissero Vineyards — 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, at Sofia. $22. http://eventbrite.com
Boutique Wines From Spain tasting –– 4 p.m. Friday, March 10, at Memorial Wine Cellar. Free http://eventbrite.com
Bay Area Wine Fest: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at Morgan Falls Event Center, Alvin. http://eventbrite.com
Dionysus Imports French wines tasting — 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at the Alliance Française Houston. 713 526-1121 $25.
Champion Wine Garden Presented by Frost Bank at NRG Carruth Plaza, in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo: http://eventbrite.com
The Sports Page
Raising a glass to . . . the Astros
Spring is springing and baseball’s back!!!! They return to work in Florida as defending World Series champions, and none too soon with the Rockets and the Texans on the bottom of their respective sports’ heaps.
Podcast: Sporty Wine Guy
Facebook: Dale Robertson
Others to follow
Jeremy Parzen (http://dobianchi.com)
My podcast partner in crime extolls the virtues of being a blogger over being a mere “influencer.” One of his students at the Slow Food University in Bra, Italy, has launched a blog and Parzen couldn’t be prouder of her.
Sandra Crittenden (http://winelifehouston.com)
Sandra reviews the new Greek-centric tasting menu at March, a restaurant clearly deserving of some love in the form of stars from the Michelin people.
Russ Kane (http://vintagetexas.com)
The Texas Wineslinger goes deep with C. L. Butaud’s Randy Hester about his unique and excellent new Blanc de Noir, a still 50-50 blend of grenache and mourvèdre from West Texas fruit. I can vouch for it, having tasted the wine with Kane.
Jeff Kralick (http://thedrunkencyclist.com)
Jeff weighs in on one of his favorite online wine sites, Last Bottle, which has been sued by Beckstoffer Vineyards for, among other things, breach of contract, false advertising, and trademark infringement. Oh dear.
Katrina Rene (http://thecorkscrewconcierge.com):
Kat’s latest post features six wines she recommended for Valentine’s, but that’s perfectly OK. They’re still good, right?