This old house turned into the pour house again Thursday night and a good time was had by almost everyone with the Dionysus Imports French portfolio, co-presented by importer/distributor Douglas Skopp and AOC Selections director of operations Brandon Kerne, taking center stage.
Fifty folks showed up when we were expecting maybe 30. That’s both good news and bad news . . . but mostly good news. It told me people are delighted to return to the Alliance, which through the years Spec’s Bear Dalton had turned into one of Houston’s best wine destinations before his untimely passing in 2020, despite our parking challenges in the heart of Montrose.
Logistically, we were a little overwhelmed given the thirsty crush and things got a little raucous at the end, forcing Skopp (pictured below) and Kerne to shout above the din. But we promise to do better next time. Hey, baby steps . . . Most importantly, the 10 Dionysus wines, all from the Rhone Valley, were outstanding across the board and it was especially fun to converse with people who weren’t familiar with a number of them, or even the region itself.
My favorite by the narrowest of margins proved to be Evan Bakke’s 2015 Clos de Trias from the Ventoux AOC, a red I hadn’t sampled in a number of years and a wine you’ll read more about later in this space. I’ve already bought three bottles through http://aocselections.com, where all the wines presented can be purchased.
Looking ahead, please put June 21 on your calendar and 427 Lovett Blvd. on your GPS. In France, they celebrate the Summer Solstice with the Fête de la Musique and we intend to do the same with a piano concert paired with Madame Zero Champagne, a France-Houston hybrid if ever there was one from Galveston-born Matthew Massey. More details forthcoming as the date draws closer!
Sippin’ with Sporty
2015 Fiddlehead Cellars “Bebble” Grüner Veltliner
From the winemaker: “Elegant and sophisticated notes of ground vanilla bean with hints of coriander and citrus, along with the traditional white pepper notes, barely ripe pineapple, cucumber and honeydew melon. There is wonderful leanness buried beneath its weighty expression. You can almost feel the chalky, wet stone minerality translating from our clay soils, littered with chert and shale, to give mineral depth to this beauty.”
From me: You think grüner, you think Austria. Well, think again. This is a lovely effort from winemaker Kathy Joseph, whose just under three-acre Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County delivers the bracing minerality the hand-picked, night-harvested, field-sorted grapes needs to fully express itself. The name honors her mom, Babette, who answered to “Bebble” around the house.
$42 from http://shopfiddleheadcellars.com
2020 Notre Dame de Pallières Rasteau
From the winemaker: “Sourced from the Roux family’s plot “Les Ribes” at the top of Ratanaud, the hill that shares the valley of the Aygues and Ouvèze, comes this rustic mouthful of a Rasteau. The old vines here enjoy unusually cold nights and the pebbles on the ground are bountiful.
From the Wine Enthusiast, which scored it a 90: “Cassis and blackberry flavors are ripe but mouthwatering in this full-bodied red. A grenache-dominant blend augmented by smaller proportions of mourvèdre, syrah and cinsault, it’s buoyantly fruity but maintains a twist of herbal freshness. The wine finishes on complexities of crushed stone, bramble and charred cinnamon. Ready now it should hold well through 2025.”
From me: Right in my wheelhouse, this Southern Rhone gem. It’s a wine I’d gotten away from drinking — just forget about it, I suppose — but it’s back on my shelf again, to stay.
$22.99 at Spec’s
2020 Bonarrigo Family Wines Heritage Reserve
From the winemaker: “A bold blend of traditional Italian varieties this wine has savory nuances of herbs and spice. Beautiful dark fruit flavors and tannins coat the palate with elegant complexity.”
From me: I’ve always thought Messina Hof made a world-class sagrantino and that grape, most famous in Umbria, is front and center in this bold, well-structured red, joining forces with primitivo and sangiovese. One of the best bottles I’ve tasted in 2023, it’s a perfect pairing for brisket and a whole lot of other hearty entrees.
$40 at http://messinahoforderport.net
Charcuterie workshop and Wine tasting: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at JMP Tasting Room in Humble. $75. http://eventbrite.com
“Rascally Rabbits” Spring Taste and Buy — 1-4 p.m. Saturday, April 1 at http://aocselections.com
SERCA Wines Tasting: 4 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the SERCA Tasting Room in the Heights. . $15. http://eventbrite.com
Katy Sip N Stroll: Saturday, April 15 at The Ballard House. http://sipandstroll.com
JMP Wine Night — Truly Greek, Truly Unique: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20. $75. JMP Tasting Room in Humble. http://eventbrite.com
The Sports Page
Raising a glass to . . . Jose Altuve
And hoping he returns better than ever after suffering a broken thumb when hit by a pitch in a WBC tournament game two weeks before the Astros begin their championship defense. My guess is he’ll be out until late June. Right, ouch! It’s bad for team, of course, but it’s terrible for a guy who’s viably chasing 3,000 hits. Every day counts.
Podcast: Sporty Wine Guy
Facebook: Dale Robertson
Others to follow
Jeremy Parzen (http://dobianchi.com)
My podcast partner in crime, shown above, weighs in on the merits, of lack thereof, of organic wines, a favorite topic of his.
Sandra Crittenden (http://winelifehouston.com)
Just back from a whirlwind excursion to Paso Robles, Sandra gives us a review of the city’s cool wine quarter called Tin City.
Russ Kane (http://vintagetexas.com)
The Texas Wineslinger weighs in on the mysterious origins of the Black Spanish grape, also called Jacquez and Lenoir.
Jeff Kralick (http://thedrunkencyclist.com)
Jeff touts more of the top wines he has been sent as samples of late. Two earned “excellent” ratings with 90-point scores.
Katrina Rene (http://thecorkscrewconcierge.com)
Kat tells us everything we need to know about what’s happening in the world of Texas wine this month.