It has been nearly two years since my last blog post on this site, an appreciation of my father after his death in February 2015 (Hommage à Mon Père – March 2015). Since I returned to my hometown of Houston, Texas just before his death, I have been enjoying the presence of my family and the many wondrous developments that have taken place in Houston since I last lived here in 1973. More than 40 years later, Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the world; whether you judge it by the origins of the inhabitants, their cuisines, music, architecture, art, culture, or consumer tastes. Perhaps the only unhappy relic that remains from my growing up here is the weather. It is still far too hot for this native Texan of German-Irish-Bohemian extraction.
After living in France for nearly a year, I returned to Houston and have remained here to be near my family. None of us is getting any younger, but our good health and vibrant spirits have been complemented by some new additions, notably my grand-niece Ella Jane, who will soon be joined by her brother, Jonathan James. So my family forms the solid foundation of my current existence: with our matriarch, my mother Jane, still here in Houston providing me with a solid base both mental and material, my brother Jim and sister-in-law Molly near Dallas with their daughter Amanda and her husband Brian, and Jim and Molly’s son Chris and his wife Tara in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with the aforementioned grand-niece and nephew), and my sister-in-law Debra and her husband Craig in Wharton, Texas, where I have discovered once again the pleasures of Thursday and Friday night lights, high school football enjoyed with my nephews Michael, Matthew, and Mitchell, and their step-siblings Carson and Katie.
While not quite officially retired, I still like to remain involved with fine wines. I often attend tastings with the superb young wine people at the Houston Sommelier Association, where a serious and attentive attitude and respect prevails, and some of the world’s top winemakers come to present their work. Many of the HSA are studying for their Master Sommelier credentials, and David Keck, Texas’ most recent Master Sommelier and HSA’s driving force, will soon be moving into another project, where I hope I can continue to rely on his expertise and friendship, for my own edification and pleasure. There is a serious and diverse wine scene here, supported by the population in the area that now numbers over 4 million souls, most of them thirsty, eager for exciting new wines, and the knowledge to put them in historical perspective. Other tastings where I can encounter wine legends Guy Stout, MS (Education Director for Glazer’s distributorships) and Bear Dalton (wine buyer for Spec’s Retail outlets) help refresh and sharpen my palate. Sometimes it’s fun to relive the good old days……
On my last trip to Burgundy, in June 2015, I also met an interesting Houstonian of French descent who was just beginning his ambitious enterprise – opening a new French wine importing company in Houston, Texas. Bertrand Leulliette is 25 years my junior, with significant experience working in the US for some of France’s best wine exporters, as well as a former basketball player in France’s professional league. Since we first met, he has pleaded, cajoled, teased, and very simply included me in his process, so that today I am proud to say that we work together. I often wish that I had had his fearless entrepreneurial spirit 25 years ago – there might now be a Jerome’s Wines instead of a defunct Newcastle Imports or a declining Esprit du Vin, not to mention a shuttered Jerome’s The Pitt BBQ Restaurant.
Bertrand’s Wines is a new and exciting enterprise, specializing in French wine estates of excellence and integrity. Our suppliers are mostly family enterprises, clustered around a marvelous collection of Burgundy domaines, with a few selected producers from Bordeaux, Alsace, Provence, the Rhone and Loire valleys, even Cahors. I like to think that I complement Bertrand Leulliette’s energy, enthusiasm, taste, and connections to a younger generation of French vignerons, with my own experience in the wine trade, from sourcing suppliers to selling retailers and restaurants through some of America’s most well-respected distributor networks.
Our journey begins in earnest next Tuesday, November 15th, when we depart Houston for France. We plan to visit our suppliers in Chablis, the Cote d’Or, Chalonnaise, Macon, Beaujolais, and Provence, sandwiching our trip around the famous Trois Glorieuses weekend of the Hospices de Beaune Auction on Sunday, 19 November. I hope to be blogging often during our trip, with thoughts, tasting notes, and the usual personal opinions. If any of you dear readers have any specific requests, please send them along in your comments, or email me directly at email@example.com .
It feels good to be back.