“for Mercy Sake stop, all my Wine”: John Adam’s first wine order as Minister to Great Britain in 1785
On February 24, 1785, John Adams was commissioned as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James in Great Britain. As any wine lover would do he made previous arrangements to ship a large amount of wine from France to his new home in London. He arrived in London on May 26, 1785, only to find to his horror that as minister he was not exempted from paying duties on all of the wine he had ordered. Thus on his second day he dashed off a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Ministers Plenipotentiary to France, begging him to cancel his wine order.
John Adams already had wine “of the best qualities in my Cellar at the Hague”. For this quantity he was exempted on paying duty. From France he was expecting 500 bottles of “Small Wines” from Bordeaux, Madeira, and Frontenac. For these he would have to pay a duty of 6 to 8 Shillings per bottle. John Adams was only willing to pay the duty on the Madeira and Frontenac.By the time Thomas Jefferson, who resided in Paris, received the letter, he already had the cases of John Adams’ wine affixed with seals in Paris and put on a boat bound for Rouen. The boat was just departing so he was unable to land the wine. Thus Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Anthony Garvey, American Counsel in Rouen, asking him to prevent the 500 bottles of Bordeaux from being sent on to London. Anthony Garvey responded to Thomas Jefferson on June 5th that he would look out for John Adam’s wine.
John Adams had not yet received a letter about his wine so he again wrote to Thomas Jefferson on June 7, 1785. He was a bit more emphatic this time. “[F]or Mercy Sake stop, all my Wine” he wrote. Each minister was only allowed to import 500 – 600 bottles duty free. This alone would not cover his “very rich Wine” at the Hague and his desirable Madeira, Frontenac, and Bordeaux at Autueil. John Adams feared that “I shall be ruined” by the 500 bottles of Bordeaux wine in Rouen.
He was not joking for he faced paying a duty of £150 – £200. That year in America, where the best Madeira was to be had, you could purchase a pipe of three year old London Particular for £33. At 440 quart bottles per 110 gallon Madeira pipe, John Adams could purchase some 2200 bottles of the best quality Madeira!
Fortunately, Anthony Garvey was successful in holding back John Adams’ wine. By July, John Adams no longer feared having to pay duties on the extra wine. He informed Thomas Jefferson that he had asked Anthony Garvey to forward his wine, some 7 or 8 cases of it for “I believe I shall easily obtain an order to receive it without paying duties”.
 “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 27 May 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0068. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 122–123.]
“To John Adams from Thomas Jefferson, 2 June 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0079. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 145–147.]
 “To Thomas Jefferson from Anthony Garvey, 5 June 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-08-02-0139. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 8, 25 February–31 October 1785, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, p. 177.]
 “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 7 June 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0090. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 160–161.]
 “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 16 July 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0137. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 252–253.]
 “Carte du cours de la rivière de Seine depuis… la rivière d’Andelle jusqu’à Rouen”. Buache, Philippe. 1753. ark:/12148/btv1b8468895f . Bibliothèque nationale de France URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb40742714m
You have probably noticed my haphazard posting as of late. While I never slack on generating tasting notes, my usually posting time is now largely dedicated to research. One area I am curious about is General George Washington’s Madeira purchases during the Revolutionary War. When George Washington was home at Mount Vernon he usually purchased his Madeira by the pipe. But during the war, when he was at headquarters, he typically purchased his Madeira by the bottle.To be specific, General Washington’s aide de camp, Captain Caleb Gibbs, Captain Commandant of the Guard, purchased his Madeira. It is fortunate for us is that Captain Gibbs kept all of his receipts. On October 18, 1776, some 240 years ago to this day, Captain Gibbs purchased 163 bottles of “old Madeira wine” for $163 from Levinus Clarkson.
Levinus Clarkson was a merchant in Charleston, South California. He had Dutch connections with whom he traded with during the war. From his correspondence we can see that he imported Madeira, amongst other goods, then forwarded the wine up to his business partner David Van Horne in New York. Levinus Clarkson would eventually become a Continental Agent in Charleston where he traded. Appointed during the fall of 1776 he was responsible “to supply any of the Ships or Cruizers with whatever Provisions, Stores or necessarys they may be in want of when they put into or arrive in any of your ports”. Congress told him he was “in short do all things in this department that you think will serve the Continent and promote the service of the Navy”. Clearly this included supplying the Commander of the Continental Army with old Madeira.
 Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers. URL: https://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw5/117/0600/0661.jpg
The pair of 2015 wines I tasted from Daniel Bouland offer impressive levels of color and flavor at attractive prices. The 2015 Daniel Bouland, Cuvee Melanie, Cote de Brouilly is the most forward, generous, and full-bodied of the two. Tasted blind I would not guess Beaujolais due to the roundness. While you can drink it now, I would recommend waiting until next year. The 2015 Daniel Bouland, Vieilles Vignes Corcelette, Morgon is even darker and to go with that, it is in need of age. There is a core of dark fruit with a ripe, citric structure throughout, and tense acidity that will see this wine through development over the next several years. I recommend drinking the Brouilly now while you let the Morgon age. These wines are available at Weygandt-Wines.
2015 Daniel Bouland, Cuvee Melanie, Cote de Brouilly – $25
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 70 year old vines on volcanic schist. Alcohol 14.5%. It is rather dark in the glass with a grapey color. The nose offers youthful aromas of concentrated, grapey berries. In the mouth it is rounder, quickly building weight with almost puckering acidity that grabs you. It is balanced with citric tannins and a brighter finish that leaves tannins on the gums ***(*) Now – 2021.
2015 Daniel Bouland, Vieilles Vignes Corcelette, Morgon – $27
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60-70 year old vines aged in both tank and foudre. Alcohol 14.3%. This is a very dark grapey-ruby color. The offers low-lying aromas of dark red fruit. In the mouth this is a structured, mineral wine with a core of grapey fruit and ripe citric tannins throughout. With air the wine becomes attractively tense, building flavors until the earthy finish which leaves a dose of drying tannins. ***(*) 2018-2025.
A few of the Californian Chardonnays that I drink on a frequent basis were raised entirely in stainless steel. I find these wines can provide both the texture and weight that I enjoy. The 2015 Melville, Chardonnay, Clone 76 – Inox, Santa Rita Hills is another excellent example of this type of wine. The fruit is sourced from a 1.8 acre block of vines located on very sandy soils. The Melville wines were originally made by Greg Brewer but after his departure last year the wines are made by Chad Melville. This particular wine is charming once it warms up a bit. It is zippy with weight, picking up more fruit as it progresses. I preferred the wine on the first night rather than the second but do not be fooled, this wine will develop over the next few years. It is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2015 Melville, Chardonnay, Clone 76 – Inox, Santa Rita Hills – $35
This wine is 100% Chardonnay that was fermented for three months then aged on the lees in stainless steel tanks for 5 months. Alcohol 14%. With a rounded start, this grippy and zippy wine has nice weight to the mouth filling flavors. The flavors move through the finish where it picks up some berry fruit, fat, and nuts. ***(*) Now – 2021.
Nine years ago I found that the 1999 Domaine La Bouissiere, Gigondas had a “chunky, rusticity that matches the fall weather.” I enjoyed it, bought more, and recently tried another bottle. It is now robust and rugged with ample fruit so it has held up all of these years. It will never approach the complexity of a Chateauneuf du Pape but it certainly has plenty of attractive personality. And yes, it is a great selection for the fall.
1999 Domaine La Bouissiere, Gigondas
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%. This wine boasts the good robustness and rugged weight of a traditional wine from Gigondas. There are dense, strong fruit flavors, nutmeg spices, and some roast earth too. Its an attractive wine with fine perfumed wood. If I criticise then the weight of the wine could use a touch more acidity. *** Now though will last but not improve.
One should really drink all of the Chateau des Tours wines possible including the 2010 Chateau des Tours, Cotes du Rhone Blanc. Since tasted last summer, it is now drinking at its peak. This is a substantial white wine that delivers a luxurious mouthfeel which does not fall flat due to the acidity. I think it is perfect for a fall evening. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Chateau des Tours, Cotes du Rhone Blanc – $30
This wine is 100% Grenache blanc. Alcohol 14%. There is the slightest yeast hint on the nose which is predominantly full of orchard fruit. The nose leaves you unprepared for the tropical fruit flavors that exist in a dense, glycerin filled body. Flavors of white nuts contribute to the luxury but there is also texture and fine acidity cutting through to the finish. It even develops a ripe berry note. **** Now.
The 2010 Chateau Mangot, Saint Emilion Grand Cru is a largely forward wine with an outright display of its oak aging. It is a solid, flavorful wine that requires more time for the oak to integrate. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Chateau Mangot, Saint Emilion Grand Cru – $23
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot with the remaining Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon aged 14 months in 40% new oak barrels. Alcohol 14%. The oak shows through the fruit with chocolate flavors, polished wood, and powdery, sweet cocoa tannins. The fruit is of an attractive blue and black nature, existing in a wee bit of structure that will allow a bit of aging. Some heat breaks through with air. ** Now – 2020.