Madeira in Early America, The dinner party

Discussing the history of wine is thirsty work.  After completing our breakout sessions and the walk around tasting for The Stanford Wine Society, it was time for dinner.  Back in San Francisco a handful of us gathered at a round table to refresh with a glass of NV Laurent-Perrier, Champagne Brut Cuvee Grand Siecle.  Grand Siecle is a blend of three vintages, the exact set unknown to us, but based on the label we know this was released in the 1980s.  From an English cellar, this is robust, lively wine with mature flavors and the core to persist for a number of years.

Carried over from England, the 2011 Arnaud Ente, Meursault La Seve du Clos is the most engaging and impressive wine of the evening.  Impeccable and easy to drink, this is the first wine I have found such level of flavor from a small sip.  The aromas, flavors, and mouth feel engage multiple senses.

A lack of vintage label invoked a study of Clape label styles to arrive at a backet of mid 1980’s vintages for our first red wine.  After tasting, those of more experience narrowed down to 1984 [believed] Auguste Clape, Cornas.  The nose is gorgeous, the palate gentle.

We met fate with our pair of 1989 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve and 1990 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve.  The former in fine condition but the sea spray aromas on the later 1990 indicated an off bottle.  The 1989 is all pure framboise with texture.

Of the final pair, the 1991 August Clape, Cornas first overshadowed the 1999 Noel Verset, Cornas.  The Clape is a deep, dense, flavorful wine from the start such so that I first finished my glass before moving.  Upon settling down with the Verset, I was impressed by how well it responded to air.  This is a wine with strong potential, the young flavors are tense with energy and the old-school note speaks of interesting complexity yet to come.

NV Laurent-Perrier, Champagne Brut Cuvee Grand Siecle
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12%. 1980s release.  A mature color with a fine, textured nose.  Initially a robust wine with a fine cut of acidity and yeasty streak.  Lively, with both chalk and a core of fruit followed by plenty of presence through the finish.  The mature flavors are up front, coating the mouth and taking on sweetness with air.  **** Now – 2028.

2011 Arnaud Ente, Meursault La Seve du Clos
The very light color belies the aromatic nose of sweet, floral aromas, and tropical fruit.  In the mouth is a bright start with the body immediately developing and coming out to fill the mouth.  An almost inky finish brings a toast note.  The balance is impeccable and the effortless concentration is impressive.  Flavors of lemon, with a tart hint on the sides of the tongue, mix with fat and long-last acidity.  One really needs just a small sip to enjoy all the wine has to offer.  Gorgeous.  ****(*) Now – 2028.

1984 [believed] Auguste Clape, Cornas
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  A gorgeous nose of vintage perfume, flowers, earthy hints, and menthol freshness.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of red fruit.  There is concentration and the citric grip is structured from the middle through the finish.  The fruit flavors are mostly up front and of tart, red flavors meaning the nose is the star of this wine.  ***(*) Now.

1989 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve
Pure, aromatic fruit on the nose followed by framboise in the mouth.  The flavors turn a touch tart with air but they are pure, clean, and in plenitude.  There is plenty to perceive as well, fine berries with texture, evocative of seeds, minerals, and even structure.  Lovely.  **** Now – 2023.

1990 Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve
Not quite right on the nose, sea spray.  In the mouth are slightly short red fruit flavors, sharper fruit, and a tart middle.  Grippy on the tongue with plenty of grip and extract.  Clearly an off bottle but enough going on that you could drink around it as a mid-week wine.  Shame!  Not Rated.

1991 August Clape, Cornas
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%.  Slightly textured, animale, dense and flavorful.  The fruit is not bright, rather dense and deep in flavor.  Fine polished wood and a deep, meaty end wrap things up.  **** Now – 2028.

1999 Noel Verset, Cornas
Alcohol 12.5%. Lot 1.  A greater purity to the red fruit.  There is still structure but the grapey tension and resolution with time only makes the wine more attractive.  Delicate yet greatly flavored with an old-school note.  This bottle shows strong potential.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

Madeira in Early America, Part 4

This is the final of four posts based on my talk presented to The Stanford Wine Society in April of this year.

India Madeira in America

During the Revolutionary War, the British blockaded the major ports of Boston and Charleston. In response the Continental Congress economically boycotted Great Britain which included a ban on the import of Madeira wine. Madeira shipments to America plummeted so the Madeira houses sought to make up this deficit in part by expanding trade to India and China. The share of Madeira sent to this eastern market rose to nearly half of the entire trade. During the ocean voyages the holds of these ships, with the pipes of Madeira inside of them, could reach temperatures as high as 120F. It was soon found that this India Madeira was favorably improved.

The American India trade began in 1783, when the ship United States of Philadelphia set sail for China but first stopped at Madeira. Pintard boarded the ship within half an hour of it weighing anchor. He invited the Captain, Supercargo, and Surgeon to stay at the house of Searle where he resided. He was also a relative and employed at the house. The director of the house convinced the captain that a better price would be obtained for any Madeira sold in India rather than China. Some two weeks later the United States left Madeira for India with a cargo of 125 pipes of Madeira from John Searle & Co.

The journey of the United States to Pondicherry and back to Philadelphia took an extraordinary long time with many lives lost to scurvy. The majority owner was in financial difficulties as a result, causing the ship and cargo to be auctioned off just to pay the wages. There was then the question of the debt to John Searle & Co. With only one-fifth of the Madeira bill paid the matter was turned over to attorneys, the results of which are unknown. This was not the last issue for the Searles.

Pintard wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1784 that the house of John Searle & Co. had “Vast connections in the India trade”. In 1786, when the British East India Company looked for a Madeira supplier for their colonies in India, the house of John Searle & Co won the very first bid. The Searle’s were soon extensively involved in the India Madeira trade.

The trade with India and China could yield immense profits but the early Madeira trade was not without its risks both for the owners of the ships with their cargoes and the Madeira shippers. Across several documents we learn the fate of the John Jay and General Washington, two ships, under different owners, which both set sail for the Far East in December 1788. The General Washington was to carry a cargo valued between of £10,000 to £12,000 worth of which 1/8 would be Madeira taken on board en route. Both ships loaded up with Madeira from John Searle & Co of which more than 120 casks of various sizes were on the General Washington alone.

Upon arriving in India, the supercargo of the General Washington found that they had “the misfortune to find a great imposition in the quality of our wines which has proved a ruinous affair to the whole Voyage”. There was a series of small and unexceptional vintages from 1785-1788 which appear to have caused the Searle’s to overextend themselves. The General Washington was forced to sell the first portion at “a very low cost” for goods instead of money then the rest were sold off in China. It did not help that the market was glutted with wine. The cargo of the John Jay was mostly Madeira which they were forced to sell off in Madras, Batavia, and Bombay. Both ships wrote letters of protest to support their legal cases against Searle whose failure was announced in American newspapers in 1793 and 1794.

Pintard had left Madeira in 1786 only to return in 1790 as Consul. Experienced in the India Madeira trade under the Searle’s, he created his own business and it is he who shipped four pipes of Knox’s Madeira via India. There were accompanied by two pipes for Washington. This was in fact the second order of India wine being sent to Washington. Both of which arrived within months of each other. This new type of Madeira was no doubt rare. Neither Thomas Jefferson nor James Madison ever received India wine. Pintard acknowledged this unusual order suggesting “Should you not think proper to take the pipe that is gone to India” then it could be sold to someone else.

The timing of these orders is not by accident for in 1793, France declared war against Great Britain. The British tolerated this American trade because they did not want the Americans to reactivate their alliance with France. The Jay Treaty avoided war between Great Britain and America by recognizing American neutrality in the wars with France. It also allowed formalized American trade to both the West and East Indies. The treaty was passed in 1795, the same year that the new ship Ganges picked up the pipes of Madeira destined for Washington and Knox.

The cost of the London Particular Madeira was the same but it is the freight which made these wines expensive. The freight charges for the first India pipe was £15 compared to the £3 3s direct from Madeira. That made one pipe of India wine £55 compared to £39 13s for London Particular direct. The freight for the second two pipes came to just over £33 each. These pipes of India Madeira cost a staggering £71 each, not regarding duties and drayage.

The freight for Knox’s pipes was £20 each compared to £33 each for Washington. The former were simply “cased” whereas the later were in “dble cases”. In order to prevent the theft of such expensive wine, the pipes or casks themselves were often placed inside a larger wooden case. Washington once had a pipe of Madeira entirely replaced with water so he subsequently cased his wines. For this shipment he was exceedingly cautious as he placed his Madeira inside two increasingly larger cases. Madeira typically shipped in 110 gallon pipes. Knox’s single case raised the volume to approximately 196 gallons each. Washington’s double cases would have occupied over 320 gallons each.

George Washington was willing to pay such extraordinary prices not only because Madeira “one of the most expensive liquors” but that old Madeira “is not to be had upon any terms”. Keenly aware of the scarcity of his India wine he instructed that the duties be paid “for the whole quantity” of the double cases rather “than have them uncased for the purpose of measuring the” present contents. He did not want to risk the wines stolen or adulterated.

The India Madeira for Knox and Washington arrived during the summer of 1796. Knox was notified of the arrival of his wine and that it would be stored until directed otherwise. Seven months later he received another letter explaining that the bill remained unpaid. He was given just five days to pay the outstanding $922, a huge bill given that he made $3000 per year as Secretary of War. We do not know what happened with the wine. Knox had moved back to Maine, where several of children passed away and he had engaged in failing business enterprises.

George Washington wanted his old India Madeira “reserved..for my own use when I get home” as it was “not easy to be replaced”. It was in March of 1797 that George Washington retired from his Presidency and returned to Mount Vernon. According to his Household Account books, that very same month he paid the duties on the two pipes of Madeira as well as the drayage. George Washington’s personal goods were shipped from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon so there is a bill of lading. It is noted in the margin, ”No. 21.22. Two pipes Meda. Wine not mentioned in the No. of Casks-“. George Washington brought his rare India wine back home to Mount Vernon where he drank the last glass just months before passing away in 1799. Pintard became disgraced by consular affairs that year and departed the Island. In doing so he closed this early trade in India Madeira with America.


[1] Arrowsmith, Aaron. Composite: Map of India. 1804. David Rumsey Map Collection.  URL: https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~233589~5514095:Composite–Map-of-India-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No#

Madeira in Early America, Part 3

This is the third of four posts based on my talk presented to The Stanford Wine Society in April of this year.

Descriptions of Madeira

Color is the first aspect one notices of wine in a glass. A desirable color was of such importance that a wine merchant wrote to George Washington in 1760 that his cask of Madeira had a “Color we have endeavored Carefully to please you.” Merchants were not simply picking casks of a particular color, they were coloring the wines. Benjamin Franklin received a case of wine split between “high coloured or Madeira Wine” and “pale Wine”. It was even recommended that cyder be colored for “It will add Greatly to its beauty to have it a little coloured”. Contemporary to James Madison’s orders was Thomas Jefferson’s receipt of a “half Pipe Natural Sherry” and a half pipe “Sherry with Color”. The “Natural Sherry” was without “color or any additives”.

There is but one example of the actual color of Madeira from this period. George Washington received three year old “very choice Particulr Madeira Wine” that was “of a fine Amber Colour”. This description matches an advertisement in New York City for similarly aged Madeira and is distinct from “old pale” Madeira. The implication is that the Amber wine was more colorful. James Madison preferred Madeira that was “rather of the deeper colour”. A later order of Madeira was also described as “of a very deep colour”.

I can find no descriptions of body in the James Madison’s papers. We know that George Washington requested a “rich oily Wine” for one of his Madeira orders. Thomas Jefferson later wrote of “silky Madeira” that was made by “putting a small portion of Malmsey into the dry Madeira.”

Though this mixture was made famous by Jefferson we also find it in a letter from John Drayton written several decades earlier. Drayton was a chief Justice of South Carolina and a wealthy planter who built the Palladian mansion Drayton Hall which still exists on the Ashley River near Charleston. He wrote to his merchant Newton-Gordon in 1771 that he wanted “a couple of pipes of the best madeira for my use, of the finest flavor. Silkey-soft & smooth upon the palate — no ways ruff, sweetish & a little more Malmsey in it than usual.” Drayton regarded the silky character as highly important. His 28 Pound Sterling Madeira is described as “a silky fine flavoured wine, and is allowed 10 by good judges here.” I take that to mean 10 points, hopefully out of 10. That Drayton scored his wine may not be so unusual for he made his fortune from rice which was rated according to the quality of its milling.

I mentioned before how Madison liked to finish aging his Madeira in his garret. The term “mellow” appears in the 1780s to describe the Madeira stored by Americans in “the tops of the houses”. At the same time it was acknowledged in a committee meeting about providing the best investment for returning British East India ships, that Madeira mellowed from the long journey in the hot holds. Despite this early acknowledgement, it was not until after the end of the War of 1812, when it became more common for wine to travel from Madeira to India or China before returning to America, did the term become more frequent. In fact it became synonymous with wine from that trade route.

Up Next: India Madeira in America


[1]  Mallet, Allain Manesson.  Description de l’univers. 1683. URL: https://archive.org/details/descriptiondelun03mall

Madeira in Early America, Part 2

This is the second of four posts based on my talk presented to The Stanford Wine Society in April of this year.

Vüe ​​de la ville et de la rade de Funchal capitale de l’ile de Madere, Volume 2 of the “Histoire générale des voyages” of AF Prévost (Paris: Didot, 1746). (1)

How It Was Aged

James Madison was very specific when it came to the handling of Madeira for he desired to achieve a particular flavor. He preferred to age his Madeira in cask for at least five years. When he received an order of Madeira he was sure to let the cask remain stationery for quite some time. This allowed all of the lees or dead yeast cells to settle on the bottom. As an alternative to waiting, many people would fine their wines to remove the lees. This usually involved putting an ingredient into the cask to help bind the lees together so they would settle down on the bottom.

One correspondent noted his wines were frequently spoiled in finning. His preferred method was to pour a pint of milk into the cask. After agitating the cask the top third of the cask would be clear in one week and the bottom would be clear in two weeks. The correspondent drank his wine from the cask for it was “milder than when bottled” and that bottled wine “has a sediment which often fouls the wine.”

Madison did not drink his Madeira straight from cask. After letting the cask age and settle he preferred to bottle the Madeira for further aging. He felt that this was the ideal “mode of compleating its flavour.” He wrote that “wine is said to attain its perfection best by lying 5 or 6 years in Cask, and then going into bottles and kept throughout in warm situations.” Madison found that a particular parcel of Madeira which he had bottled then stored in the garret or attic for 18 months had become “exquisite”.

It is curious as to when people first started storing their Madeira, not in the cellar, but in the attic or garret. I thought, at first, that this tradition might have come from such Madeira loving cities as Charleston. Located on the water, many existing 18th century houses do not have basements due to the high water level. However, the earliest reference I can find comes from Sir Hans Sloane, the famous naturalist whose immense collection formed the backbone of The British Museum. Sir Sloane wrote in 1707, “Madera Wines have this particular to them, different from French Wines, and all others coming hither, that it keeps better in a hot Place, and expos’d to the Sun, than in a cool Cellar”.

Philadelphia was a great Madeira city where houses contained both cellars and garrets. We know from probate inventories that during our period of interest, of houses with cellars, ¼ kept liquor and beer down below. Over the same period, of houses with garrets, 1/8 kept liquor and beer in the garret. Elizabeth Drinker, the wife of wealthy merchant Henry Drinker, noted that one fall day in 1804, her husband and his coachmen “have been busy this Afternoon moving a Cask of wine from the Cellar up 2 pr. Stairs, obliged to nearly empty the cask before they could get it up, and then fill it again.” We know from his 1809 inventory that there were “4 demijohns containing wine” up two pairs of stairs. The wine mentioned would be Madeira stored in his garret and I wonder if that’s where he filled the demijohns.

George Washington always stored his Madeira in the cellar of his home at Mount Vernon. However, for one particular order of India Madeira, near the end of his second term as President, he was advised that his recently arrived pipes of Madeira would improve better if left in the counting house above ground than in any cellar. This was a change for Washington for most of his life he had his Madeira drawn from the pipe on a daily basis. By this point you must now wonder what these wines were like.

Up Next: Descriptions of Madeira


[1] Vüe ​​de la ville et de la rade de Funchal capitale de l’ile de Madere, Volume 2 of the “Histoire générale des voyages” of AF Prévost (Paris: Didot, 1746).  Wikicommons. URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:V%C3%BCe_de_la_ville_et_de_la_rade_de_Funchal_capitale_de_l%E2%80%99ile_de_Madere_(1746).jpg

Madeira in Early America, Part 1

During April of this year I flew to San Francisco to attend the latest annual Madeira tasting organized by Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.) and Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port).  These tastings draw an international group of Madeira experts whose presence was leveraged by The Stanford Wine Society.  Together with The Rare Wine Company, a series of talks and a tasting was organized for both Wine Society members and Stanford university alumni.  At this event, Mannie Berk delivered an introductory talk on the history of Madeira.  This was followed by three breakout sessions: Collecting Madeira with David Boobbyer (Reid Wines of Bath, England) and Paul Day (Madeira collector and expert), Madeira Blending with Ricardo Freitas (Vinhos Barbeito of Madeira), and Madeira in Early America with myself.  These sessions were then followed by a walk around tasting. I will present the core of my talk over the course of four posts this week.

Madeira in Early America

When Henry Knox, the Boston book seller turned Secretary of War under General George Washington, was notified that his four pipes of Madeira wine had arrived into Philadelphia during the summer of 1796, more than one year had elapsed since his order was placed. This was a long time even given the standards of 18th century shipping but these were no ordinary pipes of wine for they arrived from Madeira via India.

Madeira was long the favorite wine in America and more specifically, the only wine of choice amongst the wealthy and powerful. It is true that they ordered bottles of Chateau Haut-Brion, Lafite, Latour, and Margux by the dozen but the main expenditure was on top-quality Madeira acquired by the hundreds of gallons. Madeira was available from merchants up and down the coast of America but the choicest parcels could only be secured by ordering straight from the Island.

The period marked by the Revolutionary War, from 1775-1783, and the War of 1812 (1812-1815), both between Great Britain and America, are particularly rich with regards to the history of Madeira. No longer could one count on orders arriving with regularity for blockades, seizures at sea, and embargos were constantly interrupting the supply of Madeira. Though inconvenient, this was not disastrous for with the development of American independence came new trade routes. Thus in the time of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, Madeira came not only straight from the Island but also the East Indies, China, the West Indies, and even Brazil.

It is this period that I will focus on today. I will describe how Madeira was ordered, how it was aged, provide descriptions of the wine, and finally look at the introduction of India Madeira in America.

Ordering

In the 18th century Madeira was sold based on quality with such increasing designations as New York Market, London Market, and London Particular. The top London Particular is what the Founding Fathers would order or as a young Washington wrote, “from the best House in Madeira a Pipe of the best old wine”. These wines were ordered by the pipe, containing 110 gallons each. While these wines were blended, there were also unblended varieties such as Sercial and Malvasia. These were quite rare, expensive, and typically available only by the quarter-cask.

As London Particular was a blend, shippers would listen to their customers’ requests for color, body, and flavor. Thus the best Madeira for one’s taste was obtained by ordering straight from the island. The shippers kept track of their annual orders to cultivate the relationship; making sure to set aside good pipes such as what one firm did for Governor Penn.

Orders could take place in several ways. In some instances the shipping house reached out directly to the customer as when Martha Custis, future wife of George Washington, received a letter stating the house would like to send her a pipe yearly and that she could “depend on being supplied with the best.” In other instances orders were direct as with Madison.

John Marsden Pintard, US Commercial Agent and later Consul at Madeira, tried a patriotic approach. In the 1780s and 1790s, the Barbary pirates sailing out of North Africa, began to capture American vessels and enslave the crews. In 1794, the same year that the American Navy was commissioned to fight this threat, Pintard sent a letter to Knox, Washington, and others. He proposed to ship wines “superior to any House on the Island” and pay $4 per pipe, which cost $250 with freight, towards a fund for the relief of any American captured now or in the future. He also guaranteed that the wine would match the superior quality or he would not charge for it.

With Independence came the development of commercial relationships and diplomatic agreements between countries. American agents in foreign lands often took the initiative. When James Leander Cathcart, US Consul General in Spain, learned of the destruction of the President’s House with the Madeira contained within, during the War of 1812, he immediately had one house send several pipes of “excellent quality” supposing “that your stock was burnt by the Goths”. Cathcart himself was held captive in Algiers for 11 years but we do not know if he benefited from Pintard’s fund.

Up Next: Madeira in Early American, How it was Aged


[1] William Speiden journals: Vol. 1, Mar. 9, 1852-July 2, 1854. Manuscript Division, The Library of Congress.  URL: https://www.loc.gov/item/mss830450001/

A tasty pair of wines

Just a quick note for today on two other wines tasted at Sudip’s house.  It is here that four of us were intrigued by the 2014 Goodfellow Family Cellars, Chardonnay, Durant Vineyard.   At this stage, the wine is still a bit tight but all of the components give you a sense of things to come.  This is a fine, fresh wine which balances white fruit with ripeness and fat.  Elegant and not bombastic.  From the dump cart I picked up a few bottles of 1997 Harrison Winery & Vineyards, Millenium Merlot 2000, Napa Valley thinking they would be good as an affordable party wine.   We all enjoyed the perfectly mature flavors so much that I decided not to serve them at the party!  At $10 this is a great dump bin find.

2014 Goodfellow Family Cellars, Chardonnay, Durant Vineyard – $37
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines on volcanic soils in Dundee Hills.  Alcohol 13.4%.  Flavors of white peach and green apple mix with smoke and a yeast hint.  There is gentle ripeness, a modest coating of fat, and watering acidity that propels this unique wine.  This fresh wine sports good focus and is actually in need of age.  **** 2020-2028.

1997 Harrison Winery & Vineyards, Millenium Merlot 2000, Napa Valley – $10
Alcohol 14%.  A savory red wine with a rounded body and grippy, mouth filling finish.  It develops wood notes, an animale note, and even more rounded berries which mix with cinnamon, brown sugar. Quite tasty.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

A diverse set of wines: Armenia, Macedonia, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, and others

It was over the bottle of Ethiopian Chardonnay, brought by Jacques several weeks ago, that he proposed the idea of hosting a wine dinner to include bottles from Macedonia and Lebanon.  The origins of the wines we tried were nearly as diverse as the guests he hosted, who together represent nine different nationalities.  Jacques supplied a number of wines he had acquired over the years, bringing them from his home cellar to the Washington, DC, area.

A few other wines were added, including those I had purchased from MacArthur Beverages, from which we started with the 2017 2016 Domaine Neferis, Rose Magnifique, Sidi Salem, Tunisia.  A solid rose from Tunisia, how can you not try it?

My favorite red wines all came from Jacques.  It took me several minutes to realize I had drunk an earlier vintage of the 2012 Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah, Grand Cuvee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  The 2012 vintage is clearly much better than the 2009 I had drunk earlier with Taz, which was also supplied by Jacques.  The 2012 is a dark flavored wine with strong development potential.  I would try it again in a few years.  My favorite wine is the 2005 Chateau Musar, Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  It is mouth filling with mature flavors that do not weigh you down and capable of further development.  Purchased pre-war, the 2008 Domaine de Bargylus, Syria struck me as the biggest surprise of the night.  The 2008 vintage is only the third for the domain.  It is very well-made and drinkable, perhaps a nod must be given to consulting oenologist Stephane Derenoncourt.  The family produces wine in both Syria and Lebanon but I believe Jacques prefers their Syrian wine.

Our final wine was sat for most of the evening in a decanter.  Complete with wooden presentation box and metal label, the 2013 Kamnik, Vranec, Terroir Grand Reserva, Macedonia is big both in bottle and in alcohol.  I notice power more than terroir but it is a good drink with the alcohol integrated.

Thanks again to Jacques and his wife.  Please find my tasting notes for these and the other wines I tasted below.

2017 2016 Domaine Neferis, Rose Magnifique, Sidi Salem, Tunisia
Imported by Travis Wine Imports. This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache. Alcohol 13.5%.  A medium, dry rose color.  In the mouth is a moderate body, floral middle, watering acidity, and a lighter finish.  Light and bright in flavor, it takes on a creamy mouthfeel and notes of pastilles in the finish. ** Now.

2017 Minuty, Rose M, Cotes de Provence
Imported by Chateau & Estates. Alcohol 13%.  A rather light dry rose color.  This light, acidity driven wine bears just a touch of texture but plentiful stone notes.  ** Now.

2013 Yacoubian-Hobbs, Aghavnadzor, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Imported by Paul Hobbs Selections. This wine is a blend of Voskehat, Khatuni, Qrdi, and Garan Demak. Alcohol 12.8%.  Both a light color and a light nose.  Improves with warmth to reveal white nuts, hints of wood but is overall modest in flavor.  Interesting but left me wanted for more.  *(*) Now – 2019.

2003 Chateau Musar, Blanc, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is 100% Merwah.  Alcohol 12%.  A copper-yellow color.  Mature in the mouth with an oxidative note then Sherry flavors with some toast.  At first moderate in body with watering acidity it eventually develops an enjoyable lanolin roundness through the long aftertaste.  Certainly an acquired taste.  **(*) Now but will last.

2010 Tsantali, Xinomavro Reserva, Naoussa, Greece
Imported by Fantis Imports. Alcohol 13%.  Quite nice actually with initially dry flavors of black cherry then an engaging racy bit.  *** Now – 2020.

2004 Domaine Ferrando, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% old-vine Grenache.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Fully mature with wood box, black cherry, and Kirsch all delivered in a rounded style.  Very good finish.  *** Now.

2012 Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah, Grand Cuvee, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 14.5%.  Very dark in the glass with dark flavors of incense.  There is extract and tannins structured for a requisite few more years of development.  I like the dark fruit profile and mouthfeel.  The new oak needs to integrate but strong potential.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2005 Chateau Musar, Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Carignan aged in cement vats, French oak barrels, and finally vats.  Alcohol 14%.  Mature with mouth filling flavors of cherry, good acidity, and animale bits adding complexity.  The citric tannins and acidity will see further development.  Unique!  **** Now – 2028.

2008 Domaine de Bargylus, Syria
This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. Alcohol 14.5%.  Very dark in color.  Some roast on the nose but mature overall.  In the mouth are good flavors and fine extract.  A successful blend that opens up to a modern profile with good length.  *** Now – 2023.

2013 Stobi, Vranec, Veritas, Tikves, Macdeonia
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 100% Vranec aged 24 months in 80% new Slavonian oak casks and 20% Slavonian oak barrels. Alcohol 14%.  Modern flavors of cherry with some brightness, certainly clean and balanced with no hard edges.  Could use a year or two to open up.  ** Now – 2023.

2013 Kamnik, Vranec, Terroir Grand Reserva, Macedonia
This wine is 100% Vranec sourced from 17 year old vines aged 28 months in French and American oak barrels. Alcohol 16.3%.  An intense, yet flavorful wine with powerful ripe dark fruits and a long, powerful finish.  One notices power and not alcohol.  A bit unevolved at this point so come back in a few years.  *** 2020-2028.