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The Wines of Keermont

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Just under two weeks ago Jeremy from Kysela Pere et Fils recommended that I try out the wines of Keermont.  Their wines are a new addition to the Kysela portfolio and ones which they are excited about.  I stopped by MacArthurs last week to pick up three of the selections.

The Keermont Winery, Image from Kysela

Keermont is composed of two old farms, Fleurfontein and Keerweder III, which were purchased by the Wraith family in 2003.  In 2005 they started a major effort to plant vineyards with the first vintage release in 2007.   The vineyards are planted in blocks throughout the farm which are surrounded by natural vegetation.  Within a block the parcels are individually managed in terms of varietal, density, training, and irrigation.  In 2010 they converted a spring water bottling plant into their winery.

Vineyard, Image from Keermont

There are currently four wines produced.  I tried three and left the sticky for a future post.  These wines left impressions of being carefully made, purity, and focus.  I was most excited by the white Terrasses and the Syrah.  These are worth searching out for.

2010 Keermont, Terrasse, Stellenbosch
This wine is 88% Chenin Blanc, 7% Chardonnay, and 5% Viognier.  This wine was fermented and aged on lees for 11 months in second and third fill French oak barrels.  I do not drink much white wine, let alone Chenin Blanc but I muts admit this is a lovely wine.  The wine is a very light straw color.  It is important not to drink this wine too cold.  The savory, restrained fruit is delivered with a creamy body, clean stone flavors, and a racy finish.  The fresh, focused, apple like fruit has acidity and texture that dances on the tongue.  A pleasant mouthfeel!  This drank well over several nights and I suspect might be best in a year or two. ***(*) 2014-2017.

2009 Keermont, Syrah, Stellenbosch
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines on the north facing vineyard of Helderberg.  The wine was aged for 22 months in French oak.  Only four barrels were produced.  Mourvedre and Viognier were also planted for possible use in the future.  The nose is delicate though very perfumed with a depth to the purity of the fruit and evocative of the Northern Rhone.  The fruit flavors are young with restraint, some dark notes, drying tannins, and persistant aftertaste.  With air notes of vanilla develop on the nose.  In the mouth it becomes very elegant, with mineral flavors that coat the mouth, a savory, salty character, and a richness that exceeds the Red Blend.  I would cellar this a few years. ***(*) 2014-2019.

2008 Keermont, Red Blend, Stellenbosch
This flagship wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20%Syrah.  The wine was aged for 20 months in second fill French oak barrels.  Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec were also planted and may be included once the vineyards mature.  It took several hours for this to step out of the glass.  There are lots of upfront flavor with restrainted black cherry, blackberry, finely delineated pencil lead and cedar that make way to bright acidity in the midpalate.  There are very fine, subtle tannins that show texture in the finish.  There is a bit of a green herb note that identifies this wine as South African. *** Now-2019.

Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines

October 31, 2011 7 comments

This past Friday I was invited to spend #ChampagneDay at Weygandt Wines. Tim O’Rourke reached out to the local community of wine and food bloggers by offering a Champagne tasting with some appetizers from Ripple.  There was also a bottle of Chermette, Cramant de Bourgogne for those willing to taste non-Champagne bubbles.  By 7:30pm a decent crowd had showed up.  Of the Champagnes I really enjoyed the Nathalie Fermet, La Val Cornet followed by the Nicolas Maillart, Platine.  I thought these two bottles were a notch up from the others.

I enjoyed meeting Derek Swanson (The Weekly Wine Pick),  Jessica Orquina and her husband (Jessica In Search Of), Rachel and Brett (DMV Dining), and Joon (Vinicultured).    There were enjoyable wines, new people to meet, and good energy.  Hopefully Weygandt Wines and other merchants will continue to actively reach out to the local bloggers. Thanks again to Tim for hosting all of us.  I will certainly return soon to pick up some Champagne and other French wines.

NV J.L. Vergnon, Conversation Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne
A light yellow straw color with a yeasty, apple like nose.  An initial burst of green fruit/citrus flavor with great bubbles and a strong yeast component.  Not Rated.

NV Philippe Prie, Brut Tradition, Champagne
Richer than the Vergnon, the bubbles were more aggressive with a stronger yeast component.  Not Rated.

NV Nathalie Falmet, Brut Nature, Champagne
A yellowish color.  A strong nose followed by an aggressive start in the mouth.  There was a lovely, continual stream of bubbles with minerals in the midpalate and a long, yeasty aftertaste.  Not Rated.

NV Nathalie Falmet, Cuvee Le Val Cornet, Champagne
This was really quite nice.  The soft, rich Champagne had an awesome, racy, minerally, rich finish.  Drinking perfectly!  My favorite of the Champagnes.  Not Rated.

NV Nicolas Maillart, 1er Cru Brut, Platine, Champagne
This wine is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.  This was almost as good as the Falmet, Le Val Cornet but softer overall and a little less fruit.  Not Rated.

The five Champagnes clearly wetted appetites as bottles of red wine started appearing at the tasting area.  Tim offered up a bottle of Jann Chave, Le Rouvre, Crozes-Hermitage that I neglected to take a note on though I certainly enjoyed a taste.  Of the red wines I enjoyed the 2010 Boulard, 2009 Font Sarade, and the 2010 Domaine des Soulanes.

1983 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru
This was a recent $20 bin-end wine that Dereck bought from MacArthurs.  The cloudy, brown color did not bode well but the nose and mouth were better than expected.  Soft, gravelly, and clearly a flawed bottle but drinkable.  Not Rated.

2007 Domaine Savoye, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Cote du Py, Morgon, Beaujolais
This was minerally, more mature, a decent finish, and reasonably interesting.  Not Rated.

2010 Daniel Bouland, Chiroubles, Beaujolais
This wine is 100% Gamay.  Restrained fruit, good fresh acidity, stones, and fine tannins.  Easy to drink and my favorite of the two Beaujolais.  Not Rated.

2009 Alfredo Maestro, Tejero Vina Almate, Tierres de Leon
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from a 10-year-old vineyard.  The wine was aged for four months in barrique.  Fresh, nuts, lots of acidity driven flavors.  Not the most interesting to me.  Not Rated.

2009 Domaine Font Sarade, Les Hauts de La Ponche, Vacqueyras
This wine is 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 25% Syrah.  This was the richest of all the wines tasted with ripe fruit, minerality, an intense midpalate, and integrated tannins.  Vacqueyras on steroids!  Not Rated.

2010 Domaine des Soulanes, Kaya, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes
This wine is 100% Carignan.  There was a pretty perfumed nose.  In the mouth, flavors of sweet raspberry with dark notes and roast coming out midpalate.  Not Rated.

“…they want Fire, their Juices are not spirituous enough…” August 02, 1773

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Only a few days later Andrew Estave publishes a response to Colonel Bolling, Jr’s request for vigor in his continuing campaign in support of foreign vines.  With this response Andrew Estave hopes to “remove a Part of the prejudice entertained, without any good Reason, against our native Grapes.”

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, August 02, 1773, Page 3

SIR,

THE Essay on Vines, which appeared in a former Gazette with the Signature of R. BOLLLING, is entitled to the Approbation of the Publick.  It had its Source, without Doubt, in that holy Zeal which warms the Breast of every true Patriot in Matters that concern the Happiness of his Country; but this Zeal is sometimes destructive of its own Purpose;  and may have fatal Consequences when not accompanied with a thorough Knowledge of the Affair in Agitation.

 I shall be permitted, I hope, without incurring the Charge of Fondess for Dispute, or Inclination to give Offence, briefly to examine a favourite Doctrine of Mr. Bolling’s.  He seems to have condemned all the native Grapes of this Country, to the Fate of never producing any other than a mean Wine, “for (says he) they want Fire, their Juices are not spirituous enough to furnish the Wine obtained from them with a sufficient Body.”  This is certainly true with Respect to the Grapes which grow wild in the Woods, or wherever Chance has scattered their Seeds.  But, has Experience ascertained the Degree of Improvement of which these Grapes are capable?  Has any one transplanted the Vines, enclosed, cultivated, and dressed them, after the Manner practiced in the most celebrated Wine Countries?  If all this has been done, and yet their Product has appeared not superior to that of the wild unmanaged Vine, I yield, and acknowledge myself deceived in my Attempt; but no one, I imagine, has a Right to condemn it until the Experiment has been fairly made.

 To develop a little my Notion by Example, I shall suppose that a Vine Stock of an Inch Diameter, growing wild, may produce ten or twelve Branches, and about three Hundred Bunches of Grapes.  A Stock of the same Sort and Size, being cultivated, and properly managed, will have only one or two small Branches left.  With two Eyes each, which may produce at the next Shoot three or four Branches, and eight or ten Bunches of Fruit.  Now the same Quantity of Spirit a Substance which in the first Instance is diffused through about three Hundred Bunches seems in the second to be concentred in eight or ten, from which one may form an Idea of the Difference that will be found in the Wine obtained from these different Stocks.  The native Vines which I planted about two Years since have from four to ten Bunches each; and their Grapes are as big again as the wild, although they do not ripen until the End of September, or the Beginning of October.  What I have said, if it meets with the Credit at Merits, may serve to remove a Part of the prejudice entertained, without any good Reason, against our native Grapes.

 I agree, with all the experienced Cultivators of Vines, that the Grapes which ripen latest are the best; and more than one Half of the seventy Species, which we have in this Country, become ripe between the Middle of September and the 15th of October.

 Had Colonel Bolling ever been in Canada, he must have been convinced, as I was by my own Eyes, that the unfruitful Vines of that Country differ too much from those we have here to make their ill Fate an Argument against the Cultivation of our own Grapes.  Upon the Whole, we ought not to blame his Endeavours to introduce amongst us a better Sort of Plants than we at present enjoy; but I doubt exceedingly their

Success. I am the Publick’s
Obedient Servant,
A.      ESTAVE.

2004 Keenan, Merlot at Mrs. K’s Toll House

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

We have been taking our daughter out to lunch ever since we were brave enough to leave the house.  Early on we even tried going out to dinner but when she would not fall asleep at the Outback Steakhouse her fussiness drew stares from other diners.  There were other attempts over the years but they invariably ended up with someone taking her to the car or back to the hotel for a nap.  My daughter has always gone to bed early so it was just an unfair struggle against nature.

Mrs K's Toll House Restaurant

This summer she started handling an early dinner quite well.  If we are seated around 5pm then she can last one hour or even an hour and a half.  So we have been able to eat ribs, seafood, and spaghetti in Ocean City and pizza in Silver Spring.  During my last trip to Seattle my wife took her to an early dinner at a local Italian joint with half-off wine specials.  We have gone a few more times but the wine list is quite short so we have satisfied ourselves with 2007 Rufino, Ducale, Chianti Classico Reserva for $25 or 2009 Rosemount, Merlot for $17.  The restaurants in our area will cork and bag an unfinished bottle.  This truly makes wine more affordable by the bottle than the glass.

Stairs to the Basement Wine Bar

This week we went to the basement wine bar at Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant.  Opened in 1930 the restaurant has accumulated a fairly interesting wine list for Montgomery County.  It is a strongly American list with a focus on California.  With its older vintages (and prices to match) you will certainly find bottles not available at other restaurants.  Several years ago they completed the massive project of transforming the basement into a wine bar and dinning area.  It is a casual space where you quickly forget that you are in Silver Spring.  We went because there is a happy hour special of 50% off all bottles under $60.  You are technically required to sit at the bar but as we had already been seated at a table we were allowed to partake.  I settled on the 2004 Keenan, Merlot for the budget price of $27.50 on sale.

2004 Keenan, Merlot, Napa Valley
The fruit is no longer primary with decent weight and gravelly texture.  The wine shows Bordeaux-like with its restraint and structure.  There are flavors of dark cherry, blue fruits, lipstick, and a fair amount of midpalate tannins. ** Now-2014.

A Dining Area

“…will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.” July 29, 1773

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Two months after Andrew Estave readied for his apprentices, Colonel Bolling, Jr. publishes an article re-asserting the importance of importing and cultivating foreign vines for Virginia.  In his address he quotes both Philip Miller and Nicolas Bidet.  Philip Miller, born 1691, was a Scottish botanist who was head gardner of the Chelsea Physic Garden. He published The Gardeners Dictionary in 1731.  Nicolas Bidet, born 1709 in Riems, was an agronomist and wine grower.  He first published Traité sur la nature et sur la culture de la vigne in 1752 with a second edition in 1759. 

With these two supporting references Colonel Bolling, Jr. feels confident that the Lachryma vine would be best for Virginia.  He rallies the readers by stating, “But all the Reflexions in the World are unavailing, unless you, Gentlemen, who conceive the Utility of the Measure contribute a little Vigour to its Execution.” In the end he provides instructions for anyone who wants to furnish him with little slips of foreign vines.

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 29, 1773, Page 3

TO THE FRIENDS TO VINE-PLANTING,

GENTLEMEN,

It is much to be regretted, that at a Time when the Country appears to have an earnest Desire to see a fair Experiment of the Practicability of making Wine in Virginia, some small Effort is note made at least to procure Vines proper for the Purpose.  Whatever Grape [unreadable] to Cultivation in Countries like the North of France and in the South of Britain (whose Summers are cooler than ours) will not come to the same in this Country.  Miller, that Excellent Naturalist, says, “that he believes it will be found true in all Fruits (therefore in Grapes) that where the natural Heat of the Sun ripens and prepares their Juices, so as to render them palatable (and, you may say, proper for Wine) whatever Degree of Heat those Juices may have more will render them weaker, less spirituous (and more improper for Wine).”  An Austere Grape, from those Countries (as the Treffau) would be far more eligible than their [unreadable] Grapes; the same Miller observing, “that rough austere Fruits transplanted from a cold to a warmer Climate, have been so altered by the greater Heat of the Sun as to excel the very finest Fruits of the Country, whence they were taken.”  By Parity of Reason, whatever Fruit comes to entire Perfection in warm Countries, will lose of its Perfection by Transplantation in colder; but such as are too sweet and luscious or produce Liquors that are so, will receive an Improvement.  The Lachryma at Naples, wich requires Years before it gain an agreeable Dryness, would probably be improved by the Diminuation of Sweetness it would obtain by Cultivation in Virginia.  But what might not be expected from the Vines which produce the Tuscan Verdea and the Montepulciano?  These are excellent, in the Grand Dutchy, and would hence scare perceive a Change of Climate.

The Gardeners Dictionary, Philip Miller, London ,1732, Image from Google Books

It is not enough that Grapes come to a fine Maturity in Virginia to make Wine.  The Time of that Maturity is of the utmost Consequence.  If it arrive before the 25th of August, the Wine (unless in Cellars uncommonly deep) is liable to be injured by too hasty a Fermentation.  If between that Time and the 10th of September r(besides the above mentioned Inconvenience, if the Weather be fair) let is be remembered that almost all the great Gusts  have happened in that Interval, and that, when no Gusts happen, we seldom fail of a Season of eastwardly Winds and wet Weather.  Of the ripening Grapes, which would resist the Violence of the Winds, many would burst, and the Remainder be greatly hurt in Quality by a Superfluity of Water, which the Sun would not have Time to concot.  Upon the Whole, it seems that the best Season for the Maturity of the Grape is from the 10th of September (as Gusts seldom happen to late) until the first Frosts of Autumn, towards the last of October, when the Vicissitudes of Heat and Cold are not to great nor sudden.  In Europe the Vintage of Lagadica, in the Country of the Grifons, is in July; at Naples, in the last Days of October and Beginning of November; in other Places, at all intervening Times.  Why must we render Success, in an important Enterprise, altogether uncertain, rather than be at the trifling Expense of importing Vines proper for our Climate?

Traite Sur La Nature et Sur La Culture de la Vigne, Nicolas Bidet, Paris, 1759, Image from Google Books

It is true that Vineyards of a fine early Grape may produce Raisins, an Article in Commerce far from despicable; but our Object is Wine.  I cannot hear of a single Vine whose Grapes may be expected to produce it, in any Degree of Excellence, without Precautions that cannot generally be taken.  White Grapes, according to Bidet, Author of a valuable Treastise on Viticulture, are greatly inferior to black ones.  We have none that are black; and our Purple are all early, because imported from Countries whose moderate Summers can only bring such to Maturity.  A grape, which ripens in England in September, will, like Wheat, ripen here in July.  I have very respectable Authority for saying that Burgundy Grapes have failed upon fair Experiment in Maryland; a contrary Even had been surprising.  That Grape (the Auvergnac) is the same precisely which Miller recommends as the best for England.  It cannot be supposed (if any Reliance may be had on Miller’s Reasoning) that a Grape, the best calculated for England, can be, in any Respect, calculated for Virginia or Maryland.  After every Inquiry, possible for me, I am persuaded the Vines of Upper Italy will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.  But not to neglect whatever Change, and not Design, may have furnished, I think it a Duty to request whoever, among the Wellwishers to Vineyards, may have a late Grape and can spare me Cuttings, to advise in Time for me to receive them on the first of November.  The Country has unhappily a great Partiality for native Vines, the only native Production to which it was ever partial.  Whoever attempts a Vineyard of those and miscarries, may indeed incur, but not deserve, Censure.  Bidet, after enumerating the several Vines in Frances, concludes with an account of the Virginvine.  “these are (says he) various Sorts of them used in Courts and Gardens to cover such high Walls as are not exposed to the Sun, and where fructiferous Plants cannot produce.  The Wild Vine is called, in Latin, Labrusca, in French, Vignes-vierge. It comes to us from Canada, and bears Fruit neither palatable nor proper for Wine.  It wants Fire (il n’a point de Feu) it comes well from the seed.”  The Want of Fire, mentioned by Bidet (derived from that of a sufficient saccharine Substance, if I rightly understand the Term) I am feasible, from Experiment,

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 29, 1773, Page 3

is chargeable on our native Summer Grapes.  Indeed, it is scarce to be doubted but those Canada Grapes are the very same.  We must, like the different People of Europe who make Wine, import foreign Vines, and expect Success from a judicious Choice.  What shall prevent it, it is hard to imagine.  Never was greater Temptation to a publick Exertion; but we seem to study our own Disappointment by superadding to the Difficulties, peculiar to a new Enterprise, whatever is likely to tender its Success precarious.  Having Occasion to apply to you, Gentlemen, for your Assistance in furnishing Slips for my Vineyard, I thought it not impertinent to add the above Reflexions; which, inasmuch as they are drawn from Miller, deserve to be considered.  But all the Reflexions in the World are unavailing, unless you, Gentlemen, who conceive the Utility of the Measure contribute a little Vigour to its Execution.

I am, Gentleman, your most obedient Servant,

June 20, 1773. ROBERT BOLLING, Junior.

P.S. Boxes of Slips, covered in Earth, and sent up James River, by Water, to the Care of Mr. Richard Crump, Merchant, Rocky Ridge, would have a quick Conveyance to the Vineyard in Buckingham.

 

Two Wines From Priorat

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

For those who pay attention to where I purchase my wine you will have noticed that yesterday’s tasting notes included a bottle sourced from Chain Bridge Cellars.  I do try to stop by this store from time to time.  It is located in McLean not far from the Beltway and Tysons Corner.  Having the need to purchase a few bottles of wine one recent Sunday and having not been to the store since it expanded, I decided to stop by.  As far-reaching as the wine market is in Washington, DC just a quick trip over the Potomac River can yield unfamliar bottles from other importers.  Chain Bridge Cellars carries an extensive selection of wines imported by Vin de Terra Imports which is based out of Springfield, Virginia.  On this visit I purchased several bottles from their all-Spanish portfolio.

Gratallops, Image by Maria Rosa Ferre (flickr)

It was Jan and Rick’s recent Spanish Wine Dinner that I was first introduced to Cellar Cecilio through their bottles off 2008 Negre.  By coincidence a few years ago I had purchased a bottle from Vinedos de Ithaca which we also drank with Jan and Rick.  Both of these wineries are based in Gratallops which is located north-west of Tarragona in Catalonia.  It was with great interest that I tried these wines.

Catalonia, Willem Janszoon Blaue, Amsterdam, 1624, Image from Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps

The Cellar Cecilio, Billo cost $17 and the Vinedos de Ithaca, Akyles cost $27.  I recommend both of these wines as they are interesting and well priced.  The Cellar Cecilio is slow to unveil but after several hours becomes an strong valued wine.  The Vinedos de Ithaca opens after a few hours with strong interest and balance that does not reveal its 15% ABV.  While the Vinedos de Itaca was our preferred wine, the price is $10 more per bottle.

2008 Cellar Cecilio, Billo, Priorat
This wine is a blend of 35% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 20% Carignan, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from fruit sourced from the Mas del Billo vineyard in Falset.  This vineyard was planted in 1999.   The wine was aged for six months in 50% used oak and 50% stainless steel.  This wine has good blue and red fruits which are flavorful but show control.  There are flavors of roasted meats, red fruit, and some sweet cocoa.  The initial fruit is a tad soft then it fills out in the midpalate as barrel notes, smoke, and a wee bit of heat develop. ** Now-2015.

2008 Vinedos de Ithaca, Akyles, Priorat
This wine is mostly Grenache with a good dose of Carignan and the remainder a blend of Garnacha Peluda and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I believe their vineyards were planted in 2001.  The fruit is riper than the Billo.  There is a good combination of fruit, stones, and scented herbs.  The gravelly red fruit has strong personality.  With air purer notes of dusty stones and raspberries develop as the fine, drying tannins and plenty of acidity come out to play in the back-end.  The aftertaste leaves the impression of what may be tar. *** Now-2015.

Another Wine Coaster

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

During another trip to London we walked around the Portobello Road Market. We purchased a few inexpensive wine coasters to handle overflow bottles. While this coaster and another has an area of worn-off silver plate, they are ideal for holiday dinners where a few of us need to have, say, six bottles of wine on the table. This is not entirely unrealistic when you figure in Champagne, white wine, several bottles of red wine, and Port.  I like the repetitive structural element to this coaster.

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