Archive for May, 2012

A Tasty White Wine From Oregon

May 24, 2012 1 comment

St Innocent Winery has been around since Mark Vlossak founded it in 1988.  In 2006 a new winery was built allowing the fruit to move by gravity, the fermented wine matures in a naturally cooled and humidified barrel room, with the finished wine is bottled by gravity.  This wine is produced using fruit from the Freedom Hill Vineyard which is located on the western side of Willamette Valley.  Lying at 425 feet this vineyard is the first to be cooled by evening breezes.  According to the website texture is a central component of their wines and it is lovingly present in this bottle.   I highly recommend you try this wine.  It is drinking well and slow to evolve.  The open bottle held up well for several days so I suspect this will develop over the next few years and drink for several after that.  At this strong price it is worth buying several to taste over the years. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2009 St. Innocent, Chardonnay, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $24
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from blocks planted in 1999 and 2006 on sedimentary clay loam.  The fruit was whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged sur lees for 12 months in used French oak barrels.  The wine is a light, vibrant golden color.  There is firm structure with lots of texture for the supple white fruit.  The wine is a little spicy with a touch of wood.  With air the white and floral fruit takes on a subtle spice in the middle with a  lovely texture, great restraint, and well-integrated, watering acidity.  *** Now-2017.

“There is a Sort of Wine here…that is called Aromatick Wine”

May 23, 2012 1 comment

Vineyard In Valtellina, Image from Original Lou (flickr)

Conti Sertoli Salis is a young winery with an old history in an ancient wine growing area.  The winery is located in the Valtellina area found in Lombardy which is in the north central portion of Italy.  Located south of the Swiss Alps and just north of Lake Como, this region has been cultivated with vines beginning with the Romans.  Over the centuries the steep land has been terraced on both side of the Adda River valley.  The majority of the terracing took place during the 18th century when population increases led to increased demand for wine.  Today there are over 50 km of terraced vineyards.

Palazzo Salis, Image from giacomoraffo (flickr)

Conti Sertoli Salis was created in 1989 and located at Palazzo Salis, Tirano.  Today the 16th century wine cellars beneath the palazzo have been renovated and a modern winery has been built nearby.  The original winery consists of three parts: the tinera which is the room containing the vats for fermentation, the involt which are the vaulted cellars where the carats (small casks) are aged, and the nevera which is the cold storage room.  The nevera was used for the storage of food and wine.  Today it is used to store bottles of wine for there is a natural temperature of 46 Farenheit!

Bishop Burnet, Engraved by Robert Graves, 1837, Image from Andy Brii (flickr)

The wines of this region have been praised for ages including by Virgil and Pliny.  More recently this region and indeed the wines of Madam Salis were detailed by Bishop Gilbert Burnet.  In 1685 and 1686 Bishop Burnet traveled through France, Switzerland, and Germany.  Both a respected theologian and historian his detailed account provides not just an interesting perspective on the region but on the production and taste of its wines.  As we see in this passage, the nevera still in use at Palazzo Salis, were quite common in the 17th century.

On both Sides of the River, the Town, and the Gardens belonging to it, cover the whole Bottom, that lies between the Hills; and at the Roots of the Mountains they dig create Cellars, and Grottoes, and strike a Hole about a Foot Square, ten or twelve Foot into the Hill, which all Summer long blows a fresh Air into the Cellar; so that the Wine of those Cellars drinks almost as cold as if it were in Ice;

Bishop Burnet’s travel through Switzerland, Italy, some parts of Germany, &c. By Gilbert Burnet (bp. of Salisbury), Published by J. Watts, Dublin, 1725.

The Salis family have a long history producing and bottling wine.  In addition to the physical wine cellar there are 17th century documents on the provision of wine for the Court of Leopoldo I of Hapsburg.  More recently, there are certificates indicating the wines were bottled as early as 1861 with existing bottles in the family cellar bearing the Salis name, dated 1890 and 1891.  Today the winery uses a mixture of modern and traditional methods.  The wine featured in today’s post is produced in a similar manner employed by the Salis family centuries earlier.  Again, Bishop Burnet provides a detailed description.

There is a Sort of Wine here and in the Valteline, which I never heard named any where else, that is called Aromatick Wine, and as the Taste makes one think it must be a Composition (for it tastes like a Strong-water drawn of Spices) so its Strength being equal to a weak Brandy, disposes one to believe that it cannot be a natural Wine, and yet it is the pure Juice of the Grape, without any Mixture.  The Liquor being singular, I informed myself particularly of the Way of preparing it:  The Grapes are red, tho’ the Wine is white; they let the Grapes hang on the Vines till November, that they are extream ripe, then they carry them to their Garrets, and set them upright on their Ends by one another for two or three Months; then they pick all the Grapes, and throw away those in which there is the least Appearance of Rottenness, so that they press none but found Grapes.  After they are pressed, they put the Liquor into an open Vessel, in which it throws up a Scum, which they take off twice a Day, and when no more Scum comes up, which according to the Difference of the Season is sooner or later (for sometimes the Scum comes no more after eight Days, and at other times it continues a Fortnight,) then they put it into a close Vessel.  For the first Year it is extream sweet and luscious; but at the End of the Year, they pierce it a little higher than the Middle of the Vessel, almost two Thirds from the Bottom, and drink it off tillit cometh so low, and then every Year they fill it up anew;  Once a Year in the Month of March it ferments, and cannot be drunk till that is over, which continues a Month, but their other Wine ferments not at that time.  Madam Salis, a Lady of that Country, who entertained us three Days with a Magnificence equal to what can be done in London or Paris, had Wine of this Compoisition, that was forty Years old and was so very strong, that one could hardly drink above a Spoonful, and it tasted high of Spicery, tho’ she assured me there was not one Grain of Spice in it, nor of any other Mixture whatsoever.  Thus the Heat that is in this Wine, becomes a Fire, and distills iit self, throwing up the more spirituous Parts of it to the Top of the Hogshead.

Bishop Burnet’s travel through Switzerland, Italy, some parts of Germany, By Gilbert Burnet (bp. of Salisbury), Published by J. Watts, Dublin, 1725.

Within Valtellina there are eight districts.  This fruit for this wine is sourced from the Sassella and Grumello districts.  Sassella produces the fullest bodied wines which are slow to mature and develop aromas of hazelnuts and spice.  Grumello is known to produce wines with aromas of strawberries and faded roses.  The label for this wine bears Con Rinforzo Di Uve Appassite.  Some of the harvested grapes are left to dry on mantavola (planks of reeds) in lofts for three weeks.  The dried grapes are then added to the fresh must in a process called Rinforzo.  The reinforced wine is then aged for 2 years in small oak casks.  This wine is currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Conti Sertoli Salis, Corte della Meridiana, Riserva, Valtellina Superiore – $26
Imported by Grappoli Imports.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo.  It is a light garnet color.  The subtle nose revealed tart red fruit and wood notes.  In the mouth there are hard cherry flavors, some ripeness at the front, along with minerals.  There is a straight-through delivery with black and red fruits.  The ripe-ish tannins integrate well with the acidity.  The aftertaste has delicately lifted, sweet spices and lingering acidity.  This is drinking well now for there is a fading quality to the fruit which suggests this will not gain in complexity.  ** Now-2017.

The Mystery of Georg Flegel’s Serpentine Wine Glasses

Georg Flegel self-portrait, 1630, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, Image from Wikimedia

In my earlier posts on the wine related paintings of Georg Flegel I commented on a particularly beautiful serpentine wine glass in Still-Life with Cherries, 1635 and curly cane with stamped prunts wine glass in Still-Life with Stag Beetle, 1635.  These paintings caught my attention because I had not yet come across this style of wine glass while researching for my Dutch series of posts.

Serpentine wine glass from Still Life with Cherries, Georg Flegel, 1635, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

Georg Flegel produced over one hundred works of art.  In reviewing approximately 40 paintings I have come across only two true serpentine glasses and two glasses with a stem of three or four curly canes adorned with stamped prunts. In addition to the two paintings described above a third painting features a serpentine glass, the undated Still-life with Strawberries on a Plate, see Christies, Lot 56, Sale 5944, 14 April 1998.  A fourth painting features a curly cane stamped prunt, which is Kerzenstilleben (Candle still-life) 1636.  The three dated glasses were painted in 1635 and 1636.  Several other paintings from the same period feature facon de Venise glasses but these have bulbous stems to which curved canes are symmetrically attached thus forming wings.  I have excluded them because the canes attach to the stem and do not form the stem itself.

Tabakstilleben mit Kerze, Georg Flegel,1636-1637, Wallraf Richartz, Museum

I should remark that a rather curious wine glass appeared in Tabakstilleben mit Kerze, 1636.  The bowl is attached to a hollow toroid, adorned with two, winged curly canes with stamped prunts, the bottom of which is attached to a stem. There must be hole connecting the bowl and toroid for it appears to contain the same yellow wine!  I quickly became curious about the appearance of four of these five elaborate wine glasses in the years 1635 and 1636.  Why do they appear in such a short time span?  Where did they come from?  What is the history behind the two serpentine wine glasses?

Wine glass from Still-life with Stag Beetle, Georg Flegel, 1635, Wallraf Richartz Museum, Cologne

This style of wine glass originated with the Venetians who remained masters at producing them from the 15th through the 17th centuries.   Having first produced a colorless glass known as Cristallo the Venetian glass makers went on to gild the glasses, apply molds for decoration, apply canes, engrave them with diamond-points, and finally assemble a single glass made from these various components.  These luxurious glasses were in demand all over Europe.  The Venetians were so successful at controlling the knowledge required to produce these glasses that glass factories were created throughout Europe in an attempt to recreate these glasses.  These imitation glasses are known as facon de Venise.

Wine glass from Kerzenstilleben, Georg Flegel, 1636

One trait of Venetian glass is the use of canes.  Canes are rods of glass which have color in them.  Opaque white canes were particularly popular.  Known as vetro a filigrana there were three categories: vetro a fili (glass with threads), vetro a retorti (glass with twisted threads), and vetro a reticello (glass with a small network).  In the late 16th century canes were used to produce elaborate glasses which were both symmetrical with wings and jaws (dragon-stem) or even clearly serpentine.  Known as vetri ai serpenti they became a popular Venetian export and were extensively produced in German and Netherlandish glass factories.  These intricate glasses were collected and given as gifts, often being stored in a cabinet.

Serpent-stem goblet (Flugelglas), The Netherlands/Germany, early 17th century, D151-1977, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Georg Flegel moved to Vienna in 1580 and it is here that I initially thought he might have purchased or received these glasses.  It was not uncommon for Baroque painters to include older objects in their painting and certainly not for Georg Flegel.  The Bartmann jug depicted in two of his paintings would have been approximately 100 years old at the time of painting.  Therefore it is reasonable that he might not paint glasses he obtained in Vienna until some 50 years later.

The Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria collected Venetian glass and in his Kunstkammer (cabinet of curiosities) he had an entire cabinet dedicated to glasses.  Not only did he purchase glass from the nearby factory in Hall but he installed a glass making workshop in his imperial court at Innsbruck.  The later is quite fascinating, Archduke Ferdinand became increasingly frustrated with the quality of glass coming from the factory in Hall.  He negotiated with the Venetian ambassador for a temporary loan of Venetian glass makers who would make glass for his court and not for commercial use.  The use of soda ash and some necessary tools required for such quality work had to be negotiated with the Venetian government.  The workshop was productive from 1570 to 1591.  During this time the first glass makers received salary, room, and board but this was changed to remove the salary and allow the glass makers to sell glass made during their own time.  At a cursory level it is reasonable to assume these glasses might have been available for purchase during Georg Flegel’s residency.

Francofurtum, Topographia Hassiae et regionum vicinarum, Martin Zeiller, Frankfurt, 1655

Georg Flegel moved to Frankfurt in 1593 when the Counter-Reformation began to take effect.  Though Germany became caught up in The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) there was initially a minimal effect in Frankfurt.  It is possible that he acquired these glasses in Frankfurt.  German glass factories produced facon de Venise and might have had the technical capabilities to produce serpentine glasses in the 1630s.  For in 1612 Antonio Neri, who was a citizen of Florence and a glass maker, published the famous book L’arte vertraria (The art of glass).  This book describes the entire body of Italian glassmaking knowledge and was one key factor in the decline of the Venetian monopoly on high quality glassware.  Two decades later the plague devastates Venice in 1630-1631 killing off large numbers of master glass makers and scattering others.  Though the government authorized all members of the Venetian mainland to apprentice at the guilds, the glass makers were exempt.  The reduced Venetian exports combined with the increase of glassmaking factories in Bohemia, England, and France shifted the demand to local facon de Venise.

L’art vertraria, Antonio Neri, 1612, Image from The Corning Museum of Glass(

Swedish troops marched into Frankfurt in 1631 where they were garrisoned for several years.  In 1635 the plague arrived at Frankfurt killing thousands over two years including a fair number of troops.  Such was the concern for the plague that the annual book fair was cancelled for 1635.

Still-life with Cherries, Georg Flegel, 1635, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

It is during these plague years that the datable serpentine wine glass and other intricate glasses appear in Georg Flegel’s paintings.  In fact the Bartmann jug also appears in Still-life with Stag Beetle, 1635.  The same jug appears in the Metropolitan Museum’s undated Still-Life.  Under Provenance it is noted, “Wolfgang J. Müller. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. January 26, 1949, dates it ‘with some certainty’ to about 1630.”  Could it be that Georg Flegel purchased these facon de Venise glasses during the plague years, perhaps from the sale of a devastated family’s goods?  Perhaps the presence of the Bartmann jug isn’t just an example of “prolonged ‘active life'” as described by David Gaimster in “German stoneware, 1200-1900” but a reminiscence of Frankfurt before the plague and Swedish occupation?  I shall pursue this mystery further in a subsequent post.

In the mean time  I recommend the following books:

  • Campbell, Gordon. The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Volume 2. Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Edwards, Geoffrey. Art of Glass: Glass in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Macmillan, 1998.
  • Lanaro, Paolo. At The Centre of the Old World. Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2006.
  • Page, Jutta-Annette and Domenech, I. Beyond Venice: Glass in Venetian Style, 1500-1750. Hudson Hills Press, 2004.
  • Weidhaas, Peter, Gossage, C., and Wright, W. A History of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Dondurn, 2007.

I Drink an Excellent Red Wine from Jura

I taste and drink wine every day.  There is such a bountiful selection of well-priced wines in Washington, DC that I take notes on at least one new bottle every day.  I must work during the day despite my inclinations to constantly write about these wines.  This results in a periodically growing pool of unpublished tasting notes.  Last week I picked up many new wines including several from Jura.  John is expanding the Jura selection to include many non or minimally oxidative wines.  We tasted a pair of Chardonnay from Michel Gahier and Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils (I shall write about the Rolet in the near future) then I asked for some red wine recommendations.  One of the wines is this bottle by Domaine Tissot.  I drank it over the weekend and being both surprised and impressed I decided it should be featured in my first post this week.

Andre and Mireille, Image from Domaine Tissot

The Jura mountains run through France, Switzerland, and Germany.  In France most of the wines of Jura are produced in the region between Bresse and the mountains themselves.  It has been over a decade since Jenn and I visited Julie and Aaron but we still have vivid memories of hiking in the Jura mountains and eating the amazing Bresse chicken.  Domaine Tissot is located in Jura where they produce wine from 35 hectrares of biodynamic vineyards located in Arbois, Cotes du Jura, and Chateau Chalon. From these vineyards some 28 different wines are bottled.  There are three permitted varietals for red wine: Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir.  This selection is made from Trousseau grown in the Arbois appellation.  The appellation is named after the city of Arbois, which happens to be where Louis Pastour grew up.  I was thoroughly pleased with the quality of the fruit in the wine and surprised by the level of ripeness.  There is good balanced structure here which suggests this wine will improve over the short-term.  I do not know what it will be like but it is certainly worth laying down a few bottles to find out.  This wine is currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

2009 Domaine Andre et Mireille Tissot, Trousseau, Arbois – $24
Imported by Potomac Selections Ltd.  This wine is 100% Trousseu fermented with indigenous yeasts.  The color is a light to medium ruby and garnet.  The nose reveals floral fruit, a pepper note with a hint of the exotic.  In the mouth there are focused and ripe red and black fruit, a fine, grippy texture with sweet tannins and salivating acidity in the aftertaste.  With air a gentle pepper note develops along with stoney fruit, perfume, and an increased level of tannins.  Drinkable now but should be cellared a few years.   *** Now-2019.

The Fresh 2009 Faury, Saint Joseph

Over the last few years I have become a fan of the Domaine Faury wines.  The red wines are incredibly fresh and elegant.  This bottle of Saint Joseph is a perfect match for the intense sun and low humidity we are currently experiencing in the Washington, DC area.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2009 Domaine Faury, Saint-Joseph – $28
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from steep, granitic soils.  It was aged for 12 months in 10% new foudres, demi-muids, and barrels.  The nose reveals fresh grapey fruit with pepper notes.  The mouth follows the nose with fresh, grapey fruit, some tart redness, pepper notes, delivered with a textured and powdery aspect.  The acidity is orange-citrus like and supportive, allowing the very clean fruit to stand out.  With air there is a touch of ink and incense along with tannins evocative of white citrus peel.  *** Now-2017.

The 2012 Wine Blog Awards Are Accepting Nominations

The 2012 Wine Blog Awards are now open!  If you enjoy reading this blog then please consider nominating it!  Nominations will be accepted through 30 May 2012.

Thank you,


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The Fine 2011 Mordoree, Rose, La Dame Rousse, Tavel

We quickly polished off a few bottles of 2011 Mordoree, La Dame Rouse, Rose, Cotes du Rhone but the 2011 La Dame Rousse, Tavel has been drunk slower.  It too is a large-scaled rose with good complexity but unlike the big and racy Cotes du Rhone the Tavel is young and confident of its future.  In fact I would cellar this Tavel for a year.  If you must try it now then give it several hours in the decanter.  I find that a glass invigorates my palate after drinking red wine.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Domaine de la Mordoree, Rose, La Dame Rousse, Tavel – $22
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and 10% Clairette sourced from 40-year-old vines.  It is a beautiful medium opacity cherry-ruby color.  There is a medium strength nose of floral fruit, pastilles, and with air there are scents of raspberries.  The mouth follows the nose but shows more structure with a mild creamy mouthfeel, expansive sweet-spiced fruit, understated acidity, and almost gritty sweet spices and a stony tang in the aftertaste.  Robust at first it takes on a sense of breed after a few days.  *** 2013-2015.