Archive for January, 2013

Old Friends: A Quick Look at Bottle Variation

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

During our Northern Rhone Dinner the subject of Domaine Michel Ogier, La Rosine came up.  I had rather liked the 1999, which I felt was fully mature, but the bottle of 2003 I tried was cracking up.  Others had said the 2003 was a good wine so I suspect I had an under performing bottle.  Phil said there were still a few bottles so I decided I would purchase both.  I am no stranger to bottle variation so I thought it would be fun to first start with a pair of 1998 Gigondas.  The Domaine de Font Sane, Cuvee Futee appears to have peaked back in 2007, “good stuff with minerals” then in the last several years hit a plateau, “Fruit is fading…Drink now but will last.”  It is a shame the fruit and mineral aspect is fading off but I keep getting this sense that the wine will live for quite a long time.  I think I shall hold on to the remaining bottles as an experiment.  The 1998 Grapillon d’Or has been a different story.  I bought six bottles quite cheaply from Wizer’s.  At best its been a solid but uninspiring drink.  But this most recent bottle was surprisingly good!  It was everything I would want from a maturing, affordable Gigondas.


Bottle variation can be frustrating at best and a financial loss at worst.  I do sincerely hope that every bottle I open is consistent.  There is one intriguing side effect of the variation.  It forces me to think back to other bottles I have drunk, to search this very blog, or dig through my old emails.  This brings back not only the history of that wine but personal history, forgotten conversations and correspondence.


1998 Domaine de Font Sane, Cuvee Futee, Gigondas –
This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah sourced from 35-year-old vines.  It is only produced in the finest vintages.  The wine is aged for 24 months of which 8-12 months are spent in 100% new oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color is a light to medium garnet, revealing its age.  The light nose reveals a little roast earth, perhaps a touch of redness.  In the mouth there is roasted earth and a moderate, ripe fruit core.  The flavors are a little rough and there is warmth in the finish.  Black fruit comes out along with a wood box flavor.  It is still structured.  Will last.  ** Now- 2020.


1998 Domaine du Grapillon d’Or, Gigondas –
Imported by Bercut-Vandervoort & Co.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 5% Cinsault sourced from 40-year-old vines.  It was aged 14 months in oak.  Alcohol 13.9%.  In the mouth this was fruitier than expected.  There were good, lifted wood box flavors, all around balance between the fruit, acidity, and ripe grippy tannins.  With air tart red fruit developed which was good in the midpalate.  The flavors roughed up a bit in the aftertaste, reminiscent of a brawny Gigondas.  *** Now-2018.


The Mysterious Inglenook Cabinet Port

January 30, 2013 1 comment

In my post Two Amazing Bottles: Charvin and Inglenook I guessed that the bottle of Inglenook, Cabinet Port which Clark and I drunk dated from 1974-1978.  This was a logical guess but not completely satisfying so over the last few weeks I continued my investigation.  I began an email exchange with Tom Mendes a Membership Associate at Inglenook Vineyards.  Tom began to ask around the winery.  Gustave Niebaum produced many wines in the early 20th century.  He conducted many experiments and also produced wines which he liked.  Though Tom knew Port was produced in the 1910s and 1920s there are no surviving records.  There are still many old bottles in the cellars but again, no records.  In this post I chart my investigation into bottles of 1910 Inglenook Port and the origins of Californian Cabinet wine.

Bottles of 1910 Inglenook, Private Stock, Port


Timing was fortuitous.  In a recent thread on Wineberskers Trent Schaffler posted pictures of an 1910 Inglenook, Private Stock, Port.  I contacted Trent who graciously provided me detailed images and the history of these bottles.  Back in 1997 or 1998 he found a single bottle listed on a Yahoo Auction.  Trent was the only bidder and won the lot for $75.  He contacted the seller and found out he had original 12-bottle crates of 1910 Port and 1910 Sherry.   The seller’s father had purchased the wine upon release then stored them in a passive cellar/garage in San Francisco.  Trent was new into wine at the time so he asked to purchase six bottles of the port and a wooden crate.


A friend inspected the bottles and picked six which were in the best condition for some of the bottles had leaked to the point of being almost empty.  Of these six bottles, four bottles were of one size/shape and two were another size/shape.


Back in 2004 Trent took a bottle to an offline tasting.  This was the third bottle he had opened and the best thus far.  Here are the notes:

1910 Inglenook Port Private Stock
What a special treat, thanks to redwingstoneware for bringing this treasure to share with everyone.
Very light red rock dirt in color. Nose of a beautiful tawny with golden raisin. I’ve not ever found a port in the past that I would reach back for seconds, but this one breaks that trend. May not be the highest scoring wine from the night, but after adding on the history and experience, this is definitely my WOTN. Pyang

1910 Inglenook Port Private Stock Astounding. Golden tawney in color, what amazed me the most was not the quanitity of the fruit, but the purity of it. This was a very tastey, restrained wine. It is still nicely cherried on the attack with some sassofrass and is free of offputting flavors, it did show some heat mid-palate as the body of the fruit has faded, it finishes very clean. If only todays Ca port makers could figure this out. A unique opportunity to taste a very rare piece of American winemaking history. Thanks for the previledge. Stealthman_1

1910 California Port Inglenook Vineyards (private stock) – huh? Holy crap! I am sampling some history. A terrific port. The frenchman said “with this wine, you need to treat it with respect . . . like your grandparents.” Never had a wine like this. Score = 95. Blue Oval

Trent has gone on to enjoy two more bottles.  Most recently he finds:

I have been able to enjoy this wine 5 different times, 4 of the times, the wine was very much the same.  The other, the bottle began to leak and was certainly of lesser quality than the other 4.  The best I can compare this to is a really fine Tawny or Colheita.  The wine really has no red pigmentation anymore.  The fruit is still alive and it provides layers of caramel and nuts with a very surprising long finish.

Trent’s bottles are shaped like a brown glass port bottle.  They were sealed with red foil capsule, contain a neck label stating “Vintage 1910”, and a label designating “Private Stock, California, Port, Inglenook Vineyard.”  In looking at Trent’s bottles the top of the label bears, “Grand Prize, Medal of Honor and Twenty Gold Medals, Awards Inglenook Wines, Brandy and Champagne. P. P. I. E. S. F. 1915”.  Tom had noted there is mention of an Inglenook Private Stock Port having won a medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in Steven Kolpan’s A Sense of Place.

In 1908 Gustave Niebaum passed away and his wife closed the winery for three years.  From 1911 to 1919 wines were made under contract with B. Arnhold & Co.  The vineyards and cellar were managed by Herman Lange and the winemaking by Lafayette Stice.  They produced wine in 1911 but continued to cellar the 1908-1910 vintages.  The vintages of 1905 and prior sold so well that they decided to set aside the finest wines, as reserve wines meant for release six years after the vintage.  By 1915 Inglenook was winning many medals.  At the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition Inglenook won 17 medals including a gold medal for their Private Stock Port.


Based on Trent’s images and description I doubt that the bottle of Cabinet Port was a single vintage port from the 1910s or 1920s.  I could not find any references to Special Reserve Limited Bottling but I did look into Private Stock.  The term was used by Inglenook as early as 1889.

A great square table, partially covered with the thinnest crystal drinking-cups, tempts the visitor to sample some of the old “private stock;” and there are dainty little hand-baskets containing a single bottle of a rare vintage, which have a decided tendency to make the sample taste like “more!”

Frona Eunice Wait. Wines and Vines of California. The Bancroft Company, 1889.


The Origins of Californian Cabinet Wine

I knew that Carl Bundschu introduced a line of Cabinet wines in 1935, starting with the 1933 vintage.  Exactly how long this line existed is not known.  Tom Mendes of Inglenook Vineyards could not find any specific  information about a Cabinet Port so he looked into the Special Reserve Limited Bottling designation from the bottle and also for non-vintage Port.  In speaking with the Chateau Administrator they found inventoried one bottle of Non-vintage Ruby-Port Special Reserve Limited Bottling along with other bottles of non-vintage Sherry and non-vintage Port.  Having felt I exhausted the inquiry into Special Reserve Limited Bottling the next step was to look into the history of Californian Cabinet wines.

Inglenook, Wines and Vines of California, Image from Thirstyreader.

The Inglenook Vineyard, Wines and Vines of California, Image from Thirstyreader.

I decided to search which is a project of the Sonoma County Wine Library.  In it I found reference to an article published by Wines & Vines in 1935 describing Carl Bundschu’s Cabinet wines.  Andrew Adams, a staff writer at Wines & Vines, kindly scanned the article for me.  Here are the relevant bits:

“Cabinet” Wines

In common with many others, we have often wondered just what was meant by “Cabinet” wines.  Carld Bundschu, of the Inglenook Winery at Rutherford, has set us straight.  He points out the term “Cabinet” applied particularly to the famous Steinberg vineyard of Germany…

Mr. Bundschu says the Inglenook Winery was built along lines similar to the “Cabinet” found at Steinberg…  There are produced Inglenook’s finest vintages and hence termed “CABINET WINES”.

Wine and Vines, 1935.

Carl Bundschu attributes the term to the Cabinet at Steinberg and there is reference to J. L. W. Thudichum, M.D., Treatise on Wines.  Bundschu is apparently refering to the 1894 edition of A Treatise on Wines.  This is actually the abridged version of J. L. W. Thudichum and August Dupre’s exhaustive A Treatise on Wines published in 1872.  As a follow-up to Cyrus Reddings’ seminal A History of Modern Wines, Thudicum and Dupre were directed by Legislature to provide a decisive reference of viticulture and vinification from around the world.  The book was aimed at the serious public and others interested in viticulture as a legitimate branch of agronomy.  In published form it ran to almost 800 pages.  In 1894 Thudichum published an abridged version designed for reading which ran half the length.  It is not surprising that Carl Bundschu references a 40 year old wine book. In Frank Schoonmaker and Tom Marvel’s American Wines, published 1941 they point out, “…Captain Niebaum imported from Germany not only a good deal of admirable oak cooperage but, what was much more unusual, a unique and extremely valuable library of books dealing with the vine.”  Perhaps it is in this library that Bundschu found inspiration for his new label of wines.

Close to this latter hall is the so-called Cabinet, where the cabinet wines are kept.  This is a vault above ground, but protected by double walls and by trees and shrubs from the external heat of the atmosphere and rays of the sun.  It has therefore the same equable temperature as the best vault underground.  In very hot weather it is, however, kept cool by the floor being sprinkled with water, for which purpose a special pump has been arranged in the cabinet itself.

J. L. W. Thudichum and August Dupre.  A Treatise on the Origin, Nature, and Varieties of Wine. 1872.

Scenes from Inglenook Vineyards, A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Google Books.

Scenes from Inglenook Vineyards, A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Google Books.

As far as the construction of the Inglenook winery we may return to Wines and Vines of California.

To insure a proper receptacle for the wines, Captain Niebaum erected a cellar and winery, which was completed in 1887, and which, for perfection of detail and elegant finish, has no equal in American.  With an eye to the beautiful, as well as to the practical, the spot chosen for this winery was most judiciously selected.  Situated on the slope of one of the undulations, its rear sheltered by a solid hill of stone, Nature has assisted Science in maintaining in the vaults a uniform temperature, so necessary to the care and the development of wines.  The winery is built of gray and trimmed with brown-stone quarried on the estate.  It is three stories in height, with double roofs.  The architecture is semi-Gothic and Eastlake in design.  Its dimensions are length, 220 feet: breadth, center 72 feet, wings 62 feet; capacity, 500,000 gallons; structure, of stone and iron, with concrete floors throughout; the vaults are arched in cathedral style, and protected by double doors, thus maintaining a normal temperature of 60 F during the whole year.

Frona Eunice Wait. Wines and Vines of California. The Bancroft Company, 1889.

At the time the Steinberg wines were auctioned off every year in Erbach.  The auction wine was sold in 1,200 liter pieces.  The cabinet wines were sometimes sold in smaller sizes and bottles.  For individual bottles there is mention of Light Claret at 15s. per dozen, 1864 Rauenthaler at 18s. per dozen, 1862 Rauenthaler at 54s. per dozen,  and 1858 Steinberger Cabinet at 120s. per dozen.  As for the price per piece we find:

The price of Steinberg wine varies from £65 per piece to £600 and £700; the latter being the most exceptional and finest cabinet wines.

J. L. W. Thudichum and August Dupre.  A Treatise on the Origin, Nature, and Varieties of Wine. 1872.

Thus the introduction of Inglenook Cabinet wines references the construction of the winery, the quality of the wine, and the price they fetched.  But Inglenook was not the first Californian winery to carry the Cabinet designation.  This honor appears to be bestowed upon Edge Hill winery.  It is the oldest bonded winery in California dating back to 1867.  It submitted two cases of wine to the 1889 Universal Exposition at Paris which included five different Cabinet wines.  Inglenook was present as well but their submissions consisted of Hock, Gutedel, Riesling, Burger, Zinfandel, Claret, and Sauternes.  Turning back to Edge Hill we see:

Edge Hill Wine Company, St. Helena, California, agency, 12 Barclay street, New York city: Two cases containing specimens cabinet Riesling, cabinet hock, Sauterne, golden Chasselas, cabinet claret, select claret, Zinfandel claret, cabinet Burgundy, sweet Muscatel, sweet Tokay, cabinet port, and brandy.

United States Commissioners to the Universal Exposition of 1889 at Paris, Volume 5. GPO, 1891.

Edge Hill was noted for the “excellence and absolutely purity” of their wines and brandies.  Built by William Scheffler in 1875, the main cellar had the capacity for 400,000 gallons, a storehouse which could hold 150,000 gallons, and a distillery of some 10,000 gallons.  In 1879 the entire vineyard was grafted with noble varietals from the Old World.  I asked Edge Hill about the origin of their Cabinet designated wines.  Estate Directory Wendi Webster commented that the term was used to signify “a wine of higher quality.”

It is noticeable that through the years it was the ports, brandies and sherries of Edge Hill that garnered the most awards.  Scheffler’s greatest successes came from his distilled and fortified products.  The highest award he was to receive in his lifetime came from the World Fair of 1889 in Paris.

Edge Hill Chronology, 2000.

It is possible that William Scheffler had read Thudichum and Dupre’s treatise for the timing works out.  In 1880 the State Board of Viticultural Commissioners was created.  At this point viticulture contributed a notable amount to the state revenue.  There were not many out of state markets for Californian wine and the vineyards were still recovering from the Phylloxera.  According to Vincent Carosso The California Wine Industry the “short crop of 1879, the exhausted supplies of old stock, and the sudden increased demand of 1880 made it difficult to meet the requirements of new markets.”  The Commission felt there was a lack of scientific knowledge of viticulture so it set about building a library.  After purchasing all of the books in English it moved on to French, German, Italian, and Spanish.  By 1887 the commission had more than 400 books in the library.  Perhaps William Scheffler came across the treatise in the commission library.

John Daniel Jr. and the Heublein Years

In my next post I continue my investigation by looking at the John Daniel Jr and Heublein years.  I eventually uncover the true identity of the Inglenook Cabinet Port.

Pictures of Wine Bottles

January 29, 2013 3 comments

My  four-year old daughter has been taking pictures for a few years now.  We have always left out cameras so that she could take pictures whenever she felt like it.  She started with my Nikon D4.  This was quite heavy for her at first, she could barely lift the lens up, but she still managed to take pictures.  When she turned three we bought her a little Canon ELPH 100 HS.  With this camera she may easily take pictures and such does of herself, dolls, shadows, Lego’s, and now wine bottles.  When I started photographing the bottles for A Lovely Evening of Northern Rhone Dinner she picked up her camera and joined in.  I must admit my label and cork images are getting repetitive.  Perhaps I should have my daughter help out!  Here are a selection of her images.

She started by photographing the necks.





Then she switched to photographing the inside of the bottles.






She turned the flash on at this point, trying the inside of the bottle then continuing with off-center label shots.




Categories: Image

Recent Release from Cornerstone Cellars @CornerstoneNapa

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment

This blog receives very few samples so it was a treat to taste through these recently released red wines provided by Cornerstone Cellars.  As usual, they were tasted over two days.  The Stepping Stone, Rocks! Red Wine is produced from a changing and secret blend of varietals.  It is meant to be a daily drinker.  This bottle changed remarkably over the course of one evening.  It went from being all about very fresh, bright fruit to an overall well-balanced wine for drinking over the next several years.  I would give it a year to settle down.


The Napa Valley and Howell Mountain wines deliver more goods.  These wines have traditionally been made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon but with the 2009 vintage 5% Merlot has been included.  Over the years there will be an increase in Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  This fall we drank mature bottles of the 2002 and 2003 Napa Valley.  You may read about them here.  The 2009 vintage is obviously young but approachable and capable of aging.  There is a familial identity between the two but the Howell Mountain delivers an engaging perfume to its darker fruit.  It is not a bigger wine either.  I think it shows more elegance.  Both may be drunk now for their enjoyable baby fat but I would cellar them a few years to let their identities develop.  These bottles were provided by Cornerstone Cellars.


2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone, Red Rocks!, North Coast – $18
From an even changing blend of varietals.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose is light and tight with black-red fruit.  In the mouth there is bright, fresh red fruit then blacker fruit flavors delivered with plenty of acidity.  There are some grippy tannins in the finish along with a little cinnamon spice.  **(*) 2014-2019.


2009 Cornerstone Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $65
This wine is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot.  It was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak.  Alcohol 14.9%.  there is a light nose of potpourri with a cinnamon note.  There is a little tart acidity on the tip of the tongue then flavors of dense fruit, ripe black and red, which is thick in the mouth.  There are integrated spices, and blacker flavors in the finish.  The powdery, ripe tannins are enjoyable.  The wine firms up to show balance with air.  *** 2016-2023.


2009 Cornerstone Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley – $80
This wine is a blend off 95% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Ink Grade Vineyard and Oak Knoll District and 5% Merlot sourced from Carneros.  It was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak.  Alcohol 14.9%.  There is a light nose of mixed berries.  In the mouth there are fine flavors, a sort of perfume mixes with the concentrated fruit.  There are fresh, black minerals, a little acidity, and a savory finish.  The texture is creamy.  The grippy finish brings sweet cinnamon tannins which coat the cheeks and lips.  ***(*) 2018-2028.


The Serious 2008 Mordoree, Reine Des Bois, Chateauneuf du Pape

January 28, 2013 1 comment

The first time I drank a 2008 Chateauneuf du Pape was at the Wine Blogger Tasting held at MacArthur Beverages this past August.  A bottle of 2008 Clos des Papes was served blind.  Upon being asked to guess the vintage I came up with 2001!  So I was thoroughly surprised by this bottle of 2008 Mordoree for it needs to be aged.  It is a strong offering from a weak vintage.  If you happen to have both wines in your cellar I would drink the Clos des Papes while the Mordoree cellars.  Many thanks to Phil for sharing this sample at MacArthur Beverages.


2008 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Reine Des Bois, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Vaccarese, and “miscellaneous.”  Alcohol 15%.  The color was a light to medium ruby garnet.  The nose was light with low lying aromas of floral blue and black fruit.  In the mouth there were focused and dense flavors.  This is immediately obvious as a serious wine.  It showed good balance with a cool nature.  There were blacker and drier flavors in the finish along with strong but integrated tannic structure.  *** 2018-2028.


The Dark 2007 Magana, Dignus

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I was completely surprised this morning to find that everything was on a delayed opening schedule due to ice, sleet, and rain.  So just a short post today.  I have been meaning to post a tasting note about the 2007 Magana, Dignus for a few months now.  I try to always include label pictures in my posts so when I realized I had thrown my bottle away before I could photograph it I did not mind.  I enjoyed the wine so simply purchased another bottle.  Amazingly I threw that bottle away too.  For the third bottle I became somewhat organized such that it is pictured in this post.  I even had to dig up my tasting note from my previous Moleskine book.

I was very impressed by the first glass I smelled and tasted.  Dark, complex, alluring; perhaps due to some of the Merlot cuttings being from the same nursery which has sold to Chateau Petrus.  I thought it sure to be a very good wine but as we tasted through the various bottles I decided it wasn’t quite there.  In comparison a 2010 Chateau Pesquie, Quintessence offered more.  I certainly recommend you try a bottle, I enjoyed all of mine! I purchased my three bottles at MacArthur Beverages.


2007 Bodegas Vina Magana, Dignus, Navarra – $18
Imported by OLE.  This wine is a blend of 50% Tempranillo, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was fermented in Burgundian barrels with 15% whole clusters.  It was aged for 12 months in used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color is a light to medium garnet.  There is a very light, dark and interesting nose.  In the mouth there is dark red fruit, complex, and subtly powerful.  There is weight to the ripe, dark berry fruit which acts as a foundation to a lively bit on the tip of the tongue.  There are fine, chewy ripe tannins which stick to the lips and a very dark aftertaste.  *** Now-2022.


A Wine Dinner with Lilian Barton

January 25, 2013 1 comment


Last night I attended a tasting of wines from Chateau Leoville Barton and Chateau Langoa Barton. The tasting was organized by Panos Kakaviatos (connectionstowine) who brought together Lilian Barton, ex chateau vintages back to 1989, and a group of wine lovers. The tasting was held in a private room located in the garret at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Dupont Circle. All of the red wines were graciously donated by Lilian Barton. They were imported by MacArthur Beverages for the tasting.


We were a sizeable group many of whom were coming from the UGC 2010 Bordeaux tasting. As we waited for people to arrive and claim seats at the three tables we chatted over a few bottles of NV Krug, Grande Cuvee Brut, Champagne (ID 211024). These were donated by Mark Wessels of MacArthur Beverages. The Champagne was aromatic, rich in complexity, gently effervescent, and a strong start to the evening. It must have been a hit because everyone, including myself, kept returning for more. It took a bit of time for everyone to get settled. This gave me an opportunity to finally chat with David White (Terroirist). We have said hello at tastings over the year but never could stop to talk. There were many familiar faces Tim O’Rourke (Weygandt Wines), Dave McIntyre (Washington Post and DM WineLine), Mark Wessels (MacArthur Beverages), Ben Giliberti (Calvert Woodley), Christian Schiller (Schiller Wine), and Chris Bublitz. There were others I had met last week at the Bouchard tasting Ken, Paul, and Craig. It was a diverse crowd of people in the business, writers, bloggers, and serious drinkers. It seems that Panos’ reputation precedes him on two continents. We all knew of his vinous interest before ever meeting him in person. It may help explain how he is able to host such a wine dinner.

Lillian Barton and Panos Kakaviatos

Lilian Barton and Panos Kakaviatos

We started off with a barrel sample from the family’s newest estate Chateau Mauvesin Barton. This is the first vintage produced by the Barton family. The vineyards are on clay soils and contain quite a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. There are even two rows of Carmenere which make it into the blend. They have set about elevating the wines by implementing a grape selection for the first time. The wines were previously made in 380 HL vats so the family installed more decent sized vats. There was a bit of a timing issue with regards to the harvest and new vats. They kept the old vats lurking around as insurance for their first vintage. The 2011 harvest was early but the new vats did arrive just in time. However, their cooling systems were connected as the fruit was brought in.


2011 Chateau Mauvesin Barton, Moulis en Medoc
Barrel Sample. There was a light nose, delicately scented. In the mouth there was red and black fruit which stood up more. The profile is simple and a bit hard at this stage. There is a firmness to the structure. The flavors are in a cooler spectrum with salivating acidity.

We tasted the rest of the wines blind in flights of three. There were three bottles of each vintage save the 1989 of which there were two magnums. Except for the 2004 all of the wines were double-decanted giving them at least two hours of air. Panos felt the 2004 was already expressive right from the bottle.

Chateau Leoville Barton and Chateau Langoa Barton have a long well chronicled history. Both estates are owned by the Barton family whose introduction to Bordeaux took place with the arrival of Thomas Barton in 1722. A few years later in 1725 he established Barton & Guestier with his business partner. The name might sound familiar as it is still in existence today. In 1821 Hugh Barton purchased Chateau Pontet-Langlois which he named Langoa Barton. A few years later a big portion of the Leoville estate was purchased but then ultimately returned to the family. Hugh Barton was able to purchased a third of the estate at auction thus creating Leoville Barton. This portion consisted of only a vineyard so the wines had to be produced at Langoa Barton. The wines were well regarded as evidenced by Charles Cocks and Edouard Feret, Bordeaux and Its Wines, 1883, “Commendation upon the Langoa wines would be as useless as upon those of Leoville; their celebrity is universal.”

Image from Cocks & Feret, Bordeaux and Its Wines, 1883. Google Books.

Image from Cocks & Feret, Bordeaux and Its Wines, 1883. Google Books.

Today the estates are planted essentially the same 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc. They are vinified the same with fermentation in wooden vats then aging for 20 months in 50% new oak. They both feature a mixture of several terroirs. It was commented that it is hard to characterize the wines of Saint-Julien. Lilian agreed saying they have the charm and elegance of Margaux and the character and strength of Saint-Estephe. At the estate level the vineyards of Langoa Barton are on north-facing slopes at a slightly lower elevation than the south-facing slopes of Leoville Barton. Lilian attributes the generally increased complexity of Leoville Barton to the higher elevation of the vineyards. With the water table at the same depth the vines of Leoville Barton must go deeper, through more layers, gaining complexity.


For both estates 2006 was a hot year with a bit of rain but nothing to worry about. They had already harvested most of their fruit by the time the rains came in. Lilian finds it a fine vintage following the great 2005 vintage. The 2004 vintage is stuck, so to speak, between 2005 and 2006. It was a huge crop forcing them to ask for a special allowance. They asked for 58 Hl/Ha but were allowed 56 Hl/Ha. The solution was permission to send the excess to be distilled but it had already been sold. So a fine was paid instead. In deducing which bottle of 2005 we were tasting, Mark felt it was Langoa Barton for the fruit was more forward that what he would expect of Leoville Barton.


2006 Chateau Langoa-Barton, Saint-Julien
This was a little darker than the 2005. There was a light nose, tight with violets, and a bit of stem. In the mouth the flavors were simpler, firm, and generally followed the mouth. There were wood tannins.

2005 Chateau Langoa-Barton, Saint-Julien
The light nose was earthier with berries. In the mouth the black fruit had firmness and a bit of focused weight. There was a shorter aftertaste. This was actually a nice wine with a decent future.

2004 Chateau Leoville-Barton, Saint-Julien
The nose was the most interesting of the flight with old-lady perfume and a hint of wood. In the mouth it was a bit more relaxed with earthy, soft fruit, and a blacker aspect. It was clearly the most mature with a low-lying aftertaste.


Lilian Barton is the 7th generation to work at the Chateau and the 9th in Bordeaux. Despite the centuries old establishment she still has an Irish passport. Lilian has a warm personality and approachable manner when discussing her wines. Her comments were never directed at what is in the glass, rather they set a context. Her earliest memory of the Chateau is of sitting on top of a barrel, removing the bung, then sticking her fingers in so she could taste the wine. As to the rumor of Uncle Ronald maintaining a special barrel of wine to serve his guests at the Chateau she has no recollection. The wines of 1998 suffered from being typical Medoc wines, mean when young and in need of time. It was an economic vintage as 1997 had been expensive. The 1999s went past unnoticed but are charming and drinkable. The wines of 2000 were bound to be good regardless of what actually happened. Ben Giliberti recalled the 1953 vintage where he prefers the Langoa Barton over the Leoville Barton. There was some conversation about if Langoa Barton was made to be the lesser of the two. This indeed is not the case. Ben concluded that in vintages which requires a lighter wine, he prefers Langoa Barton.

2000 Chateau Langoa Barton, Saint-Julien
This had a light to medium nose of stalky red fruit, tobacco, and the beginning of mature aromas. In the mouth the red fruit reminded me of Langoa-Barton with lights flavors, acidity, and a firmness in the finish. The tannins were integrated.

1999 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
This had a light, tight nose of dark red fruit and good scents. The flavors were concentrated in the mouth, a little more purple, and showed some weight. Good future here.

1998 Chateau Langoa Barton, Saint-Julien
This was tight with dark red fruit, firm in the core, a note of earth but generally the most backwards of all the wines tasted. Potential.


The vintage of 1990 was atypical being so very hot and very dry. This can cause quite a problem when vegetation stops. Fortunately there were rains in mid-September after which the vines did something for a few weeks and all was fine. Mark felt that the fruit showed well with good depth but it shows more ripeness with age. It might have been best at ten years of age. In time the 1989 vintage might prove to be the better of the two. The estate lost money with the 1991 and 1992 vintages. They broke even in 1993, did better in 1994 then returned to a good footing in 1995 and 1996. Lilian felt the wines of 1995 are lovely nice wines, always have been and still are. Those of 1996 show more power and need time to age.

1996 Chateau Langoa Barton, Saint-Julien
There were cool blue and red fruit flavors with a generally redder aspect. There was firm wood towards the finish followed by a rather interesting aftertaste.

1995 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
There was a subdued fine scent with a little wood box. In the mouth there were blacker fruit flavors, dense fruit, and still fine, strong tannins. A nice with enjoyable austerity.

1990 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
This had a light to medium nose of earthy aromas, some stink, and all around attractiveness. The wine was resolved in the mouth with firm black fruit, dried herbs, and bluer black fruit in the finish. This powerful wine has lots of life left and is youthful in a sense. Beautiful.


We circled back to the youngest wines. Lilian felt the 2008 a lovely, supple vintage of which there is not much to talk about. It was a particularly great value for those who purchased en primeur. The 2009 will drink earlier whereas the 2010 will need longer. It has big tannins, big alcohol and is quite charming but she is afraid it might close up soon.

2008 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
The nose with light with bright red fruit and a touch tart. In the mouth the red fruit mixed with acidity as gentle tannins came out. There were wood box notes. Well done.

2009 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
This had a scent nose of young, nice fruit. In the mouth the flavors were fine with focused fruit, more structure, and a touch darker. There were spicy tannins.

2010 Chateau Langoa Barton, Saint-Julien
The nose had good powdery sweet fruit. In the mouth the fruit was young with a cinnamon, spicy structure. Good nose.


It was rather late at this point. Some people left with the rest stepping away from the tables to mingle. I needed a break from tasting so Lou and I introduced ourselves to Rutger de Vink, proprietor of RdV Vineyards. We had an interesting conversation about his Exsurgo wine for Wounded Warriors. The details of which I shall write about in a few weeks. Two foil wrapped magnums begin to circulate. They turned out to be 1989 Chateau Langoa Barton. There was a brief resurgence as glasses were charged but even the lovely wine could not delay the impending closure of the Metro system. We were down to a small group now Lilian, Panos, Rutger, Dave, Maria, Chris, and myself. Chris generously brought a bottle of 1986 Chateau Leoville Barton. With his bottle mostly full and at least half of a magnum about I left my notebook, took up my glass, and drank. The 1989 was mature with wood box, soft spices, but fresh with a good core of fruit. The 1986 was in great shape as well with a similar maturity but with a blacker, mineral heart. Both were markedly different from the 1990 Leoville Barton. They were what I would hope for from a mature Bordeaux.

Lillian Barton and Chris Bublitz

Lilian Barton and Chris Bublitz

Dave and I split a taxi back to Silver Spring. It was after midnight and the prospect of waking up in five hours was not attractive. As Dave noted, Panos puts together a Bordeaux dinner only once per year in DC. It is a time to enjoy oneself and not to worry about anything else.

A Trio of Well-Priced Italian Wines

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Just another short post for today.  I am working on a few longer posts for this month and also gearing up for the UGC 2010 Bordeaux tasting tonight.  I have a big backlog of tasting notes to publish so I shall start with these three Italian wines.  I definitely recommend the Ocone and the Torre Vento.  Both are good wines for the money which may be drunk over some time.  I am on the fence with the Apicella.  It starts with an engaging nose but the flavors drop off in the mouth.  It should work well as a wine to begin otherwise it might be best to try other vintages or wines from the producer.  The Ocone and Apicella were purchased at Chambers Street Wines.  The Torre Vento was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2007 Ocone, Apollo, Aglianico del Taburno – $16
Imported by Polaner Selections.  This wine is 100% Aglianico sourced from certified organic vineyards at 200-400 meters on soils of limestone.  It is fermented and undergoes malolactic fermentation in vertical wood vats.  It is aged for one year in stainless steel followed by six months in barrique.  Alcohol 13%.  There is a light nose of firm black fruit and a bit of perfume.  In the mouth there is black, smokey fruit, focused ripeness, and a perfumed wood nature.  The flavors remain a little ripe with a firm, rugged core of fruit.  There are drying, firm tannins and firmer flavors in the finish.  Heck, the wine firms up with air.  Has potential and could use a touch of age.  **(*) Now-2019.


2011 Giuseppe Apicella, Piedirosso, Colli di Salerno IGT – $14
Imported by Wine Emporium.  This wine is a blend of 85% Piedirosso and 15% other varietals.  The fruit is destemmed and vinified in stainless steel tanks. Alcohol 12%  The color was a light cherry rose.  The nose reveals fresh red berries, some purple fruit along with pepper in a fine and attractive manner.  In the mouth the flavors are bright and tart with young red fruit, pepper notes, and fresh acidity.  It is rather like a light Gamay.  The flavors are simpler in the finish where there are some tannins followed by firmness in the aftertaste.  ** Now-2014.


2003 Torre Vento, Sine Nomine, Rosso Riserva, Salice Salentino – $16
Imported by Wine Wave.  This wine is a blend of 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera which was aged for two years in French oak barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The light to medium strength nose is more pungent with evergreen and herbed, red fruit.  There are fresh, herbs and red fruit in the mouth.  The flavors take on black red fruit with acidity that causes the back of the tongue to salivate.  There is a wood note in the finish.  Nice wine.  *** Now-2023.


Another Chardonnay With Age

January 23, 2013 1 comment

I have been fortunate this winter to not only receive the bottle of 2004 Chateau St Jean Chardonnay from Julia but this bottle of 2005 Sans Permis from Lou.  From what I gather the Sans Permis winery was the work of George Van Duzer who brought on Thomas Rivers Brown as the consulting winemaker.  The two met when they worked at Turley.  The goal was to produce wine from the greatest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards without any obvious influence from the winemaker.   They released their first wines in 2004 then closed just several years later in 2008.  A number of these wines have been offered at close-out prices and I was fortunate to taste a bottle thanks to Lou.  This bottle was fully mature and best on its first night when it showed all around balance.  In a way it reminds me of the 2002 Bouchard, Meursault Genevrieres I got to taste last week.  It has been an interesting week of Chardonnay experience.


2005 Sans Permis, Chardonnay, La Chanson, Santa Barbara County –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from  Bien Nacido Vineyard and Solomon Hills Vineyard.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color is a light amber gold.  The light nose reveals ripe apple with a hint of nuts.  In the mouth this medium bodied wine is younger in profile.  It has a round mouth, almost creamy, with baking spiced yellow fruit, a little nutty, acidity, and some weight.  By the third night the nose became overwhelmingly nutty so I suspect this is fully mature.   *** Now.


Three Chardonnay From Chateau St Jean

January 23, 2013 Leave a comment

As part of our ongoing quest to find affordable California Chardonnay we tried the 2009 Chateau St Jean, Belle Terre Vineyard and Robert Young Vineyard.  Both of these are single-vineyard wines with the former undergoing malolactic fermentation while the later does not.  In reviewing my tasting notes they do read rather decent.  They are lighter in a sense with interesting flavors but the barrel notes seemed obvious and offset.  It kept distracting me.


As if by intuition Julia gave me a bottle of the 2004 Reserve, Robert Young Vineyard.  I do not drink much aged Chardonnay so I had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be quite good!  There are similarities between the 2004 Reserve and the 2009 regular Chardonnay.  But the quality of the fruit is better and so is the overall integration with the 2004 Reserve.  What struck me most is how fresh and lively it was.  Now this bottle was pulled from Julia’s EuroCave so storage was ideal.   I should think this will drink well for another five years or so.  Thank you Julia!  The two 2009 Chateau St Jean bottles were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2009 Chateau St Jean,  Chardonnay, Belle Terre Vineyard, Alexander Valley – $22
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which barrel fermented, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for eight months in 55% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.4%.  The color was a light golden straw.  The light to medium strength nose revealed yellow fruit, texture, and a little toast.  In the mouth there were somewhat weighty flavors riding on a wave of acidity.  There was a little bramble at first then acidity came through.  The flavors smooth out as ripe yellow and white fruit integrated with barrel toast.  The flavors are a bit tart in the middle with a citrus note.  It eventually shows more minerals as the flavors dry out leaving a lipstick finish.  ** Now.


2009 Chateau St Jean, Chardonnay, Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley – $22
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which did not undergo malolactic fermentation and was aged in oak.  Alcohol 14.4%.  The nose was light with yellow fruit, butter, and spiced fruit.  In the mouth the flavors are weighty and begin with interesting, spiced fruit.  There are lemon flavors in the middle as it becomes more exotic.  There is a little low-lying barrel note in the aftertaste.  ** Now-2014.


2004 Chateau St Jean, Chardonnay, Reserve, Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was barrel fermented then aged sur lie.  Alcohol 14.6%.  The color was a light to medium golden-yellow.  There was a very light nose.  In the mouth the wine starts with honied weight to the fat, yellow fruit, and spiced pears.  There is acidity from the beginning with barrel notes poking through.  The back of the throat salivates as the barrel note returns.  There is a nice mouthfeel with some freshness, good integration, and lemon notes.  Surprisingly it is rather youthful.  *** Now-2018.