Archive for July, 2013

2010 Vacqueyras and Gigondas

It is a bit of a crime to open young bottles of Vacqueyras and certainly a crime for young Gigondas.  But I am curious and not in a position to lay down any wine.  Following my usual practice, all four bottles were tasted over two nights.  The 2010 Bouissiere, Vacqueyras was lovely and the 2010 Bouissiere, Gigondas has strong potential.  You should buy both.  The 2010 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto had the flavors I expect and enjoy from this domain.  But in this instance it was overshadowed by the Bouissiere.  If you like the flavor of Domaine le Sang des Cailloux then you should buy several bottles to lay down.  I find you may depend on these wines to age well.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre and Cinsault sourced from 35-40 year old vines.  The fruit was destemmed, fermented in cement tanks with indigenous yeasts then aged for six months in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was subtle and ungiving with only a little cherry aroma escaping.  In the mouth this wine was clearly young with tightly wound fruit.  The tannins were approachable and balanced by the acidity.  There was serious flavor lurking with a hazy expansion in the mouth followed by a finish of firm, powdery black fruit.  With air the fruit became a bit more ripe with black fruit, focused, and powdery tannins on the cheeks.  There was a good mid-palate and finish with expansive flavors.  It tastes familial.  **(*) 2016-2026.


2010 Domaine La Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $26
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre which was aged in wood and tank.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The flavors were robust and forward with acidity driven black fruit.  the wine quickly became dry with herb flavors and a minerally, black finish.  With ait the firm black and red berries were initially dense and finely grained.  The aftertaste brought tea-like tannins and more herbs.  This remained a young wine but maintained attraction.  ***(*) Now-2023.


2010 Domaine la Bouissiere, Gigondas – $28
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This wine is a blend of 72% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 3% Mourvedre sourced from 45-year-old vines. One-third of the fruit was destemmed and aged in wood and tank.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was subtle and pungent.  In the mouth there were tight but good fruit flavors with violets.  There were good grapey and lurking fruit and a focused core of ripe, black fruit that continued into the aftertaste.  The wine was approachable but wound up.  The finish was firm and dry.  **(**) 2016-2026.


2010 Domaine de Piaugier, Gigondas – $25
Imported by DST Trading.  This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, and 15% Syrah.  The grapes were destemmed then fermented for one month in cement tank followed by maturation over two winters in 33% cement tank, 33% in one year old barrels, and 33% in new foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was very light.  In the mouth there were firm and young flavors of red fruit.  The wine was compact with no harsh edges and some garrigue in the finish.  There were drying, citric tannins in this modern tasting wine.  This bottle was tight. **(*) 2017-2027.


Attractive Zinfandel

I do not drink too much Zinfandel and when I do the bottle typically bears the Ridge label.  Earlier this year Andy recommended these two bottles.  The 2010 Peter Franus, Zinfandel was enjoyable but the bottle was clearly in the midst of development.  The 1995 Hogue, Terraces was surprisingly good.  It was old-school in flavor and in nature.  At 18 years of age it should easily drink for another decade.  I wish I had bought more.  Fortunately the Franus is still available.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Peter Franus, Zinfandel, Brandlin Vineyard, Mount Veeder – $35
This wine is 100% Zinfandel sourced from 85-year-old vines at the Brandlin Vineyard located at 1200 feet.  Alcohol 14.8%.  The light to medium strength nose revealed strawberries and a hint of vanilla with air.  In the mouth the red fruit is gentle then slowly expands bringing ripe fruit and acidity.  With air the black fruit becomes chiseled with lots of acidity.  The wine oscillates in flavor with red fruit and tight, minerally black fruit.  There was a little heat and roughness in the aftertaste.  Give it a year to open up.  *** 2014-2019.


1995 W. Hogue Vintners, Terraces, Zinfandel, Napa Valley – $27
This wine is 100% Zinfandel which was planted with Werle clones in 1981.  The vines are located on terraces at 300-400 feet on volcanic soils.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The light to medium strength nose revealed cedar box notes along with red berries.  In the mouth there were firm, tart red berries, and plenty of acidity.  It tasted like a traditional/old-school Californian wine and was younger in the mouth.  There were underlying flavors of wood box in the middle and acidity on the tongue tip and front-sides.  It took on a little weight and flavors of cherry and firm black fruit.  The structure was present but integrated with flavors that were cerebral and tasty.  *** Now-2023.


Several Italian Wines Opened While Researching

July 8, 2013 1 comment

Here are several different Italian wines I have opened while researching and writing about the history of wine.  At the affordable end of things the 2011 Elena Walch, Lagrein is appealing for contemporary drinking.  My favorite of the lot were the 2005 Rocca di Frassinello, Poggio alla Guardia and the 2008 Ricci Curbastro, Vigna Santella del Grom.  Both of these are blends with Merlot and Cabernet.  The former is attractively mature right now.   The later is more youthful and surprisingly contains Carmenere! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Elena Walch, Lagrein, Alto Adige – $14
Imported by The Country Vintner.  This wine is 100% Lagrein which was fermented in stainless steel then underwent malolactic fermentation and aging in large French oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was black and grapey.  In the mouth the wine had lighter and cooler flavors of red and black fruit.  It tasted like a cool-climate wine.  It was a touch tart but moved forward with structure, some pepper, licorice, and a delicate core.  Attractive.  ** Now-2014.


2005 Rocca di Frassinello, Poggio alla Guardia, Maremma Tuscany – $16
Imported by Vias Imports.  This wine is a blend of 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Sangioveto sourced from seven-year old vines which was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged for four months in stainless steel and cement.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a medium garnet mixed with brick.  The flavors were ripe and focused with black cherry that was lively on the center of the tongue.  There was gentle weight as the fruit coats the tongue then takes on texture with ripe, drying tannins on the tongue and lips.  there were some wood box flavors and structure with air.  There was a little coarse texture but the wine filled out with air and was supported by the structure.  *** Now-2018.


2004 Agricoltori del Geografico, Contessa di Radda, Chianti Classico – $16
Imported by Monarchia Matt International.  This wine is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo Nero grape sourced from member vineyards total 480 acres.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose revealed a little roast and a hinted of stewed fruit.  In the mouth there was firm cherry fruit, a little roast, and firm acidity on the tongue tip.  With air there were some tea flavors, expansion in the mouth but not a lot of depth.  It was a little stemmy with a touch of salivating acidity.  It seems to be drying with its age.  ** Now.


2008 Corbera Vini, Nero d’Avola, ar Cera, Sicily – $13
Imported by Red Ink Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  In the mouth the flavors were very smooth with silky and smokey black/red fruit.  There were some strong tannins in the underlying structure which continues to emerge with air.  There was some acidity followed by a smoky, pervasive aftertaste.  ** Now-2017.


2008 Velenosi, Brecciarolo, Rosso Piceno- $11
Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates.  This wine is a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese which was destemmed, fermented in stainless steel then aged in used barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This had flavors of black cherry and black fruit with some ripeness.  There were cinnamon-like spices to this softer but textured black fruited wine.  It was tart with integrated acidity, and a small amount of tannins. The finish was shorter.  No need to hold on to this.  ** Now-2014.


2009 Fattoria di Fubbiano, San Gennaro, Colline Lucchesi – $20
Imported by David Vincent Selection.  This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 15% Ciliegiolo.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was light with a  little perfume, greenhouse, and stems.  The mouth followed the nose with a core of focused, ripe vintage perfume and black fruit.  There were flavors of tart red and black fruit then a textured middle, and acidity in the aftertaste.  The wine is a little rough at this point but has good, yet firmer black and red fruit flavors in the aftertaste. Needs a little age. **(*) 2014-2017.


2008 Ricci Curbastro, Vigna Santella del Grom, Curtefranca – $23
Imported by Grappoli Imports.  This wine is a blend of 30% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, 12% Carmenere, and 10% Barbera sourced from the Santella del Grom vineyard planted in 1992.  It was fermented in stainless steel vats then aged for 18 months in oak barrels.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose bore some fresh, red berry fruit.  In the mouth there were focused raspberry flavors, a little ripe core, and acidity which moves things along like a wave.  The wine was red and tangy in the back of the mouth with a touch of weight behind the fruit.  Good quality.  This is a good youthful wine with cherry berry notes.  *** Now-2016.

General George Washington’s Curious Case of Constantia Wine

Robert Morris was a wealthy merchant who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution along with a major financier of the Continental Army.  In 1757, he and his business partner Thomas Willing established a successful international business dealing in shipping, real estate, and slavery.  Mr. Morris was a delegate to both Continental Congresses and a member of the Secret Committee of Correspondence.  The committee had the authority to set up an international trade system to procure arms and other goods.[1]  On September 12, 1776 Mr. Morris wrote a letter to Silas Deane, Esquire informing him that the Dutch islands, “at Curracoa M. Isaac Gouverneur will receive & forward Goods for us.”[2]  Isaac Gouverneur was a merchant on the Island of Curacao, located just north of Venezuela, who was appointed Commissary General of the army in the West Indies.

Curacao, Thomas Jefferys, 1775.  Image from David Rumsey Map Collection.

Curacao, Thomas Jefferys, 1775. Image from David Rumsey Map Collection.

Though Mr. Morris and General George Washington corresponded on military matters they appear to have developed a relationship.  On December 30, 1776, Mr. Morris sent a quarter-cask of wine to General George Washington, “Hearing that you are in Want of a Qr Cask of Wine I have procured a good one which Mr Commissary Wharton will send up.”[3]  On January 1, 1777 General George Washington wrote a letter to the Executive Committee of the Continental Congress taking care to include the post script, “My best thanks to Mr Morris for procuring the Qr Cask Wine, which is not yet got to hand.”[4]

A glass wine bottle, marked 'CON STANTIA WYN', South Africa 18th/19th Century. Image from The Spring Classic Sale, Stockholm 574 Bukowskis Market.

A glass wine bottle, marked ‘CON STANTIA WYN’, South Africa 18th/19th Century. Image from The Spring Classic Sale, Stockholm 574 Bukowskis Market.

In December 1777 General George Washington’s army encamped at Valley Forge.  In February 1778, Isaac Gouverneur sent a case of Constantia wine to Mr. Morris with instructions that the wine was to be given to General George Washington.

Dear Sir                        Manheim in Pensylva May 9th 1778

I was honoured with yours of the 27th Ulto which needs no reply, I also rec’d your answer to what I had wrote respecting Colo. Armand & did not think it necessary to trouble you further on that Subject.

In a letter from my Friend Isaac Governeur Esqr. dated Curracoa 11th Feby 1778, which reached me a few days since, is the following paragraph “there is also a small Box Containing one dozn Bottles of Constantia Wine, its made at the Cape of Good Hope is an excellent Stomatick & very refreshing when fatigued its directed to his Excelly Genl Washington & begs his acceptance hopeing he will pardon the Freedom.”

I believe this Box has been landed in North Carolina under the care of Jos. Hewes Esqr. and I will desire him to send it forward by the first safe Conveyance—when I congratulated your Excelly on the great good News lately received from France, you will not expect me to express my Feelings, was I in your Company my Countenance might shew, but my pen cannot express them. Most sincerely do I give you joy, Our Independance is undoubtedly Secured, our Country must be Free & to compleat this Work I most ardently pray, that Victory may be your Handmaid the ensuing Campaign. With the most perfect esteem I remain Your Excellys Obedient hble servt
Robt Morris [5]

Robert Morris was able to trade in wine for in March, 1778 he received at least two letters requesting wine.  That of Chaplain Henry Miller of Colonel Stewart’s Regiment requesting, “enough wine to administer Communion to the members.” [6]   The request of Colonel Matthias Slough was a bit more pressing, “It is with concern indeed I have to mention to you that I have at length found the bottom of my Wine Pipe, so that I have not a drop left to give to my friend.”[7]  Later that spring General George Washington received the case of Constantia wine and wrote a letter thanking both Mr. Morris and Mr. Gouverneur.  I can find no other references to these bottles of Constantia wine.

Valley-forge, May 25, 1778.
Dear Sir

Your favor of the 9th Inst informed me of the acceptable present which your friend Mr Governeur( of Curracoa) was pleased to intend for me and for which he will through you accept my sincere thanks these are also due to you my good sir, for the kind Communication of the matter, and for the trouble you have had in ordering the Wine forward.

I rejoice most sincerely with you on the glorious change in our prospects, Calmness and serenity, seems likely to succeed in some measure, those dark and tempestuous clouds which at times appeared ready to overwhelm us, The game, whether well or ill played hitherto, seems now to be verging fast to a favourable issue, and cannot I think be lost, unless we throw it away by too much supineness on the one hand, or impetuosity on the other, God forbid that either of these should happen at a time when we seem to be upon the point of reaping the fruits of our toil and labour, A stroke, and reverse, under such circumstances would be doubly distressing.

My best respects in which Mrs. Washington joins, are offered to your Lady, & with sincere thanks for your kind wishes, I remain

Dr Sir

Yr Most Obed’t Serv’t

Geo Washington. [8]

Constantia wine has its origins in 1685 when the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, established his famous vineyard.  By 1709 he had planted some 70,000 vines.  Simon van der Stel died in 1712.  In 1716 the estate was split into three: the original homestead Groot Constantia, de Hoop op Constantia or Klein Constantia (Little Constantia), and Brevliet.  Johannes Colyn ran the two Constantia vineyards simultaneously and with great success.  The Dutch East India Company eventually took notice of this product from their colonies.  In 1761 agreements were made between the Company and Jacobus van der Spuy, owner of Little Constantia, and Lambert Myburgh, owner of Constantia.  They were to sell to the Company two-thirds of all the red and white wine produced.  For Little Constantia the price was set at 31l. 5s. per legger of red white and 15l. 12s. 6.d for white wine.  The remaining one-third of the wine could be sold to whomever at any price.  Between 1772 and 1780 Cape wine was sent every year to the Netherlands. During this period annual exports averaged 15 leggers of Constantia wine and 93 leggers of common wine.[9]  In 1777 there was a severe drought preventing the export of any wheat but some Constantia wine was still sent.

The Dutch Coloony of the Cape of Good Hope. Louis Delarochette, 1795. Image from the David Rumsey Map Collection.

The Dutch Coloony of the Cape of Good Hope. Louis Delarochette, 1795. Image from the David Rumsey Map Collection.

In 1771 Bernardin de Saint-Pierre visited the cellar and vineyard of Constance (Constantia).  In the cellar he saw 30 regularly spaced casks called alverames.  Each one contained about 90 pints of wine.  A typical vintage produced 200 casks.  The red wine sold for 35 piastres per alverame and the white wine for 30 piastres.  Bernadin de Saint-Pierre was informed that a portion of the wine was sold to the Company.  The vineyard was planted with Muscadine trained as bush-vines and some other varietal.  The fruit was harvested when the berries were half-preserved by the sun.  The other varietal was very sweet and used to produce an extravagantly priced cordial, presumably Constantia.  Bernadin de Saint-Pierre notes that Little Constance has the same vineyard stocks and farming practices but it had deteriorated.  The wine was inferior and sold for 12 piastres per alverame. [10]  Lieutenant James Cook had the same impression in April 1771. [11] Writing in April 1772, Andrew Sparrman notes that white Constantia was made at Little Constantia and red Constantia was produced at Constantia.  Of the total production of white and red Constantia the Company kept one-third.  There were 90 figgars of white Constantia produced annually as compared to 60 figgars of red Constantia.  A figgar is approximately 600 French pints.  The red Constantia was the most expensive selling at 60 rixdollars per half awin with the white Constantia cheaper.  Common white wine cost 10-70 rixdollars per figgar.  He goes on to note that the “genuine Constantia wine is undeniably a very racy and delicate desert wine, and has something peculiarly agreeable in the flavour of it…the fact is, that the genuine wine can only be produced by certain particular soils.”[12]

By 1778 the Constantia vineyard had fallen into disrepair.  Hendrik Cloete focused on capital investment and energy into improving the estate and the wine.  Francois Le Vaillant visited the vineyards of Constantia between 1781 and 1784.  He notes that Mr. Cloete was an owner.  A demi-haam of 80 bottles sold for 35-40 piastres but by his departure they sold for more than 100 piastres per demi-haam.  Whether it was the disruption from the Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784) or the rise in quality is not specified.  I suspect it was the former for Hendrik Cloete wrote that no Constantia wine was sent in 1782 due to the war.[13]  Francois Le Vaillant continued that in the last seven or eight years the wines of Little Constantia had finally equalled that of Constantia and most recently had surpassed it.  The wines of Little Constantia reached the best prices at the Company sales.  As the two vineyards were only separated by a hedge  it was the management that distinguished the wines.

It is possible but unlikely that General George Washington was familiar with Constantia wine for it appears to be an uncommon wine.  There is no mention of Constantia wine in The Pennsylvania Gazette  though Commander James Child sold Cape wine in 1750.[14] I find no mention of Constantia wine nor Cape wine in the index of the Virginia Gazette for 1736-1780.[15]  There is one 18th century instance of Constantia wine being transported to Philadelphia.  In May 1774 the British merchant ship Severn heading from Bristol to Philadelphia sank off the coast of Delaware.  Discovered in 2004, the wreckage contained wine bottle fragments including the glass seal bearing “CON STANTIA WYN …”.  A complete bottle with a similar seal “CON  STANTIA WYN” was found in the 1940s by a diver exploring off of Stockholm.  Upon his death the bottle was bequeathed to the Historical Musem of Wine and Spirits in Stockholm where it was dated to the 1790s.  Both of these bottles have been attributed to Groot Constantia.  Constantia wine was available in London during this period.  In November 1779 Mr. Skinner auctioned off  “SEVEN CASKS of excellent CONSTANTIA WINE…of Captain CHARLES MEARS, a Bankrupt, late Commander of the Egmont East-Indiaman.” [16]  Sixteen years later in March 1795, Messrs. Greenwoods sold it by the bottle.  They had gotten hold of a small consignment imported in 1789 and 1790 by a gentleman from the East-Indies.[17]  It is possible that some Constantia wine made it to the American Colonies by way of English ship.  There is no evidence that Thomas Jefferson ever purchased or drank Constantia though he mentioned Cape wine in 1788.[18]  How the case of Constantia wine got to Curacao is a mystery.  The wine was sent from the Cape to the Netherlands in casks for sale so it is possible the wine was bottled in Europe. It is likely it followed the route of a Dutch East India ship from the Cape of Good Hope to the Netherlands followed by a Dutch West India ship to Curacao.  Or perhaps some other merchant ship.

The case of wine sent to General George Washington was simply identified as “Constantia Wyne”.  The early writers were careful to distinguish between Constantia and Little Constantia as the two true sources of Constantia wine.  At first inspection it appears that General George Washington may have received a case of Constantia wine from Constantia.  However, this may not be the case.  In 1772, Andrew Sparrman notes that the quantities of Constantia wine consumed in Europe exceeded what was produced by the two estates and that even in the Cape one had to be careful about drinking the true wine.  David Collins noted that in 1787  the only wine they could taste in bottle was Constantia wine.  He found it had “a very fine, rich, and pleasant flavour, and is an excellent cordial” but much of what is sold under the name was never made from the Constantia vineyards.[19]  A clue lives with Johan Splinter Stavorinus, Esquire who visited Constantia and Little Constantia in 1774.  He writes that the Company maintained the exclusive right to sell the Constantia wine and also use the name.  In response people sold an inferior wine known as “maag or stomach wine”. [20]  Hendrik Cloete writes in 1789 that as of 1780 the sellers of maagwijn (stomach wine) after selling one leaguers of wine to the Company, could sell the rest at any price whereas that of Constantia and Little Constantia were limited to a fixed price.[21]  Hendrik Cloete also notes that there was a great difference between stomach-wine and Constantia wine.[22]

Isaac Gouvernour describes the Constantia wine as “an Excellent Stomachick and Very Refreshing when Fatigued.”  Stomachicks originated in the mid 17th century as an agent to improve digestion and increase appetite.  In 1676 a type of green apple cider was recommended as a “stomach wine”. [23]  Stomach wine continues to appear in publication throughout the 18th century, such as an aid in withdrawing from a course of opium [24] or a diet-drink for chronic cases [25].  The recommended stomach wines were comprised of cider, wine, infusions with wine, and compositions with wine made over many days.  It seems likely then that Constantia wine received by General George Washington was not true Constantia but the lesser sort. It was recommended as a stomachick by Isaac Gouvernour because he had sent on stomach wine which was the common name for the inferior wine not sourced from the two Constantia vineyards.

[1] Secret Committee of Correspondence/ Committee for Foreign Affairs, 1775-1777. URL: Last Accessed: 03 July 2013.

[2] Collections of the New York Historical Society, Volume 19.  New York, 1886.

[3] To George Washington from Robert Morris, 30 December 1776. URL: Last Accessed: 03 July 2013.

[4] From George Washington to the Executive Committee of the Continental Congress, 1 January 1777. URL: Last Accessed: 03 July 2013.
[5] To George Washington from Robert Morris, 9 May 1778. URL: Last Accessed: 03 July 2013 .
[6] Henkels, Stan V. The Confidential Correspondence of Robert Morris, the Great Financier of the Revolution. Catalogue No. 1183.  Philadelphia, 1917.
[7] Historical Papers and Addresses of the Lancaster County, Volume 24, No. 1.  The New Era Printing Company, Lancaster, 1920.
[8] From George Washington to Robert Morris, 25 May 1778. URL: Last Accessed: 03 July 2013 .
[9] Theal, George McCall.  History of South Africa Under the Administration of the Dutch East India Company, Volume 2.  London, 1897.
[10] de Saint-Pierre, Bernardin.  A voyage to the Isle of Mauritius, the Isle of Bourbon, The Cape of Good-Hope, &c. London, 1775.
[11] Hawkesworth, John.  “Lieutenant Cook’s Voyage”, An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of his Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, Volume III. London, 1773
[12] Sparrman, Andrew. A voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, Volume 1. London, 1785.
[13] Le Vaillant, Francois.  Travel from the Cape of Good-Hope into the Interior Parts of Africa Volume 1. London, 1790
[14] Virginia Gazette. URL: Last Accessed: 02 July 2013.
[15] The Pennsylvania Gazette; Date: 05-03-1750; Issue: 1116; Page: [4]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Early American Newspapers Series 2, 1758-1900 and Selected Historical Newspapers.
[16] Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Monday, November 15, 1779; Issue 15 836.
[17] Morning Post and Fashionable World (London, England), Saturday, March 7, 1795; Issue 7207.
[18] Constantia Wine. URL: . Last accessed: 02 July 2013.
[19] Collins, David.  An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales.  London, 1798.
[20] Stavorinus, John Splinter.  Voyages to the East-Indies, Volume II.  London, 1798.
[21] Schutte, G.J. Hendrik Cloete, Groot Constantia and the VOC 1778-1799. Paarl, 2003.
[22] Leibbrandt, H. C. V. Precis of the archives of the Cape of Good Hope, Volume 1. Cape Town, 1905.
[23] The Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume XI. London, 1676.
[24] Jones, John.  The Mysteries of Opium Revealed.  London, 1701.
[25] Quincy, John. Pharmacopoeia Officinalis Extemporanea. London, 1782.

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Pleasing Red Wine from Germany and Austria

I started tasting this trio of wines with a glass of the 2008 Gernot Heinrich, Zweigelt.  Jenn had picked the first wine and in pouring my glass, commented that it was good.  It was and though maturing it was in a younger state than the 2004 Gernot Heinrich, St. Laurent we recently tasted with Lou.  You may read about that wine in Tasting Austrian and Italian Wines With Lou.  It drank best on the first night when the fruit, mature notes, and acidity had good tension.  It softened out on the second night, when I would give it **, so I recommend you remove the glass stopper then share the entire bottle with friends.  The 2010 Sepp Moser, Zweigelt Hedwighof is young with more pepper notes, tannins, and dryer flavors.  I would personally recommend waiting to drink this until the New Year but the perfumed fruit and potpourri flavors are compelling now.  Having run out of Austrian wines I opened the 2007 Weingut Knipser, Gaudenz.  Wow, what a surprise!  The maturity immediately reminded me of a hypothetical Bordeaux blend.  I see no reason to hold back on this wine, just decant it for an hour or two.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2007 Weingut Knipser, Gaudenz, Pfalz – $20
Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.  This wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Dornfelder mixed with other red varietals.  It was aged in older barriques.  Alcohol 13%.  The initially sharper nose rounded out with air to reveal small red berries and mature aromas.  In the mouth there was a mixture of red cherry fruit and underlying mature flavors.  There were wood box flavors, citric red fruit, and some apparent structure.  The wine was almost like a cool Pinot Noir and Bordeaux blend.  The wine develops over a couple of air with gentle ripe flavors on the tongue and lips, along with acidity in the back of the throat.  *** Now-2016.


2008 Gernot Heinrich, Zweigelt, Burgenland – $16
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Zweigelt sourced from vines planted in 1985 at the Heideboden vineyard at 430-500 feet.  It was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation, and was aged for 6-8 months in French and Slavonian oak vats and barriques.  Alcohol 12%.  The color was a medium garnet ruby.  The light nose was of mixed red and black fruit, eventually turn towards ripe cranberry and strawberry.  Good aromas.  In the mouth there were good, focused flavors, some density which was coupled with the acidity.  The flavors were a touch tart and juicy in the finish.  The tannins were mostly resolved but there was a touch of soft structure and maybe a mature hint. Best on first night. *** Now-2014.


2010 Sepp Moser, Zweigelt Hedwighof, Neusiedlersee – $18
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Zweigelt sourced from the Hedwighof vineyard.  The fruit was destemmed then both fermented and aged in stainless steel.  Alcohol 12.5%  The nose was subtle with perfumed pepper aromas gently surrounding blue fruit.  In the mouth there were peppery red and black fruit, a little ripeness towards the front before taking on a dry nature.  Then the ripe red became a touch perfumed, moving on to potpourri flavors in the finish.  There were fine, drying tannins and young flavors in the back of the mouth.  **(*) 2014-2016.


The DC Release of Iconic Wines


This past Sunday Lou and I found ourselves at the DC release party for Iconic Wines.  The owners Birk O’Halloran and Karl Antle hosted the party at David White’s ( house.  Birk and Karl had brought down a dozen cases of their wine for a group of us to taste and buy.  Not content to serve only wine they grilled up chicken, burgers, hotdogs and laid out a selection of other dishes.  Even David grilled up piles of steak.  This was all consumed by a professional, young crowd of several dozen wine lovers, sommeliers, and friends.


It was a hot day which remained so humid that giant raindrops did not make anyone wetter.  I could not stop sweating despite the five-gallon paint bucket full of ice-cold white wine.  Thus my desire to take notes rapidly disappeared.  Birk and Karl only produce wine from Chardonnay and Trousseau Gris.  The former is sourced from the Linda Vista Vineyard and the Michael Mara Vineyard, both of which are farmed by Steve Matthiasson.  The later is sourced from the old vines of Peter Fanucchi.  The wines themselves are made with the help of Dan Petroski who is the winemaker for Massican.  Those are pretty cool connections for a three-year old winery run by two best friends living in New York.


There were three Iconic Wines to taste of which two were Chardonnay: 2011 Iconic Wines, Heroine, Chardonnay and 2011 Iconic Wines, Heroine, Chardonnay, Michael Mara Vineyard.  The base Heroine uses fruit sourced from the Linda Vista and Michael Mara vineyards.  It is both fermented and aged on the lees in French oak using both indigenous and inoculated yeast.  The Michael Mara Heroine has similar production except that all of the fruit is sourced from the Michael Mara Vineyard and only indigenous yeast is used.  The base Heroine show more acidity and nervy character whereas the Michael Mara Heroine was a bit richer and weightier.  Despite my vague description I do think both of them will benefit from several more months of age.  I did buy one of each so look out for a tasting note this winter.


The third wine was the last bottle of 2011 Iconic Wines, Secret Ingredient, Trousseau Gris.  After being in an awkward stage for half a year this wine finally blossomed then completely sold out.  This version was aged in French oak barrels whereas the Secret Identity, still available at the warehouse, was raised in stainless steel.  I really liked this wine and it was my favorite of the three.  From the nose to the flavors and mouthfeel it sets itself apart and conveys a sense of its contact with the thick-skinned grapes.





I really enjoyed myself and would love to see more release parties like this.  I prefer to taste and drink wine with friends which is essentially what this event was for me.  I got to chat with Birk and Karl, taste their wines, hang out with Lou and Frank, and meet new people.  Everyone was relaxed and having fun.  If it ever stops raining long enough for me to stain my deck then my house is available!  Thanks again to Birk, Karl, and David for a great afternoon.



Lou, Frank, and the author

Lou, Frank, and the author