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Recently Tasted Italian Wines

November 13, 2013 Leave a comment

I am nearing completion of my post for the Wine and the Sea Symposium so my attention must be diverted there.  Do not be surprised by some very simple posts focused on my tasting notes.  My favorite wine of this group was the 2008 Duca Di Salaparuta, Passo Delle Mule, Nero D’Avola, Sicily.  It has a bit of everything, tasted Sicilian, and is attractively priced.  The 2012 Fatalone, Teres, Primitivo, Puglia was much lighter and less complex than the 2008 vintage.  Still it is a perfect wine to drink right now.  The 2011 Cantina Nals Margreid, Galea, Schiava, Alto Adige is another wine to drink right now, quite nice for the price.  The 2007 Cappellano, Gabutti, Dolcetto D’Alba and 2011 Roagna, Dolcetto D’Alba were definitely enjoyable on the first night.  They both showed a rather promising future, enough so that we tasted them again on the second night.  They both completely fell apart.  I would cellar these for another year or two before trying and when you do, drink them up in one sitting.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1999 Rocca di Montegrossi, Geremia, Tuscany – $30
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is a blend of 93% Sangiovese and 7% Merlot which was matured for 13-15 months in medium toast barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  Blue and black fruits, which still play it somewhat close.  It held up well with air, showing integration from bottle age but just a hint of complexity from maturity.  No rush to drink but I cannot image it will get any more complex. ** Now-2018.

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2012 Fatalone, Teres, Primitivo, Puglia – $16
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a very light orange-red.  There were lighter weight but flavorful ripe red fruit and citrus flavors on the sides of the tongue.  It was a gentle wine.  The flavors turn even lighter towards the finish, where they also become less complex.  There was a certain, smooth feel, a hint of yeast, and soft finish.  This was very much a drink now wine with a hint of stones.  ** Now-2014.

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2011 Cantina Nals Margreid, Galea, Schiava, Alto Adige – $13
Imported by the County Vintner.  Alcohol 13%.  There was minerally red fruit with a hint of black fruit which was completely integrated with the acidity and very moderate tannins.  It was slightly tangy.  A satisfying wine.  ** Now-2016.

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2009 Santa Lucia, Vigna del Melograno, Nero di Troia, Castel del Monte – $14
Imported by de Grazia Imports.  This wine is 100% Nero di Troia which was aged for 12 months in large oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a light nose of tar.  In the mouth were compact black fruits, powdery stones, more black fruit, and chalky drying tannins which stuck to the gums and inside of cheeks.  There was tangy and salivating acidity at the end and some smoke.  It remained compact but pleasing in its delivery.  ** Now-2018.

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2007 Cappellano, Gabutti, Dolcetto D’Alba – $23
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  Alcohol 13%.  There was an earthy start with a touch of wood box.  There were firm, drying tannins with a more significant Pilsner aftertaste on the second night.  It was tart and acidic but seemed to have a core of good flavor.  Much better on first night.  ** 2014-2019.

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2011 Roagna, Dolcetto D’Alba – $17
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose bore a mixture of herbs, bitters, and blacker fruit.  The wine was young on the first night with interesting potential.  But on the second night it had tart fruit, simple flavors, lots of acidity, and woodsy tannins.  It was stemmy and bitters-like in the finish.  ** 2014-2019.

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2008 Duca Di Salaparuta, Passo Delle Mule, Nero D’Avola, Sicily – $17
Imported by Wine Cellars Limited.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The flavors were a little darker, with riper fruit leaning towards red and black flavors.  The acidity was on the tongue tip, less obvious and certainly not on the sides.  It had good body, orange citrus notes, grapey density, and was good and lively.  There was a fine polished wood note.  **(*) Now-2019.

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2007 Duca Di Salaparuta, Lavico, Nerello Mascalese, Sicily – $17
Imported by Wine Cellars Limited.  Alcohol 13%.  There was a familiar nose followed by tangy red fruit and acidity on the sides of the tongue.  The tannins were mostly resolved into the grapey, red berry fruit.  With air the flavors took on more pungent, black fruit, and they also became saltier.  It also took on more power and structure in the finish.  ** Now-2018.

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Three Recent Drinks From Austria, Serbia, and Spain

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

I recommend you try the first two wines featured in today’s post.  The 2007 Vina Budimir, Triada, Zupa is a good introduction to the grape Prokupac.  The extended aging has left a very approachable wine with the flavors of black fruit and cherries mixed with a wood note.  It is slightly different in flavor profile but should appeal to many.  The 2011 Terra Personas, Somsis, Tinto Joven, Montsant is all about berry smacking flavor.  One bottle that I tasted on the second night revealed a serious aspect that makes me wonder if this will be even better in the new year. The 2011 Franz & Christine Netzl, Carnuntum Cuvee was a decent drink with outgoing flavors and notes of stone.  It certainly lends an Austrian perspective to things but I would rather drink the less expensive Somsis.   These wines were all purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2007 Vina Budimir, Triada, Zupa – $19
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Prokupac sourced from vines planted in 1935 which was fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts then aged four years in large French and Serbian oak casks.  Alcohol 12.8%.  The nose revealed black floral fruit.  In the mouth were slightly creamy flavors of black fruit.  There was a drying structure of tannins then slightly different flavors which met a wood note.  The wine initially revealed some mature flavors but became youthful with air.  There was a little cherry in the aftertaste.  Drinking well now.  ** Now-2015.

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2011 Terra Personas, Somsis, Tinto Joven, Montsant – $13
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is a blend of Carinena, Grenacha, and Syrah.  Alcohol 14%.  The good nose was a mixture of berries and ripe orange.  The mouth follows the nose with fresh yet weighty berry smacking flavor.  There was black fruit with a minor structure, lovely fruit, a little spice, and citric tannins in the gently structured finish.  **(*) Now-2016.

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2011 Franz & Christine Netzl, Carnuntum Cuvee, Carnuntum – $15
A KW Selection imported by Select Wines.  This wine is a blend of 40% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufrankisch, and 20% Merlot sourced from 11 year old vines which was fermented in stainless steel tanks, underwent malolactic fermentation, and some aging in big oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This had standup flavors of red and black fruit, finely ripe stones, and almost metallic acidity.  ** Now-2015.

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A Pair From Domaine Alary

November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Following up on the 2010 Domaine Alary, Le Font d’Estevenas, Cairanne which I reviewed in Many Bottles of Excellent Rhone Wine are the two wines featured in this post.   The 2010 Domaine Alary, La Gerbaude, Cotes du Rhone was best on the first night when it was robust with soil, minerals, and black fruit flavors.  I think it might benefit from a wee bit of age.  I really liked the 2010 Domaine Alary, L’Exclus, VdP Orange. It was a hypothetical blend of the North and the South that responded very well to a few hours of air.  If you enjoy young Rhone wines then try it now, just be sure to decant it.  These wines were purchased at Weygandt Wines.

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2010 Domaine Alary, La Gerbaude, Cotes du Rhone – $17
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah and Carignan.Alcohol 14%.  The nose revealed black fruit and soil.  In the mouth were black, minerally fruit, slightly gutsy young fruit with seamlessly integrated acidity.  There were very fine tannins which dried on the gums.  This was a robust wine which was most satisfying on the first night.  **(*) Now-2020.

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2010 Domaine Alary, L’Exclus, VdP Orange – $18
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of  50% Counoise and 50% Syrah.  Alcohol 14%.  This opened up over a few hours to reveal a lovely wine with ripe fruit and grippy, young flavors.  It was a lot like the Northern Rhone wine meets the Southern.  There was black fruit which built into a ripe set of flavors which coated the gums.  There was some salivating acidity.  *** Now-2023.

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Four Selections From Weygandt Wines

November 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Lou and I recently stopped by Weygandt Wines during their four-year anniversary weekend.  After tasting some lovely wines that Tim and Warren opened I set about the store.  Four of the wines I purchased are featured in today’s post.  The 2012 Domaine Canet Valette, Antonyme might certainly be described as “the Beaujolais of Canet Valette” but I would spend the extra Dollar or two to purchase the Saint-Chinian in the form of 2010 Domaine Canet-Valette, Une et Mille Nuits.  The 2010 Domaine Jean Louis Tribouley, l’Alba, Cotes du Roussillon was most unevolved of the four wines featured in this post despite the delicate, orange peel note. The 2010 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss, Les Grimaudes, Costieres de Nimes continued to reveal attractive earthy aromas and flavors, giving a sense of how it will develop, but it is young.  That is enough reason to recommend purchasing it but since it is only $15 you should pick up several bottles.  The 2011 Domaine Jean Baptiste Senat, La Nine, Minervois had a complex nose of potpourri and bitters followed by savory flavors that mixed with minerals.  While satisfying it its youth it has the components and balance to last a decade.  Buy this one as well.  These wines are available at Weygandt Wines.

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2012 Domaine Canet Valette, Antonyme – $17
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 50% Mourvedre and 50% Cinsault.  It was fermented then aged for four months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose revealed youthful, clean berry aromas.  In the mouth the red and black berry fruit had grapey structure and almost juicy acidity.  With extended air it became evocative of a natural wine.  The flavors were grapey, turning blacker towards the finish where more ripe tannins and structure came out.  This was a well-made, light wine with light and drying black fruit flavors.  ** Now-2015.

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2010 Domaine Jean Louis Tribouley, l’Alba, Cotes du Roussillon – $20
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache.  Alcohol 13.5 %.  The nose revealed a little spiced berries and earth.  With extended air it delivered earth then berries, then potpourri aromas.  In the mouth the black and red fruit played it tight with a little orange people before shutting down some. The flavors eventually follow the nose with delicate red fruit, orange peel, and a perfumed finish.  The good mouthfeel was matched by moderate structure for short term aging.  This oscillated in nature so it is best to cellar.  **(*) 2015-2020.

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2010 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss, Les Grimaudes, Costieres de Nimes  – $15
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Carignan, and 25% Cinsault.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There were earthy hints on the nose which was eventually joined by cherry candy.  In the mouth the earthy fruit follows the nose in this young, structured wine.  There was blue and black fruit that had an earthy expansion in the finish.  With air it showed good flavor, became a bit creamy, and continued the earthy, expansive flavors adding in cherry and black fruit.  The structure asks for age.  **(*) 2015-2020.

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2011 Domaine Jean Baptiste Senat, La Nine, Minervois – $22
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah sourced from soils of clay and limestone.  The Grenache vines are 60 years old, the Carignan 100 years old, the Mourvedre 25 years old, and the Cinsault 50 years old, and the Syrah 15 years old.  It was raised in vats and barrels.  Alcohol %.  With air the interesting nose was pungent with potpourri, bitters, and a subtle orange nose.  In the mouth the fruit builds in weight as it becomes drier in flavor.  There was extract and texture, along with an appropriate structure.  With air it became a little creamy with savory, black and blue flavors, minerals, good texture in the finish, and a mouthfilling aftertaste.  *** Now-2023.

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Cahors, Saumur Champigny, and Tautavel

November 5, 2013 1 comment

Despite the goofy Wine Spectator sticker the 2008 Gerard Bertrand, Grand Terroir is a completely enjoyable wine from the Cotes du Roussillon Village of Tautavel.  Perhaps due to the hillier terrain and higher altitude this wine has fine flavor and focus.  The 2010 Chateau du Cèdre, Cahors is, in a sense, elegant with complex aromas and flavors evocative of bitters.   It is best to leave it in the cellar for a few years.  The 2012 Domanie des Roches Neuves, Saumur Champigny has engaging aromas and texture in the mouth that adds to the physical pleasure.  I suggest trying it in the new year.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2008 Gerard Bertrand, Grand Terroir, Tautavel – $15
Imported by USA Wine West.  This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Carignan.  Alcohol 14%.  This wine responds very well to a few hours of air to reveal aromas of cherry and blue fruits.  In the mouth were very fine grained flavors of cherry and blue fruit which had focus.  This clean wine revealed its integrated acidity followed by minerals then ripe, spiced tannins.  *** Now-2018.

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2010 Chateau du Cèdre, Cahors – $23
This wine is a blend of 90 % Malbec, 5% Merlot, and 5% Tannat which underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 22 months in French oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was evocative of a Manhattan.  In the mouth were firm, structured black fruit, citric acidity, and a subtle earth hint in the finish and aftertaste.  After a few hours of air this young wine developed a subtle, complex note of bitters which matched the elegance of the fruit.  This dry wine left drying tannins on the gum.  It is setup for aging.  **(*) 2015-2025.

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2012 Domanie des Roches Neuves, Saumur Champigny – $19
Imported by Elite Wines.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from 25+ year old vines which was fermented in stainless steel then aged for three to four months in both stainless steel and oak.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was very finely scented with aromas of fresh cardamom.  In the mouth were black and red fruit which was a little more expansive on the second night.  The structure came out as did the flavors of cardamom and notes of pepper.  There was lovely texture and drying minerals.  Texture was the key.  *** Now-2018.

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“this autumne I have drank wine made of the wilde grapes” : A Detailed Look at 17th Century Winemaking in Maryland

November 1, 2013 2 comments
Father Andrew White baptizing the chief Chitomachon.  Image from Wikipedia.

Father Andrew White baptizing the chief Chitomachon. Image from Wikipedia.

Father Andrew White wrote a letter to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore on February 20, 1638, “concerning our present estate”.[1]  In this letter Father White presented calculations on making the province profitable and sustainable.  This was followed by six beneficial steps he felt Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore should engage in.  After the production of bricks for building and the use of one’s own ships for transport, the fourth step involved the planting of vineyards and production of wine.  Father White felt they could achieve a monopoly on wine production for during the autumn of 1637, he drank wine made from the wild grapes which he found was not inferior to the wines of Spain.  He reasoned that two to three years after planting the vineyard with vines from France and Spain there would be a constant supply of wine, presumably for trade.

ffourthly itt would be uery expedient to trie what wine this land will yeld : I haue a strong prsumption that itt will prone well for this autumne I have drank wine made of the wilde grapes not inferiour in its age to any wine of Spaigne. Itt had much of muscadine grape but was a dark redd inclining to browne. I haue not scene as yett any white grape excepting the foxgrape wch hath some stayne of white but of the red grape I haue; scene much diuersity : some less some greater, some stayne, some doe not, some are aromaticall ; some not. Now if yr Lp. would cause some to plante vineyards why may not yr Lp. monopolize the wine for some yeares : to yr Lps. great pfitt especially if all sortes of vines be gotten out of Spaine and ffrance. True itt is you must haue patience for two or three yeares before the yeld wine but afterward itt is a Constant comoditye and tht a uery great one too.

This could this be the earliest documented example of winemaking in Maryland.  This particular wine was a blend of mostly Muscadine.   Father White was head of the Jesuit mission at St Mary’s City in Maryland until Father John Brooke arrived in 1639. During the time of concern there were four priests and one coadjutor.  In the Annual Letter of 1638 it is stated that “the rulers of this colony have not yet allowed us to dwell among the savages.”[2]  Later in the same letter “one of Ours, going out of the colony, found two Frenchmen.”  In the Annual Letter of 1639, the members of the mission were living outside of St. Mary’s City for “all are in places far distant”.  Father Andrew White was living 120 miles away at “kittamaquund, the metropolis of Pascatoa…from the month of June, 1639.”  From these statements, the implication is that Father White was residing in St Mary’s City and not traveling down in Virginia when he tasted the wine in 1637.  It is further reasonable that Father White tasted a wine made in Maryland for in the 1635 Relation appears the statement, “for Wine, there is no doubt but it will be made there in plenty”.  It is worth noting that Thomas Pinney quotes this passage in his appendix concerning the Fox grape but appears to not reference Father White’s experience drinking the local wine.

Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore. Image from Wikipedia.

Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore. Image from Wikipedia.

It was some time before a vineyard was actually planned.  On September 16, 1662, Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore instructed some 200 or 300 acres of land be surveyed for a vineyard.  The survey was completed on May 9, 1665.   Vines were shipped to Maryland for the vineyard, presumably from England, one decade after the initial instruction.  In a letter from Charles Calvert to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore dated April 24, 1672, we learn that upon arrival the hogshead of vines were not unloaded.[3]  Instead, the hogshead remained with Captain John Tully as he sailed up the Chesapeake Bay.

I humbly thanke yor Lordship for the hhd of vines, butt old Tully has been soe Crosgrained that before I could send for them hee sett saile vp the Bay, that I fear the vines may bee Spoyled afore I get them out of his vessel, Butt I haue sent a messenger for the hogshead, And doe intend to trouble the Capt about  itt.

On June 2, 1673, Governor Charles Calvert wrote a lengthy letter to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore[4].  He wrote of his “humble thankes for the two hampers of wine yor Lopp sent me, they prove Excellently good and come safe to hand without Damage.”  Unfortunately, the hogshead of vines all perished because Captain John Tully did not deliver them in time.  It appears that the vineyard was not planted at all because the loss of the vines dashed hopes of sending wine from “the growth of this Province.”

That hdd of vines yor Lopp tooke so much Care to send in the last yeare by Capt Tully for want of Care in a timely Delivery are all perished and not one of them come up for which I am heartily sorry, having had greate hopes that if they had beene put into the ground in time here, that the soyle would have so well agreed with them that in a short time they would have Come to a greate pfeccon here, and that I might have beene able in some few yeares out of their produce to have sent yor Lopp a glasse of wine of the growth of this Province.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened to this vineyard and whether wine was actually produced. Thomas Pinney writes that to the original 240 acres of vineyard another 100 acres were added in 1665. For this statement, in his note #114 he cites J. R. McGrew stating, “The evidence for this vineyard is unclear, and though it seems probably that a vineyard was planned for the site, it is doubtful that it was in fact planted.  The comment on its wine, then, if not wholly fanciful, are surely exaggerated.”  I have contacted the American Wine Society and they will provide the referenced article later this month. Thomas Pinney then continues “Wine made from this is reported, with the uncritical optimism of all such early responses, to have been ‘as good as the best burgundy’”.  For his quote, he provides note #115 which cites Hedrick History of Horticulture in American to 1860 published in 1950.  I have ordered a copy of this book.  Regina McCarthy writes that “There are two stories about what happened” the first being 300 acres were planted and all died.  The second is that the vines never survived the journey from Europe.  This confusion appears to be due to several early 20th century texts.

Virginia and Maryland. Herrman, Augustine. 1670.  Image from the Archives of Maryland sourced from Library of Congress.

Virginia and Maryland. Herrman, Augustine. 1670. Image from the Archives of Maryland sourced from Library of Congress.

There are at least three early claims that Charles Calvert planted the vineyard and produced wine.  In the Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York from 1908, there appears the statement “in 1662 [he] planted three hundred acres of land in St. Mary’s to vines.  It is certain that he made and sold wine in considerable quantities and the old chroniclers report that it was as good as the best Burgundy.”[5]  There are no sources cited for such statements.  Perhaps this document was based on other secondary sources.  The Transactions of the Peninsula Horticultural Society published in 1907, states that Lord Charles Baltimore had “planted 300 acres of land in St. Mary’s to vines in the year 1662.”[6] Edward Randolph Emerson’s The Story of the Vine published in 1901, was more expansive.  Of Lord Baltimore’s instructions of 1662, the land “was to be reserved for the sole purpose of planting vines.  His venture was, in the main, successful, for in a very few years they made and sold large quantities of wine that was said closely to resemble a very fair Burgundy.”[7]  These three documents appear to be erroneous variations of either each other or some other source.

Clarification, and perhaps the original source, appears to come in Gallus Thomann Liquor Laws of the United States published in 1885.[8]  He writes that the 300 acres of land “was to be reserved for the express purpose of planting vines.  These and subsequent efforts must have proved more successful than the experiments made in Virginia; for before the end of the century a very palatable wine, similar in color and taste to Burgundy, was raised in the province.”  Thus the Burgundy-like wine was not produced on this vineyard, rather somewhere else in Maryland.  This implies there was at least one other 17th century vineyard and example of winemaking in Maryland.

Augustine Herman.  Image from the Archives of Maryland.

Augustine Herrman. Image from the Archives of Maryland.

Regina McCarthy writes of a “grape grower named William Hutchinson in 1689” but provides no direct citation.  Another possibility lies with Augustine Herman who was born in Prague and was trained as a surveyor.  He produced an accurate map of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays for Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore.  In exchange Augustine Herman received a very large land grant which he named Bohemia Manor.  On September 27, 1684, Augustine Herman wrote out his will in which he stated, “that my monument stone with Engraven letters of me the first Author of Bohemia Mannor, Anno 1660, shall be erected over my sepulcher, which is to be in my vineyard upon my Mannor plantation upon Bohemia Mannor in Maryland.”[9]  The monumental stone was actually engraved but in more contemporary times it was moved and converted to a door for the family vault.[10]  According to George Johnston “This vault was erected some distance from the original burying-place upon the manor plantation.”  While the exact location of the vineyard may not be known, it is reasonable that it did in fact exist.

It appears that Father White’s letter describing the wine he tasted during the autumn of 1637 provides the earliest documentation of wine produced in Maryland.  While Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore instructed that land be surveyed for a vineyard, the vines he sent over perished, and wine was never produced.  There are no further references to vines nor the vineyard in the Calvert Papers after 1673.  Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore died in November 1675 so perhaps the motivations for the vineyard expired as well.  The remainder of the Calvert Papers contains descriptions of tobacco and correspondence about the Maryland and Pennsylvania border.  In the final years of 17th century Maryland there appear to be two efforts at the cultivation of the vine and one attempt at the production of wine.  These three efforts should be explored further.


[1] Lee, John Wesley Murray.  The Calvert Papers, Volume 1. 1889. URL: https://archive.org/details/calvertpapers01leej
[2] Hall, Colman Clayton. Narrative of Early Maryland, 1633-1684. 1910. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=jBYOAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Lee, John Wesley Murray. Page 275.
[4] Lee, John Wesley Murray. Page 296.
[5] Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 15. 1908. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=0pA7AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[6] Transactions of the Peninsula Horticultural Society.  1907. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=d9UwAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[7] Emerson, Edward Randolph.  The Story of the Vines. 1901. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=ujhIAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[9] The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 1883.  URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=JMsbAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[10] Johnston, George.  History of Cecil County, Maryland. 1989. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=bCuu565vrmAC&lpg=PR1&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false