Archive for December, 2013

Drinks in Seattle

December 16, 2013 Leave a comment


My recent trip to Seattle ended up being more busy than anticipated.  I did not taste much of anything new but the bottle of 2012 Syncline, Subduction Red, Columbia Valley proved rather satisfying.  It is a blend of 28% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 13% Counoise, 8% Carignan, and 2% Cinsault.  I meant to write down a tasting note but instead I continued to drink the bottle over three nights.  I was finally determined to take my note so I went to pour the final glass from the bottle then realized it was already empty.  Perhaps that is all you need to know, surely Hugh Johnson would approve.


I did manage to have a few drinks with Clark at Westward & Little Gull.  This restaurant, bar, and miniature “grocery store” is still relatively new.  It is located west of the University north of Lake Union literally sandwiched between Northlake Way and the lake.  We sat at the bar watching the cooks prep for dinner service.  From our swivel-seats we could clearly see Lake Union with downtown Seattle as the backdrop.  The wine list is small but edited with diverse selections.  Think Pratsch, Badenhorst, Fontsainte, Correggia, and the local Gifford Hirlinger.


If you are willing to bundle up, you may take your drinks outside to sit around a roaring fire.  This is a stunning location!  You just want to stay there watching the lights of Eastlake, Downtown, and Queen Anne Hill reflecting off of the lake.   I highly recommend you stop by for drinks.


Categories: Image

“Hidden Wine Saves Life of Veteran”: A Brief and Modern Look at Newspaper Accounts of Hidden Wine

December 13, 2013 Leave a comment

My recent post on The Hidden Madeira of the South Carolina Jockey Club made me interested in other accounts of hidden wine.  In this post I take a brief look at the diverse accounts of hidden wine and cellars.  Beginning with South Carolina we know that bottles of precious Madeira were buried and hidden in advance of General Sherman troops.  The New York Times account from General Slocum reports that soldiers found the buried wine cellars “of the rich Charleston people” at Cheraw, South Carolina.[1] These soldiers drank wine “which must have been worth $25 per bottle” from old tin cups.

City of Charleston, South Carolina, looking across Cooper's River. Painted by G. Cooke ; engraved by W.J. Bennett. c 1838. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

City of Charleston, South Carolina, looking across Cooper’s River. Painted by G. Cooke ; engraved by W.J. Bennett. c 1838. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Accounts of hidden and buried wine continue to appear throughout wartime accounts.  One example appears in article The Deserted Villages of France published on November 28, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War.[2]  It was reported that in advance of siege operations many houses were abandoned after the owners hid their wine.  A correspondent from the London Daily News met with a Prussian Jaeger “who has the reputation of smelling good wine through any depth of earth.”  His ability to find the likeliest spots “to contain a hidden wine-bin, is of immense value to his comrades.”  After drinking the wine they were careful to save the empty bottles so they could be filled again.  It was believed that “wine of deserted houses a fair prey” and that ‘If we do not, the next detachment will.’

It was reported by Hugh Gibson in an article subtitled Teutons Plundered Belgian Wine Cellars with Insatiable Thirst that a particular count and countess in Belgium had their “fine cellars” emptied by the first wave of invading German soldiers.[3]  When a second wave came through they were placed in front of a firing squad with the demand to reveal the location of their hidden wine.  As there was no wine left they were eventually released for items of fine clothing.  The practice of the German army had been to “clear out whole cellars at a time and load what was not drunk onto carts to be carried away.”  The article also relates how one man in Namur, hid all of his older wines in the ornamental pond near his chateau.  He left a few thousand bottles of new wine in his cellar.  Unfortunately, the labels from the submerged bottles peeled off to float on the surface.  The entire soaked lot was taken.  The following month the Oregonian published the article with a more salacious title Huns, Drunken and Ugly, Loot At Will.[4]

Not all wine were spoils of war.  During World War I, Lieutenant-Colonel Alvin Owsley of the 36th Division was invited by a “lovely French lady” for an Armistice Day dinner.[5]  With her own hands she had dug trenches in her garden where she “had buried some of her best wines and some champagne.”  At her request the soldiers grabbed picks and shovels to dig up “innumberable bottles” with which they “had a celebration.”

In 1944 the House of Hesse hid their jewels in a lead-lined casket along with 1,600 bottles of “rare vintage wine.”  They placed all of it in a sub-cellar of the family castle at Kronberg, near Frankfurt.[6]  American troops took over the castle in April 1945 and “quickly ‘liberated’ all the wine” that was readily available.  A continued search yielded the rare bottles.

On American soil, the recently elected congressman General Thomas Jefferson Clunie of California was described as,”active as a ferret and as snappy as a steal trap.”[7]  In 1890 he engaged in a business enterprise with Senator Hearst.  They filled a special train with California wine then sent it towards Washington, DC.  The plan was to distribute the wine to the members who supported his recently appropriated San Jose bill.  As the train was passing through Sierra Nevada it became trapped in 40 feet of snow and ice.

Workmen excavating at the corner of Anne Street and Park Row opposite the Herald Building in New York City cracked into a stone vault in September, 1893.[8]  It was believed to be the old wine cellar of Edward Windust’s restaurant.  According to a workman “Only those in Windust’s good graces were permitted to walk into that little cellar and sir around the little table” drinking wine and brandy.  Edward Windust was a famous restaurateur who opened up his basement restaurant at No. 5 – No. 11 Park Row in 1824.[9]  One of his advertisements from 1829 lists “Turtle Soup and Refreshments of the best kind will be in readiness, together with choice supplies of Wine and Liquors.”[10]  Apparently Mr. Windust enjoyed turtle soup because he advertised it six years earlier at the Phoenix Coffee House.  That advertisement noted “a fine Green Turtle will be cooked, in the Hoboken style, THIS DAY.”[11]

Calumet Castle, courtesy Thousand Islands Museum, obtained from

Calumet Castle c.1900, courtesy Thousand Islands Museum, obtained from

A case of wine was found buried in an old cellar of a building located in Port St. Joseph, Florida in 1920.[12]  The building had been abandoned in 1840 due to a yellow fever epidemic.  It was estimated the wine was buried before 1820.  Another wine cellar was discovered in 1950 at Calumet Castle in the Thousand Islands.[13]  A group of workers were fixing the basement wiring when they discovered “several hundred cases of imported wines” dated between 1895 and 1900.  The bottles were hidden in a cave dug in solid rock.  Of the first lot 500 bottles were judged good with 1,000 bottles deemed, “unfit for use.”  There were an estimated 1,500 bottles remaining in the cave that had not been investigated.  Upon tasting a bottle the spokesman declared, ’It’s the kind that will make you talk.’

In England one correspondent in 1895 wrote how “People scarcely realize how large an amount of fine, rare wine and spirits lie in old country hostelries.”[14] These parcels of wine were left untouched because outside of London “few people care for any but sweet wines”.  Thus there were “clarets and dry champagne of great age and fine flavor.”  At one particular small hotel near New Forest was the “finest claret” where “A connoisseur would have taken up his abode there for good, and would have been well rewarded.”

Two decades later in July 1917, an article describes police sweeping through resorts where they Confiscate Rivers of Fire Water.[15]  Detectives entered the home of Sola Zanocco of Kilburn Avenue where they “knocked out a false partitions” and found a hidden wine cellar.  Apparently they did not find any wine but there was 15 gallons of brandy and “fancy liquors were unearthed.”  A much larger find resulted from a New York City police raid in February, 1921.  Police entered the hotel of Gondolo Amberko at 402 East 106th Street where they found an additional 250 barrels of California claret.[16]  The police had already found 400 barrels making a reported total of 33,800 gallons of California claret seized. Mr. Amberko was a wine merchant prior to becoming a hotel operator.

Sometimes hidden wine could not be found.  One man in Woodbine, Iowa enlisted his friends to help him find “some jugs of fermented wine he had buried in his fields” because he could not remember where he hid them.[17]  With a promise to equally split whatever was found his friends plowed his field searching for the wine.  They never found the wine.  In 1976 workers were leveling the land of Marvin Schwartz in Texas.[18]  They unearthed “several old bottles of wine” but all but two bottles had the tops sheared off.  They speculated “the wine was buried to keep it cool in the 1920s.”

While wine was often times hidden in at least one case where items were hidden in the wine.  George Pollock alleged in December 1913, that Marcel de Pinsonet received a case of wine the previous month from the steamer Honduras in New Orleans.[19]  Mr. Pollock state that diamonds, pearls, and rubies were hidden in the wine.

John Prandi of Iron River, Michigan returned to his hometown in Italy during 1931 after years in “dry America”.[20]  There he had buried 50 quart bottles of wine in 1909.  In France, a 10 gallon demijohn of wine had been buried in 1811 by Major Leclerc, an officer in Napoleon’s army.[21]  The wine was originally buried in honor of the birth of Napoleon’s son and was to not be touched until the wedding of his youngest daughter.  Both his daughters died unmarried and the property was left to his adopted son.  Some 117 years later a document describing the location of the wine was found.  The demijohn was located beneath five feet of earth.  The wicker and stop had decayed but the wine was still protected by the oil in the neck.  The wine was poured into glasses where it was “a rich ruby color.”  The glasses were tasted “then hurriedly set down: the wine had turned to vinegar.”

Walter Reed General Hospital. 1918-1928.  LC-F82-2477.  National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)

Walter Reed General Hospital. 1918-1928. LC-F82-2477. National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)

My favorite newspaper account was published in December, 1919.  The story has local ties as well as attests to medicinal value of wine.  I present the transcription.


Washington, Dec, 11. – A wounded soldier in Walter Reed Hospital, who collapsed following the amputation of his leg, was saved after the Red Cross had been notified that champagne was required to keep up the man’s vitality.  A member of the exclusive Chevy Chase Club donated some wine he had been savings for Christmas, and the patient began to rally after a few spoonsful had ben administered.[22]

In more recent decades hidden wine cellars became advertised features of houses.  One so called Maxi-Ranch of San Diego, California was listed in 1975 as having “charm galore” with a hidden wine cellar and “every woman’s dream kit[chen].”[23]  That same year in Portland one could purchase a “unique dalite ranch style” home with a hidden wine cellar.[24]  Recreation was in the form of “picnics to quaint old ferry boat rides.”  While these cellars were a selling point in the 1970s they received bad press in the 1950s in the article Sally Forrest Saved From Hidden Wine Cellar.[25]  Sally Forrest and her husband Milo Frank had recently purchased the house of Jean Harlow in Benedict Canyon.  Sally Forrest decided to explore the concealed bar in the library.  Inside that bar was a door to a hidden wine cellar.  Unfortunately it “snapped shut” and there was no inside knob.  She “screamed and yelled for 40 minutes” until her husband and brother found her.

[1] “From Atlanta To the Sea”,  The New York Times. December 7, 1890
[2] Date: Monday, November 28, 1870               Paper: Providence Evening Press (Providence, RI)   Volume: XXIV   Issue: 64   Page: 1
[3] Date: Thursday, November 29, 1917              Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, MA)   Page:
[4] 8 Date: Friday, December 28, 1917                Paper: Oregonian (Portland, OR)   Page: 5
[5] Date: Sunday, November 12, 1939                 Paper: Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA)   Page: 45
[6] Date: Saturday, June 8, 1946           Paper: Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, WA)   Page: 2
[7] Date: Thursday, May 15, 1890         Paper: Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, SC)   Page: 5
[8] Date: Friday, September 8, 1893   Paper: New York Herald (New York, NY)   Issue: 251   Page: 11
[9] Date: Monday, March 19, 1877       Paper: New York Herald (New York, NY)   Volume: XLII   Issue: 78   Page: 6
[10] Date: Friday, May 8, 1829               Paper: American (New York, NY)   Volume: X   Issue: 2880   Page: 3
[11] Date: Friday, June 20, 1823            Paper: National Advocate (New York, NY)   Volume: XI   Issue: 2979   Page: 3
[12] Date: Saturday, December 4, 1920               Paper: Evening Post (Charleston, SC)   Page: 13
[13] Date: Sunday, July 30, 1950            Paper: Omaha World Herald (Omaha, NE)   Page: 20
[14] Date: Wednesday, August 7, 1895                Paper: Worcester Daily Spy (Worcester, MA)   Page: 7
[15] Date: Sunday, July 29, 1917            Paper: Morning Star (Rockford, IL)   Page: 2
[16] “Find 250 Gallons More Hidden Wine”,  The New York Times. February 11, 1921.
[17] Date: Thursday, December 16, 1920            Paper: Kansas City Star (Kansas City, MO)   Volume: 41   Issue: 90   Page: 1
[18] Date: Wednesday, February 25, 1976          Paper: Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX)   Section: B   Page: 9
[19] Date: Wednesday, December 17, 1913       Paper: New Orleans Item (New Orleans, LA)   Page: 7
[20] Date: Wednesday, May 20, 1931                   Paper: Repository (Canton, OH)   Page: 16
[21] “Finds Wine In Earth Since Napoleon’s Day”, The New York Times. March 25, 1928
[22] Date: Thursday, December 11, 1919            Paper: Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader (Wilkes-barre, PA)   Section: Second   Page: 24
[23] Date: Sunday, January 19, 1975     Paper: San Diego Union (San Diego, CA)   Page: 20
[24] Date: Wednesday, May 14, 1975                   Paper: Oregonian (Portland, OR)   Page: 72
[25] Date: Thursday, June 23, 1955       Paper: Boston Daily Record (Boston, MA)   Page: 30

Four AffordableWines from Iberia

December 12, 2013 Leave a comment

This is just a quick post for today.  The 2012 Vina Buena, Allende, La Ermita, Ribera del Duero is a strong value at $10 per bottle.  It has fruit, stones, acidity, and structure.  There are not many decent $10 wines so bear that in mind.   I have drunk an  earlier vintage of the 2011 Quinta do Passadouro, Passo but apparently have never written about it.  I’ll have to dig through my notes and pictures.  This bottle was more of a crowd-pleaser and was immediately accessible.   Despite the accessibility I preferred it after several hours when it was more complete.   My favorite of the lot is the 2011 D Ventura, Pena do Lobo, Ribeira Sacra.  I am a big fan of the producer and found this particular wine is in need of short-term cellaring.  It is worth the wait.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Muxagat Vinhos, Tinto Barroca, Douro – $15
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Tina Barroca souced from a vineyard planted in 2007 on soils of schist and granite at 1,800 feet.  It was fermented then aged for eight months in old cement vats.  Alcohol 13%.  There were young, drying red flavors then drying black fruit.  The fruit was young with some citrus and a drying structure in the finish.  The citric tannins continued though it developed some grapey concentration.  ** 2014-2015.


2011 Quinta do Passadouro, Passo, Douro – $13
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is a blend of 40% Touriga Franca, 30% Tinta Roriz, and 30% Touriga Nacional sourced from vines averaging 30 years of age on soils of schist. It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in 80% used and 20% new barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  There were soft, billowy aromas of black fruit and vanilla.  In the mouth were flavors of round, dense fruit, and which were delivered with a gentle, puffy powdery vanilla note.  The wine was smooth with a chocolate hint.  With air it became a little fresh with baking spices.  It was a decent drinks from the get-go but I preferred it with air when it took on more minerals and floral flavors.  **


2012 Vina Buena, Allende, La Ermita, Ribera del Duero – $10
Imported by Tradewinds Specialty Imports.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo. Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose revealed subtle, wafting aromas of black fruit.  There was moderate concentration in the mouth with slightly floral, red and black fruit.  There was a subtle structure, salivating acidity, and a hint of stones.  There were some drying tannins in the structure which came out a bit with air.  Strong value. ** Now-2018.


2011 D Ventura, Pena do Lobo, Ribeira Sacra – $18
Imported by DeMaison Selections.  This wine is 100% Mencia sourced from 80+ year old vines on granite soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was slightly deep with orange and red fruit.  It took until the second night to soften a bit becoming more approachable yet maintaining grip.  There were high-toned flavors on a pillowy note of tart red fruit.  It had a powdery texture, leaving some ripeness on the gums.  It left a youthful impression.  **(*) 2014 – 2018.


A Pair of Wines from aMaurice Cellars

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

The 2009 aMaurice Cellars, Pour Me appears to have been released in 2011 for the Metropolitan Market.  Quite frankly I found it over oaked so I would avoid it. Much better is the 2010 aMaurice Cellars, Syrah/Grenache, Boushey Vineyards.   I cannot write that I am an expert with regards to Boushey Vineyards but this bottle immediately reminded me of the 2008 Ross Andrew Winery, Syrah, Boushey Vineyards.  That is a good memory.  This current release from Amaurice is on the young side so I would keep it in your cellar for at least a year before revisiting.  I believe it is worth the patience.  These wines were purchased at Whole Foods in Seattle.


2009 aMaurice Cellars, Pour Me, Red Blend, Columbia Valley – $18
This wine is a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot aged two years in 40% new French oak.  Alcohol 14%.  Aromas of sweet vanilla waft up from the glass.  In the mouth there was sweet vanilla from the start with Jenn calling it, “overt.”  The wine was round and soft with black and red fruit, and salivating acidity.  It was tougher towards the finish.  With air it took on chocolate notes.  Not my style.  * Now.


2010 aMaurice Cellars, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley – $34
This wine is a blend of 72% Syrah and 28% Grenache sourced from vines planted in 1980.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for two years in used French oak.  Alcohol 14.1%.  The nose revealed a subtle mix of orange, potpourri, and berries which was evocative of Boushey fruit.  The mouth followed the nose but the fruit firmed up in the middle.  There was acidity and an orange note.  With air there was a hint of round mouthfeel and some spices in the finish.  *** 2015-2024.


2012 Northern Rhone Syrah from Faury and Clape

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Just over one year ago I tasted the 2011 Northern Rhone Syrah from Clape and Faury together.  With the 2012 vintages of these two wines freshly available I decided to try them out over the weekend.  I double-decanted both of the wines then immediately tasted them.  While they maintained similar personalities, this new vintage is more concentrated and less floral.  The 2012 Domaine Faury, Syrah leaned towards the tighter and leaner side of things with the 2012 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis almost evocative of raisins.  But over the first hour and through the rest of the evening the wines noticeably changed.  The Faury took on density and the Clape became delineated.  The Faury tastes as if it were from younger vines and it is.  The vines were planted between 1995 and 2007 on granite soils near St. Joseph whereas the Clape is sourced from 40 year old vines on round river stones.  Both are good wines but there is more going on in the Clape.  It is produced in the same manner as his Cornas so keep that in mind when you weigh the price differences.  Give them both a try! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Domaine Faury, Syrah, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from vines planted between 1995 and 2007 on granite soils. The wine is aged 7-8 months in 7-20 year old demi-muids. Alcohol 13%.  The nose was smoky with grapey, concentrated aromas.  In the mouth were dense, grapey flavors which were weighty and of young fruit taste.  The wine expanded rapidly with air, taking on density and lipstick notes in the finish supported by acidity.  On the second day youthful black fruit touched the sides of the tongue which was followed by an almost saline, expansive middle.  *** Now-2022.


2012 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40-year-old vines on soils of round river stones. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks then underwent malolactic fermentation and aging for 6 months in cement cuves and 6 months in foudres. Alcohol 13%.  The nose was meaty with macerated berries.  The wine was initially dark and rich but it opened up after an hour with enveloping darkness and black fruit flavors almost bordering on raisins.  This distinctive wine was expansive with a long aftertaste where the structure came out.  On the second night there were expansive flavors, minerals, and a tart note.  It developed some grip before the ethereal flavors and fine, textured structure.  ***(*) 2014-2024.


The Hidden Madeira of the South Carolina Jockey Club

December 9, 2013 2 comments

Last week authors Matt Lee and Ted Lee wrote about Madeira’s Long Engagement with the Lowcountry.  I came across this article in the Terrorist Daily Wine News; Charleston Connection.   In the first half of the article, they bring up a particularly interesting period in the history of Madeira in Charleston, South Carolina.  That is when the South Carolina Jockey Club hid their Madeira collection in the basement of an insane asylum in advance of the Union Army.  I was unaware of this story despite James T. Hunt having written about it in 2005.  He wrote a particularly engaging article, which Matt Lee and Ted Lee point out, Liquid Assets: Madeira Wine and Cultural Capital among Lowcountry Planter, 1735-1900.[0]  In this post I return to the original newspaper articles to investigate the history of the hidden Madeira of the South Carolina Jockey Club.

Rebel defences of Charleston Harbor, S.C., December 11th, 18[64]. Sneden, Robert Knox.  Image from the Library of Congress.

Rebel defences of Charleston Harbor, S.C., December 11th, 18[64]. Sneden, Robert Knox. Image from the Library of Congress.

The article “Old Charleston Madeira: It Was Imported to This City From 1763 to 1860” was published in 1899.[1]  It appears to be the first description of the hidden Madeira wine of the South Carolina Jockey Club.  The Jockey Club was comprised of wealthy members who imported fine horses from England.  The Jockey Club also imported Madeira along with German and French wines.  The Champagne was imported direct from the producer.  It was labeled “The Charleston Jockey Club” and contained an image of horses racing.  It was believed that the Jockey Club imported a large amount of Madeira in the 1850s.  The largest importer of Madeira in Charleston was allegedly the firm Gourdin, Mattheissen & Co.  The head of the firm, Mr. Henry Gourdin, was also vice president of the Jockey Club.[2]

Drawing of Camp Asylum.  Image from South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

Drawing of Camp Asylum. Image from South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

The Jockey Club was located in Charleston.  During the Civil War the lower part of Charleston was shelled.  As a result Mr. Rose, club president, and Mr. Gourdin placed some of their own Madeira and all of the Jockey Club Madeira in the cellar of the South Carolina State Hospital for the mentally ill or Lunatic Asylum in Columbia, South Carolina.  The construction of the Lunatic Asylum was authorized on December 21, 1821.  The cornerstone was laid “with Masonic ceremonies” on July 22, 1822, and the building completed on December 18, 1827.[3]  The building was designed by the architect Robert Mills who studied under James Hoban, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe.  Mr. Mills assisted Mr. Latrobe in the construction of the National Capitol and was the architect of the Washington Monument.  The Lunatic Asylum was somewhat revolutionary for it was constructed entirely of brick and stone, thus purposefully making it fireproof.[4]  Security concerns were an integral part of the design with it, “agreeably disguised under appearances familiar to the eye in every private house.  The iron bars take the similitude of sashes; the hinges and locks of the doors are all secret…”[5]  The building was expanded both in 1838 and 1842.

Columbia the morning after the fire.  Waud, William. February 18, 1865. Morgan collection of Civil War drawings (Library of Congress)

Columbia the morning after the fire. Waud, William. February 18, 1865. Morgan collection of Civil War drawings (Library of Congress)

The head of the asylum, Dr. Parker, let Mr. Rose and Mr. Gourdin use the partially subterranean basement.  Each floor featured a central section with a wing on each side featuring cells for patients.  The central section of the original basement featured two separate refectories for men and woman, two sets of kitchen offices, and a common hall with the principle stairwell.  The original wings featured a single corridor, a private staircase, and five individual cells.  All of the patient cells faced south and had windows.  It is not known specifically where the wine was stored.  It was reported that Dr. Parker “Kindly gave the use of a large cellar, which was somewhat, but not entirely, below ground for this purpose.”  The door to cellar was believed bricked up.  The basement floor plan of the original building does not appear to include a “large cellar” so it is possible the wine was stored in the basement of the then recently added wings.

HABS Basement or Office Story. - Lunatic Asylum, Bull Street & Elmwood Avenue, Columbia, Richland County, SC.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

HABS Basement or Office Story. – Lunatic Asylum, Bull Street & Elmwood Avenue, Columbia, Richland County, SC. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

The grounds of the asylum were used as a prison camp for Union officers from October 1864 until February 1865, when General Sherman arrived.[6]  The asylum and its wine were allegedly “spared on account of the superstitious awe with which the Union army regarded that building and its inmates.”  Whatever they reason they were certainly spared from military destruction and the ensuring fires which rampaged through Columbia.  This is somewhat incredible because the building is quite conspicuous.  In the drawing Columbia the morning after the fire the Asylum is visible and noted in pencil just beneath the upper left-hand side title of the drawing.  After the war, the cellar was finally opened in the presence of Mr. Gourdin, Dr. Parker, Mr. Rose, Mr. Clarence Cochrain, treasurer of the Jockey Club, and one other.  The wine was intact and eventually moved to the loft of Mr. Gourdin.

Ruins seen from the capitol, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865.  Barnard, George N. 1865.  Image from Wikipedia sourced from National Archives and Records Administration.

Ruins seen from the capitol, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865. Barnard, George N. 1865. Image from Wikipedia sourced from National Archives and Records Administration.

About half-way through the Civil War the Jockey Club sold its “sherries and light wines” in February 1863 and at this time it was believed the Madeira was sent back to Columbia.  In February 1877, the Jockey Club sold its Madeira to cover its debts.  Mr. Cochrain arranged the sale.  The advertisement for the sale noted that the wine book had been lost so there were no vintage dates for the wines on offer except “that the newest wine was purchased in the year 1855” and the wines were bottled the same year as purchased.  There were 714 bottles for sale of which 30¼ were lost in filling other bottles with low fills.  The remaining 683¾ bottles sold for $5 each yielding $3,418.75.  Mr. Gibbes purchased 506¾ bottles for the Baring Brothers which was believed to have gone solely to Sir Alexander Baring.  It appears there were other, larger stocks of Madeira which survived the Civil War including a family with 900 bottles of Madeira right up to the 1886 earthquake.  The reputed largest holder of of wine in South Carolina, an Anderson,  had 754 dozen bottles of Madeira.  Of this some 482 dozen were destroyed leaving some 272 or 3,264 remaining bottles.  This collection had been amassed beginning in the late 1820s to early 1830s.

Some of the Jockey Club members believed they had some Madeira of the 1838 vintage which may have been included in the lot purchased by the Baring Brothers.  Mr. Charles Manigault sold some “famous 1838 Belvidera wine” to Mr. James Gibbes who presumably sold it to the Baring Brothers.  This Belvidera Madeira may have come from the D.C. & W. Pell & Co. auction of June 25, 1844,  where “Seal and A Belvidera, bottled in 1839” and “W. G. M. & Co., Belvidera, bottled in 1838” were listed[7].  This Madeira was all transported by the ship HMS Belvidera.  These bottles from the 1838 vintage are important because they were later listed for sale in New York City.  The Baring Brothers sold some of their wine to Ward & Keene of New York.  Mr. Sam Ward eventually gave some of this Madeira and  documentation to President Chester A. Arthur in 1881.

President Arthur became known for his sizable dinners of exquisite food and drink.[8]  For example, a dinner in February 1883, served Selle de Venaison with “Grau Larse [ Chateau Gruaud Larose]”, English pheasants au cresson with Chambertin, and Terrapins a la Maryland with “Perier Jouet & Co.”  The basement office of the White House steward Mr. Howard Williams opened to the President’s wine cellar.  It was noted that in this cellar, during July 1884, were bottles of the Madeira which. Mr. Ward had given to President Arthur in 1881.  The letter detailing the history of the wine was tacked to the shelf holding the Madeira.  This letter noted that the wine was exhumed from hiding during 1875.  The Baring Brothers were ultimately unhappy with the Madeira for “it never recovered from the voyage” so in 1878 they sold the entire lot to Mr. Ward.  Mr. Ward and Jim Keene through “proper treatment restored the pristine glory of the wine.’  Mr. Ward then gave several demijohns to President Arthur. The wine was described as not less than 40 years of age and most of it over 50 years of age.  This would make the Madeira from no later than the 1841 vintage with the majority predating 1831.

Upon President Arthur’s death in 1887, at least 15 bottles of this Madeira were purchased then valued at $15 each.   In January 1899, bottles of the Jockey Club wine were listed for sale at the Arena Club in New York City.  For $15 one could purchase a bottle of the “Charleston Jockey Club Madeira” which was purported to be “over sixty years old.”  Whether these bottles were the original 1838 bottles of the Jockey Club, the 1838 Belvidera bottles, or just a marketing gimmick is not known for certain.

DINNER [held by] ASTOR HOUSE [... Digital ID: 468158. New York Public Library

The wine also became available at the Astor House Hotel presumably after 1900.  The wine list of 1892 for the Astor House contains Sherry and Port but no Madeira.[9] The wine lists of 1899[10] and 1900[11] both contain a Madeira section with “Old Reserve” for $3 per quart and “Reserve” for $2 per quart.  For reference the most expensive wines were “Tokay Aszu” and “Old London Dock, white Port” both at $4 per pint.  In May 1909, it was reported that the Jockey Club Madeira appeared on the wine list of the Astor House in New York City.[12]  It was still priced at $15 per quart which is twice the price of the most expensive wines in 1900.  According to Tuten citing Cossart, the Jockey Club Madeira was also sold at Delmonico’s restaurant as well.  I have yet to find the Jockey Club Madeira listed in any of the menus available at the New York Public Library’s digital archive Whats on the menu? but I still have hope.

[0] Tuten. James H. “Liquid Assets: Madeira Wine and Cultural Capital among Lowcountry Planter, 1735-1900.” American Nineteenth Century History, Vol. 6, No.2, June 2005, pp. 173-188.
[1] Date: Saturday, January 14, 1899   Paper: Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, SC)   Page: 12
[2] Date: Sunday, July 8, 1900                Paper: Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, SC)   Page: 11
[3] South Carolina State Hospital Mills Building, National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form.  URL:
[4] “All of the cells and corridors are vaulted with brick, and made fire-proof.” Date: Thursday, February 19, 1824   Paper: Charleston Courier (Charleston, SC)   Page: 1
[5] Date: Saturday, February 21, 1824   Paper: Charleston Courier (Charleston, SC)   Page: 2
[6] History of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. URL:
[7] Date: Thursday, June 20, 1844   Paper: Boston Courier (Boston, MA)   Page: 3
[9] Dinner held by Astor House. 1892.  URL:
[10] Dinner held by Astor House. 1899. URL:
[11] Dinner held by Astor House. 1900. URL:
[12] Date: Wednesday, May 5, 1909      Paper: Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, SC)   Page: 6

Drinks With Frank at Range

December 6, 2013 Leave a comment


Frank (Drink What YOU Like) was in town again.  I typically meet up with Frank at one of the innumerable wine events which take place in Washington, DC.  We decided to shake things up and actually pay for our wine.  Actually, I do not get invited to many events so I typically pay for my wine both at home and at restaurants.  Range is a great place to go for wine, the list is diverse and prices per bottle start in the $20 range.  Surprisingly, there are no half-bottles.


Frank wanted to have a lighter red wine with dinner, perhaps not Beaujolais and not Loire Cabernet Franc due to his upcoming Cabernet Franc tasting on Sunday.  Going off of these restrictions we let sommelier Elli Benchimol pick a wine for us.  She suggested Sicily which worked for us so she returned with a bottle of the 2010 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Caldera Sottana, Etna Rosso.  This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio source from a single vineyard at 600-700 meters of elevations.  The vines here range from 50 to 100 years of age.  Though the wine was light in a sense, it packed some deceptive structure and really needs several more years in the cellar.  We even had Elli pick our main courses of Octopus and Pork.  The wine did start to open up during the course of our dinner so I would recommend dumping it into a decanter.


As were deeply engaged in discussing the wine blog-o-sphere Frank was up for another drink.  Again, there were no half-bottles so I figured we could order a full bottle then take the leftovers. I suggested the well priced 2008 Finca Sandoval, Salia, Manchuela at $26 but when I mentioned the 2010 Jean-Paul Thevent, Vieilles Vignes, Morgon Frank lit up.  “That’s a Kermit Lynch wine,” he said.  That worked for me.  Unfortunately, the supply of the 2010 vintage was exhausted and the next case held only the 2011.  We decided to try it and idiotically, keep trying it.  It wasn’t the best.  Frank did not much care for it and Elli even made a face or two.  She decanted it and swirled it for quite some time.  It eventually opened up, just a little bit to reveal some delicate berries and citrus.  Too bad, this wine is made from fruit sourced from a parcel of vines 45 years old and a parcel which is 110 years old.


To allay our feelings Elli returned with a bottle of 2010 Aurelien Verdet, Le Prieure, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and two fresh glasses.  She gave us generous pours which she refreshed later on as we enjoyed the wine.  This was much more interesting, a little earthy, good concentration, and weight.  The fruit is apparently sourced from a 4 hectare vineyard planted in 1970.  I do not think we concluded anything that night but I had a good time talking a lot over a rather long period.

Wine Blogs That I Read

December 6, 2013 1 comment

This is the time when newspapers, magazines, and other blog recommend their favorite wine blogs.  I want to contribute to this dizzying collection of lists because mine is a different.  Those who follow Hogshead Wine should have an understanding of my palate.  I prefer to taste a wine without any prior knowledge of what others have written about it.  So I typically do not read wine blogs for their reviews.  Once my review is up, I immediately turn my attention to my next set of wines, so again, I rarely look out for wine reviews.  Perhaps that is ironic.  The vast majority of my time is spent conducting research about the history of wine then writing about it.  The history of wine is deep and complex.  My research typically involves reading from a diverse set of online archives and books.  I have been writing historical pieces since the beginning of this blog  but they have reached a fevered pitch this year.  This is tough work.  Frank Morgan (Drink What YOU Like) set out and accomplished writing about Thomas Jefferson on Wine for 30 days in 2010.  Frank clearly remembers this period for he has told me on several occasions “it almost killed me.”

Extract from Charles Carroll's Letter Book dated October 8, 1771.  Image from NYPL Digital Collections.

Extract from Charles Carroll’s Letter Book dated October 8, 1771. Image from NYPL Digital Collections.

When I take a break from my own wine blog I want to read posts where I learn something new with writing that is thoughtful and evocative of the author.  Here are five blogs, in alphabetic order, which I recommend you visit.

Bertrand Celce
Wine Terroirs
You cannot drink French wine or other European wine without reading this blog.  The posts feature an engaging mixture of wine history, personal narrative, and informal tasting notes.  They also feature extensive photography.  Where else can you not only read The oldest wine is in Strasbourg but also see a picture of the barrel containing the 1472 vintage and read the DGCCRF repost on the composition of the wine.

Rosemary George
Taste Languedoc
I relied on Rosemary George’s The Wines of South of the South of France (2001) until I discovered her blog.  She has been writing about these wines for over 30 years and her purchase of a house near Clermont l’Herault means she is embedded amongst the vines.  This detailed blog features domaine visits and tasting notes from producers both big and small.  I particularly like the posts about wine celebrations.  There are lots of pictures as well.

Frank Morgan
Drink What YOU Like
Before I ever met Frank I read his blog for his comments.  That is not to infer I do not read the actual posts but it is in Frank’s comments where you get a glimpse of  Frank with a little less inhibition.  As Frank himself commented, ” I tend to learn more from the resulting comments than I did from researching a particular topic for a post.”   After first tasting the wines of RdV I took great enjoyment from the lengthy comments to his post Rising Tides, Backhands, Damning With Faint Praise, and that Elusive $100 Bottle of Virginia Wine. It is here he wrote, “From all this discussion, I think we’re giving Rutger, not his wine, ‘Cult Status.’”  In a later post he was told that “Virginia versus the world” was a trademarked term.  To which he responded, “I’m confused as to why you are posting your comment about not using ‘Virginia takes on the world’ on this blog. Please reread (slowly) this post and point out where I referred to this tasting as ‘Virginia versus the world’ in this post. ”

Erin Barbour Scala
Thinking Drinking
I first met Erin a few years ago while she was a sommelier at Public.  Her blog clearly reflects her deep passion for and time spent thinking about wine and other beverages.  I never know what to expect in her next post.  Her posts on Chasing Mrs. Elizabeth Bird, NYC’s First Female Sommelier and A Look at a 1962 Lutece Wine List are quite popular but I cannot help liking those on more surprising topics: The Water  Hole: An Old Well on Ocracoke Island or Cranberry Juice History & Its Effect on the Current Cocktail Scene or the intersection of music and wine  in Dirty and Rowdy wine at Rouge Tomate.

Rob Tebau
Fringe Wine
This wine blog is interesting because of the effort to taste wines made from obscure grapes or grown in unusual areas.  The variety themed posts show care from research involving scholarly journal to mainstream books.  After sufficient history there appear tasting notes from several related wines.  Unfortunately, the blog has not been updated since the spring due to the depression of the author.  Still, the existing posts contain much useful information.

2012 and 2013 Beaujolais from Foillard, Martray, Metras, and Thivin

December 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Molaire d’Elephas primigenius de Villefranche. Image from “Le Beaujolais Prehistorique”, Bulletin of the Societe d’Anthropologie et de Biologie de Lyon. 1899.

The only Beaujolais Nouveau party I attended took place some 20 years ago when I was a student at Bristol University.  The Bristol Wine Circle sponsored the party which was held in the Student Union building.  They managed to secure a sizeable space and an absurdly large amount of wine.  There were 10 or 12 different wines, each one arrayed on their own table.  The group of which were set out in a U shape.  Behind each table stood a member of the Wine Circle ready to pour or open more bottles and underneath each table were extra cases of wine to keep the party going.  There was a cover charge which entitled one to drink as much as possible or desired.  The wines were fine, certainly nothing compelling to my novice palate.  Each table had opened several bottles of wine to be ready for the expected crowds.  Despite the promise of unlimited wine, the crowds never showed up.  A general order to stop uncorking bottles went out followed by the order to dispatch throughout the Union to gather thirsty students.

I went to the rather large pub, which was a haze of music, bright lights, strobes, and the smell of beer.  I was unsuccessful in encouraging students to switch from paying for each pint to drinking liters of wine.  One student responded, knowingly, “why would I drink that stuff?”  My disposition at the time was that there were certainly other 18 year old students with a developed appreciation of wine.  I certainly thought so that night but it could also have been an immunity to unlimited amounts of alcohol.  There were student pubs in the dormitories which periodically cleared stock by holding Drink The Bar Dry nights.  These were structured to progressively decrease the price of drinks as the evening progressed.  They certainly were not designed to raise money as with resident students behind the bars, there were many free drinks handed out.  Glasses, bottles, and bodied piled up at a geometric rate.  Whatever the reason, our Beaujolais Nouveau party ended early.  We packed up the unopened bottles then headed to a nearby wine bar for glasses of Port.

Neolithic Silex implements from Station d’Odenas. Image from “Le Beaujolais Prehistorique”, Bulletin of the Societe d’Anthropologie et de Biologie de Lyon. 1899.

The soils of Beaujolais have yielded a diverse set of prehistoric artifacts.  These range from molars to stone implements to bronze tools.   It is rather fascinating to think that roots of some grapevines may intermingle such artifacts.  I wonder if there are some very small parcels of vines somewhere which are directly influenced by such items.  Imagine fruit sourced in Maryland from soils of late Woodland shell middens, bronze influenced vines of France, or a parcel on decomposed Roman ruins.

From the Bronze Age. Image from “Le Beaujolais Prehistorique”, Bulletin of the Societe d’Anthropologie et de Biologie de Lyon. 1899.

This week I tasted through several bottles of Beaujolais.  My return to Beaujolais Nouveau took place with the 2013 Jean Foillard, Beaujolais Nouveau.  Phil recommended the wine to me and I recommend it to you.  Perhaps it may seem a few weeks late to be writing about Nouveau but this is a serious wine.  The fruit is sourced from vines in Courcelles which is literally located just outside of the Morgon appellation.  This tastes like a “regular” Beaujolais with some depth and minerals.  My first exposure to the wines of Yvon Metras was the 2012 Yvon Metras, Beaujolais.  His wines have not been regularly imported into America for a number of years so it is rare stuff.  That fact combined with the 50% reduction in yield for the 2012 vintage means you should grab some before it disappears.  This was a very “natural” wine which I preferred best on the first night.  At the time I imagined I was drinking from a straw which went straight to France.  The 2012 Chateau Thivin, Cotes de Brouilly was more approachable than the 2011 was in youth.  It has good concentration, presence, and should develop well in the cellar.  Last is the 2011 Laurent Martray, Combiaty Vieilles Vignes, Brouilly.  It is full of earth and old-perfume which is a combination I really like.  I would give it a few more months to sort itself out.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Jean Foillard, Beaujolais Nouveau – $18
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from vines which are 40-60 years old on soils of sand.  Alcohol 11.5%.  The color was a light ruby cranberry.  The nose bore cherry fruit, some black fruit, and a hint of pepper.  In the mouth were bright, red cherry flavors at the start followed by some depth and a pepper hint.  It takes on mineral flavors towards the finish. ** Now-2014.


2012 Yvon Metras, Beaujolais – $25
Alcohol 11.5%.  The color was a light, slightly cloudy (bottle has sediment) cranberry.  The nose was of fresh berries, floral perfume, complex spice, and citrus.  It eventually took on rose-hip tea and potpourri aromas.  In the mouth the wine began with lots of ripe, lemon acidity, some yeast, followed by tangy and citrus red fruit.  It taste incredibly fresh with lots of tang and a little grip in the finish.  On the second night it had a more pronounced yeast flavor and strong flavors evocative of dried popcorn in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2015.


2012 Chateau Thivin, Cotes de Brouilly – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from vines averaging 50 years of age.  Alcohol 13%.  There was a nose of low-lying, strawberry aromas and mixed fruit.  In the mouth were black and red fruit followed by mineral notes and more black fruit.  The wine is compact then opens up with some concentration and a touch of ripe, grip.  It returns to black and red fruit in the finish.  With air it takes on firm stones in the finish with plentiful and good acidity.  There is good presence in the aftertaste.  *** 2014-2019.


2011 Laurent Martray, Combiaty Vieilles Vignes, Brouilly – $15
Imported by Elite Wine Imports.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 40 year old vines which is aged in large oak foudres.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was earthy with pepper and greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth were light black fruit flavors.  The earthy component built towards the finish along with old-school perfume.  There was a ripe hint in the finish.  With air pepper notes developed as well as a moderate structure.  The acidity was on the front and sides of the tongue.  It had a stone firmness to the structure.  On the first night it had the most earthy and old perfume while on the second night it had more firm, red fruit and dry stone flavors.  **(*) 2014-2018.


Some Good French Wines From Saint-Peray to Maury

December 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Reading multiple posts about Wine and the Sea is certainly thirsty work.  Any of the wines featured in this post would be a worthy choice.  I am afraid I am a little slow in posting about the wines of Les Vins de Vienne, a collaboration between Cuilleron, Villard, and Gaillard.  The 2010 Les Vins de Vienne, Les Cranilles was an excellent selection but it appears to be out of stock.  Instead you could go with the 2011 Les Vins de Vienne, Saint-Peray which is drinking well right now.   The Chateau Saint-Roch of Lafage is producing interesting wine.  The 2011 Maison Lafage, Chateau Saint-Roch, Kerbuccio is good wine for the money and only the second dry red wine I have had from Maury.  This bottle carries the Maury Sec designation which was first allowed for the 2011 vintage.  The other dry Maury is the 2010 Sarl Fractured, Shatter.   The 2009 Maison Lafage, Chateau Saint-Roch, Chimeres is still young and a little raw at this point, I would cellar it a little longer.  It has been one year since I last tasted the 2010 Domaine d’Aupilhac, Montpeyroux.  It is becoming more approachable but it is best to continue waiting.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Les Vins de Vienne, Saint-Peray – $25
Imported by DHI.  This wine is 100% Marsanne aged 9 months in barrels and tanks.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a light yellow straw.  There was a light and tight nose.  In the mouth the wine had a round, glycerin infused body with focused white fruit, good acidity, and minerals.  There were dried herbs and drier flavors in the finish which left minerals and lightly salivating acidity.  *** Now.


2010 Les Vins de Vienne, Les Cranilles, Cotes du Rhone – $17
Imported by DHI.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre aged for 12 months in tanks and barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was light with focused, fruity and grapey aromas.  In the mouth were youthful, concentrated flavors which were almost tart.  There was red and black fruit, acidity which worked very well, and some developing ripeness.  With air there was a little smoke and bacon flavor in the finish.  It had good tannic texture, nice ripe tannins, and red grapey flavors in the finish. Nice wine.  *** Now – 2020.


2009 Maison Lafage, Chateau Saint-Roch, Chimeres, Cotes du Roussillon Villages – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Grenache and Carignan are sourced from vines 50+ years of age.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose was a little reductive at first, eventually revealing macerated fruit aromas.  In the mouth were pungent, red fruit flavors, grapey tannins, and almost citric acidity on the back of the tongue.  It was tangy with a little weight to some red and blue flavors.  It was a little raw in nature.  **(*) 2015-2019.


2011 Maison Lafage, Chateau Saint-Roch, Kerbuccio, Maury Sec –  $20
Imported by Eric Solomon.  This wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, and 30% Grenache sourced from vines on black schist soil which was aged for 8 months in concrete tanks. Alcohol 15%.  The nose was slightly reticent.  In the mouth were good focused fruit flavors of floral black fruit and black tea.  There was integrated acidity and structure with tannins reminiscent of fine stones.  The wine was almost chewy before the long, expansive aftertaste.  ***(*) Now-2023+.


2010 Domaine d’Aupilhac, Montpeyroux, Coteaux du Languedoc – $19
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 30% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 25% Carignan, 16% Grenache, and 4% Cinsault.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 20 months in old foudres and oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Though still young this is becoming more approachable.  The level of very fine and strong tannins suggest further aging is best.  **(*) 2014-2022.