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Charbono: From the “Vinous” 1883 H. W. Crabb to the Earthy 2009 Calder Wine Company

January 16, 2014 2 comments

Analyses of Charbono Samples [0]

I only knew that there was not much Charbono planted in California and nothing of its history.  Many sites and wine blogs detail that Charbono was introduced to California in the 1880s.  I believe it quite clear that it was introduced in the 1870s for there were some 70+ acres of Charbono planted in Santa Clara County alone prior to 1879.[1]  Shortly after it was first planted an article published in the New York Tribune on October 31, 1882, details the California vineyards during harvest time.[2]  The Chinese, Italian, French, and Portuguese laborers harvested the grapes including one vineyard of 600 acres planted with Charbono, Zinfandel, Malvoisie, Burger, Blanc Elben, and Muscatel.  In a letter to the editor from Eugene Morel from May 12, 1833, Mr. Morel noted that Charbono was “more correctly Corbeau”.[3]  The apparently quality of Charbono soon bore out in the papers.  In an article about the “Classification of Grape-vines delivered at the Viticultural Convention, San Francisco” in October, 1883, Charbono was ranked near the bottom with Black Malvasia, Chablis, Hungarian Green, Pied de Perdix, Grey Duchez, and Verdelho.[4]  That same month H. W. Crabb’s vineyard near Oakville yielded a “magnificent crop” of Charbono but the reporter could not “say that I admire its quality; the grape seems rough, coarse, and flat, although containing abundance of color.”[5]  Actual tasting notes of Crabb’s wines appear below.  Still, Charbono must have found its fans.  In September 1901, “lowland” Charbono sold for $16 per ton with Zinfandel at $14.50 as compared to Zinfandel from “foothill soil” at $16 per ton.[6]

Viticultural Statistics. [1]

Charbono appears in the annual reports of the California State Viticultural Commissioners as early as 1881.  In the December 22, 1880, report by Mr. Charles A Wetmore, Commissioner, it was clarified that Charbono and Trousseau were not Burgundy varieties rather they were from the Jura District, “which ranks nearly with but inferior to Burgundy.”[7] In 1884 the origins of Charbono were clarified in the Second Annual Report of the Chief Executive Viticultural Officer.[8]  It was stated that Charbono, sometimes spelled as Charbonneau, came from Jura together with Trousseau and Poulsard.  The leading name was Corbeau and it was imported by Mr. Drummond under the synonym Plant de Montmelian.  It was felt to dominate blends so it was not as flexible as Zinfandel and its future probably lay “to making of light cheap table clarets.” The following are early tasting notes for wine samples submitted to the Commission.

No. 154. Charbono, 1882.
From H. W. Crabb, Oakville.  Condition of sample is bright with a  moderately intense purple color, a rather light body, and a decided fruity bouquet; astringency adequate, and acid a little sharp.  The character of the wine somewhat impaired by the casky flavor.

No. 154 A. Charbono, 1883.
From H. W. Crabb, Oakville.  Sample is clear, medium-bodied, and of intense purple color; astringency, fair; acid, low; bouquet undeveloped; flavor fairly vinous.  Dilution with 50 per cent water results in a fair wine; with 100 per cent, only tolerable.

No. 155. Charbono blend, 1883.
From C. O. Butler, Hanford.  A clear wine of light garnet color, thin body, moderate acid, no bouquet, with an earthy unpleasant flavor, and mawkish aftertaste; astringency hardly perceptible.; though sound, evidently grown on alkali soil.

Charbono continues to appear in viticultural reports for decades.  Inglenook has long grown Charbono, Gustave Niebaum reportedly brought root stock over shortly after founding Inglenook Vineyards in 1879.  In 1941, A. M. & J. Solari of New Orleans sold a variety of wines selected by Frank Schoonmaker, including the wines of Inglenook.[9]  I have included several other wines to indicate the affordable price of the Inglenook Charbono as well as tasting notes.

1939 Widmer, Lake Elvira, New York $1.55 per bottle
A light fresh wine, not unlike a young Moselle.

1938 Martini, Mountain Folle Blanche, $1.40 per bottle
Dry and delicate. Not unlike a Chablis.

1934 Fountaingrove, Sonoma Pinot Noir, $.1.39 per bottle
Full-bodied, yet delicate in flavor.

1934 Inglenook, Napa Valley Charbono, $1.19 per bottle
This deep-colored, full-flavored red wine, made from the Charbono grape, is highly reminiscent of a robust Barola from the Italian Piedmont.

1934 Inglenook, Napa Valley Cabernet, $1.39 per bottle
A full-flavored Claret, made from the true Cabernet grape of Bordeaux, long considered to produce America’s finest red wine.

Some 100 years after Inglenook was founded the estate created a Charbono Society.  At the first dinner held in December 1981 it was noted that there were only three other producers: Papagni Vineyards, Parducci Vineyards, and Souverain.  After a flight of recent vintages Inglenook reached deep producing bottles back to 1941.  The 1941 had “both elegance and flavor and a pleasant, almost cedar like, nose.”  The 1959 had “a marvelously developed bottle bouquet replete with complexity.  Its flavor was clearly evident and it was elegant, aged in a soft, generous, easy-to-drink style that was a light.”

I recently found myself down in McLean, Virginia so I stopped by Chain Bridge Cellars where I happened to spy the 2009 Calder Wine Company, Charbono.  At $30 per bottle I was exceeding my typical purchase price but I rarely come across bottles of Charbono.  Summers Estate Wines reports there are 80 acres planted in California.  I was fortunate to taste the 2009 Summers Estate Wines, Charbono last year which I found full of “old-school flavors.”   The bottle from Calder drank best on the second night.  It was an incredibly approachable wine being billowy, meaty, and earthy.  I did wish it had a bit more verve but the flavors were so different I kept thinking of 19th century California.

Charbono1

2009 Calder Wine Company, Charbono, Napa Valley – $30
This wine is 100% Charbono sourced from 40 year old vines.  Alcohol 13.1%.  There was a meaty nose which was somewhat deep.  The wine tasted old with distinctive flavors that were meaty and soft.  It was very approachable with a billowy start followed by a light body, very soft midpalate, and finally some structure in the aftertaste.  It seemed to have less acidity.  With air it became savory and took on an earthy finish and moderate structure.  *** Now-2016.

Charbono2


[0] Report of the Viticultural Work During the Seasons 1883-4 and 1884-5. 1886. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=LGgNAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[1] Annual Report of the Chief Executive Viticultural Officer.  1882.  URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=LmQ4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Date: Tuesday, October 31, 1882                   Paper: New York Tribune (New York, NY)   Page: 7
[3] Date: Saturday, May 12, 1883          Paper: Fresno Republican Weekly (Fresno, CA)   Page: 4
[4] Date: Saturday, October 6, 1883     Paper: Fresno Republican Weekly (Fresno, CA)   Page: 4
[5] Date: Wednesday, October 10, 1883             Paper: San Francisco Bulletin (San Francisco, CA)   Volume: LVII   Issue: 3   Page: 1
[6] Date: Saturday, September 7, 1901                Paper: Riverside Independent Enterprise (Riverside, CA)   Page: 5
[7] Annual Report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners. 1881. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=vMEVAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[8] Second Annual Report of the Chief Executive Viticultural Officer.  1884. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=Yb5CAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP3#v=onepage&q&f=false
[9] Date: Sunday, June 15, 1941            Paper: Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA)   Page: 2

The Consideration of the Calories and Alcohol Content of Wine in Treating Tuberculosis and Diabetes

January 15, 2014 Leave a comment

LIQUORS CONTAINING ALCOHOL [1]

LIQUORS CONTAINING ALCOHOL [1]

The two posts published today represent a brief look at the history of the consideration of calories in wine; a placeholder for future research.  They are also an opportunity to publish scientific charts related to wine which I always find interesting.  In my previous post The Calories in Wine as Part of Field Rations During World War I I briefly illustrated how caloric intake due to wine was studied as a part of army rations.  It was also studied with respect to medical conditions including diabetes and tuberculosis.  Frederick Forchheimer felt the high caloric content of alcohol made “it a valuable adjunct in the dietetic treatment.”[2]  In referencing von Noorden he writes, “it compensates the diabetic patient for other deprivations.”  Wine which were lower in carbohydrates thus low in sugar were preferable including Moselle, Rhine, and red wines.  Port, Madeira, and Tokay were expressly forbidden.

Percent Content of Alcohol [3]

Percent Content of Alcohol [3]

Georg Cornet wrote favorably of the use of alcohol as a drug.  He felt the positive effects included stimulating the appetite, hastening gastric digestion, helping the absorption of fats, stimulating the heart and the central nervous system.  Due to the potential for “terrible consequences” he advocated regulating the dose given to the patient.  A small glass of “strong southern wine” was recommended in the forenoon to stimulate the appetite.  This was followed by one or two glasses of light red or white wine both in the afternoon and evening.  It looking through various charts wines such as Port, Madeira, Malaga, and Sherry were often ranked towards the top in terms of alcohol by percent and calories.  However, Greek wines appear to be an exception with the potentially highest calorie value!

Alcoholic Beverages.  [4] Image from Google Books.

Alcoholic Beverages. [4] Image from Google Books.


[1] Forchheimer, Frederick.  The Prophylaxis and Treatment of Internal Disease.  1910.  URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=r7batau0WZ4C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Forchheimer, Frederick.  Forchheimer’s Therapeusis of Internal Diseases, Volume 2. 1920. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=jZgvAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Cornet, Georg. Tuberculosis and Acute General Military Tuberculosis. 1904. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=4gFVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] Locke, Edwin Allen.  Food Values.  1920. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=xTtAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Calories in Wine as Part of Field Rations During World War I

January 15, 2014 1 comment

TRAINING RATIONS. [1]

Today we may be focused on weight loss causing us to search for the number of calories in a glass of wine.   Nearly a century ago, the study of army rations shed light on the consideration of calories in wine. French, Italian, and Russian soldiers received wine as part of their rations during World War 1.  Not every country included wine in rations for the English soldiers might have received rum, the Spanish brandy, and the German brandy, wine, or beer.  Post-war studies tabulate the results as calories per daily ration and not as calories per glass of wine.  Thus the French Normal ration included 250 mL of wine equal to 212 calories or 5.9% of total caloric intake, the French Strong ration included 375 mL of wine equal to 320 calories or 8.0% of total caloric intake, and the Italian Combating ration included 179 calories worth of wine or 5.4% of total caloric intake.[1]  From another source the pre-WWI Russian Peace ration included 3 oz. of wine equal to 223 calories or 3.8%-5.0% of total caloric intake and the Russian War ration included 4.3 oz. of wine equal to 362 calories or 7.9% – 10.9% of total caloric intake.[2]

FIELD RATIONS. [1]

The volumes of wine for the Russian Peace and War rations are clearly incorrect.  It appears that many studies of army rations are based on the work of Charles Woodruff who stated that the Russians received wine.[3]  It is impossible for 4.3 oz or 127 mL of wine to provide 362 calories and it is more likely that instead of wine he meant spirits.  If we calculate the Alcohol By Volume for the French Strong ration there would need to be 15.6% ABV to obtain 320 calories from 375 mL of completely dry wine.  That seems incredibly high for the period.  If we allow for a generous 13% ABV and 10 g/L of sugar then we only obtain 282 calories from 375 mL of wine.  The implication is that the wine would have been fortified and perhaps contain some residual sugar.  So the next time you count calories from the glasses of wine you drink at dinner recall that it was once an essential part of a soldier’s diet.

COMPARATIVE FUEL VALUE OF THE FOOD RATIONS OF THE SOLDIERS OF THE LEADING ARMIES OF THE WORLD. [4]


[1] Funk, Elmer H. “Disorder of Nutrition and Metabolism” Progressive Medicine.  1920. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=hvceAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Thompson, William Gilman.  Practical Dietetics, with Special Reference to Diet in Disease. 1902. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=vMcRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Woodruff, Charles E. “The United States and Foreign Army Rations Compared” Medical Record, Volume 55.  May 20, 1899. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=5xNYAAAAYAAJ&dq=russia%20war%20ration%20wine%20calories&pg=PA701#v=onepage&q=russia%20war%20ration%20wine%20calories&f=false
[4] Fitch, William Edward.  Dietotherapy, Volume 2. 1922. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=6L80AQAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false

Hanging Out In Lou’s Tasting Room

January 14, 2014 Leave a comment

This past Sunday afternoon Lou and I gathered in his tasting room just outside of his wine cellar.  There was no particular theme for the afternoon but I did think the mini-flight of 2002 Auslese would be good fun for him.  So I brown bagged those three half-bottles.  We started with the 2012 Hermann, J. Wiemer, Riesling Dry to acclimate our palates.  Lou had recently enjoyed a glass while dining out so a bottle naturally found its way into his cellar.  This was a well-made distinctive Riesling.  I lost the battle drawing the cork from the 2002 Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Auslese.  I had to dig it out with the screw and after clearing a passage for the wine a large chunk of cork remained impossibly bonded to the inside of the neck, it had never budged despite my heavy-handed approach.  The wine itself was full of cider flavor showing old notes beyond full maturity that were a little off-putting for me.  Much better and in retrospect clearly Scheurebe (or should I write not Riesling) was the 2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Mandelring, Scheurebe Auslese.  Lively, viscous, complex, and still on the upslope.  Definitely worth buying.  The 2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Herzog, Riesling Auslese was really good too.  There was a tension between youth and maturity with Lou particularly liking the tart finish.  This was less overt the the Scheurebe, taking more time to open up and actually drank well on the second night.

Our switch to red wine was foiled by a badly corked half-bottle of 1998 Brigaldara, Amarone dell Valpolicella Classico.  Shame.  Fortunately the 2005 Pax, Syrah, Castelli-Knight Ranch was coming into its own in the decanter.  It always sported a great nose but at first the flavors were a touch austere but this perfectly matched the black fruit and drying tannins.  Jenn and I tried it again several hours later when it had come together by taking on a little flesh and a racy quality.  I think this should be cellared more.  What I particularly liked about all of the wines we tried is that they each presented aromas and flavors I do not encounter on a daily basis.  Curious wines for a Sunday afternoon!

Lou1

2012 Hermann, J. Wiemer, Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes
This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 12%.  There was moderate, lively ripeness to the flavors with notes of stones.  Clearly new world it remained lively on the tongue.  There were chalk notes and a refreshing aftertaste.  On its own the touch of sweetness to the fruit is evident as well as grapefruit notes.  ** Now-2015.

Lou2

2002 Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Auslese, Nahe – $25 (375 mL)
Imported by Chapin Cellars.  Alcohol 9.5%.  The color was a medium amber.  The nose bore older aromas, cider, and hints of plain oldness.  In the mouth there were definite flavors of apple cider.  Due to less viscosity and residual sugar the acidity showed better.  Rather advanced and not too exciting.  * Now.

Lou3

2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Mandelring, Scheurebe Auslese, Pflaz – $29 (375 mL)
Imported by Terry Theise.  Alcohol 9%.  The color was a medium to dark lively yellow.  There was a good nose of peach and nectarine with fresh aromas.  In the mouth were stone fruits marmalade, viscosity, and some grip.  The acidity was balanced and integrated.  Towards the finish the wine became fresh with levity, complexity and gentleness.  On the second night there was a bit more apricot note, good weight, and a touch of salty flavor.  This is drinking well nose.  ****  Now-2024.

Lou4

2002 Weingut Ed. Weegmüller, Haardter Herzog, Riesling Auslese, Pfalz – $28 (375 mL)
Imported by Terry Theise.  Alcohol 8%.  This was amber in color and actually the darkness.  There was a very aromatic nose of marmalade.  In the mouth there was brighter acidity, a little wood note, and mature flavors.  It still had some freshness of youth.  There was some residual sugar with good viscosity.  It was tart in the finish with a tangy aftertaste.  A nice wine.  **** Now-2020.

Lou5

2005 Pax, Syrah, Castelli-Knight Ranch, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  There was a good nose with fresh smoke aromas.  The wine had a salty entry with pencil lead mixing with black fruit and drying tannins.  It was a little austere at first but I thought this matched the black fruit and tannins.  There was a core of dried herbs and a little liquor heat in the finish.  With air the stones and watering acidity was matched by more flesh and a racy component.  ***(*) Now-2020.

Lou6

Tasting Champagne and Beaujolais with Charles Gendrot of Williams Corner Wine

January 13, 2014 Leave a comment

A little over two months ago Charles Gendrot of Williams Corner Wine brought a selection of Champagne and Beaujolais to taste at MacArthur Beverages.  Charles always brings interesting wines to taste and through the years I have come to purchase any bottle with Williams Corner on the label.  I must admit the Champagne of Larmandier-Bernier were top-notch!   Last week I drank a bottle of the 2010 Bruno Debize, Morgon so I will follow up this post with a specific tasting note.

WilliamsCorner6

NV Francois Diligent, Brut, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  There was riper white fruit on the nose with hints of fresh apple and a little spice.  In the mouth were ripe ripe yellow fruit, spices, and more fruit.  There were soft, fresh bubbles which became a nicely spiced mousse.  Good grip, nice.

WilliamsCorner7

NV Charles Dufour, Bulles de Comptoir, Extra Brut #2, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is a blend of 55% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Blanc primarily from the 2007 and 2008 vintages.  Sulphur free and low-dosage.  The aromas of apple-like fruit stepped out of the glass.  In the mouth were fine, more aggressive bubbles.  The flavors were a little tangy, acidity driven, with some yeasty old-school notes.  It finishes with tangy apple flavors and was rather dry.

WilliamsCorner8

NV Laherte Freres, Ultradition, Grand Brut, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. Alcohol 12%.  This wine is a blend of 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Noir blended from two or three vintages  making it 40% reserve.  The nose was yeasty and meaty.  In the mouth were aggressively bursting soft bubbles which immediately turned into a nice mousse.  There was good acidity which mixed with the creamy mousse.  Easy to drink.

WilliamsCorner9

NV Laherte Freres, Ultradition, Rose, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. Alcohol 12%.  This wine is a blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, and 10% Chardonnay added to 12-5% of red wine from Pinot Meunier.  The nose was a little yeasty with red fruit.  The flavors were forward with strength and moderate bubbles.  The good flavors were a little mature with an earthy component.

WilliamsCorner10

NV Laherte Freres, Blanc de Blancs Brut, Le Pierre de la Justice, Premier Cru, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose mixed aromas of yeast and apples.  In the mouth was an intense mouthful of mousse and fruit.  The bubbles dissipated immediately to reveal fresh and haunting flavors of yeast balanced by acidity in the end.

WilliamsCorner11

2005 Laherte Freres, Millesime, Extra Brut, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 12%.  This wine is 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier.  The nose was winey and scented at first with honey.  In the mouth were ripe, concentrated fruit, followed by apples in the drying finish.  This was more like a wine with its very fine mousse.  It was amongst the driest.

WilliamsCorner12

NV Larmandier-Bernier, Longitude, Premier Cru, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay which is a blend of the 2007 and 2008 vintages.  There were serious flavors of ripe fruit and a perfumed middle.  There was a firm mousse and a firmer finish with spices.  The aftertaste was tangy.  A serious wine, young, but very good.

WilliamsCorner13

2008 Larmandier-Bernier, Terre de Vertus, Premier Cru, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay from the parcels Les Barilles and Les Faucherets.   was disgorged in June 2013.   There was serious grip from the start with drying fruit and acidity on the lips.  The acidity became piercing with chalky texture on the gums.

WilliamsCorner14

2006 Larmandier-Bernier, Vieille Vigne de Cramant, Grand Cru, Champagne
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines 48-75+ years of age.  The apple-like nose made wine to a fine balance all around.  There were good bubbles and mousse, good texture, and an attractive personality.  Nice wine.

WilliamsCorner1

2010 Bruno Debize, Au Bal Jean-Paul, Beaujolais
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  There was earthy, cherry fruit revealed by the attractive nose.  There was a juicy start with some old-school perfume.  There light fruit was matched by watering acidity then cool, black fruit in the finish.  It was a little tart.

WilliamsCorner2

2011 Bruno Debize, L’Homme a la Veste, Beaujolais
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  There were dark cherries, grandma perfume, and earthy aromas.  In the mouth were perfumed flavors of cherry which were outgoing.  Everything was integrated.  The finish was drier.

WilliamsCorner4

2010 Bruno Debize, Les Combertiers, Beaujolais
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  This nose was more berry-licious.  There was good fruit in the mouth, red, black, and cherry.  There was some dryness, slight weight, firm stones, and acidity.  Needs a few months of age.

WilliamsCorner5

2010 Bruno Debize, Morgon
Imported by Williams Corner Wines.  The nose was subtle with mixed berries.  In the mouth were perfumed fruit flavors which were serious and darker.  This will clearly age with its moderate drying structure.  Nice.

Even More French Wines From the 2012 Vintage

January 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Jenn and I had high expectations for the 2012 Chateau d’Oupia, Les Heretiques given that we raved over the 2011 vintage.  A first bottle was rather unyielding and obviously a bit off given that a second bottle was better.  It does not match the previous vintage but it is still a good wine for the price.  Perhaps the 2012 Domaine de La Pepiere, La Pepie  is a hipster wine given its cross between low-sulphur and Malbec but it certainly is an aromatic, flavorful, light wine.  I did not think much of the 2012 Francois Villard, L’Appel des Sereines, over the first two nights.  I thought it an unyielding wine without much to give but on a whim I tried it on the third night and it had revealed its potential.  Stick it in the cellar for a few years.  Another wine which required tasting over three nights was the 2012 Chateau Pegau, Cuvee Maclura.  It drank best on the third night after it had sat for a night with only 2 mm of cork pushed into the neck.  Something interesting might come from several years in the cellar.  Finally, several bottles of the 2012 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins proved good but not brilliant like the previous vintage.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

French4

2012 Chateau d’Oupia, Les Heretiques, Pays d’Herault – $10
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  This wine is 100% Carignan sourced from 40+ year old vines of which half is fermented in barrel and the other half by carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 13%. There were harder flavors of raspberry and cherry fruit in a firm structure which moderates towards the finish.  There is a balance between the acidity and fruit with a little perfume in the balance.  A smaller yet complete wine.  ** Now-2018.

French1

2012 Domaine de La Pepiere, La Pepie – $13
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  This wine is 100% Cot.  Alcohol 12%.  The color was a light to medium ruby.  The nose was aromatic with fresh, young fruit…a really good nose.  In the mouth was flavors of fresh young fruit, with tangy acidity that made  way towards a firmer finish with drying tannins.  The wine remained tangy with minerals and a little black fruited ripeness.  It was very finely textured.  ** Now-2015.

French5

2012 Francois Villard, L’Appel des Sereines, Syrah – $16
Imported by Elite Wines Imports.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 10 year old vines outside of St. Joseph.  It was aged for 10 months in both barrels and large vats.  Alcohol 12.3%.  The nose was scented with grape and pepper aromas before becoming perfumed.  The initial flavors in the mouth followed the nose.  It was a little inky in the middle with a pepper note throughout, eventually taking on vintage perfume.  It had pencil-like tannins.  A good young wine.  **(*) 2016-2020.

French2

2012 Chateau Pegau, Cuvee Maclura, Cotes du Rhone – $17
Imported by Hand Picked Selections.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Cinsault sourced from 35-60 year old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 10 months in enamel tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was of tight berries.  In the mouth were blacker red fruit which remained firm.  There were notes of stones, drying tannins, and watering acidity.  It was a little earthy, with a touch of both spice and savory flavors.  **(*) 2016-2022.

French3

2012 Domaine Gramenon, Poignee de Raisins, Cotes du Rhone – $23
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  his wine is mostly Grenache with some Cinsault sourced from the domaine’s youngest vines being 5-30 year old. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for six months in cement tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was youthful and delicate with aromas of berries and perfume.  In the mouth was slightly lively fruit on the tongue tip followed by some ripe berries at first.  The flavors became firmer towards the finish with more structure and some shortness.  Young? Still, a good wine.  *** Now-2016.

French6

“The Wine smiles in the Glass” : Vinous Phrases In “Present Use” Back In 1701

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment
La Colation. Philippe Mercier after Antoine Watteau. c. 1725. #1874,0808.1954.  Image from the British Museum.

La Colation. Philippe Mercier after Antoine Watteau. c. 1725. #1874,0808.1954. Image from the British Museum.

The ten vinous phrases featured in this post come from a French-English/English-French dictionary published in 1701.  They reflect both the delights of wine and effects of drinking too much.

Je m’enlumine le Muieau de ce trait que je boi sans eau.
I chear up my dear Muzzle with this draught of pure Wine.

Le Vin charme les chagrins.
Wine is Care-inchanting.

J’ai bu tout mon soul de vin.
I filled my belly with wine.

Avaler un verre de vin tout d’un trait.
To swallow a glass of wine at one gulp.

Ce Vin a une sort bonne pointe.
This Wine has a fine quick taste.

Dissiper en dormant les fumees du vin qu’on a bu.
To sleep the fumes of Wine away.

Vous puez le vin a plaine bouche.
Your Breath smells very strong of wine.

Il etoit tout bouillant de vin & de colere.
He was heated with wine and anger.

Un Vin qui donnne a la tete.
Wine that fly’s up into ones head.

Le Vin rit dans la fougere.
The Wine smiles in the Glass.


[1] Miege, Guy.  The Short French Dictionary In Two Parts.  1701. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=QrxRAAAAcAAJ&vq=wine&pg=PT1#v=onepage&q=wine&f=false

Categories: History of Wine

Excellent Wines of the 2012 Vintage from Breton, Pelle, and Pepiere

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

The trio of wines features in today’s post should be on everyone’s list of wines to drink.  All three on are top form and my recommendation to drink them transcends any score.  The 2012 Domaine Henri Pelle, Les Bornes Blanc drinks well right out of the bottle.  The floral, fruit, and grassy mixture engages while the texture and long finish draw you back for another sip.  The 2012 Domaine La Pepiere, Clos des Briords, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes took until the third night to fully open up.  Drunk warmer than cold it was if a switch had been flipped.  The tart flavors surround a core of ripe fruit which delivered texture and power.  I personally feel this should be cellared but if you must try it then double-decant it the day ahead.  Finally, the 2012 Catherine & Pierre Breton, Beaumont reminds me of the beauty of Cabernet Franc.  It was one year ago that I drank The Arresting 2010.  This current vintage may not have the flavor concentration but the combination of fruit, minerals, acidity, and tannins is so pleasing.  I would cellar it another six months before drinking.  These wines are at MacArthur Beverages.

French1

2012 Domaine Henri Pelle, Les Bornes Blanc, Menetou-Salon – $18
Imported by Potomac Selections.  This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from 25 year old vines on soils of Kimmeridgian marl.  It was fermented then aged for six months in stainless steel. Alcohol 13%.  The nose had a nice mixture of floral and yellow fruit aromas.  It became a little grassy and remained delineated.  The mouth began with minerally start before acidity came out on the sides of the tongue.  After more mineral notes the wine turned drier and gripper with a persistent texture and long aftertaste.  A little grassy flavor came out in the finish. Good personality.  *** Now-2017.

French2

2012 Domaine de La Pepiere, Clos des Briords, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Muscadet Sevre et Maine -$16
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  This wine is 100% Muscadet sourced from vines planted in 1930 on soils of clay and silica over granite.  Alcohol 12%.  The color was a very light straw.  There was a fresh nose of flinty white fruit.  This wine was best on the third night when it had a ripe and tart entry followed by a ripe core of fruit.  There was plenty of focused acidity through the aftertaste as well as ample flavors of stones.  There was a good finish and aftertaste with good ripe spices.  This tangy wine had lemon flavors and good power which left a tart texture on the gums.  ***(*) 2015-2019.

French3

2012 Catherine & Pierre Breton, Beaumont, Chinon – $22
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from 40 year old vines on soils of clay and limestone.  It was both fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for one year in wooden vats and barriques.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose preceded the mouth where there were focused black and red fruit flavors which were a little tart.  There were nice, black and drying tannins, minerals, and acidity which hit the back sides of the tongue.  There was a powdery, vintage perfume note.  The wine took on a little weight and expansion in the aftertaste.  So drinkable.  *** 2014-2019.

French4

“a great deal better than cracking a whole bottle”: A Brief History of Wine on Draft

The very first entry of the wine list I was reading began “On Draft, Pale Sherry”[1] To come across Sherry on draft in New York City may not be too surprising these days.  It was just in the summer of 2011 that Ashley Parker wrote about the Gotham Project in the article Partners Push a Tap Wine Manifesto.  The wine list of the Metropolitan Hotel at 162 Pearl Street also includes a Madeira and Port on draft which seems like a natural extension to just white and red wines on tap.  However, before you start searching online please realize that this wine list is 150 years old.

Metropolitan Wines. July 27, 1859.  Image from What's on the menu? NYPL.

Metropolitan Wines. July 27, 1859. Image from What’s on the menu? NYPL.

The three draft selections detailed for Wednesday, July 27, 1859, include Pale Sherry, London Particular Madeira, and London Dock Port.  All of these wines were priced at $1.00 per pint and $1.50 per quart.  They were the cheapest wines for each section where the prices topped out at $5.00 per quart both for 30 year old brown Sherry and 1835 Fine old St. Anna Madeira. I must admit I was taken aback by visions of a pre-Civil War bartender dispensing wine by pulling a handle.  Wine has been dispensed from cask or racked into bottles and pitchers for quite some time.  However, the term “on draft” or “on draught” appears to be quite specific and different than the Old Pedro Madeira “on tap” in 1811.[2]  Serving beer on draft through a beer engine has 17th century origins.  In the effort to determine if wine “on draft” had the same implications as for beer this post takes a look at other period advertisements, books, and menus.

Device for raising beer and other beverages. Image from Patents for Inventions. 1898. Google Books.

Device for raising beer and other beverages. Image from Patents for Inventions. 1898. Google Books.

It is known that Champagne was served on draft from at least June 2, 1835, through September 17, 1836, in New York City.[3]  J. Mark consistently advertised his “Champagne Fountain” and his “Patent Self Igniting Segars” at his No. 4 Park Row establishment.  The idea was to provide gentleman with a glass or two of Champagne so they did not have to purchase a whole or half bottle.[4]  The Champagne was “obtained from importers well known for their article” and sold at 1 Shilling per glass.  The Champagne was drawn from a device designed by the chemist Dr. Chilton.  The Champagne passed “through pipes encircled with ice, thus rendering it cool and pleasant.”[5]  It appears to have caused some sensation for there are several articles describing it. One early visitor observed in the “handsomely furnished room, with ottomans, marble jet d’eaux, gentlemen reclining at full length.”[6]  They were seen “extending their glasses to be replenished at the fountain with pure champagne” with a price considered “a great deal better than cracking a whole bottle for $3.”

Effervescent-Liquid-Drawing Apparatus used as a champagne-dispensing apparatus. Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. 1878. Google Books.

Effervescent-Liquid-Drawing Apparatus used as a champagne-dispensing apparatus. Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. 1878. Google Books.

One early advertisement from July 2, 1772, indicates that Blanchard’s Wine Cellar in Boston served “Very Old choice Sterling Madeira, in Bottles or on Draft.”[7]  On May 23, 1793, “Cider on draft and bottled” was available in Charleston, South Carolina.[8]  That very same month, also in Charleston, A. Jones sold “Train Oil, In casks or on draft” for making Indigo.[9]  Henry Calwell, jun. & Co.  sold gin on draft, cases, and in jugs[10] and James Murphy had Teneriffe wine on draft and in bottles.[11]  The indication is that “on draft” implied a variable volume, perhaps in the customer’s own container, and not a fixed volume such as a bottle or cask.  It also did not imply any specific serving method of device.  The variable volume definition is clearly born out in later advertisements such as at Snider’s in Philadelphia where various wines were “on draught by the gallon or wholesale by the cask.”[12]  This seems reasonable given that casks held several dozen gallons of wine and might be too much for someone without a cellar or thirsty appetite.

Packing for Pistons of Beer Engine. Image from Patents for Inventions. 1896. Google Books.

Packing for Pistons of Beer Engine. Image from Patents for Inventions. 1896. Google Books.

Whether the wines were dispensed by a stopper in a cask or by engine is typically unstated but the term draft applied to both over the centuries.  At a wine auction held in London on June 23, 1709, lots of wine was sold by the pipe and hogshead.  There were five pipes of red wine “for Draught, in a Vault” as well.  Wine was clearly sold on draft in taverns for in the June 26, 1789, Debate in the Lords on the Wine Excise Bill it was noted that “small quantities of wines, because when on draught, it would be impossible…to prevent” sending them out.[3]  In 1824, Edward Bowles Symes sought to improve draught beer by replacing one of the fixed heads of a barrel with a piston.  If the barrel was made of or lined with a non-absorbent material than his invention would be “equally great in the preservation of wine and spirits on draught.”[14]  William Phipps wrote in The Vintner’s Guide (1825) that “Wines will not keep on draught” unless quickly consumed.[15]  William Macarthur wrote in 1844 that wines in “draft” or “draught” had a cock inserted into the head of the cask.  At the 1855 Paris Universal Exhibition the No. 17 Stocker’s Patent Lift Pump was displayed.[16]  It was “used in Wine and Spirit Stores, in Mansions.”  It allowed ready access to the valves and gears, presumably of one of the four engines also at the exhibition.  They also had a “Tapping Cock” for driving into a cask.  In the Colonial Exhibition of wines in 1886 numerous selections of Campbell winery of Rothbury were noted as “will keep on draught.”[17]  This keeping quality was recognized in other wines for Charles Tovey wrote that several Sydney hotels kept casks of Cambden wine on draft “especially during the very hot weather.”[18]

No other drinks were served on draft at the Metropolitan Hotel.  Even the beer was served by the pint or quart.  In fact very few 19th century menus list any drinks on draft.  One other example is the 1865 menu of Parker House, Boston, which lists beer both by the bottle and “on draught.”[19]  We may never know how the draft selections were served at the Metropolitan Hotel.  But we do know Champagne was served on draft in 1835 and 1836 and that inventors were patenting engines to dispense wine.  The possibility that somewhere else in the 19th century wine was served by pulling a handle remains intriguing.


[2] Date: Tuesday, December 3, 1811                  Paper: New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, NH)   Volume: LVII   Issue: 1   Page: 4
[3] Date: Tuesday, June 2, 1835   Paper: Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY)   Page: 5 and Date: Saturday, September 17, 1836   Paper: Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY)   Page: 3
[4] Date: Tuesday, June 2, 1835   Paper: Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY)   Page: 5
[5] Date: Friday, July 10, 1835   Paper: Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: XIII   Issue: 8   Page: 2
[6] Date: Tuesday, June 30, 1835   Paper: Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, MD)   Volume: 83   Issue: 13846   Page: 2
[7] Date: Thursday, July 2, 1772            Paper: Boston News-Letter (Boston, MA)   Issue: 3487   Page: 3
[8] Date: Monday, May 23, 1791           Paper: City Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: IX   Issue: 1784   Page: 3
[9] Date: Monday, May 30, 1791           Paper: City Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: IX   Issue: 1790   Page: 3
[10] Date: Wednesday, May 22, 1793   Paper: City Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: XI   Issue: 2187   Page: 1
[11 Date: Friday, August 9, 1793            Paper: City Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: XI   Issue: 2254   Page: 1
[12] Date: Friday, April 25, 1851             Paper: Daily Union (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 4
[13] Cobbett, William. Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, Volume 26. 1816. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=uaY9AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[14] Gil, Thomas. The Technical Repository. 1824. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=4EkEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[15] Phipps, William. The Vintner’s Guide. 1825. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=EbFJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[16] Chapman.  Paris University Exhibition, 1855. 1855. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=4co9AAAAcAAJ&pg=PT5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[17] New South Wales.  Official Catalogue of Exhibits from the Colony. 1886. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=0T0DAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[18] Tovey, Charles.  Wine and Wine Countries.  1862. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=KLdWAAAAcAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Rayas Effect

January 8, 2014 1 comment

It was 26°F when I took the short walk over to Roland’s house on Monday evening.  We were getting together to drink some Chateauneuf du Pape and eat some pizza.  I brought over a bottle from Domaine Roger Perrin, a name which I had never heard of before.  With Roland’s Janasse opened we sat down and started drinking.  The Roger Perrin possessed a really good nose that revealed its bottle age.  In the mouth it was elegant, almost Burgundian according to Roland, but still clung to firmness.  The Janasse was clearly younger and riper but was actually modest in that it did not give up its hot origins from the 2003 vintage.  It was really good.  The wines were both different and enjoyable for that.  I rotated between them as we ate.  The music cut in and out as the strong gusts of wind knocked over anything loose including large garbage cans.

I do not recall how but it came up that I had never drunk a bottle of Chateau Rayas.  Roland did not skip a beat, asked if I wanted to drink Rayas, how could I refuse, so we liberated a bottle of 2005 from his basement.  We each had a small pour before it went into the decanter.  The first taste was very good but then it opened up.  It was obvious that this bottle was in a different league.  It possessed a balance I had not come across before which allowed it to be drunk with great pleasure but also exhibit the ability to develop and improve for many years.  Though the lightest in color it was the most aromatic and flavorful.  The music came back on as the wind made something loudly crash in the backyard.  We both got up and I noticed I could still taste and feel the Rayas in my mouth.  I revisited the other wines, particularly following the Rayas with the Roger Perrin.  The Roger Perrin was actually quite good.  I drunk my share, one should not spit Rayas, then walked home in 12°F temperature.  The types of wine served and order tasted clearly influence one’s perception.  But it did occur to me later that perhaps the Rayas aftertaste was still in my mouth while I was tasting the Roger Perrin.

CdP2

1998 Domaine Roger Perrin, Reserve des Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf du Pape
This wine is a blend of 70-75% Grenache, 10-15% Syrah, 8-12% Mourvedre, 4% Cinsault, Vaccarese, and Counoise sourced from 90+ year old vines.    It was aged 12-14 months in casks and large barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a complex nose which persisted all evening.  In the mouth was lots of acidity with red and black fruit.  The wine itself was firm and still possessed structure.  The wine proved elegant and scented with cherry berries.  It was a touch simpler in the finish.  **** Now-2024.

CdP1

2003 Domaine de la Janasse, Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Beverages.  This wine is a blend of  85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre, and 2% other varieties.  It was aged in old foudres and some new oak.   Alcohol 15%.  Very aromatic, intense notes of fresh and ripe berries which hover above the glass.  In the mouth were very fresh berries that become sappy and took on a wood note.  There was density, a fine ripe texture, and good acidity.  Great balance and very approachable, I would not guess it from such a hot vintage.  **** Now-2026.

CdP3

2005 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Martine’s Wines Inc.  This wine is 100% Grenache vinified in both concrete and enamel vats followed by 12 months aging in old casks.  Alcohol 14%.  The lightest color of all three wines.  An incredible nose of scented berries and garrigue.  There were very fresh flavors in the mouth which continued as the wine opened up rapidly with air.  The fruit, acidity, and resolved tannins were impeccably balanced so much so that the wine was both drinking perfectly yet able to develop for the long-term.  There was great depth and texture to the cherry fruit, and spices.  The incredibly long finish boasted minerals and was matched by the persistent aftertaste.  Effortless. ***** Now-2029.