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A Unique White Wine From the Traditional Thevenet Family

Lou sent me a picture of the 2006 Domaine de la Bongran, Cuvee E.J. Thevenet, Viré-Clessé from New York.  It was just a few days after his return that he pulled out the half-full bottle from his refrigerator.    This wine drank amazingly well over the period of one week.  And that is without any Private Preserve!  Domaine de la Bongran features wines produced from a 4.5 ha estate located on clay with white marl subsoils.  The vines were in the family for a very long time until they were sold to a priest named Bongran.  When he passed away the family regained control of the vines.  The wines of Bongran have historically contained residual sugar, the 1929 vintage contains similar levels of sugar, alcohol, and pH as the 1989 vintage.  Through a combination of cleanliness and slow fermentation, the 2006 vintage took two years to ferment, the Thevenet family has traditionally produced a wine capable of long aging.  No doubt this longevity aided in the ability to take a tasting note on the fifth night this bottle was open.  It was still very enjoyable though I suspect it drank better over the first several nights.  I highly recommend you try this wine and also suggest that those curious  secure the older vintages which are still available.

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2006 Domaine de la Bongran, Cuvee E.J. Thevenet, Viré-Clessé – $40 (Wine-Searcher)
Imported by Louis-Dressner Selections.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose revealed stones and orchard fruit.  In the mouth were ripe, slightly sweet flavors of tropical fruit.  The wine was weighty with a creamy nature before lots of stones and the impression of old wood came out. (I an aware this was raised in stainless steel.)  The acidity was present in the finish and on the back of the throat in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2029.

An Evening of Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee, and one Gevrey-Chambertin

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I was very lucky to be Roland’s guest when he recently hosted his wine tasting group.  As always, the host picks the wines which are tasted blind, as well as cooks dinner.  We gathered around at first, eating charcuterie and cheese which was accompanied by an excellent 2012 Willi Schaefer, Himmelreich GG, Mosel Saar Ruwer.  It had textured, somewhat ripe flavors with excellent acidity.  I drained my glass before we sat down to the wines.  We eventually learned the wines were arranged in flights.  The first which clearly contained the ringer, showed more tart and tannic than the second excellent flight.    There were some guesses of Italy but the group quickly spiraled towards Pinot Noir from Burgundy.  Phil thought hard, swirling his glass, eventually announcing Chambolle-Musigny and Vosne-Romanée.  Roland confirmed the guess and added that they were all of the 2005 vintage.  Suitably impressed I rapidly smiled because I had never drunk a wine from Vosne-Romanée.

In the first flight I thought both the 2005 Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru and the 2005 Serafin Pere & Fils, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Baudes were not giving up much.  The noses were tight, reduced, and the flavors came across as locked in structure.  They had breathed for almost three hours and though they did improve some with additional air, this pair should be left in the cellar for several more years.  The 2005 Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Baudes showed the best of the three.  I was particularly attracted to the earthy component.  It came across as more mature with a touch of softness.  I would recommend the 2010 Cristom, Pinot Noir, Sommers Reserve, Willamette Valley for its nose alone.  Tasted blind it was “easy” to work out it was from Oregon.  Roland commented that other vintages of the Sommers Reserve has appeared in previous blind tasting and even come out on top.

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2005 Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru –
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  The nose had a touch of sulphur, eventually revealing smoky aromas of black-red fruit and toast.  In the mouth the black and red fruit was integrated with acidity and very fine tannins.  The flavors became a bit tart and red but the wine did not reveal much and remained tannic.  Cellar further.

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2005 Serafin Pere & Fils, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Baudes –
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  The nose was a little earthy.  In the mouth were tart red fruit flavors, a little more complexity, some minerals, and touch more acidity.  The finish was attractive with grippy tannins.  Showing young.

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2005 Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Baudes –
Imported by Kobrand Corp.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was more open with an earthy touch, sweeter fruit, and meat.  In the mouth the slightly riper red fruit  morphed into black fruit.  The flavors came across as more mature.  The wine became rounder with air, had some density and a touch of softness in the finish.

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2010 Cristom, Pinot Noir, Sommers Reserve, Willamette Valley –
Alcohol 13.5%.  This was highly aromatic.  In the mouth were more clean Pinot Noir flavors, approachable red and black fruit and minerals.  The mouth clearly followed the nose.  There was a cinnamon note, ripe tannins, and some ripeness in the finish.

Chemical characteristics of 1870 Groffier, Chambertin and 1870 Vosne-Romanee. “Medical Use of Wine”, The Lancet, Vol. 2. 1880.

In the 19th century the wines of Vosne-Romanée were medically noted for their increased percentage of alcohol, almost complete absence of sugar, and low proportion of tannins.  As such they were recommended for “diabetic patients who can afford so expensive a luxury, these high-class red Burgundies appear to be especially well fitted.”   After tasting through he Vosne-Romanée flight I cannot help but wonder how much wine was leftover for drinking after The Lancet Commission on the Medical Use of Wine finished their laboratory work.  This was a great flight, the wines not only showed more open than the Chambolle-Musigny but they were more rounded and complex.  The 2005 Frederic Magnien, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Brulees has a lot going on right now but seems perfectly balanced with stuffing for continued development in the bottle.  I think the 2005 Domaine Gros Frère et Sœur, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Chaumes was the weakest of the flight despite its aromatic nose.  The 2005 Louis Jadot, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Beaux Monts had a great combination of vintage perfume and meaty fruit on the nose followed by attractive grip in the mouth.  It was the perfect prelude to the 2005 Domaine Francois Lamarche, Vosne-Romanée Grand Cru Monopole La Grande Rue.  It clearly had good depth and an attractive mix of maturity, wood notes, and fruit.  Not knowing anything about the monopole La Grande Rue I was instructed to look at the back label of the bottle.  It was surrounded by legendary names I have only read about.

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In 1793 Duncan M’Bride wrote in his General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793) that “of all the wines of Burgundy, that called Romanée is most valued.”  Our bottle of 2005 Domaine Francois Lamarche, Vosne-Romanée Grand Cru Monopole La Grande Rue  was made from fruit sourced at La Grande Rue.  This 1.65 ha strip of vineyard is sandwiched between La Tâche on the west and both Romanée and Romanée Conti on the east.  The land was a wedding gift given to Henri Lamarche in 1933.  When the area was classified in the 1930s, Henri Lamarche believed nothing was to be gained through the grand cru status but more taxes.  So this strip of premier cru vineyard was surrounded by grand cru vineyards until it was reclassified in 1992.  This reclassification was based on the geology and exposition.

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2005 Frederic Magnien, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Brulées –
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  The nose was a little stinky with perhaps some tobacco notes.  There were tart blue flavors, minerals, good acidity, and some attractive grip.  The flavors were drier and had a citric lift.  The flavors showed some maturity that mixed well with the wood and tobacco flavors.  This wine was good now but setup for strong development.

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2005 Domaine Gros Frère et Sœur, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Chaumes –
Imported by Wine Cellar LTD. Acquired from a private collection.  This was very aromatic with fresh, floral aromas stepping out of the glass.  The nose followed the mouth where there were red, citric flavors.  The acidity was there along with a very fine, gentle ripeness, a spicy hint in the finish, and a fresh aftertaste.  Overall this came across as riper.

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2005 Louis Jadot, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Beaux Monts –
Imported by Kobrand Corp.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The meaty nose was followed by ripe flavors of vintage perfume, meaty red fruit and some black fruit.  The wine was compact and became younger with air.  There was grip and attractive red cranberry flavors in the finish.

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2005 Domaine Francois Lamarche, Vosne-Romanée Grand Cru Monopole La Grande Rue –
This was young on the nose showing more grip on the aromas.  In the mouth the flavors mixed with nice cedar notes, some tart fruit, and good depth.  There was a subtleness roundness as well as lift.  Good flavors.

Clos Vougeot and Chambertin

With the blind tasting complete it was only natural to drink more wine.  Roland poured the 1997 Claude Dugat, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Lavaux St Jacques into his giant wine glass shaped decanter.  Claude Dugat typically makes two premier cru wines from Gevrey-Chambertin.  Lavaux St Jacque is produced from a 0.3 ha parcel of vines planted in 1980.  After Roland swirled the wine for quite some time our bottle revealed itself to be aromatic with perfume.  In the mouth were excellent flavors of blood and minerals.  With the bottle finished the evening was complete.

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1997 Claude Dugat, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Lavaux St Jacques –
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This had an aromatic, attractive perfume to the blue fruit.  In the mouth the vintage perfume continued as lovely flavors of blood and minerals came out.  There was good grip to the tart, black graphite finish.  A lovely wine.

The Secret History of Wine: CIA Director Allen W. Dulles and Boordy Vineyards

Philip and Jocelyn Wagner were fed up with Prohibition when they planted their grapevine nursery in Maryland during the early 1930s.  This was quickly followed by the publication of the informative book ”American Wines and How to Make Them.”  By 1945 the Wagners had established Maryland’s first commercial winery Boordy Vineyards. These wines spread in attraction, for example, throughout the 1950s they were available for purchase in Washington, DC at the Fred Burka shop on Wisconsin Ave at Macomb Street.  One advertisement featured the “fine dry white” at $1.35 in December 1951.[1]  Philip Wagner was not just a farmer and winemaker, he was also an editorial writer at The Baltimore Sun.  It is through this position that the wines of Boordy Vineyards came to the attention of Allen W. Dulles the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

LETTER TO MR. ALLEN W. DULLES FROM PHILIP M. WAGNER. [4]

LETTER TO MR. ALLEN W. DULLES FROM PHILIP M. WAGNER. [4]

The Baltimore Sun was in the eyes of the Central Intelligence Agency as early as 1955 when Stanley J. Grogan, Assistant to the Director, suggested Mark Watson of The Baltimore Sun, amongst others, be invited to a conference with the Allen W. Dulles.[2]  By March 22, 1960, Philip Wagner and Allen W. Dulles had met.  Philip Wagner had sent “wines of Boordy Vineyard” to Allen W. Dulles who thanked him and remarked, “I am anticipating with great pleasure the first taste of wine”.[3]  On June 30, 1960, Philip Wagner wrote to Allen W. Dulles that their “last conversation…was so very helpful” and that he wanted to “slip over” for another meeting. He continued that “A secondary reason for wishing to call of you is that we have bottled our 1959 Red wine, and it is the closest thing to a Beaujolais, I think, that has so far been produced in this country.  I want you to try it.”  We do not yet know what Allen W. Dulles thought of the wines but it does appear clear that these two men shared a common interest in wine.

Allen Welsh Dulles, 1893-1969. ca. 1920? National Photo Co.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Allen Welsh Dulles, 1893-1969. ca. 1920? National Photo Co. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.


[1] The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 06 Dec 1951: C13.
[2] MEMO FOR THE DIRECTOR FROM STANLEY J. GROGAN. Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP86B00269R000100130094-3. URL: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/5829/CIA-RDP86B00269R000100130094-3.pdf
[3] LETTER TO MR. PHILLIP N. WAGNER FROM ALLEN W. DULLES. Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110111-9. URL: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/5829/CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110111-9.pdf
[4] LETTER TO MR. ALLEN W. DULLES FROM PHILIP M. WAGNER. Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110077-8. URL: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/5829/CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110077-8.pdf

Categories: History of Wine Tags:

A Trio of Excellent “La Garrigue”, Cuvée Romaine

As I research and write more and more about the History of Wine I find that I drink the same wines more often.  One of my frequent selections has been the 2011 Domaine “La Garrigue”, Cuvée Romaine, Côtes du Rhône.  The 2012 vintage recently became available so I took advantage of the situation to taste a mini-vertical.  Fortunately, Philippe Cambie has done it again, the 2012 is clearly a consistent follow-on to the 2011 vintage.  All of the components are there including the need for short-term aging.  The 2009 vintage is clearly young.  This vintage contains no Mourvedre so I suspect the increased level of Syrah has given it more backbone.  The flavors lean towards Kirsch with less earth.  I would buy Cuvee Romaine  by the case.  It is a real treat to drink this wine.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Domaine “La Garrigue”, Cuvée Romaine, Côtes du Rhône – $16
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.    This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah sourced from 60-90 year old vines located on pebbly soils at 450 feet. It was aged for 10-12 months in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was a fresh berry nose.  In the mouth the compact, fresh fruit tastes young.  The black fruit is less earthy and mixes with very, very fine drying tannins.  With extended air a bit of earthy, mineral, complexity comes out.  This need six months in the cellar.  **(*) 2014-2019.

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2011 Domaine “La Garrigue”, Cuvée Romaine, Côtes du Rhône – $15
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.   This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah sourced from 60-90 year old vines located on pebbly soils at 450 feet. It was aged for 10-12 months in concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was a dark nose of earthy fruit and floral herbs.  The earthy, black fruit had an ethereal quality.  The fine and texture, drying tannins will enable develop for a few more years though it is drinking great right now.  *** Now-2019.

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2009 Domaine “La Garrigue”, Cuvée Romaine, Côtes du Rhône – 
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose revealed tangy red aromas.  In the mouth the sharper start brought robust flavors of bright, earthy, Kirsch.  The acidity was noticeable in the back of the throat.  The wine had hints of maturity but ultimately comes across as young.  With air it settled down a bit to reveal cool, dense flavors, minerals, and structure from strong, textured tannins.  There were cinnamon spices in the fresh finish.  I would cellar this further.  **(*) 2016-2025.

The Pure 2012 Syrah, VdP from Herve Souhaut

Just a quick note for today.  Herve Souhaut practices minimal intervention which is reflected not only in the clarity of the label but the purity of the flavors.  This vintage requires cellar age for it only revealed characteristics over the second and third nights.  Its got a bit of everything right now, such that I would be curious to follow its development.  For background information on this wine please check out my post The Aromatic 2009 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, Syrah, Ardeche.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, Syrah, Vin de Pays – $27
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from a parcel of 30-year-old vines located on the slopes of the Doux river along with purchased grapes.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a very fine vintage floral perfume which took time to develop.  The nose carried through into the mouth where there were purple fruit flavors evocative of juice and a slightly creaminess.  It eventually took on black pepper that paired with fresh acidity.  There was a very subtle ripeness in the middle along with a touch of weight.  **(*) 2017-2027.

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Query About Primary Sources Describing Multi-Vintage Blends in Rioja and the Rest of Spain

Can anyone provide historical references to multi-vintage blending in Rioja and the rest of Spain?  I am particularly interested in the period from the 1860s through the 1920s.

La Correspondencia de España. 4-11-1884, no. 9,723. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

La Correspondencia de España. 4-11-1884, no. 9,723. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

The blending of multiple vintages is allowed by law in Rioja where it is employed by Bodegas Lopez de Heredia. [1]  Outside of Rioja, it is famously used by Bodegas Vega-Sicilia in their “Unico” Reserva Especial.  Julian Jeffs writes of Rioja that “vintage years used not to be taken very seriously” and recounts that one shipper attempted to trademark “Vintage 1922”.[2]  Jan Read adds that shippers preferred to label their wines by the age they spent in cask. [3]  The Vega-Sicilia website states that “traditionally” of those few wineries which bottled their wines they produced “another wine without a specific harvest” which was “a blend of wines from the best harvests”.[4]

La Época (Madrid. 1849). 15-9-1890, no. 13,669. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

La Época (Madrid. 1849). 15-9-1890, no. 13,669. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

I have yet to find any descriptions in both English and Spanish sources describing such multi-vintage blending.  Some of the sources I have consulted include Francisco Antonio de Enchanobe Medios’ Practicos Para la Fabricacion de Vinos Tinos y Claretes (1865),  Memoria Presentada al Jurado Sobre Los Vinos Tintos de Senor Marques de Riscal (1875), Don Balbino Cortes y Morales’ El Vino Tino (1885), Don Diego Navarro Soler’s Teoria y Practica de La Vinification (1890), and Victor C. Manso de Zuniga’s Conferencias Enologicas (1896).  Victor C. Manso de Zuniga was the director of the Oenological Research Station at Haro.  In this last volume, he provides a summation on the mixing wine which includes, “3.a No se mezclará vino nuevo con vino viejo sino vinos de igual edad (excepción de las famosas soleras de Jerez y otras). ”  In other words, do not mix old and new wine.  Moving forward in time to F. de Castella’s highly informative “Fifth Progress Report on Viticulture in Europe”, The Journal of The Department of Agriculture (1908), there again is no mention of vintage blending.

El Liberal (Madrid. 1879). 24-10-1892. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

El Liberal (Madrid. 1879). 24-10-1892. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

Now, I am not fluent in Spanish so it is possible I have missed something.  To me all of these sources describe the Medoc-based aging in barrel as taking 3-4 years.  In looking at advertisements, early ones from 1884 offer single-vintage wines.  In that year, Marques de Riscal had no more wine in barrel but did have the vintages 1871-1881 available in bottle.  Also from that same year Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana offered the 1878 through 1883 vintages in both bottles and barrels.  Around 1890 the advertisements appear to change with the Marques de Riscal offering both barrica, barril, and botellas of two, three, and four year old wine.  These advertisements remain basically unchanged through 1917.  In 1892, Lopez de Heredia advertised the 1886 vintage bottled in 1891 by the bottle but in barricas they had Rioja fino corriente, Rioja fino Bueno, and Rioja viejo fino superior.  It is possible that these three wines were non-vintage blends.  I have yet to find any descriptions of such blending so any references would be greatly appreciated.

Don Diego Navarro Soler, Teoria y Practica de La Vinification 1890. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.

From Don Diego Navarro Soler, Teoria y Practica de La Vinification 1890. Biblioteca Digital Hispanica.


[1] Barquin, Gutierrez, and de la Serna. The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain.
[2] Jeffs, Julian. The Wines of Spain. 2000.
[3] Read, Jan. The Wines of Spain. 1986.
[4] “Reserva Especial” from Vega-Sicilia. URL: http://www.vega-sicilia.com/vinos/reserva

Categories: History of Wine Tags:

Domaine Jamet at Robert Kacher’s Annual Portfolio Tasting

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I recently attended the 2014 Annual Portfolio Tasting of Robert Kacher Selections held at The Georgetown Club.  Over the past three tastings I have become a great fan of Domaine Jamet.  In writing about the 2009 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie I reflected, “It was engaging, complex, and complete. It caused me to focus and ignore all that was around.”  I have found the past three vintages of the Côte-Rôtie to be highly aromatic in their youth.  So much so that they stand out amongst all of the wines.  Please find my notes below as well as two tasting notes from last year’s event.

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2012 Domaine Jamet, Côtes du Rhône Blanc
This wine is a blend of Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc.  The Marsanne and Roussane are sourced from 45 year old vines.  This was aged 50% in cuve and 50% in barrique of which 8% of the total saw new oak.  Alcohol 13%.  The floral nose had grip.  In the mouth were crisp flavors of lighter white fruit which then turned creamy.  This wine was very approachable revealing white flowers and white stone before the long, somewhat drying finish.

2011 Domaine Jamet, Côtes du Rhône Blanc
Tasted May 2013.  The nose was focused.  In the mouth were weighty but focused tropical flavors.  It became lifted in the middle before the good white fruit expanded in the mouth.  It was a little tart in the finish where it left baking spice flavors.

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2011 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
This wine is 100% Syrah with sourced mostly from the Côte Brune.  It was aged for over 20 months in 25% new oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  This was already very aromatic with fresh pepper, floral red fruit, and meaty aromas.  In the mouth the bright red fruit morphed to blacker fruit.  There was texture from the tannins that build in the mouth.  There was a vintage perfume note that ran as a vein through out.  The fruit was very clean, had a cool aspect, and mixed with minerals.  The aftertaste was very long.  I would cellar this a few more years.

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2010 Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie
Tasted May 2013.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The beautiful nose was perfumed with pepper aromas.  In the mouth this confident wine was almost supple on the tongue.  There was an effortless perfume to the red berries, balance, fine grippy texture, and drying graphite.