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Archive for July, 2014

Say Yes to the Lip-Smacking Rebholz Rosé

The 2013 Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, Spatburgunder Rosé, Trocken, Pfalz is a rather different wine from the 2013 Weingut Meyer-Näkel, Spatburgunder Rose, Ahr.  Instead of substantive fruit, it has dry, cherry fruit with a citrus hint.  This ties in well with the beautifully tense acidity which is for me, a hallmark of German wine.  At this price you could consider it a rosé to drink over the week or a special wine for the weekend.  Either way, add this to your list of wines to try.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, Spatburgunder Rosé, Trocken, Pfalz – $27
Imported by Rudi Wiest.  This wine is 100% organic Spatburgunder sourced from limestone soils.  The free-run juice fermented in stainless steel.  Alcohol 11.5%.  The color was  a light to medium intensity of copper and dried rose petals.  There were delicate aromas of ripe florals.  In the mouth were dry, cherry flavors, a lemon hint, and tense acidity.  The acidity continued on the front sides of the tongue before the wine eventually rounded out.  There was a pleasing chalky note perhaps influenced by the limestone soils, before the attractive, lip-smacking finish.  *** Now-2016.

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“Very rare liquors”; Centuries Old Tasting Notes and A New One of Tenerife Wine

July 18, 2014 2 comments

I am always on the look out for a wine from the Canary Islands but I rarely spot a bottle for they have not caught on in the Washington, DC market.  This might be due to the slight premium in price, no doubt aided by the extra shipping logistics.   I am willing to pay this premium because I find the flavors unique.  Jancis Robinson wrote about these wines in her February article The Canaries – where vines, and wines, creep up on you.    She even noted that Canary Island wines were “hugely popular in Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” as evidenced by their inclusion in Twelfth Night.  But what was it that made those wines so popular?

Isle Canaries. 1700-1799. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DD-2987 (8476)

Isle Canaries. 1700-1799. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DD-2987 (8476)

During the 17th century the most popular wine from the Canary Islands was the sweet, white Malmsey.  John Paige was a London merchant who developed a trade during the 1640s and 1650s importing “luxury wine from Tenerife”.[1]  Amazingly, his business letters with his trading associate William Clerke survived from the years 1648 to 1658.  These letters provide fascinating details about the Canary wine trade.  John Paige wrote on May 28, 1649, that of the 11 pipes he received the “Rambla wines proved white and green, but the Orotava wines proved the richest Canaries that ever came to England”.[2]  In a previous letter he noted the Orotava vintage was “extraordinary rich but high colour.” Unfortunately the vintners were afraid to purchase them because they believed they had “put molasses in them and that they were not natural from the grape.”  John Paige continued to his agent that “now our vintners are grown so curious in their tastes that none but rare wines will serve their terms.”  He noted the price difference “betwixt ordinary and very good wines ” exceeded “£4 or £5 per pipe.”  That is a significant difference given that he had sold the 11 pipes at  £20 5s ready money.  One well received parcel was later described as containing “gallant rich wines”.[3]  Two years later John Paige wrote that the wines of Mr. Rouse and Mr. Audley respectively sold for £27 and £29 per pipe.  This was a suitable price given that “they were the best wines” he had ever tasted.

Not every wine that John Paige imported was well received.  On January 8, 1652, he noted that other merchants were selling at £29 and £30 per pipe.  He struggled to sell his wine at £18 per pipe for “no man’s prove [so bad as] mine, insomuch that no man will taste them.”[4]  We may guess what these unfavorable wines tasted like based on other comment by John Paige.  These bad wines were “generally green”, “small, hungry wines”, and even “mean wines, green and thin bodies and flashy” [5]  Even “better bodied wines…were bad enough both, being very green”.[6]  When John Paige could not sell merchandise he wrote of the “goods here are drugs, no vent at all for them”.[7]  He received bad wine from William Clerke on a number of occasions writing him that “You are not fully sensible” for the good wines were “a precious commodity” and “bad wines as great a drug.”

Today, it is the dry, red wines that I look for.  In Jancis Robinson’s article she comments that “most interesting was a visit to the painstakingly assembled” vineyards of Suertes del Marqués.  Just a few days ago Jenn and I tasted the introductory blend from this estate, the 2012 Suertes del Marqués, 7 Fuentes, Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife.  I was immediately drawn in by the exotically spiced nose that echoed through in the flavors.  It really was curious.  This wine was purchased at the Wine Source in Baltimore.

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2012 Suertes del Marqués, 7 Fuentes, Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife – $20
Imported by Eric Solomon European Cellars Selections.  This wine is a blend of 98% Listan Negra and 2% Tintilla sourced from 10-100 year old vines from three parcels located at 400-650 meters.   The fruit was separately fermented in stainless steel then aged for eight months in concrete and French oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose bore exotic aromas of scented red berries.  In the mouth the red fruit had mineral undertones and was enlivened by a lot of acidity that made way to a spicy finish.  There were tightly-ripe raspberry flavors, minerals, and a dry finish.  The persistent aftertaste carried finely ripe flavors.  *** Now-2017.


[1] ‘Introduction’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. IX-XXXIX. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63981&strquery=canary wine Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[2]’Letters: 1649′, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 1-8. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63983&strquery=taste Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[3] ‘Letters: 1650’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 8-31. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63984&strquery=rich Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[4] ‘Letters: 1652’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 57-82. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63986&strquery=taste Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[5] ‘Letters: 1653’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 82-99. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63987&strquery=mean Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[6] ‘Letters: 1651’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 31-57. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63985&strquery=very green Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[7] ‘Letters: 1651’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 31-57. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63985&strquery=drug Date accessed: 18 July 2014.

There is Graciano in the 2009 Matchbook, Tinto Rey!

A number of weeks ago Andy pointed out several more unique Californian blends.  The 2009 JL Giguiere, Matchbook, Tinto Rey, Dunnigan Hills was one of them.  This Tempranillo and Syrah blend is a little different with its inclusion of Tannat but it was the Graciano that caught my eye.  You may recall that last summer I enjoyed a bottle of 2010 Indilico, Graciano, Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley .  I rarely see Graciano in American wines so I always look forward to trying them.  We drank a bottle of the Tinto Rey right away and I was reminded of a darker Spanish-American hybrid.  This seems like an appropriate reaction given Californian history.  I kept buying more bottles with the intent of writing down a tasting note but we just kept drinking them.   I finally managed to write down a note this weekend.  This most recent bottle remained a bit tight but the dark, meaty nature was still attractive.  And so is the price.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2009 JL Giguiere, Matchbook, Tinto Rey, Dunnigan Hills – $17
This wine is a blend of 40% Tempranillo, 33% Syrah, 19% Graciano, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Tannat.  Alcohol 13.9%.  The nose revealed compact aromas of meaty, black fruit.  In the mouth the black fruit mixed with ripe red fruit and was seamlessly integrated with the acidity.  There were ripe tannins in the finish and some woodbox notes followed by length in the aftertaste.  This young wine has attractive flavors and should continue to unwind over the next year.  *** Now-2018.

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I Am Hooked on Folk Machine

We found ourselves in Baltimore the other weekend and thanks to Darryl’s recommendation, I soon found myself inside of The Wine Source in Hambden.  In scanning the shelves I saw bottles of Californian wine from Arnot-Roberts, Calder, and several from Folk Machine.  I had never heard of Folk Machine but a quick search revealed many positive comments from Jon Bonné.  Folk Machine is a label under Kenny Likitprakong’s Hobo Wine Company.  In particular Jon Bonné wrote, “Folk Machine is his [Kenny Likitprakong’s] effort to provide value-priced wines from the state — ones that often contend dollar for dollar with their imported counterparts.”   In Christina Waters’ 2012 interview of Kenny Likitprakong, he described the Folk Machine label as “an outlet for more ‘experimental’ type of wines.”  As you know I drink mostly imported wine priced under $20 so I grabbed two bottles.

Downtown Baltimore from Hampden Hall.

Downtown Baltimore from Hampden Hall.

We tasted both wines over two nights.  My favorite of the pair was the 2013 Folk Machine, Parts & Labor.   It meets the descriptions of being “light on it’s feet” and “fun and easy to drink” but I found it offered plenty of depth.  Perhaps this is due to the fruit from the 100-year old Carignane vines.  I strongly recommend you try this wine.  At $15, this Californian “bistro wine” is an outright steal!   The 2011 Folk Machine, Three Ceremonies, Mendocino County comes across as structured for age.  Even after two days the dry flavors were locked down.  I recommend you stash a bottle or two away to see how the interesting components develop.  These wines were purchased at the Wine Source in Baltimore

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2013 Folk Machine, Parts & Labor – $15
This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Carignane, and 20% Grenache.  Alcohol 13.4%.  The nose was deep with aromas of fresh black berries and generally high quality fruit.  In the mouth were slightly racy and creamy flavors of dense black fruit and ripe, pink grapefruit.  There seemed to be a hint of wood or stems in the finish.  In the end this had good fruit and flavor making it a very satisfying drink!  *** Now-2015.

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2011  Folk Machine, Three Ceremonies, Mendocino County – $18
This wine is a blend of Carignane, Syrah, and Petit Sirah.  Alcohol 13.2%.  The aromas of cardamom made way to higher-toned fruit.  The dry flavors of red and black fruit leaned towards brighter black fruit in the finish.  The wine picked up notes of old polished wood and cardamom before leaving dry tannins on the gums and spicy flavors in the back of the throat.  **(*) 2015-2020.

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“our Vat was a Bark-Pail”: An Account of 17th Century Wine Making in Canada

July 16, 2014 2 comments

Descriptions of the history of Canadian wine typically mention the individual 17th century efforts of the Jesuits before settling in on the early 19th century commercial efforts of Johann Schiller.  I have found that the history prior to Johann Schiller is actually quite fascinating.  There are not many descriptions of 17th century winemaking in general but one particularly vivid account is found in Louis Hennepin’s A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America (1698).[1]  Father Louis Hennepin was a Recollect priest and missionary who arrived in Quebec City in 1675.  He was ordered to accompany Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle on a four year expedition through Canada, New France to discover the source of the Mississippi River.  In 1679 the expedition party set out on what would become a four year journey.  Louis Hennepin is famous for publishing the first written description of Niagara Falls but it is his accounts of vines and wine that I am interested in.

Image from “A New Discovery of a Large Country in AMERICA”. Hennepin, Louis. [1]

The expedition party brought Spanish wine for Mass and drank water on a daily basis.  When the stock of wine became exhausted there was a need to make more. They came across wild grapes with some frequency.  Louis Hennepin has several descriptions of these wild vines and grapes.  He noted the “wild Vines, which produce Grapes a Foot and a half long, which growing to a perfect maturity, may make very good Wine.”  In another passage he comments on the trees “cover’d with Vines, whose Grapes are very big and sweet.”

They made wine from these grapes several times.  In one case shortly after the party departed to explore the “Lake of the Illinois by Canoe”.  After four days of stormy weather, they were cold, sick, fatigued from rowing, and hungry for their “Provisions fail’d” again.  They eventually found ample game to eat but this alone was not satisfying.  The expedition party could not resist the wild grapes for they “fell’d several Trees to gather them” the grapes being as “big as Damask-Plums”.  From this “relishing” bounty they both ate the grapes and made “pretty good wine”.  They stored this wine in gourds which they buried in “Sand to prevent it growing sour.”

A Map of a Large Country Newly Discovered in the Northern America Situated between New Mexico and the Frozen Sea. Hennepin, Louis. 1699.  Research Laboratories of Archaeology. University of North Carolina.

A Map of a Large Country Newly Discovered in the Northern America Situated between New Mexico and the Frozen Sea. Hennepin, Louis. 1699. Research Laboratories of Archaeology. University of North Carolina.

Unfortunately, there were issues with both transportation and storage.    Their canoe could not bear much weight so they were unable to carry sizeable barrels for the wine.  As a result it appears they stored their wine in gourds.  This was not ideal for Louis Hennepin remarked that the wine they stored in gourds often failed.  As a result there were long stretches of time where they had no wine for Mass.  In once instance nine months elapsed.  It is perhaps the importance of Sacramental wine that caused Louis Hennepin to record how they made it.  I find the description fascinating.

 [W]e made another Sort with Wild-Grapes which prov’d very good; We put it into a little Barrel, that had before contain’d the Wine which we brought, and into some Bottes: A Wooden Mortar and one of our Altar-Cloaths serv’d instead of a Press, and our Vat was a Bark-Pail, which was not capable of holding all of our Wine.  Therefore that none might be lost, we made a Confection of Grapes, which was of no less value than that of Europe, and we made good cheer with it on Festival Days.


[1] Hennepin, Louis. A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America. 1698. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=F6ZJAAAAcAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Tannat from Bodega Bouza, Uruguay

I was surprised to find the last bottle of wine that I purchased from Bodega Bouza was from the 2008 vintage and detailed in my post Two Wines From South America. In looking through my notes I did taste the 2011 vintage at the Embassy of  Uruguay.  Unaware of this lapse I have simply glossed over the vintage on the labels at the store until the other week.  It turns out that the 2012 Bodega Bouza, Tannat Reserva, Montevideo is another solid effort that will appeal to many.  For my preferences the smoke and vanilla were too obvious but its possible they will integrate with time.  Regardless if you are new to the wines of Uruguay this wine will please you.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Bodega Bouza, Tannat Reserva, Montevideo – $19
Imported by SWF Imports.  This wine is 100% Tannat sources from Las Violets and Melilla.  The fruit was fermented in a combination of stainless steel, concrete, and oak foudres then aged for 14 months in American and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was slightly stinky before blowing off to reveal black fruit.  In the mouth were flavors of black fruit with a slightly smoky cover.  The modern flavors were clean, round, a little tart, and made interesting by graphite notes.  The barrel influences also came through as some vanilla.  ** Now-2018.

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Exciting Crozes-Hermitage and Moulin-a-Vent from 2011

It is fun to try new wines and even more fun to enjoy them.  As always, when I spied the unfamiliar bottles from Domaine Belle  I grabbed one to try.    Phil even asked later to make sure I had seen them.  The 2011 Domaine Belle, Les Pierrelles, Crozes-Hermitage opened up over two nights to reveal balanced, meaty black fruit that took on a racy quality.  This is a strong example of Crozes-Hermitage that you should not miss.   If you try a bottle be sure to give it a few hours in a decanter.   I cannot find much on the 2011 Roger Lassarat, Vieilles Vignes, Moulin-A-Vent.  The Roger Lassarat website appears to be a few years out of date for the vineyards are detailed as being 100% Chardonnay.  Regardless this is an amazing example of Gamay that will develop with age.  I tasted our bottle over three days and despite giving it plenty of air, the wine remained coiled tight even at the end.  That said, I really enjoyed the dark earthy overtones.  I highly recommend you try these two completely different wines.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Domaine Belle, Les Pierrelles, Crozes-Hermitage – $22
Imported by DS Trading Company.  This wine is 100% Syrah from sourced from vines planted in the early 1980s on soils of galets which was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 14 months in used oak barrels.  .Alcohol 13%.  The nose was of Northern Rhone black fruit.  In the mouth were meaty, black fruit flavors mixed with smoke notes.  The cool fruit was matched by graphite notes and some ripe and spicy tannins.  The wine maintained a good balance of youthful flavors of black fruit, acidity, and tannins.  *** Now-2022.

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2011 Domaine Roger Lassarat, Vieilles Vignes, Moulin-A-Vent – $22
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose bore fresh aromas of raspberry candy and black soil.  In the mouth were flavors of dark red fruit with even darker overtones.  The tart flavors were noticeable on the sides of the tongue before the citric hint at the end.  The aftertaste bore an attractive dark, slightly earthy flavor.  Needs age!  **(*) 2015-2024+.

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