Archive

Archive for January, 2015

Annual Bordeaux Dinner: Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron

January 23, 2015 2 comments

PichonBaron2

Earlier this week I had the privilege to attend the annual Bordeaux dinner hosted by Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles) at the restaurant Ripple.  For this year the focus was on the wines of Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron.  To complement the 13-vintage vertical of wines we were joined by Jean-Rene Matignon.  Jean-Rene Matignon has been technical director at the estate since it was purchased by AXA Insurance in 1987.  As the vintages reached back to 1989, he was able to share his comprehensive knowledge.  Jean-Rene Matignon provided a pamphlet on the history of the estate as well as a tasting booklet describing each of the wines served at our dinner.

PichonBaron5

We started the evening in the bar side of Ripple drinking glasses of 2000 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut.  With glass in hand of lovely full-bodied lemon flavors I chatted with many familiar wine lovers and met several others for the first time.  The wines were decanted that morning and Panos fortunately revealed there was only one corked bottle.  This meant there were ample pours of all wines included significant pours of the 1989 and 1990 vintages.  As a whole I thought the wines showed incredibly well with attractive and engaging vintage variation.  Of the younger wines the 2005, 2009, and 2010 showed significant potential for future the development.  Whereas the 2005 was quite strong the 2010 had more of everything, including an already significant amount of complexity.  These are wines for future decades.  Of the mature wines I preferred the pair of 1989 and 1990 over the 2000 which came across as more advanced.  The 1989 has entered its mature peak with the 1990 distinctly youthful with its pure fruit, good acidity, and integrated structure.  I suspect this wine will develop even further!

We tasted all of these wines in flights of two and three.  My notes are a bit short this year for, I will admit, for my table spent a good amount of time conversing.  It was a pleasure to not only enjoy the wine and food but Ben Giliberti’s knowledge about Bordeaux and Keith Levenberg’s shrewd observations.  Please find my notes below as well as Jean-Rene Matignon’s comments which I have paraphrased.

PichonBaron6

Jean-Rene Matignon: In the 2006 vintage, the Cabernet Sauvignon was very ripe and the wine shows a lot of minerality.  The 2007 vintage experienced a tropical summer with humidity and low ripeness.  The fruit was slowly picked.  The wine is for drinking now.  The 2008 vintage demonstrates a lot of potential.  With low yields and a strict selection the production level was low.  This wine was assembled in the new cellar, built in 2006, that has more space allowing the lots to be kept separate for a precise selection.

2006 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  The nose was dense and meaty with minerally aromas of dark blue and black fruit.  The density continued in the mouth with savory fruit, lifted minerality, and cedar hints in the finish.  The drying structure came out with air but everything was balanced by the lively acidity. ***(*).

2007 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  There was a meaty, bloody nose marked by greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth the tart red fruit had a greenhouse hint before a racy, line of flavor brought more greenhouse flavors. ***.

2008 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  Though tighter in the mouth this retained balance with minerals, blue-black fruit, and fine cola-like tannins.  The wine was fresh with plenty of focus.  Young with a good future ahead. ***(*).

PichonBaron3

Jean-Rene Matignon: The 2001 vintage saw a green harvest and produced a wine that is elegant and balanced with very good potential.  The 2002 vintage saw a very cold spring where they lost many berries.  Good weather in September pushed the ripeness into balance but still left a low-yield.  Some green berries made it into the wine.  The 2004 vintage experienced very good, regular weather that provided a big challenge to reduce quantity.  There was a green harvest and the largest quantity of generic wine made.

2001 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  This was an aromatic wine with tart red and black fruit, good bright and deep flavors, complex spices, and a long aftertaste. ****.

2002 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that was aged in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  There was textured fruit on the nose.  In the mouth there was concentrated red fruit, good wood flavors, and an almost glycerin mouthfeel.  This was easy to drink due to the ripe, young fruit and freshness but the good structure and acidity will allow this to develop further. ***(*).

2004 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  There was a nice expression of black fruit, watering acidity from the start, and a racy nature.  The ripe fruit was matched by ripe, citric tannins on the gums. ****.

Jean-Rene Matignon: The 2000 vintage saw a special blending of the wine with managing director Christian Seely.  This was a vintage for winemaking with the revelation coming after tasting through the tanks and vats.  It marks the beginning of the great vintages, classic for the Bordelais, and a taste for the world.  The 2003 vintage was famously hot and difficult to sort out the very ripe fruit.  For the second wine a second pick was employed.  The 2005 vintage was strict and austere being about terroir and one for our children.

2000 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc that was aged 15 months in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  The fruit showed gentle concentration with a hint of greenhouse, some luxurious fat, and a mineral finish.  One of the softer, more advanced showings of the evening that is drinking very well right now. ****.

2003 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that was aged in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  This had ample black fruit flavors, good structure, and a cinnamon spiced finish. ***(*).

2005 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  The precise nose offered blue and black fruit with an earthy hint.  In the mouth the black fruit enveloped the tongue taking on spices, some back-end heat, and drying tannins in the aftertaste of ethereal flavors.  Young with great potential. ****(*).

PichonBaron1

Jean-Rene Matignon: The 1989 and 1990 vintages produced from the historic, smaller vineyard on the estate.  The new winery was not built until 1991 so they reflect the raw quality of the fruit.  The 1989 vintage experienced such nice weather that the fruit was picked with students.  There were exceptional berries so it was not necessary to sort as it is recently common.  The 1990 vintage showed the potential of the Pichon Baron fruit producing a fresh wine that will last forever.

1989 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 15 months in 65% new oak barrels and 35% one-year old oak barrels.  There were minerals and blood on the nose followed by fresh fruit in the mouth.  The wine had a rounded edge with attractive incense and cedar notes that mixed with ripe, red fruit. ****(*).

1990 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot that was aged for 15 months in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  The nose was rather aromatic with mature notes.  In the mouth was an easy entry with tart, black fruit, lovely tannins, and good lively attitude.  A very long life ahead of continued development. ****(*).

The dinner wrapped up with a pair of the youngest wines.  Jean-Rene Matignon: This pair also marks the introduction of the optical sorter in 2009.

2009 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  There was an exotic nose of red fruit and Lebanese spices.  In the mouth were tart cherry and pomegranate flavors that show ripe, fuzziness in the finish. ****(*).

2010 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  This was an aromatic wine with complex aromas and leather.  The flavors had depth and concentration.  Showing strength in its youth there was plenty of power, ample structure, and clearly all of the components for a great future.  A stunning wine even at the end of a long evening. *****.

PichonBaron7

Map showing Chateau Longueville in 1886

January 22, 2015 Leave a comment

I am working on my post about the Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron tasting organized by Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles).  To stay on subject here is a 19th century map showing the location of the estate.  If you follow the route south from Pauillac you will encounter Chateau Latour followed by Chateau Longueville.  By this date both Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron and Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande were in existence.  It was most likely due to space that they were combined into a single entry on the map.   A classified list of the estates appears at the bottom of the sheet which contains this map.   Under the “2mes CRUS” list is Pichon-Longueville owned by Baron de Pichon and Pichon-Lalande owned by Comtesse de Lalande.

The location of Ch. Longueville from the Carte routière et vinicole de la Gironde. [1]

The location of Ch. Longueville from the Carte routière et vinicole de la Gironde. [1]


[1] Carte routière et vinicole de la Gironde. Lapierre, Alfred. 1886. Bibliothèque nationale de France, GED-491. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb407247271

“Thanks for the genteel present”: John Adam’s receipt of two cases of Constantia wine in 1788

January 21, 2015 1 comment

The rare Constantia wines of the Cape of Good Hope in what is now South Africa were historically held in such high regard that it seems incredible there is no record of Thomas Jefferson having purchased, let alone tasted these wines.  Apparently there have been enough claims to the contrary that the Constantia Wine entry at Monticello states the researchers are “unable to find any documentary evidence that Thomas Jefferson purchased or consumed Constantia wines or ‘vins du Constance.’”   Contemporary research into the history of Constantia wine is being passionately pursued by Joanne Gibson (Winewriter).  She noted in The World of Fine Wine Magazine that she searched “(in vain) for evidence that US founding father and noted wine connoisseur Thomas Jefferson ever drank Constantia”.[1]

Location of Constantia farms from the map City of Cape Town and environs. 1931. The William and Yvonne Jacobson Digital Africana Program at UCT.

Location of Constantia farms from the map City of Cape Town and environs. 1931. The William and Yvonne Jacobson Digital Africana Program at UCT.

I too have, admittedly, spent much time searching for this connection to no avail.  We do know through newspaper advertisements that Constantia wine was sold in America as early as 1750.[2]  The wine was periodically advertised for sale over the years even in such close locations to Washington, DC, as Baltimore, Maryland in 1805.[3]   While this suggests that there was some knowledge of the wine in America it does not reveal who drank the wine.  For that we must look beyond Thomas Jefferson.  Fortunately, there are other Founding Fathers who loved and drank amongst the best wines.  I first revealed on this blog how George Washington received a case of Constantia wine while encamped at Valley Forge in 1778.[4]  I also demonstrated that John Adams drank Constantia wine at a fabulous dinner in Spain during 1779.[5]

It turns out that John Adams received a shipment of Constantia wine upon his return to America in 1788.  His return marked the end of several years living in Europe as ambassador to the Dutch Republic and minister to the Court of St. James’s.    On August 21, 1788, Nicolaas and Jacob van Staphorst of Amsterdam sent a letter to John Adams informing him that they had shipped two cases to him, one case “containing Two Dozen Bottles Constantia Wine”.[6]  John Adams worked with the van Staphorst brothers, who were Dutch bankers, to arrange a series of loans to the United States.  The wine represented a token of their “Remembrance and Esteem.”  That the brothers were able to procure such a quantity of Constantia wine makes sense because at the time the Dutch East India Company had rights to purchase and bring up casks of Constantia from the farms of Hendrick Cloete and Johannes Colyn.

The van Staphorst letter states there was an “inclosed Bill of Lading” but this does not appear to have survived.[7]  This is unfortunate because these bills can hold important facts such as vintage and producer.  Despite the lack of any documentation tracking the shipment of this wine we do know that the bottles were received by John Adams.  On December 2, 1788, he wrote back from Boston with “my Thanks for the genteel present contained in two Cases”.[8]

I can find no further documentation about this case of wine during this period even in the handful of John Adams’ letters with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  It does appear that knowledge about Constantia wine is broader than generally held before.  There is no documentary evidence that James Madison drank Constantia wine but he is recorded as recounting in 1816 a witticism of Theodore A. Erskine.  In this case a “Cape wine” served in a small bottle, meaning Constantia, was promptly emptied and with no hope for more, it was stated “‘Well, sir, if we cannot double the cape, we must get into port.’”[9]

Extract of letter from Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, June 01, 1807. [10]

Extract of letter from Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, June 01, 1807. [10]

It seems odd then that if George Washington and John Adams had bottles of Constantia and James Madison was at least aware of it that Thomas Jefferson appears silent.  I do not think this is necessarily true.  It is frequently cited that Thomas Jefferson classified wines of the “Cape” as the most expensive alongside Tokay, Malmsey, and Hock in a letter regarding wine tariffs dated June 1, 1807.[10] The high cost per gallon implies he was describing the extraordinary Constantia wine.  Based on two letters we know that John Adams equated “Vin de Cap” with Constantia wine.  Thomas Jefferson used such a term in two letters dated May 26, 1819. In these letters he described the different qualities of wine placing “Vin du Cap” under the category “1. sweet wines”.[11]  Given that Constantia was a sweet wine, I believe this increases the possibility that this is the wine Thomas Jefferson was describing.

Extract of letter from Thomas Jefferson to Stephen Catalan Jr., May 26, 1819. [11]

Extract of letter from Thomas Jefferson to Stephen Catalan Jr., May 26, 1819. [11]

Regardless of which Cape wines Thomas Jefferson was referring to, it appears he did not succeed in adding these wines to the tariff list.  Neither appears next to Malmsey nor Tokay in an 1814 list of duties for “Wines in casks, bottles, or other vessels” imported into America.[12]  This perhaps speaks to the general rarity of these wines landing on American shores.  Though the mystery between Thomas Jefferson and Constantia wine still stands, I find it very exciting that John Adams received two cases of it.  It not only shows the high regard for the wine amongst the Founding Fathers, it also demonstrates how the history of wine may evolve due to the continued development of digital archives.


[1] Gibson, Joanne. “The Cape Grape and the Beginnings of American Viticulture”.  The World of Fine Wine. Issue 42, 2013.
[2] ““curious white Constantia Cape Wine”: The Advertisement of Constantia Wine Through 1795” URL: https://hogsheadwine.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/curious-white-constantia-cape-wine-the-advertisement-of-constantia-wine-through-1795/
[3] Date: Monday, December 16, 1805               Paper: American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, MD)   Volume: XI   Issue: 2067   Page: 3
[4] “General George Washington’s Curious Case of Constantia Wine”. URL: https://hogsheadwine.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/general-george-washingtons-curious-case-of-constantia-wine/
[5] “John Adams Drank Constantia Wine in Spain”. URL: https://hogsheadwine.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/john-adams-drank-constantia-wine-in-spain/
[6] “To John Adams from Nicolaas Van Staphorst, 21 August 1788,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-0413 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[7] Private correspondence with Andrea Cronin, Asst. Reference Librarian, Massachusetts Historical Society.
[8] “From John Adams to Nicolaas Van Staphorst, 2 December 1788,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-0440 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Adams Papers. It is not an authoritative final version.
[9] A Frenchman Visits Norfolk, Fredericksburg and Orange County, 1816 Author(s): L. G. Moffatt, J. M. Carrière and J. G. Moffatt Source: The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1945), pp. 197-214. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4245357 .
[10] “From Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1 June 1807,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/99-01-02-5674 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. It is not an authoritative final version.
[11] “From Thomas Jefferson to Stephen Cathalan, Jr., 26 May 1819,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0434 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. It is not an authoritative final version.  And “From Thomas Jefferson to Victor Adolphus Sasserno, 26 May 1819,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0437 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. It is not an authoritative final version.
[12] Brice, John. A selection of all the laws of the United States, now in force, relative to commercial subjects. 1814. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=WjNKAAAAMAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Drinking Burlotto and Redortier in Seattle

January 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Seattle0

My most recent trip to Seattle was very short.  This posed a problem as to which wines to buy while there.  As I was traveling light I did not intend to fly back with any wine.  The solution was to play into the love of Michael Teer, proprietor of Pike and Western Wine Shop, for an Italian recommendation and something else.  The Italian recommendation came in the form of the 2013 Comm. G. B. Burlotto, Verduno Pelaverga.  Pelaverga is an ancient variety that the family has cultivated since 1800.  The wine itself offered persistent flavors leaning towards the cranberry and strawberry spectrum.  It is a good way to start an evening.  There were several candidates for the something else selection but I had to pick the 2007 Chateau Redortier, Beaumes-de-Venise.  I do not come across many red wines from Beaumes-de-Venise, according to my notes just two wines in almost three years, let alone a bottle with age.  This bottle proved perfectly mature with earthy notes still balanced by fruit and structure that spoke of mid-age strength.  If you enjoy the comfort of traditional Rhone wines then buy this wine by the case.  These wines were purchased at Pikes and Western Wine Shop.

Seattle1

2013 Comm. G. B. Burlotto, Verduno Pelaverga – $19
This wine is 100% Pelaverga sourced from 4 to 20 year old vines located on soils of calcareous silt.  The fruit was fermented in French oak barrels followed by aging in both stainless steel and oak barrel.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a light cranberry red.  The wine offered gently ripe cranberry and strawberry flavors before some black fruit mixed in.  This mouthfilling wine had a slightly tart hint, juicy acidity, and moderate ripe tannins in the aftertaste.  The wine showed good persistence of flavor.  You could work out a grapey structure which suggested capability for short-term aging.  **(*) Now – 2018.

Seattle2

2007 Chateau Redortier, Beaumes-de-Venise – $25
Imported by APS Wines and Spirits.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 5% Counoise from 55 year old vines located around 1600 feet in elevation.  It was fermented in cement tanks using indigenous yeasts then aged in oak foudres.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose was mature with slightly earthy notes that poke through aromas of red fruit.  In the mouth was a core of cherry and red fruit surrounded by earth and mushroom flavors.  The wine turns juicy with good acidity and tannins that still coat the inside of the gums at the finish.  With just a brief period of air this wine reveals it is at perfect maturity.  A true pleasure to taste.  **** Now-2018.

Seattle3

Photograph of Chateau Pichon Longueville in 1867

January 19, 2015 Leave a comment
Photograph of Pichon-Longueville. 1867. [1]

Photograph of Pichon-Longueville. 1867. [1]


[1] Danflou, Alred. Les Grands Crus Bordelais. Premiere Part. 1867. Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique. URL: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b86256511

“send me…six dozen best Bourdeaux red wine”: When Pichon Longueville came to America

January 19, 2015 1 comment

This evening I will be attending a Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron tasting organized by Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles).   Panos describes the recent history of the estate as well as the impetus for this tasting in his post Château Pichon Longueville Baron: 1989-2010.  It was in 1850 that the estates of Pichon Longueville Baron and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande came into being.  Prior to that point they were a single estate known as Pichon Longueville.  It is under this name that the wines first reached the American shores in 1805.

James Madison was no stranger to the charms of fine Bordeaux.  While Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson, he often ordered these wines straight from William Lee, the American Commercial Agent in Bordeaux.  James Madison was very much pleased by a shipment of “Vin de Graves” in 1804.  He found that “taking the price & quality together were so satisfactory” he ordered additional wine from the same sources.[1]  William Lee took matters seriously shipping James Madison 72 bottles of 1798 Chateau Haut-Brion and 240 bottles of Haut Brion petit Sauterne.[2]  This order clearly whet James Madison’s palate for the following summer he placed another order this time for “six dozen best Bourdeaux red wine” amongst other wines and oils.[3]  Incredibly, what William Lee chose to send to James Madison has never been published before.  The invoice is neither cited nor abstracted on the Library of Congress’ Founders Online, rather it is found in the digitized archives of James Madison’s correspondence.

Invoice from William Lee to James Madison. 12 September, 1805. [10]

Invoice from William Lee to James Madison. 12 September, 1805. [10]

William Lee’s invoice from Bordeaux dated September 10, 1805, lists 72 bottles of 1798 Pichon Longueville at F 5 per bottle for a total of F 360.  For reference the 1798 Chateau Haut-Brion were similarly priced one year earlier at F 4.5 per bottle.  By early accounts the estates of Haut-Brion, Latour, Lafite, and Margaux were regarded as “Premiere Classe” by such authors as William Franck in 1824.[4] Pichon Longueville in Saint-Lambert was regarded in the “Deuxieme Classe” both by French and English writers at the time and for decades to come. [5] One writer did take notice that these wines were sold “seldom under their real names.  When once taken away from the estates, they usually are named as if one of the wines of the first class.”[6]

An early American advertisements for 1798 Chateau Pichon Longueville. [11]

An early American advertisements for 1798 Chateau Pichon Longueville. [11]

From James Madison’s inventory and early advertisements we do know that the wines of Pichon Longueville appear to first make it to the American shores in 1805. [7]  Unfortunately, James Madison did not leave any indication of what he thought of the wine.  In fact, I have yet to find a direct comment on these wines from this period.  We do know that the 1798 vintage was highly regarded in England and France. Listed in England as one of three “first-rate” vintages between 1775 and 1842[8]  it was ranked second only to 1795 by William Franck.  The closest description falls to Alexander Henderson who, in describing “Leoville, Larose, Bran-mouton, and Pichon-Longueville” wrote that they “afford light wines of good flavor, which, in favourable years, have much of the excellence of the finer growth.”[9]  It seems then that in choosing 1798 Chateau Pichon Longueville, William Lee did send the “best” to James Madison.


[1] “From James Madison to William Lee, 7 February 1804,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-06-02-0409 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 6, 1 November 1803 – 31 March 1804, ed. Mary A. Hackett, J. C. A. Stagg, Ellen J. Barber, Anne Mandeville Colony, and Angela Kreider. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002, p. 445.
[2] “To James Madison from William Lee, 20 June 1804 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-07-02-0356 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 7, 2 April–31 August 1804, ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Ellen J. Barber, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, and Jeanne Kerr Cross. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005, pp. 344–345.
[3] “From James Madison to William Lee, 14 June 1805,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-09-02-0526 [last update: 2014-12-01]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 9, 1 February 1805–30 June 1805, ed. Mary A. Hackett, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, and Katherine E. Harbury. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011, p. 469.
[4] Franck, William. Traité sur les vins du Médoc et les autres vins rouges du département de la Gironde. 1824. Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb30458723m
[5] Jullien, Andre.  Topographie de tous les vignobles connus … suivie d’une classification générale des vins. 1832. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=OMhMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[6] MacGregor, John. Commercial statistics, a digest of the productive resources [&c.] of all nations. 1844. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=MrgTAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false
[7] Advertisement. Date: Saturday, July 20, 1805             Paper: New-York Gazette (New York, NY)   Volume: XVIII   Issue: 6049   Page: 2
[8] The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful …, Volume 27. 1843. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=NeFPAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[9] Henderson, Alexander. The history of ancient and modern wines. 1824. UR: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/pst.000012700509
[10] The James Madison Papers. William Lee to James Madison, September 14, 1805. Includes bill of lading and invoice. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mjm&fileName=08/mjm08.db&recNum=966&itemLink=%2Fammem%2Fcollections%2Fmadison_papers%2Fmjmser1.html&linkText=6
[11] Advertisement. Date: Saturday, July 20, 1805 Paper: New-York Gazette (New York, NY) Volume: XVIII Issue: 6049 Page: 2

Tasting 2001-2011 vintages of Descendientes de J. Palacios in Bierzo

January 16, 2015 Leave a comment

It is easy to taste more wine and research more subjects than I can write about.  These notes from a fall tasting of wine from Descendientes de J. Palacios prove that point.  The Palacios wines all came from a single cellar purchased last year by MacArthur Beverages.  The owner bought them direct from the Rare Wine Co. and had cellared them properly since purchase.  Thus there was no more reason needed to purchase these wines other than curiosity.  As I have an incredibly tiny dining room Roland generously offered to host the tasting.

Introductory Wines

That a white wine from Bierzo could be purely Dona Blanca was revealing for most.  The nose of the 2011 La Vizcaina, La Del Vivo, Lomas de Valtuile, Bierzo  was quite engaging and I enjoyed the mouthfeel.  It’s a shame it was so pricey. The 2011 Adega Algueira, Ribera Sacra  acted as a transition wine being made from Mencia in Ribera Sacra.  This young, grapey wine left me wanting to jump into the Palacios wines.  This pair of wines were purchased at Despaña Vinos y Mas.

Bierzo1

2011 La Vizcaina, La Del Vivo, Lomas de Valtuile, Bierzo –
Imported by Peninsula Wines.  This wine is 100% Dona Blanca.    Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was aromatic with forest and fresh pine notes.  In the mouth fresh fruit flavors eventually developed and were kept lively by balanced acidity.  The wine was rounded with glycerin becoming softer towards the finish.

Bierzo2

2011 Adega Algueira, Ribeira Sacra –
Imported by Polaner Selections.   This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 13%.  This wine seemed reduced at first eventually showing a grapey, black fruited style of Mencia.  The wine was young with a citrus hint and grapey tannins.

The Descendientes de J. Palacios Tasting

The wines of Descendientes de J. Palacios are the result of the collaboration between Ricardo Perez and Alvaro Palacios that began in 1999.  They put together some 30 hectares of vines located in the hills near Corullón in the region of Bierzo in the northwest of Spain.  For our tasting we spanned much of the estate’s history with vintages that went from 2011 back to 2001.  The wines themselves encompassed four different bottlings.  Petalos marks the entry level and is made from old-vine Mencia sourced from many sites.  The Villa de Corullón uses fruit from vines up to 90 years of age located in vineyards that flank Corullón.  The Moncerbal and Las Lamas wines are made from vineyards located in the same valley south of Corullón .  The Moncerbal vineyards are located on a steep hillside between 650 – 740 meters in elevation.  The vineyards generally face south-west.  The soils here are a mixture of slates, quartzes, and marbles.  Las Lamas represents the fourth wine we would taste.  The fruit for these wines are sourced from small vineyards located just west of Moncerbal at similar altitude.  Here the vineyards face south with soils of broken slate.

The wines of Descendientes de J. Palacios quickly escalate both in price and scores.  With this in mind it might be surprising that the pair of vintages from the entry-level Petalos caught everyone off guard.  The 2011 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo  is a strapping, young wine that I strongly recommend you find some for your cellar.  I write this because the 2006 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo  has entered that second stage of life showing both fruit and bottle aged flavors.  It has developed incredibly well.  I will admit that, for no particular reason other than a lack of information, I half expected it to be past its peak.

Of the other selections my favorites included the 2007 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Moncerbal, Bierzo and the 2005 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Las Lamas, Bierzo.  This pair showed good balance of fruit, acidity, and strong structure that should reward after a few more years in the cellar.  Sadly, the trio of wines from the 2001 vintages showed as a whole that they were past their prime drinking.

Bierzo3

2011 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This showed round, grippy young fruit, some smoothness before savory, black minerals, and a slightly warm finish.  With air this robust wine became salty with drying, fine tannins.  A strapping wine.

Bierzo4

2006 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14%.  The attractive nose immediately showed more maturity.  The low-lying flavors were almost meaty with fine to medium textured tannins.  There was significant life in this wine which was still fruity showing red cherry, tart cranberry, and strawberry flavors.  With air the wine became more fragrant with floral aromas that made way to old wood and tart red fruit in the mouth.  Lovely.

Bierzo5

2011 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Villa de Corullón, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 15%.  This wine was young and robust with a tight core of deep, sexy, racy fruit.  The fruit was sweet (alcohol?) but not from residual sugar.  This wine definitely stepped things up with not quite brawny floral flavors that retained lots of focus.

Bierzo6

2007 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Moncerbal, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was an attractive, dark nose that was not quite stinky.  The flavors had a cool start followed by very fine blue fruit, a cinnamon finish, and dense, expansive aftertaste.  There was a robust, powerful structure that left drying tannins on the gums.   With air this wine showed good balance with dense, sweet blue fruit, lovely acidity, and a black minerally finish.

Bierzo7

2007 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Las Lamas, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was a hint of butter on the nose.  In the mouth were lighter red fruit flavors that were gently dense and stylistically different.  There were very fine, smooth tannins that were more obviously from wood.  It had some texture.

Bierzo8

2005 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Las Lamas, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The subtle berry nose opened up to step out of the glass.  There were exotic flavors in the mouth that were savory with strawberry notes and spicy tannins in the structure.  There was concentrated fruit, lovely acidity that was more abundant than the 2007, and a really good finish.  Nice wine.

Bierzo9

2001 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Las Lamas, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a nose of tobacco followed by firm fruit in the mouth.  There was acidity and vintage perfume notes but the soft focus and hollow middle were detracting.

Bierzo10

2001 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Villa de Corullón, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 13%.  The vintage perfume aromas were delicate.  The wine was very easy to drink with a personality of lighter fruit, strawberry flavors, and acidity.  It remained very approachable.

Bierzo11

2001 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Moncerbal, Bierzo
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Mencia.  Alcohol 14%.  Though this was fruity the flavors dropped off by the finish.

Interlude

With the last three wines from the 2001 vintage leaving us wanting, Roland returned from his basement with a bottle of 2005 Granja Remelluri, Rioja Gran Reserva.  Into the big decanter/glass it went.  Roland worked the decanter, coaxing the wine to open up before pouring it out.  It was gorgeous!

Bierzo12

2005 Granja Remelluri, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by De Maison Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A harmonious wine with sweet fruit complemented by wood box.  The wine tasted younger as it breathed.  There is clearly strong potential with this wine.

1988 Sauternes

Our Sauternes flight proved we were doomed by vintages served in threes.  You know you are in bad luck when Panos Kakaviatos remotely diagnosed a problem with the 1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes  based on a Facebook picture.  These wines came from two different cellars.

Bierzo13

1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  With flavors of apple orchard fruit this was more advanced than it should have been as also evidenced by the color.  The fruit, glycerin, and acidity was all up front.

Bierzo15

1988 Chateau Guiraud, 1er Cru Sauternes
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This managed to remain floral.

Bierzo14

1988 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Sauternes
Imported by Calvert Woodley. Alcohol 14%. This had grapier fruit and while the acidity was present, the flavors were very short leading to a textured, residual sugar infused finish.