Archive for June, 2015

A surprising 1980 Burgundy from Domaine Robert Chevillon

June 30, 2015 2 comments

Yesterday I found myself at MacArthur Beverages going through the latest tranche of old wines.  Lyle Railsback, who works sales for Kermit Lynch, was in town showing the wines of Domaine de Chérisey.  He became excited when he spotted the bottle of 1980 Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Perrières in my cart.  Unfortunately, it was the only bottle at the store.  Given that Domaine Robert Chevillon is imported by Kermit Lynch and the bottle was from his birth year, the only reasonable course was to open it up.  Phil was able to extract the cork using the worm from a Screwpull and an Ah-So.  The cork smelled good and the bottle fine so into our glasses it went.  The wine still had fruit and grip in the finish.  True it was warm but it was in fine shape, elucidating comments of “Pas mal.”

The Kermit Lynch website states that the “track record of the Chevillon wines in the cellar is one of the most remarkable aspects of this storied domaine.”   Les Perrières is a small 0.6 hectare Premier Cru vineyard that contained vines less than 20 years of age at the 1980 vintage.   This vintages was described by Michael Broadbent as of “[u]neven quality…Late pickers fared best.”  He rated the vintage two to three stars out of five.  Three stars it is for this wine!  I brought the remaining half full bottle home, gassed it, then chilled it to cellar temp.  That evening the wine oscillated a bit, I was afraid it was cracking up, but then all was right.  The nose was full of sweet aromas, the fruit had put on weight, and it finished with minerals.  What a treat for a Tuesday night! Purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1980 Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Perrières – $10
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol.  The nose bore sweet aromas of complex, mature fruit and eventually took on sweet, spices.  In the mouth the initial flavors were of tart red flavors before a core of fruit made way to a black, mineral finish. The wine developed weight and a good tang.  There were attractive tannins in the structure that coated the mouth with pleasing, fresh tannins.  The watering acidity was fully integrated.  It eventually showed orange citrus notes in the aftertaste.  Though helped by a cooler temperature, there was still some heat in the end.  *** Now.


The Majesty of Malvasia Dinner: Tasting vintages from 1926 through 2002

June 29, 2015 1 comment

It took quite some time for the 20 bottles of Madeira to be equally poured into some 400 wine glasses.  With each pour the room became incrementally more aromatic until everyone was collectively talking about the beautiful aromas.  The doors to our private room were even shut at one point so as to infuse all of us.  During this waiting period I was able to meet the other attendees.  While there were mostly new introductions, there were a few people I had read about passionate Madeira lovers whose names are synonymous with old Madeira.


The day’s festivities did not end with the Malvasia tasting.  Dinner was to be held after the tasting in the private room next to ours.  We were all asked to bring a bottle or two.  What had not already been shipped was being collected then staged in the dining room.  Several others took a peek at the other wines and returned excited.  Curious as to what could be exciting compared to 20 bottles of very old Madeira, I entered the dining room.  There on two spot lit tables stood bottles and magnums encompassing old vintages of European wine.


It was a cache of vinous treasure.  I was rather stunned to see magnums of Burgundy such as 1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes.  The brace of 1950s Staatsweingut bottles brought pleasure but the bottles of 1929 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, 1928 Frederico Paternina, Gran Reserva Rioja, and 1926 Chateau Latour Haut Brion stopped me cold.  How incredible that there was a trio of red wine from the 1920s!  And I should also mention a 1933 Moulin Touchais Anjou Blanc.


After spending approximately six hours tasting and discussing Madeira, I was both tired and hungry.  As we all moved to the dining room the mostly magnums of Champagne were broached to be accompanied by platter after platter of appetizers. There were such bottles as 1985 Lanson Brut, 1990 Pol Roger Brut, 1996 Philipponnat “Clos des Goisses” Brut, 1999 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blancs de Blanc, 2002 Les Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, and a vintage of Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs that escaped me.  It was not a time to take notes but rather to recharge, fortify, and chat with others that I did not sit next to during the tasting.


Suitably recovered I sat down to dinner between Ricardo Freitas of Barbeito Madeira and Mannie Berk.  We were at one gigantic table which fortunately still allowed us to speak with those across the table.  After the sommeliers had performed any requested service, each bottle they were placed on the table in front of each owner for the first taste.  This was handled in the order of Champagne, white wine, red wine, and dessert wine.  The number of bottles opened must have been staggering for the next several hours a new wine came by every three to five minutes.  Indeed, at the end of the dinner there were nearly four dozen bottles and magnums arrayed out for the staff to finish.


This quantity of top-notch wine might seem obscene but it worked for me.  Through everyone’s generosity I knew this would be another unique tasting so I did my best to capture it.  True, I had trouble keeping up with all of the wine, even with just writing the coarsest of notes, while eating dinner and talking away.  I managed to accumulate some five wine glasses which I used to triage what I was going to concentrate on.  For example, I tasted but did not note 1996 Louis Jadot Griots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1990 Domaine Paul Pernot Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1989 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles, 1973 Berberana Rioja Reserva, and 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  No doubt there were other wines I could not even get to.

I must first state that the most revelatory bottle, though not the “best” per se, was the 1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau.  It never even occurred to me that old German Spatburgunder or Pinot Noir could drink so well.  This bottle was still perfumed on the nose and though the residual sugar and short finish were indicating age, it was a pure pleasure to drink.  There must be a few others onto this wine for the 1935 vintage fetched over $2500 at the spring auction held at Kloster Eberbach.  As for young wines, the 1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru was stunningly complex with a killer nose and all the components for long aging.  I can see what all the fuss is about.  At the more mature side of Burgundy, the 1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche showed great from magnum.  Even Berry Bros & Rudd notes on their website that this wine “was superb, still remarkably youthful” when drunk in 2009.  If I had to pick one Italian wine it was, again in magnum, the 1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà.  The nose alone left one satisfied!  There were many other lovely bottles of wine so I encourage you to step through my brief notes.  Thanks again to Mannie and Roy for organizing the dinner as well as to everyone else who pulled from their cellars and excitedly shared their precious bottles.


1953 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Rauenthaler Wulfen Riesling Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
There was a great nose followed by flavors that were not too sweet but of ripe fruit.  The wine still had some richness with a spicy, soft finish.  In great shape.


2002 Domaine Patrick Javillier, Meursault Les Tillets Cuvée Spéciale
This had apple-like flavors with a more austere finish.


1996 Domaine Roulot, Meursault Les Luchets
This tasted young with great acidity that was lively on the tongue.  The flavors had controlled ripeness with both chalk and smoke notes and a citrus pithe finish.  Nice.


1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
The nose was very aromatic with red fruit.  In the mouth were racy, black fruit flavors, the whole wine was à point.


1982 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo Bussia Soprana
This was young with dry, firm and linear flavors.  I noted it needs a few more decades of age.


1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà
There was a beautiful nose followed by lovely, dry fruit, and a tart, linear finish.  With air the fruit became more prominent and the nose, stunning.


1995 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco
There was a rather perfumed nose followed by concentrated flavors of bramble and dry, young fruit.  The wine turned black with drying, grippy tannins that left a very youthful impression.


1958 Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva
After decanting this revealed a good Riscal nose.  There were mushroom flavors in this wine that was still very much alive.  It had dusty, black fruit, dry flavors, and still had structures.  If faulted it was a touch hollow.


1964 Bodegas Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Reserva
The nose was slightly medicinal but seemed to clean up.  Compared to the Riscal this bottle had riper, polished fruit that was still supported by structure.  There was more power in the finish with a better sense of completeness.


1928 Frederico Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
There was tart, red structured fruit that was brighter and youthful in a sense.  But with air it started to fade.


1979 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
This was classic with bell pepper notes, black fruit, grippy tannins, and a fresh personality.


1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche
The nose bore mature aromas that mixed with campfire notes.  In the mouth the wine was straight up beautiful with youthful grip to the fruit and noticeable structure.


1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes
The beautiful nose set up the wine with its structure that supported ethereal flavors, turkey stuffing notes…simply put, a lovely wine to drink.


1979 Dupont-Tisserandot, Charmes-Chambertin
The nose was of roast earth and mushroom.  In the mouth earthy red fruit, acidity, grip, structure, that made for a lovely, overall experience.


1995 Joseph Roty, Cuvee de “tres vieilles vignes”, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
There were beautiful flavors of deep orange and red fruit that was clearly the youngest tasted thus far.  It took on some lovely cranberry red fruit and showed a lot of potential.


1979 Mugneret-Gouachon, Echezaux
The nose was stink with tart fruit and eventually cleaned up a bit.  The flavors followed in the mouth but not so much.  Still had some body.


1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
This wine was surprisingly lively with old perfume, some sweetness, and fruit.  The finish was a bit sharp and short with noticeable residual sugar.  Still, an old wine that was a treat to drink.


1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru
Wow, there was a killer, young nose of lipstick and perfume.  In the mouth there was incredible complexity despite this young wine having tart, cranberry, red, and black fruit that was structured.  This left an impression.


1966 Graham, Vintage Port (bottled by Justerini & Brooks)
Beautiful.  This bottle left me wanting for more.

“[W]hen of the best kind, a most delicious wine.” An historic 19th century Malvasia Madeira tasting

June 26, 2015 5 comments

On April 11, 2015, I attended The Majesty of Malvasia Tasting in New York City.  This was the fourth in a series of definitive annual Madeira tastings organized by Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.) and Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port).  In the post “Very rich and old”: Malmsey in America at the turn of the 19th century I published the article I wrote for the tasting booklet.  This post features my tasting notes.

“…where the Americans beat us out of the field is their Madeira, which certainly is of a quality which we cannot procure in England.  This is owing to the extreme heat and cold of the climate, which ripens this wine; indeed, I may almost say, that I never tasted good Madeira, until I arrived in the United States.” Marryat, Frederick.  A Diary in America. (1839).

This spring I attended the fourth in a series of incredible Madeira tastings organized by Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.) and Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port).  The previous tastings focused on the varietals Terrantez, Verdelho, and Bual so it was natural that Malvasia would be the most recent subject.  The tastings have always been held in New York City, which while convenient for travel by plane and rail, is historically home to some of the best Madeira cellars.  Thus on April 11, 2015, I walked into the basement of Del Posto restaurant to taste 20 wines.  The youngest of the wines was only bottled less than two months prior.  Incredibly, it was from the vintage of 1882.


Readers of this blog will know that I frequently write about the history of Madeira during the 19th and 18th centuries.  Despite my historic knowledge, my previous experience drinking old Madeira was limited to just two wines shared by Mannie Berk, one being the stunningly aromatic 1846 Leacock Terrantez and the other a youngster from the 1897 vintage.  You can imagine that there was no choice to be made upon receiving an invitation to the tasting.

These Madeira tastings encompass around 20 different wines organized into flights.  Legendary bottles mixed with unknown bottles, playing off of vintage similarities as well as by firm.  Thus it takes considerable effort each year for Mannie and Roy to organize these tastings.  They consider the best bottles from the best cellars which means the wines and the attendees come from all over the world.  For our tasting, some wines were known to exist in quantities of up to 1,000 bottles but most have only been cataloged from a few hundred down to just two dozen bottles throughout the last 40 or 50 years.  For a few selections, only a handful are known to have existed through contemporary times. These are seminal tastings never to be repeated in such depth.

As a wine historian my attention was caught by vintages we were to taste.  The very oldest year 1808, appears in the correspondence of our fourth President James Madison.  The later years fall into a period written about nearly a century later by the Madeira expert Charles Bellows and consumed by the Baltimore Madeira connoisseur Douglas H. Thomas.  For most of the 18th century and much of the 19th century Madeira was the one wine obsessed about by affluent Americans.  As a result, there is a rich history detailing Madeira orders with various vintages and names appearing in invoices, menus, and advertisements.  In a unique fashion many bottles even bore tags or labels detailing their own history.


Despite all of this documentation inventorying these treasured wines and how to take care of them, there is maddeningly very little about how these wines actually smelled and tasted.  Most descriptions are limited to pungent aromas and whether the wine was bruised or pricked.  It was, however, the color of the Madeira that was captured in description.

Color was of such importance to the Founding Fathers that their Madeira wines were often colored with James Madison preferring those of “deep colour”.  Deep color appears to remain in favor as we move forward in time.  Henry Vizetelly published a great range of descriptions in Facts About Port and Madeira (1880).  He wrote of tasting a circa 1820 Henry Dru Drury Malmsey as “deep-tinted” and a circa 1835 Henriques & Lawtons Malmsey as “of ruby brightness”.  At the close of the 19th century, Charles Bellows introduced the styles of Madeira with “deep colored old Malmsey” in Bonfort’s Circular.  Ward McAllister writing in Society As I Have Found It (1890) took a different tact, characterizing the range of Madeira styles to color, “As in painting there are the Murillo and Correggio schools, the light ethereal conceptions of womanhood, as against the rich Titian coloring”.  For the wines we drank I found the colors to be variations of amber with some leaning towards walnut and others cola.  Given that our youngest wine was over 130 years old a shift in color is to be expected.


I should clarify that despite drinking vintages written about in the 19th century, we did not taste the same wines.  Our bottles crossed the Atlantic Ocean within the last several decades if not months, instead of in the warm hold of a 19th century sailing ship.  Beyond the increased age of the Madeira at the tasting, there is another notable difference between what we drank and that of the Founding Fathers.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson typically bottled their Madeira from cask for immediate consumption.  James Madison aged his casks of Madeira for six or seven years before bottling them after which he aged them further.  Much of what we drank was aged in cask for decades and even over a century before additional aging in demijohns.  From demijohn the wines were then bottled.

Richard Mayson has already published background information on Malvasia and his tasting notes in his post The Majesty of Malvasia.  You will find the history of each bottle as described by Mannie Berk preceding each of Richard’s tasting notes.  I strongly encourage you to read these descriptions.  Roy Hersh has published his tasting notes from the previous events in The World of Fine Wine Magazine.  I will update this post once he has done so for this tasting.

I must admit it was hard not to get excited by sitting in a room filled with the aroma of old Madeira but at the same time I knew I was up for a challenge in describing a range of wines new to me.  By the end of the tasting I felt on better footing.  Unfortunately, I went through a fair amount of my pours to get there.  This did not matter to me for incredibly, only a couple of wines were distinctly less interesting which left many in the captivating and mind-blowing category.  Where else but Madeira can a wine from the 1880 vintage taste young and a series from the 1830s taste incredible, each with their own personality?  Likewise, some of the most drinkable wines were a blend of vintages.

As for my tasting notes you will find them below in the order tasted.  For each flight I have reproduced the vintage comments from Noel Cossart’s Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) that was lovingly revised by Mannie Berk.  In a future post I will take a historic look at some of the vintages and wines that I tasted.  Many thanks to Mannie, Roy, and everyone else who attended in making this the tasting of my lifetime.

Flight #1

1882 Very small, some fine Bual
1880 Malmsey of this year was extremely fine


1882 Barbeito Malvasia “RR”
There was a vibrant, medium amber color.  The nose revealed tobacco and pungent citrus aromas.  In the mouth there was a tart, tobacco infused start with pungent acidity, and racy flavors delivered in a clean and lighter manner.  The wet tobacco flavors added good complexity before the earthy aftertaste.  ***(*)


1880 FC Malvasia
Not as vibrant as the previous wine with a medium amber color that had more brown in it.  The nose was a little meatier then funky, rusty, and dusty.  The heavier aromas were more akin to a very old wine.  There was a softer entry with clearly more mature flavors, old wood, and a short finish of high-toned flavors.  ***


1880 Blandy’s Malvasia
This was the darkest of the first five wines being a medium amber-brown. There were heavier aromas on the nose with underlying fruit, more funk, and an almost lactic note.  In the mouth were round, weighty flavors with a rather tart start, a pineapple-citrus finish, and acidity coming out in the end at the back of the throat.  The acidity was more assertive but the interesting, floral middle caught my attention. ****


1880 Barbeito Malvasia “MMV”
There was a similar color to the 1882 wine but was a touch richer and more vibrant.  The nose was fresh, aromatic, and complex with very fine textured musk.  It offers more than the 1882.  In the mouth were tart, round citrus and tobacco infused flavors.  There was a lot of immediate presence on the tongue.  This fresh wine had prominent, sharper, citrus flavors, salivating acidity, and some heat in the aftertaste. Tastes young!  ****

Flight #2


1879 Herdeiros Dr. Castro Jorge Malvasia
This was a medium brown amber with a cloudy hint.  The nose offered hints of tobacco, old wood, horse…it was like walking around historic Mount Vernon.  There was a soft, weighty start with old wood flavors, underlying acidity, and a tart, citric finish.  This was not the most complex wine with a simpler aftertaste.  There was a bit too much tart acidity in the finish.  ***


1875 Henriques & Henriques Special Reserve
This was almost opaque with a medium-dark brown color and very fine sediment.  The nose was of pure butterscotch that picked up some fine wood aromas.  In the mouth were sweeter fruit, ripe citrus, and a ripe texture.  It appeared to have the most residual sugar yet encountered.  There was a fair amount of youthful components and structure but with a soft edge.  It was a dark, cola-like finish and simpler end.  ***


1875 D’Oliveira Malvasia
This was a vibrant, medium plus rich walnut and amber color.  The nose was slightly higher-toned yet had rich fruit, butterscotch and some articulate aromas like the 1875 Barbeito.  In the mouth was seamless integration of ripe and tart fruit, acidity, and weight.  There was a lot of presence in the mouth with burnt sugar and tang in the finish followed by a long aftertaste.  This powerful wine left racy flavor on the lips.  ****(*)


1875 Barbeito Malvasia
There was a dark, vibrant cola color.  The nose was deep, slowly building, finely articulate, and sported “Barbeito style” darker fruit.  In the mouth the wine was weightier with savory flavors, tobacco, a software expansion, clean finish, and a cinnamon note in the aftertaste.  ****

Flight #3

1870 Small, generally good, especially Sercial
1864 Small, generally good, especially Bual and Malmsey
1862 Small, Terrantez of this year is considered very fine, also Malmsey


1870 Blandy’s Malmsey Reserve
The color was a medium amber with walnut.  The nose was low-lying yet fresh.  There was a powerful, mouth filling start with tang, power, and concentration.  This was matched by plenty of acidity and creamy flavored finish where the fruit returns.  ****(*)


1864 Barros e Sousa Malvasia Faja
This was a medium, slightly lighter amber.  The nose was almost sweaty with finely, articulate aromas, musk and a medicinal bit.  There was immediately presence in the mouth with acidity, old school perfume, some grip, and a never-ending finish.  ****


1862 Blandy’s Malvasia Velha
This was a light to medium walnut.  There were fresh, yet subtle aromas of mature fruit and butterscotch.  This was a dense, racy wine with tobacco, old wood and a spicy, cinnamon finish.  This was a whopper of a wine with a chewy finish and some heat in the end.  ****

Flight #4

1839 Generally very good, especially Malmsey
1836 Generally very god, especially Sercial


1839 Blandy’s Malvasia Faja dos Padres
This was a slight less vibrant, medium amber color.  The nose was fresh with musk and wood notes.  In the mouth was slowly building ripeness, density, and a sweeter middle.  The acidity was integrated.  This improved well in the glass become a lovely wine with a vintage perfume note, sweet density, and a long aftertaste.  ****(*)/*****


1836 Acciaioly Malmsey Special Reserve
There was a lighter edge around a cola-walnut center that was generally redder than the other wines in this flight.  The nose was subtle with butterscotch and apple aromas.  In the mouth were darker flavors that were less sweet.  This wine had vigor with a salty middle, some baking spices and bitter notes, and a bit of heat in the end.  ****(*)


1830 H.M. Borges Malvasia
This was a medium walnut color.  The nose was evocative of apple pie spices with wood and overall complexity.  Tang on the nose.  In the mouth were old wood flavors and sweeter, wine fruit.  There was a fair amount of flavor, tea notes, glycerin, and citrus notes.  The wine was both solid and soft.  ***


1830 Quinta do Serrado Malvasia
This was a medium plus walnut color.  The nose smelled of butterscotch and burnt caramel.  In the mouth was almost searing acidity with some heat and a lot of power.  The wine was very tart and took over the mouth so much that it was too much for me.  But with air it developed lovely flavors, citrus, and saline qualities.  ****/****(*)

Flight #5

1808 Generally very good, Malmsey best ever known. Sercial fine.


1811 Malvasia Candida
This was the lightest of the flight being light amber.  There was a subtle nose of musk and cookies.  In the mouth were lighter, simpler flavors, a short finish, and notes of dried nuts in the aftertaste.  This became sour with air.  A curiosity.  **


1808 Leacock Solera
This was a light to medium walnut color.  The light nose was minty then developed a honied aroma.  In the mouth were forward, ripe and sweet flavors that came in a dense start.  This wine had power and a dry finish.  With air it showed burnt caramel and black tea flavors.  ***(*)


1808 Blandy’s Malvasia Solera
This was a medium walnut color.  The nose was subtle with old wood aromas.  In the mouth were power, very round and dense, tart fruit flavors.  The wine had a good tang with a powdery, honey note.  I particularly liked the savory and saline aspect.  ****

Flight #6


Henriques & Henriques Malvasia Candida
This was a medium, vibrant amber color.  The nose was fruity with floral highlights and pretty aromas of Mandarin oranges.  In the mouth the fruit took on roundness with a lighter body and less noticeable acidity.  There was a sweet tea note, tangy acidity, and tannins that were left on the back of the gums.  After the softer finish the orange flavors persisted.  ****(*)


Henriques & Henriques Malvasia Reserva
This was medium to dark with very fine sediment.  The nose was very subtle with stinky mulch aromas.  IN the mouth were darker flavors and slowly building power.  The wine was a little chewy with more tart flavors, more acidity, and a simpler finish followed by some heat in the aftertaste. ****(*)

A Grand Vin from Mas de Daumas Gassac

Mas de Daumas Gassac is an important estate for it demonstrated back in the 1970s that serious wine could be made in the Languedoc.  It was purchased in 1970 by Aime Guibert as a family home but when his friend Professor Henri Enjalbert visited, he suggested they make wine. The estate is located in the Gassac Valley where there is a cool microclimate that delays ripening and unique, red glacial soils.  The vineyards were immediately planted mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon, many vines of which were sourced from a nursery that purportedly obtained them from Chateau Haut-Brion in the 1930s and 1940s.  The ties to Bordeaux ran deeper for not only did the famous oenologist Emile Peynaud advise on the first Medoc-based vinification of the 1978 vintage but a portion of it was aged in used barrels from Chateau Margaux and Chateau Palmer.

Nearly forty years later this Languedoc Grand Vin is true to its origins and still primarily made from Cabernet Sauvignon. What I remember from my reintroduction to this wine some ten years ago is that it also includes a portion of Pinot Noir.  Having drunk only three vintages in recent memory I was pleased to find rounder fruit.  This is, though, a generally understated wine with seamless mouthfeel, freshness, and a long aftertaste. It has those attractive greenhouse flavors from the Cabernet Sauvignon. You may enjoy this wine now but given the price and ability to age, I strongly recommend you lay the wine down for many years.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Mas de Daumas Gassac, Rouge, VdP de l’Herault – $50
Imported by Roanoke Valley Wine Company.  This wine is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Tannat, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Nebiolo, 2% Dolcetto, 2% Pinot Noir, and 2% Malbec sourced from 25-30 year old vine that was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for 13-16 months in mostly used oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The flavors were rounder than I expected with delicate complexity and a  modest amount of fresh and drying structure.  There are flavors of dried green herbs, some greenhouse, and black tea that are seamlessly integrated with the acidity.  With air the wine shows good expansion of flavors followed by an appealingly flavorful, long, and mineral finish with just a touch of heat.  ***(*) Now-2030.


Rhone wines for all occasions

Just when I felt settled in our new house we moved over the remainder of our storage unit.  This final lot of our stuff included significant number of boxes of books…heavy boxes of books.  After a day of heavy lifting I am more inclined to drink an inexpensive wine.  Both the 2013 Domaine Saint Gayan, Trescartes, Cotes du Rhone and the 2013 Domaine Ogier, Le Temps Est Venu, Cotes du Rhone fit this criteria.  The Saint Gayan is a softer wine for immediate consumption whereas the Ogier might have a soft presence but it sports meaty complexity.  The 2012 Jean-Michel Gerin, La Champine, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes is ideal for the day after hauling boxes.  This northern-Rhone Syrah offers ethereal bloody and earthy flavors that will remain attractive for many years.  While drinking these three forward wines you could let the 2012 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres, Les Mourres, Gigondas age.  This is a bright, clean Gigondas with an attractive racy core of flavor.  The southern warmth has made the 2012 Domaine Bois De Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape a wine to enjoy now.  At first, I even wondered about the need to cellar this wine but with air additional complexity comes out including the sense of structure.  This then, might be a wine for all ages. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Domaine Saint Gayan, Trescartes, Cotes du Rhone – $12
Imported by Europvin.  This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre sourced from 50 year old vines that was aged in cement vats.  Alcohol 14%.  The flavors quickly become soft with the faintest hint of structure and dry, cola-like flavors in the middle that were moved along by watering acidity.  There were cinnamon notes in the finish and some tannins left on the gums.  ** Now-2017.


2013 Domaine Ogier, Le Temps Est Venu, Cotes du Rhone – $16
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is a blend of 90% old vine Grenache and 10% Syrah and Mourvedre that was fermented and aged in concrete vats.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose bore red fruit and berries.  In the mouth were meaty hints of flavor in a soft structure that came out with air.  There were orange-cream flavors mixed with minerals, and a drying black structure by the finish.  **(*) Now-2018.


2012 Jean-Michel Gerin, La Champine, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes – $19
Imported by Esprit du Vin.  This wine is 100% Syrah that was aged for 12 months in old oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The subtle nose bore some pepper.  In the mouth were some bloody, ethereal and earthy flavors that mixed with more substantive fruity and tart black notes.  Already showing good, complex flavors, this wine will develop over the short-term.    The flavors showed mid palate bloom with ethereal structure and watering acidity.  *** Now-2022.


2012 Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres, Les Mourres, Gigondas – $20
Imported by Exclusive Wine Imports.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose bore fresh citrus and perfume.  In the mouth were weighty, ripe, black fruit with a racy core and acidity.  The wine leaned towards the dry and tart side of the spectrum.  The flavors taste like young fruit in this young, clean, bright Gigondas.  With extended air it developed some creamy, blue fruit.  **(*) 2017- 2025.


2012 Domaine Bois De Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape – $40
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, and 5% other including Counoise, Cinsault that was aged for 18 months in large barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose bore red fruit and aromatic spices.  In the mouth was a slightly dense start of cool and spiced, dry flavors of red fruit and cherry.  The wine took on more blue and black fruit in the finish which had a dry, cinnamon flavored structure and a fresh, grippy end.  With air midpalate complexity came out as did minerality and watering acidity.  ***(*) Now-2025.


The killer 2014 Peter Lauer, Barrel X Riesling

It is true that I have not written about Peter Lauer’s Barrel X Riesling since the 2010 vintage.  Let me correct this absence by immediately recommending you pick up several bottles of the 2014 Peter Lauer, Barrel X Riesling, Saar.  This vintage sports the same attractive combination of minerality, citrus, and lively personality from its top-notch acidity.  I would not say this is a bone dry wine for those who are curious.  Incredibly, the wine has dropped $1 in price compared to the 2010 vintage!  I have personally seen two bottles to the end so again, I recommend you grab this outstanding value.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Peter Lauer, Barrel X Riesling, Saar – $18
A vom Boden selection imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 10.5%.  The wine was lively on the tongue with immediate flavors of chalky, white, citrus fruit.  The wine quickly picked up complex spices before the mouth filling finish that leaves a long, ripe and textured aftertaste.  A real treat.  *** Now-2017.


My Father’s Day Card

My Father’s Day card is just too precious not to share.


Escape and Evasion: Wine was often the first drink for downed American pilots in WWII

June 19, 2015 1 comment
Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo) Image from Wikipedia.

Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo) Image from Wikipedia.

When the National Archives digitized nearly 3,000 Escape and Evasion reports from World War II, archivists noticed that first beverage downed pilots typically drank was wine.  With my curiosity peaked I randomly selected the report of John L. Dunbar, 2d Lt, Bombardier in the 351 Bomb Squadron, 100 Bomb Group.  On July 4, 1943, his squadron departed Thorpe Abbotts, England to bomb La Pallice, a German U-Boat bunker in La Rochelle, France.  His B-17 Flying Fortress lost oil pressure during the flight out forcing all of the crew members to parachute out of the bomber.  Indeed, after landing in a field a Frenchman applied first aid then gave him a drink of wine.  John L. Dunbar, 2d Lt., eventually walked 300 miles over three weeks until he was repatriated from Spain.

A breeze was carrying me toward a road so I dumped the chute and dropped into a cornfield.  A frenchman with two companions was standing about 50 feet away waving his arms.  In one hand he carried a bottle of wine.

After getting out of my chute I dragged it over to the Frenchman.  He put a tourniquet on my arm and bandages my wrist, using the first-aid kit which was strapped to my belt.  I gave him the chute.

After drinking some of the wine I ran northeast through a wooded section.  Eventually I crawled into a thick bramble patch and remained there for three days.  During that time I could hear the Germans looking for me. [1]

[1] E & E Report No. 90. Evasion in France. John L. Dunbar, 2d Lt, 0-730774. 21 September 1943.  The National Archives. URL:

Two images of wine magazines from the Italian Front during WW1

June 18, 2015 3 comments

During World War I, the Italian Front saw a series of battles between Italy and Austria-Hungary. There was a series of battles fought along the Isonzo River between 1915 and the end of the war in 1918. The two images featured in this post were taken along this front in what is now Slovenia. The first image shows a wine magazine in Britof in what appears to be a rugged location. There is a central large tent flanked by 13 men and a large cache of wine in barrels. The wine is stored in both large casks and smaller barrels. Amongst the casks are what appears to be a box with two poles used to carry the smaller barrels. There is also a small barrel on a dolly or cart. In the back left are donkies or mules that might have carried the smaller barrels of wine.

Wine magazine at Britof. 1915 [1]

Wine magazine at Britof. 1915 [1]

The second images was taken in Haidenschaft or Ajdovščina. This image features a large wine magazine but this one also contained rum. The location is in an industrial setting. There are numerous casks of various sizes stored in two different locations.  It would be interesting to learn where the wine was requisitioned from.

Wine and rum magazine at Haidenschaft. Circa 1917. [2]

Wine and rum magazine at Haidenschaft. Circa 1917. [2]

[1] Wein – Fassungsmagazin in Britof. Ort/Verlag: K.u.k. Kriegspressequartier, Lichtbildstelle – Wien. 1915. ÖNB Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung (POR). URL:
[2] Haidenschaft. Ort/Verlag: K.u.k. Kriegspressequartier, Lichtbildstelle – Wien. circa 1917. ÖNB Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung (POR). URL:

The 1948 harvest at Nussberg, Vienna

June 17, 2015 1 comment

This vintage time picture shows butts of grapes being loaded onto a truck at the Nussberg vineyard. [1]

This vintage time picture shows butts of grapes being loaded onto a truck at the Nussberg vineyard. [1]

The United States Information Service was a Cold War agency created in 1953 “to understand, inform and influence foreign publics”. This agency stemmed from a series of information services that were created during World War II to provide a centralized source of information for and about the United States. In 1948 the Smith-Mundt act was passed to “increase mutual understanding” between countries.  Based on this act, there appears to have been an effort that very same year to document the harvest near Vienna, Austria.

This vintage time photograph shows full butts of grapes being unloaded from the back of a truck. [2]

This vintage time photograph shows full butts of grapes being unloaded from the back of a truck. [2]

The Nussberg vineyard is located on a hill in the 19th district of Vienna.  This famous hill has been home to vineyards for centuries.  This particular series documents the harvesting of the grapes, the transporting of them both through the vineyard and on a truck, and finally the pressing in a winery.  For this post I have picked two images I enjoy because they show the intersection between manual and mechanical labor.

[1] Wein. Vienna 19, Nussberg.  United States Information Service. October 1948.  ÖNB Picture Archive and Graphic Collection. URL:
[2] Volle Butten auf der Ladefläche. Vienna 19, Nussberg.  United States Information Service. October 1948.  ÖNB Picture Archive and Graphic Collection. URL: