Archive for August, 2015

Beach bottles!

Our beach week has ended and the first day of class at my daughter’s new school has begun.  Do not be surprised if there are some gaps in my posting as I settle into our new schedule.


We drank some enjoyable wines at the beach this year.  The pair of white Burgundies from Christophe Cordier were in the dump bin to make space for new vintages.  The 2012 vintage was marked by yield reductions due to hail damage.  The 2012 Christophe Cordier, La Verchere, Vire-Clesse emerged unscathed and is an outright treat of a wine at such a low price.  I would wait another year before drinking it again.  The 2012 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel, Dry Creek Valley is a spritely, lighter bodied wine that already shows good complexity.  It should improve with short-term cellaring but I certainly recommend you try a bottle or two first!

We also tried two wines from Northern Rhone.  I will admit an overall preference for the 2013 Domaine Georges Vernay, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone not just because it tastes great but that it will clearly develop over the next several years.  The 2012 Lionel Faury, Syrah, L’Art Zele, Collines Rhodaniennes does have some structure but it is a more forward, fruity wine that gives the impression it should be drunk young. Perhaps it may not develop the same level of complexity but the fat-like quality is seductive.  You should try both wines.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Christophe Cordier, Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne Blanc – $17
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was similar texture to La Verchere at the start but this showed rounder flavors with a hint of cream in the finish.  The acidity was completely integrated with the white fruit, drier finish, and chalky aftertaste.  ** Now-2017.


2012 Christophe Cordier, La Verchere, Vire-Clesse – $16
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a rich, apple nose followed by focused richness in the mouth.  The gravelly, ripe apple flavors had good texture with toast-like notes on the gums.  The structure and apple acidity suggest that this enjoyable wine will develop in the short term.  **(*) Now-2018.


2012 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel, Dry Creek Valley – $25
This wine is a blend of 55% Grench, 27% Syrah, and 18% Mourvedre.  This round wine offered up flavors of mandarin oranges and red fruit that was made spritely by the acidity.  The wine progressed to blue fruits with a spice and cola like ripeness that added complexity to the young flavors.  A treat to drink this wine is well poised for development.  *** Now – 2020.


2013 Domaine Georges Vernay, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone – $27
Imported by Simon “N” Cellars.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40 year old vines located near Condrieu.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for one year in use barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Clearly a northern Rhone Syrah this wine sported lighter blue and red flavors that slowly built weight and savoriness in the mouth.  With impeccable balance the fine and ripe textured tannins matched the savory and cool fruit elements.  *** Now – 2025.


2012 Lionel Faury, Syrah, L’Art Zele, Collines Rhodaniennes – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 18 year old vines located near Cote Rotie.  It was fermented in cement vats then aged for 15 months in used demi-muid.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was clearly ripe with fruitier aromas backed by floral notes.  In the mouth the black fruit had weight on the tongue and fat that laid over a low note of structure.  The wine became firm in the finish with dry baking spices.  *** Now – 2020.


Five flavorful and affordable 2009 Bordeaux

I am still at the beach so I continue to catch up on tasting notes with today’s post.  I recently tasted through five Bordeaux wines from the excellent 2009 vintage that are priced between $15 and $20.  There is no shortage of flavor and alcohol here.  At the more affordable end, the 2009 Chateau Martinat, Epicurea, Cotes de Bourg offers up a mouthful of powerful black fruit.  It dials in at 15% ABV so perhaps it is best one or two glasses at a time.  My favorites wines showed more potential for development like the 2009 Le Cadran de Fombrauge, Saint Emilion Grand Cru and the 2009 Chateau La Prade, Francs Cotes de Bordeaux.  The former follows the deeply aromatic nose with integrated and focused black fruit that will age for some time.  The later offers redder fruit in a more obvious structure that has an appealing greenhouse quality.  I clearly do not drink much young Bordeaux for I was surprised at how forward and generous these wines are.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2009 Le Cadran de Fombrauge, Saint Emilion Grand Cru – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 77% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for 18 months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose revealed deep aromas.  In the mouth there was a creamy edge to this focused wine.  The black fruit flavors had a hint of tartness, licorice, and camphor that were all integrated together.  It finished up with sexy black fruit, and a softer, creamy finish.  **(*) Now-2027.


2009 Chateau Martinat, Epicurea, Cotes de Bourg – $15
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 15%.  This powerful wine had black mineral notes and dark fruit.  The post lasted through to the end where there was some heat.  With air it showed focused clearly black fruit, black tannins, wood notes, extract, and a savory aspect.  There is good flavor in this wine but it is a mouthful!  **(*) Now – 2020.


2009 Chateau Cote Montpezat, Cuvee Compostelle, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were some odd aromas on the nose followed by coarse flavors of raisins and hazy fruit.  With air, this thicker wine developed an extracted core, almost sweet fruit (perhaps from alcohol) mixed with a foxy note and a drying structure.  ** Now but will last.


2009 Chateau du Moulin Rouge, Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 12 months in oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The slightly savory black fruit had a cool, tannic grip and a greenhouse note.  While this savory wine took on a slightly round start it became drier with air taking on a cedar box note and firm finish.  ** Now – 2025.


2009 Chateau La Prade, Francs Cotes de Bordeaux – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Merlot.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This powerful wine has tart red and black fruit, a hint of greenhouse, and structure with watering acidity.  The fruit flavors float above the structure of stems and tannins with pleasing ripe texture.  Will age.  **(*) 2018-2025.


Mature red Beaumes de Venise

I am vacationing at the beach this week so this is quick post about a single, interesting wine.  The Beaumes de Venise appellation is famous for a sweet fortified wine. However, red wine is also produced which is not surprising given the proximity to Gigondas and Vacqueyras.  Very few selections of red Beaumes de Venise make it to the shelves in Washington, DC.  Even less are mature.  The 2005 Domaine de Cassan, St Christophe, Beaumes de Venise is drinking at the peak of maturity right now.  The nose and initial flavors are comforting for those experienced with aged Cotes du Rhone.  However, the wine is a bit more delicate in frame and never developed a lingering aftertaste.  At $9 per bottle, I cannot complain, and if there are any bottles left I recommend you try one.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2005 Domaine de Cassan, St Christophe, Beaumes de Venise – $9
Imported by the Country Vintner.  This wine is a blend of 58% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 7% Cinsault sourced from 30-40 year old vines.Alcohol 14%.  The subtle nose revealed mature aromas with red and blue fruit.  In the mouth the wine was clearly mature with pure, redder fruit flavors in the middle, watering acidity, and a drier finish.  The wine oscillates in character towards the finish, showing more black fruit, touches of heat, and a dry, textured tannin finish.  The slight disjoint at the end coupled with the roast flavor suggest this wine should be drunk up right away.  ** Now.


“Jerome Bowie, sumlyer, of all wynes that he sall desyre to the Kings Maiesteis vse”: The 16th century history of sommeliers.

August 20, 2015 5 comments

This is my second post exploring the history of the sommelier.  Though this position has existed for centuries, there is incredibly no comprehensive history in English.  Please find my first post at “[S]mashed [the bottles of wine] publically and then left him for dead”: The Early Association of Sommelier with Wine.

When James VI toured through Scotland in 1617, it was the culmination of two years of advanced planning.[1]  James VI was King of Scotland since 1567 and became King of England and Ireland in 1603.  His unique position as the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, enabled him to ascend the throne of the independent sovereign states of England and Scotland.  It was anticipated that some 5,000 people and 5,000 horses would be visiting with James VI.  Such a large group required roads and bridges to be repaired in advance, lodging to be found, and of course the procurement of food and wine.

Mary Stuart, Queen Mary I of Scotland, and her son James, the later King James I of England, 1583.  Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Stuart, Queen Mary I of Scotland, and her son James, the later King James I of England, 1583. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The general planning for the visit was conducted by the Scottish Privy Council which was the body that advised the monarch of Scotland as well as carried out executive and judicial orders.   In the Register of the Privy Council the detailed planning records for the visit of James VI may be found.  Between £200,000 and £229,000 was spent on the trip.  Of this amount, £48,000 was assigned “for purchase of wines etc.” with over £17,000 spent on wine alone.  These funds were not haphazardly spent for the money was given to Jamies Baillie and James Bowie who was “servand of his majesties wyne sellair”.[2]  The transportation of the wine was important enough that “Sarjand Bowy” was furnished with a ship so that he could “lay in the cavys of his palicis at Halyruidhous, and uther partis of his resort.”[3]

James Bowie came from a family long involved in wine.  Like his father, he too was the Master of the King’s Wines.  Though somewhat sadly, it was a position he was only appointed to upon his father’s death in 1597.  Of great interest is that both of these men were considered “His Majestie’s symlier” or sommelier.[4]

In my post “[S]mashed [the bottles of wine] publically and then left him for dead”: The Early Association of Sommelier with Wine I relate how very little research has been conducted into the history of sommeliers.  I note that the earliest reference to sommelier in early modern English dates to 1543, when the King of France granted “readily that Henry’s ‘sommelier’ at Bordeaux should be suffered to depart with the wines he had bought there for [King] Henry [VIII].”  Unfortunately there is no contextual information about who this sommelier was nor the range of responsibilities.  The fact that we can link both James Bowie and his father Jerome Bowie as Master of the King’s Wine to the position of sommelier thus becomes very important.  It demonstrates that the French term of sommelier was applied to non-French citizens and helps define the role of a sommelier in England and Scotland during the 16th century.

This royal link between sommelier and Master of King’s Wines is further echoed in Erienne Pasquier’s description in Les Recherches de La France (1621) that a sommelier carried bottles of wine for princes and great lords.  However, the Master of King’s Wines carried more responsibility than simply a porter of wine for royalty.  Indeed, “Jeremy Bowie, simleir” received “letters of commissioun for visiting, taisting, and uptaking of wynis to the furnissing of his Majesteis house upoun ressonabill prices”.[5]  Not only could Jerome Bowie search houses in boroughs and towns but he could also search ships.  As the King’s sommeliers they often looked for the “best sorts” of “new Burdealx wyne”.[6]

The King’s sommelier purchased a variety of wines include Spanish and “hottopys” or haut pays but it was Bordeaux that was the favorite.[7]  This taste for Bordeaux wine was certainly cultivated during the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France.[8]  The close ties and favorable trading arrangements meant that many Scots setup in Bordeaux as “warehousemen, retailers, and factors.”  It is perhaps through this active trade in Bordeaux that the term sommelier fell into use.

Angliae, Scotiae Et Hiberniae. 1570. David Rumsey Map Collection.

Angliae, Scotiae Et Hiberniae. 1570. David Rumsey Map Collection.

We know that the sommelier was used in official correspondence during the second half of the 16th century thanks to the informative Dictionary of the Old Scottish Tongue (up to 1700).  This dictionary details several dozen entries mentioning sommelier from 1559 through 1599.  These entries chronicle the variations in spelling: symmular, symliar, simleir, symmolier, symbleris, symblair, sumlieris, and even semlairs to name a few. It is not yet clear that every single entry refers to a sommelier of wine.

The majority of the original texts do, however, refer to the Bowie family but there are other sommeliers involved with wine such as “Leonard Baillie, summeleir to oure Soveranis” meaning Mary, Queen of Scots.[9]  In reviewing the various texts it appears to me that a sommelier was a royal officer in charge of sourcing, choosing, buying, and transporting wine for the monarch.  It would be fascinating to learn further details about the sommelier’s daily life within the royal house but I am not sure if that documentation exists.  Until then, the evolution of the sommelier from a royal position should be told.

[1] McNeill, William A. and McNeill, Peter G.B. The Scottish Progress of James VI, 1617. The Scottish Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 199, Part 1 (Apr., 1996), pp. 38-51
[2] The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland. Vol XI, 1616-1619.  1894. URL:
[3] The Historie and Life of King James the Sext.  From 16th and 17th century sources printed in 1826. URL:
[4] Bowie, Walter Worthington. The Bowies and Their Kindred.  1899. URL:
[5] The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Volume 3. URL:
[6] Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh: Index, a.d. 1403-1589, and a glossary of peculiar words. 1882. URL:
[7] The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Volume 3.
[8] Lynch, Michael. The Oxford Companion to Scottish History. 2007.
[9] The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Volume I. 1877. URL:

“Nothing could possibly be more offensive than the smell” : Merroir, terroir, and sea manure

Frank Morgan introduced me to the marine equivalent of terroir in his recent post Exploring Merroir-Terroir on Virginia’s Eastern Shore (and finding Virginia’s Truest Food and Wine Pairing).  After spending a weekend exploring “the intersection of local aquaculture & viticulture”, Frank concluded that “the Chatham Church Creek Steel Chardonnay and Nassawadox Salts [oysters] evoke a sense of place — the same place.”  It was not just that he experienced a complementary pairing; he felt that “saline flavors in both the wine and oyster were the same.”  This briefly seemed absurd but then I recalled drinking an Italian wine made from coastal vineyards that smelled and tasted of the sea.

Common Mackeral from Annual Reports of the Forest, Fish and Game Commissioner of the State of New York, Issue 4. 1899.

Common Mackeral from Annual Reports of the Forest, Fish and Game Commissioner of the State of New York, Issue 4. 1899.

For centuries the “manur’d vine” has referred to the cultivated grape vine, as opposed to wild vines, used for the production of wine.  The very manuring of vines and its negative impact on the smell and flavor of the finished wine yielded the first meaning for terroir.  The consideration of the best type of manure and the appropriate application has been a concern for vineyard owners over the centuries.  The scientific curiosity regarding fruit production in the 19th century resulted in many manure studies, both amateur and scientific.  These studies include sea manure produced from both fish, aquatic plants, and shells.  Of course this begs the question, did the application of sea manure produce an attractive combination of terroir and merroir in grapes and wine?

Sea manure has been employed all over the world in vegetable and fruit production, including the grape.  In England fish manure was recommended as a “very stimulating” top dressing.  However, too much would “deteriorates the flavor of grapes” for vines have “the appetite of a glutton every description of liquid refuse that is placed within their reach, however fetid or nauseous it may be.”[1] As late as the early 20th century, fish that were caught far off shore in Madras, India, could be landed in a decomposed state.  These fish were turned into manure that was known “to stimulate the production of grapes abundantly.”[2]

Sea weed based manure was used “in some vineyards near the ocean” because it was readily accessible.[3]  It was regarded as less effective and only temporary in duration compared to farm manure.  It appears to have been commonly used in the vineyards of Aunis in the Charante-Maritime department located on the west coast of France.  Unfortunately, some did not find this favorable for the “grapes not only partake of the scent” but also had a “disagreeable flavor”.[4]  The vines of Aunis were not supported and pruned such that they almost touched the ground.  Perhaps the grapes literally picked up bits of the seaweed manure.

Despite the claimed efficacy of fish manure it appears to have gained little favor for the cultivation of both wine and table grapes.  Putrid manures were regarded as imparting undesirable smells and tastes in the finished wine.  The smell of putrid fish in cabbage and cauliflowers from fish manure was often cited as an example not to use fish manure.[5]  However, the low cost of fish manure remained attractive to some.  One author dealt with the putrid aroma by making a hole near the root of the vine then pushing down a fish.[6]  It seems then that the use of sea manure in the cultivation of the grape was generally disapproved.  The best combination of merroir and terroir stems naturally from common soils and air.

[1] Hoare, Clement.  A practical treatise on the cultivation of the grape vine on open walls. 1841. URL:
[2] The Agricultural Journal of India, Volume 3. 1908. URL: see also Firminger, Thomas Augustus Charles. A Manual of Gardening for Bengal and Upper India. 1874.  URL:
[3] Du Breuil, Alphonse. Vineyard Culture Improved and Cheapened. 1867. URL:
[4] Prince, William.  A Treatise on the Vine. 1830. URL:
[5] The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Volume 14. 1859. URL:  see also The American Farmer. 1860. URL:
[6] Spooner, Alden Jermain. The Cultivation of American Grape Vines, and Making of Wine. 1846.  URL:

COR, Teutonic, and declassified, multi-vintage Reynvaan

August 17, 2015 3 comments


I managed to taste some interesting wines during a recent trip to Seattle.  I had tasted a Teutonic wine exactly once so when confronted by a $28 bottle of 2012 Teutonic Wine Company, Pinot Noir, Laurel Vineyard Bergspitze Weisse, Chehalem Mountains no thought was required.  It is in that lighter, more modern style coming from the west coast with clean flavors that showed tension between ripe and tart.  It makes for a good glass to start off the evening.  Also in the lighter vein is the outstanding NV Result of a Crush, Christmas Cuvee, Walla Walla.  The Result of a Crush wines are produced using declassified fruit from Reynvaan Family Vineyards.  Simply put, this beautiful wine had mouth filling flavors and an aftertaste that never quit!  Buy all of the bottles you can find!  At the opposite end of the spectrum, I find that the wines of COR Cellars are very flavorful and attractively priced.  This bottle of 2012 COR Cellars, Momentum, Horse Heaven Hills managed to show the warmth of Washington State without being overwrought.


2012 Teutonic Wine Company, Pinot Noir, Laurel Vineyard Bergspitze Weisse, Chehalem Mountains – $28
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 31 year old vines that was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 9 months in neutral oak.  Alcohol 11.5%.  This wine bore lighter flavors of Pinot Noir in a substantive body.  The wine was tart towards the middle where a dose of acidity came out and with extended air, a stem-like structure developed.  There was good tension between the tart and ripe before a hint of dry, black fruit came out in the finish.  Overall while not the most complex wine it remained clean, flavorful, and in no way austere.  ** Now-2016.


2012 COR Cellars, Momentum, Horse Heaven Hills – $20
This wine is a blend of 33% Merlot, 27% Malbec, 27% Petit Verdot, and 13% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 10 months in mostly French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose remained aromatic and full-bore which preceded the dense, rounded start with its robust and firm black fruit.  There was plenty of ripeness and young structure to boot.  The wine clearly exhibits strength but it is not overdone.  With air some salt and new wood pokes out before the good aftertaste.  *** Now – 2018.


NV Result of a Crush, Christmas Cuvee, Walla Walla – $24
This wine is a blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier with 60% sourced from the 2013 vintage and 40% sourced from the 2012 vintage.  Alcohol 13.3%.  The light to medium strength matched the flavors and even took on some soil notes.  In the mouth the wine had that lighter nature at first then became ripe and mouth filling with watering acidity and subtle expansion.  This savory wine developed flavors of mandarin orange and revealed minerals at the finish.  The ethereal ripeness of the aftertaste never went away!  *** Now-2016.


Wines from around the world

The wines featured in today’s post also come from my moving backlog.  I am a bit late to the game but in case you have not yet had it, I highly recommend the 2013 Birgit Eichinger, Gruner Veltliner, Wechselberg, Kamptal.  Rich, lively, and textured this wine is all pleasure.  The 2012 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules, Qu’es Aquo, Costieres de Nimes is sourced from 80 year old Carignan vines that offer plenty of concentrated, dense flavors.  The latest 2014 Neyers, Chardonnay 304, Sonoma County is actively opening up.  It should hit its stride this winter so why not watch the evolution?  I was about to pass off on the 2012  Emblem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley as too soft but with extended air it tensed up.  Good thing I track all new wines over two days.  Enjoy! These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Domaine d’Aupilhac, Montpeyroux – $20
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 30% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 25% Carignan, 16% Grenache, and 4% Cinsault that was aged for 20 months in used foudres and barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Tasted over two days this tart, red and black fruited wine, had roundness, a sweet fruit note, and a developed a dry structure.  It took on a brighter-citric aspect, some pepper, and flavors evocative of a natural wine.  Hmmm.  *(*) Now-2017.


2009 Cascina Corte, Pirochetta Vecchie Vigne, Dogliani – $23
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The aromas of roast earth made way to tart red then dry black fruit in the mouth. The minerally black fruit was backed by plenty of tannins, a drying finish, and some acidity.  Not quite the balance I prefer.  Will last but why wait.  ** Now.


2013 Birgit Eichinger, Gruner Veltliner, Wechselberg, Kamptal – $20
Imported by Weygandt Metzler.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The attractive honey-suckle nose was followed by weighty, slight rich fruit right as the wine hit the tongue.  The richness was backed by lively acidity on the tongue as well as a chalk note.  It had a tart, yet ripe middle and plenty of texture.  Very enjoyable.  *** Now-2016.


2012  Emblem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $26
Alcohol 14.4%.  In the mouth were powdery black fruit flavors with a touch of chocolate, all of which was bound in approachable tannins with just enough acidity as underlying support.  With air the wine deepened revealing plums with more acidity and structure that showed better tension.  The fruit was blacker as well.  Perhaps it needs a short period in the cellar.  **(*) 2016-2019.


2014 Neyers, Chardonnay 304, Sonoma County – $20
Alcohol 14.1%.  The mouth brought forth slightly tart white fruit on the sides of the tongue before it turned creamy with a yeast note.  The wine became creamier with air and took on an attractive lemon-citrus flavor in the finish.  It needs a bit of time to settle down but it is obvious it will get there.  **(*) 2016-2017.


2012 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules, Qu’es Aquo, Costieres de Nimes – $25
Imported by Robert Kacher.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The pungent nose revealed pure, dense fruit that mixed with earthy orange aromas.  In the mouth the fruit was sweet and smooth with very fine chocolate flavor, tannins, and a seamless acidity that does not poke out.  The very fine texture existed in a weighty, almost thick and unctuous wine.  With air this wine showed persistent power, minerally black fruit, and gentle power.  *** Now – 2020.