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.

Affordable selections from Spain

The 2011 Barahonda, Barrica, Monastrell-Syrah, Yecla must be one of the most frequently opened bottles in our house after the 2012 Chateau Marvis, Old School Rouge, Minervois.  The Barahonda is a $12 beauty that is full of flavor from the black fruit and minerals but provides interest from some mature notes. Though opposite in drinking age, the 2011 La Verdosa, La Suerte de Arrayan Garnache, Mentrida is my favorite of the wines featured in today’s post.  The beautiful nose makes way to expansive flavors but this is best left in the cellar.  The 2012 Castano, Solanera, Vina Viejas, Yecla offers up the serious flavors you would expect from Eric Solomon.  For a simpler, though old-school experience you should check out the 2012 Charo Moriones, Verasol, Tempranillo-Garnacha, Navarra.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Barahonda, Barrica, Monastrell-Syrah, Yecla – $12
Imported by OLE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 75% Monastrell and 25% Syrah sourced from vines planted in 1968-1970 that was aged for 6 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There is a  mouthfilling start followed by a core of black, mineral infused fruit.  The wine is rounded out by grip from the attractive, ripe tannins.  Though rich in flavor, it is balanced, and somewhat compelling to drink for there are hints of maturity.  *** Now – 2018.


2012 Castano, Solanera, Vina Viejas, Yecla – $14
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Garnacha Tintorera that was aged for 10 months in oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The serious nose is followed by young and bright fruit which is supported by structure.  This cool tasting wine wraps up with ripe tannins.  **/*** Now – 2017.


2012 Charo Moriones, Verasol, Tempranillo-Garnacha, Navarra – $12
A Jose Pastor Selection imported by Vinos & Gourmet. Alcohol 13.5%. The interesting nose offered up aromas of ripe strawberry and ripe orange.  There were similar flavors in the mouth where the orange-red citrus note took on some creamy Orange Julius.  This attractive, old-school wine then turned a bit soft and linear with a black fruited finish.  ** Now-2017.


2011 La Verdosa, La Suerte de Arrayan Garnache, Mentrida – $18
Imported by Tradewinds Specialty Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were rich fruit aromas of plum.  The strong flavors in the mouth showed plenty of texture, some weight, and black minerals in the end where the extract paired with an expansive finish.  With air there were additional flavors of ripe strawberries and wood on the sides of the tongue.  This nears a year to open up.  *** 2016-2019.

Interesting wines from Chile, Greece, Moldova, Romania, and more!

There is no shortage of diversity in the wine selections available in Washington, DC.  If you can only try one wine in today’s post that should be the 2011 Garage Wine Co, Cabernet Franc Lot #36, Maipo Valley, Chile.  Garage Wine Co., produces attractive and unique wines.  While the Cabernet Franc appears to be sold out (the empty bottles were packed in the move so I am not timely) the Carignan is still available.  From Greece, I certainly recommend the orange citrus flavors of the 2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Thessaly, Greece.  Continuing with the indigenous vein then you should check out the exotic nose of the 2011 Hereditas, Babeasca Neagra, Romania.  Finally, the 2013 Pieter Cruythoff, Pinotage Middelpos, Swartland, South Africa offers bitters like flavors making it a Pinotage like no other. I’ll grant that it is a bit polarizing but any intrepid drinker should pick up a bottle.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Garage Wine Co, Carignan Lot #34, Maule Valley, Chile – $32
Imported by SWG Imports.  Alcohol 14.3%.  Aromas of raspberry candy made way to dense flavors with the texture of an unfiltered wine.  This showed more acidity with tart cherry flavor and red fruit through the end.  The wine built flavor with time showing both ripe and citric flavors including raspberry followed by a lipsticky finish.  *** Now – 2018.


2011 Garage Wine Co, Cabernet Franc Lot #36, Maipo Valley, Chile – $32
Imported by SWG Imports.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The raspberry aromas mixed with herbaceous notes and tobacco.  In the mouth were ripe and dense flavors that combined an herbaceous hint.  This savory wine had a lot of chewy flavors accented by chocolate before the not too bitter finish.  With air it showed complexity in the way of forest notes and perhaps tar.  ***(*) 2016-2022.


2013 Pieter Cruythoff, Pinotage Middelpos, Swartland, South Africa – $18
Imported by Kyslea Pere et Fils.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a complex nose of bitters and red fruit.  The aromas echoed in the mouth with ripe then dry, grippy flavors.  The structure came out as rather fine, drying tannins.  The wine was simultaneously tart, ripe, grippy, and creamy with greenhouse notes and cocktail bitters.  It morphed towards blue fruit in the finish.  Ultimately, the wine showed a ripe core of fruit surrounded by powdery, dry, and finely textured tannins.  Different! *** Now-2018.


2013 Et Cetera, Cuvee Rouge, Moldova – $19
Imported by Sarego Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Saperavi, and 5% Rara Neagra that was aged in Hungarian and American oak barrels. Alcohol 13.0%.  In the mouth were ripish, red fruit around a core of watering acidity.  As the wine progressed it came dry with black flavors, textured tannins, and a dry, graphite finish.  Overall this is a young that develops a strong nature.  ** Now – 2018.


2012 Groot Constantia, Shiraz, South Africa – $17
Imported by Indigo Wine Group.  Alcohol 14%.  There were smoky aromas of black fruit.  In the mouth the wine was tight with ripe flavors that built in strength.  The black fruit continued with some camphor and fresh, greenhouse notes.  This young wine textured, floral impressions.  ** Now 2019.


2011 Hereditas, Babeasca Neagra, Romania – $11
Imported by A&M Imports.  This wine is 100% Babeasca Neagra.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was different and exotic with both floral and citrus note.  In the mouth the dry, blue and black fruit was supported by a drying, black structure.  The wine was spritely on the tongue tip with some baking spices, young tannins on the gums, and good texture.  The finish was a bit short before the refreshing aftertaste.  ** Now-2017.


2013 Chateau Vartely, Sec Rosu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Moldova – $8
Imported by Salveto Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose smelled of slightly inky bell peppers.  In the mouth were flavors of ripe, blue fruit, and green peppers.  With air the cool, blue fruit fleshed out a bit.  While not indicative of any particular place, it is a solid drink for the price.  * Now.


2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Thessaly, Greece – $20
Imported by Oenos LLC.  This wine is 100% Limniona.  Alcohol 13%.  The wine developed tart, red fruit with just a slight, liveliness on the tongue despite being acidity driven.  It developed a fine ripe set of light, orange-citrus flavors and black fruit that left impressions of ripeness on the gums.  The wine had a lighter, lift of creamy flavors towards the finish and ultimately, an attractive bit of ink.  **(*) 2016-2019.

Tasting notes for Italian wines opened these last few months

The buying of the new house followed by the sale of our old house was a massively time consuming effort.  We mostly drank from a rotation of a dozen different wines but there were new bottles opened as well.  Throughout that period I continued to post on what I felt were the most interesting wines.  I did manage to take other notes and transport many empty bottles to the new house.  In this post I feature a range of Italian wines tasted during our house transition.


The Italian selection at MacArthur Beverages provides a steady cache of affordable wines with some age.  The 2004 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese, Vigne Becchie, Sicilia Rosso is old-school both in style and price.  It is a wine that everyone should try but I would suggest you set aside your bottles for the next several years.   The 2009 Pino, Barbera d’Alba offers the most maturity right now out of all that were tasted.  Two selections that drink well now but are poised to open up within the next few years include the 2008 Firmino Miotti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Breganza and the 2009 Pelissero, Tulin, Barbera d’Alba.  For those looking for a good wine to drink tonight then grab the 2013 Azienda Agricola 499, Freisa, Langhe and 2012 Pico Maccario, Lavignone, Barbera d’Asti.


2008 Batzella, Pean, Bolgheri Rosso – $26
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc which spent 15 months in barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose revealed dark tobacco aromas.  In the mouth this dry wine had a leather note followed by fresh, black fruit and an earthy hint.  The finish was lively with drying structure.  With air the structure became harsh and the wine unevolved though it developed more leather, tobacco, and spices in the aftertaste.  ** Now-2025?


2004 Calabretta, Nerello Mascalese, Vigne Becchie, Sicilia Rosso – $26
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This wine had more coiled power with upfront and lovely  integrated acidity, lots of texture, and verve.  Clearly a young wine it sported complexity from an earthy and foxy hint in the acidity driven finish.  It even took on a perfumed note.  It has a vibrancy that reminds me of a glass aged wine that will develop for years to come.  **(*) 2020-2030.


2012 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio, Sicilia – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  Alcohol 13%.  The attractive nose bore subdued aromas of roses, tar, and cherries.  In the mouth were tart and focused flavors of red and black fruit that were somewhat rounded.  The wine had salivating acidity, grip from the tannins, and an old wood note.  It continued to show very focused fruit.  **(*) Now – 2022.


2012 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato – $17
Imported by RWK Imports.  This wine is 100% Frappato.  Alcohol 13%.  There were heavy, wafting Frappato aromas highlighted by fresh pepper.  This was a light to medium bodied wine with fruit that bore weight and fine texture with extract.  It had the expected, unusual flavor with a dry finish of ripe, orange-creamsicle and dry black fruit.  The flavors were clearly hard for me to describe.  With air it became riper and a touch softer.  ** Now – 2016.


2007 Castelluccio, Ronco dei Ciliegi, Forli – $23
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Sangiovese that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  There were dark, leaner aromas with some wood.  This firm wine, was stone-like with black fruit, watering acidity, and old polished wood.  The flavors were lighter in weight with a dry nature and a  hint of roast.  Even with only a bit of structure left this will live for quite some time.  **(*) Now -2025.


2011 Cesari, Bosan, Valpolicello Superiore Ripasso – $31
Imported by Opici Wines.  This wine is a blend 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella.  Alcohol 14%.  The fresh nose revealed ample tobacco aromas backed by cola with undertones of raisins.  The flavors began with a mineral thread before a brief spell of maturity.  There were drier raisin flavors and a developing tobacco note.  This gentle wine had a rather subtle structure that matched the compote of fruit and underlying black flavors.  Though forward drinking, I would give this another year or so to integrate the ripasso flavors.  *** Now – 2022.


2011 Conterno Fantino, Vignota, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Neil Empson.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The linear, black fruit took on extract and strawberry flavor.  It had juicy acidity and a dark, rather ripe note.  *** 2016 – 2022.


2009 Gagliasso, Vigna Ciabot Russ, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by .  Alcohol 14.5%.  This rather dark wine had matching aromas of dark red, raisined fruit.  The flavors were similar in the mouth but the forward acidity kept things sharp.  The drying structure was a touch coarse but the sweet, spiced, old wood was attractive.  With air tart, black and red fruit flavors developed some weight and became puckering in the finish.  Unfortunately some heat was breaking out.  ** Now-2020.


2012 Pico Maccario, Lavignone, Barbera d’Asti – $16
Imported by Massinois Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  I kid you not, but the nose smelled of cat fur.  In the mouth were bright, yet tart and ripe red fruit which tasted fresh.  This wine had clean fruit, water acidity, a tough of verve and grip, and even some density.  A wine for now.  ** Now-2017.


2013 Massolino, Barbera d’Alba – $22
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The firm fruit flavors were of tart black fruit that took on a subtle red grapefruit note.  The acidity was noticeable from the start and matched the fresh structure which was evident in the finish.  There was a lovely, ethereal flavor in the middle which, when combined with the suggest of strength from the tannins, indicate this wine should develop.  **(*) 2016-2022.


2008 Firmino Miotti, Cabernet Sauvignon, Breganza – $21
Imported by Il Pioppo.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a complex nose of cherry fruit that made way to round flavors of red fruit in the mouth.  Accented by some greenhouse notes this wine tasted like a cooler climate Cab.  The flavors turned blacker with more focus, integrated acidity, and some drying structure on the gums.  There were minerals in the finish followed by a tart aftertaste.  With air the wine tastes even young and should continue to develop for several more years.  It maintained good tension that keeps one’s interest.    *** Now-2022.


2009 Pino, Barbera d’Alba – $23
Imported by Potomac Selections.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was reasonably aromatic with dark, plummy notes.  In the mouth was a mixture of cedar and red fruit before the mature flavors of the middle took on minerals.  There was some firmness in the finish with almost puckering acidity that left impressions of ripe fruit in the aftertaste.  *** Now – 2020.


2009 Pelissero, Tulin, Barbera d’Alba – $26
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were low-lying aromas of fruit on the nose.  In the mouth were savory flavors of blue and black fruit that worked well with the integrated acidity.  The wine tightened up in the finish with both tannins and polished wood.  With air, it exhibited cleaner fruit, that was tart and lighter but had a strength in the middle.  There was a touch of a spicy finish before the racy hint in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2025.


2013 Azienda Agricola 499, Freisa, Langhe – $18
Imported by Free Run Wine Merchants.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The red fruit bore a touch of greenhouse the morphed into fuzzy red and black fruit.  There were fine,dry, coating tannins that did not overwhelm the fruit.  ** Now.