Archive for December, 2015

Darryl’s favorite wines

December 31, 2015 Leave a comment

When it comes to mature and old wine,  Darryl and Nancy quickly spring to mind.  While mature Champagne and old Barolo make Darryl’s list so do relatively young bottles of Champagne and Northern Rhone!

The ones that stick out most were recent:
1973/6 Dom Perignon

1931 Fontanafedda, Barolo


1945 Clos des Lambrays

Madeira, many of them.

The really amazing others were:
2000 Krug, Clos de Mesnil
1986 Haut Brion, Graves
2006 Coche Dury, Puligny Montrachet
1999 Allemand, Reynard, Cornas
1998 Jamet, Cote Rotie
The last 3 were at the N Rhone dinner in Jan, Faryan’s excellent notes: Northern Rhone Masters Dinner.

The mind bending experience of the 2006 F.X. Pichler Riesling Unendlich, what a wine.

Roland’s favorite wines of 2015

December 31, 2015 Leave a comment

Next  up are the favorite wines of Roland.  Roland posts a particularly fun stream of pictures featuring the many wines he tastes throughout the year.  You can be sure the classics will always be there, in my opinion, first from the Rhone then a mixture of Burgundy, Champagne, and Bordeaux.  This love for French wines is reflected in his list.  Enjoy!

Here are my favorite wines of the year, in order by increasing year, based solely on my memory and iPhone photos.  Particularly excellent wines that showed well:  1961 Haut Brion, 1994 Rayas, 1990 Yquem and 1996 Taittinger.

1961 Haut Brion

1961 Chateau Tour Haut Brion, Graves

1966 Chateau de Pez - Magnum

1966 Chateau de Pez, St.-Estephe (Magnum)

1990 Yquem

1990 d’Yquem, Sauternes

1994 Rayas

1994 Rayas, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

1995 Pignan

1995 Pignan, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

1995 Guigal La Landonne

1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Landonne

1996 Taittinger

1996 Taittinger, Comtes des Champagnes

1999 Lignier Clos de la Roche and 1997 Arnoux Romanee St Vivant

1997 Arnoux, Romanee St Vivant
1999 Lignier, Clos de la Roche

1998 Bonneau Marie Beurrier CdP and 1998 Chave

1998 Henri Bonneau, Cuvee Marie Beurrier Chateauneuf-du-Pape
1998 J. L. Chave, Hermitage

2002 Gros Freres et Soeur Clos Vougeot Musigni

2002 Gros Freres et Soeur, Clos Vougeot “Musigni”

2004 Bollinger La Grande Anne Rose Champagne

2004 Bollinger, Grande Anne Rose Champagne

2005 Baumard Quartes de Chaumes

2005 Baumard, Quarts de Chaumes

2007 Bonneau CdP

2007 Henri Bonneau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

2009 Jamet, Cote-Rotie

David Bloch’s favorite wines of 2015

December 30, 2015 Leave a comment

The second guest post is from David Bloch.  He has contributed a few posts over the years which you may read here.  His selection of favorite wines for the year lean heavily towards France but other countries such as Italy, Spain, and the United States are represented too.  I can attest that the December bottle of 2000 Antinori, Solaia was lovely!

Whites of the Year:

2000 Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet: an incredible mouthful of minerals.  I had this wine once before – many years ago.  This is a wine that is “fruit free.”  It is simply all stones, minerals and rocks.  Extremely long.  I was concerned that the wine may have been over the hill, but it was terrific.  I bought this bottle from a retailer in the City of London when I was working there in the early 2000s.
2004 Domaine Trimbach, Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile, Alsace
2005 Dauvissat, Chablis  Les Clos (two bottles this year)
2010 Coche-Dury, Meursault Les Chevalieres

Reds of the Year:


1990 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac (purchased as futures for $25!!)
1995 Chateau Angélus, St. Emilion
1998 Tertre Rôteboeuf, St. Emilion


1998 J-L Chave, Hermitage

1995 Close des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape
1998 Henri Bonneau, Marie Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape
2003 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvée Reservée, Chateauneuf du Pape


1996 Jean Tardy, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots
2002 Chevillon, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Saint Georges


1996 Mascarello, Barolo Monprivato
1997 Monsanto, Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio
2000 Antinori, Solaia (twice – December and July)


1998 Clos Erasmus, Priorat
1998 Artadi, Pagos Viejos, Rioja


2001 Dominus, Napa Valley
2002 Joseph Phelps, Insignia, Napa Valley

Bubbles of the Year:

2002 Doquet, Blanc de Blanc Les Mesnil VV Champagne
2002 Taittinger, Blanc de Blanc Comtes des Champagne
2004 Bollinger, Grande Anne Rose Champagne: one of the best pinks I’ve ever had.

Sweets of the Year:

1986 Chateau Climens, Barsac
1998 Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain Vendange Tardive:  a powerful and super rich wine.

Taken in its youth:

2006 Donnhoff, Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Beerenauslese, Nahe

Surprises of the Year (exceeding expectations!):

1998 Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Champagne
2002 Chateau Palmer, Margaux
2006 FX Pichler, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Kellerberg, Wachau

Happy New Year!

The noteworthy wines of Eric Ifune

December 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I started reading Decanter magazine during my Bristol days.  I clearly remember my favorite issues which were those of December.  These issues included descriptions of everyone’s favorite wines of the year.  Whether there were old wines or new wines, these capsule summaries were fun relfections of both personality and tastings attended.  This year I thought I would ask some friends to list their favorite wines of this year.  Today I start off with a post by Eric Ifune.  You might recall his name from such boards as Wine Berserkers and For The Love of Port.   You also might have comes across his name as an attendee of the annual Madeira tastings organized by Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port) and Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.).   It was earlier this year, at the epic Majesty of Malvasia Tasting, that I first met Eric.

I’m listing my most noteworthy wines from 2015. These are all wood aged fortified wines since that is my area of maximum interest, especially Madeira. A few might not be my highest rated, but they are amongst the most memorable. They are listed in chronologic order of tasting


The first is a Blandy’s 1907 Bual. Tasted at a friend’s house while sharing various Madeiras. It was opened on the spur of the moment. It had a deep, glowing, almost iridescent red-gold-green color. One of the most visually attractive wines I’ve seen in a long while. Brooding, rich caramel and toffee flavors. Huge and concentrated.


The 1839 Blandy’s Faja dos Padres Malvasia. Tasted at a grand Malvasia tasting in New York hosted by Roy Hersh and Mannie Berk. The Faja dos Padres is the most famous Madeira vineyard and historically known for the Malvasia Candida vine. It lies next to the ocean on the south side of the island at the base of a 300 meter cliffface. Originally it belonged to the Jesuits, hence the “dos Padres”. Rich and intense. Very sweet but with huge balancing acidity. Complete and complex. This was head and shoulders above the other wines at the tasting which were all great and historic in their own right. This is probably the best wine of the year for me, and the best Malvasia I’ve ever had.

1912 Niepoort Colheita Port. The best Port I’ve had this year. Tasted in Lisbon this past spring. It was very dark colored with a beautiful balance of richness, sweetness, and acidity. Very long and concentrated. A real beauty!

1900 JBF Verdelho Madeira. JBF stands for John B. Fernandes. He was a grower in Funchal at the turn of the twentieth century. His vineyards were close to today’s city botanical gardens. There were many growers at the time who made and sold wine to the shippers. His descendants immigrated to the US but kept some property on the Island. A lawyer did some work for them and was given this as a gift. It was in demijohns. The lawyer knew Francisco Albuquerque, the wine maker at the Madeira Wine Company, and asked his advice. Francisco recommended bottling the wine, and he did so for the lawyer in 2014. A smoky, rich wine. Sweet for Verdelho but with excellent acidity. Very concentrated with excellent balance. I love these unknown wines.

1912 Jose Maria Fonseca Bastardinho. JM Fonseca is famous for their Moscatel de Setubal and their table wines. They had a small vineyard of Bastardinho (the little bastard) as well. It’s the same variety as the red Bastardo, a rare grape on Madeira. Unfortunately the vineyard was grubbed up 20 years or so ago, but I understand JM Fonseca is thinking about replanting some again. This wine was very, very dark. Very concentrated, rich and citric flavored. Not as sweet as Moscatel. This is the best Bastardo/Bastardinho I’ve ever had. JM Fonseca still markets a small amount of a 30 year old Bastardinho which is very nice, but not nearly the concentration and depth as this vintage wine.


1996 Horacio Simoes Moscatel Roxo. Horacio Simoes is a small producer in Setubal. They make some excellent Moscatel de Setubal, but also have some of the rarer Moscatel Roxo or “Purple Moscatel.” It is a mutated version of the normal Moscatel. The normal Moscatel is the same variety as Muscat of Alexandria and the Roxo was found in a field in Setubal having spontaneously mutated. I think I like it better than the normal Moscatel, being less sweet and having more depth. This particular bottle was rich and concentrated. This is a producer to keep an eye out for.


Barbeito 1891 RR Bual Madeira. The RR stands for Riberio Real, a well-known vineyard about 200 meters above the fishing village of Camara de Lobos. The vineyard was owned by the Favila family who made this wine. This was tasted with Ricardo Dorigo of Barbeito who had the wine in demijohns. He has since bottled approximately 200 750 ml bottles. This wine is rich and meaty. It has huge concentration but great balance. Just mouthwatering stuff.


D’Oliveiras 1850 Verdelho Madeira. D’Oliveiras is famous for their stocks of old, old wine. The 1850 is still available for sale in their shop! I’ve had this wine maybe half a dozen times and it never disappoints. D’Oliveiras started as a partidista with vineyards in the San Martinho district west of Funchal. They sold wine prior to becoming a shipper themselves. One can sometimes see bottles with the stencil AO-SM, standing for Antonio Oliveria-San Martinho. This wine is from those original San Martinho vines. This particular taste was from a bottling 40-50 years ago. A popular misconception is that Madeira doesn’t age once in glass. It does, but at a glacial rate. The great United States Madeira collections from the 19th and early 20th centuries were based on glass aged wines. After decades, or even centuries in glass, the overt fruit and richness diminish. The wines become more delicate, lacy if you will. That change of 40-50 years given the initial richness of the 1850 due to extreme concentration made this a stellar bottle. Complex, very rich and concentrated with tropical fruit and toasted nut aromas and flavors. The new Madeira legislation passed in Portugal earlier this year now mandates a bottling date on all Canteiro aged wine. A good thing to my mind.


Faja dos Padres 2001 Malvasia (from cask). The same vineyard as the 1839 above. A Faja is a generic Madeiran term for a spit of land formed from a landslide of decomposing volcanic soil from a seacliff. They are prized as agricultural property due to their warmth and shelter from the elements. The Faja dos Padres was known for centuries for the Malvasia Candida variety. It is a tetchy variety to grow however, and by the mid-20th century, it was thought extinct on the island. The variety Malvasia Sao Jorge had supplanted it. A single vine was found near the cliff on the Faja dos Padres. DNA analysis confirmed it was the original Malvaisa Candida and its cuttings used to repropagate the variety on Madeira. The Faja dos Padres today consists of 9 hectares of land. There’s a garden-like mixed planting of tropical and semitropical fruit. The vineyards are on the more western end with Malvasia Candida and Terrantez planted. A small restaurant and bar serves local caught grilled tuna. I’m addicted to the limpets broiled with olive oil and garlic! There are also a few rustic but comfortable guest cottages for rent. The only way to visit is by boat or by the vertiginous two person elevator shown in the photo. Barbeito takes much of the grape crop, but some is reserved. It is vinified and aged on the property in a small stone lodge. This wine on property cannot be commercialized as Madeira, but is reserved for guests. Relatively pale for malvaisa, but this is young stuff. Meaty, savory, sweet, and spicy all at once. I’d love to see this after a few dozen more years!


Fernandez Family 1986 Verdelho (from cask). Manuel Eugenio Fernandes (the MEF on the cask in the photo) was a table wine broker on the island for many years. His hobby and passion, however, was for fortified Madeira. He bought and aged it in the basement cellar of his house in Seixal, on the north coast of the island. The wine was for family and friends. He only sold his fortified wines twice. Once he sold a pipe to pay for a flat in Lisbon when one of his sons went to University. He had a long life and had many children. All of them successful, doctors, lawyers, engineers. His children keep their father’s house in Seixal as a get together place for family events. The basement cellar is still there, and the family still make and age wine in their father’s memory. Again, this wine cannot be commercialized as Madeira since it is not registered nor regulated by the Instituto do Vinho, do Bordado e do Artesanato da Madeira (IVBAM), the government institution which regulates Madeira (and handicrafts such as embroidery). It also must be bottled by one of the registered shippers. A few bottles of an over 40 year old Verdelho were bottled by the Madeira Wine Company a few years ago in honor of Mario Eugenio’s 96th birthday, and these have the IVBAM selo. This particular wine was a Verdelho from 1986. Taken directly from cask using a bamboo wine thief. Shimmering pale amber-gold. Rich with honey and tangerine flavors. Beautiful and pure fruit. Plush mouthfeel and long on the end. If you could combine an old still Champagne and a Fino Sherry, it would be something like this. Wonderful to drink with family and friends, which is what the Fernandez family does with it.

“The hold-over prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval”: The rise of wine cookery in 1934

December 28, 2015 Leave a comment

After the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, the legal availability of wine in America was reflected in newspapers and books.  In particular interest for this post is the rise of articles and cook books featuring the use of wine as an ingredient through 1934.  Starting at the beginning of the month of Repeal, pictures of dishes with accompanying recipes were published in newspapers with titles such as “Roast pheasant and wine-flavored sauce”[1] and “Fresh Beef Tongue In White Wine”[2].  It was felt that these recipes would be “collected by the up-to-date hostess for use at smart dinner parties”.  Mrs. Penrose Lyly led off with a specific wine for her recipes in “Sherry Comes Back to the Kitchen”.[3]  “Cooking Art Is Now Being Rediscovered” by Cynthia Proctor is perhaps one of the earliest articles about wine cookery having appeared on January 21, 1934, in the Boston Herald.[4]  With wine described as an enhancement, several recipes were presented to “add zest” to one’s menus.  These recipes include “Beef and Oysters au Vin” utilizing “port wine” and even “Wine Jelly” with angelica.

It seems the first American wine cookery book was published by The Browns on July 12th, 1934.  The Boston Herald reviewed this book of “epicurean delights” on July 21, 1934.[5]  However, the main focus of the review is that the Brown’s were “not so exclusively devoted to wines as to fail to include this recipe for roast peacock”.  “The Wine Cook Book” was reviewed by The New York Times a day later on July 22, 1934.  This review is more descriptive of the layout of the book than embracing of the wine based recipes.[6]  The author felt The Browns who wandered “over the face of the earth” produced a unique cook book that would delight “the epicure and the connoisseur of foods and drinks” but the “prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval.”


Another important wine cookery book came out during the fall of 1934.  Ida Bailey Allen’s “The Wine and Spirits Cook Book” contained “many ancient and many modern suggestions for gracious living”.[7]  One reviewer found it a book “to present to yourself as a special celebration, or buy for a friend who enjoys trying new dishes and dressing up old favorites.” [8]  This book must have enjoyed some popularity for Ida Bailey Allen had her own daytime radio show, was the first female television host with her show “Mrs. Allen and the Chef”, and became editor at Good Housekeeping magazine.

Not all wine cookery books were entirely new publications.  Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking School Cook Book” was updated to include recipes with wine.[9]  I should note that this and “The Wine Cook Book” were published by Little, Brown & Co. of Boston.  The San Francisco Chronicle felt it was a signal to women that “so famous an institution” as the Boston Cooking School saw fit to include recipes “that require quantities of California’s noted vintages.”  Even the “Delineator Cook Book”, edited by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose of Cornell University, added a chapter on wine cookery.[10]

Ida Bailey Allen writes in her Forward that right after Repeal she received many letters and queries on the service and use of wine and liquors in cooking.  In order to publish her wine cookery book she had to perform “necessary research” which led her “into many hitherto unexplored fields”.  She dug back deep for some of her recipes date back to the Colonial period.  These recipes include “George Washington Snowballs” and “Pigeons Transmogrified”.  It seems odd at first that 13 years of Prohibition could have obliterated the memory of recipes involving wine.  However, in her first chapter we learn that wine cookery recipes fell out of use much earlier and not solely because of Prohibition.

Harrison's flavoring extracts. Phila. c 1868. #2003680539. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Harrison’s flavoring extracts. Phila. c 1868. #2003680539. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Wine cookery fell out of favor in the 19th century.  Ida Bailey Allen gives three main reasons: wines were imported thus expensive, little attention was given to native wines [perhaps in cooking], and the popularity of flavoring extracts with an alcohol base took hold.  These three reasons were echoed by Mary Meade, the pen name of Ruth Ellen Church, on January 6, 1935, in the Boston Herald.[11]  Whether the first two reasons bear out or not, I can attest that the discussion of using wine as an alternative to a flavor extract or essence persisted for a few more decades.

It was commonly felt that wine and spirits contributed to cooking in three manners: it accentuates the natural flavor of food, it adds flavor, and it improves texture by tenderizing meat.  For those concerned of the expense, Ida Bailey Allen explains that most of her recipes call for only a small amount of wine.  The “heel-tap”, or what is left in a bottle or a glass at the end of a meal, is typically a suitable volume.  Thus even those on a moderate income could afford to cook with wine and in doing so they would “open a new vista of flavors”.

[1] “Wine Flavored Sauce”. Date: Friday, December 1, 1933   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 11
[2] “Fresh Beef Tongue In White Wine”. Date: Thursday, December 14, 1933   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 28
[3] Lyly, Penrose. “Sherry Comes Back to the Kitchen”. Date: Sunday, December 3, 1933   Paper: Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)   Page: 38
[4] Proctor, Cynthia. “Cooking Art Is Now Being Discovered”. Date: Sunday, January 21, 1934   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 45
[5] For the Next Sunday When Company Comes. Book Notes. Date: Saturday, July 21, 1934   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 11
[6] Wine and Food: THE WINE COOK BOOK. By the Browns, Cora, Rose and Bob. 462 pp. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. $2.50. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 July 1934: BR10.
[7] “Here Are Some New Recipes To Make Tasty Desserts”. Date: Sunday, December 9, 1934   Paper: Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)   Page: 48
[8] “Cooking With Wine and Spirits”. Date: Wednesday, October 10, 1934   Paper: Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)   Page: 14
[9] Friendly, Jane. “Famous Cook Book Big Aid To Housewife”. Date: Thursday, November 1, 1934   Paper: San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California)   Page: 20
[10] Yea, There’s Need for a Book, When the Man Is the Cook!: A Batch of the Best Are Selected for the Bachelors. Here’s How to Escape the Ills of Eating Delicatessen. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 18 Nov 1934: B7.
[11] Meade, Mary. “Sparkling Wine Secret of Tang In Many Dishes”. Date: Sunday, January 6, 1935   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 52

“Wine Makes Food Taste Better”: Collecting wine cookery books

December 23, 2015 Leave a comment

I grew up watching “The Frugal Gourmet” cooking show on television.  Hosted by Jeff Smith, my mom owned his cookbooks and if I want an instant rush of childhood memories I need only to look at the red font of his book “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine” (1984).

My exploration into the 20th century history of wine journalism illustrates how many early newspaper wine writers were in fact food editors, of whom many were women.  It is perhaps a natural extension from publishing a food column in a newspaper to publishing a cook book.  My particular interest is the genre of wine cookery books.  I have purchased a number of these cook books this winter.  I thought it would be fun to share some of these books that I have collected given this festive season of wine and cooking.


The rise of wine cookery books in Great Britain and America appears to have taken place in the post-war years of the 1930s.  This was a time when economies were recovering from the devastation of the Great Depression.  Andre L. Simon noted it had been several decades since there were “practical handbooks to the knowledge and use of individual wines”.  As editor of the series Constable’s Wine Library he had seen to the publication of books about Sherry, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Port.  He coauthored “Madeira: Wine, Cakes and Sauce” with Elizabeth Craig in 1933.  The following year in 1934, Elizabeth Craig’s “Wine in the Kitchen” was added to the series.

Back in America, Prohibition was repealed during December 1933.  The following summer during July 1934, saw the publication of Cora, Rose, and Robert Carlton Brown’s “The Wine Cook Book”.  If The Brown’s wine cook book was in celebration of the new found legal availability of wine, Elizabeth Craig’s book appears to acknowledge the lean years of the war and depression.  Francois Latry, Maitre des Cuisines, Savory Restaurant, London looks to France in his introduction of Elizabeth Craig’s book. He notes wine brings “new ways of adding zest to old recipes”.


The Brown’s “The Wine Cook Book” continued to be reprinted, nine times in the first dozen years, thus continuing to be available through the end of World War 2.  The years after World War 2 saw a steady succession of wine books with ties to wineries, wine advocacy groups and some were even published by wine journalists.

The Wine Institute was founded in 1934 and created The Wine Advisory Board in 1937 as their marketing board.  The war in Europe restricted wine importations so many American looked to California for their wine.  The Wine Advisory Board worked to market Californian wine and in doing so published many pamphlets and aided many authors over the years.


Anne Director, head of the consumer information division for the Roma Wine Company in California, published “The Standard Wine Cook Book” in 1948.  The Roma Wine Company was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, advertising both in print and on the radio.  The production of Californian wine soared in the mid-1940s. Competition amongst wineries led to increased capacity and increased advertising expenditure.  Her book is no doubt part of this expenditure.

While the Roma Wine Company is not mentioned in Anne Director’s book, she is listed as working at “America’s largest wine producer.”  They were certainly large with a bottling capacity of 20,000 cases a day in 1945.  Also related to a winery, “The Lejon Cook Book” (1947) focused in on the wines Chateau Lejon from California.  It was written by Jeanne Owen, secretary of the Wine and Food Society of New York and published by National Distillers Products Corporation.


Perhaps any mention of wine in a recipe meant home cooks would grab a bottle from California.  Not lost upon the Wine Advisory Board they provided suitable recipes in “Fish Dishes With Wine” (1948).  In the 1950 edition of “The Standard Wine Cook Book” the small pamphlet “14 Praise-Winning Wine Recipes for Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Wild Game” was included.  It clearly recommends the local wine with choices of “California Sauterne wine” and “California Burgundy wine”.  That same year the Italian Swiss Colony employed Gertrude S. Wilkinson, former food editor of The New York Journal-America, to write the pamphlet “Food Is More Fun With Wine” (1950).


George Leistner under the pen name Emily Chase became the first food consultant for The Home Advisory Service of the Wine Institute.  She published “The pleasures of cooking with wine” (1960).  Other publications by the Wine Advisory Board include “Favorite Recipes of California Winemakers” (1963), the shortened pamphlet version “The Revised Wine Cook Book” (1964), and “Gourmet Wine Cooking the easy way” (1968).


During this period New York state ranked second in wine production behind California.  The Taylor Wine Company did not lay quiet for Greyton H. Taylor published the “Treasury of Wine & Wine Cookery” in 1963.


Also that same year Rebecca Caruba, the first female sommelier in America, England, and France, published “Cooking With Wine and High Spirits” (1963).


Morrison Wood, who wrote the column “For Men Only” in the Chicago Tribune first published “An Unusual Collection of Recipes With a Jug of Wine” in 1949.  He continued to publish a number of other cook books.  Ruth Ellen Church, who, under the pen name Mary Meade was the food editor of the Chicago Tribune, later became the first regular wine columnist in a newspaper.  Her “American Guide To Wines” (1963) was a combination wine guide and cook book with an introduction by Morrison Wood.  After retiring from the newspaper she later published “Entertaining with Wine” (1976).


I should also mention “The ABC of Wine Cookery” (1957) published by the Peter Pauper Press.  This press came out with a series of ABC cook books during the 1950s and 1960s.  The colorful dust jackets, whimsical illustrations, and text make them quite pleasing.  For instance you may find, “Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly, Lavender’s green; Add wine to  your sauce, and you’ll eat like a Queen!”


What appears between the covers of these books is subject to future posts.  However, for a sweet ending, Anne Director’s Christmas Pudding includes such ingredients as chopped suet, molasses, sweet milk, nut meats, Port or Muscatel.  Bon Appetit!


From mature Aubert to old Mongeard-Mugneret, an annual holiday dinner with Lou

December 21, 2015 2 comments

Lou and I gathered with our wives last week for our annual pre-Christmas dinner.  We started in the living room drinking Champagne and eating a crab dip based on a recipe Lou grew up with as a child.  The NV The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Champagne was our young bottle.  With more biscuit aromas than yeast the textured flavors were of lemon fruit and chalk by the finish.  This is an easy going Champagne which will continue to provide interest for several years to come.  I opened the 1970s release of the NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne with great curiosity.  I served it extra cold to help preserve any bubbles.  Despite the sound of some gas escaping when I removed the sound cork, the wine was indeed flat.  This then was a balanced, lively old wine with the right amount of density, tart apple flavors, and old wood.  I even found the fine golden amber color matched the nutty aromas on the mouth.  Lou mentioned Abe Schoener’s carbonated sparkling wine so I had every intention of subjecting a small sample to our Soda Stream.  While I forgot to do so I did mix a glass of the two Champagnes to positive effect.


With dinner we started with Lou’s oldest bottle of Aubert in the form of the 2008 Aubert Wines, Chardonnay, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.  This is a fairly alcoholic wine so it took an iteration or two to get it at the right temperature.  Once the temperature was correct, this was a glorious Californian Chardonnay.  It was aromatic, rich in the mouth, and quite mouthfilling but with fine acidity and minerality.  It was a treat.  We then moved to older Burgundy.  The popped and poured 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux immediately smelled great.  Lou and I exchanged a quick glance to confirm the bottle was in sound shape.  It took almost half an hour for the flavors to catch up.  Then for one hour this was a compelling wine to smell and taste, reasserting that old Burgundy can make a fine drink!  The evening ended with a glass of 1966 Offley Boa Vista, Vintage Port.  It is not the most complex of wines but the sweetness is delivered with a seductive mouthfeel and a noticeable dose of old wood.  It is an old Vintage Port that can be drunk without concern.


NV The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Champagne
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose reveals more biscuit aromas than yeast.  In the mouth, the very fine and firm bubbles quickly dissipate leading to a lively start of lemon flavors.  With bright acidity on the tongue things wrap up with a textured, chalky finish.  *** Now – 2020.


NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne (1970s release)
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  In the glass was a golden amber color with a finely aromatic nutty nose.  The acidity gives an initial impression of a prickle on the tongue but there is no doubt this wine is flat.  There is a fine balance of nut flavors, old wood, and tart apple flavors.  The wine is slightly textured with salivating acidity, and a slight density.  All in all, it is a charming still wine.  *** Now.


2008 Aubert Wines, Chardonnay, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Alcohol 15.6%.  With air and proper temperature the nose smelled of waxy sweet aromas, butterscotch and supportive oak.  This is a mouthfilling, sexy with but the consistent acidity and good minerality make it a joy to drink.  The flavors start with sweet yellow fruit but turn to white by the finish.  ****(*) Now.


1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  The fine and deep nose was scented with aromas of cranberries and cherries.  It took 15 to 30 minutes for the tart red fruit flavors to take on sweetness.  This mixed well with the floral start, watering acidity, and ripe old wood hints in the finish.  This lively wine was compelling to drink for another hour and even picked up a touch of grip in the end.  **** Now.


1966 Offley Boa Vista, Vintage Port
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 20%.  The marshmallow sweetness is matched by the round body making for a luxurious feeling wine from the very first glass.  While not too complex, the fruit is pure and the supportive hints of old wood are just right.  This bottle was in great shape without any hints of heat.  In the end, a great old Port to drink.  ***(*) Now but will last.


A pair of Port from Cockburn’s

December 18, 2015 Leave a comment

The stains on the label of the tawny Port did not come from an enthusiastic drinking session at my house.  Instead, they were earthquake induced as they came from the Earthquake Cellar.  Surprisingly enough, both of these wines were bottled in 1999 so they have seen some age.  The fruit of the 1995 Cockburn’s, Late Bottled Vintage, Porto still tasted young but the wine seemed tempered by time.  All it needed was a bit of air and it became a rather good drink!   On the other hand, our bottle of NV Cockburn’s, 10 Year Tawny Port, Porto was not as interesting for it was too spirituous.  I have no complaints given the prices.  These wines were purchased at BP Wine.


1995 Cockburn’s, Late Bottled Vintage, Porto – $19
Imported by Allied Domecq Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  Bottled in 1999.  The cherry pie flavors were sweet, dense, and full of youthful fruit.  There was a fine+ texture to the wine with sweetness and salivating acidity.  Clearly more fruity there was enough supportive wood for the youthful quality of the fruit.  It was a touch spirituous in the finish of this wine which was seemingly tempered by bottle age.  *** Now – 2025.


NV Cockburn’s, 10 Year Tawny Port, Porto – $11
Imported by Allied Domecq Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  Bottled in 1999.  This eventually fleshed out to reveal ripe and round flavors of dried fruit with baking spices.  Though attractively racy at first there was a distracting amount of heat in the end which.  ** Now.


A blind tasting of super Tuscans from the 2000 vintage

December 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Last week I also found maturity and pleasure in a recent vintage.  I was the guest of David for his turn of hosting his tasting group.  We gathered in his living room to first eat cheese and drink 2013 G de Guiraud, Bordeaux Blanc Sec while we waited for the others to arrive.  My familiarity with Guiraud was limited to the sweet side of things so it was a surprise to try this dry blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  It was slightly grassy on the nose with citric flavors, some fat, good acidity, and a mineral finish.  Upon revisiting it I found attraction in the sappy flavors and grippy mild structure.

When we sat down at the dinning table we were greeted by five brown bagged wines.  David had opened the wines and drunk off the top bits over six hours prior.  Initial guesses at David’s theme were made difficult by the differences in maturity.  There appeared to be a general agreement that there were some Bordeaux grapes in the mix.  Whether they were from France or Italy was intended to be difficult to ascertain due to the ordering of the bottles.  The clues slowly came out, Italy which I could believe.  They were all from 2000, no way!  And they were all from Tuscany except for the Bordeaux ringer.  Until this tasting, I had not tried any mature super Tuscans.

Unfortunately the bottle of 2000 Antinori, Tignanello, Toscana was off.  Fortunately for us, the replacement bottle of 2000 Antinori, Solaia, Toscana was in top form.  It drank great from the very first pour, so much so that I spent more time drinking it than jotting down notes.  This bottle seemed at the peak of maturity.  The 2000 Argiano, Solengo, Toscana also drank well.  It was forward with more jammy and sexy flavors.  In slight contrast, the 2000 Tua Rita, Giusto di Notri, Toscana sported more concentration and potential for future development.  Though youthful, the savory and racy flavors were hard to resist.  The 2000 Antinori, Tenuta Guado al Tasso, Bolgheri Superiore showed depth with quite a bit of a structure; I would cellar this further.  The 2000 Clos de l’Oratoire, Saint Emilion proved the most elegant and youthful.  Granted, the super Tuscans were more opulent but I did not think this wine had as much complexity to give.  We wrapped the meal up with a very young and fine bottle of 2001 Chateau Coutet, Barsac.  I would cellar this further.  Many thanks to David for including me and hosting a fine evening.


1 – 2000 Tua Rita, Giusto di Notri, Toscana
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 14%.  This wine exhibited a medium core of color with some garnet.  The nice nose was a touch fresh but in the mouth this maturing wine had a savory, racy vein of flavor leading to the mineral finish.  The concentrated flavors of black and red fruit was accented by a greenhouse note and a leather hint.  The structure existed as slightly spicy tannins.   ***(*) Now – 2025.


2 – 2000 Clos de l’Oratoire, Saint Emilion
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This wine was aromatic with plummy notes.  The wine tasted younger than the first with more structure and dry, very fine tannins.  The cherry core remained youthful with a little salivating acidity, and leather.  *** Now – 2025.


3 – 2000 Antinori, Tignanello, Toscana
Imported by Remy Amerique.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Clearly older than the second wine the nose revealed candy cane aromas but the mouth revealed this wine was off.  It was tart and citric with red fruit, puckering acidity, and very fine strong tannins.  Not Rated.


4 – 2000 Argiano, Solengo, Toscana
Imported by Vias Imports.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and a bit of Petit Verdot.  This was young and jammy on the nose with both sweet fruit and oak aromas.  In the mouth this deep and young wine had attractive, chewy flavors.   Drinking forward and sexy.  **** Now – 2020.


5 – 2000 Antinori, Tenuta Guado al Tasso, Bolgheri Superiore
Imported by Remy Amerique.  This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 10% Syrah that was aged for 14 months in oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  The good aromas bore a touch of greenhouse.  In the mouth there were some deep flavors, ink, power, and a racy finish.  There were some significant very fine tannins with a bitter finish.  ***(*) 2020 – 2030.


Backup – 2000 Antinori, Solaia, Toscana
Imported by Remy Amerique.  This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This drank great from the moment it was poured.  The sweet nose of dark fruit made  way to maturing, rounded flavors that mixed with spices and supportive, old wood.  Drinking at its peak.  **** Now – 2018.


2001 Chateau Coutet, Barsac
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  Alcohol 14%.  A young tasting bottle with hints of goodness to come.  With warmth and air the residual sugar became noticeable in this textured wine.  It showed some roast character.  *** 2025-2045.

“Legendary Potions”: An old wine dinner back to 1929

December 16, 2015 5 comments

Mature vintages are a normal part of any discussion with Darryl and Nancy.   However, when it came to selecting our wines for a recent dinner, they led off deep with a double salvo of vintages from 1929 and 1931.  This soon led everyone else to offer up bottles from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

It was easy to be seduced by the final wine list.  The vintages from 1929, 1931, 1937, and 1942 were at one time not only difficult but impossible to secure in America.  The oldest wines were initially not imported due to Prohibition.  The others would have been held up for a few years due to transportation difficulties caused by World War 2.  In fact, Jane Nickerson wrote in The New York Times that the first tasting of imported wines since the war only took place in New York City during 1946.  For these reasons, in part, all of the oldest bottles bore modern import strips.


It turned out that ullage as an indicator of condition reined king.  With one loose cork, two bottles low in the shoulder, and even one below shoulder wine, these bottles were doomed from the start.  Whether this was due to poor storage in Europe or America is not known.

However, you cannot find fault in trying a low fill 1929 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac or even a 1949 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves  for they are rather difficult to acquire.   The 1929 Duhart-Milon is largely regarded as an excellent wine.  This particular vintage represents the last great vintage of the estate before it succumbed to the economic depression of the 1930s and ravages of the war.  With no capital to spare, the old vines slowly died off with the overall acreage declining as weeds took over.  It was not until 1962 that the estate was turned around after the acquisition by Domaines Barons de Rothchild.

Such history was in the back of my mind when, with bottles in hand, eight of us gathered last week at The Grill Room in the Capella Hotel located in Georgetown.  Present were Darryl, Nancy, Tim, Scott, Lily, Josh, Morgan, and myself.  For our dinner Chef Frank Ruta created a six course menu around our wine flights.  The wines themselves were overseen by Master Sommelier Keith Goldston.  There was much discussion with about the service of the wines to let them show their best.  While there was no help for some bottles, the dead bottles of Bordeaux were tempered by other tenacious old red wines and an incredible opening flight of Champagne.

cod and colossal squid from Denmark, sweet onions, dauphines
grilled soy braised daikon

I have drunk Salon only once before but given the situation I did not note the vintage nor how the wine tasted.  Our bottle of 2002 Salon, Cuvée ‘S’, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne  from the current release was deep in the aromatic nose, with cream and fat in the mouth, and a racy finish.  It was young in the mouth but when I returned to it I could not help but see what all was in store.  It was a very good but perhaps due to youth not as compelling as what was up next.  The first mature wines were perfectly fresh.  The 1973 Moët & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne was a tremendous bottle, holding nothing back for the first hour or two.  I was beguiled by the fat and oil textured flavors.  As the 1973 began to fade the 1976 Moet & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne finally opened up.  This was always more austere in nature with yeast notes, dry flavors, and vibrant acidity.  It finally showed good complexity and even suggested the need for several more years in the cellar.


2002 Salon, Cuvée ‘S’, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was very aromatic with remarkable depth, a hint of yeast, and underlying earthiness.  This lovely wine was rich in the mouth with very fine and strong bubbles that quickly dispersed to leave a dry texture and chalk infused finish.  With air it took on cream and fat, which never became heavy because it was racy.  Young!  **** 2020-2050.


1973 Moët & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Imported by Schieffelin & Co.  Alcohol 12.7%.  The darkest of the pair, this bottle revealed pure aromas of coffee and latte with bits of nut added in.  In the mouth the lively, firm bubbles made way to a drier, richer, and creamy wine.  It lost bubbles with time but it developed remarkable amount of fat and oil before the racy finish.  This tremendous wine delivered all it could before fading after an hour or two.  ****(*) Now – 2025.


1976 Moet & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Imported by Schieffelin & Co.  Alcohol 12.1%.  Though it bore familiar aromas, there were more yeast notes.  The flavors were youthful with pretty floral components and better defined acidity.  Nice flavors developed after a few hours of air making this a vibrant, mature wine. **** 2020-2035.

Shoat Belly
chestnut coulis, apple and turnip salad

Michael Broadbent noted the 1973 German vintage as the largest vintage on record with most wines set for early consumption.  I might have hedged once the nose opened up on the 1973 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberg Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but the flavors were getting tired in the mouth.  While fine enough to drink I did not crave more.


1973 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberg Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Shipped by Weinexport Hattenheim BMGH.  Imported by Kobrand Coporation.   The nose was first evocative of geraniums before developing complex aromas of herbs and old lady perfume.  In the mouth were apple-like flavors with some old and dusty notes.  ** Now.

Hand Cut Tagliatelle
with kabocha squash, truffle and shaved reggiano

The 1929 Duhart-Milon, Pauillac turned out to be a shell of its former self.  Perhaps speaking to its original potency, the nose was incredibly aromatic but of herbs and greenhouse plants.  This was followed by tart and strange flavors in the mouth.  No doubt old but refusing to let go was the 1931 Fontanafredda, Barolo.  This is a remarkable bottle because very little appears to have been written in English about this vintage let alone the wine.  The Wasserman’s described the vintage as “widely considered to be the greatest of the century” in their book Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991).  Michael Broadbent wrote that “pre-war vintages are scarce” for Italian wine which remains true to this day for there are but a handful of tasting notes.  The  Wasserman’s made note of the 1931 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo, there is also Michael Broadbent’s note on the 1931 Giacomo Borgogne, Barolo Riserva Speciale, and finally Jamie Wolff (Chambers Street Wines) mentions a  good bottle of 1931 Marchesi di Barolo.

Fontanafredda has a royal history dating back to the mid-19th century.  Trying times began with World War I and reached a low mark with the economic depression of 1929.  After changing ownerships a few times, Fontanafredda went into bankruptcy in 1930 then was acquired by a bank in 1932.  Kerin O’Keefe writes in Barolo and Barbaresco (2014) how this bank turned the estate around.  You can imagine my delight when this bottle, produced during economic turmoil and bottled under new ownership, turned out to be fabulous.

Darryl had double-decanted the 1931 Fontanfredda, Barolo almost 24 hours prior to our tasting.  He reported that the wine had gained weight since he first pulled the cork.  It was in the mouth that this wine shined.  It had richness and weight but it was the tension which kept me returning to my glass all night long.

Also drinking very well, was the 1937 Camille Giroud, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Blondeau, Volnay.  The excellent 1937 vintage also happens to be the same year of the first Burgundy pavilion during the Paris Exposition.  Our bottle was fairly pigmented when first poured but the color shifted to include more browns which matched the old wine flavors that also came out.  The wine was sexy but unlike the rich body of the Barolo, our Volnay had structured black fruit and minerals.  If it was more firm the aftertaste was coating and long.


1929 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
Shipped by J. Calvet & Co.  Imported by Ginday Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Below shoulder fill.  The dark brown color let to aromatic herbal and greenhouse aromas that also took on notes of dill.  The flavors were similar in profile with a tart start, strange flavors, and an old wine finish.  Sadly not worth drinking.  Not Rated.


1931 Fontanafredda, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose did not prepare one for the surprising richness of the flavors.  It showed a racy personality with inkiness and most importantly, tension.  This was an elegant, compelling wine.  **** Now – 2035.


1937 Camille Giroud, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Blondeau, Volnay
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Old Vine Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  There was still red color in the glass but with air it took on browner and garnet tones.  This was a sexy, old wine which showed proper mature flavors with air.  It still sported some tannics with a touch of dusty, black fruit and minerals.  I particularly liked how the old fruit flavors clung to the mouth in the rather long aftertaste.  **** Now – 2025.

Bobo Farms Air Chilled Duck Breast
glazed beets, juniper sauce

This next flight featured two well regarded bottles from excellent vintages in Rioja.  In The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain (2011) the vintage comments point out that 1942 “Vina Albina from Bodegas Riojanas” is in “top form today.”  The Vina Tondonia “in gran reserva format, represent the peak of the vintage.” The 1942 Bodegas Riojanas, Vina Albina, Rioja was in top-form and really deserved even more air than it received.  This textured wine had citric red fruit flavors and a youthful personality that reminded me of a demi-john aged wine.  Sadly, our bottle of 1947 R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja was on the tired side.  With the fruit largely gone it was tart and acidic with less flavor.  Both bottles had metal capsules.  The Riojanas bore a more modern Consejo Regulador  Garantia de Origen label on the back with the de Heredia sporting the older Diploma de Garantia.  I feel these labels spoke to the relative release dates of the wines.


1942 Bodegas Riojana, Vina Albina, Rioja
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Bottom neck fill. Quite clear and vibrant in the glass with a meaty nose of sweet berries.  In the mouth the citric red fruit flavors and tannins made it taste like a demi-john aged wine.  The flavors were dry and mouthfilling with watering acidity, a hint of old wood, and a cool, meaty note.  It left good texture on the tongue.  **** Now – 2035.


1947 R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Top-shoulder fill.  The wine smelled old with notes of soy.  In the mouth the flavors were very tart and citric, leaving a first impression that the wine was older.  The fruit had largely faded leaving prominent acidity and some old wine flavors.  ** Now.

Dry Aged Shenandoah Rib Roast
locally foraged winter oyster mushrooms, glazed celeriac, red wine jus

This final flight of red wines turned out solid at best.  With the 1949 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves clearly evocative of bananas and the 1955 Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe even worse, the 1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe  once again exhibited reliability.  This bottle had better fill and a different shipper than the bottle I tasted this summer.  It proved different too with a robust, tannic, and textured personality.  It is what I drank with my rib roast.  The mallet-shaped bottle of 1964 M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie was aromatically described by one guest as “fog of ass”.  It was odd and certainly stinky so much so that I did not revisit the wine until after I finished my course.  Surprisingly, the nose cleaned up and developed a core of robust fruit.  Though a bit clunky, it was a decent glass.


1949 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Though the bottle smelled of sweet fruit, in the glass the wine was strangely evocative of banana foster.  This sweetness quickly faded to reveal old vintage perfume.  In the mouth were highly astringent flavors of tart red fruit and perfume.  It was a bit salty too.  Not rated.


1955 Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe
Shipped by Tarbes & Co.  Imported by Vintage Wines Inc.  The smelly nose made way to tired, old flavors of menthol.  Worse than the 1949.  Not Rated.


1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Direct Import Wine Company.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  The wine looked good with a garnet color of color infused with some redness.  This wine presented mature flavors in a youthful, robust, and tannic nature.  While not sporting a ton of fruit, this wine craved air, filling the mouth with textured flavors of maturity.  A good drink.  *** Now – 2025.


1964 M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie
Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Imported by Schallery Wine Company.  Bottom shoulder fill.  This was a very dark cola color.  I initially thought it too old with its odd nose one person described as “fog of ass”.  Upon revisiting it had cleaned up tor reveal a core of red and black fruit with surprising robustness.  A solid wine which just needed to shake its stink off!  ** Now – 2020.

Tarte Tatin aux Coings
Honey buckwheat ice cream, vanilla quince sauce

The final wine of our evening was a fitting last glass.  The mature flavors fit in with all of the other wines but the sweet, tense flavors acted as a refresher.  As such I was satisfied and felt no need to taste anything else.


1959 Moulin Touchais, Anjou Blanc
Imported by Rolar Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  With a color of vibrant, dark gold and a nose of membrillo this wine was attractive to all of the senses.  The rich flavors hinted at sweetness but this old wine had strong focus and good life from the acidity.  The acidity drove the wine through the end where it tasted like a mature white wine.  Good tension.  ****Now – 2045.