Archive for April, 2016

Tight Nebbiolo and open Sagrantino

April 28, 2016 2 comments

I write my daily tasting notes on small Moleskine notebooks and employ a medium-sized spiral bound notebook for formal tastings.  At times when I do not feel like walking upstairs to my office to fetch my daily notebook, I might instead grab a sheet from a notepad.  The tasting notes I am publishing this week came from such loose sheets of paper because I lost my daily notebook, either on my plane or more likely, in the airport during my flight out to Seattle.  There were only a few dozen unpublished notes from recently purchased bottles and a few bottles I have had for years.  Oh well!  I guess those empty bottles now go straight to the recycling!

Sagrantino and Nebbiolo are both capable of producing wines that must be aged before they are enjoyable. The 2011 Fattoria Col Santo, Sagrantino de Montefalco is the latest vintage of a wine which breaks the mold by being extremely enjoyable in its vigorous youth.  Just think of a flavorful core of red and black fruits, graphite, minerals, excellent acidity, and some spicy tannins.  This is seriously fun stuff at an affordable price.  The 2004 Ca’Rome, Calimpia, Langhe clearly needs more age to resolve the firm and dry tannic structure.  There are good flavors in the wine and in drinking it quickly, avoid double-decanting, it is a fine drink at $15.  I would not gamble the original price of $48 because I am not entirely sure the flavors will outlast the structure.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Fattoria Col Santo, Sagrantino de Montefalco – $18
Imported by Siema Wines.  his wine is 100% Sagrantino sourced from vineyards in Montarone on soils of clay and lime.  The fruit is harvested at the beginning of October, fermented in stainless steel, then undergoes malolactic fermentation in 70% wood casks and 30% stainless steel.  The wine is then aged for 15 months in wooden casks followed by a further 12 months of aging in stainless steel tanks.   Alcohol 15.5%.  There are lovely flavors of ripe red and black fruit which come out in the vigorous start.  These flavors are quickly joined by black graphite, spices, and eventually minerals in the spicy, tannic finish.  The acidity is spot on for the great core of fruit.  The wine add density and minerality with air.  Well done.  ***(*) Now – 2026.


2004 Ca’Rome, Calimpia, Langhe – $15
Imported by Empson.  This is 100% young Nebbiolo sourced from vines on the hill of Barbaresco.  Alcohol ?  There is some roast on the nose but not in the mouth.  With a start of tart black and red fruit, the wine takes on some weight as dry, mouth-coating tannins come out.  This is a very dry wine with firm wood tannins that actually contribute a sense of extract.  Clearly needs age but there are some interesting flavors in the work.  **(*) Now – 2026.

I find creamy, fruity flavors in Richard Rottiers’ 2014 Moulin a Vent

Richard Rottiers is a relative newcomer to Moulin a Vent but not to winemaking.  After stints all over the world and more locally at Chateau Thivin, he started his own domaine in 2007, producing wine from 3 hectares of vines aged 40 to 80 years.  Today he has expanded to 5 hectares. His 2014 Domaine Richard Rottiers, Moulin a Vent was vinified traditionally with upbringing in wood.  It offers lovely, creamy flavors of various fruits which become a literal fruit punch.  This zippy wine will age for a few years but it is hard to resists its current youthful state.  This is a top-notch wine at a great price. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Domaine Richard Rottiers, Moulin a Vent – $22
Imported by Constantine Wines.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from vines up to 80 years old .  It was aged 6 to 10 months in wooden vats and barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  There are attractive hints of greenhouse in the round, almost creamy varietal flavors of red fruit, cranberry, and tart blue fruit.  The fine, drying tannins are present before the flavors morph towards fruit punch.  Things wrap up with a fresh and zippy aftertaste of citric pith.  Will age but the baby fat is great right now.  *** Now – 2019.


A Spring Assortment of Lovely Wines to Drink or Age

David Bloch returns with a trio of enticing wines.


2008 Rocca di Castagnoli, Chianti Classico Riserva Poggio A’Frati
One sip of this wine and you know it is from Tuscany.   Very young and tight.  Decanted for two hours and the wine blossomed.  This is a deep and dark Chianti.  Classic Sangiovese notes of tobacco.  On the black fruit spectrum for sure.  Some dirt and soil too, adding complexity.  Licorice and some floral elements.  I liked the acidity that is hidden behind all the fruit and tannins.  This wine will reward another 3-5 years of cellaring and drink well for a long, long time.

2013 Château Guiraud, Le G, Bordeaux
I drink a fair amount of this wine vintage after vintage.  The 2013 seems to be at the point of needing to be consumed.  Not that this wine can’t age a bit, but I like the pungent aspects of the cepage and the freshness that this wine demonstrates now.  Plenty of Sauvignon character.  Indeed, cut grass and an herbal nose and palate masks the Semillon initially.  Blind I would have said Sancerre.  Then the wine becomes more round in the mouth and midpalate where the Semillon provides some citrus and tropical fruit notes that makes you want to take another sip.  A half bottle was put back in the fridge after lunch on Saturday and finished before dinner on Sunday.  The wine showed great the next day and should not be consumed too cold.

2001 Domaine de la Charbonnière, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Mourre des Perdrix
Decanted off some sediment for about two hours.  Classic traditional CdP.  The nose was great.  Flowers and spice and dark fruits.  The wine had great texture and again, plenty of spice, raspberry, dark cherry and some peppery notes in the mouth.  Really long finish.  This 2001 has performed beautifully and is quite mature.  I was a little concerned when I encountered a spongy cork but the wine was a real beauty.  I also have had the Vieilles Vignes several times from this vintage.  I think the blend (70% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah) yielded a more interesting and complex wine than the primarily old vine Grenache cuvee.  This wine will keep in a cool cellar for many more years but if you own a few enjoy one now.

Exciting French Wines from Barral, Clape, Reynaud, Veryney, and more

Jenn and I have tasted five exciting French red wines this past week.  The latest vintage of the 2014 Domaine La Manarine, Cotes du Rhone  is all about drinkability.  There is both more fruit and accessibility compare with the 2012 vintage.  If you like a brighter rendition of Grenache then grab a bottle for this wine even includes some spice and mineral notes.  Right now the 2014 Domaine A. Clape, Les Vin des Amis is notable for its wonderful nose.  I always find the Les Vin des Amis a unique and traditional wine.  If the flavors catch up with the aroma then this should be a killer wine in a few years.  Last tasted a year ago, the 2013 Domaine Georges Verney, Sainte-Agathe, Cotes du Rhone is now starting to open up.  Though labeled Cotes du Rhone this made from Syrah vines in Condrieu which is right next to Cote-Rotie.  The nose is quite complex and worth purchasing based on that quality alone.  The flavors are savory and dry.  I suspect this will be even better next summer.  The 2011 Domaine des Tours, VdP Vaucluse follows the fantastic 2010 vintage which set a very high bar when tasted this Fall.  If the 2011 vintage is not up to the regard of the 2010 vintage in the Rhone, this wine will not disappoint.  It still offers gobs of ripe strawberry flavors unique to Reynaud just without the sense of future potential.  This bottle did not appreciatively change over five hours.  In my mind, this is an excellent wine to drink while the 2010 develops in your basement.  Finally, I decided to revisit the 2009 Domaine Leon Barral, Valiniere, Faugeres.  My sneaking suspicion is that I prefer some of the older Barral vintages.  This 2009 Valiniere is one example.  There is still a hefty bit of structure but the flavors are starting to take over with exuberant energy.  This is great stuff with broad appeal.  All wines, except for the Barral, are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Domaine La Manarine, Cotes du Rhone – $14
Imported by Neal Rosenthal.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from vines averaging 35 years of age. The fruit was destemmed with elevage taking 20-24 months. Alcohol 14%.  The round fruity start is bright but quickly picks up ripeness, good acidity, and supportive structure.  This is very much a wine for right now.  It is flavorful, has a bit of dry spice, and a blue, mineral finish.  *** Now.


2014 Domaine A. Clape, Les Vin des Amis – $30
Imported by Kermit Lynch.   This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40-year-old vines on soils of round river stones. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks then underwent malolactic fermentation and aging for 6 months in cement cuves and 6 months in foudres. Alcohol 12%.  The grapey color makes way to a fantastic and unique nose full of berry and meat aromas.  In the mouth the wine offers tart, green, and old school flavors marked by  a perfumed start.  A couple hours of air lets the wine flesh out with a tart start, moderate structure, and dry finish.  While the flavors remain on the brighter side of things it does take on the subtlest hint of fat by the end.  Needs a bit more time.  *** perhaps ***(*) Now – 2026.


2013 Domaine Georges Verney, 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%.  The aromatic nose reveals fine tropical floral aromas mixed with sweet mandarin oranges and cardamom.  The flavors are drier and darker in the mouth than I would expect.  There is a touch of savory to the dry red fruit.  While progressing well I would suggest holding off another year.  *** Now – 2022.


2011 Domaine des Tours, VdP Vaucluse – $30
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvedre.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose complements the forward flavors of ripe strawberry which continue through the aftertaste.  There is more sense of weight with plenty of mouth coating flavors.  It is a seamless wine where the acidity and structure are perfectly bound such that you only notice flavor.  In the end this is a wine to drink now, barely changing with extended air.  **** Now – 2021.


2009 Domaine Leon Barral, Valiniere, Faugeres
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah sourced from 15-30 year old vines. The wine was aged 24 to 26 months in 10% new oak.  Alcohol 14%.  There is much more approachable concentrated fruit that is almost thick with extract.  The fine tannins are still there though they become riper towards the middle where a sense of freshness quickly makes way to strapping and exuberant energy.  The fruit overlays the acidity.  After a few hours the wine fleshes out with cool blue fruit and a little fat.  The structure (and energy!) will allow this wine to develop for many more years but the flavors have expanded enough that this is downright pleasurable to drink.  **** Now – 2028.



Maryland’s Way: A dinner based on historic recipes

As follow up to our recent Picayune Creole Cook Book dinner, our second wine cookery dinner shifted focus north to Maryland.  For this dinner Sudip and I were joined in the kitchen by Lou.  Lou was raised in Maryland which imparted a strong affinity for the foods of the Chesapeake Bay as compared to my Virginia upbringing which involved more southern food.  Lou suggested we cook from the Maryland’s Way cookbook


This fantastic mid-century cookbook is in fact a collection of historic Maryland receipts dating back to 1634.  The receipts were gathered and published by The Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis.  This house was built in 1774 and today operates as a museum.  Lou’s parents cooked from this book when he was young and today he possesses that very same copy, complete with a few old recipes stuck between the pages.

Lou texted a pictures from the book including an entry from an old house book, “it is usual to have terrapin, canvasback ducks, or game” and an 19th century extract regarding a dinner of the Ancient South River Club, “A fine lamb…Several dozen crabs must be caught…must have asparagus…potatoes and peas…I shall bring boiled ham, and a fine piece of beef.”  Sudip and I were hooked, immediately ordering our used copies of the book.  The book has many chapters ranging from Chesapeake Bay Fish, Diamond Back Terrapin, to Vegetables, and Fragrances and Seasonings.  There are even copies of old letters and menus.  All of this first fascinated Lou as a child and will fascinate anyone interested in the history of Maryland cooking.

The first order of business involved picking our menu.  In all honesty, the recipes sounded far more interesting than what is in the Picayune Creole Cook Book.  That, of course, is a more test-kitchen product whereas Maryland’s Way is a collection of family recipes each with their own language and method of conveying ingredients and direction.  One hundred years ago we certainly would have started with Maryland terrapin and Madeira.  In our case we managed to involve oysters, crab, rock fish, and ham.  There are many recipes for biscuits and rolls.  I was intrigued by the Maryland Beaten Biscuits but this involves hitting the dough with the flat of an axe for at least 30 minutes.  For formal company the recipe suggested 45 minutes of beating!  When it came to the vegetable side dishes we had a hard time focusing.  So many of the recipes caught our appetite so we focused in on onion pie, parsnips, beets, and sweet potatoes, many of the ingredients came from local markets.

Rockfish stuffed with crab

Rockfish stuffed with crab

The routine we are settling into involves the prepping of the ingredients in our individual kitchens then gathering at our house late afternoon.  We start with some drinks and cheese then cooked the dinner with which we drink other bottles of wine.  Lou and I picked the wines together.  Champagne was a requirement given the food, as was a few whites to go with the rockfish, one from Maryland and one from France.  With the ham we opened a pair of Maryland wines from Black Ankle.  I like to see some older bottles opened so we tucked into a pair of 1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon before the fray of cooking.  Lou included a surprise bottle which he served with the ham.


We started the afternoon outside on the deck eating goat cheese and drinking the 2002 Rare Wine Company, Les Mesnil, “Cuvee Sans Malolactique” Blanc de Blancs Champagne en magnum.  This only got better and better with air.  I would say it took at least three hours to open up to reveal the right about of white and yellow fruit, fine yet firm bubbles, and a mousse that was matched by the weight of the fruit.  A pleasure to drink now but I highly recommend letting this age another five years before trying again.

The rest of the Champagne was required for the start of our dinner so we switched to a pair of old Dry Creek Vineyard wines.   Dry Creek Vineyard was opened in 1973 by David Stare, representing the first new winery in the area since Repeal.  When David Stare presented a tasting of all his Cabernet Sauvignons vintages in 1980, from 1973 through 1979, it was the 1977 Vintner’s Selection that was the top wine.  David Stare stated it was “a little more complex with a big future.”  The Vintner’s Selection blends were in the range of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.  The fruit was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks then aged in small oak barrels.  The 1977 vintage in California was the second in a row to experience drought conditions.  According to the Underground Wine Letter the “crop was not nearly as affected” as with the previous vintage.

Both of our bottles had fills of bottom-neck or higher.  The cork of the regular bottling came out easy with staining higher up the sides whereas the cork of the Vintner’s Selection was firmly seated with staining only at the business end.  Both bottles were in fine shape and drank well over the course of four hours.  I really liked the deep fruity aromas and flavors of the 1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner’s Selection, Sonoma County but it was the 1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County bottling that improved with air.  This bottle is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot that was aged in French and American oak.  According to the back label this should have been consumed by 1985.  Thankfully it was not for it was the first wine we finished, no doubt due to the remarkable liveliness.


1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13.1%.  The nose is higher toned with red fruit and a smoke hint.  In the mouth, this old school wine, has bright red fruit that mixes well with greenhouse notes.  The wine maintained a tart grip, with lively acidity, and over the course of several hours the fruit fleshed out.  Endless energy which draws you back for more.  **** Now but will last.


1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner’s Selection, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13.0%.  The nose is deeper and darker with animale notes.  In the mouth is deep, old perfumed red fruit, a tart middle, and good acidity.  There is plenty of fruit presence and even an inky, lipstick hint.  It becomes a bit unknit in the finish where the structure shows.  *** Now but will last.

Once the final cooking begins it becomes hard to take the time to jot down tasting notes. The following come from memory and a few words scribbled away.  The 2014 Basignani, Seyval, Montbray Vineyard had a very interesting nose but was rather devoid of flavor and quite short in the mouth.  It took three days for the 2009 Domaine de La Bongran, Cuvee E.J. Thevent, Vire Clesse to fully open up.  The nose mixed yeasty stones whereas in the mouth were complex, round flavors of cream and dried floral fruit.  Neat stuff.

The Black Ankle wines were very solid, slowly maturing, and in no way mistakable for a wine from Virginia.  The 2006 Black Ankle Vineyards, Crumbling Rock, Frederick County is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  I would say age has softened the edges rather than add significant bottle age complexity.  The 2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County offered most of its flavor in the finish where it mixed grapey flavors, sweet oak, bacon fat, and smoke.  The 2004 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley stepped this up one notch by offering rich and filling Pinot Noir flavors unmistakably from the west coast.  It even had some pleasing complexity from age.  So in the end, not quite my style but enjoyable.

Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Farm, Monocacy Silver cheese
Fire Fly Farms, Mary Goat Round cheese
Grilled bread

1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
1977 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner’s Selection, Sonoma County

Oyster Stew

2002 RWC, Les Mesnil, “Cuvee Sans Malolactique” Blanc de Blancs Champagne en magnum
Rock Fish stuffed with Crab

2014 Basignani, Seyval, Montbray Vineyard
2009 Domaine de La Bongran, Cuvee E.J. Thevent, Vire Clesse
Miss Fanny Chase’s Spiced Ham
Onion Pie
Parsnip Cakes
Spiced Beets
Sweet Potato Pone

2006 Black Ankle Vineyards, Crumbling Rock, Frederick County
2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County
2004 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Berry Pudding with Foaming Sauce

It was a fun evening with interesting wines and rather tasty food.  I am not a food historian but I must remark that most of our dishes had mace in them.  From what I gather this has less to do with Maryland specifically, rather it is the Colonial basis for some of these recipes.  That was a time when nutmeg and mace were commonly imported.

As thick as a phone book: my first trip to Bern’s Steak House

April 20, 2016 2 comments

The TSA officer at the airport asked if I was escaping the Washington, DC rain for the warmth of Florida.  No, I replied, I am going down to drink wine with my friend.  With the officer perplexed I explained that Bern’s Steak House was my destination.  A woman in the security line chimed up, Bern’s is my favorite place in the world.


Bern’s  Steak House in Tampa, Florida is legendary amongst wine lovers due to the half-million bottle wine cellar that contains table wines dating back to the 19th century and a few fortified wines which are even older.  Founded in the 1950s by Bern Laxer and his wife Gert, wine has always played a major role at the Steak House.  Decades worth of purchasing ensured that there are still ample supplies of wines from the 1960s and later which were bought on release.  Coupled with nearly obsessive backfilling of ancient vintages, particularly for Bordeaux, there is also unparalleled depth.  Many of these bottles were imported specifically for Bern’s.   Fortunately, the prices for most of these wines appear frozen in time.


Most tables at Bern’s do not test the depth of the wine list.  This fact combined with the sheer size of the wine cellar means there is still an impressive supply of old wine at all price points.  Many wine-loving groups make regular trips to plunder the cellar.  During the rise of the wine bulletin boards, Bern’s largely remained a place you did not post about or if you did, you certainly did not mention the Bern’s name.  I suspect some posters did not mention all of the wines they drank for fear of the cherry pickers finishing off such satisfying gems as bottles of 1970s Crozes-Hermitage at $30 per bottle.  Hence the unwritten rule of those who plunder Bern’s wine cellar, don’t mention it.

This silence was not always the case.  The Bern’s wine cellar was mentioned in major newspapers over the decades and the wine list, available for $35 in the late 1980s, was even recommended as a Christmas gift.  In 1978, Frank Prial began to include mention of Bern’s Steak House in his New York Times articles.  Described as “[o]ne of the most unusual lists anywhere to be found” he describes the book of a wine list as being “chained to the table to keep from disappearing.”  For $15 one could pay for a copy instead.  Also in the New York Times, Florence Fabricant mentioned the inclusion of Bern’s in The Wine Spectator very first Grand Awards in 1981.  Three years later Fred Ferretti focused in on Bern’s in the article “Wine List Thick as Tampa Phone Book.”  Later that year Frank Prial wrote the list was “bigger than most telephone books.”

The wine list was still chained to the tables when James Conaway wrote about Bern’s for The Washington Post in 1987.  It was actually a marble fixture to which the list was attached.  Apparently this did not stop people from stealing the wine list for a woman was once employed to ferret out lists hidden under furs and shirts.  Despite the wine list shrinking to the size of the Washington, DC, phone book, a cool $1 million Dollars of wine were sold each year.  Frank Prial still wrote about the Bern’s wine list some two decades after he first mentioned it.  He noted that even Bern Laxer called the immense book “absurd.”


My friend Lou first visited Bern’s nearly a decade ago and he has been sharing stories about his adventures ever since.  It was to join Lou at Bern’s that caused me to flew down to Tampa.  Lou was there the evening before my arrival so it was with delight that I looked at texted pictures of 1964 Domaine Edmond Valby, Morey-Saint-Denise, “Dried cherries, herbs and a little tar” and 1961 Pierre Ponnelle, Chateauneuf du Pape, “[V]ery different. More earth and animale.”  For our dinner together, we were joined by two of Lou’s colleagues. Though they know little about wine, they are curious to try any old wine.

Lou and I found ourselves at Bern’s ahead of the other couple.  We sat ourselves in the bar to flip through the wine list.  After confirming the relative quality of the 1973 vintage in Germany, Lou somewhat randomly picked a bottle of 1973 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Hattenheimer Nussbrunen Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau.  Drunk over one hour, the nose remained rather shy but the fruit flavors picked up definition and weight.  While it was not the most complex wine, it offered a pleasing combination of freshness and maturity.


1973 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Hattenheimer Nussbrunen Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau
Imported by Frank Schoonmaker Selections.  The color is a youthful light, vibrant amber gold.  The light nose bears some petrol aromas and is generally subtle yet very fresh.  The tart, yellow fruit mixes with good acidity and some textured tannin before picking up mid body weight.  With air the flavors become sweeter with better definition of fruit and some ripeness in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

Once seated at the dinning table we began our succession of red wines with the help of Senior Sommelier Brad Dixon.  Brad was excited about a mature Beaujolais, something that Lou has long mentioned, so he soon returned with a decanted bottle of 1983 Heritiers Finaz Devillaine, Moulin-a-Vent. Alexis Lichine described Moulin-a-Vent as the “king of Beaujolais”, capable of slow development in great vintages such as 1983.  Likely produced by a de Villaine relative, think Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, this bottle is a lively, compelling wine of tart red fruit, minerals, and wood notes.  I would not compare this particular example to Burgundy, as some old Beaujolais is compared to, rather it is its own unique wine.  Clearly great vintage and great storage.


1983 Heritiers Finaz Devillaine, Moulin-a-Vent
Imported by B Strauss Selections.  Alcohol 12.5%. The wine is a relatively dark, young color.  The nose is of cranberries back by a wood note.  In the mouth is a bitter red fruit start before black, mineral hints come out.  This lively wine is compelling to drink.  The drying tannins and wood note before the tart finish lend to the impression of perfect storage.  *** Now but will last.

A balance was struck between less expensive and more expensive wines.  The pair of of Northern Rhone reds represented low priced wines from negociants. John Livingstone-Learmonth and Melvyn C. H. Master wrote that Leon Revol sold wines “which are consistent without being spectacular.”  The Revol house was founded in the early 20th century. They own no vineyards, instead fruit was purchased from all over the Cotes du Rhone.  The negociant Maison Brotte sold wine under the Pere Anselme label and become associated with their Chateauneuf du Pape.  No amount of proper storage could change the fact that the 1979 Leon Revol, Cornas, from a superior vintage, was more engaging than the 1980 Pere Anselme, Cote Rotie.  The Revol offered more interesting and complete flavors.  The Anselme did have a bit of attractive meat flavor but was simpler and perhaps, a touch old.


1979 Leon Revol, Cornas
Imported by Bay Distributors.  Alcohol 12%.  There are fresh, red fruit and greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth, the tart red fruit takes on some lipstick, a wood note, and a tart, citric pithe finish.  *** Now.


1980 Pere Anselme, Cote Rotie
Imported by Bay Distributors.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This nose reveals buttery, tart red fruit.  In the mouth the slightly meaty red fruit plays it tight with good structure of old wood and a hint of roast.  ** Now.

The Californian flight proved to be the best of the night both in terms of the wines and history.  Mike Grgich came to California in 1958. He first worked for Lee Stewart at the original Souverain Cellars then went on to Beaulieu Vineyard, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Chateau Montelena.  Grgich Hills Cellar lead off with the 1977 vintage so our bottle of 1979 Grgich Hills Cellar, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley stems from the very early days.  It is an outstanding wine.  With a youthful color it was fruity on the nose followed by deep, chewy flavors backed by lively acidity and the right amount of cedar notes.  It was the favorite wine of the evening.  Clearly at full maturity.  The half bottle of 1970 Souverain Cellars, Mountain Zinfandel, Napa Valley came from the year Lee Stewart sold the winery to a group of investors.  There was then, for a time, a Souverain of Rutherford in Napa Valley  and a Souverain of Alexander Valley in Sonoma.  The later eventually became Chateau Souverain.  Our half bottle bears the original Lee Stewart label.  There are other bottles of 1970 “Souverain of Rutherford” Cabernet Sauvignon bearing post-sale labels.  This wine is classically structured with fresh flavors of tart black fruit.  I would almost venture it is not yet ready to drink.  At least from the Bern’s cellar!


1979 Grgich Hills Cellar, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley
Alcohol 13.7%.  The deep, youthful color is easily matched by the deep berry fruit on the nose.  In the mouth are beautiful fruit flavors that range from blue to tart red by the middle.  The lively acidity, cedar note, and slightly chewy aspect continue to delight through the aftertaste.  Drinking so very well.  **** Now.


1970 Souverain Cellars, Mountain Zinfandel, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  This fresh wine is infused with cedar that supports the fresh, focused, and tart black fruit.  This classic wine sports a lively personality and great structure.  It leaves a menthol freshness in the aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

After dinner we moved up to the Harry Waugh dessert room with its mini barrel shaped rooms.  We all opted to drink various dessert wines by the glass.  Two of the glass of Port were particularly good.  The 1965 Taylor Fladgate, Crusted Port leans towards the sweet, marshmallow spectrum but the addition of baking spices and expansive flavors make it a hands-down solid drink.  However, it was 1978 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port from a modest vintage, that was the Port of the night.  It was complex, inky, and poised for further development.  To add to the surprise, it is one of the cheapest Ports by the glass.  In the end, that is what Bern’s is all about.  You walk in with a general plan about what you want to drink but in the end you taste other wines you never expected to be so interesting.


1977 Barbosa, Vintage Port
The round berries and youthful flavors become super expansive and drier by the finish.  Unfortunately there is some heat at the end.  ** Now.

1965 Taylor Fladgate, Crusted Port
This fruity wine offers up a touch of marshmallow, subtle ripe baking spices, and other sweet notes.  The finish is quite expansive.  *** Now – 2025.

1970 Delaforce, Vintage Port
Musty, tastes of old red fruit. Not Rated.

1978 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port
The deep ruby color speaks of promise.  There is a lot going on in the mouth.  The fruit is wound around a core of complementary wood.  The fruit mixes with bakings spices, ink, and other complexities.  Simply a really nice vintage Port.  ***(*) Now.


Bottles of Xinomavro and Limniona

For an everyday red Greek wine you cannot do much better than the 2013 Thymiopoulos Vineyards, Xinomavro Young Vines, Naoussa.  This floral, black and tart berry fruited wine is best drunk on the first night.  The 2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Tyrnavos is progressing since tasted this past summer.  It takes several hours for the lifted, citric, red fruit with cream to show best, though it still leaves the impression of tightness.  I recommend one more year of age.  If you want a change in your routine then grab both of these.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Thymiopoulos Vineyards, Xinomavro Young Vines, Naoussa – $15
Imported by  Athenne Importers.  This wine is 100% Xinomavro.  Alcohol 13%.  With floral, black fruit that is followed by tart berries, this wine offers plenty of forward drinking flavors.  It is a bit dry.  Best on the first night.  ** Now.


2011 Domaine Zafeirakis, Limniona, Tyrnavos – $20
Imported by Oenos LLC.  This wine is 100% Limniona.  Alcohol 13%.  The fine nose makes way to primarily red fruit with some black fruit driven by watering acidity.  With air the flavors become somewhat rounded with lifted red fruit and citrus notes.  As the wine fleshes out it takes on a touch of cream.  ***  2017 – 2022.

“Canadian Gunners in an Italian Vineyard” with grapes

Canadian troops fought in Italy during World War 2.  They participated in campaigns both on Sicily and on mainland Italy.  The picture featured in this post shows a pair of gunners in a vineyard, both of whom are cleanly shaven and cleanly dressed. One is standing behind a scope and a second lounging on the ground writing in a notebook.  It is unclear when and where the picture was taken.  Canadian troops entered Italy during 1943.  Sicily was conquered by the Allies during August 1943 after which Allied forces moved to mainland Italy.  This picture, then, could have been taken during that fall of 1943.  There is a cluster of grapes on the notebook making it appear like a propaganda piece from a relatively peaceful area.  Perhaps it highlights the liberation of Italian vineyards?

Canadian Gunners in Italian Vineyard. ca 1943-1965. Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / ecopy [1]

Canadian Gunners in Italian Vineyard. ca 1943-1965. Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / ecopy [1]


[1] Canadian Gunners in Italian Vineyard.  ca 1943-1965.  Reference Number: R112-1475-X-E. Copyright belongs to the Crown ; Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / ecopy. URL:

Categories: History of Wine, Image

The 2012 Trosso del Priorat, Lo Petit de la Casa is a strong value from Priorat

The latest vintage of 2012 Trosso del Priorat, Lo Petit de la Casa, Priorat bears a slightly different label compared to last year’s.  This is a fruitier vintage that does not lose the sense of stones.  This juicy wine is best on the first night so grab a few to share with your friends.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Trosso del Priorat, Lo Petit de la Casa, Priorat – $16
Imported by the Spanish Wine Importers.  This wine is 100% Grenache.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose reveals deep, fruity aromas.  In the mouth this fruity and flavorful wine offers blue fruit, extract, some thickness, and stones in the finish.  This is best drunk on the first night for the juicy fruit which is enlivened by the acidity.  *** Now – 2018.


The 2014 Frank Cornelissen, Contadino 12th edition is well done

I have experienced maddening variation over the years with bottles from Cornelissen.  I do not know whether this is exacerbated by no merchant storing it below the recommended 61 F or the warm car rides home.  I certainly was prepared to return the bottle but after a quick sniff and taste, I knew I would not have to.  This bottle developed fine over the course of an evening without showing any Pilsner flavors.  It is best imagined as a rugged, approachable natural wine from Etna.  Well stored examples may even develop some complexity over the next few years.  I would recommend this for existing fans or those who want to experience what Frank Cornelissen is all about.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Frank Cornelissen, Contadino 12th edition, Sicily – $26
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  This wine is a field blend of 85% Nerello Mascalese along with a small amount of Nerello Capuccio, Allicante Boushet, Minella nera, Uva Francesa, and Minella bianco.  Alcohol 14%.  This is a zippy, stone infused, red fruited wine.  It mixed red fruit with citric pith flavors, plenty of baking spices, and extract in the way of texture.  It sports some very fine, cloudy sediment.  *** Now – 2021.