Archive for July, 2016

“[Y]ou have it in your power, before you place your order, to ascertain the expense”: The wine lists of La Grande Taverne de Londres from 1795 and 1803

Antoine Beauvilliers was a former chef of the Court of Provence who opened up La Grande Taverne de Londres in 1782 or 1786, the first prominent fine restaurant in Paris, and subsequently published the cooker book L’Art du Cuisinier in 1814.  Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in Physiologie du goût (1825) that for more than 15 years Beauvilliers was the most famous restaurateur in Paris.  He was the first to combine an elegant dining room, smart waiters, superior cooking, and a choice wine cellar.  As it was a fine restaurant, there were hundreds of dishes to select from.  Beauvilliers’ wine cellar, to which he kept the key in his pocket, kept pace by offering several dozen selections.

L'embarras du choix. Gatine, Georges Jacques. 1812. #1866,0407.901. The British Museum

L’embarras du choix. Gatine, Georges Jacques. 1812. #1866,0407.901. The British Museum

The bill of fare or menu was printed on a single sheet the size of a double folio.  Francis William Blagdon, an English journalist, remarked it was “the size of an English newspaper”.  The modern concept of a restaurant dates to the late 18th century in Paris so the novelty of both the restaurant and the menus are apparent amongst travelers during this period.  The menus, with wine list, were reproduced at least two times in English in 1795 and 1803.  That makes these restaurant wine lists the earliest that I know of.  As a comparison, the New York Public Library’s menu holdings begin in the 1850s.

Courier and Evening Gazette (London, England), Wednesday, August 5, 1795; Issue 944. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

Courier and Evening Gazette (London, England), Wednesday, August 5, 1795; Issue 944. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

In researching the 18th century history of Cote-Rotie and Hermitage I thought it interesting that the 1795 menu includes the former wine but not the later.  The 1803 menu includes both.  In this version both red Cote-Rotie and red Hermitage are priced the same.  The white Hermitage, regarded as superior to the red, is more expensive.

Blagdon, Francis William. "Paris as it was and as it is, Volume 1". 1803.

Blagdon, Francis William. “Paris as it was and as it is, Volume 1”. 1803.

Other additions include the specific wines of Chateau Lafite and Chateau Latour.  Whereas Clos Vougeot was of an average price in 1795, it becomes the second most expensive wine in 1803 and the only wine with a specific vintage being 1788.  The selection of these wines is interesting because this is a time when most wine was typically sold in cask to be bottled later.  Chateau Lafite begin bottling some of their wine with the 1797 vintage and James Madison was ordering Clos Vougeot by the bottle in 1811.  I wonder if Beauvilliers bought these wines in bottle.  I should add that if you desired to drink from several bottles of wine, you would only be charged for a half bottle of each if the level did not drop below the moeity.

“I am very well satisfyed with the Cote Rotie”: A brief look at Cote-Rotie and Hermitage in the late 18th century

Thomas Jefferson visited Cote Rotie and Hermitage during his tour of Southern France in 1787.[1]  He wrote in detail about the vineyards, the best estates, and of course prices.  New first quality Cote Rotie sold for 150lt per piece whereas new first quality Hermitage sold for 225lt.  If the Hermitage was old the price increased to 300lt.  The increase in price reflects not only quality but also, perhaps, additional powers.  A year earlier in 1786, Abigail Adams 2nd, daughter of John Adams and Abigail Adams, wrote to her brother John Quincy Adams about three gentleman who joined her for Sunday dinner.[2]  One was suffering from a “disagreeable situation of the mind” which he called the “blue devils”.  She reported that he felt much better after drinking Hermitage and Madeira with their dinner.

There is little written about this period in the history of Cote-Rotie and Hermitage.  John Livingstone-Learmonth writes in The Wines of the Northern Rhone (2005) that documented Cote-Rotie history jumps from the 16th to the mid-nineteenth century!  However, there is more written about Hermitage perhaps because the wines were better regarded and by 1765 the main vineyard owners were aristocratic or noble families.  During this period Hermitage was shipped to Burgundy and Bordeaux.  In Bordeaux, the Hermitage wine was used in blending but it was also exported primarily to England.


After visiting Cote-Rotie and Hermitage in 1787, Baroness Elizabeth Craven sent bottles of Hermitage back to England via Marseilles.[3]  She wrote that the best Cote-Rotie came from Mr. de la Condamine.  This sentiment was shared that very same year by Thomas Jefferson who mentions him first in his list of seven best producers.  Baroness Craven continues that the “grapes being almost broiled by the sun” produced a wine “of a red and strong kind – reckoned very fine”.  But it was not to her taste.  It was the Hermitage that she enjoyed, particularly the white which she found “so much better than the red”.  Priced at 3 livres per bottle she had it shipped home.

Some of the Cote-Rotie and Hermitage which left Bordeaux made it to the American shores before Thomas Jefferson ever set foot in the region.  We know this because Charles Carroll of Annapolis wrote his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton about sending some wine on March 20, 1772.[4]  In this letter Charles Carroll of Annapolis requested that his clerk William Deards send 10 or 12 dozen bottles of “Cask Wine th[a]t came from France”.  Of this he wanted 3 or 4 dozen each of Cote Rotie and Burgundy.  Charles Carroll of Annapolis was sure to clarify that “Let Him take Care not to send Hermitage insted of Cote-Rotie, you like the Hermitage, I am very well satisfyed with the Cote Rotie”.

We do not yet know where the Cote-Rotie and Hermitage was sourced from.  We do know that in 1774 and perhaps in 1773, Charles Carroll of Carrollton was ordering Claret by the hogshead from the firm of Lawton and Browne in Cork, Ireland.  It is possible they were the source since Cote Rotie and Hermitage were also shipped from Bordeaux.

For those who did not order these wines by the cask, white Hermitage, red Hermitage, and Cote-Rotie were available by the bottle from merchants along the east coast of America. Some of this wine came straight from Bordeaux and even from Cap-Francois in the French colony Saint-Domingue which is now Haiti.  My favorite advertisement occurred for one period in 1774 when you could buy “Best Bourdeaux Claret, in Hermitage Bottles.”


[1] “Notes of a Tour into the Southern Parts of France, &c., 3 March–10 June 1787,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 11,1 January–6 August 1787, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 415–464.]

[2] “Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams, 9 February 1786,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, [Original source:The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 7, January 1786 – February 1787, ed. C. James Taylor, Margaret A. Hogan, Celeste Walker, Anne Decker Cecere, Gregg L. Lint, Hobson Woodward, and Mary T. Claffey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005, pp. 33–46.]

[3] Craven, Elizabeth.  A journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. 1787. Hathi Trust Digital Library.

[4] “Extracts From The Carroll Papers”, Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 19. 1919.

The Fresh Wines of Domaine des Pasquiers

July 26, 2016 1 comment

It was last summer that Phil first imported two wines from Domes de Pasquiers.  This summer we are treated to a pair from the 2014 vintage.  The 2014 Domaine de Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhones is a wine for now.  It is fresh and grapey both on the nose and in the mouth.  While it needs a few hours of air to show best, you should make sure to finish the bottle in one sitting.  It is good value at $12.   The 2014 Domaine de Pasquiers, Gigondas is in a similar vein but with more focused blue and black fruit than grapey character.  It is a clean, non-funky type of Gigondas that will drink best over the next several years.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2014 Domaine de Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhones – $12
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah.  Alcohol 14%.  The scented nose is grapey and with air develops aromas of campfire smoke.  In the mouth this grapey wine has watering acidity that makes you salivate by the finish.  There is a nice fresh flavor with some spices.  It responds well to air drinking best after two to three hours.  This is a wine for drinking young and in one go.  ** Now – 2019.


2014 Domaine de Pasquiers, Gigondas – $20
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14%.  This is a grapey Gigondas which steps up the level of seriousness by showing a bit of black minerals and more focus.  The primary impression are the flavors of fresh blue and black fruit.  I would let this age another year to open up and gain complexity.  **(*) 2017 – 2022.

Best Beaujolais of 2009?

July 22, 2016 1 comment


2009 Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Morgon
This very well could be the best Bojo of the great 2009 vintage.  Those who have written this wine off have not tasted mature bottles.  This wine has morphed from really good to great. Spicy red berry flavors with a good amount of tannin still there. Serious lip smacking minerals.  Really delicate yet powerful.  Each sip brings you back for another.  A wine of immense pleasure. Drinking well now but is still very young and will reward good cellaring for the next five or so years.  Yum. DB.

Assorted Wines

We went through a variety of wines during a BBQ at our house earlier this month.  I managed to jot down a just  few notes.  Unfortunately, the 1999 Ravenswood, Merlot Sangiacomo, Sonoma Valley is no longer in a good drinking state even at the low price.  The 2004 Sonador, Dreamer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is certainly lively and robust right now, only showing notes of maturity in the finish.  There are attractive flavors and integration but it also reflects the warmth of Napa in its size.  Lovers of big-scale wines will appreciate this more than me.  I found that a small glass was just fine.  I double-decanted the 2005 Il Fauno di Arcanum, Tuscany but it took several more hours for the wine to loosen up.  The nose is fine.  Anyone who smells it blind will immediately think of a Bordeaux blend.  It is not ripe and generous, rather it sports just enough of everything to make it attractive now but it is truly still in a period of slow development.  If you do not mind your Bordeaux from Tuscany than lay down several bottles.    This could be quite good in several years.  It was a group favorite.


1999 Ravenswood, Merlot Sangiacomo, Sonoma Valley – $18
Alcohol 14.9%.  A ripe sweetness surrounds prominent herbal flavors.  Unfortunately, the wine is becoming unknit and the flavors are past prime.   Not Rated.


2004 Sonador, Dreamer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $30
This wine is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, and 5% Merlot.  Alcohol 14.8%.  There are fine aromas of blue and black fruit intertwined with wood.  The fine black fruit has a clear cedar note from the start.  This is a big wine, no doubt, but there is a good integration of all components.  You get a hint of maturity in the back end.  A one glass at a time wine.  ** Now – 2021.


2005 Il Fauno di Arcanum, Tuscany – $20
Imported by Sovereign Wine Imports.  This wine is a blend of 77%  Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 14.5%.  A fine nose evocative of Bordeaux.  The slight round start brings red and black fruit with flavors that are noticeably dry in the middle.  The wine is still firm and slightly tannic but the watering acidity maintains balance through the perfumed aftertaste.  After many hours of air it starts to open up.  *** Now – 2026.


Venturing into 2005 Bordeaux


2005 Chateau Bellisle Mondotte, Saint-Emilion
Yes, it is quite early.  Yes, the wine is young.  But after all the (failed?) semi-hype around the 2015s I felt like checking in on a 2005.  Located near Troplong Mondot, La Mondotte and Tertre Roteboeuf, the vineyards sit amongst highly regarded properties.  A very deep color.  Quite meaty and still tannic (as expected).  Notes of black fruit at first sip.  Then earth with a mineral bite.  Wine is long in the mouth.  For a moment the wine showed more like a Left Banker (maybe St.-Estephe), but then the longer the bottle aired, it reverted back to the Right.  I like this wine and think it just needs more bottle age to simmer down a bit.  It remains a fine value in quality Bordeaux. DB.

Notes from the Dump Bin: Sometimes Old Wine is Simply Old

I have a deserved reputation for trying almost any wine.  I do not keep track of my success ratio but sometimes I find fun stuff such as the bizarrely decent 1971 Chateau Montgrand-Milon, Pauillac.  Who knew that the second wine of a Crus Bourgeois Superieur would still be solid?  Those $10 bottles were worth every cent.  Earlier this year I grabbed a trio of wines priced in the $3 to $10 range.  I had hoped that the 1981 Cellier des Dauphins, Cotes du Rhone was stabilized in some form rendering it immune to age.  It was not.  At least the bottle shape is different. The 1983 Chateau La Cardonne, Medoc would be better if the fruit did not exist solely in the finish.  Lovers of blood and iron will rate this wine higher.  For me, half a glass was fine. Most disappointing is the 1997 Delas Freres, Les Calcerniers, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Wine Spectator gave this bottle 80 points upon release.  I think it has lost one point for every year of age.  If you see these wines then stay away!  These wines were taken from the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.


1981 Cellier des Dauphins, Cotes du Rhone
Imported by Cellier des Dauphins.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Should have been drunk 34 years ago.  Past.

1983 Chateau La Cardonne, Medoc
Imported by Chateau & Estate.  Alcohol 11%-12%.  The color is quite advanced and would be alarming if this bottle did not cost just a few Dollars.  The flavors are a bit better with slightly dense and rounded blood and iron start.  There is watering acidity that keeps things going.  The wine is best in the finish with some grippy red fruit, more blood but then there is an aftertaste of roast earth.  * Past.

1997 Delas Freres, Les Calcerniers, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Maisons Marques and Domaines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose of roast earth does not bode well.  In the mouth the wine is balanced in feel and in no way in poor condition.  However, the wine tasted old with the fruit all gone and the flavors are lean. There is still a good body and mouthfeel. Poor. Past.


A Maturing Chianti Colli Sensi at a Budget Price

I believe the 2008 Montepescini, Chianti Colli Sensi Riserva is a distributor close-out, hence the low price for the vintage.  This means you can drink a maturing Chianti as part of your daily routine.  The aromas and flavors are actually quite good but the wine does come across as firm and controlled.  Perhaps it will loosen up and improve with a bit of age.  At $14 per bottle why not find out?  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2008 Montepescini, Chianti Colli Sensi Riserva – $14
Imported by Artisans & Vines.  This wine is mostly Sangiovese with a bit of Canaiolo.  Alcohol 14%.  The proper nose add a little earthy and berry aromas.  In the mouth are fine, slightly tense flavors of red fruit and wood.  The flavors become blacker with progression until there is a controlled, ripe burst in the finish.  With firm acidity and a firm finish this wine will continue to drink.  ** Now – 2021.

Small year St.-Julien performs big


1999 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, St-Julien
Immediately upon opening notes of tobacco and leather.  Then blackberry competing with cedar.  Then more fruit.  A really solid mid-palate.  The wine is so “Bordeaux.”  Nice texture and quite stylish.  This is really a classic middle-aged Bordeaux that transcends the vintage.  I was impressed by the length.  This wine will hold for many more years in a cold cellar.  Will it further develop? DB.

A Daily Drinker for the Cellar from the Cotes du Roussillon

The 2013 Domaine Boudau, Clot de Pila, Les Cargolines, Cotes du Roussillon is a fine successor to the previous vintage.  These are affordable, honest wines that will make for excellent daily drinking in a few years.  It is true that you can drink the 2013 vintage right now but it could really stand some cellar time to reach its peak.  Give it a try!  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Domaine Boudau, Clot de Pila, Les Cargolines, Cotes du Roussillon – $13
Imported by Zwine Gallery Imports.  This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache.  Alcohol 14%.  Tasted over two nights this wine develops aromas of strawberry candy and Kirsch.  There are similar flavors in the mouth that are bound with good, youthful structure that makes the wine a bit chewy.  There is an inky, slightly mineral finish with some persistent tannins on the gums.  This should peak in two years.  **(*) Now – 2020.