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An Image of Cote-Rotie from 1914

September 21, 2016 Leave a comment

"Commune d'Ampuis. - Crus de Cote-Rotie: Cotes Blonde et Cote Brune." 1914 [1]

“Commune d’Ampuis. – Crus de Cote-Rotie: Cotes Blonde et Cote Brune.” 1914 [1]

Mannie Berk’s Cote-Rotie Offer includes some fantastic images of Cote-Rotie and extracts from Larmat’s 1940s atlas of the region.  In his article he summarizes how Cote-Rotie fell into decline over the first half of the 20th century.  Mannie illustrates this decline using a postcard from the 1940s which shows that much of Cote-Rotie had become en friche or fallow as vines were replaced by trees and bushes.

In this post I present an image of Cote-Rotie in 1914.  This image captures the begining of the decades long decline of the region.  In viewing the highest resolution image at the Bibliothèque nationale de France most of the slopes are still planted with vines but trees are starting to spread amongst the terraces.


[1] Deville, J.  Les vins du Rhône : crus principaux du Beaujolais et du Lyonnais. 1914. Bibliothèque nationale de France. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb320267055

Another Historic Auction of President Jefferson’s Madeira in 1841

September 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Advertisement from Commercial Adviser, November 30, 1841. [1]

Advertisement from Commercial Adviser, November 30, 1841. [1]

Last year I wrote about Historic Auctions of Thomas Jefferson’s Madeira.  In this series of posts I describe four auctions containing Madeira attributed to Thomas Jefferson.  They are the 1997 Sotheby’s auction of Thomas Jefferson’s three bottles of Madeira, the 1890 Wethered estate sale, the 1852 auction of Josiah Lee’s wine cellar, and the 1839 auction of John Gadsby’s extensive wine collection.  I have just found a fifth auction containing a parcel of Thomas Jefferson’s Madeira.

It is largely known that bottles of wine claimed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson’s were auctioned off in 1987.  We now know that these bottles were faked by Hardy Rodenstock.  In 1997, three bottles of Thomas Jefferson Madeira were auctioned off without much scrutiny because the labels matched the published description of bottles served by Douglas H. Thomas in the early 20th century.  Thus there is no reason to doubt that these three bottles of Madeira came from the parcel owned by Douglas H. Thomas.  There is, however, no documentary evidence that Thomas Jefferson ever owned the bottles Douglas H. Thomas so carefully served.

John Gadsby’s wine was first auctioned off during his retirement in 1839.  As the proprietor of Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, and the National Hotel, in Washington, DC, John Gadsby acquired a massive 10,000 bottle collection.  His death in 1844 prompted a final series of wine auctions.   The wine cellar of Josiah Lee, the notable Madeira collector, was auctioned off in 1852.  Finally, Douglas H. Thomas purchased his bottles in 1890 at the sale of the Wethered family estate.

Heretofore unknown to me, on December 17, 1841, wine belonging to “a gentleman going to Europe” were put up for auction.  This auction consisted of a significant volume of Madeira in bottles both imported privately from Madeira and purchased in America.  Of the later bottles, they were “purchased at different times from private stocks in this city [New York City]”.  This included the oldest parcel which was a dozen bottles of wine that was “procured in Madeira, imported in 1822, and must then have been 80 years in bottle”.  With a century of age that would make the Madeira from 1740 or earlier.

Included in the private stocks is the “do 1811, imported by President Jefferson”.  This lot could have been purchased at the John Gadsby auction in 1839 which was held at the City Hotel in New York City.  Now there are no vintage, imported, or bottling dates of 1811 amongst the Jefferson Madeira advertised in the 1839 auction.  However, when John Gadsby’s cellar was auctioned off in 1844, the advertised lots were more specific and include “Mark on Cork, O. M. Y. W. – Superior old Madeira, from Newton, Gordon, Murdock & Co., imported expressly for President Jefferson, in 1807, and bottled in 1811; bought by J. Gadsby in 1819.”

Thus the Europe bound gentleman could have owned the 1807 “O.M.Y.W.” bottled in 1811.  Newspaper accounts of the auction results passed over the Thomas Jefferson bottles.[2]  Instead they focused in on the parcel of “Cole’s Madeira”, which was recorked in 1800.  This 18th century wine sold for $117 per dozen.  As the most expensive Madeira sold, it was calculated that 14,000 bottles could buy the entire United States Bank stock valued at $35,000,000.

What happened to the gentleman’s dozen bottles of Jefferson Madeira remains a mystery.


[1] Advertisement. Date: Tuesday, November 30, 1841 Paper: Commercial Advertiser (New York, New York) Volume: XLIV Page: 3

[2]Unparalleled Distress in New-York. Date: Monday, December 27, 1841 Paper: Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts) Volume: XV Issue: 1844 Page: 1

A new house wine: 2014 Aphillanthes, Cuvee des Galets

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

The one wine which I have been recently drinking with some frequency is the 2014 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, Cuvee des Galets, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan De Dieu.  Well, not just myself but my wife and brother-in-law as well.  I first started drinking the Cuvee des Galets with the 2000 vintage when it was still a regular Cotes du Rhone Villages.  This latest vintage bears the Plan de Dieu designation which was granted back in 2005.  If this designation is an indication of the quality of the village than this particular bottle is one example of it.  This wine is everything you could want in a young Cote du Rhone: fruit, acidity, and strength.  As a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvede fermented and raised in cement you have youthful complexity with supportive structure.  In short, you will want to see every bottle to the end so buy it by the case!

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2014 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, Cuvee des Galets, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan De Dieu – $20
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of mostly Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre which is both fermented and aged in concrete.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose is rich with aromas of young berries.  In the mouth this grapey wine is almost driven by acidity but there is flavor and weight to back it up.  Puckering hints soon make way to a good depth of flavor which packs in plenty of blue and black fruit.  *** Now – 2019.

Lost Friday Lunch

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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For several years David Ehrlich has been organizing a series of weekday wine lunches.  Known as the Lost Lunch his idea is for a small group to enjoy a fine meal and an array of fine wines over the course of an entire afternoon.  Six of us recently gathered in the backroom of Black Salt where we kicked off the lunch with a bottle of 1996 Dom Perignon, Oenotheque Champagne.  This is an excellent Champagne which, with air and warmth, revealed an attractive amount of maturity.  It is simply a flat out treat to drink which was not only an outstanding way to start the afternoon but it was one of my top three favorites wines of the meal.  Rather than go through all of the wines I will jump straight to the 1971 Cav. L. Brero & C., Barolo Monvigliero Riserva.  The color of the wine is still deep with mouth filling flavors of vigorous fruit which take you by surprise.  The concentration builds with air, adding berries and baking spices, but never buries its great acidity.  The Monvigliero vineyard is located in Verduno which is on the northern edge of the Barolo region.  The vineyard itself is located on a high hill and is the only vineyard completely facing south.  It may be a romantic notion but you can taste that combination of ripe fruit from the sun and crispness from the altitude.  Regardless, it is an undeniably good wine.  For dessert we drank a lovely half-bottle of 1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes-Barsac.  This Climens not only feels luxurious in the mouth but the complex flavors make you want to take another sip.  I see no reason to hold back on drinking small formats.

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1996 Dom Perignon, Oenotheque Champagne
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Disgorged 2008. The light, toasted gold color leads you to a sweet, floral and fruity nose. The fine and robust bubbles first bring toast and yeast notes before a core of sweet fruit slowly expands in the mouth. Complexity is gained from old wood notes and a steely, chalk finish. With air and warmth this lovely Champagne shows more citrus, spices, and maturity. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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1971 Domaine Gustave Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Shipped by Remoissenet Pere et Fils. Imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits Corp. Acquired from The Don Stott Cellar, Sotheby’s Wine. The color is relatively deep but the nose offers old leather and generally older aromas. In the mouth the wine is a little tired, though it is round and gentle, there is still some apparent structure in the finish. With moderate air it takes on a little fat and old spices but the finish becomes shorter. Overall it lacks some definition. *** Drink up.

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1991 Jean Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Imported by Chambers & Chambers. Alcohol 13%. The nose improved significantly with air eventually revealing some maturity. In the mouth are focused flavors of black cherry which never shook off firmness. The wine has a tangy grip that matched flavors of red fruit complemented by smoke. The flavors persist through the aftertaste. This wine will continue to develop. **** Now – 2026.

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2007 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
Alcohol 13%. Acquired from Acker Merrall & Condit. Of the pair of Raveneau this has more acidity and tang which matches the white and chalky fruit. This is very precise, more citric, focused, and acidic. **** Now – 2021.

2008 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. The rounded start brings mango flavors. Despite the generous feeling this wine has grip and control. There is an attractive, weighty lemon flavor which is not tart. The finish brings chalk and a touch of tightness indicating a bit more aging potential. This was my favorite of the pair.  **** Now – 2021.

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2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Wines Unlimited. Alcohol 13%. This is an electric wine from the berry fruit to the chalky, grippy tang which coats the bottom of the gums. The structure is still there too but this is drinking great right now. **** Now – 2018.

2011 Lucien Le Moine, Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres
The flavors are forward with good fruit but the oak is immediately noticeable. There is chalk and acidity in the finish but the fruit is reduced and the oak returns as butterscotch. Perhaps it will integrate with time. ***(*) Now – 2019.

2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrieres
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. The lightest of the three Meursault. Compared to the others it had a berry fruit core but showed less concentration, less fruit, and watering acidity. That said it was cool in aspect with clean fruit and moderate minerality. I would drink this up. ***(*) Now.

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2001 Domaine A.-F. Gros, Richebourg
Imported by Pelton Imports. Alcohol 13%. This is a young, grapey wine with concentrated flavors of berries. It remained firm with primary, clean fruit yet shows strong promise. I would age this several more years before trying again. ***(*) 2020-2030.

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1952 Giacomo Borgogne, Barolo Riserva (red capsule original release)
Imported by T Elenteny. The pale amber color will be shocking to some. In the mouth the flavors are rounder than the color indicates. There is certainly vigor to this wine as the flavor fill the mouth, albeit they are simple in nature with watering acidity. The palate is more engaging than the nose. Very much alive and drinkable but this was never a strong wine. *** Now.

1971 Cav. L. Brero & C., Barolo Monvigliero Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This is quite deep in color. In the mouth are concentrated fruit flavors, berries, and cinnamon spices which persist on the tongue. This wine is full of vigor, still has weight to the fruit yet is crisp from the acidity. It builds concentration with air leaving baking spices in the aftertaste. An impressive wine. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes-Barsac
Imported by Pearson’s Wine Imp. Co. The golden amber color makes was to luscious and seductive flavors. This is an unctuous wine with noticeable residual sugar. It is not just the mouthfeel that is attractive but the flavors of apricot and ripe, Christmas spices. Drinking great right now. **** Now but will last.

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2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. A little asparagus stink on the nose. There is a zippy start with tart, white berry fruit, and rather dry body.  It remained acidic.  *** Now

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A Trio of 2015 Beaujolais

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

I am surrounded by Rhone-loving wine friends of whom Phil and Lou have extolled the virtues of young and old cru Beaujolais. Relatively new to this group, to me that is not his appreciation, is Bill. After a long lunch at Black Sal, Bill and I both walked over to MacArthur Beverages to pick up a few bottles. Bill recommended I try the latest release of Marcel Lapierre’s Morgon.

The 2015 vintage is reportedly strong in many regions of France and based on three different wines I had this past week, it is a potent vintage in Beaujolais. In fact, I liked the 2015 Lapierre, Morgon so much I returned to the store a second time in one week so that I could share a bottle with my brother-in-law. He too is a Rhone lover but during long stays in France and Switzerland, he and his wife would travel down to purchase Morgon in bulk from cask.

During our lunch Bill described a limit in expression for Beaujolais which could be experienced at relatively low cost. The 2015 Lapierre, Morgon must represent that limit for a young wine. It is generous in fruit yet already complex, clearly a wine to drink within a few years than one to hold on to. What caught me is the crispness of the wine which makes for the perfect delivery of the flavor. Stock up and start drinking!

Almost as impressive is the 2015 Chateau Thivin, Cotes de Brouilly, also imported by Kermit Lynch. For flavor think purple, black, and mineral. The acidity is dialed down in comparison to the Lapierre, making fine, cutting delivery. This wine is one to age for the short-term. Also in need of a little age is the 2015 Domaine du Vissoux (Chermette), Cuvee traditionnelle, Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes. Recommended to me by Warren, this is a finely textured wine, with focused, grapey flavors that should open up with slight age. I thought it drank best on the second night.

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2015 Lapierre, Morgon – $25
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose reveals earthy waves of aroma mixing with vintage floral perfume that speaks of complexity. In the mouth the dense flavors are of spiced red and black fruit with just the right amount of lively acidity. In fact, the wine is almost crisp with a moderate structure for the rather short term. With air subtle, sweaty and earthy sweet fruit come out. One bottle developed a hint of banana whereas another was a touch more pure. **** Now – 2019.

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2015 Chateau Thivin, Cotes de Brouilly – $24
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 13%. Darker, more purple and black fruit, remained focused throughout consumption. The wine is impressively mineral with a cutting vein of acidity. With good stuffing, this wine could stand a year or two to open up. ***(*) 2017-2022.

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2015 Domaine du Vissoux (Chermette), Cuvee traditionnelle, Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes – $18
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. Alcohol 13%. This is a focused, linear wine with black and red fruit woven with moderate tannins. It is grapey in flavor with a little spice in the end where there is a finely textured and dry finish. *** 2017-2020.

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An Austrian Surprise

September 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Shane brought over a fantastic bottle of wine this weekend which he purchased a year ago during a trip to Austria.  His bottle of 2012 Winkler-Hermaden, Olivin is a recent vintage in the 25 year history of the Olivin cuvee.  The original idea was to create an outstanding, pure Zweigelt wine during a time when it was seen as only capable of simplicity.  The cuvee has been tweaked over the years but of particular interest is that it is aged in oak sourced from the Kapfenstein forest which surrounds the vineyards.

The wine itself is surprisingly deep in flavor and though there is an inky nature, the minerality and tautness keep the wine on edge.  With a tilt towards the modern, this bottle is drinking very well right now.

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2012 Winkler-Hermaden, Olivin
This wine is 100% Zweigelt that was aged for 18 months in local oak.  Alcohol 14%.  It is clear this is a deep, mineral, blue-black wine from the very first sip.  The flavors are taut mixing pure fruit with spices.  It is attractively  inky with a persistent leather note.  **** Now – 2019.

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A Bottle of Mature Brunello

September 8, 2016 Leave a comment

It is a sad fact that I have not drunk much Brunello di Montalcino lately, let alone ever.  Lou corrected this aberration by bringing over an interesting bottle on Labor Day.  The Brunello DOCG was granted in 1980, making his bottle of 1981 Il Casello, Brunello di Montalcino an early example produced under the new rules.  The DOCG rules required a major change in winemaking.  Previously, in poor vintages, producers could add up to 10% grapes, must, or wine from outside Brunell to bring up the alcohol level.  The DOCG change allowed the correction to only be done with an old vintage of Brunello up to 15%.

Whether any old vintage is a part of this bottle is unknown.  It was a moderate vintage.  The Wassermans described it as “good, though a trifle light” with a rating of “*-” out of four stars.  Not exactly a glowing vintage review being in the second worst grouping.  The wine itself was described more favorably with “Lovely nose, tobacco component; loads of nice fruit, moderate tannins, medium to full body, fairly well balanced. **(+)”.

The fruit persists even today as do the tannins.  In fact, the wine showed best after several hours of air when the fruit sweetened up.  It is a very pleasant wine no doubt because it was made by the owners of Tenuta Il Poggione, the Franchesci  family.  The Franchesci family have a long history making Brunello as they  purchased the Il Poggione estate in 1900.  There was only one wine produced at Il Casello, this Brunello, and it was made by the Il Poggione winemaker.  It is not a complex wine by any stretch, rather one of former strength tempered by old wood flavors.  It is beginning to lose balance in the aftertaste so I would drink it up.

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1981 Il Casello, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by Corinthian Wine Merchants.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The almost tawny color does not prepare you for the rounded core of fruit.  The fruit sweetens up with air, mixing with old wood notes, and fine tannins throughout.  There are more mature notes of wood and hints of tobacco.  The level of fruit sweetness is most apparent in the finish before there is a little sharpness in the aftertaste.  **(*) Now.