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The 2015 Thierry Germain, Saumur Champigny will only get better

October 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Craving a lower alcohol wine, we popped open the 2015 Thierry Germain, Saumur Champigny.  For this first several hours this wine is all about subtlety and pencil lead notes.  Then it transforms into a dark, savory wine which fills your mouth with satisfying flavor.  I recommend you stash away a few bottles for the new year.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2015 Thierry Germain, Saumur Champigny – $20
Imported by Elite Wines Imports.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc from 25+ year old vines that was fermented with indigenous yeast then aged seven months in tank.  Alcohol 13%.  This gentle wine begins with pencil lead infused black fruit flavors that pack some weight and roundness.  The wine is fresh but not too bright with a modest drying structure.  After several hours it becomes a savory, weighty wine which expands ethereally in the finish.  **(*) 2017-2019.

A mature 2002 Bourgogne Blanc and a trio of 1979 Californian Cabernet Sauvignons

October 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Lou likes to gamble on white Burgundy. This week he proved that a basic Bourgogne Blanc can develop with age.  Of course he hedged his bet.  Jean-Marc Boillot is the grandson of Etienne Sauzet and former winemaker at Olivier Leflaive. This combination of a well-respected producer and the outstanding 2002 vintage have produced what is essentially a mature table wine.  The 2002 Jean-Marc Boillot, Bourgogne Blanc drinks well now for it is fresh with attractive mouthfeel.  It is not complex but then it never was meant to be.   Sadly the bottle of 1989 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley was advanced in color and dead in the mouth.  I even forgot to take a picture of the label.

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2002 Jean-Marc Boillot, Bourgogne Blanc
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from young vines which was fermented and aged in oak. Alcohol 12.5%. The clean, yellow fruit is surprisingly rounded. There is a touch of yeast and a touch of apple orchard fruit which points to maturity. The wine remains fresh in the finish, though it is a little short in length. With air the wine becomes a little racy, developing sweet fruit and a touch of grip before the dry finish. All in all this is a lively wine.  **(*) Now but will last.

Lou and I decided to drink a flight of Californian wine from the 1979 vintage.  Michael Broadbent once described it as a cool vintage with useful wines.  Kelli White recently assessed the vintage as capable of still yielding excellent wines.  The 1979 vintage in California came a decade after the American wine boom began.  This boom in wine consumption meant there was a year after year increase in vineyard planting and continual increase in the number of Californian wineries.

I should add that all three red wines had fills into the bottom of the neck.

The 1979 St. Clement, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley comes from a winery whose history spans this period.  It was in 1964 that Michael Robbins bought an old Victorian mansion with a tiny vineyard.  He planted vines then sold wine under the Spring Mountain Vineyards name only to sell the winery to William Casey in 1976.  It is under William Casey that the St. Clement name was developed along with a good reputation for its Cabernet Sauvignon.  Our bottle was in fine shape reflecting this reputation.  The color is the deepest of the trio, matching the deep aromas and flavors of dark fruit.  This is a wine to savor on a cool fall night.

Stonegate was established in 1973 on land that the Spaulding family bought in 1969.  By the early 1980s production had reached nearly double that of St. Clement.  The 1979 Stonegate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vail Vista Vineyard, Alexander Valley is marked by a prominent eucalyptus note on the nose and in the mouth.  This alone sets it apart but there is also this beguiling combination of inky flavor, minerals, a savory aspect, and general intensity.  If the St. Clement is deep and dark the Stonegate is brighter with more acidity and intensity.  What a lovely, contrasting pair worth drinking again.

Sonoma Vineyards came about after a decades worth of winemaking by Rodney Strong.  By 1970 Rodney Strong was selling some 150,000 cases of wine so he built a new winery and named his operation Sonoma Vineyards.  It was not until 1980 that he began to sell wines under the Rodney Strong label.  He had a customized label service for customers which appears to be the origin of our 1979 Sonoma Vineyards, University Club, Special Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County.  The University Club is located in San Francisco where it was founded in 1890.  Clearly a club must provide nourishment and drinks for its members.  In this instance with its own wine label.  The wine itself had a vegetal nose and overall softness.  I suspect it was never great to begin with but of enough quality to survive for decades.

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1979 St. Clement, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  This is quite dark and significantly deeper in color that the other wines.  The nose remains deep and attractive with a combination of fruit and some game.  In the mouth is a bright start with good body and weight to the flavors which are still supported by structural components.  The wine still has ripe tannins which coat the mouth as the lively flavors build on the gums.  The dark fruit and character of the wine never faded over four hours.  ***(*) Now – 2021+.

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1979 Stonegate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vail Vista Vineyard, Alexander Valley
Alcohol 13%.  There are some meaty, fruit aromas but it is eucalyptus which comes through on the nose.  The mouth follows with eucalyptus infused fruit.  The wine builds intensity and ripeness, becoming almost inky.  There is a curious quality, almost mineral in this decidedly savory wine.  The juicy acidity is more prominent than in the others.  An old wood note comes out.  The finish does not match the intensity of before but moderate flavor persists in the aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2026.

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1979 Sonoma Vineyards, University Club, Special Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  This wine is a bit more grippy and vegetal.  With integrated acidity the brighter fruit ultimately softens by the animale finish.  It is a gentle, mature wine that should be drunk up.  ** Now.

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“C’est un produit d’une grande finesse”: The 1976 Ayala, Champagne Extra Quality Brut

October 26, 2016 Leave a comment

The Ayala house has produced Champagne for over 150 years.  During its golden period of the 1920s it supplied the royal courts of England and Spain.  The Union of French Sommeliers soon took note.  When they visited the house in 1924, they described the Champagne as having “great finesse” as well as high cost.  Ayala was eventually purchased by Bollinger in 2005.  This bottle of 1976 Ayala, Chateau d’Ay, Champagne Extra Quality Brut  comes from the period when it was regarded as a “smaller, but well respected house” according to Decanter magazine.  Ayala has produced a low-dosage Champagne since the 1860s and the house style comes through in the well-regarded 1976 vintage.  This is a finely textured, clean Champagne that is drinking at full maturity right now.  I found it a good start for an evening of mature wine.

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1976 Ayala, Chateau d’Ay, Champagne Extra Quality Brut
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  The wine is a light to medium gold color with an amber tinge.  There is an initial mature, yeast note that is framed by a dry and fine texture.  The wine rounds out with air taking on weight through the clean finish.  Apple orchard flavors come out in the moderately lengthy finish.  *** Now.

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Did George Washington drink Claret at the horse races?

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment
Horse racing. Bewick, Thomas. 1780.  #1882,0311.3217 The British Museum.

Horse racing. Bewick, Thomas. 1780. #1882,0311.3217 The British Museum.

This past weekend we hosted our 12th annual party at the International Gold Cup in Virginia.  Horse racing has long been popular in our region.  While we always serve wine I am curious about what was drunk by our Founding Fathers.  The Maryland Jockey Club was founded in 1743.  That very same year the club held its first race, a tradition which is still maintained today, making it the oldest chartered sporting organization in America.   We know that George Washington went to the horse races for he noted his travels in his diaries and event kept track of his lost bets in his financial ledgers.

The Maryland Jockey Club events were known as the “Annapolis Races”.  George Washington attended several of these races in the years prior to the Revolutionary War.  We do not know what he drank during all of these races but there is a possibility.  On October 4, 1772, he set out to Annapolis for the four days of racing.  The races began on October 6, 1772, and the very next day George Washington bought “2 Boxes of Claret” from Samuel Galloway for £20 14d.[2]  There is only one expense that exceeds this wine expenditure during this trip and that is £40 for a horse doctor.

Samuel Galloway was the largest shipowner in Annapolis, Maryland.[3]  At one point he owned or had interest in 27 ships.  George Washington had been purchasing claret from Samuel Galloway since at least 1770. The two boxes he purchased during the races contained six dozen bottles each of “excellent Claret” of which George Washington had placed an open request for during May 1772.[4]  George Washington still had large store of Claret lying at Mount Vernon at the time.  Having no immediate need, it appears that George Washington did not pay for the additional wine until his trip to Annapolis during the races that October.

So the question is whether George Washington drank some of the Claret at the races or not.  His diaries and financial ledgers do not indicate.  It is possible that George Washington had the wine stored with the Digges family at Warburton Manor, across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon, but it is not yet clear.  We do know that George Washington ordered 48 bottles of Claret for the “Boat Race & Barbicue at Johnson’s Ferry” two years later in 1774.[5]  If his Claret was still with Samuel Galloway in Annapolis, it certainly would be tempting for him to drink it.  The wine was described to George Washington based on first hand experience.   “I have tasted it, & it really is good”.


[1] “[October 1772],” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-03-02-0002-0023. [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 3, 1 January 1771–5 November 1781, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978, pp. 135–138.]

[2] “Cash Accounts, October 1772,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-09-02-0079. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 9, 8 January 1772 – 18 March 1774, ed. W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994, pp. 110–113.]

[3] “Shipping in the Ports of Annapolis 1748-1777”. United States Naval Institute. 1965.

[4] “From George Washington to Samuel Galloway, 4 May 1772,” Founders Online,National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-09-02-0028. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 9, 8 January 1772 – 18 March 1774, ed. W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994, p. 40.]  and

“To George Washington from Jonathan Boucher, 22 May 1772,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-09-02-0037. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 9, 8 January 1772 – 18 March 1774, ed. W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994, pp. 50–51.] and

“From George Washington to Jonathan Boucher, 23 May 1772,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-09-02-0038. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 9, 8 January 1772 – 18 March 1774, ed. W. W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994, pp. 51–52.]

[5] “[Diary entry: 7 May 1774],”Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/01-03-02-0004-0009-0007. [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 3, 1 January 1771–5 November 1781, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978, pp. 248–249.]

“for Mercy Sake stop, all my Wine”: John Adam’s first wine order as Minister to Great Britain in 1785

October 19, 2016 Leave a comment

On February 24, 1785, John Adams was commissioned as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James in Great Britain.  As any wine lover would do he made previous arrangements to ship a large amount of wine from France to his new home in London.  He arrived in London on May 26, 1785, only to find to his horror that as minister he was not exempted from paying duties on all of the wine he had ordered.  Thus on his second day he dashed off a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Ministers Plenipotentiary to France, begging him to cancel his wine order.[1]

John Adams already had wine “of the best qualities in my Cellar at the Hague”.  For this quantity he was exempted on paying duty.  From France he was expecting 500 bottles of “Small Wines” from Bordeaux, Madeira, and Frontenac.  For these he would have to pay a duty of 6 to 8 Shillings per bottle.  John Adams was only willing to pay the duty on the Madeira and Frontenac.

Map showing the course of the Seine from Paris to Rouen. 1753. [6]

Map showing the course of the Seine from Paris to Rouen. 1753. [6]

By the time Thomas Jefferson, who resided in Paris, received the letter, he already had the cases of John Adams’ wine affixed with seals in Paris and put on a boat bound for Rouen.  The boat was just departing so he was unable to land the wine.  Thus Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Anthony Garvey, American Counsel in Rouen, asking him to prevent the 500 bottles of Bordeaux from being sent on to London.[2]  Anthony Garvey responded to Thomas Jefferson on June 5th that he would look out for John Adam’s wine.[3]

John Adams had not yet received a letter about his wine so he again wrote to Thomas Jefferson on June 7, 1785.[4]  He was a bit more emphatic this time.  “[F]or  Mercy Sake stop, all my Wine” he wrote.  Each minister was only allowed to import 500 – 600 bottles duty free.  This alone would not cover his “very rich Wine” at the Hague and his desirable Madeira, Frontenac, and Bordeaux at Autueil.  John Adams feared that “I shall be ruined” by the 500 bottles of Bordeaux wine in Rouen.

He was not joking for he faced paying a duty of £150 – £200.  That year in America, where the best Madeira was to be had,  you could purchase a pipe of three year old London Particular for £33.  At 440 quart bottles per 110 gallon Madeira pipe, John Adams could purchase some 2200 bottles of the best quality Madeira!

Fortunately, Anthony Garvey was successful in holding back John Adams’ wine.  By July, John Adams no longer feared having to pay duties on the extra wine.  He informed Thomas Jefferson that he had asked Anthony Garvey to forward his wine, some 7 or 8 cases of it for “I believe I shall easily obtain an order to receive it without paying duties”.[5]


[1] “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 27 May 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0068. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 122–123.]

[2]“To John Adams from Thomas Jefferson, 2 June 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0079. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 145–147.]

[3] “To Thomas Jefferson from Anthony Garvey, 5 June 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-08-02-0139. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 8, 25 February–31 October 1785, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, p. 177.]

[4] “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 7 June 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0090. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 160–161.]

[5] “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 16 July 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified October 5, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0137. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda A. Mathews, and Sara Martin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 252–253.]

[6] “Carte du cours de la rivière de Seine depuis… la rivière d’Andelle jusqu’à Rouen”.  Buache, Philippe. 1753. ark:/12148/btv1b8468895f . Bibliothèque nationale de France URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb40742714m

“163 Bottles of old Madeira Wine”: I am waist deep in research

October 18, 2016 Leave a comment

You have probably noticed my haphazard posting as of late.  While I never slack on generating tasting notes, my usually posting time is now largely dedicated to research.  One area I am curious about is General George Washington’s Madeira purchases during the Revolutionary War.  When George Washington was home at Mount Vernon he usually purchased his Madeira by the pipe.  But during the war, when he was at headquarters, he typically purchased his Madeira by the bottle.

Receipt for Madeira purchase. Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776. [1]

Receipt for Madeira purchase. Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776. [1]

To be specific, General Washington’s aide de camp, Captain Caleb Gibbs, Captain Commandant of the Guard, purchased his Madeira.  It is fortunate for us is that Captain Gibbs kept all of his receipts.  On October 18, 1776, some 240 years ago to this day, Captain Gibbs purchased 163 bottles of “old Madeira wine” for $163 from Levinus Clarkson.

Levinus Clarkson was a merchant in Charleston, South California.  He had Dutch connections with whom he traded with during the war.  From his correspondence we can see that he imported Madeira, amongst other goods, then forwarded the wine up to his business partner David Van Horne in New York.  Levinus Clarkson would eventually become a Continental Agent in Charleston where he traded.  Appointed during the fall of 1776 he was responsible “to supply any of the Ships or Cruizers with whatever Provisions, Stores or necessarys they may be in want of when they put into or arrive in any of your ports”.  Congress told him he was “in short do all things in this department that you think will serve the Continent and promote the service of the Navy”.  Clearly this included supplying the Commander of the Continental Army with old Madeira.


[1] Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers. URL: https://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw5/117/0600/0661.jpg

A pair of 2015 Beaujolais from Daniel Bouland

October 14, 2016 Leave a comment

The pair of 2015 wines I tasted from Daniel Bouland offer impressive levels of color and flavor at attractive prices.  The 2015 Daniel Bouland, Cuvee Melanie, Cote de Brouilly is the most forward, generous, and full-bodied of the two.  Tasted blind I would not guess Beaujolais due to the roundness.  While you can drink it now, I would recommend waiting until next year. The 2015 Daniel Bouland, Vieilles Vignes Corcelette, Morgon is even darker and to go with that, it is in need of age.  There is a core of dark fruit with a ripe, citric structure throughout, and tense acidity that will see this wine through development over the next several years.  I recommend drinking the Brouilly now while you let the Morgon age.  These wines are available at Weygandt-Wines.

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2015 Daniel Bouland, Cuvee Melanie, Cote de Brouilly – $25
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 70 year old vines on volcanic schist.  Alcohol 14.5%.  It is rather dark in the glass with a grapey color.  The nose offers youthful aromas of concentrated, grapey berries.  In the mouth it is rounder, quickly building weight with almost puckering acidity that grabs you.  It is balanced with citric tannins and a brighter finish that leaves tannins on the gums  ***(*) Now – 2021.

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2015 Daniel Bouland, Vieilles Vignes Corcelette, Morgon – $27
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 60-70 year old vines aged in both tank and foudre.  Alcohol 14.3%.  This is a very dark grapey-ruby color.  The offers low-lying aromas of dark red fruit.  In the mouth this is a structured, mineral wine with a core of grapey fruit and ripe citric tannins throughout.  With air the wine becomes attractively tense, building flavors until the earthy finish which leaves a dose of drying tannins.  ***(*) 2018-2025.

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