Archive

Archive for the ‘Fair’ Category

“One of the best we’ve ever made”: 1978 and 1977 Cabernet from Sunrise Winery

Since my last post of one month ago, I have spent all of the time I usually dedicate to the wine blog transcribing 18th century letters related to the Madeira trade in America.  To lend you a sense of the effort, just two of the sources I am using, one letterbook and one partial collection of letters, encompass nearly 900 pages.  While I am not transcribing every single line, I am attempting to read each one.  Sometimes an interesting statement regarding Madeira may be hidden amongst a paragraph about fish and flour prices.  It is compelling work but my tasting notes of both young and old wine are piling up.

While the name of Sunrise Arata has been stuck in my head for some time, I cannot recall having drunk a single vintage.  I resolved this issue the other week when Sudip came over.  Sunrise Winery was founded in 1976, at the old Locatelli Winery, by Eugene Lokey and Keith Holfeldt.  In 1977 the Stortz family was brought in as participants due to the unexpected startup costs of the winery.

The Locatelli Winery ceased producing wine by the 1960s.  When Sunrise Winery started up, there were only a handful of vines left but the fermentation building still stood with both redwood and concrete vats.  The concrete vats were of larger capacity than needed and too deteriorated for use.  The redwood vats were taken apart, cleaned up then installed inside the concrete vats.  Small oak barrels were also brought in.  The first vintage was produced that first year in 1976.

During the summer of 1978, the house above the wine cellar caught on fire.  It only burned one wall of the fermentation building but the debris fell down into the cellar where barrels and bottled wine was stored.  Much of the bottled wine was destroyed by the firemen entering the building.  The tops of many barrels were burned to destruction but there was salvageable wine in barrel.  With the help of Martin Ray, Ridge, Woodside, and others, pumps, hoses, and portable tanks were set up to rescue the remaining half of the wine.

They repaired what they could in time for a very small crush that fall of 1978.  A little white wine, some Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon from Arata, and the 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon from Frey Vineyard were all that was made.  Ronald Stortz called the 1978 Frey Cabernet “probably one of the best we’ve ever made” during his 1993 interview now found at the D. R Bennon Trust Fund website.

True to history, the 1978 Sunrise Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frey Vineyard, Mendocino is good!  At first I was underwhelmed but one hour after I double-decanted the bottle it was fully open.  No doubt there is good, clean flavor and attractive grip.  The 1977 Sunrise Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Arata Vineyard, Saratoga, Santa Clara Valley did not fare as well.  Whether it was weak fruit to begin with or torture from the fire and salvage effort, I do not know.  It did, however, evoke old-school cooperage like the old redwood vats it was fermented in.  I find that rather cool.

Sunrise2

1978 Sunrise Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frey Vineyard, Mendocino
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 20 months in 50 gallon American oak barrels.  Bottled November 1980.  Alcohol 12.6%.  Dark black fruit in the mouth while initially firm, fleshes out with air.  After one hour, this initially firm wine shows good Cab flavor and still has structure that lends texture in the end.  What was a short finish lengthens and offers grip.  I would not have expected such good, clean flavor.  *** Now but will last.

Sunrise1

1977 Sunrise Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Arata Vineyard, Saratoga, Santa Clara Valley
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 16 months in 50 gallon American oak barrels.  Bottled August 1979.  Alcohol 12.8%.  Funkier with vintage perfume and very ripe aromas on the nose.  Tart, fresh fruit greets in the mouth with both a greenhouse and old wood cooperage note.  Clearly learner than the 1978, it becomes more herbaceous and ultimately falls apart as the 1978 improves.  * Now drink up.

Sunrise3

“How long will our reds last? I don’t know.”: 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling plus some table wine

December 11, 2018 1 comment

The label of the 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County magnum was only slightly soiled. The fill was excellent and underneath the plastic capsule, the firmly seated cork was pristine. After double-decanting, to remove the sediment, the wine bore deep aromas proper for a good Californian wine from the 1970s.

Grapes have been grown in Mendocino County since the 19th century when there were a few dozen growers. Located north of Sonoma, the slow arrival of rail lines meant this was a region of smaller enterprises rather than ones on a commercial scale. During Prohibition grapes were grown for home winemaking in San Francisco and bootlegging on the East Coast. By 1938, the number of bonded wines hit eight with Parducci the largest of them all. Most of the Parducci wine was sold off to other major wineries but eventually a new generation sought to bottle under their own label during the wine boom. It is in 1973 that Nathan Chroman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, found Parducci was just beginning to establish their identity.

Like Robert Mondavi, John Parducci advocated unfined and unfiltered wine. He did differ from Mondavi in these early years by avoiding any contact with oak. Parducci also felt strongly about growing the best grapes for the site rather than what was in demand. Articles from the 1970s share a common theme of Parducci’s unique style, affordable price, and drinkable red wines. If there was preference for fresh, fruit flavored red wines, there was also an economic side to it. The French and Yugoslavian oak barrels were too expensive for the family. That is not to say no wood was used, the Cabernet was aged in tall, thin redwood vats.

It must be remembered that 1976 and 1977 were drought years in California. The 1978 vintage yielded large numbers of healthy, sugar-filled grapes. Excitement was widespread with John Parducci commenting on the new wines, “Some of the most fantastic wines California has ever seen.” The principal vineyards of Parducci were Talmage, Largo, and Home Ranch. This is not where the fruit came from for the 1978 Merlot Special Bottling. The back label states the “grapes were grown by small growers on the slopes of Mendocino County”.

In 1974, the Special Bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $7.99 per bottle in Washington, DC. That put this Special Bottling in the range of Chappellet and Clos du Val pricing.  The nose is generous and in Parducci style, the wine offers up berries, freshness, and levity.  The alcohol level is noticeably low.  Together these traits make it a highly drinkable wine.  In fact, the magnum drank very well for several hours at which time it started to fade. To answer the title question, this magnum lasted 40 years with ease.

I wish I could write more about the 1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.  Founded in the 19th century, very little was written about it save short mention of the periodically medal-winning Cabernet Sauvignon.  William Rice of The Washington Post found the 1972 Foppiano , Zinfandel as “very fruity” and though pleasantly aromatic, it lacked in tannin.  Ours, though, was from a better vintage but my gut-feeling is that the regular 1974s are fading away which did not help this wine.  The flavors are beginning to turn with no supporting structure left.

We tried two other wines that night from California. The magnums of 1984 and 1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red were found in the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages. Priced at $3 each I had to try them for the historic note. A closer look at the label reveals these were made at the Woodbridge Winery. Created in 1979, the Woodbridge Winery was destined to produce large volumes of affordable, oak aged wines. A basic non-vintage table wine had been made at Mondavi since 1976 but quality had slipped.  The Woodbridge Winery was one of multiple prongs designed to improve the table wine quality.

The new Mondavi Red was primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Gamay, Petite Sirah, and Merlot aged in small oak barrels. Carignan, Thomson Seedless (!!!), and Columbard were largely jettisoned as they were considered in the territory of jug wine.  Mondavi believed in long aging in oak but $300 French oak barres were to expensive for use at Woodbridge. Instead, he “retired” his older French oak barrels used in his premium wines to Woodbridge.  He then employed American coopers to use American oak to form new barrels using the French method of charing rather than steaming. Unlike other inexpensive table wines these were new table wines based at Woodbridge winery were regarded as more complex and capable of some aging.

As for the wines, the 1984 was green, herbaceous and way past prime.  Not really surprising.  I was hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat and the 1985 almost obliged. The nose was good but the flavors too herbaceous.  I suspect it would have drunk fine a decade ago.

1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Definitely a brick-brown color.  Deep, comforting aromas are evocative of the period.  In the mouth fresh acidity bearing mixed flavors of wood box, deep berries, and maturity.  A lighter bodied wine of moderate length it is fresh and very drinkable.  It fleshes out a bit with air becoming more saline.  It has good staying power.  *** Now but will last

1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  The cork smelled balsamic but none of that transferred to the wine.  A slight hint of roast indicates its past prime.  In the mouth this is a fully mature wine, aging fruit is a touch sour but it remains supple.  A lighter style of Zinfandel that was likely elegant to begin with the structure entirely integrated.  *(*) Drink Up.

1984 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Green veggies and other herbaceous aromas.  An herbaceous edge to the bright and tart red fruit.  Short, simple, and not of interest. Past Prime.

1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Some depth to the nose, dark fruit, wood box, and spices.  A certain hint of that carries into the mouth but herbaceousness comes out as well.  In much better poise than the 1984. * Now but drink up.

The Post-Brunello Tasting Dinner Wines

November 15, 2018 Leave a comment

No tasting is complete without dinner and even more wine!  As I was dealing with dinner my notes are a bit thin.  I tried the 1990 Produttori di Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, en magnum both during and after the Brunello tasting.  The nose retained bits of roast but the flavors are fresh, balanced, and enjoyable. Strong provenance so who knows!?  The 1979 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo proved quite solid, surprisingly silky in body with old-school flavors.  Of the brace of pure Meunier Champagne (what a great idea), the 2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Extra Brut Les Barres is the most earthy and mushroomy bubbly I have tried.  I would have spent more time with it but the NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Rose stole the show.  Certainly my favorite of all the dinner wines and possibly those preceding it.  A great value too.

From the Sotheby’s Don Stott auction, the 1959 Hallgartener Schonhell Riesling Auslese, Rheingau gave a glimpse of the fantastic 1959 vintage.  Aromas of orange-peel and flowers on the nose followed by apple-skin and spice in the mouth.  Elegant and in fine state.  The Mignon is great but the 2002 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays en magnum was my favorite wine for pure drinkability that evening.  A perfect dinner wine!  Many thanks to the guests who shared their wines with dinner.

1990 Produttori di Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, en magnum
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  Magnum #1996/2000.  The roast on the nose never blows off but a cocoa aroma develops. A bit bipolar between the nose and mouth. Very fresh in the mouth, balanced acidity, fine wood, and very fine texture. Dry tannins in the end. Overall *** Now/Later?

1979 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny. A little stinky on the nose. With air fine wood and good pungency develop. Rounder with surprising silky body, there is sweet, old-school fruit in the middle. *** Now but will last.

2011 Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Extra Brut Les Barres
This wine is 100% Meunier sourced from a parcel planted in 1952.  Disgorged July 2012.  Alcohol 12%.  Quite complex, earthy, mushrooms, like no other Champagne I’ve tasted.  This drinks fully mature.  *** Now.

NV Christophe Mignon, Pur Meunier, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  Alcohol 12%. The berry core is first noticed then the strong bubbles. Immediately complex, very delicious, mixing with herbs, spices, and crisp apple acidity. Excellent flavors of ripe apple persist through the long aftertaste. Surprisingly good. ****(*) Now – 2023.

1959 Hallgartener Schonhell Riesling Auslese, Rheingau
Shipped by Walter S. Siegal.  A golden-amber color. The nose is scented with orange-peel, flowers, and tree fruit. A core of fruit remains in the mouth, apple skin with spices, and rounded body with sweet ripeness. There are hints of baking spice that mix with ripe apples through the long finish. In a perfect state. **** Now.

2002 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays en magnum
Alcohol 13.5%. Round, sweet fruit, some spice, and no hard edges. It is in a lovely state, to be drunk, with good fruit carried by subdued acidity.  ***(*) Now but mags will last.

2007 Biondi-Santi, Rosso di Montalcino
Corked!

2010 Agricola Punica, Barrua, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia
Rounded, modern as well, but the dark fruit sports attractive fat. Oak comes out in the end.  ** Now – 2028.

2009 Caiarossa, IGT Toscana
Dense, modern flavors of concentrated grapeyness, vanilla, and a spicy finish. Not my style of wine. *(*) 2020-2030.

1985 and 1988 Brunello di Montalcino tasting

November 12, 2018 1 comment

This past month I hosted a Brunello di Montalcino tasting focused on the great 1985 and 1988 vintages from five producers.  Though these vintages are only three years apart, they are at significantly different stages of life.  The 1988s are generally less evolved on the nose, with a core of fruit in the mouth and significant tannic structure.  The 1985s are more aromatic, mature, and softer in edge.  Such were the qualities of the fruit from the 1988s and the aroma of the 1985s that several guests blended their Ciacci’s to strong success.  I even joined in on the fun and rated my blend a check plus!

As for the unblended wines our pair of Biondi-Santi were outliers.  The 1988 was a bad bottle and the 1985 was uninspiring.  The other eight bottles spanned a range of drinking states and qualities.  The 1988 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and 1985 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva are my favorites from this evening.  Both vintages bear aromas that I love with the 1985 drinking at a sweet spot.  After several hours the 1985 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino began to open up, revealing an inky core of fruit, both elegant and tense.  A determined wine that will continue to develop.  The 1988 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino is even less evolved but worth following.  The 1988 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino, Pianrosso is quite good too, showing floral notes on the nose and in the mouth.  The 1985 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino takes on perfume as well.  Though others surely disagree, I found the 1988 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva too young and clean for my liking and the 1985 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino too soft.

At 30+ years of age Brunello di Montalcino can remain clearly structured, tough to drink, and barely evolved in flavor.  Yet our best bottles are expressive, complex, and will drink in such a fine state for many years to come.

Please find my tasting notes below.  All of the wines were double-decanted one hour prior to tasting then followed over several hours.  I must once again thank Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., for opening up his inventory to me.

1988 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino, Pianrosso
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. A finely articulated nose of mixed florals, incense, and wet wood. In the mouth it is finely veined with a core of deep fruit supported by strong and drying tannins. With air the wine remains tight with its floral, fruit vein. **** Now – 2028.

1985 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Quite aromatic. A softer edge though there is power from the strong and drying tannins. There mature flavors with a soft edge becoming black fruited and perfumed in the nose. ***(*) Now – 2028.

1988 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Good nose. In the mouth is fine grained flavor, focused around a core of red and black fruit. The profile is a little tart and certainly drying from the tannins. With air remains great focus and balance with complexity from Christmas baking spices and the inky finish. **** Now – 2033.

1985 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. A love nose that is meaty, bloody, wild and evocative of wood box. This remained the most aromatically interesting wine from the first pour to the end of the evening. In the mouth, tart red fruit mixes with citric tannins providing engaging grip. Mature flavors from bottle age, earth, and wood box effectively mix together. “Sauvage” as one guest commented. A lovely wine of medium body which expands in the mouth leaving very fine, drying tannins on the gums in the end. ****(*) Now – 2028.

1988 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. The deeper aromas are closely played but reveal berries and are of more interest than the 1985 sibling. It is a slowly evolving wine with cherry, watering acidity, and a vein of structure. Still young, not yet in mid-age with clean and elegant fruit. *** Now – 2023-2033.

1985 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Sour, clean fruit with watering acidity, and an incensed finish. There is a rounder start with more body and citric tannins on the sides of the gums. However, the flavors do not have the life giving energy. ** Now.

1988 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Some roast on the nose, balsamic. A core of sweet fruit develops and a pure, forward note of oregano. Needs time. **(**) 2023-2033.

1985 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. A fine nose develops after a few hours. With maturing fruit, and some sorry cherry this wine continued to evolve over the evening. The acidity creates tension between the inky, fine core of fruit, and supportive component. Red and black fruit mix convincingly, sporting elegant weight as textured tannins are left on the gums. ***(**) 2020-2035.

1988 Il Greppo, Biondi-Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. A bad bottle! Not Rated.

1985 Il Greppo, Biondi-Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Scented on the nose but a bit thin in flavor. Perhaps elegant, I only note tartness and acidity with an eventual leather note.  ** Now.

Old Italian Wines 1996 – 1949 | Part 3 Largely Unknown

In this third and last post about the Old Italian Wines tasting, I cover the group of largely unknown wines.

Mostly Unknown

The goal of this grouping was to taste wines from unknown producers or wines of known producers without published tasting notes.  I thought it was the most interesting set.  The 1971 Lungarotti, Torgiano Rubesco is my favorite of this group for it is aromatic, fruity, and crisp.  I should very much like to try a Riserva.  From the same excellent vintage, it is not surprising that the 1971 Giovanni Scanavino, Barolo Riserva drinks well.  What is surprising is that the 1961 Molinelli Giuseppe, Valtidone Gutturnio will outlive all of the wines we tasted.  This is a zippy, red fruited wine given life by the acidity.  It is bottled in heavy, substantial glass.  From the same vintage I also enjoyed the more linear 1961 Cantine di Venosa, Aglianico del Vulture, Riserva Enoselezone.  It is a dry wine with sappy acidity and a foxy note.  While it will not develop further it is very much alive.  By far the oldest Sangiovese I have tasted is the 1949 Fattorie del Piceno, Cantine di Montefano, Montefano Sangiovese “Dry”, Rosso Piceno Extra.  This is a label created just one year prior to the vintage.  I thought the wine had faded off but then it came back to life and hung around for a few days.  It is a gentle old wine with interest from the menthol and old leather.

In the end, the average quality of the wines tasted, as well as the peak quality did not match those we tried at An exploratory tasting of mature Nebbiolo 1975-1954.  This is not surprising.  However, the oldest wines tasted, made from Raboso, Aglianico, Barbera, and Sangioviese (!) while simpler in flavor than Piemonte wines, certainly have longevity.  I can imagine these wines lending life-lengthening qualities to the Alto-Piemonte bottles we tasted before.

1979 Angelo Gaja, Nebbiolo del Piemonte
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Not attractive on the nose, actually it stinks.  Robust tart red and cherry fruit, some animale notes then it becomes undrinkable.  Not Rated.

1971 Giovanni Scanavino, Barolo Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 13%.  Concentrated aromas of sweaty, sweet old fruit on the nose.  In the mouth spearmint greats.  This wine still has grip and structure with sweet mint, slightly racy in the middle, bits of minerals and lipsticky finish.  Watering acidity throughout.  Holds up well.  ** Now but will last.

1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Not right compared to other bottles of this wine.  Not rated.

1971 Ricasoli, Chianti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Tart, simple, and short with wood notes.  Not undrinkable, rather a survivor of very simple flavor. * Now.

1971 Lungarotti, Torgiano Rubesco
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  A light to medium color.  Sweet, concentrated aromas on the nose of old wine then it freshens up with air.  Still fruity in the start with a fresh personality, old-school flavors in the middle, and a crispy finish.  Satisfying.  *** Now.

1967 Giacomo Conterno, Freisa
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  A medium, brick color.  Roasted aromas on the nose.  In the mouth is tart, red fruit, strong acidity, then a finish of gentle red strawberry.  The roast returns indicating this is past prime.  *(*) Now.

1966 Cantina Sociale Ponte di Piave, Raboso Piave
Cantina Sociale Ponte di Piave was founded in 1948 by a small group of winemakers trying to survive during the tough postwar years.  A new facility was built in 1955 and by 1964, there were more than 360 members of the cooperative.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 13%.  Nuts on the nose.  Plenty of tart, red fruit in the mouth, acidity, still structured, and acidic end.  A blood note develops.  This wine drank the same for days, it appears to be true to the grape.  *(*) Now but will last.

1966 Cantina Centrale Cooperativa, Cacc’e Mmitte, Riserva Enoselezone
Cacc’e Mmitte, located in Puglia, is named after an ancient vinification technique where the farmhouses equipped with tanks for the crush rented them out.  Tenants had to be finished by the end of their term for the next person.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  A very light, browning color.  Delicate, sweet old fruit in the mouth.  A gentle wine with low acidity, sweet red fruit in the finish.  Appealing in a way but soft, simple, short, and solid.  *(*) Now.

1961 Cantine di Venosa, Aglianico del Vulture, Riserva Enoselezone
Cantine di Venosa was founded in 1957 by 25 members and today has more than 400.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Good nose with dry, linear flavors in the mouth.  Sappy acidity, a polished wood note, and dry extract.  This is a good, sharp with with an attractive foxy presence. ** Now but will last.

1961 Molinelli Giuseppe, Valtidone Gutturnio
Most likely a blend of Barbera with Croatina (Bonardo).  Guttornio is located in Emilio-Romagna.  Imported by T. Elenteny.  Powdery flavor with noticeable, zippy acidity, and red cranberry flavors.  There is a firm wood note.  In amazing shape, the red flavors match the zippy, crisp nature.  Drank well for hours.  ** Now – 2028.

1949 Fattorie del Piceno, Cantine di Montefano, Montefano Sangiovese “Dry”, Rosso Piceno Extra
The “Cantine di Montefano” brand was registered in 1948.  Montefano is located in the Marche.  Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12-13%.  Dry and linear but dimension comes from dry extract.  Solid and initially appears to not hold up but then it breathes back to life.  Hints of menthol mix with finely textured red fruit and leather.  Modest body.  ** Now.

Patent for “Cantine di Montefano” business mark granted in 1948.

I try Italian wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Negroamaro, Susumaniello, Refosco, and more

Just a quick post on several Italian wines I tried over the last week.  Nothing particularly moving at this point.  I do not think I’ve drunk a Taurino wine since my Michigan days.  I can report that the 2010 Cosimo Taurino, Notarpanaro, Salento is still low priced and a solid value.   The 2011 Carpineto, Farnito, Tuscany and 2014 Antonutti, Ros di Muri, Venezie  have the best potential for development.  I suspect the Carpineto will have broad appeal next winter.  I found the 2015 Cantine Menhir Pietra, Salento so ripe I could only tolerate a small glass.

2010 Cosimo Taurino, Notarpanaro, Salento – $18
This wine is 100% Negroamaro. Alcohol 14.5%.  An interesting nose of tar and spruce while note piercing is certainly aromatic.  The controlled, rounded flavors are primarily of red fruit yet there is a sweet floral and herbal infusion evocative of Northwest evergreen forests.  This gentle wine wraps up with almost puckering acidity.  **(*) Now – 2020.

2011 Carpineto, Farnito, Tuscany – $22
Imported by Opici Wines. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a firm, dry middle followed by a steely structure near the end.  The flavors of licorice and menthol have a slight wrapping of fat.  With air the wine fleshes out and develops more blue fruit.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2014 Antonutti, Ros di Muri, Venezie – $16
Imported by Casa Vinicola. This wine is a blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Refosco fermented in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in barrique. Alcohol 14%.  A solid blend with flavors of red and black fruits, noticeable leather, and a spine of structure.  This could open up by the end of the year.  **(*) Now-2023.

2015 Cantine Menhir Pietra, Salento – $17
Imported by Tenth Harvest. This wine is a blend of Primitivo and Susumaniello. Alcohol 14%.  There are ripe, almost sweet flavors of blue fruits that mix with some attractive wet tobacco smoke.  Dark flavored and ultimately too ripe for my preference. * Now.

Bastardo & Moscatel: The Tasting 1927 – 1830

January 20, 2018 Leave a comment

On April 22, 2017, I attended my third amazing Madeira event Bastardo & Moscatel – The Tasting in New York City. This was the sixth in a series of definitive annual Madeira tastings organized by Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.) and Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port).

Unlike the previous two events I have attended, I did not write an article for the tasting booklet.  Bastardo and Moscatel were produced in such small quantities that I have yet to come across references in the correspondence of our Founding Fathers, historic newspaper advertisements, and even 19th century auction catalogs. For this post I explore the history behind the Bastardo we tasted.

Noel Cossart writes that even before phylloxera the production of Bastardo was so small that it was not kept separate, instead it was pressed with other grapes.  Cossart Gordon typically pressed their Bastardo and some other varieties with Verdelho.  They did replenish their 1844 Camara de Lobos Solera with Bastardo according to Henry Vizetelly.  So scare are descriptions that the 1970 advertisement by Sherry-Lehmann for 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo is the earliest I know of in an American paper.

The rarity of Bastardo is evidenced by Mannie Berk’s determination that the only pre-World War II vintages are 1830, 1836, 1858, 1870, 1875, 1876, and 1927.  As far as post-War vintages, it became extinct until Ricardo Freitas convinced a farmer to plant a small vineyard in 2004.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of Bastardo planted on the island.  Bastardo has always been scarce and bottlings of it even more so.

It is incredible then that we sat down to 12 different bottles of Bastardo at the tasting.  It might even seem impossible that of these selections, nine bottles were organized into three single-vintage flights: 1927, 1875, and 1870.  These groupings become understandable if the wines originally came from the same source, i.e. single pipes of each vintage.  Thus the important task of the tasting was to ascertain if each flight originated from a mother wine.

There have been three commercial releases of 1927 Bastardo and we tasted all three: the D’Oliveira, Leacock, and Blandy.  There is a fourth known Bastardo, the two casks sitting at Henriques & Henriques but it has not been released for sale and Mannie Berk was unable to obtain a sample for our tasting.  We know that the D’Oliveira came from Adegas do Terreão which they purchased in 2002 including this Bastardo in barrel.  Of the five known wines from this vintage there are at most four different sources.

For the 1927 and 1875 vintages I feel reasonably certain that two wines in each flight came from the same source.  The 1927 Leacock, Bastardo and 1927 Blandy’s, Bastardo Demijohn Selection I found similar.  The Blandy was recently bottled from demijohn and the Leacock was in bottle much longer given the dusty nose.  Despite differences in bottle age, both wines still share a pungent flavor that is remarkably similar as is the acidity.  This similarity narrows down the potential sources to three.  Without tasting the 1927 Henriques & Henriques I cannot specify further.

I found another strong commonality with the 1875 Cossart Gordon, Bastardo and 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo which both show a similar copper color and bear a citrus flavor.

The comparisons fall apart with the weaker 1870 vintage.  The bottle of 1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo is fully mature, the 1870 Unknown, Bastardo is round, sweet, old and the  1870 Favila, Bastardo fresh, floral, and elegant.

Phylloxera

Physical map of the Island of Madeira. London : E. Standford, [1856]. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich via Old Maps Online.

The answer as to why I could find commonality with the 1927 and 1875 vintages and not the 1870 might have to do with the spread of phylloxera during the 1870s.  Phylloxera arrived on the island in 1872.  It took over a decade for its spread to be largely contained.  Over the first three years it was devastating to a few particular areas, significantly impacting the diversity of vineyards on the south side of the island.  If Bastardo was grown in vineyards throughout this side, phylloxera would have the effect of reducing the number of separate Bastardo vineyards thus increasing the chance that later vintages came from the same source.

The scarcity of Bastardo even prior to the arrival of phylloxera means we do not have a clear picture on where it was grown.  However, contemporary sources reveal there are at least two areas where Bastardo was grown during the 1870s.  Those are Camara de Lobos and Sao Martinho.   According to Noel Cossart, the 1870 Avery’s Bastardo came from Henriques’s Camara de Lobos vineyard.  He also writes of Cossart Gordon having an 1875 and 1876 Bastardo as coming from the Doria family vineyard Quinta do Salao at Camara de Lobos.  According to Ricardo Freitas, the 1870 Favilia Bastardo came from Sao Martinho as the wine belonged to Manuel Jose Vieira who had substantial vineyards in that area.

There are no detailed maps or timelines regarding the spread of phylloxera on Madeira.  We can form a general understanding on the impact on these two regions by reviewing O Archivo Rural Jornal de Agricultura (1876), Victor Fatio’s Etat de la question phylloxérique en Europe en 1877, Henry Vizetelly’s Facts about Port and Madeira (1878), Francisco d’Almeida Brito’s Le phylloxera et autres epiphyties de la vigne en Portugal (1884),  Alfredo de Villanova de Vasconcellos Correia de Barros’ Relatorio ácerca dos serviços phylloxericos em 1887 (1887), and Dwight Morrow Jr.’s Phylloxera in Portugal (1973).

Phylloxera was first introduced to the island in 1872.  The importation of vines through the port of Funchal was regarded as the source.  Curiously enough, the phylloxera first bypassed nearby Sao Martinho, instead showing up in the revered vineyards of Camara de Lobos.  This was the first area affected and it was in serious state through 1875 and 1876.  At the time of Henry Vizetelly’s visit in 1877, phylloxera had destroyed nearly all of the vineyards in Camara de Lobos.  The production ranged from 8,000 pipes in 1871 to 300 pipes in 1877 with an estimated 100 pipes for 1878.  The region was considered completely destroyed by 1887.

The vineyards of Sao Martinho were only slightly affected in 1876 and 1877.  This could be due to the orientation or generally higher elevation.  Sao Martinho would see significant devastation by 1887 but for the period of our interest it was a viable source for fruit.

1875 Cossart Gordon and Shortridge-Lawton

Cossart Gordon produced an 1875 and 1876 Bastardo from Camara de Lobos during the most devastating period for the region.  It seems counterintuitive at first but then their vineyard was located at Quinta do Salao in Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  The phylloxera first affected vines at lower altitudes of Camara de Lobos.  The unaffected vines were located at several thousand feet in elevation in the Estreito parish.  Henry Vizetelly writes that this area was untouched as of 1877 which explains why Cossart Gordon could produce the 1875 Bastardo that we tasted.

As for the Shortridge-Lawton, we can infer its history due to the Madeira Wine Association (MWA).  The MWA was founded by Blandy’s and Leacock in 1925 with Cossart-Gordon joining in 1953.  Shortridge-Lawton joined as well eventually becoming just a brand.  Our bottle of 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo is labeled as being selected for Sherry-Lehman by the MWA during the 1970s.  The MWA pooled wine from its various members so it is reasonable that the Shortridge-Lawton is really the same as Cossart-Gordon’s Bastardo from Estreito de Camara de Lobos.

1875 and 1870 Blandy’s

While the number of existing vineyard sites reduced from the 1870 to the 1875 vintage, the Cossart Gordon vineyard in Estreito de Camara de Lobos and Vieira’s vineyard in Sao Martinho survived for the 1875 vintage.  I doubt these are the sources for our bottles of Blandy’s based on taste and history.  I found both wines savory and different from the other wines I tasted.

The origins of the 1875 and 1870 Blandy’s Bastardo at first appear somewhat of a mystery. Noel Cossart writes that the 1870 Avery’s Bastardo came from the Henriques Camara de Lobos vineyard.  The Henriques family owned vineyards at the lower elevation Pico da Torre in Camara de Lobos as well at the higher elevation of Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  If Noel Cossart is being specific then the 1870 Avery’s came from Pica da Torre which would have been destroyed by the 1875 vintage.

Alex Liddell writes in Madeira (1998) that the 1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo is originally from the cellars of Padre Henriques, vicar of Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  It is possible that Blandy’s grew Bastardo at both Estreito and Pico da Torre.  However, given its scarcity I suspect they would have grown Bastardo just at Estreito.  This leads me to believe that the 1870 Avery’s is from Henrique’s Estreito vineyard just like the 1870 Blandy’s.  If the 1875 Blandy’s Bastardo came from Henriques as well then it had to come from Estreito and not Pico da Torre because it was destroyed by phylloxera by the 1875 vintage.

Conclusion

That I found commonality between wines from the 1875 vintage and not the 1870 vintage is due to our sample size.  At first I thought Bastardo vineyards which existed in 1870 were destroyed by 1875.  However, Bastardo was grown at higher-elevations on the south-side of Madeira.  These areas remained untouched for both the 1870 and 1875 vintages.    The known Bastardo vineyards for these vintages are Cossart Gordon’s Doria family vineyard Quinta do Salao at Estreito de Camara de Lobos, Padre Henriques’ vineyard at Estreito de Camara de Lobos, and Manuel Jose Viera family vineyard at Sao Martinho.  This of course leaves one last wine, the 1870 Unknown, Bastardo.  While it tasted like no other wine, I doubt it is pure Bastardo so I cannot confirm a fourth source.  Please find my tasting notes below.

Bastardo Tasting Notes

1927 D’Oliveira, Bastardo
Bottled from cask in 2014. The lightest color of the trio of 1927s. A pungent nose that is balsamic then with air enjoyable aromas of sweet confection and brown sugar. This liquidy, puckering, and salivating wine had a drier finish. The most gentle of the three, there is a shorter finish followed by a gentle wave of flavor in the aftertaste. ***.

1927 Leacock, Bastardo
This is the darkest of the trio with more brown hints. The low-lying musk mixes with old dusty books then brown sugar. The nose likely affected by a long time in bottle. There is a sweeter and rounder entry with wood box flavors and a fine vein of acidity lurking. The pungency returns in the end as does some searing acidity. I enjoy the integration of wood flavors. ***(*).

1927 Blandy, Bastardo Demijohn Selection
Bottled from demijohn in 2013. Francisco Albuquerque states this came from the best 40-50 liters owned by the family. This is the most aromatic of the trio with pungent note, aromatic musk, and an attractive animale quality. The wine is sweet as well as immediately pungent with round flavors, a spicy middle, and compelling liveliness on the tongue. The flavors stand out on the tongue moving to a drier finish that is fresh and powerful with citric hints, and wraps up both savory and saline. With additional air this pungent wine retains its grip in the mouth and persistent aftertaste. ****.

1875 Cossart Gordon, Bastardo
A moderate level of aromas that are deep with supporting pungency. There is a savory start on the tongue tip before the wine builds both pungency and power that is soon joined by searing acidity. The body has weight up front, the finish is dry but some sweetness clings to the gums in the aftertaste. Additional complexity comes from lemon citrus and bitters. This is more powerful than the Shortridge & Lawton. ****.

1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo
One of 120 bottles reserved for Sherry-Lehman of New York. This nose is subtle and gentle. The watering start brings a bit of a separate sweet aspect. There is weight to the wine as well though more noticeable up front. At first it is less balanced in the finish with residual sugar in the aftertaste but upon revisiting, it comes together well. It mixes with orange and lemon citrus with bitters. ****.

1875 Blandy’s, Bastardo
Bottled 7 of 180. There is, perhaps, a hint of citrus on the nose. The savory, dense powerful start moves on to a mature, red-wine like middle with old wood flavors. There is body with plenty of grip in the savory, citrus coating finish. **.

1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo
The nose is low-lying with sweet musk aromas. The round entry is not assertive, rather savory with fine complex flavors that become gentler as the wine progresses ultimately fading away in the aftertaste. There is a tobacco note as well. This is certainly less vigorous than the 1875s. ***.

1870 Unknown, Bastardo
This is the darkest of the trio of 1870s, in fact, almost cola like. The nose is stinky. In the mouth this taste of sweet, old, poor pruned clunky fruit which lacks acidity to support it. The round, sweet, and savory wine tastes past prime which is ultimately too distracting. What is this? Poor.

1870 Favila, Bastardo
The reddest and brownest of the trio. There is a minty, fresh hint to the nose with a delicacy that marks it completely different than all other wines. The flavors are sweeter and rounded with fresh, floral tea flavors woven throughout. There is fine balance to this elegant wine. ***.

1858 Leacock, Lomelino, Bastardo
Rebottled 1900. The nose offers subtle tobacco and subtle fruit. The flavors are tobacco infused with low-lying custard sweetness and eventually some bitterness. There is a thick, mature wine like middle before the bitter finish of licorice and tobacco. Perhaps musty in the aftertaste. **.

1836 Leacock, Lomelino, Bastardo
Rebottled 1926. The nose offers fine wood notes and perhaps licorice. In the mouth this is a fine and elegant wine with a zip of acidity supporting the rounded body. This is ultimately a bit sweeter in flavor than acidic. It is certainly an older wine but it still sports a bit of racy character. ***.

1830 Welsh Bros, Bastardo
There is a pungency to the nose that the other wines do not have. The nose is strong and decent but on revisiting it is smelly. This is a salty wine with less body and drier than the nose suggests. All of the power is up front, the wine is not balanced. It is dry, bitter, and the alcohol is noticeable. **.

Moscatel Tasting Notes

1900 D’Oliveira, Moscatel
This wine is very dark and the nose is sweaty and pungent. It is round, sweet, and racy in the mouth. The residual sugar is certainly present up front and in the aftertaste. A wood note adds complexity. There is power throughout with the wine sharpening up in the finish as more acidity is brought forth. ***.

1900 Leacock, Moscatel
Rather dark. The nose is subtle compared to the D’Oliveira but the pungency does come out. There is plenty of sweet such that you can practically feel it. The start is higher-toned with some lift from acidity. A bit of tea and pungency add complexity. ***.

1900 Avery’s, Moscatel
This is an oak color with a touch fruitier nose. This is lively from the start with flavors of black, sweet tea and ripe texture. It does not have the level of sweetness that the D’Oliveira and Leacock posses. It is an interesting old-school type of wine. **.

1890 Barrous e Sousa, Moscatel
In bottle for 60 years. A little stinky. This is thick with integrated sweetness and texture. There is an interesting, odd flavor in this weighty wine that drapes over the tongue. Dried fruit develops in the soft middle with textured sugar in the finish. There is both less sweetness and acidity but the wine is balanced. ***.

1875 D’Oliveira, Moscatel
Bottled in the 1970s. This is the darkest along with the 1870 Blandys. There is less sugar up front but the balanced start conveys sweetness and pungency. There is an attractive mineral, racy vein as the wine reveals density and tea flavors. It is concentrated but not too much. ***(*).

1870 Manuel Jose Vieira, Moscatel, Camara de Lobos
This is the lightest color. Wow, this is an acidity driven with minimal sugar, old perfume, and thin body. It is old-school but volatile. *.

1870 Blandy’s, Moscatel
The sweetness comes from textured brown sugar. The wine has power and some searing acidity near the finish but the residual sugar drapes over the acidity. In the end this is satisfying with good flavor from the baking spices. **.

1856 Barbeito, Moscatel
A medium color compared to the others. This is pungent and acidity driven like a non-Moscatel Madeira. The acidity builds and is persistent but not offending like the 1870 Vieira. The body has glycerin. The driest wine of the flight. Is it pure Moscatel? ***(*).