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“The [illustrated] effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared.”

October 18, 2019 Leave a comment

I came across this drawing while perusing the Wellcome Collection to stock an anatomy display at my house for our Halloween party.  On the left, is a thin, gaunt man suffering from the blue devils despite his three bottles of physic.  On the right is a jolly, robust man, holding up a glass of wine, surrounded by wine bottles.  As there are two wine glasses and six bottles of wine, I suspect the thin, gaunt man switched from wine to physic for the worse!

“The effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared.” [1]

Two three bottle men. Wine and physic. What I was. What I am. A hint to jolly dogs.


[1] The effects of medicine and wine-drinking compared. Ink drawing, 18–.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY. URL: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/hta2mhfq/items?langCode=eng

Frightening 16th c. Wine-related Images for Friday the 13th & a Full Moon!

September 13, 2019 Leave a comment

“Devil and Man” from Hans von Leonrod. Hymelwag. 1517. [1]

As it is Friday the 13th and a full-moon, I present two frightening wine-related images.  In keeping with yesterday’s post about the popularity of drinking in 15th century Germany, I present two images by Hans Schaufelein found in Hans von Leonrod Hymelwag (1517).  The popularity of intoxication in Germany continued into the 16th and 17th century. As a result, a temperance movement developed, as did books complete with devil-related drinking images.

In the title image of this post, a knight is presented a demijohn of wine by a diablocal creature.  This is the first known image of the “boozing devil” or Saufteufel.  In these books, the vice of drunkenness opened the gates to other vices.  In the second image, we see the same knight with his cup and demijohn of wine riding a cart into the mouth of hell.  He seems oblivious to his fate which is frightening indeed.

“Wagon to Hell” from Hans von Leonrod. Hymelwag. 1517. [1]


[1] von Leonrod, Hans. Hymelwag auff dem, wer wol lebt un wol stirbt fert in das reich der himel. 1517. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=PNVdAAAAcAAJ&pg=PT6#v=onepage&q&f=false

Hans Folz, Prints In Praise of Distilled Wine from the 1490s

September 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Folz, Hans. Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei. ca. 1491. [1]

I have periodically looked at Hans Folz’s colorful image Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei (ca. 1491) for several years now.  I first came across it when I worked on my 16th Century German Wine Books posts.  In this post I present a bit of context.

Hans Folz (1435-1513) was a German barber surgeon, playwright, and printer amongst other occupations.  He is considered a major figure but the breadth of his work was largely ignored in English research until Caroline Huey’s Hans Folz and Print Culture in Late Medieval Germany: The Creation of Popular Discourse (2012).  Folz was based in Nuremberg where he self-published a large number of works including the poem Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei, vnd wie er gerecht oder felschlich gemacht sei (ca. 1491).  The drinking of wine and beer was very common in the 15th century Germany but towards the end, distilled wine or brandy increased in popularity.  Folz’s poem is focused on this widely popular drink which he praises as a remedy against sadness and hangovers but also warns against immoderate use. [4]  Folz was no doubt an observer of drinking behavior in his city.  In 1496, shortly after he published these works, the Nuremberg city council banned the drinking of distilled wine in the streets and the sale on Sundays and holidays.

Folz, Hans. Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei. ca. 1491. [2]

Folz’s wine incunabula exists in at least three different forms.  The first two, dated ca. 1491, are in the form of a book and a broadsheet.  The book features a hand colored woodblock print with hand-copied text.[1]  The broadsheet features the same print with printed text.[2]  A few details contain the single color red such as lips, a flask of distilled wine, and some letters.  The two prints are formed from the same wood block given the wear patterns.  For example, two dots appear in the title text between “schad oder” and in the top of the right vertical border are additional signs of wear.  A third form contains an entirely different wood block print.  Though the image is completely different, the key features are the same.

Folz, Hans. Wem der geprant wein nutz sey oder schad. 1493. [3]

In both image types, a merchant appears behind his table which is partially covered with a cloth.  On it are arrayed flasks of distilled wine, a knife, perhaps wooden rulers, maybe some corks or coins, and shallow cups for drinking.  It is certainly a mysterious assortment of items.  The first image type, which takes place outside on the grass, features a line of three men waiting for a drink.  The second image, presumably inside as there is a stone wall and tiled floor, features only one man actively taking a drink.  The different images in book form feature green glass flasks which do not reveal their contents.  The broadsheet, with it judicious use of color, implies the glass is clear as there is red fluid in one flask.

The culture of drinking continued to develop in Germany during the 16th century.  In tomorrow’s post I will present a couple of scary wine-related images.


[0] Huey, Caroline. “Hans Folz and Print Culture in Late Medieval Germany: The Creation of Popular Discourse”. Routledge. 2012.

[1] Folz, Hans. Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei, vnd wie er gerecht oder felschlich gemacht sei. c. 1491. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek — Cgm 407#S.298. URL: https://app.digitale-sammlungen.de/bookshelf/bsb00101646

[2] Folz, Hans: Wem der geprennt wein schad oder nucz sei, vnd wie er gerecht oder felschlich gemacht sei , [Nuremberg], [c. 1491] [BOD Ink F-174 – GW 10121]. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. URL: http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0010/bsb00101645/images/

[3] Hans Folz: Wem der geprant wein nutz sey oder schad … Bamberg, Marx Ayrer und Hans Bernecker, 1493 | SBB, JH.Inc.typ.IV.322, Bl. 1r. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg.

[4] Spode, Hasso. “The First Step toward Sobriety: The ‘Boozing Devil’ in Sixteenth-Century Germany.” Contemporary Drug Problems 21, no. 3 (September 1994): 453–83. doi:10.1177/009145099402100307.

No School Like the Old-School: A Unique Madeira Advertisement in Washington, DC during 1835

September 7, 2019 Leave a comment

Detail from Tanner, Henry Schenck. City of Washington. 1836. [0]

Thomas H. Jacobs and James Gowen created their Washington, DC, based wine firm Gowen & Jacobs in 1829.  Both men had previous experience as wine importers and merchants in Philadelphia.  In fact, Gowen maintained his establishment in Philadelphia to help with the wine selections down at their Washington, DC firm.  Their aim was to stock an extensive selection of foreign wines and liquors.  In particular, they catered to members of Congress who typically brought their own supplies of wine to Washington.  Gowen & Jacobs aimed to be the new source for all of their vinuous needs.

Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC during November, 1800.  When Gowen & Jacobs opened their store, the city population was estimated at nearly 19,000.  A decade later, in 1840, it had climbed to roughly 27,000.

Partial Cadastral Map around Center Market. 1836. [2]

Gowen &  Jacobs were located at 7th St NW and Pennsylvania Ave.  This placed them halfway between the President’s House and the Capitol.  There were four markets serving the District at the time and their storefront location placed them across the street from the Centre Market. This market was located between 7th and 9th Streets with the store on the west side of 7th street fronting the market. This was the principal market of the city with one guide book going so far as to state, “in the quality and abundance of the commodities brought there for sale, it is not excelled by any” other.[3]

This prime location placed them within two blocks of the Patriotic and Washington Banks along with Gadsby’s and Brown’s Hotels.  By the end of the year they were fully stocked with Old London Particular Madeira, Old Pale Sherry, Old Champagne, Old Bordeaux, and more including Burgundy, Hock, and Sauternes.[4]

“Old school vintage of 1803” from Gowen’s & Jacobs’ advertisement. 1835. [5]

Gowen & Jacobs laid in a large selection of old wine during the fall of 1835.  In a series of advertisements address to the “Members of Congress” they laid out some enticing selections.  Of importance to this post is their description of one particular wine found amongst a “large stock of Old Bottled Madeiras”.  Here we find “the Stevenson bottled in St. Croix–the old Old school Vintage of 1803″. [Emphasis added.]

The “old school” phrase dates back to the mid-18th century but as far as I can tell, these advertisements are unique with regards to the subject of wine.  As the 19th century progressed, an appreciation for ever older bottles of Madeira continued to develop.  This particular wine of the “Old school Vintage of 1803” would have been bottled just one or two years later.  Its long life in glass made it particularly different than wines which would have gained their age on the Island of Madeira.  These wines would have concentrated in wood before making the long journey to America where they were finally bottled.

“Old Wine and Liquors” from Gowen’s & Jacbobs’ advertisement. 1835.


[0] Tanner, Henry Schenck. City of Washington. [Philadelphia: H.S. Tanner, 1836] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/88694080/.

[1] Advertisement. Daily National Intelligencer Thursday, Nov 05, 1829 Washington (DC), DC Vol: XVII Issue: 5230 Page: 3

[2] Partial cadastral map of the district around the Center Market, N.W. Washington D.C. 1836. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/88694081/.

[3] Watterson, George.  A Picture of Washington. 1840. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=VtfC1aNc2VIC&dq=Watterson,+George.+A+Picture+of+Washington.+1840&source=gbs_navlinks_s

[4] Advertisement. United States’ Telegraph Saturday, Nov 21, 1829 Washington (DC), DC Page: 3

[5] Advertisement. United States’ Telegraph Saturday, Nov 28, 1835 Washington (DC), DC Page: 3

[6] Centre Market and Vicinity. Author(s): Washington Topham. Source: Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 26 (1924), pp. 1-88. Published by: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40067380. Accessed: 06-09-2019 15:54 UTC

Carafes and glasses in Cruikshank’s The Mulberry-Tree, 1808.

September 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Cruikshank. The Mulberry-Tree. 1808. [1]

The “vine-juice” mentioned in The Mulberry-Tree below, is being enjoyed in Cruikshank’s illustration by three gentlemen sitting at a table underneath a mulberry tree.  The wine is found both in the full glass each man holds and in the two carafes resting on the table.  The carafes are triple-ringed, broad shouldered types with very narrow lips.  I would venture they date within a decade or so of the engraving.  Carafes do not use stoppers, as such the inside of the neck is not ground for a tight fit.  Unlike a decanter, they would have been filled in the cellar then put on the table for immediate use.

Cruikshank. The Mulberry-Tree. 1808. [1]

THE MULBERRY-TREE.

The sweet brier grows in the merry green wood,
Where the musk-rose diffuses his perfume so free,
But the blight often seizes both blossom and bud,
While the mildew flies over the mulberry tree.

In the nursery rear’d like the young tender vine,
Mankind of all orders, and ev’ry degree,
First crawl on the ground, then spring up like the pine,
And some branch and bear fruit, like the mulberry- tree.

To the fair tree of knowledge some twine like a twig,
While some sappy sprouts with their fruits disagree;
For which we from birch now and then pluck a twig,
Which is not quite so sweet as the mulberry tree.

The vast tree of life we all eagerly climb,
And impatiently pant at its high top to be,
Tho’ nine out of ten are lopp’d off in their prime,
And they drop like dead leaves from the mulberry- tree.

Some live by the leaf, and some by the bough,
As the song or the dance, their vocation may be,
And some live and thrive, tho’ we know no more how,
Than the dew that flies over the mulberry tree.

But like weeping willows we hang down the head,
When poor wither’d elders we’re destin’d to be,
And we’re minded no more than mere logs when we’re dead,
Or the dew that flies over the mulberry tree.

Yet like lignum-vitae we hearts of oak wear,
Or the cedar that keeps from the canker-worm free,
While the vine juice, we drain to dissolve ev’ry care,
Like the dew that flies over the mulberry tree.


[1] Cruikshank. The Mulberry-Tree.  London, 1808.  Museum number: 1869,1009.30. Prints and Drawings, The British Museum.  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). URL: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1670714&partId=1

A Preserved mid-1970s Liberty School, Cabernet Sauvignon

September 4, 2019 Leave a comment

Charles Wagner’s famous Caymus Vineyards was bonded in 1971 with the first successful vintage a year later in 1972.  Wagner would develop a reputation during the 1970s for producing some of California’s best wines.  These early vintages still command a premium to this day.  The shifting nature of the California wine boom left some winemakers with more wine than they could sell.  Liberty School, Wagner’s second label, made its debut, born of surplus wine, in 1976.

Nathan Chroman, of the Los Angeles Times, was skeptical of the first release of the bicentennial named Liberty School.[1]  Though the origins of subsequent releases are not known, Chroman sheds some light on the first.  It is a 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon that a grower could not market.  The wine was produced by a large winery in Dry Creek Valley then finished by Wagner at Caymus Vineyards.  First released at $3.50, Chroman found it “laden with tannin but with enough flavor” to suggest it would age.  A year later, Frank Prial of the New York Times reported that often “very good wine” shows up in second labels including Liberty School.[2]  He found these wines quite good and a bargain.

The origins of our NV Caymus Vineyard, Liberty School, Lot 3, Cabernet Sauvignon remain a mystery.  Advertisements are not consistent but we know that Lot 1 was sold in 1976, Lot 2 in 1977,  with Lots 4 and 5 in 1979.  That would place Lot 3 as being offered around 1978.  The vintage is certainly mid 1970s, perhaps 1976.  In 1979, it was priced between $5-$6 placing it in the range of Beringer, Clos du Bois, Souverain Vintage Select, and Sterling.

Today the wine is decidedly in a fine, preserved state.  It is clean and focused with an herbaceous Cabernet edge.  It does not have the depth that I would prefer but it is balanced and easy to drink.  I find this quite cool given that it a second wine.

NV Caymus Vineyards, Liberty School, Lot 3, Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 13%. A dark, robust color.  In the mouth it offers clean cherry flavor with a touch of wood.  It remains focused with an herbaceous edge carried by fresh acidity.  **(*) Now but will last.


[1] California’s Cup Overflowing With Excellent Wine Bargains. CHROMAN, NATHAN. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Apr 1, 1976; ProQuest. pg. H14

[2] Wine Talk. Prial, Frank J. New York Times (1923-Current file); Apr 27, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. 64

[3] Wine Talk. Robards, Terry. New York Times (1923-Current file); Oct 10, 1979; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. C17

Surprisingly Good 1980 Girard, Cabernet Sauvignon

September 3, 2019 Leave a comment

The Girard family first bought land for their vineyard in 1972.  For several years they grew grapes until they built a winery in 1980.  It is from this inaugural year that Lou’s bottle of 1980 Girard Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley stems from.  The wine continued to slowly unfurl for hours, taking me by surprise for its persistent quality.  Looking back, this wine pleased others as well.

One early mention came from the 1981 Los Angeles County Fair where judges such as Dmitri Tchelistcheff, son of Andre Tchelistcheff, and Frank Prial of the New York Times awarded the wine a silver medal.[1]  Nathan Chroman found the Girards’ a “youthful and ebullient wine-making family”. [2] As for the wine itself he presents it as “high in extract and alcohol. A monster at 14% alcohol, but loaded with fruit…is already developing suppleness…put this one away for a few years to enjoy its ambitious power and hopeful complexity.”  Nearly four decades later that description is still quite valid.

1980 Girard Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
This wine was aged for 16 months in 50% new French oak.  Alcohol 14%.  Dark with a cherry garnet core yet fresh on the nose.  In fine condition, this bottle sports a developing core of flavor that gains weight and texture over the course of several hours.  It has a fresh mineral start and supple nature to the fruity core.  It wraps up with a spiced, scented finish.  Persistent in nature, it continues to deliver waves of flavor for hours. ***(*) Now – 2024.


[1] 132 Entries: A Fine Collection in Fair’s Cabernet Sauvignon Competition. CHROMAN, NATHAN. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Sep 9, 1982; ProQuest. pg. L26

[2] Quality of Most Products Ranges From Good to Excellent: New Wineries … CHROMAN, NATHAN. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Dec 9, 1982; ProQuest. pg. M48

1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Private Cellar of August Sebastiani

September 2, 2019 Leave a comment

As a California Cabernet from the 1941 vintage, the wine is very good for its age: deep aromas and a burst of flavor delivered with graceful decline. I agree with Mannie Berk that any better and suspicions would be raised.  Incredibly, the wine is not from the great classic names like Beaulieu or Inglenook but rather the El Gavilan Winery.  The wine was originally acquired by August Sebastiani and the fact that the bottle survived to this day is rooted across the history of California wine.

The bottle of 1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County bears a strip label indicating it came from August Sebastiani’s personal wine cellar.  The Sebastiani winery was founded in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani.  Located in Sonoma County, it survived the Prohibition years by producing sacramental and medicinal wine.  In 1944, Samuele passed away and shortly thereafter, his son August and August’s wife Sylvia took over. In 1946, they built their family home overlooking the vineyards.  That same year they designed the Casa de Sonoma label for what would be their first bottled wine.  The label even shows the new family house and vineyard.

The Casa de Sonoma back label indicates that this new line of wines were “selected for their distinguished flavors and are made from superior grapes grown in the fine wine district of Northern California.”  In 1947, after a period of long aging, the 1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon became the first wine August bottled.  It was first offered in 1950 at $1 per bottle.  It did not, however, sell well.  The Sebastiani clients were accustomed to screw-top wines and did not own the corkscrews required to open the Casa de Sonoma.  The remaining bottles were to lay in a corner of the warehouse.  Over the decades they would only be pulled out to celebrate special occasions.

Records from the post-war years are thin at Sebastiani.  Despite the label not indicating a vintage, it is known to be 1941 Cabernet Sauvignon sourced primarily from San Benito County.  Sebastiani operated as a bulk wine producer from 1946-1959 which necessitated buying wine from other producers.  On the label we see that the wine itself was produced and bottled by El Gavilan Winery of Santa Rosa.

El Gavilan Vineyard and Winery

“I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness, and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother.” John Steinbeck, “East of Eden”, 1952.

U.S. Geological Survey, 1940, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Hollister, CA 1940

It was in 1907, that Dr. Harold Ohrwall, a San Francisco physician, and Professor Frederick Bioletti, Viticulture Department of the University of California, became partners in an experimental vineyard they called El Gavilan Vineyard.  The vineyard was located in San Benito County, some 95 miles south of San Francisco.  Their experiment took place in Grass Valley, 12 miles south-west of Hollister, on the Cienega Road. It was named after the Gabilan (or in Spanish Gavilan) Mountain Range which separates the Salinas and San Joaquin valleys.

U.S. Geological Survey, 1941, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Gonzales, CA 1941

Professor Bioletti had convinced Dr. H Ohrwall that they could produce exceptional table wines.  This area was home to vineyards since the early 1850s when the Frenchman Theophile Vache settled in Cienega, some 9 miles south-west of Hollister.  Vache cleared the hillsides, creating vineyards with vines he brought over from Europe.  The area became known as the Vineyard District.

In 1898, Professor Bioletti joined the faculty at the University of California.  Over the years he became convinced that Grass Valley was a good area to grow fine wine grapes because of the good climate, fertile soils, and lack of phylloxera.  It also had good roads.

Professor Bioletti took a few years off from the university to start his venture with Ohrwall.  In 1908, Bioletti and Ohrwall added to their existing 15 acres of vines another 75 acres with vines sourced from the best vineyards in California.  Professor Bioletti soon left, not liking the practical side of vineyard management.  He returned to the University of California in 1910 becoming the first Professor of Viticulture as well as the first chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology before retiring in 1935.

Dr. H. Ohrwall continued operations as he enjoyed the life.  He built a small winery and crushed his first harvest in 1912.  The following harvest of 1913, yielded 29,000 gallons of wine which was valued at $6,000.  It was estimated that the yield would double the following year.  All of the wines were sold in bulk to the California Wine Association until Prohibition.  This would explain why no advertisements are to be found in period newspapers.  The Association ceased operating upon Repeal in 1935.

During Prohibition, households were allowed to make up to 300 gallons of wine for their own use.  New markets for grapes opened up on the east coast.  The grapes from El Gavilan were shipped off but at a reduced price compared to thicker skinned shipping varieties.  With the end of Prohibition in 1935, new wineries began opening up in the area.  For the next decade there was a period of renewal and turbulence.

El Gavilan Winery aged all of their wines in redwood casks for at least 4 years.  That August Sebastiani could purchase this wine and the fact that it spent 6 years in cask may be attributed to the difficulties of World War II.  The federal government requisitioned all raisin grapes for the production of raisins for military rations and not for use in making sweet wines.  The production of wine plummeted in 1942 as a result.  Price control was in effect which made the traditional selling of wine in bulk a nearly profitless venture.  However, the controls did allow for bottled wine to be sold at nearly five times the bulk pricing.  In 1943, the government requisitioned railway tankers, effectively ceasing the feasibility of bulk shipping.  El Gavilan would need to keep their production local.

East coast bottlers flocked to California to purchase wineries and vineyards.  This drove a boom for grape and wine prices in 1944.  El Gavilan Winery continued to operate under Dr. H. Ohrwall who produced wine until 1944.  The following year he sold the vineyard and winery to Taylor & Co during the market crash of 1945.  El Gavilan Winery ceased all operations in 1952.  A decade later, in 1963, the Taylor & Co properties were acquired by Almaden.

There are no records indicating if Auguste Sebastiani bought the wine either from Dr. H. Ohrwall or Taylor & Co.  It seems likely that Taylor & Co. sold the wine.  The labels, with El Gavilan Winery listed, were created in 1946 after Dr. H Ohrwall had sold the company.  That year California wine sales started off strong and increasing in value which might have influenced the creation of the Casa de Sonoma line.  The upward trend did not last long as the ending of the war and removal of price controls all contributed to a major crash of the wine market in 1947.  This is the year the wine was bottled and by all accounts, it was not immediately offered for sale.  Perhaps August Sebastiani chose to wait until 1950 for a better market.

The 1982 Re-release of Casa de Sonoma

The sachet which was tied to the bottle contains the original cork and paper capsule.

Shortly before August Sebastiani passed away in 1982, his son Sam Sebastiani, began running the winery.  He immediately set about moving operations towards the premium end by re-evaluating the quality of all purchased grapes.  He expanded the winery, invested heavily in new equipment, and ceased produced of old-fashion products such as sweet wines.  The release of the 1941 Casa de Sonoma was meant to symbolize these changes until the newly produced wines could stand on their own.

The wine is in the original 4/5 quart bottle with original labels.  When the bottles were recorked in May 1982, new foil was added and a small strip label indicating the provenance.  The original cork and paper cap were placed in a sachet which was tied to the neck of the bottle.    The replacement cork is stamped “Recorked [illegible] At Sebastiani Vineyards, Sonoma, California” along with an eagle.

The Wine

Sylvia Sebastiani had tasted the wine over a period of 30 years when it was released in 1982.  She recollected it started out “young and fruity” and then in the 1950s it “began to throw something of a sediment.  It has now developed a bottle bouquet.  It’s slightly brown around the edges but still has a substantial fruit character.” During the re-corking process, Sam Sebastiani said they noticed some variation between bottles but there was “an overall strong consistency.”  He felt the wine demonstrated the importance of redwood which allows the wine to mellow while still preserving its fruitiness.

Our bottle of wine was as well preserved as the labels.  The color is mature but still pigmented and bright.  There is a burst of flavor but the wine is old enough that any sweetness from concentration is gone.  The flavors are drying but there are suggestions of red fruit which is still supported by structure.  I will even venture to say the extended redwood aging is evident, for the profile of the wine is just different.

August Sebastiani’s careful cellaring leaves us with a very unique experience.   We get to taste the product of Professor Bioletti’s and Dr. H Ohrwall’s belief that site-specific, single-variety, traditionally made California wines could result in top quality wine.  There were others who were to soon champion this view most notably Martin Ray.

1941 Casa de Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
From the personal cellar of August Sebastiani.  Recorked in May 1982 at Sebastiani Vineyards.  Alcohol 13%.  A clear mature cherry wood color lightened from age.  A good nose full of mature aromas, suggestive of redwood.  In the mouth the wine is fading and drying, the sweetness of concentration is all gone.  There is a suggestion of red fruit with a meaty cut and perhaps some fat.  Fine wood and watering acidity still support the wine.  It certainly tastes of another era.  *** Drink up.


  • California Fruit News, Volume 49, Issue 1351. 1914. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=tXhRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA4#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Sebastiani Sets Record: WINE: $100 Bottle. Cannon, Carl. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Jul 13, 1982; ProQuest pg. E1
  • Lapsley, James T. “Bottled Poetry”. University of California Press. 1996.
  • My Most Memorable Bottle of Wine.  Meredith, Nikki.  Oct, 03, 1982. San Francisco Chronicle. pg 18.
  • Ohrwall, John P. “A History of Vineyard and Wineries in San Benito County” found in Almaden Vineyards, Petition for Establishment of San Benito as a Viticultural Area.  Dec 2, 1982.
  • Peninou, Ernest P.  “A History of The San Francisco Viticultural District.  Presented by Nomis Press for The Wine Librarians Association.  2004.
  • A CHANGING OF THE GUARD. By Terry Robards. New York Times (1923-Current file); Dec 12, 1982; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. SM122
  • Rare vintage release by Sebastiani.  Thwaite, Jean. The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984); Jul 22, 1982; Proquest Historical Newspapers. pg. 19F.
  • U.S. Geological Survey, 1940, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Hollister, CA 1940: U.S. Geological Survey. URL: https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/item/5d295848e4b038fabe1d13d3
  • U.S. Geological Survey, 1941, USGS 1:62500-scale Quadrangle for Gonzales, CA 1941: U.S. Geological Survey URL: https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/item/5d295838e4b038fabe1d13a3

 

A 15th century Image of a Man Harvesting Grapes

Detail from Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 963. Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi. [2]

Peter of Poitiers (c. 1130 – 1215) or in Latin Petrus Pictaviensis Cancellarius, was a French scholastic theologian, who was a professor and chancellor of the Church of Paris.[1]  In response to the lack of education of illiterate clerics and poor students, Peter of Poitiers created a series of manuscripts detailing different stages of Biblical history.  Contemporaneously known as Compendium Historiae in Genealogia Christi they feature “historical trees” with names inscribed within circles connected by lines to illustrate relationships.  Alongside these trees appear brief bibliographic details.  The Compendium includes other illustrations, which is where my interest lies, particularly in the detailed image of a man harvesting grapes.

The image is of a 15th century copy of the Compendium held by the Vatican.  The image was first held online by the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg [2] then was rescanned by the Vatican in 2018. [3]  It shows a man in medieval clothes harvesting grapes from a trellised vineyard using a knife.  He has filled a large basket with black grape clusters and appears to have switched to a smaller hand basket.  The trellis is constructed of wooden rods set in the ground and lashed together with rope or cane.  The vines are intertwined amongst the trellis.  The vineyard itself sits on lush, green grass with perhaps a few small flowers.

The grape leaves are veined and appear in different shades of green.  The grape clusters combine lighting and shadowing to illustrate each individual berry.  I find this quite pleasing.

Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 963. Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi. [2]


[1] Monroe, William H. A Roll-Manuscript of Peter of Poitier’s Compendium. The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Mar., 1978), pp. 92-107. Published by: Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25159572

[2] Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 963. Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Arbor consanguinitatis et affinitatis ; Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi — Deutschland, 15. Jh. Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg. URL: https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/bav_pal_lat_963/0009

[3] Shelfmark: Pal.lat.963. Author: Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Title: Arbor consanguinitatis et affinitatis ; Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi. Date: 15. Jh. Place: Deutschland. Rights Attribution: Images Copyright Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. URL: https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Pal.lat.963/0009

Two 19th c. variants on “Madeira Wine A Parody” of the song “The Willow”

I find that “Madeira Wine” is a riot of a song particularly since I love both the drink itself and its history.  It appears in at least two published instances during the early 19th century.  The only dated instance is from October 17, 1808, in the Baltimore newspaper Federal Republican & Commercial Gazette.  The second instance is an anonymously published single sheet of music held by The Library of Congress dated to the first decade of the 19th century.  It is credited to “a Baltimorean” whom I take to be the same for both.

“Madeira Wine” is a self-titled parody on the song “The Willow” which is an Elizabethan folk song dating to the late 16th century.  This folk song is famously sung by Desdemona in William Shakespeare’s Othello.   Several times Desdemona sings ,”willow, willow, willow”.  The sheet music fully parodies “The Willow” which we see logically progress as more and more Madeira is consumed.  At first there is, “Mellow mellow mellow” then “Tipsy tipsy tipsy” and finally “I’m drunk, I’m drunk, I’m drunk”.

There is perhaps an allusion taking place in “Madeira Wine”.  I am no musicologist so bear with me. When Desdemona sings “The Willow” she is foretelling her eventual death.  Madeira was certainly the wine of America with Port and Claret that of England.  When the song was published, the turbulent times between America and England were soon to escalate into the War of 1812.  Could the Baltimorean be alluding to the troubles of the time?

Madeira Wine Newspaper

A Parody…Madeira Wine. Oct 17, 1808. [1]

A PARODY
On the famous Song “The Willow,”...to
the same tune.
MADEIRA WINE.

O fill me up another glass of that Madeira
Wine,
O fill me up another glass…for ’tis extremely fine,
I like the taste…so pray make haste,
A bump fill for me;
For here I sit…not quite drunk yet,
Altho’ I’ve drank so free.

I love to drink Madeira…no other Wine
endure,
I love to drink Madeira when it is old &
pure.
Of my full cask…a single flask
Is all that’s left to me;
That flask I’ll try…’tho’ here am I
Half tipsy as you see.
Half-tipsy tipsy
Half-tipsy as you see.

I once lov’d Port and Claret.. I thought
it ne’er would end,
I once lov’d Port and Claret…and so did
you my friend.
My Port so stout…is all drank out,
The Claret’s sour to me;
And I’ve drank fine, Madeira Wine,
Until I’m drunk you see–
I’m drunk, I’m drunk, I’m drunk,
Until I’m drunk you see!!!

Madeira Wine Sheet Music

Madeira wine a parody on the Willow. The LOC. [2]

MADEIRA WINE.
A Parody on the WILLOW.
By A BALTIMOREAN

O fill me up a_nother glass, Of that Madeira Wine,
O fill me up a_nother glass, For ’tis extremely fine
like the taste so pray make haste A Bumper fill for me For here I sit not
quite drunk yet, But mellow as you see Mellow mellow mellow But
mellow as you see.

2

I love to drink Madeira, no other wine endure,
I love to drink Madeira, when it is old and pure;
Of my full cask, a single flask, is all that’s left to me,
That flask I’ll try, tho’ here am I; half tipsy as you see.
Tipsy, &c.

3

I once lov’d Port and Claret, I thought it ne’er would end,
I once lov’d Port and Claret, and so did you my friend;
My Port so stout, is all drank out, the Claret’s sour to me,
And I’ve drank fine, Madeira wine, until I’m drunk you see.
I’m drunk, &c.

 


[1] Federal Republican & Commercial Gazette Monday, Oct 17, 1808, Baltimore, MD Vol: I Issue: 46 Page: 2

[2] Madeira wine a parody on the Willow. [180u, monographic. Publisher not indicated, 180] Notated Music. https://www.loc.gov/item/2015562175/.