Domaine du Fleuve

Wine is forever evolving. For the last thirty-six years I have watched and tasted how wine has changed, specifically, how it has improved in areas where only a few years ago, the product was marginal. One such area is Quebec. Nine years ago we visited this region and the wines were decent, but almost entirely limited to hybrid grapes, like Frontenac and Vidal, or fruits, like apples and pears.

Fast forward to today. We spent the afternoon tasting at a wonderful little winery in Varenne called Domaine du Fleuve. Our host, proprietor and wine maker Louis Thomas is gracious, knowledgeable and clearly passionate, producing spectacular wine from both vinifera and hybrid varietals.

We started with a selection of whites featuring estate grown Chardonnay


Pinot Gris

and Vidal.

The four whites were all fresh, well-balanced and showed vibrant noses with delicate palates. Quite nice.

A rose was next featuring a blend of 60% Frontenac Gris, 20% Ste-Croix and 20% Vidal. The wine had a beautiful strawberry, floral nose with a well-balanced, fruit-forward palate. Slightly chilled the wine was perfect on this warm Summer afternoon.

We finished this flight with a final white wine, an off-dry estate-grown Vandal Cliche, which is a grape native to Quebec. The wine has a perfumed nose with a delicate, slightly sweet palate featuring apples and honey.

The next flight featured two reds, both made from hybrid grapes. Unfortunately, the other reds made at the winery, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Franc were sold out, clearly a testament to the quality and appeal of the wines.

The first red is a blend of Lucy Kulhmann, a cousin of Marechal Foch, Frontenac Noir and Marquette. The use of Lucy Kulhmann, which is softer and much more delicate on the palate than Marechal Foch makes for a much more seductive wine, showing lovely cherry and lilac notes in the nose with a quaffable, easy-drinking character on the palate.

The second red we tasted is a blend of Frontenac Noir, Sabrevois and Ste-Croix. The wine showed a much more vibrant nose with stronger cherry and red currant notes, with more structure and firmer tannins on the palate. The second red is not yet for sale, but should be available very soon.

Both reds were very well-balanced, something ten years ago would have been unusual for hybrid wines.

We finished with a very interesting dessert wine, made in the style of Bordeaux’s Pineau du Charente, consisting of the unfermented grape must of the Vandal Cliche grape mixed with Brandy. The result is a wonderful mix of apples and honey, lightly sweet and not a bit cloying. Simply delicious!

The vineyards surround the winery and create a picturesque scene reminiscent of wineries we’ve visited around the world.

The soil, as can be seen in the pictures is varying degrees of clay topsoil over schist.

Our visit to Domaine du Fleuve was truly wonderful. The wines were excellent and Louis was such a gracious host. In the nine years since we visited, the quality and appeal of Quebecois wines has improved, evolving into legitimate wines we should all have in our cellars, or at least on our table!


The Opera

They say that Queen Elizabeth keeps a flask of London Dry Gin and Dubonnet in her coach so that she can have her favorite cocktail, the Dubonnet Cocktail on demand. Refreshing and well-balanced, I can clearly see why the longest-reining British monarch keeps this fine libation within easy reach.

So how does one improve on a classic? Find a way to add a complimentary layer of complexity with Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. Slightly floral with subtle nutty overtones, Maraschino Liqueur lurks in the background teasing and exciting one’s palate.

Presumably, the authors of the handy drinks book called 365 Days of Cocktails, christened this drink to celebrate the opening night of Madam Butterfly in 1904. I guess that is as good a reason as any to roll this lovely flower of a drink.

So, I present The Opera…

2 oz. London Dry Gin

2 oz. Dubonnet

1/4 oz. Maraschino Liqueur

3 dashes Orange Bitters

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a coupe


2017 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile

Almost twenty-nine years ago I tasted my first Los Vascos Cabernet. It was one of the first Chilean wines I had ever experienced, and frankly I was seriously impressed. It doesn’t hurt that the winery is owned by Lafite Rotchild, the famous first growth from Pauillac in Bordeaux, masters of fine wine.

Hugh Johnson has written that Chile may be the most perfect place on Earth to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. With ideal climate and vineyards that never experienced the scourge of phylloxera, Chile has incredible potential, which is why Lafite has chosen to invest so heavily in Los Vascos.

Back in the late 80’s, I put the 1988 Los Vascos in many flights, blind, against fairly credible Bordeaux. Time and again, the Los Vascos was picked as everyone’s favorite. Back then, the wine sold for just under $5.00/bottle. Pretty incredible…

Today I picked up the 2017 vintage and the wine is wonderful. Fruity with nice complexity and elegant structure. Well-balanced with a nice, long finish. Not built for long term aging, the wine does have enough structure to improve for the next 7-10 years.

Here’s the best part… I paid a discounted $7.50/bottle… Los Vascos is offering a $36 mail-in rebate for a case purchase. You do the math… that translates to $4.50/bottle… that is cheaper than what I paid for the 1988 vintage almost 29 years ago… that is incredible…

I recommend you run to buy this wine. The rebate is for purchases made before 12/31/2018, with claims filed by 1/31/2019.


Corpse Reviver #1

There are supposed to have been four variations of this “hair-of-the-dog” hangover cure. The #2 is perhaps the most popular and the only one that survived prohibition in tact. I’m not even sure that reliable recipes exist for #3 and #4, despite finding a few on the Internet. A conventional search of my drinks library turned up nothing verifiable.

I was able to find a recipe on that claims to be the “verified” recipe for the Corpse Reviver #1, so we gave it a roll. The ingredients are in line with a cocktail of this variety, but I feel it is lacking a souring/refreshing component like lemon juice. Next version we will play with that idea and see how we fair…

Until then, you will have to suffer along with the “verified” recipe from…

Corpse Reviver #1

1oz. Cognac

1oz. Calvados

1/2oz. Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antico)

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a cocktail glass or coupe.


2017 Lupi Reali “Corte Fiore” Appassimento Vino Rosso

Appassimento is a traditional Italian wine-making method that involves drying the grapes on straw mats prior to fermentation. The drying process concentrates the sugar and intensifies the complexity of the flavors in the grapes. The resulting wine is powerful, rich and redolent of spice, raisins and cooked fruit.

This method is used in the famous wines of Valpolicella Della Amarone, producing ageless wines of infinite complexity and smoothness.

In lesser regions, the process creates potent, fruit-bombs that are quaffable and delicious.

The 2017 Lupi Reali is a Montepulciano-based red wine from Abruzzo. The use of the appassimento process creates a wonderfully pleasing wine that is both sippable and food-friendly. Fruit-forward with supple, well-integrated tannin, the wine is drinking wonderfully now and should add complexity as it gains time in the bottle.


Octomore 08.1

Obsessed… some have called me this and they would not be wrong… I think of myself as a purist… that person who seeks out real, authentic product that is a testament to the Craft.

Octomore, produced by Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, is for purists… or those obsessed.

I am relatively new to the Octomore fan club, having only just joined with the 6.3 bottling. Since my first taste, I have wended my way through the 7.1 and 8.3 bottles, finding that with each intense treatment, I am left wanting more. Recently, I have been scouring the market in search of the 8.1, a veritable unicorn for Octomore in the US.

Much to my pleasure, my friends at the Whisky Exchange had the 8.1 in stock and but one ocean away… so, throwing care to the wind, the order was placed and the wait began. Fortunately, I have had remarkable luck with the WE, and the 8.1 arrived, lovingly packed and ready to sip.

The Octomore are cask strength monsters that pay homage to the gods of Islay. If you thought Laphroaig and Lagavulin were impactful as Islay malts, then you need to taste the Octomore. Without a doubt, Octomore redefines Islay and sets the bar very high for Peat and Smoke.

Comparatively, the 8.1 is “lighter” than the 8.3 and is more like the 6.3 in balance and flavor. Massive peat and smoke dominate the palate with a hint of honey, vanilla and violets on the finish. A trifle hot, with a few drops of mineral water, the whisky explodes and at the same time, tames itself nicely.

Contemplative is the word I would use to best describe the experience of sipping an Octomore… and if you close your eyes, you are transported to Islay, where the mix of peat, smoke and sea salt tempt your nostrils and conjure an ancient time when whisky was first born…


Nelson’s Blood

In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte anxiously planned the invasion of England. Having neutralized the continent of Europe, Napoleon looked to solidify his position of power by invading France’s long term enemy. What stood between Napoleon and victory was the English Fleet, led by Admiral Horatio Nelson. In what would become one of history’s greatest sea battles, Lord Nelson stemmed the tide of Napoleon’s quest, by defeating the combined French and Spanish Navies off the west coast of Trafalgar. Nelson would receive a mortal wound during the battle. His body was rumored to be transported back to England in a cask of Rum, which led to the spirit’s nickname, Nelson’s Blood.

In celebration of a true naval hero, I present Nelson’s Blood…

2 oz. Pusser’s Naval Rum

2 oz. Ruby Port

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a cocktail glass.


Napa – Bordeaux Shootout VIII


What is now becoming a regular event at Musings on the Vine is the Napa-Bordeaux Shootout.

This past weekend, on October 13, 2018, installment number eight took place, with France just edging out Napa for bragging rights to yet another win.


The results of the tasting were thus:

NapaBordeauxVIIIResults (2)

Well, as you can see, this was a close contest. Despite Napa having wines scoring in second and third place, France managed to garner more overall points.
So, after eight installments, the results stack up as follows:
France’s lead is a strong 6 – 2 in overall wins. Point-wise, the French have 282 points to Napa’s 238 points, a widening margin.

A few observations are in order…

  • In prior meetings, it was clear that Napa was sometimes hampered by wines that did not age as well as their French counterparts. At this installment, to “level the playing field,” wines were staggered in age, with the French wines being on average a decade older than their American competitors. It appears to have helped the Americans by keeping the scoring close.
  • None of the wines had scored over 90 points when they were first reviewed upon release. Also, none of the wines are considered “trophy” wines. Despite their lack of “star power,” the flight showed that you don’t always need to be a star to shine.
  • I was again pleased with the 1989 vintage. The Olivier showed considerable aging potential despite being 29 years old. Another surprise? The 1988 Gloria… tons of aging potential left in this wine, a true testament to the quality of St. Julien Bordeaux.


Where does it go from here? Well if history repeats itself, I imagine a ninth match-up in the not too distant future…

Should be fun, as usual!


I can count on one hand the number of Scotch-based cocktails worth mixing. Scotch does not “play well with others,” which is okay by me.

Among those Scotch-based libations that are worthy, Penicillin is a refreshing drink that smoothes out the rough edges and wets one’s whistle quite admirably.

This version is a subtle variation. Usually made with honey-ginger syrup as the sweetener, I substituted Canton (Ginger Liqueur) instead. It achieved the same goal of providing a gingery sweetness against the lemon Juice, and brought a few percentage points of alcohol to the party.

I bring you Penicillin:

2oz. Blended Scotch (I used Chivas)

3/4oz. Lemon Juice

3/4oz. Honey-Ginger Syrup (I used Canton)

1/4oz. Islay Malt

Shake everything but the Islay with crushed ice. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe and float the Islay on top of the cocktail. Garnish with dried ginger.


Brasserie Jo… Bon jour, mon ami…

I have fortunately, or unfortunately, been at many a great restaurant’s final meal… Colorado Public Library, Fantasia’s, Walter’s, the Pillar House, Maison Robert and Cafe Budapest… great institutes of gastronomy that left an indelible stain on my tablecloth of fine dining.

This weekend was the final hurrah of Brasserie Jo, the 20+ year-old French Bistro at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston’s Back Bay. A long time fixture for theatre-goers and revelers, Brasserie Jo has been witness to much of Boston’s culinary history.

Distinctive for their embrace of the real Parisian experience, for the better part of a decade, Brasserie Jo satisfied Francophile taste in style.

While bittersweet, this “last supper” was replete with all the trappings that made Brasserie Jo a celebration of life.

One should take away a lesson… all good things come to an end, but the remembrance of those special moments are what preserve a life well-lived…

Merci pour tous ces merveilleux souvenirs!