Friday, January 9, 2009

Chave Hermitage - 0 for 2 (?)

Last night N. and I had a lovely, impromptu dinner at the cafe at Chez Panisse. Greens in a vinaigrette (a bit too heavily dressed and vinegary for my taste) with a wonderful herbed andante farms goat cheese, Persian-spiced duck breast with winter squash, snap peas, and pomegranate juice and an apple-quince crisp. We had an '06 Francois Cotat Sancerre La Grand Cote to start - it showed that lemon oil, flint and creamy lees combination that young 'serious' Loire SB tends to display. The fruit showed a hint of sweetness later in the mid-palate, though, not as strict a wine as I had anticipated. With dessert, a glass of '04 Clos Lapeyre Jurancon showed terrific tang, and enough sweet richness to pair with a fruit based dessert.

But on to the Chave. The last (and first) time I tasted Chave Hermitage was in January 2007. It was a bottle of '99 Chave Hermitage Rouge and it was completely shut down. The fact that I was hanging out with a few nice folks and lots of Napa boobs in Yountville, drinking Napa wine, could not have helped. Anyway, last night I saw a half bottle of 1997 Chave Hermitage and decided to jump. It was not inexpensive, but certainly less than Chave would normally cost due to the challenging vintage. I'm a fan of challenging vintages. Often times it's a great way to taste an icon at a relatively reasonable price. So this bottle of what many would consider to be the best Syrah in the world, tasted good. In fact, it was pretty damn tasty. A touch exotic on the nose, and immediately accessible (after all, it is a 375ml from a lighter vintage, and it was decanted for 30 minutes) with loads of freshness, some mineral, and decent flavor intensity. Thing is, I still would be a bit disappointed paying more than $50 for a 750 ml of this wine in a shop (retail is probably about $150). One interesting observation - there was more than a passing similarity between this wine and the best cru beaujolais I have tasted. Similar fruit, acidity and palate weight. I do not mean that as a slight to the Chave or to top Beaujolais producers. It's just that tasting Chave, just like tasting Raveneau, Haut Brion, Vega Sicilia or any other of the world's great wines, carries with it a certain sense of expectation. In some respect, I suppose that occasionally it's tough not to be disappointed.

Not that I won't drink Chave any more when the occasion avails itself. Last night, the occasion availed itself due to a generous birthday gift certificate to Chez Panisse from my parents. Thanks, mom and dad, I love you both!

UPDATE - 1/12/09

I checked out an order for someone who had ordered a bottle of '96 Chave Hermitage Rouge for $99.99! Not inexpensive, but as many of you know that is significantly less than wholesale cost for Chave these days. Someone got himself a deal.