Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reno Chave blowout

Most of the time, I don’t really do the tasting thing. I prefer to drink bottles. This event was somewhere in between. There were 9 of us and 19 bottles, plus some bubbles, so there was enough of each wine to get a chance to go back and revisit and enough stemware to let things sit.

Flight 1

2002 Chave Blanc
Fat, ripe and tropical. Kinda mango-ish.

2001 Chave Blanc
Of this flight, this is the most dense and most mineral. Really impressively concentrated and long and just avoids heaviness.

2000 Chave Blanc
This is also on the tropical side. showing a good bit of kinky mango. The creamiest of the three and seems both loose and not louche in the right way.

Flight 2

1996 Chave Blanc
The leanest of all of these wines and is still fresh and vibrant and as such, was my clear favorite. Had a different flavor profile, not so tropical, but more seeded and pitted white and yellow fruits.

1995 Chave Blanc
An interesting contrast to the 1996. Very rich, ripe and round. A good bit of honey and deeper tones. You can tell just by looking at it.

Flight 3

2001 Chave St. Joseph Estate
I found this to be off. A bit of old fishtank.

1998 Chave St. Joseph Estate
Tangy and mineral with good structure. More on the red fruit side than the black fruit, but certainly ripe. Delicious and well balanced with good cut and thrust. Still a young wine that shows a great deal of promise, but it isn’t a crime to drink one today. I would hold for a couple more years before trying again.

1997 Chave St. Joseph Estate
This is fully resolved and ready to go. In that sense, it is showing the best today, even if the 1998 will prove to be the superior wine.

Flight 4

1995 Chave Rouge
I haven’t had this in a long time. Wow, it was really, really good, if too young. This manages to have density and precision at the same time. Really pure with excellent length and delineation of every flavor. Perfectly etched. I would wait at least 5 years before trying another bottle. This will be a great vintage for Chave.

1990 Chave Rouge
This might be the greatest young wine I ever tried, way back in my early days in the wine business after college. It is totally headspinning and monumental. Like great white truffles, it really fills your senses completely. It doesn’t have any over-ripeness just a sense of completeness. It covers the whole spectrum you could imagine from a northern Rhone syrah. I couldn’t be more impressed. It’s a nice thing when a wine lives up to its billing. When this hit $700 a bottle, I was tempted to sell my remaining bottles (that were $45 before case discount). I’m glad I didn’t.

1989 Chave Rouge
Really started out strong, so strong, in fact, that it seemed superior to the 1990 for about 20-30 minutes. Vibrant and long with a spectrum of red fruits with all sorts of earth and mineral notes underneath.

On any other night, the 1995 and 1989 would be clear class of an evening, but the 1990 is truly one of the great wines of our age.

Flight 5

1988 Chave Rouge
I’ve always really like the 1988. It has been a really aromatically complex and Burgundian. This was a good, but not great bottle of this.

1986 Chave Rouge
A vintage that you don’t see often because it is seen as inferior. This wine was all about structure. Like drinking the bones of Hermitage.

1985 Chave Rouge
The best experience I’ve ever had with this vintage. Much fresher and livelier than previous bottles, also with more length and precision.

Flight 6

1984 Chave Rouge
I was really curious to try this as I’ve never had the 1984 before. It was a shitty vintage, so you just don’t see it around. Very cool. It was very lean and mineral with cool flavors that weren’t vegetal or rotten. To me, making an interesting wine in a vintage like this is a true signal of greatness.

1983 Chave Rouge
A very good bottle of 1983, while not a first tier vintage, like 1978, 1989, 1990, 1995, this is certainly close. Fully resolved and rich without pruned fruit or heaviness.

1982 Chave Rouge
Had a strange metallic edge to it. I’m pretty sure this is an off bottle.

1978 Chave Rouge
Corked, wouldn’t you know it. I was looking forward to having the two modern legends, 1990 and 1978 side by side…oh well.

1990 Chave Vin de Paille
Not sure what to say about this. I’ve never had anything like it. Very rich and full of caramel and nuts. Deeply pitched and sweet, but not glommy. I can’t detect much structure. A really unique experience, and given that this is my only bottle (and actually, the only bottle I’ve ever physically touched) will probably remain so. If you have one drink up.

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