The 2005 Hermitage blanc is remarkable wine. It is a powerful vintage for Chave with super-intense honeysuckle, acacia flower, marzipan, hazelnut, buttered citrus oil, and licorice notes as well as a rich, opulent, thick style made from very small yields of 30-35 hectoliters per hectare. It is extraordinary and has enough minerality and acidity to suggest that the wine is actually going to age for 20 or more years. I reviewed them last year and gave them perfect scores, but before leaving the cellars, I had the privilege of retasting the 2003 red Hermitage (about 16% natural alcohol) and the 2003 red Hermitage Cuvee Cathelin (2400 bottles produced, and the Chaves aren’t sure whether they will ever release the wine commercially). Both wines exhibited extraordinary richness and possess a singularly profound identity, but I couldn’t swallow them without saluting a lost friend. Steve “The Ho” Verlin, who often visited Chave with me, tragically passed away a year ago at a very young age. Among all the great wines he loved, bought, drank, and celebrated, some of his favorites were the wines of Chave. We had tasted the 2003s here together when they were infants, and again when they were in bottle, utterly perfect. I like to think Steve was here in spirit, enjoying the moment and standing next to me and the Chaves. Here’s to you, Steve! People still obsess about the red wines of Chave, but of course his whites are spectacular as well, and as I have always said, one of the most educational stops on my trips is tasting through the different cuvees that emerge from separate sites on the hills of Hermitage.
Pale gold. Fabulously complex nose evokes honeyed pear, apricot, shiso leaf and botanical herbs. Creamy orchard fruit flavors are firmed by juicy minerality, becoming brighter and more bitter with air. This has the texture of a serious red wine, offering dense, chewy pear, yellow plum and peach skin flavors and picking up licorice and toasted nuts on the long, sappy finish, which ends with a whiplash of smoky minerals. Does this ever let up? An incredible young wine.