A dozen revelers gathered Saturday morning in the Noland brothers' hotel room, at what would normally be an unseemly hour for a wine tasting, but when a serious vertical tasting of Serge Hochar's <b>Chateau Musar</b> is up for analysis, everything changes. Musar, of course, is the great winery in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a place that's been in the news recently for less pleasant reasons, and we started the event with an informal toast to the Hochar family and their ventures: May they thrive in safety from attacks by both sides. We also enjoyed a more humorous toast to our Finnish pal Otto ... wish you could have flown over for this one, buddy!
First we went to the reds, which are made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone red varieties, mostly Cinsaut and Carignane, says O.W. First up was dead or near it, sadly ...
<B>Chateau Musar 1989</B> - Hazy purple. Horsey brett, oxidized, past it for me.
But all the rest were splendid, each surprisingly different in character (as is typical of Musar) but all so good that it was very difficult to pick a favorite. First I lined up the four samples from the '90s.
<B>Chateau Musar 1991</B> - Clear ruby, rather light. This is more like it! Perfumed red fruit, plums and pepper. Luscious and sweet, youthful, Musar in a "clean" style.
<B>Chateau Musar 1993</B> - Ruby, showing a little bronze. Plums, black olives. Mouth-filling, sweet red fruit, a distinct whiff of brett but well within the limits that I find pleasant.
<B>Chateau Musar 1994</B> - Ruby, dark center. Plums and very distinct pomegranate, very subtle earth; a bit more tart in the finish than most, and possibly the weakest of the '90s, but only by a slim margin.
<B>Chateau Musar 1995</B> - Clear ruby, purplish at the center, fading to pale brick at the edge. Sweet red fruit, "lf velvet had a smell, it would smell like this." Smooth and sweet, abundant red fruit, mouth-watering acidity. I think maybe this is my favorite of the '90s, but it's a very, very close call.
Then, separated out for study because of its significantly greater age:
<B>Chateau Musar 1966</B> - Clear, medium-dark ruby, youthful color belies its age. A bit of a "damp laundry " old-wine funk is in there, but Musar sweet-cherry aromas ride over it, and it's a delight on the palate, crisp and balanced and remarkably youthful.
Finally, an intriguing white-wine match. Knowing that Bob H. planned to contribute a 1998 Musar white, I brought along a very fine Southern Rhone white to compare and contrast. Different grapes - the Musar Blanc is Merwah and Obediah (probably Chardonnay and Semillon wearing Lebanese trappings), and the Vieux-Telegraphe is made from a blend of Chateauneuf-du-Pape white varieties - probably Marsanne and Roussanne, mostly, with Grenache Blanc and maybe Bourbolenc; they were certainly different, and yet I found a kinship in their full-bodied aromatics, richness and potential for great longevity.
<B>Chateau Vieux-Telegraphe 2000 "Le Crau" Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc</B> - Pale gold. Lovely scent, apples and honey, subtle "leafy," "green" notes. Full-bodied, flavors follow the nose, "drier than it smells." Outstanding, still young, years to go yet.
<B>Chateau Musar 1998 Blanc</B> - Light golden-bronze, a look of age. Lovely aromatics, beeswax and roasted almonds. Rich white fruit, full-bodied, balanced acidity. Wonderful but perhaps closing down a bit, decanted 12 hours in advance and probably could have stood even more.
Last edited by Robin Garr
on Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:20 am, edited 1 time in total.