WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

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WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Aug 26, 2006 1:36 pm

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.
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Re: WTN /Moccol - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby Otto » Sat Aug 26, 2006 2:14 pm

Glad you enjoyed it, and I am very, very sorry indeed that I wasn't able to be there - it being a rather long flight, and me being perpetually short of funds because I drink it all (sounds worse than it is...). A pity about the bad bottle of the 89. It's a very good wine and still youthful, though surpassed by the ethereal 1988.

I'm glad to hear the 1995 wasn't closed. During the last year, it's seemed to me to be closed in every tasting I've had it in. But I agree that it is a superb Musar - alongside the 1991 and 1999 my favourite recent vintage. I think I'll need a few decades and several cases of each of these three vintages to decide my favourite ;)

The more I taste the 1993, the more it seems like the archetypal Musar. Your note reads like you would agree? Not superb, but very, very good, and it seems to encapsulate all there is to love (or hate, for heathens :twisted:) about Musar.

The 94 is a curious beast. Gaston Hochar seems to think it the best recent Musar and B Broadbent, IIRC, agrees. I don't. It's over-ripe and raisiny to my tastes and after the weak 1996 and abysmal 1990 it's my least favourite Musar of the 90's. I even like the red 98 more, though that is a weak vintage. De gustibus .... I guess. :)

My last experiences with the white 98 are similar to yours - wonderful, but closing down. I've only got five bottles left (of 10 initially) and they will rest for a decade.

Thanks for the great notes, and I can't tell you happy I am to hear someone else talk about Musar! I sometimes feel it's a soliloquy with me talking... ;)

-Otto-
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Re: WTN /Moccol - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby James Roscoe » Sat Aug 26, 2006 11:31 pm

I'm glad to hear that the McCool gang is enjoying itself. I recently received notice of a Musar tasting in Baltimore next month. I usually think B'more is outer Mongolia from the DC suburbs, but this report and Otto's enthusiasm have me rethinking my viewpoint. It is also on a weeknight. I will be grading papers. If I could get my wik\fe to drive, I could at least get some work done in the ride up.
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Re: WTN /Moccol - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:15 am

Otto Nieminen wrote:The more I taste the 1993, the more it seems like the archetypal Musar. Your note reads like you would agree? Not superb, but very, very good, and it seems to encapsulate all there is to love (or hate, for heathens :twisted:) about Musar.


Otto, I would probably agree. It was earthy and funky in that good way that Musar has often been, to the extent that it was somewhat surprising to see the 1991, '94 and '95 as "clean" as they were, compraratively speaking. I liked it. :)

The 94 is a curious beast. Gaston Hochar seems to think it the best recent Musar and B Broadbent, IIRC, agrees. I don't. It's over-ripe and raisiny to my tastes


It was certainly quite good, although I found it a little weaker than the years around it without really being able to articulate a persuasive reason why.

I can't tell you happy I am to hear someone else talk about Musar! I sometimes feel it's a soliloquy with me talking... ;)


Most happy to be of service! 8) Seriously, I'm always delighted to taste, and talk about, Musar, but I only wish I had more opportunities to try it. Thanks to the Nolands and Bob H and all who made today's tasting possible. It was a true highlight of MoCool.
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Re: WTN /Moccol - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:15 am

James Roscoe wrote:If I could get my wik\fe to drive, I could at least get some work done in the ride up.


Can't you bribe her in some way? I really think you'd enjoy it, James.
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby Dave Guimond » Sun Aug 27, 2006 5:19 pm

I tasted them a few hours later in the lodge kitchen while putting together the cheese tray (it was way too hot in there to taste wine) and my mental notes were similar, although I slightly preferred the 91 to the 95. The 66 did not make an appearance at the picnic ;-) The 93 was also just a bit beyond my funk tolerance, which is generally quite high...
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby OW Holmes » Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:29 am

Otto, the 95 was indeed open for business, and right away. I opened it and poured out enough to get it below shoulder height 18 hours in advance, and even on that first pour the nose was really pleasing. It didn't really change that much over the 18 hours.
I opened the 91 and 93 later that night, about 12 hours in advance, with the same procedure. I was a bit worried because they seemed a bit closed, but by morning my motel room was smelling just great.
I have to say that I think I went back and forth among all the 90's, the '94 included, but ended up preferring the '93 for its wonderful funk. Most in the room preferred the 95 among the 90s. ALL in the room loved the beautiful '66 that Mike Connor contributed.
Sorry, Guido, about putting them in the hot kitchen. We probably should have put them on the porch, but BobH and I wanted to be sure the kitchen crew got a taste. Hope they all enjoyed it.
Really fun. Otto, thanks for your advice in a prior thread on selecting these.
And thanks to the Nolands for letting us use their living room, to Bob for the '89 and 94 and the wonderful white, and to Robin for the VT.
-OW
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby wrcstl » Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:04 am

Robin Garr wrote:<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.


Robin,
I am hoarding one bottle of '94 of this wine after drinking one per year over the last 5 years. Amazing stuff and it surprised me how long they age. Sounds like a great event, maybe I can get there next year.
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby Otto » Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:48 pm

I'm glad to hear the '95 opened up. I've had several bottles recently and all have been closed. I would usually expect them to be closed at age 10-12 and in my experience the 95 has acted exactly like this. I think you were lucky.

I'm not at all surprised about the showing of the '91 and '93 - lovely wines both of them, but they really do need decanting to show well. Usually they've opened up after 4-5 hours, but I'm glad you dared to give them more time as IMO they have improved much.

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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby OW Holmes » Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:56 pm

I didn't decant any of them Otto - just did the slow oxygenation process on them. (Open bottle, pour out enough to get below shoulder, leave sit on counter.) Twice the time, but the decanters were held aside in case they hadn't opened enough with an hour or two to go. They had, so I didn't use the decanters at all.
You've got it right. Musar rocks.
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby Mike Conner » Tue Sep 05, 2006 5:54 am

Guido,

Actually, the '66 did show up to the picnic - but there was about 1 or 1 1/2 pours, and I handed it specifically to George (who was slaving away in the kitchen) to make sure that Alan got a taste, which I suspect he did.

But, I screwed up . . . that bottle was signed by Serge Hochar and I meant to find it later and have it return with me to K-town.

Oh well.

Mike


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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby OW Holmes » Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:55 am

Mike, I didn't see it (or any of the Nusars) during cleanup so I suppose it is possible that they remain in the kitchen somewhere. JB might know, she was on the kitchen cleanup detail.
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby Jason Hagen » Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:22 pm

Thanks for the notes Robin. Great info. I have only tasted a few Musars (by the glass) but one of my favorite restaraunts has a fairly complete vertical and in the near future I will be ordering the 93 (wedding year). From the Musar experts, should I call ahead and have them just open the bottle or should I have them decant it. The owner seems to thing a quick decant will do the trick for a long dinner.

Cheers,

Jason
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertical

Postby OW Holmes » Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:00 pm

I opened the 93, poured out a bit, and let it sit for 11-12 hours. I can tell you that it was a lot better then than when first opened. I don't think a "quick decant" will do it, but certainly Otto will know.
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Re: WTN /MoCool - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby Otto » Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:23 pm

Jason Hagen wrote:Thanks for the notes Robin. Great info. I have only tasted a few Musars (by the glass) but one of my favorite restaraunts has a fairly complete vertical and in the near future I will be ordering the 93 (wedding year). From the Musar experts, should I call ahead and have them just open the bottle or should I have them decant it. The owner seems to thing a quick decant will do the trick for a long dinner.

Cheers,

Jason


Jason! Good choice for a celebratory wine: the more I've tasted it the more I think of it as the archetypal Musar. When I last had it it really opened up after 5 hours decanting. Unless you're going to have a veeeery long dinner, I'd suggest decanting well in advance. It's not unpleasant if not decanted long, but it does lack all the magic that makes Musar special. Remember that a 1993 is still young for a Musar. If the bottle is fine, there shouldn't be slightest risk of it becoming over the hill with a long decanting.
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Re: WTN /Moccol - This one's for Otto: Chateau Musar vertica

Postby Tom N. » Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:02 am

Otto Nieminen wrote: I can't tell you happy I am to hear someone else talk about Musar! I sometimes feel it's a soliloquy with me talking... ;)

-Otto-


Otto,

As one of 12 revelers who tasted through the magnificent Musars, I think it was the wine that really did the talking. It spoke volumes about delicate fruit fragrances, nuances of fruit, leather, minerals and a bit of earthiness in its layers of flavor, and finishes that just kept tantalizing the palate. I have seen the light :arrow: and it is Musarlight :!:
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