The 2004 red Hermitage, which was given a much longer time in barrel and small foudre than normal because the Chaves determined the tannins and the acids needed a longer time to integrate, is a beauty. The wine exhibits a dense ruby/purple color, a big, sweet nose of creme de cassis, black cherry, licorice, pepper, and a hint of olive paste. It is a full-bodied wine that tastes atypical for this vintage with its beautifully integrated acidity and sweet tannin. The wine is structured, more masculine and backward than the over-the-top, full-throttle 2003. Readers could probably think of it as an improved, modern-day version of the 1988 or 1998.
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. Wine Advocate # 170 Apr 2007 Robert Parker 94 Drink: 2011 - 2031