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The Chaves have been growing vines on the famous Hermitage hill for over 500 years. Gérard Chave took over from his father in 1970 and rapidly achieved megastar status due to the extraordinary quality of his wines. The estate is currently under the helm of University of California Davis graduate Jean Louis Chave , although his father Gerard still plays an active role. The domaine produces a red St Joseph 'Offerus' (made in equal proportions from senior vines in Mauves and St -Jean-de Muzols), an acclaimed Vin de Paille, but their reputation is built on their superb red Hermitage (Syrah with the addition of 15% white grapes) and white Hermitage (85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne).

The Chaves own 15 hectares of vines on the Hermitage and crucially their Hermitage holding is spread across 9 of the 18 climates on the hill (incl. Les Bessards, the adjacent Le Méal, Les Roucoles, Maison Blanche and the monopoles L'Hermite and Peléat). This means that they can produce a blend which reflects the separate "terroirs" of the climates and is a perfect balance between aromatic complexity, power and finesse.

Made in a totally different style, the masculine, backward 2005 Hermitage exhibits an inky/dark ruby/purple color along with aromas of graphite, creme de cassis, licorice, roasted herbs, and scorched earth. The minerality and tannins dominate this gamy, thick, rich 2005, which, given its tannic structure, is closest in style to a vintage such as 1995 or 1998. Give it 7-10 more years of cellaring, and drink it over the following three decades.

One of my favorite true and authentic vignerons to visit is the Chave family, located in the tiny, one-horse village of Mauves, just south of Tournon. The son, Jean-Louis, is taking over the reins more and more, but his father, Gerard, is still involved even though he is officially retired. As always, these wines performed brilliantly. Readers should keep in mind that the reviews of the 2007 white Hermitage and 2007 red Hermitage are a matter of extrapolating from tasting all the separate vineyards that go into these wines. That said, the Chaves appear to be ratcheting up their quality level because of a Draconian selection process in the vineyard as well as in the winery. The Chave estate wines


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