Saturday, April 11, 2020

Wines of the Week - The Saint Josephs from J.L. Chave

Wine growers in the northern Rhône since 1481, the Chave family (currently helmed by Jean-Louis) represents 16 generations of unbroken lineage committed to the production of some of the finest Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussanne on the planet. One of the hallmarks of Jean-Louis' tenure will surely be his commitment to Saint Joseph. Rightly heralded for their legendary Hermitage wines, the Chaves' hometown is actually located in Mauves, across the Rhône River. This is the locus of the work that Jean-Louis started decades ago. From "The Search for Greatness in Saint-Joseph Syrah" by Jon Bonné in Punch:
"Why would anyone, much less a luminary like Chave, throw such resources into an appellation known, at best, for making minor versions of the Rhône’s epic syrah-based wines? For one thing, because places like Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Cornas have grown so prohibitively expensive that in order to remain viable, the northern Rhône needs other potentially great wines. And, in Chave’s case, there’s a moral importance to making good, affordable wine from less anointed places. But it’s also because Chave, and other high-profile vignerons, like Jean Gonon, see Saint-Joseph as a botched experiment they have the opportunity to fix. This is why Chave, in 1995, began to resurrect Bachasson and other nearby parcels like Chalais, in his hometown of Mauves. To access abandoned land, he had to construct nearly two miles worth of roads. He hired five masons to build or reconstruct terrace walls, replicating the abandoned terraces still found in the hills throughout this corner of the Rhône, in order to plant vineyards on slopes as steep as those found to the north, in Côte-Rotie. He even tends a vine nursery of mass-selection cuttings, to preserve local cultivars—all of it meant to prove that this sprawling appellation, or at least its historic core, deserves a better fate."

Just in time for Easter comes this recipe for garlic-rosemary grilled lamb chops from Wine Spectator courtesy of Chef Michael Velardi. We, and they, can't think of any accompaniment better than a classic Saint-Joseph Syrah, and the magazine has heartily recommended the 2016 vintage of Chave's Syrahs very recently. It sounds like a perfect pairing for Easter Sunday.

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