Chez Vastola, Delmar, NY (8/2/2005)

It was my good fortune that Ken Birman was passing though the Albany area around dinner time yesterday. He brought the 1991 Chapoutier Pavillon and a copy of his new book Reliable Distributed Systems. I look forward to reading the book, but the Hermitage provided more immediate enjoyment.

I had given Ken a list of a few Rhones from my cellar and he picked the 1990 Chave Hermitage which was a great choice and made a fascinating comparison with its slightly younger sibling. Since Ken is a fan of Hermann Wiemer wines, I also popped my last bottle of his 1984 dessert riesling.

The two reds were decanted at about 6:30 and drunk side by side over 4 hours, first by themselves, then with cheese (Perlagria Tartufo, Montchevré Goat Milk Cheddar from Wisconsin, Morbier Haut Jura, and L’Etivaz), then with Delmonico Steaks, sautéed organic spinach, and organic baked potato.

1990 Chave Hermitage
Earth and mulch nose with a hint of chickenshit. Very appealing, but tight. Lots of acidity on the nice long sour cherry finish. Great with mild complex cheeses. Even better with steak. Really showing its stuff open 2 hours and with steak! Great wine beginning its drinking window, but probably won’t peak for 10 years.
Open 4 hours: Sweet and sour cherries. A wine of great depth and complexity. Drink now–2020. 95 points at first, but fully open 97 points.

1991 Chapoutier Ermitage® “Le Pavillon”
Huge stunning nose. Bright red fruits followed by earth and something herbal (mint basil?). Silky in the mouth with some acidity on the finish. With truffle cheese, the palate is as gorgeous as the nose. Long ringing finish. A lush and sexy wine right out of the shoot.
Open 4 hours: More earthy now. Turning toward "walnuts and varnish" [Ken B] in the nose. I think the fruit is fading slightly and it’s showing more alcohol in the nose now. Long appealing eucalyptus, dried cherries and leather finish. Great stuff! Fully mature. Drink now through 2010. This wine is so enjoyable now, I can’t see any reason to wait. 97 points today.


1984 H.J. Wiemer Johannisberg Riesling “Individual Bunch Select Late Harvest” half bottle
[“Natural sugar at harvest 29.6% by weight. Residual sugar after fermentation 10.2% by weight.”] Gold color. Very fragrant nose of stewed peaches, honey and botrytis. Thick in the mouth but not at all cloying. Not much botrytis in the mouth, but delicious and balanced. Much lighter, fresher and more elegant than the 1983 I had on 5/26/05, but not as complex or dramatic with less botrytis. 93 points.

All in all, a delightful way to spend a Tuesday evening!




All original content © Ken Vastola