So let me start by saying that people generally fall into one of two camps when it comes to Chateau Musar. The first is best described as “WTF is Chateau Musar?”, which is then quickly followed by “It comes from WHERE?!?!?!?” The second is more along the lines of “OMG, I love Chateau Musar!”
Let me quickly admit that I am in the latter camp.
Tonight I went to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, located within the fabled Ferry Building in San Francisco, where co-owner and “Ferry Godmother” Debbie Zachareas and Rebecca Mahmoud, of Broadbent Selections (the U.S. importer of Chateau Musar), hosted a vertical tasting of this mythic wine.
Now, for those reading this who are in the former camp, let me quickly enlighten you. Chateau Musar was founded in 1930. The grapes are grown in the Bekka Valley of Lebanon, while the winery is located some 17 miles north of Beirut, overlooking the Mediterranean. Not the first place one would normally think of for great wines . . . nor, very probably, the second or third. (Unless, of course, you’ve tasted Chateau Musar, and then, you know.) And yet, Chateau Musar lost only two vintages – 1976 and 1984 – to the Civil War and strife that has racked Lebanon. These are not the problems you run into making wine in the Napa Valley, Bordeaux, or Australia.
Five vintages of Chateau Musar (red) were sampled; all were decanted prior to serving . . .
2003: Ruby-red in color, with that wonderfully disconcerting nose – even in its youth, the wine displays that earthy-airy aspect of a mature Bordeaux, yet there is generous (and for Musar, youthful) fruit and spice on the forward nose; in the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied, quite flavorful, supple in texture, and though quite young for a Chateau Musar, was absolutely charming and delicious. That said, I have no doubt this wine will age and develop substantially with 7-10+ years in the cellar.
2000: For lack of a better description, more classically colored in terms of what one expects from Chateau Musar – translucent, clear, and someone pale red in color (never sounds good to those used to California red wines and their deep, vibrant purple hues; but trust me . . . ), clear and bright; the bouquet is filled with perfumed spice, subtle fruit, earth, spice, and more; on the palate, the wine is medium-bodied (fuller than one might think given the level of color extraction), very flavorful, with elegantly layered complexity, dusty earth, and spice; the finish is long and lingering. As the wine breathed, it continued to evolve and this, too, will evolve over the coming decade.
1990: Pale red, orange at the rim, clear and bright; the bouquet is multi-faceted with hints of red fruits, orange peel, earth, spice, and more – very forward, enticing, and continually evolving; in the mouth, the wine is medium-light body but very flavorful, layered and complex, with a very long finish that showed honey – like dried apricots dipped in honey; unusual to be sure, but quite delicious. At 20+ years, the wine still has life AND potential.
1975: Pale mahogany and red, onion-skin at the rim; initially closed, this wine blossomed beautifully to reveal a wonderful aroma of leather, cedar, pencil lead, blueberry, red fruits, earth, spice, and more; light-bodied, very flavorful (it’s almost as if the lighter in body, the more flavorful the wine is), with a very harmonious mix of flavors, with great depth of character and complexity; the finish is long, lingering, delicate and very tasty. At 35+ years of age, this wine is more than holding its own, and has time to go.
1966: Very pale onion-skin in color, tinged with brick; the bouquet is a heady mix of everything in the 1975 and more! – hints of anise, honey, saddle leather; in the mouth, the wine is elegant, flavorful and complex, revealing more with each sip, and it continues evolving in the glass, carrying through to the long, clean finish. At 45 years of age, this wine is stellar, and showing no signs of fading anytime soon.