To my mind, the reference point Hermitage is from Jean-Louis Chave. If I were to own only one producer, he would be it. His legendary wines are, without a doubt, the most collectible bottlings from the appellation (the ultra-low production 2003 is currently trading between $600-900/btl, if you can find it).
The wine is sought out year after year due to its consistency, greatness, and scarcity. The Chave family's uncanny ability to turn out great Hermitage for the last half-century has been absolutely unmatched.
In the great 2001 vintage, Chave produced yet another masterpiece - a textbook, traditionally crafted Hermitage, now selling for $200-$300 per bottle.
Enter: Betts & Scholl
Richard Betts (Master Sommelier of Little Nell, one of the great food and wine establishments in America) and art collector/oenophile Dennis Scholl have been building a creative winemaking partnership over the last few years. Betts is renowned for having one of the best palates amongst his peers and is also one of the nicest guys in the business. His joint winemaking venture with Dennis Scholl has quickly gained some serious critical attention - Food & Wine Magazine named them one of the 20 Best New Wineries in the World and Wine Spectator recently featured them in an article.
It was with great effort that Richard and Dennis were able to strike a deal with Chave to start this relationship with the outstanding 2001 vintage. The wine is partially sourced from parcels owned by Jean-Louis Chave and vinified by Chave himself at his family winery in Mauves. The kicker is that the finished wine is predominately 2001 Hermitage from Chave! At press time, rumors have begun to swirl around the industry as to how much Chave is in the final blend, with some reliable sources claiming up 90% or more. What we do know is that this is an aristocratic, elegant but age-worthy gem, and with only 250 cases available to the world this is destined to become a classic collectible. Using our QPR (quality-to-price ratio) once again, whatever the blend percentage may be, it's always nice to spend 66% less for Hermitage made by Chave. We are also offering 2001 Chave Hermitage Rouge below in case some of you want a horizontal for a future face-off.
I have been given permission to share the tasting notes of these wines from one of the greatest Master Sommeliers in the world (see below).
2001 Betts & SchollHermitage Rouge(< 250 cases produced)
"Just about as pinot as Syrah can be. Really beautiful, deep and seductive nose - makes you want to keep coming back to it and each time you do it is different - stones, red fruits, flowers, the spice market. Still very primal on the palate, with very pretty flowers, red fruits and spices that all gain verve and zest from the awesome mineral. Also long and very compelling - not by size but by grace."
2001 Betts & Scholl Hermitage Blanc
(< 105 cases produced)
"Always the sleeper, Hermitage Blanc. Amongst the greatest white wines in the world and known to only a select few. Our debut from the fantastic 2001 vintage is no exception. The wine is just beginning to show its stuff after 5 years and what stuff its got! Super deep nose of flowers and honey and stones. If you've ever had the chance to walk up and down that hill of Hermitage you know how intense the soils are and they are super vivid in the wine as well. On the palate it is simultaneously rich and oily yet light. These are wines that don't depend on acid for lift so it is altogether another sense of elegance and grace. Ultimately long and lovely."
What's With The Label?
Original works from the collection of Dennis Scholl grace the bottles of Betts & Scholl. The 2001 Hermitages feature paintings by LA-based artist Mark Grotjahn. Want to see more of his work? Grotjahn currently has a show on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art until January 7, 2007. Past Betts & Scholl bottlings have included works by Lisa Gaskell and Raymond Pettibon.
Where In The World?
Hermitage is one of the legendary regions of France's Northern Rhône Valley. The appellation of Hermitage is actually just a single 1,000-foot-high granite hill, with the vineyards literally wrapping themselves around the southern-facing slope.
With only about 300 acres planted to vines, the entire appellation is smaller than many single estates in California! Hermitage produces some of the most age-worthy wines in the world, challenging Bordeaux on longevity.
The "Crus" of Hermitage
A quick introduction to the famed vineyards that Chave uses to compose his red and white Hermitages. (Yes, to qualify for future offers, you will be quizzed.)
Les Bessards: One of the greatest vineyards, used primarily for reds. Its granite soils provide the backbone of Chave's reds.
Le Méal: A large site, next to Les Bessards. Also used primarily for reds. The soils are chalkier, giving the wine aromatics, fruit and spice.
L'Hermite: Chave's monopole, having purchased the vineyard in 1984. Used in both the reds and the whites (15% of the vineyard is planted to white varietals), the site is at the top of the slope.
Les Roucoles: Primarily used for white wines, though it does have a small amount of Syrah. The wine from this vineyard is famed for its tannic structure.
Peléat: Another monopole of Chave, adjacent to Roucoles. The soil is both sandy and stony, providing his red and white wines with color (the reds at least), depth and tannin.
Maison Blanche: A fairly large vineyard, situated above Roucoles. The vineyard provides much fruit for Chave's white wines.