Jaboulet La Chapelle
I’ve been a big fan of Jaboulet’s Northern Rhone wines since the late
1970s, and it seemed time to do a retrospective on the Hermitage La
I had met Girard Jaboulet on several occasions when he came to
Vancouver with another member of the Primum Familiae Vini, an
organization of family owned wineries, Etienne Hugel. Together they
made an unforgettable pair, with a comedic routine that delighted
audiences while imparting fascinating information about their wines
and winemaking. In 1997, Gerard died tragically young and there is
some feeling that the wind went out of thee family winemaking sails
shortly afterward, when they began making less than stellar wines in
vintages like 1998 and 1999 when their other competitors were getting
much more memorable results. For that reason I included a couple of
younger wines to see if this was true and to take a small look at what
the new owners, the Frey family, were doing with the properties.
The sale of this two century old wine concern in 2005 surprised me,
and ejected them from the PFV as being no longer family owned. One of
the new family, Caroline Frey, the winemaker at La Lagune in
Bordeaux, is now also the winemaker at Jaboulet.
So I set up a dinner to look at the wines of this properly, and the
friends I invited were able to assemble a very nice survey vertical of
the wines for us to enjoy together.
With pan seared diver’s scallops on a bed of black rice with roasted
2004 Chevalier de Sterimberg – had to start with a white Hermitage,
this one a blend of something like 65% Marsanne, and 35% Roussanne.
It had some colour, and a killer nose of dried orange peel and a waxy
floral element, and the wine was clean and long with excellent
balance. Best white Hermitage I’ve tasted in a along time.
With duck confit with sour cherry sauce:
2004 – a controversial vintage as Robert Parker stated that this wine
was not to be made, presumably acting on advice he received from the
winery. He stated that all of the grapes would be used for the new
(from 2001) second wine, La Petite Chapelle. In fact the grand vin was
made in 2004 (maybe a change of heat on the part of the owners after
looking at the balance sheet?) and we got to taste it. It had a
decent enough nose with some white pepper and ripe fruit, a bit
herbal, but was tannic, lean and green, not a wine I would be happy to
have bought to drink a decade down the road.
1999 – another ripe nose, but this time no pepper, sweeter than the
2004, and (thankfully) no green notes, and better fruit on palate, but
nonetheless still and unsatisfying wine a bit on the lightweight side
and finishing a tad short.
With wild mushrooms on grilled pollenta with chevre chive sauce:
1997 – ahhh – back into the ‘real stuff’! Dark colour, some heat in
the nose, maybe a tad on the sweet side in the nose with lots of berry
fruit and a little spiciness, on palate sweet and ripe with very good
length. Good wine that needs time.
1991 – big jump here because I didn’t think that the good vintages in
the mid 90s were ready for prime time yet. This vintage, sometimes a
bit overlooked by people more familiar with Bordeaux vintages, was
excellent in the Northern Rhone. The wine showed an even darker
colour than the 97, and had a nice slightly funky nose with some raw
meat and anise, that was showing what you expect with a bit of
maturity. Clean, bright and powerful in the mouth, very long finish a
slight bit sweet; it was a hard choice between these two wines, the
one ready to drink now, the other with a good future.
With hazelnut crusted sweetbreads, crispy pancetta and Port reduction:
1990 – this was without doubt the Latour of the Rhone. The wine was
very dark, and sheeted down the sides of the glass. There was meat and
pepper as well as an enticing melange of fruit and maybe a hint of
cocoa in the nose. Huge in the mouth, a weighty wine, but also
impeccably balanced with a truly exceptional length in the finish.
Very youthful – if you have this wine, it is on the way up and you
shouldn’t be tempted to broach it too soon as patience will certainly
be well rewarded. For me to get to taste this wine and a 1983 Palmer
all within 3 days makes it a week to truly remember!
1988 – white pepper here, as well as a hint of mint and a very
interesting herbal mix. This wine was elegant, fully mature, and very
With rack of lamb, minted gnocchi and roasted garlic jus:
1983 – a bit of a difference of opinion between Parker and other
reviewers on this, with RP feeling that the wine was becoming austere
and tannic. This bottle showed a sort of wet stone and coffee nose,
very inviting, and was clean in the mouth, neither tannic (though some
were present) nor astringent. It was quite enjoyable, though possibly
now in slow decline.
1982 – not as good a nose as the 83, a little dirtier and more
attenuated, the flavours a bit dilute, this bottle lacked fruit and
was drying out. This is contrary to my experience with the wine, but
then I haven’t popped a cork on one of these in awhile. I will soon,
to double check our experience – it may just have been a poor bottle.
1979 – a warm sweet pudding sort of nose, which I always find quite
endearing, elegant on palate, maybe getting a tad tired but still an
interesting wine with a slightly high terminal acidity. I’ll make a
mental note to pop a cork on one of these too.
1978 Dom. de Thalabert Crozes Hermitage – I had this one served blind
to see what people would make of it. Normally, a Crozes is a
secondary wine in terms of quality to an Hermitage, but of all the
wines made in the region, this is perhaps the best and also the
longest lived. Jaboulet also make a negotiant version with fruit
sourced from other properties, called Les Jalets, but it is not as
serious a wine, nor nearly the ager that Thalabert often is. I’d
worried a bit about this wine perhaps being a bit long in the tooth,
but it turned out well – a reasonably fresh nose with a little cedar,
good colour, supple in the mouth with good length, fairly sweet but
with lots of acidity at the end. Obviously, if you happen to own this
wine, don’t tarry about drinking it, but you still have a reasonable
expectation of a very presentable wine when you do enjoy it.
I feel obliged to append a short note on a couple of wines that a
friend, also dining at the restaurant, had enjoyed that night, passing
our table a glass of each as he departed.
1983 Ch. La Mission Haut Brion – slightly funky nose with hint of tar,
but great concentration and length.
1983 Ch. Pichon Lalande – an excellent uplifted nose of fruit and
smoke, a well integrated wine, at peak, with class and elegance, and a
supple feel. I preferred this wine. Wish I’d had the opportunity to
taste this against the 83 Palmer!