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The 2010 Cave Chevalier Crozes-Hermitage Marius may still be an infant, but what a gorgeous baby he is. Dark in complexion with rosy highlights to his otherwise purple pigment, the 2010 Marius sparkles in the glass. Stick your nose in and savor the soft rose petal and blackcurrant aromas that arise from the glass. Marius is no brutish young Syrah. Already, he exhibits an amplifying bouquet that prepares us for what is to come. A backbone of ripe, finely grained tannins provide the framework for the mélange of flavors that lay imbedded in the center of this finely crafted wine: dark berry fruits, hints of fennel, herbs, and spices gleefully smile back at the thirsty throat that begs for another sip of Marius. And as the last drops of this tender Syrah disappear from the mouth, one has to wonder how much more this child will accomplish when he grows up. Yet, it would be just fine if he could stay a beautiful baby forever! Enjoy the 2010 Marius now and for as long has he is available. For optimal enjoyment, we suggest serving Marius at cellar or cool room temperature (between 57°- 64° F).
The red wines of Crozes-Hermitage can be surprisingly tender compared to many of the Grenache and Syrah based wines of the Southern Rhône, which makes them ideal to pair with pastas, salads, and cheeses as well white and red meats. Consequently, flavorful couscous and quinoa based dishes pair beautifully with the 2010 Cave de Chevalier Marius. Rotisserie chicken basted with garlic and Mediterranean herbs or its more traditional American counterpart, grilled barbecued chicken, offers a tasty accompaniment to Marius. For those looking for something a little grander, why not consider braised grouse with grapes and walnuts or oxtail, served with haricots verts and mashed potatoes made with Tomme de Savoie or similar creamy French cheese? Red or yellow peppers stuffed with creamy risotto, spicy sausage, and Parmesan cheese make fine accompaniments to the 2010 Marius as well. Salut!
Marlène and Nicolas Chevalier farm a mere 3.5 acres of prime vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage from which they make several outstanding white and red Rhône offerings. Although diminutive in size, Cave Chevalier is large in stature: its wines have been garnering acclaim for more than three centuries and its red and white Crozes-Hermitage offerings remain benchmarks by which the wines of Crozes-Hermitage are measured.
The Chevaliers grow only two grape varietals at their meticulously tended estate: Marsanne for white wine and Syrah for red from which they fashion three white wines and three red wines in tiny lots. Each is a singular expression of either Marsanne or Syrah. In the case of the Chevaliers’ 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Marius (this month’s feature) there were just a few 600 liter barrels made. Our club members and a couple of renowned restaurants in the United States are the only American recipients of this rare Rhône wine.
Nicolas Chevalier has traveled far and wide in his young life to hone extraordinary winemaking skills. After completing studies in agronomy and enology in France, he headed to South Australia’s Clare Valley where he mastered various techniques for fermenting Shiraz (Syrah). He then set sail for California where he worked with Kendall Jackson in perfecting his white winemaking skills. And if those two stints were not enough post-graduate work, Nicolas traveled to South Africa in 2002 to work at the legendary three hundred year old Boschendal estate in Stellenbosch, located just north of Cape Town.
All of Cave Chevalier’s fruit is hand harvested and only new Allier oak is ever employed in the upbringing of the estate’s wines. Great pains are taken by the Chevaliers to protect the environment, which means sustainable agricultural practices prevail. The result is a bevy of rare and unique wines of splendid character, depth, and definition. While Nicolas tends the vineyards and fashions each cuvée, Marlène handles all of the sales and marketing for Cave Chevalier. Together, they provide the fortunate few a glimpse of authentic Crozes-Hermitage.
Crozes-Hermitage is located half way between Lyon and Marseille, astride the swift flowing Rhône River as it makes haste to the Mediterranean. Its neighbors are Côte-Rôtie and the more famous appellation of Hermitage from which it draws its name as well as its spiritual calling. Crozes-Hermitage is the largest of the northern Rhône wine appellations with just over 3,000 acres. The climate is continental, unlike its counterparts in the southern Rhône, which means winters are cold and often wet, while summers are typically long and hot. The soil is a mixture of clay, sand, gravel, and highly prized galets roulés, the long flat stones that are most synonymous with Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the south. The climate and composition of the soil make the region’s grapes dig deep into the soil. Syrah is the most densely planted varietal in Crozes-Hermitage and the only legal red grape in the appellation. Marsanne and Roussanne are the two permitted white grape varietals. Although traditionally known for its full-bodied red wines, Crozes-Hermitage is also highly regarded today for its complex, aromatic white wines.
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