It seems that Marlène and Nicolas continue to outdo themselves in each successive vintage, pushing the envelope on flavor and texture to even greater heights in their superlative 2018 Domaine Chevalier Les Pends Crozes-Hermitage, which is truly superlative. Brilliant in the glass and offering a gorgeous, intoxicating nose redolent with the scents of tropical flowers, honeysuckle, savory spices and vanilla bean, one could hardly ask for more in a white wine. The words “hedonism in a glass” were again uttered among our tasting panel members when the 2018 Les Pends’ entrancing bouquet re-emerged in the mouth to enliven the palate with an exotic mélange of fruit, spice, and juicy acidity. Superb harmony and texture from this enticing 100% Marsanne further make the case for the Chevaliers as premier producers in Crozes-Hermitage and places their 2018 Les Pends among the top echelon of wines in the overachieving Crozes-Hermitage appellation. For optimal enjoyment, we suggest allowing the 2018 Les Pends to breathe a few minutes before consuming it moderately chilled (about 40°-45° F). However, some members may prefer this wine at an even more ambient temperature, but as you like it! Salut!
The finest white wines of the northern Rhône, such as Domaine Chevalier’s 2018 Les Pends Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, age well and offer splendid accompaniments to rich foods. Foie gras, terrines, cured meats, and the herb-infused fish and vegetable dishes so prominent in the cooking of southern France offer excellent choices to pair with this wine. Prosciutto-wrapped honeydew melon makes a good starter. A shrimp and avocado salad and a spicy chicken salad made with apple, coriander, and pecans also provide delightful accompaniments to this wine. Lobster and crab make great partners to the 2018 Les Pends, too. Many Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese specialties will provide excellent complements to the 2018 Chevalier Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, as well. Fresh spring rolls, Hunan dishes prepared with tasty sauces, and light curries offer exemplary complements. Although white Rhône wine is not traditionally thought of as a sit-around-sipping kind of wine, the Chevalier’s 2018 Les Pends Blanc provides a notable exception, especially when ripe pears or a few morsels of soft, creamy cheeses are available to partner with it. Enjoy!
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, Domaine 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 specialize in two grape varietals at their meticulously tended estate: Marsanne for white wine and Syrah for red wine, from which they fashion two white wines and two red wines in tiny lots from individual sites. Each is a singular expression of either Marsanne or Syrah. In the case of the Chevaliers’ 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pends Blanc (this month’s feature) only a fraction of the 700+ cases of this wine ever come across the pond. Our club members and a couple of renowned restaurants in the United States are the primary 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, a winery renowned for its superb Syrah based wines.
All of Domaine 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 cuvee, Marlène handles all of the sales and marketing for Domaine Chevalier. Together, this brother and sister team provides the fortunate few a glimpse of authentic Crozes-Hermitage.
Crozes-Hermitage is located halfway 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 earth. 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 today as highly regarded for its complex, aromatic white wines.
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