Anyone who knows me, knows I love a few things in particular: Bacon, my wife and Chateau Musar. If you have not discovered Ch. Musar, I suggest you seek it out. I use the word, “discovered” because it really is that kind of wine. Chateau Musar is from Lebanon, more specifically, the Bekka Valley. About 30 miles outside Beruit, you’ll find a winery high up in the mountains with head-pruned vines dating back to the 1930’s.
Chateau Musar is unique for a number of different reasons. The first being the man behind Musar. Serge Hochar is a one-in-a-million character. He could talk to you about moss on a tree for 3 hours and you’d be sitting on the edge of your seats, completely fascinated by every word he said.
Serge was trained in Bordeaux. In 1956, he took over the family wine making business, and immediately put his stamp on the winery. First, he started what we’d refer to as a “sustainable” or “green” growing program. Nowadays it’s so trendy to say a winery is “green” but Musar has been doing it for over 50 years!! In fact, Musar just won an award for their sustainable winemaking pracitices. Second, Musar is made with the idea that every bottle is unique, just like Serge. In fact, each bottle is hand filled. You might get a bottle filled up to the top under the capsule, or you might get a bottle filled to the shoulder.
Chateau Musar wines are fermented in cement vats. That alone gives the wine interesting character, sometimes bordering on Brett. I was fortunate enough to attend the Chateau Musar vertical tasting in Aspen at the Aspen Food&Wine classic last year. It was one of the most complete nights of my life. Serge was there speaking about each wine as we tasted two vintages from each decade going back to 1959. If you were there, it would have changed your mind about wine, and about yourself. These wines are in an entirely different category than any wine you’ll ever taste. Serge will tell you that his biggest and best wines aren’t his red, but rather his whites. They are legendary. They challenge you as a wine drinker. We were fortunate enough to have the 1967 Musar Blanc (white) and it was truly the finest white wine I’ve had in my life. So good in fact that I didn't even finish drinking it. I just kept smelling it. It went from Tawny Port on the nose to nutmeg, to caramel, to Asian spices to God knows what. The nose was complex. It’s a blend of Obideh and Merway, which are anscestors of Semellion and Chardonnay.
The Musar Rouge (Red) is made from Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Cinsault. The 1972 and 1959 are stuff of lore. Some people would peg it for Burgundy while others would swear it’s Rhone. No matter what, Musar wines will challenge you as a drinker, while at the same time reward you like no other.
This evening, for my birthday, we had Filet wrapped in Bacon with Lobster Tails and lemon vinaigrette. A 1990 Musar Blanc and 1972 Musar Rouge were picked to go with. Already I was feeling good because Bacon, my future wife and Musar were involved. But holy cow! The Musar Blanc showed how beautiful an aged white can be with caramel, truffle, white chocolate and spice box filling the glass. A bit restrained at first on the palate, but opened up nicely. The 1972 was so good I had to step outside for a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke. Silky, refined, complex, dynamic, otherwordly and totally unrepresentative of any particular grape. It was youthful without being too oxidized. Wow! This is why we drink wine..
If you aren’t ready to drop $45+ on Ch. Musar, try stepping up to the Cuvee line, which sells for around $17 retail. It’ll give you a good idea about a winery that has been kept secret for far too long. Enjoy a glass with a friend.