Today’s Story: Chateau Musar
Chateau Musar was established in 1930 in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon by Gaston Hochar when he was 20 years old. Inspired by his travels throughout Bordeaux and the 6,000-year-old winemaking history of Lebanon, Gaston set about producing wines with a non-interventionist philosophy and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault for his reds in high-altitude gravel and limestone soils. During WWII, Major Ronald Barton of Château Langoa-Barton and Leoville-Barton was stationed in Lebanon and became friends with Gaston which strengthened the tie to Bordeaux that exists to this day. In 1959, Gaston’s eldest son Serge took over winemaking after studying at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux and started making wines “his own way.” Shortly thereafter, in 1961, Gaston’s second son Ronald joined the family business to handle the financial and marketing aspects. Serge was named Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984 thanks to his steadfast production of quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990) and the brand continued to build upon international fame for its elegance and quality. In 1994, Serge’s son Gaston joined the winery and was accompanied later in 2010 by his brother Marc. The two manage the estate together today with Gaston running the winery operations and Marc running the commercial aspects.
Chateau Musar became Lebanon’s first certified organic winery in 2006 and their wines spend a remarkable 7 years at the winery before release. The red wines are fermented in separate cement vats, racked 6 months after harvest, aged for 12 months in French Nevers oak barriques, and bottled without filtration at the end of the third year after harvest before the blended wine is aged an additional 3-4 years before release. The white wines also ferment in Nevers oak barrels for 6-9 months but are bottled after their first year and spend 6 years in the cellars before release.
I reviewed the 2011 Chateau Musar Rouge early last year, so feel free to read or re-read those tasting notes to further explore the Musar portfolio.
Today’s Wine: 2010 Chateau Musar Blanc
60% Obaideh, 40% Merwah; 12.5% ABV
The 2010 Chateau Musar Blanc is medium gold in color. I decanted this for 2 hours and drank it over the following hour or so, and this young Musar Blanc needs the air at this stage. Aromas are of medium intensity but the nose is absolutely stunning, showcasing notes of peach, candied pear, dried banana, white floral blossom, honey, white mushroom, toasted nuts, and wet stone. The flavors are also of medium intensity, but the palate is just as intriguing as the nose with notes of baked yellow apple, peach, tropical citrus, coconut, honey, mild green herbs, almond, chalk, and stony mineral. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is still rather young but so hard to resist, and I will do my best to wait several years before revisiting it.
Price: $50. I’ve had plenty of Musar reds over the years, but this is the first white wine I’ve enjoyed and it is long overdue. This is such a fun and complex wine with the stuffing to go for another decade at least, and it is absolutely far and away worth trying. To put this into perspective, it reminds me of the 1979 Laville Haut-Brion Blanc I drank a couple years ago.