Today’s Story: Chateau Musar
Chateau Musar is a highly-regarded wine estate 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.
To explore additional notes of these wines, I previously wrote about the 2011 Chateau Musar Rouge and 2010 Chateau Musar Blanc.
Today’s Wine: 1966 Chateau Musar Rouge
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Carignan; 13.5% ABV
The 1966 Chateau Musar Rouge is medium garnet in color with not really any signs of bricking yet. Per the restaurant where we ordered this, the bottle came from Chateau Musar’s cellars about five years ago. We elected to serve this as a pop-and-pour, which was the right call with the age. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the wine is beautifully alive, with the nose showcasing aromas of dried cherry, cranberry, violet, leather, truffle, forest floor, gravel, and dried herbs. The flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of maraschino cherry, cranberry, tobacco, forest floor, truffle, smoke, and crushed rock. This dry red is medium-bodied with lively medium (+) acidity, fully mature light tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. What a beautifully mature and fun wine to taste.
Price: $800. This is another experience bottle, and fortunately the restaurant where we purchased this had it for below retail cost. I’m a huge fan of Chateau Musar but haven’t had any older than early 1990s before this, so this was a very fun and special wine. Shared with two other Musar lovers, which can’t be beat.