Chateau Musar – Remarkable Wine and History

A few years ago, I was lounging at the pool at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas reading “A Big Sip of Vegas Reality” in the Food Section of the Los Angeles Times. The article outlined a trend of Los Angeles sommeliers moving to Las Vegas to advance their careers, and it chronicled the progression of Darren Lutz, who ended up at Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand. I knew Darren from our wine days in Los Angeles (some of you may remember him from Bastide), and I didn’t know he had moved to Las Vegas. I already had plans for dinner, but I decided to wander over to Joël Robuchon for a surprise visit and a glass of wine. It was a wise decision; I discovered one of the most remarkable white wines I have ever tasted.

I had never been to a Joël Robuchon restaurant and this particular one is the only MICHELIN Guide three-star restaurant in Las Vegas. It is an elegant 60-seat gem with a small bar/lounge, where I sat down to say hello to Darren. He asked if there was something special I would like to try, and I said I was in the mood for an aged white Hermitage or something similar. He didn’t have an open bottle of white Hermitage, but he confidently revealed he had something that was as good, and perhaps better. He didn’t tell me its origin when he poured it, but what he served me was at that time, and quite possibly still is, one of the most sublime glasses of white wine I have ever experienced. The texture, complexity, layers of flavors, balance and finish were incredible. I couldn’t quite figure out its composition; in some ways, it reminded me of aged white Burgundy (chardonnay) and white Hermitage (roussanne/marsanne). It didn’t matter. I was sitting in one of the most famous restaurants in the world enjoying a beautifully complex wine, and at the same time had the opportunity to say hello to a friend in the wine business. Darren encouraged me to enjoy the wine while he looked after some patrons in the dining room. Eventually he returned to reveal that I was drinking a 14-year-old Chateau Musar Blanc from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, a blend of the indigenous grapes, obeideh and merwah (thought to be ancestors of semillion and chardonnay, respectively). Although I have studied the wines of Lebanon, and their reputation is well-known in the wine industry, it was amazingly my first taste of a Lebanese wine.

If you haven’t experienced the relatively inexpensive wines of Chateau Musar, I enthusiastically encourage you to do so. The Bordeaux-influenced reds, are from cabernet sauvignon, carignan and cinsault. Both whites and reds are aged for several years in barrel and bottle at the winery before release, so do not be surprised by the vintage of the bottles you find at a retailer or restaurant—they may be the current releases! They also produce a rosé and a second label called Cuvée Musar. The wines are readily available in the U.S., so if you do not find them in your wine shop, just ask your retailer to order some. The importer is Broadbent Selections. In my local area, I have enjoyed Chateau Musar Blanc at Palate Food & Wine in Glendale, CA. They have the 2000 vintage on their list for $53!

It’s no mystery that wine of such quality comes from Lebanon; after all, wine has been produced there for over 5,000 years and the Roman Temple of Bacchus (the Roman god of wine) is located in the Bekaa Valley. Several other wineries are producing good wine in Lebanon, but Musar has certainly garnered the reputation as the best.

(Darren Lutz has since left Joël Robuchon and is now Manager of Wine and Spirits at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmville, Pennsylvania and Chef Sommelier for their restaurant, Lautrec. Also, I was amazed to find a variety of spellings of obeideh and merwah; I took mine directly from Chateau Musar’s website.)

~ by Thomas on January 9, 2010.

One Response to “Chateau Musar – Remarkable Wine and History”

  1. Thomas, this post has me very curious and I’m actually heading over to Mission on Washington to get it! I’ll pass along my impressions, great post!

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