A balmy evening began with an outstanding 2006 rosé that had a nose of strawberry, ripe cherry and cedar with some pepper and rose on the finish. I then had the pleasure of being introduced to Gaston Hochar, managing director of Chateau Musar.
This family has had a long and revered history making wine in the Bekka Valley of Lebannon. The following is from my tasting at Le Vertige in Montreal.
We sat down to carpaccio of beef, delicately spiced Asian style and the Hochar Pere et Fils 2002. This is the introductory wine of Musar here in North America. Lots of black cherry, pencil shaving, green pepper, molasses and almond with some berry on the finish. This is a wine that seemed younger than its vintage, telling me that I should buy all of it and use it for my ‘house wine’ this summer. The wine is able to age beautifully and the wood notes will soften into more berry flavouring. Yum!
The next course was an elegant surf and turf of grilled scallop and chorizo with beef jus and creamy polenta. The wine pairing was outstanding and showed that it is about weight not colour when giving a wine dinner. Chateau Musar Blanc 2001 was comparable to some intense flavoured Jura wines. Honeysuckle, rosewater and almonds gave way to peach and apricot all with amazing acidity and body through to the finish. This would age up to 50 years said Hochar and I believe it. I am putting 6 in my cellar to find out.
Next up was the flagship Musar 1998. Paired with duck and onion confit it held up well and had a smooth and velvety texture with red currant, smoke and a hint of forest floor with mushroom overtone. It is becoming an older wine in flavour but the tannin still engulfed the mouth and the finish was ever so slightly alcoholic.
In comparison the 1988 was a monster of a wine! Matched with braised veal cheek with gnocchi and porcini mushroom the pairing seemed to be ready for a knock down fight with all the flavours melding together into one amazing flavour sensation. Blackberry, pink peppercorn, lead, tobacco leaf, some baking spice along with a hint of garden herbs it was a feast for the senses. The finish lasted 60+ seconds making it seem like a much younger wine.
Hochar insisted that all Musar must be drunk with quite a lot of age and that each vintage represents a new flavour combination, much of it stemming from oncoming gunfire I suppose, as the 1988 and Blanc had a slight steel/ residue aftertaste.
Ending the meal with Musar Arak I was transported to late afternoons in the South of France, enjoying the anise flavour and knowing that all this food would find a way to settle in my stomach for the night.
My advise to you is to hit Vertige when in Montreal and to start a Lebanese section in your cellar. You won’t be disappointed with either choice.