01 Betts and Scholl, Hermitage Rouge
I got out of bed to write about this wine. Take one part Master Sommelier (Richard Betts), add one jigger artist (Dennis Scholl), and shake vigorously over Jean-Louis Chave, and you have the best New World interpretation of syrah. And with as much as 90% of this wine sourced from Chave's own Hermitage parcels, the 01 Hermitage is quite literally an "interpretation" or close reading of this decade's most prized grapes. This is a masterpiece of a wine--as inky and juicy as the greatest of Californians or Aussies, but also as deeply nuanced, peppery, and passionate as its Rhone progenitors. It's wonderfully ripe and floral, bleeding flavors of red plums, raspberries, and violets, without any other pomp and circumstance. There's no chocolately oak. No whispy, rancid sense of "earthiness" or "terroir." This is a straight-up syrah, as powerful as anything else on the market, but with so much more feeling. This wine lingers, the way the sounds of a circus or rock concert stay with you--humming against your gums into the night. It is the "runner's high" of syrah--one that goes straight from the palate to the serotonin receptors in your brain and then out into the cool sweat on your arms. It is a marathon of pure pleasure--guilt-free, lovely, compelling. Run to it. Breathe heavy. Chave. Chave. Chave.