As I mentioned in a previous post, my local wine shop recently recommended a Cabernet based red wine from Lebanon. This is not exactly one of the more widely known wine regions in the world so I was intrigued. The bottle I bought was a 2001 from Chateau Musar and they told me I could sit on this for a while if I wanted. I became even more intrigued because with the exception of a Brunello I bought there, pretty much everything they encourage me to buy is ready to drink. And then, the NY times wrote an article about this winery and a series of dinners they had in Manhattan and all of a sudden I could not wait any longer to try this wine.
To prepare for this exciting occasion, I made a red wine oriented meal; braised pot roast with an herbed cheese polenta. I wanted to try the wine on its own and then in the company of a savory dish. The NY Times article referred to the 01 as a young wine for Chateau Musar and the bottle itself says to decant, so I was really expecting a huge, opaque and heavily tannic wine. This expectation was in part because I read on their site that their wines are made naturally with no filtering and it says to decant the wine on the bottle. Surprisingly, to the eye, it was a very clear, red brick colored, light-bodied wine. The nose on this puppy was insane. I could have inhaled its salivating, earthy richness for hours. And it was much more approachable than I expected. I decanted it for about a half hour before my husband poured himself a glass, which made me abandon my attempt to wait.
The wine went very well with the meal even though it was so different than the California Cabernets I usually pair with this pot roast dish (the recipe calls for short ribs but over time I started using pot roast instead with equally delicious results). The one unusual thing, and this may have been a function of the very savory meal, was that the wine seemed to get a little more fruity as it opened up.
Chateau Musar has a fascinating history. The winery was founded in 1930 and has operated continually since then, even though Lebanon has been plagued with countless conflicts over the years. The wines are inspired by founder Gaston Hochar’s time in Bordeaux, but this wine is unique. I was unfamiliar with Chateau Musar until a few weeks ago, however, the wise and much more knowledgable Michael Housewright of The Blissful Adventurer told me that “Musar makes some of the most interesting wine on the planet. It used to be a hell of a deal but now it has come into fashion with bandwagoneering Somms so the price has jumped like veal shanks.” I imagine at a restaurant this wine could get pricey but at my local shop it was $35.
I recommend checking this wine out if you can find it. I think it is a really neat to try wine from lesser known regions as it add some spice to life and teaches you about how the place the grapes are grown affect the wine. Viva le vin.