The Syrahs of Jean-Louis Chave are perhaps the most regal and majestic in the world. No name embodies tradition and grandeur in the Northern Rhone Valley quite like Chave does. Since 1481, there have been 16 generations of unbroken lineage at this estate along the Rhone River's towering granite slopes. Their Hermitage Rouge, and rarer Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin sell for current release prices of $500 and $4,000+ per bottle, respectively. Today, we take a close look at the third red wine in the Domaine Chave lineup, the Saint Joseph Rouge.

Jean-Louis Chave joined his father Gérard in 1992, following his studies in Enology at UC Davis. Once home, he undertook his primary mission of re-planting the steep slopes of Saint Joseph, as his ancestors had done centuries ago. In fact, it was precisely on this hillside that the domaine officially started in 1481. These vineyards had remained fallow since phylloxera decimated vineyards throughout France in the late 19th century.

Along with carrying on the tradition of producing the the iconic Hermitage bottlings, Jean-Louis knew that these treacherously steep hillsides in Saint Joseph were capable of producing magnificent wines, and offered a value to consumers that Hermitage could not. 25 years have now passed since these terraces began to be re-built by hand, and vines have been re-planted among the traditional échalas stakes. Today, the results are stunning wines that remind us the root of all success in the Rhone comes from hands-on work and fastidious attention to detail, something the Chave family has personified for hundreds of years.

Since the Saint Joseph appellation was officially given AOC status in 1956 the boundaries have expanded immensely. It's these choice parcels that represent the best and most serious terroir for the zone. Slopes that the Chave's knew were capable of producing intensely concentrated, structured, and age-worthy Syrah. Land where machines were incapable of working, as everything must be done entirely by hand. 

Chave's Saint Joseph captures everything that thrills the senses from Northern Rhone Syrah, while offering an immediacy and generosity upon release that Hermitage simply cannot. Each vintage flaunts a huge spectrum of black, blue, and red fruits. Spices range from exotic Indian to cracked black pepper. And the tell-tale notes of violets, lavender, olive tapenade, and roasted meats are always on full display. But, it's the underlying mineral component from these granite slopes that serves as the backbone of Chave's wines. It's this definition that allows the wines to age effortlessly, and makes reaching for another sip habitual. Examples of the Saint Joseph from the late 1990's have floored me for their sense of vivacity, freshness, and still present regal structure.

2009 Domaein Chave Saint Joseph 
$72 per bottle.

2010 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$69 per bottle.

2011Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$69 per bottle.

2012 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$69 per bottle.

2013 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph

$69 per bottle.

Also available:


1987 Chave Hermitage Rouge 
$339 per bottle.

2001 Chave Hermitage Blanc
$199 per bottle.

2001 Chave Hermitage Rouge 1.5L
$799 per bottle.

2009 Chave Hermitage Rouge

$499 per bottle.