Last night's dinner accompanied by a 2008 Hermitage re-affirmed that among Northern Rhone greats, Chave is still king. The Syrahs of Jean-Louis are the most regal and profound in the world, and no other name embodies tradition and grandeur 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. The Hermitage Rouge Cuvée Cathelin can sell for current release prices of $4,000+ per bottle. Today, we take a close look at the domaine's greatest value of all, in a 2009 to 2013 vertical of the Saint Joseph. As well as a few bottles available of the 1993 and 2008 Hermitage 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, 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 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$72 per bottle.

2010 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$79 per bottle.

2011 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$69 per bottle.

2012 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph 
$69 per bottle.

2013 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph

$69 per bottle.

1993 Chave Hermitage Rouge 
$299 per bottle.

2008 Chave Hermitage Rouge
$269 per bottle.