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WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:10 pm

The Wine Source, a great store tucked away in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore is doing some really great work. One of the best things they are doing is free tastings with winemakers. As our dear friend Otto has made Chateau Musar a near icon on this forum, I felt that I owed it to myself to drag my wife through the hell that is DC rush hour traffic up the Parkway to Charm City to see what all the fuss was about.

The traffic did not disappoint us. A 37 mile trip took 65 minutes. This was a good day. The directions from Google only got us lost in Baltimore once and I am proud to say my wife is not contemplating filing for divorce as is the usual outcome of our overly long road trips, especially when I am impatient to get to the wines.

Our patience was rewarded by the perfect parking spot and a relatively quiet store. Ralph Hochar from the Chateau greeted us from behind the table and started us off with the 2004 Musar Cuvee Rose. This stuffed rocked! Literally! The slate on this was great, and the fruit went on for ever. This was a big, big rose. The sheet I was reading said it was "produced from a saignee of red grape varieties, primarily cinsault." A bottle went in the cart at $16.79, regularly $20.99 and I would have paid that! It was good stuff.

We were then poured the 2004 Musar Cuvee Blanc made out of the local white grape Obeideh. I loved the floral and petrol combination this wine brought to the table. At the same $16.79, my wife couldn't bring herself to purchase it. She always wins these battles.

The next wine was the 2003 Musar Cuvee Rouge. This wine was slightly chilled and much the better for it. In many ways it was very fruity. There were strawberries and rasberries and cranberries singing in this wine. In the background there was the nice minerality that make the Musar wine so memorable. This wine was regularly $19.99, but was on sale for $14.99. A bottle is in the cellar. The cranberries really make me think this one will work for Thanksgiving. The fruitiness tells me that the relatives will like this better than the zins and merlots often poured out on the holiday. Just a side thought.

The wines just kept getting better and rockier. Mr. Hochar next poued the 2001 Musar Hochar a blend of cab. sav., carignan, cinsault, and a pinch of grenache. This was fuller and more complex than the cuvee. There were dark fruits and berries to be sure, but there was that great minerality and acidity that balanced out the fruit perfectly. This is a wine that is drinking nicely right now, but has the stuffing to go a decade or more. It regularly sold for $24.99, but was on sale for $19.99. I would buy it at either price. A bottle is now sleeping in the cellar.

The final wine of the night was the 1998 Chateau Musar Rouge. This had been decanted for two hours according to Mr. Hochar. It was singing a beautiful song. I think I am beginning to understand where Otto is coming from when he says "Musar rocks!" This wine certainly did, although it was perfectly balanced by the wonderful red fruit and the earthy undertones. This wine regularly sold for $47.99 and they were giving it a $10 discount. Unfortunately the budget can only soak up so much wine. This one will have to wait until Otto gets it for me.

We purchased some great bread and olive oil and we were on our way home. Thanks go to Otto for getting me up to this tasting. It was outstanding. or those of you in the DC Baltimore area, check out this place. They are doing good things.[/b]
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by DebA » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:20 pm

Oh, James, I am exceedingly jealous!! I was just speaking to Otto about Musar wines and wondering how I might aquire some! I wonder if The Wine Source will ship to GA? Believe me, I am going to call them! The 2003 Musar Cuvee Rouge and the 1998 Chateau Musar Rouge sound like my cup of tea from your description! How lovely! Thanks for sharing your experience. :cool:
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Rahsaan » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:34 pm

the hell that is DC rush hour traffic


I've heard that the population has really exploded in recent years in the area, so I guess the roads/public transportation have not caught up huh?
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:40 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
the hell that is DC rush hour traffic


I've heard that the population has really exploded in recent years in the area, so I guess the roads/public transportation have not caught up huh?


I've lived here since 1982. It's been hell to drive at rush hour ever since I moved here from Philly via Pittsburgh. Baltimore used to be better, but it's just a DC suburb now. Of course you can't say that to B'more folk. Be thankful you're in California! 8)
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Peter Gatti » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:26 am

I lived in MD just north of DC, (Georgia Ave, just N of the Beltway), then in the 'y' btw Connecticut extended and University Blvds from 1973 to 1994...traffic has been impossible forever there. The roads never catch up...they were widening the beltway from 2 (or 3) to 4 lanes in each direction when we first got there, and by the time they finished construction around 1982 or 3, the traffic was worse than when they started the improvements!

Good Luck!
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Otto » Wed Sep 27, 2006 1:59 am

James! Nice report and I'm happy that you enjoyed the wines and found it worth the drive. The 1998 is a rather atypical Musar, so you still have to try the 1999 or 1993 to get an idea what it's really like! :)
I don't drink wine because of religious reasons ... only for other reasons.
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Howie Hart » Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:21 am

I'm glad we talked you into going during last week's chat session. :wink:
My first exposure to Musar was at MOCOOL and I was impressed also.
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:05 am

I would agree with Otto that there was someting about that "987 bottle. I liked it, but I now think that the '98 Mussar was a little like a modern cab. sav. based bordeaux. It was smooth and ready to drink. It may have had a little more structure. I liked it a lot. If that was an off-year, I am ready for a great year any day.

Howie, I do have to thank you, RG, JB and the gang for pushing me to go. Quite frankly the best part was being able to spend some time with my wife talking about stuff. We're both so busy that we don't get enough time to do that as we should. The wines were outstanding as I noted.
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Jenise » Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:55 am

James, a local Lebanese store owner regularly stocks Musar, and she prices every bottle that comes in at cost + some consistent percent over what she pays her distributor. So it might be interesting for you to know that she had the 95 at $55ish, the 97 at $48, and the 98 at around $26-28. I was surprised to see your shop charging so much for the 98.

But no matter, welcome to the world of Musar.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:01 pm

Jenise wrote:James, a local Lebanese store owner regularly stocks Musar, and she prices every bottle that comes in at cost + some consistent percent over what she pays her distributor. So it might be interesting for you to know that she had the 95 at $55ish, the 97 at $48, and the 98 at around $26-28. I was surprised to see your shop charging so much for the 98.

But no matter, welcome to the world of Musar.


The Maryland distributors need their cut unfortunately. Evidently you are not burdened by the evils of the three-tiered system. Maryland is especially bad. I believe they need the extra amount to pay off the legislature. Of course I am a cynic.
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Clinton Macsherry » Wed Sep 27, 2006 1:21 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Baltimore used to be better, but it's just a DC suburb now. Of course you can't say that to B'more folk.


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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Jenise » Wed Sep 27, 2006 3:30 pm

James, no we have the 3 tier thing going on here too. What I was presuming was that the 98 Musar was being sold at a discount because of it's being a lesser vintage, and that here the distributor passed it onto the retailer who passed it on to her customers, whereas the same didn't happen at your end. I could be wrong, but I'm sure this retailer isn't selling it at a loss, so....
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Wed Sep 27, 2006 6:53 pm

Clinton, you know it's true!

Jenise, Maryland's distributors have an especially venal reputation. Just ask Clinton, the guy from the DC suburb known as Baltimore. All kidding aside, the reputation of the local distributors is horrible. They keep the state legislature firmly in their back pocket. They literaly own the president of the state senate, a guy by the name of Mike Miller. I am sure the local distributor is holding up the retailer for the extra cash. I suppose I could be wrong. They do have Gaston Chiquet at $29.99. That seems like quite the bargain to me.
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by DebA » Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:35 pm

Deborah Ackerman wrote:Oh, James, I am exceedingly jealous!! I was just speaking to Otto about Musar wines and wondering how I might aquire some! I wonder if The Wine Source will ship to GA? Believe me, I am going to call them! The 2003 Musar Cuvee Rouge and the 1998 Chateau Musar Rouge sound like my cup of tea from your description! How lovely! Thanks for sharing your experience. :cool:

________________________

Well, I did indeed call the Wine Source directly, James, but found out what you probably already know; they can't ship to GA. Ah, well, I will look elsewhere. :cool:
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:39 pm

Deborah, check out winesearcher. I don't know the website, but I can't imagine that the metropolitan Atlanta area would be bereft of Musar. What would Otto think? I mean Atlanta is generally a civilized part of the world. :roll:
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Dietz » Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:12 pm

Jenise.. I'm going to check the local Lebanese restaurant to see if they have some of these bottlings....good idea.. maybe even seach out a Lebanese grocery. Great idea!!

And, James, thanx for the report. I've been wanting to try a Musar for some time.
Cheers, Jim
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:13 am

James Dietz wrote:And, James, thanx for the report. I've been wanting to try a Musar for some time.


Jim,
Anyone with this first name has to be a first class guy! There aren't a whole lot of us around. Anyway, Otto, says these aren't the best of the label so if you run into some other years or cuvees let us know. I thought these wines were pretty darn good.
Cheers!
James
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Jenise » Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:42 am

James Dietz wrote:Jenise.. I'm going to check the local Lebanese restaurant to see if they have some of these bottlings....good idea.. maybe even seach out a Lebanese grocery. Great idea!!

And, James, thanx for the report. I've been wanting to try a Musar for some time.


Jim, considering the revere for Musar among wine geeks, I would never have thought to look for them in a "Mediterranean market", especially where I live. But I knew they were Lebanese, and during the recent Israeli bombing I went there to express support. Lo and behold, they had these wines (on previous visits they'd only had the lesser Cuvee wines), and I bought a bunch including three bottles of the white which I'd never even seen before. May you get as lucky as I was, both in terms of the wines and the love these people can show you.
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Rahsaan » Thu Sep 28, 2006 2:49 am

Jim, considering the revere for Musar among wine geeks, I would never have thought to look for them in a "Mediterranean market", especially where I live


Yes, I don't know what the production is like, i.e. if they have tons of bottles for all kinds of places, but I remember remarking that Musar seemed very readily available in somewhat scholocky UK outlets, who would even have stocks many vintages deep.
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by James Roscoe » Thu Sep 28, 2006 8:52 am

Rahsaan wrote:
Jim, considering the revere for Musar among wine geeks, I would never have thought to look for them in a "Mediterranean market", especially where I live


Yes, I don't know what the production is like, i.e. if they have tons of bottles for all kinds of places, but I remember remarking that Musar seemed very readily available in somewhat scholocky UK outlets, who would even have stocks many vintages deep.


And yet in a fairly well-stocked Baltimore wine store, I can only get the lesser cuvees and then only at fairly steep prices. What gives?
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: WTN: Chateau Musar Tasting 9/26/06

by Peter Gatti » Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:26 am

I'm pretty sure that Broadbent Selections (?) is Musar's importer for the entire US, and other than small variations in tax and shipping, (and wholesaler venality) there shouldn't be too large a variation in wholesale cost. Having said that, wholesale cost here in Texas for the '98 is $36 per bottle. So, $26 or $28 at retail? Buy it all...unless you like the folks, in which case let them check their pricing...because unless they've managed to bypass a tier, I think they've mis-priced the wine. It's always possible that a wholesaler is gouging, but the folks who handle Musar here are small-/mid- sized and pretty stand up people. But who really knows...
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