Minnesota Visits Domaine Jean-Louis Chave – Hermitage
A question came up at our Chave tasting in Minnesota: “If we’re in France, can we visit?” Erin answered that they aren’t really set up for visitors, but if we would be in France to send her an email. If she would be available, she would be happy to have us visit. Lucky us, we already had our tickets to Europe for September, and Erin did answer our email, and the answer was “Yes”. Wow! Not only that, she offered to pick us up at the train station. I’ve met some wonderful, friendly winegrowers before, but this is a new high.
Erin met us at the train station and immediately took us to the Chave vineyards on Hermitage.
Standing on the hill at Hermitage, we could see why the location is so special. Facing south, you can see the Rhone snaking its way through the area. In the photo below, the Rhone turns from its north-south path and curls around from the far right, swinging in front from west to east, and turns again to the south on the far left. We’re looking from Hermitage on the north side, and the hill of St. Joseph is across the river on the south . The hill at Hermitage has a beautiful, unencumbered view of the sun from morning to evening. This exposure allows maximum ripening for the grapes. This is critical for Syrah, as this is the far northern limit of ripening.
Next: the soil. Erin showed us the 3 major soil types present on the hill: galets, decomposed granite, and puddingstone. Individual vineyard sections are managed according to the soil type in that plot.
The Hermitage hill is very steep, as you can see. Too steep for a tractor, these vines must be tended by hand.
The Syrah vines were trained to a single stake, a style I hadn’t seen before. In order to attach the vines to the stake, the vineyard crews must go out multiple times during the growing season to tie them.
The vines are tied to the stake using natural straw. Each vineyard worker has their own unique knot.
The grapes were beautiful, but not quite ripe yet. The harvest this year will be later than usual.
Hermitage Blanc is made from a blend of Marsanne & Roussanne grapes. Erin said some of the vines are so old, they can no longer determine whether individual vines are Marsanne or Roussanne.
The chapel near the top of the hill is an icon in many photos of the Northern Rhone. And there it is!
We had a great time touring the Jean-Louis Chave vineyards on the hill at Hermitage. Really though, the special treat is the people we get to meet.
Time to cross the river for the second half of the tour. Next stop: the St. Joseph vineyards, the cellars, and pulling corks. Stay tuned!