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.

Hermitage from the Tain L'Hermitage train station

Yes, that is Hermitage right behind the Tain L’Hermitage train station

Erin met us at the train station and immediately took us to the Chave vineyards on Hermitage.

Julie and Erin Cannon Chave at the bottom of the hill at Hermitage - steep!

Julie and Erin Cannon Chave at the bottom of the hill at Hermitage – steep!

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.

 Jean-Louis Chave vineyards at Hermitage

Jean-Louis Chave vineyards at Hermitage

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.

Galets

Galets are old, worn river stones.  We can thank ice age glaciers for placing them here.

Decomposed granite

Decomposed granite

Puddingstone

Puddingstone – a sort of combination of galets and decomposed granite

The Hermitage hill is very steep, as you can see.  Too steep for a tractor, these vines must be tended by hand.

View from the Chave vineyard on Hermitage

View from one of the Chave vineyards on Hermitage

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 Syrah vines are trained "en gobelet"

The Syrah vines are trained “en gobelet”

The vines are tied to the stake using natural straw.  Each vineyard worker has their own unique knot.

Natural straw to attach vine to stake

Natural straw to attach vine to stake

The grapes were beautiful, but not quite ripe yet.  The harvest this year will be later than usual.

Hermitage Syrah grapes a few weeks from harvest

Hermitage Syrah grapes a few weeks from harvest

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.

Hermitage Marsanne / Rousanne grapes darken as they ripen

Hermitage Marsanne / Rousanne grapes darken as they ripen

The chapel near the top of the hill is an icon in many photos of the Northern Rhone.  And there it is!

The Hermitage chapel, an icon

The Hermitage chapel, an icon

Hermitage hill rises immediately behind town

Hermitage hill rises immediately behind town

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.

Erin treated us like old friends, what an honor!

Erin treated us like old friends, what an honor!

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!

Comments
13 Responses to “Minnesota Visits Domaine Jean-Louis Chave – Hermitage”
  1. What an incredible experience!

  2. What a great day and an unforgettable experience! It just goes to show you . . . all you have to do is ask. Beautiful photos!!

  3. Lynda says:

    Thanks for taking us all on the tour with you Jeff!

  4. Wow! What an experience…these photos are breathtaking. I could sit and look at that chapel forever.

    • Thanks! I was so looking forward to seeing the chapel. It is cool, and I’d love to return sometime at dawn or dusk or during a storm for some extended photography. However, the experience of meeting and touring the hill with Erin made the chapel pale in comparison.

  5. You are killing me. I’m a fan on Rhone Valley; north, south, yes to all!

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  1. […] a visit with Erin Cannon Chave, we crossed the Rhone from Tain L’Hermitage to Mauves, in the St. […]

  2. […] land for yourself will show you things you will never learn from a book or an article.  After our morning visit at Jean-Louis Chave, we had a little time to explore before we caught the train back to […]

  3. […] visit to J.L.Chave at Hermitage, the cellars at J.L Chave, and our quick visit to Tain […]

  4. […] Minnesota Visits Domaine Jean-Louis Chave – Hermitage […]



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