The Vault is Open! Hermitage, La Maison Bleue by Jaboulet | 2016
Paul Jaboulet Ainé is one of the world's most famous estates, thanks to 1961. Their Hermitage "La Chapelle" 1961 is a unicorn among wine collectors, a rare "100 point" (rated twenty times) from the Northern Rhône made from 100% Syrah, at 12.9% alcohol. If you find a bottle, it will only cost you about $13,000 ;) Then, of course, there's also the 1978 and the 1990, fellow "100 point" club members, equally epic, delicious, and collectible.
Along with the Chave family (the Guigals and Chapoutiers), the Jaboulet family is responsible for bringing attention and praise to the granitic slopes of the Northern Rhône, specifically the hill of Hermitage. Their story begins in 1834 with their founder, Antoine Jaboulet. At the time, Syrah was used to beef-up the thin and lackluster vintages of Bordeaux, and if you drank a Bordeaux wine with Syrah, then you would say that your wine was "Hermitage-d." The Jaboulet family had a magnificent run in the 20th century, until the 1990s when a string of premature deaths and accidents caused the family to lose its magic touch. As a result, the quality of the wines suffered, and "Jaboulet" was not so "Jaboulet." So, they sold the estate in 2006 to the Frey family, part owners of Champagne's Billecart-Salmon and sole owners of Château La Lagune of Bordeaux, whose secret weapon was (and is) Caroline Frey.
Raised in Champagne, Caroline Frey is one of France's most talented and passionate winemakers, recognized more in France than in the United States. When she took over the reins at Jaboulet she implemented biodynamic growing and minimal intervention cellar practices, like gravity flow. The Maison Bleue is essentially baby Chapelle, first made in 2015 (replacing the former "La Petite Chapelle" bottling). It's technically a second label, made from the younger vines or "the stuff" that doesn't go into "La Chapelle." Pure Syrah, aged in 20% new oak, its 14% alcohol powers the wine with blackberry liqueur, licorice, and smoky stone, and as wine critic Mr. Dunnuck says, "Smoking Good." We typically don't talk "points and scores," but the consistency among the critics for 2016 La Maison Bleue is simply... impressive. It looks like Caroline Frey has put the magic touch back on Jaboulet.