“La Chapelle” means chapel. The northern Rhone appellation Hermitage is actually a single big, thousand foot hill on top of which sits a small chapel. The story goes that a 13thcentury knight returning from the crusades, wounded in war and unrequited in love, stopped to rest at the hill and eventually asked the crown to grant it as his sanctuary. He worked the vines that had grown there since Roman times and the ancient chapel built for him survives as a commemoration to the hermit knight.
Hermitage has for centuries been known as one of the great wine terroirs of the world, rivaling those in Bordeaux or Burgundy. Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiast. At 300 acres, the appellation is only about the size of a large Bordeaux estate. The house of Paul Jaboulet Aine has been making wine from Hermitage since 1834 and owns 54 acres in some of the best locations, or lieu-dits, of the appellation. They make very small quantities of very long-lived Reds from 100% Syrah which are considered some of the world’s best wines for cellaring. Some 20th century vintages are legendary and Robert Parker has stated that the La Chappelle ‘61 is one of the top three or four tasting experiences of his career.
Since 2006 Jaboulet has been owned by the Frey family, owners of the Champagne house Billecart-Salmon and of Chateau La Lagune in Bordeaux. Caroline Frey, the eldest daughter of the family, has a degree in oenology and is the head winemaker. Under her leadership the winery converted to organic practices and is now working toward biodynamic certification.
Jaboulet La Chapelle rivals Bordeaux 1st growths in its complexity, with a broad palate of bright and dark fruit flavors when young, but will pick up savory gamey, leather and earth notes with age. If under twelve years of age La Chapelle should be decanted for 2-3 hours or more. A La Chapelle from a good vintage will age for 20 – 60 years. The scores below suggest the 2017 is shaping up to be another legendary vintage.
Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 2017
Regular $199.99 Sale Price $173.97 Wine Advocate, 97 – 99 - “In need of serious air to open up, the 2017 Hermitage La Chapelle became more and more impressive the longer I kept it in the glass. At first it seemed a bit simple, if admirably plummy and rich, but by the time ten minutes had elapsed, it was showing off elegant notes of crushed stone, pencil shavings and cassis, while remaining full-bodied, rich and concentrated. It's velvety and long on the finish, but something left me wanting a bit more. It's surely a great La Chapelle, but will it reach that elusive triple-digit score?”
Jeb Dunnuck, 99 pts. - “Reminding me of the 2009 La Chapelle (which is a personal favorite), the brilliant 2017 Hermitage La Chapelle knocks it out of the park with its massive, opulent personality. Notes of smoked black fruits, scorched earth, burning embers, and graphite as well as subtle background meatiness flow to a monster of a Hermitage that has full-bodied richness, incredible depth of fruit, and an overwhelming, sexy style that’s already impossible to resist. Do your best to hide bottles for 4-5 years, but it’s going to evolve for 40 years or more. There are roughly 2,000 cases of this elixir, and every Syrah lover out there should have a bottle (or more) in their cellar.”
James Suckling, 98 pts. - “The icon is in dangerously seductive form. Such pristine dark cherries, blackberries and dark plums, dark chocolate, finely crushed spices and plenty of crushed dark stones on offer. The palate is very intense, very slick and fine tannins deliver an almost playfully soft impression. The oak is super integrated. Like La Maison Bleue, this approachability is an aberration, as it has immense power, concentration and length with such regal and alluring swagger at the finish. But there is so much more to come. Try from 2024, better after 2030.”
Vinous, 96 pts. - “Brilliant magenta. A highly complex bouquet evokes ripe dark berries, cherry liqueur, incense and potpourri, while olive and exotic spice nuances build in the glass. Displays intense, alluringly sweet black/blue fruit, spicecake and violet pastille flavors that show sharp delineation and are braced by a spine of juicy acidity. Closes extremely long and precise, displaying a smoky, intensifying mineral quality and youthfully gripping tannins that build steadily.”