Le Cheval Fou: An American Hermitage

The 2005 vintage presents a unique case in the recent history of winemaking: With few exceptions, it was a great vintage worldwide. Australia, South America, Spain, Germany, Austria, California, and France all enjoyed outstanding harvests in this Golden Year of the Grape. Entrepreneurs John Schwartz, a partner in Amuse Bouche Winery with Heidi Barrett, and Danielle Price, executive director of wine at Wynn Las Vegas, can judge firsthand the striking quality of the latter two regions, having produced the vibrant and complex 2005 Coup de Foudre (a blend of Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon with a modicum of Santa Barbara Syrah), as well as the 2005 Le Cheval Fou—the inaugural vintage of a pure Syrah from Hermitage on which they collaborated.

Named for the legendary Parisian cabaret Crazy Horse (where French ushers are costumed as Royal Canadian Mounted Police, while the female performers are costumed barely, if at all), this tantalizing wine is an authentic Hermitage, produced in cooperation with legendary winemaker Michel Chapoutier. Hermitage, at just over 300 acres, is not only one of the smallest appellations in the region, but would arguably also qualify as a Premier Cru, if the Rhône had an official system of classification. While its roots, quite literally, are French, Le Cheval Fou ($125 per bottle, $750 per six-pack) exhibits an American exuberance: Its Gallic minerality and beefy tannins support a flavorful framework of dark berry, cedarwood, smoked meat, cinnamon, and other earthy spices. (www.LeChevalFouWine.com)

 ?Brett Anderson

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