At an impromptu dinner last night with friends, I pulled out the La Chapelle and a friend brought the Gruaud. Both were decanted –- about an hour ahead for the Hermitage and an hour and a half or more for the Gruaud. Judging by the results, that was perfect for both. The La Chapelle was drunk with roast chicken, the Gruaud with cheeses.
1996 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage: Pleasing faint Northern Rhone signature, after a trace of reduction blew off. If I’d been served this blindly, I don’t know if I’d have guessed it was a Rhone, though. In the mouth, it had a good dose of fruit with good acidity to keep it alive. The tannins are relatively resolved. This is a very enjoyable wine but without an assertive personality or a great deal of complexity. Indeed, it’s a bit generic, like a dinner guest who doesn’t speak much. The 94 La Chapelle was lower in acid but lusher and, at least the last time I had it three years or so ago, a bit more satisfying, though no more complex. Very enjoyable to drink, but not outstanding. I’d go 89/90 points on this.
1990 Ch. Gruaud Larose (St. Julien): Wonderful earth and pencil shavings on the nose. This is quite mouth-filling, with lots of fruit and very good structure, though the tannins are softening. It acts much younger than its age, with all that fresh fruit that seems still mostly primary. Like most Gruauds, it’s a bit four-square -– lacking the finesse and elegance of the top middle-Medoc wines (for my tastes, anyway). Some of that is the vintage, too. But still, it’s a very well-behaved late adolescent that it was a pleasure to have at the dinner table. 91 points.