Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Southern Rhônes À La Château Rayas

Emmanuel Reynaud took over Chateau Rayas in 1997 after his uncle, legendary vigneron Jacques Reynaud passed away. But well before that, starting in 1989, Emmanuel was already doing much of the work alongside his uncle at Rayas, and he was also operating his own estate, Chateau des Tours in Vacqueyras (just east of Chateauneuf du Pape), which passed on to him after his father died.

Thus, for the past 15 years Emmanuel Reynaud has been in charge of both Chateau Rayas and Chateau des Tours. The viticulture and winemaking approach of both estates are the same, with Reynaud applying the technique and philosophy he learned from his uncle. In both estates Grenache dominates, with vines ranging from 30 to over 50 years old that are farmed organically. As with his uncle, grapes are harvested only when they are fully mature, no matter what. "That is the game we've always played in the family: we want ripe fruit, and we'll pick late if necessary," Emmanuel says. "You must know how to take risks to win. You must be ready to lose."

Every year for the past ten years I taste the wines of both Chateau Rayas and Chateau des Tours together prior to release. The wines are always presented together. Last February was the most recent tasting, which included these two stunning, newly released Chateau des Tours wines. The rest of the Chateau des Tours and the Chateau Rayas wines will be released later this fall.

I can't tell you enough of how wonderful these two wines are-they were two of my top favorites in the tasting, with the others being the Chateau Rayas wines-and how amazingly seamless their style to Chateau Rayas. Of course, Chateau Rayas wines cost hundreds of dollars, while the price of these two Chateau des Tours wines is not even close to that.

Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Rouge, Domaine des Tours-Chateau des Tours 2009 $21.00 (Click to buy!)
A spectacular wine that is outstanding in every way. Luscious ripe fruit backed by smooth tannins that glides on the palate. Aromatic cherries and garrigue scents. Beautifully balanced wine. A blend of mostly Grenache with some Cinsault, Counoise, Syrah, and Merlot farmed organically in estate vineyards. As in Chateau Rayas, each variety is vinified separately and aged in oak casks, with the blending or assemblage done before bottling.

Vacqueyras, Chateau des Tours 2006 $55.00 (Click to buy!)
This is being released presumably because it is the right time. Who's to argue? This is a phenomenal wine! The extended aging has integrated the flavors and appears to have achieved lovely finesse. Completely Rayas-like in every way, except for the price. The nose is seductive and complex with mingling scents of honeysuckle, cherry, and raspberries. The color is as light as Pinot Noir or Chambolle-Musigny. Pure, delicate Grenache flavors of light reds fruits, sweet spices, and a hint of smoke. Sexy and charming. The finish is long, and there the rich tannins make their presence known as the fruit recedes gradually. A blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah from organically farmed vines that are 30 to over 50 years-old. Each variety is vinified separately and aged in oak casks, with the assemblage done before bottling.

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