|Potato gnocchi "caccio e pepe", parmigiano-reggiano, butter, black pepper|
|Duck pot pie, braised leg, foie gras, duck heart gravy, bacon, root vegetables|
The wines, brought and selected by Jim, were from the three Chateau Rayas properties; Chateau des Tours, Chateau De Fonsalette and Chateau Rayas. These estates are all located in the Southern Rhone Region of France. The estates today are in the very capable hands of Emmanuel Reynaud, who took over Chateau Rayas and Chateau De Fonsalette when his uncle Jacques Reynaud died suddenly in 1997. At the time Emmanuel was making wines at his father’s Chateau des Tours. Jacques Reynard is often referred to as the godfather of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In my opinion Rayas and Henri Bonneu are the standards when it comes to traditionally made Chateauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone.
Emmanuel is somewhat reclusive, and can be found working his vineyards at most any time of day, every day. Emmanuel does not revel in the fame and notoriety that come with making such sought-after and acclaimed wines, but he continues to carry the mantle of his famous forebears, producing hauntingly aromatic wines at all three estates. He is, at heart, a farmer, and here he grows food for his family, in addition to grapes. Like all Reynaud vineyards, these are tended with the same organic methods, manually plowed, harvested much later than other producers and centered around a reverence for old-vine Grenache.
Chateau des Tours
Situated in an old house flanked on both sides by tall towers (hence “des Tours”), Château des Tours is Emmanuel’s own family estate, which he took over from his father, Bernard, in 1989. The estate is located in Sarrians, Côtes-du-Rhône, just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A 40-hectare property of vines which grows Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot and Counoise for red wine; Grenache and Clairette for white wine. Weighty, complex and savory, the wines produced here are among the most well regarded, sought-after bottles of the appellation
Château de Fonsalette
Just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, near the village of Lagarde-Paréol in the Côtes-du-Rhône appellation, Château de Fonsalette was purchased by Emmanuel’s grandfather, Louis Reynaud, in 1945. It holds 300 acres, 30 of which are planted with Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah for reds, and Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Marsanne for whites. The estate also produces wonderful olive oil. Quite simply, the three wines of Fonsalette — a blanc, made from Grenache, Clairette and Marsanne; a rouge made from Grenache (50%), Cinsault (35%) & Syrah (15%) and a 100% Syrah, which is rare for the region — defy their appellation: They are among the best and most in-demand wines from Côtes-du-Rhône. The grapes are vinified and sold at Rayas.
Rayas is a small ten-hectare vineyard composed of three separate vineyards — Le Couchant, Le Levant and Le Coeur — Château Rayas occupies one of the most unique sites in the world. The estate is surrounded by towering pine trees (pignan in French) that monitor the airflow into the vineyards, and the vines are planted in very fine sand that regulates their temperature and maintains humidity around the roots. This seemingly magical sand creates its very own microclimate — and exceptionally elegant wines.
While 13 varietals are permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Emmanuel uses only one for Rayas’ red wines: Grenache. For the whites, he uses Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Grapes come from the three vineyards, are vinified and aged separately in old barrels, then are blended to achieve Emmanuel’s vision for the vintage, always adhering to Château Rayas’ signature style. With a Pinot Noir–like flavor profile — kirsch, cherry, peat moss — coupled with a peppery Mediterranean flair that is distinctively “Southern France,” there is simply nothing like a bottle of Château Rayas. The vines are planted in the heart of the woods, in very poor, sandy soil producing wines with great finesse. He makes two reds at this estate, Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve red and white and Pignan Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve, red only.
The wines we drank were all outstanding and complimented the food beautifully.
2013 Chateau des Tours Cotes du Rhone Blanc. Côtes du Rhône White made from 100% Grenache blanc. Pale yellow hue with a bouquet of white fruit. A full bodied wine with great balance and mouth feel. A terrific bargain at $39. Wine-Searcher.
2013 Domaine des Tours Vin de Pays de Vaucluse. This delicious red is a blend of Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, Cinsault, Merlot. A nose and palate of bright cherries, this was delicious and represents substantial value at $24. Wine-Searcher.
2010 Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras. Blended from 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, the wine displayed a spicy bouquet and a superbly balance peppery palate. The wine finished with length and elegance. $60. Wine-Searcher.
2006 Chateau Rayas Cotes du Rhone Chateau de Fonsalette. From a classic vintage, this was sublime, displaying a peppery and complex palate with a monster finish. This wine sets the bar for Cotes du Rhone wines. $135. Wine-Searcher.
2006 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Pignan Reserve. Pignan is the second wine of Chateau Rayas. However, because much of Pignan comes from their more northern vines, it can also be looked at as a unique brand. In some years, like 1990, Pignan is an amazing wine that while not at the level of Rayas, it’s still outstanding. In total, close to 20% of harvest goes into producing Pignan. In most years Pignan is produced from almost 100% old vine Grenache and also uses grapes from their young vines. Pignan is aged for 16 months in demi-muids and foudres. Only 650 cases are produced of Pignan each year.
It is miles better than most other CdPs on the market. The wine showed brilliantlytonight. Bouquet of pepper and spice was echoed on a superbly balanced palate that had fantastic depth. The wine never stopped evolving in the glass and finished with fantastic length. Truly a wine with soul! As one would expect, this wine commands a much higher tariff, $225. Wine-Searcher.
A truly remarkable evening of wine from a master. Thanks Jim for sharing it with us.