"There are no signs on the dusty, narrow, dirt roads of Southern Rhône's Châteauneuf-du-Pape directing you to Château Rayas," writes Per-Henrik Mansson. "That's no accident. The late Louis Reynaud and his late son, Jacques, used to do all they could to keep unsolicited visitors at bay. Now, Louis' grandson, Emmanuel Reynaud, is doing his part to uphold the tradition."
According to Stephen Tanzer, "Emmanuel Reynaud has quickly shown himself to be a worthy caretaker of this fabled estate's superb holdings and a flexible, non-interventionist vinifier." A young Rayas displays a grip of fruit and tannins, but it's born with a surprising midpalate fatness -- what the French call "gras." In top years, the wine has the staying power to improve just as much as some of France's finest crus. It has been said that Rayas can transcend, in top years, its Southern Rhône roots to achieve the finesse and ethereal balance of a velvety Pinot Noir.
Rayas' rustic look not only reflects the owners' dislike for the trendy, it advertises their commitment to tradition. This philosophy comes through in the wine: In bad or good vintages, it tastes genuine. In a world of sameness, the Reynaud family makes a wine that's idiosyncratic even by the local standards of Châteauneuf. Rayas is unusual because its vineyards face mostly north (less heat, thus more finesse). It's also unusual because the wine is 100% Grenache. (Rayas has 27 acres planted to this varietal.) It helps that the vines are relatively old -- between 15 and 60 years, according to Emmanuel.
Finally, Rayas harvests late, sometimes very late. "That's the game we've always played in the family: We want ripe fruit, and we'll pick late if necessary," said Emmanuel. "You must know how to take risks. To win, you must be ready to lose."
"I could not resist retasting the 2005 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape. Until the 2007 is in bottle, the 2005 is clearly the greatest wine made at this estate since the 1995. Made from 100% Grenache, it boasts an unusually (for Rayas) dark ruby/purple-tinged color as well as an exceptionally sweet bouquet of black cherry jam, truffles, incense, licorice, and raspberries. Full-bodied with a stunningly rich, concentrated mouthfeel, an explosive mid-palate, and a finish that lasts more than a minute, it is a wine of superb power and intensity admirably displaying the terroir’s hallmark delicacy and ethereal nature. This utterly profound Chateauneuf du Pape should drink beautifully for 25+ years."
The Wine Advocate
"Deep red. Explosively perfumed nose offers a kaleidoscopic bouquet of red berries, candied cherry, orange marmalade and fresh flowers. Silky and deep in raspberry and cherry flavor, but with an airy, graceful character reminiscent of a highfalootin' Burgundy. A remarkably concentrated, elegant wine that finishes with superb, seamless length. There is absolutely no excess fat on this."
International Wine Cellar