Chateau Rayas Chateaneuf-du-Pape Reserve 2005
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."