Robert Parker 98
The 2009 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape is an awesome example of elegance combined with extraordinary power. The alcohol levels must be between 15.5% and 16%, but the elegance and sublime nature of this wine make it irresistible. Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by an extraordinary bouquet of framboise, black cherry liqueur intermixed with blacker fruits, licorice and a hint of flowers. Pure with terrific layers of fruit concentration (although it’s remarkably light on its feet), silky tannins, well-integrated acidity and a stunning personality, this monumental Rayas is breathtaking. This beauty will undoubtedly be drinkable early on (although Emmanuel Reynaud considers that to be infanticide), and it is capable of lasting 25-30 years. One of the world’s most mysterious estates is Chateau Rayas. This small 30-acre estate is owned by the Reynaud family, which dates back to the late 19th century,. The estate has always had an image of secrecy and seclusion. Following the death of Jacques Reynaud in 1997, his nephew, Emmanuel took over, and he continues to produce wines that go from strength to strength. A cool climate property in a hot zone, Rayas is tucked away in a forest with its vineyards basically one parcel of sandy soil. Emmanuel Reynaud, who is also the proprietor of the outstanding Vacqueyras estate called Domaine des Tours, has the same eccentric idiosyncracies as his uncle. It is not as difficult to get an appointment to visit Rayas as many people think, and I highly recommend it as it is always a fascinating place to visit. After 25 years, I never cease to be amazed by what emerges from these decrepit, old, haphazard cellars that look like a biohazard room in a video game. They don’t win the top prize for the dirtiest cellars in Chateauneuf du Pape (that goes to Henri Bonneau), but Rayas is a close second. Modern-day oenology graduates would be horrified by -working conditions,- but the magic elixirs to emerge from these ancient barrels, demi-muids and foudres are wondrous. On this trip, I tasted through the component parts of the 2010s, another top vintage for Rayas. Production was tiny, and the harvest was extremely late. In fact, Emmanuel Reynaud told me that 2011 would be at least ten days in advance of 2010. The 2009s, which have all been bottled, have turned out to be spectacular, and I tend to think the 2009 Rayas could turn out to be the greatest wine made by Emmanuel, even eclipsing the 2007. Importer: Martine’s Wines, Novato, CA; tel. (415) 883-0400
Anticipated maturity: 2011-2041
(basically 100% grenache): Deep red with a bright rim. A kaleidoscopic bouquet evokes red and dark berry preserves, blood orange and lavender, with deeper cherry pit and licorice qualities adding power. Sweet, expansive and pure, offering intense raspberry, bitter cherry and floral pastille flavors supported by a firm spine of acidity. Shows excellent clarity and power on the finish, which is given shape by fine-grained, sweet tannins. I underestimated this wine from barrel last year.