Robert Parker 94
The 2009 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc (a blend of equal parts Clairette and Grenache Blanc aged in tank) is remarkable. A stunning perfume of nectarines, white peaches and honeysuckle is followed by a full-bodied, thick, juicy, viscous wine with good acidity and freshness. This concentrated, profound, amazing white may possibly last 20-30 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
Pale yellow. Intensely perfumed, mineral-accented aromas of fresh pear, quince, orange and white flowers, with a strong iodine quality gaining strength with air. Utterly stains the palate with pungent orchard fruit and citrus pith flavors braced by bright mineral and spice notes. Finishes with superb length and clarity, the mineral and floral notes echoing.