Chateau Rayas, Cotes du Rhone, Fonsalette, Cuvee Syrah, Reserve 1994

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By C4


1.0-1.5cm; minor pen marked labels

If there is one single wine in the appellation that signifies the true level of greatness possible in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, it would be Rayas. Like the First Growths of Bordeaux, Rayas could be the one to showcase the true potential of the region. The Reynaud family has been tending the vines of Chateau Rayas for generations.

When Albert Reynaud went deaf at the young age of 45, he needed a new career and decided to become a winemaker in the Rhone Valley and purchased Chateau Rayas. His son, Louis Reynaud would inherit the estate after his father’s passing and in his ambitious nature helped bring the estate into the modern era as one of the most popular producers in Southern Rhone. Under his direction, Rayas became one of the first estates in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape to bottle and sell their own wine.

Louis began adding the words “Premier Grand Cru” on the labels which helped to gain attention. The Reynaud family continued to add to their holdings, expanding the vineyards, including the purchase of Chateau des Tours in the southeast and Chateau Fonsalette in the north. The descendants have continued to inherit the land and the next generations are poised to take control when the time comes.

Rayas owns 12 hectares of vines in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape that possesses a unique terroir or red, sandy soils with small amounts of limestone and clay with very few rocks. The extremely fine, sandy soils are reminiscent to that of a beach. Due to the large amounts of clay in the soils, the ground retains moisture, adding to the humidity which aids in keeping the ground temperature cool. Another key factor contributing to the terroir is the landscape which consists of many large pine and oak trees found in the vineyards. The trees and the surrounding forest land alter the micro-climate, influencing cooler temperatures.

Rayas remains a very traditional winemaker and both the Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf and their second wine, Pignan are both 100% Grenache. Rayas produces 1,100 cases of its flagship each year, while the Pignan sees only around 650 cases yearly.

The white Chateauneuf-Du-Pape is sourced from 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Clairette, in which a mere 425 cases are produced annually.

Rayas also produces three Cotes du Rhone and a declassified wine from their vineyards at Chateau Fonsalette and at Chateau des Tours, they produce a red and white which are sold as Vin de Pays. A multitude of grape varietals are used to produce these wines which include Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc, Merlot and Clairette. These 11 hectares combined with the 12 in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape brings Chateau Rayas to 23 total hectares under vine in Southern Rhone.

Over the course of more than a century and multiple generations the Reynaud family has turned an unexpected career into an empire which has been passionately cared for.

94 Points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

The 1994 Fonsalette Cuvee Syrah (only 4000 bottles produced) achieved 14.5% alcohol naturally. This black-colored, staggeringly rich wine is not far behind the other-worldly 1995. It hits the palate with a crescendo of massive portions of cassis fruit, smoke, earth, and Asian spices. Extremely thick, unctuous, and moderately tannic, this is an enormously-endowed, gargantuan Syrah.

95 Points CellarTracker Member

From a bottle with a very high fill in clearly good condition. This pours medium ruby in the glass with flecks of purple and very light bricking. The nose is immediately expressive, and opens further over the course of the following hour. Refined aromas of dried blueberry, cassis, black pepper, spice, dry dusty soil, leather, animal fur, and faint tobacco waft from the glass. The palate features lovely balance with lush dried blueberry on entry, turning to medium minus tannin and medium acid. The finish is perhaps the best part of this wine popping with whips of spice, pepper, and leather. All in all this was just as high quality as I had expected it to be. The aromatics might be just a touch less expressive than I had hoped, but the overall sense of polish and refinement is impressive and the finish just glorious. Brilliant bottle of Syrah, drinking in a great spot. If anything perhaps on the front side of its development curve with decades of continued great drinking ahead. 9/30/2022

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