2004 Chateau de Fonsalette, Cotes du Rhone Reserve, Rhone Valley, France.
What an amazing treat and surprise when this wine awaited me at a meet up of wine professionals, I was a party crasher and I must thank some very gracious people for allowing me in and I savored every sip of this wonderfully aged and beautiful 2004 Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhone Réservé. This slightly cloudy ruby/brick hued old Fonsalette which had me spell bound with its delicacy and with its pretty mix of secondary characteristics and the raw transparency of its flavors, it was really captivating last night. The nose was everything you’d want with the combination of earthy red fruits, dried flowers, olive paste, dusty spices and autumn leaves, which leads to a finely structured medium bodied palate that still has the tension between fruit and savory elements showing whole cluster crunch and herbal notes that nicely accent the raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, stewed plum, that gives notice that this wine is mature and peaking now, as well as dried fig, pepper, anise, cigar wrapper and cinnamon, tea spice, old leather, faded lavender and lingering kirsch. Made from 50% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 15% Syrah, the Fonsalette saw a whole bunch fermentation, with each grape done in separate lots in enamel vats with the maceration lasting just under two weeks, after which the wine rests in the vats for 4 months before the Grenache and Syrah go into used French oak barrels and casks of various sizes and the Cinsault, which adds a juicy pop or heightened lift and freshness, goes into large 600L cask for 12 months, all before blending and bottling. This non hyped vintage is drinking with Burgundy like grace and is heavenly, it continues a tend of my year, proving Cotes du Rhones can age and be stunning in their old age. Again a huge thank you to Savannah Riedler of the famed Post Ranch Inn for sharing this wine, anyone staying there might want to explore their list, this one is drinking so good and there is a few more in their cellar.

Château de Fonsalette was purchased by Emmanuel Reynaud’s grandfather, Louis Reynaud, in 1945. It holds 300 acres, 30 of which are planted with Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah for reds, and Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Marsanne for whites, making it one of the three estates owned by the Reynaud family included the famed Rayas, as noted and the exceptional value Château des Tours. Most of the Chateau de Fonsalette’s fame in the USA comes from mainly the 100% Syrah cuvee Cotes du Rhone and this Reserve Rouge, is located near Châteauneuf-du-Pape, near the village of Lagarde-Paréol in the Côtes-du-Rhône appellation, and is a remarkable contrast to the 100% Grenache in the Chateau Rayas, one of the world’s greatest wines. When the legendary founder of Château Rayas, Jacques Reynaud, one of the legends of Chateauneuf, died suddenly in 1997, his wife asked their nephew, Emmanuel Reynaud, who was already making wines at his father’s Château des Tours, based in Vacqueyras, to take on the winemaking at both Château Rayas and Château Fonsalette, and he has made these wines some of the most collectable and sought after in the wine world. In the early 2000s I had the chance to try and drink the many wines from Chateau Rayas and was lucky to sit in with Rayas’ legendary importer, Martine Saunier and taste throughout the range of these fantastic wines, an opportunity that I will certainly cherish, especially now that the prices of Rayas and Fonsalette are way beyond my means these days. Finding some older bottles is one of the wine world treasure hunts that is well worth it, though I certainly highly recommend chasing down the excellent Château des Tours bottlings, the Vacqueyras in particular, but also the regular Rouge, they are absolutely delicious and way over deliver for the price. While people think of Chateau de Fonsalette as the second wine of the iconic Rayas, it is a unique and singular wine in its own right, as this 2004 showed!
($125-250 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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