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An amazing tasting of 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape including Rayas and Bonneau

Due to the generosity of Roland and Andy, I have now tasted two bottles each from the legendary estates of Chateau Rayas and Henri Bonneau.   This double-barreled set of names should give you an indication of the type of wine these guys like to drink.  I first met them several years ago as a guest attendee of a local wine tasting group.  In this group, the host is responsible for selecting and presenting the wines blind as well as cooking dinner.  Both Roland and Andy are in this group for which I recently found myself at Andy’s house facing 11 brown-bagged bottles of wine.


Determining the theme of the tasting is always great fun.  In this case I was completely baffled after the first several wines.  The first wine came across as rather mature whereas others tasted very young.  A number of them were certainly Southern Rhone with Chateauneuf du Pape apparent once or twice.  It was clear to say there was enough diversity to prevent this from being a vertical but the variation in maturity precluded, in my mind, this from being a horizontal.  Needless to say I was surprised to find all of the wines were 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape!  This vintage is renowned for its warmth which produced many larger than life wines.  While many of these wines were very generous, none were overly ripe, raisinated, or simply over the top.  My clear favorites were the 2003 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape and 2003 Henri Bonneau, Marie-Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The Rayas is a real treat with both elegance and breath-taking complexity.  There is nothing un-Rayas about this wine, I even noted “Rayas like” while working through the bagged wines.  The Bonneau is similarly elegant but with more structure and need for age.  It was my second favorite of the night, if only because it is less evolved.  While we had a dude and a few underperforming bottles, as a whole it was it was a great tasting.  For a fruitier, mature wine to drink now I strongly suggest the 2003 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape.

Many thanks to Andy for generously opening up so many awesome wines.  For a general perspective of these wines please see David Bloch’s post So What About Those 2003 Chateauneufs?


2003 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Adventures in Wine.  With a mature color this is also rather mature on the nose.  The wine is lovely in the mouth with black fruit, nice complexity, integrated acidity, and a mineral finish.  Upon revisiting this still shows sweet fruit which is purple in the finish but is it also the most advanced. ****


2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Premier Cru.  Alcohol 14%.  The youthful color matches the purple, grapey aromas on the nose.  In the mouth this is a dense wine with hints of sweet, cherry fruit, and some herbs with a fine, dry dose of tannins.  It has a bitter and puckering finish with a black fruited aftertaste.  ***(*)


2003 Domaine de Vieux-Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The subtle nose makes way to sweeter flavors of blue fruit and garrigue.  The wine builds from a bitter note to one of a beautiful finish with a  sweet, ripe aftertaste and very fine tannins.  ***(*)


2003 Domaine du Pegau, Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14%.  The good nose makes way to a ripe, fruity start.  Though there is dark, red fruit and spices, this does not show the same depth of the other bottles.  It ends with very fine, super strong tannins.  Not as good and must be an underperforming bottle.  Not Rated.


2003 Domaine de la Janasse, Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 15%.    The ripe, blue fruit flavors tasted cool and clean with an attractive garrigue note.  The wine gathers strength and complexity towards the finish with good fruit and a dose of tannins.  Slightly evocative of the sea. ****


2003 Henri Bonneau, Cuvee Marie-Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Alain Junguenet Selection imported by Wines of France.  Alcohol 14%.  The old school aromas are a touch spicy.  In the mouth the are flavors of red fruit and Big Red which expand in the middle, filling the mouth with elegant flavors.  This young wine has good acidity, somewhat dry flavors then fine, ripe tannins.  There is good complexity from the start.  In comparison this shows more structure than the Rayas.  ****(*).


2003 M. Chapoutier, Barbe Rac, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. Alcohol 15.5%.  This is an aromatic wine with plenty of attractive, sweet, ripe fruit flavors in the mouth.  There is a hint of licorice as the finish reveals even more power.  There is a dose of tannins at the end but the fruit easily matches it.  This chewy and sappy wine is forward drinking but lacks the depth of others.  ***(*)


2003 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Cuvee De Felix, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This tastes young with fresh red fruit, a hint of earth, and tons of very fine tannins.  Very nice but also very young. ***(*)


2003 Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Alain Junguenet Selection imported by Wines of France.  The good nose reveals red strawberry aromas.  There is a gentle, ripe strawberry flavored start which is sexy with great quality of fruit.  The wine builds depth with good strength and watering acidity to propel it along.  Fine tannins eventually move in along with a hint of heat. ****


2003 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Martine’s Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose is so different being evocative of cardamom and flowers.  In the mouth this gorgeous, elegant wine is not about power.  It is a touch linear now from youth.  The flavors are driven by almost watering acidity effortlessly bringing up flavors of camphor and complex earth all the way through the aftertaste.  This will age very well.  ****(*)


2003 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The muted nose made way to a puckering wine of simple tight red fruit.  Not right.  Not Rated.

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