The Not-So Lesser Wines of Great Winemakers

The world’s best wineries and winemakers often make several different cuvees, and more often than not, produce different wines using different grapes from their top bottlings. Sometimes we are lucky enough that those winemakers also produce wines from the same varietals as their top cuvees, but at a more wallet-friendly price point. There are also some great winemakers who purchase smaller, less revered estates in less prestigious or more challenging regions and manage to produce wines that are beautiful and exciting. I have recently tasted two wines from less iconic properties that are owned by two of the greatest producers in France: Domaine A. & P. de Villaine Cote Chalonnaise La Fortune, owned by Aubert de Villaine of the venerable Domaine de la Romanee-Conti; and Rayas Chateau des Tours Cotes du Rhone from the elite Chateau Rayas of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While these are lesser wines, they were incredibly exciting in their own right, and testaments to the top estates that they are linked with. It was remarkable to taste such complex wines from two regions that are less heralded or appreciated.

2016 Domaine A. & P. de Villaine Cote Chalonnaise Bourgogne Rouge La Fortune In the 1970s Aubert and Pamela de Villaine purchased property in the village of Bouzeron, a place away from the demands of the world icon DRC. The de Villaines produce wines from three appellations within Cote Chalonnaise: Bouzeron for Aligote, Rully for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Mercurey for Pinot Noir. The Domaine is certified organic and also employs biodynamics, with fermentation of the Pinots in wood tanks. The La Fortune parcel has vines of 20-25 years old and is comprised of clay and limestone. This wine is fermented at least 2/3 whole cluster each vintage.

I thought this was really pretty from the start. There was an initial, green and stemmy note I was worried about, but that blew off almost immediately. The nose was full of bright red fruit, with cherry and cranberry notes. Also clear orange rind, cinnamon, paprika and baking spices were present. I also found some flinty, granitic notes at times. This had an excellent palate with great depth and excellent acid. Highly Recommend

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2014 Rayas Chateau des Tours Cotes du Rhone Emmanuel Reynaud was making wines at his family’s property, Chateau des Tours, when his aunt asked that he take up the reigns for his uncle at Chateau Rayas after Jacques’s death in 1997. Chateau des Tours is located in Sarrians, within the Vacqueyras appellation. Chateau des Tours has 40-hectares of vines: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Merlot for the reds; Grenache and Clairette for the whites. Like Rayas, the production here is organic.

This was just beautiful. A light red color in the glass that was virtually clear at the edge of the bowl. A spicy cherry on the nose, with some balsamic and earthy notes, pepper and herbs as well. The palate is full of juicy acid and berries. This wine had beautiful length. Highly Recommend

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