reynvaan family vineyards

Monday, September 28, 2009

A year ago, while the Seattle Times was holding the company’s annual board meeting in Walla Walla, I had the pleasure of leading the owners and board members on a tour of a new, unknown winery, Reynvaan Family Cellars. I knew of Reynvaan through a Charles Smith (K Vintners) connection, and the owners were holding an open house, and showing their first, unreleased vintages.

A year later those wines are slated for release, and during a return visit last week I learned the story behind the story. Christophe Baron (Cayuse) is the “secret” consultant for this project, and he’s been guiding the Reynvaans for the past five years, helping them to select a vineyard site in the Rocks, advising on planting (“just like Armada” says Baron) and cultivation, and making their wines (in 2007, 2008, and 2009) at Cayuse.

Baron does no other consulting, though he is often asked, and explains that the impetus behind accepting this project was simply this: “What seduced me,” he said in his still-thickly accented English, “was the idea of this being an estate winery. Not dealing with growers. Planting a vineyard in the right terroir, in the right way. We talked about all those parameters and the Reynvaans agreed to give me carte blanche. I need carte blanche. I’m not going to argue over ‘can we do it cheaper?’ – everything has been done the right way.”

The first vineyard, named In The Rocks, is 15 planted acres, mainly syrah, with a little cabernet, viognier, marsanne and grenache blanc. The first wines come exclusively from this site. Another site, near the family home (and future winery) out on Cottonwood Road in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, was rested for a few years, then planted in 2008 to about 10 acres, again mostly syrah, with a bit of cabernet and viognier. It will have its first harvest in 2010.

Following the Cayuse lead, the Reynvaans offer their wines as futures a year before they are released. So the first release, officially out this coming Cayuse weekend (the first weekend in November) is what was poured last October; this year the wines due for release in 2010 will be poured and again offered as futures.

The 2007 Reynvaan Queen’s Road White ($40) is the most limited of the first wines. Just 60 cases, a blend of two thirds marsanne and one third viognier, whole cluster fermented, gentle press, neutral barrels, no fining, no filtering, and given 18 months of barrel aging. Textural, intensely aromatic, it’s a beguiling display of lemon verbena, peach, caramel and marzipan flavors, luscious and rich.

The 2007 Reynvaan In The Rocks Syrah ($45) carries Cayuse-like aromas of bacon fat, smoke, licorice, iodine and sea spray. Rich, extracted, its berry, plum and currant fruit is matched with significant flavors of earth, forest floor, herb and bark. The tannins are still a little rough and green, but the stuffing and balance are there to age gracefully.

The 2007 Reynvaan The Contender Syrah ($55) was co-fermented with 4 percent marsanne, and profits handsomely from that decision. It has more fruit, less smoke and meat than the companion syrah. Plenty of spice, pepper, a hint of granite, and a restrained herbaceousness make it more accessible, and yet quite ageworthy. A very good wine right out of the bottle, it seemed to fade a bit in the glass. Both of the syrahs, from third leaf fruit, display the winemaking style and character of Christophe Baron, with intense aromas and no shortage of pleasing, earthy funk. But they are sketches of what the Reynvaan wines will become once the vineyards have another 6 to 8 years of growth behind them.

To purchase wines at the listed (pre-sale) prices, or to get on the mailing list for the upcoming open house, visit the website and sign up.

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