April 6 - Lunch at Chateau Reignac

by Chuck Hayward

Needless to say, Yves had found new wealth! In 1990 he then purchased Chateau Reignac after sending the famous oenologist Michel Rolland on a mission to find great terroir. Yves, by the way, has also invented a cutting edge new method of barrel fermenting “that facilitates the transfer of grapes into barrel, the running-off process, the collection of the grape-pomace for the wine press before the ageing process, and favors the smooth extraction of tannins through a simple rotation of the barrel.” The only other winery at this time to use this method of barrel fermenting is Harlan Estate!

After a tour of the property and a taste of the ’04 and ’05 Reignac (about 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) as well as their upscale label, Balthus (100% Merlot), we proceeded to lunch. And what a special lunch it was, as Stephanie and her two daughters had prepared a three course lunch of fresh pea soup, beef tenderloin with roasted potatoes and herbs de Provence, followed by fresh strawberries with cream and an almond toffee cookie. Very comforting and delicious food, and a nice contrast from all the other outlandish lunches we had eaten earlier in the week.

To go with lunch, Yves poured five wines. We began with the ’01 Reignac Blanc. This wine is 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon, and 5% Muscadelle from yields of only 21 hectoliters per hectare. It’s a mouthful, with notes of citrus, honey, and white flowers. A bit heavy for my palate, but certainly a terrific wine. The next four wines were reds and all served blind. Yves wanted us to taste them blind and then give him our opinion. I picked wine #1 as my favorite, followed by #3, #2, and then #4. (Wine #1 was an incredible wine; very approachable and a beautiful texture. Layers of fruit and structure while very balanced. Blackberries and cassis). Even Yves tasted blind, although he knew which wines were in the tasting – just not in which order. Most people picked wine #1 as their favorite and then wine #3. Opinion varied on the third choice and seemed split down the middle on wines #2 and #4. As it turned out, wine #1 was the ’03 Chateau Latour, #2 was ’03 Haut Brion, #3 was ’03 Reignac, and #4 was the ’03 Balthus.

First, let me say how surprised I was that these ’03 wines were so soft and approachable (they were decanted 2 hours prior to serving). I knew they were young, but would not have guessed them to be the ’03 vintage. I would go so far as to say that these wines could be drunk within the next year or two, although they will certainly last for some time. By doing this tasting, Yves was trying to make the point that his wines would stand up well, if not better, to wines such as a first growth like Latour and Haut Brion. Without a question, the Reignac was favored over the Haut Brion, but not the Latour. Some people loved the Balthus, whose label was designed by Stephanie, but some thought it was too over the top. When you think about the price point of the Reignac at around $30, there is no question that it is an excellent value and one that our customers should seek out – especially when you consider the expensive and quality driven winemaking process to which Yves adheres. Reignac is made from yields of only 30 hectoliters per hectare and Yves applies bud thinning, double leaf thinning, three bunch thinning, hand picking, and double sorting both before and after de-stemming. Balthus goes through much the same rigorous viticulture except the yields are only a meager 15 hectoliters per hectare. Michel Rolland is the consulting oenologist.