One of the Greatest Wines from One of Wine’s Best Kept Secrets (and it’s New Jersey)
Bern’s Steakhouse (Tampa, Fla). Tour d’Argent (Paris, France). Bodega 1860 (Basque, Spain). Graycliff Hotel (Nassau, Bahamas). Now add Restaurant Latour (Hamburg, NJ).
That’s right…one of the greatest wine cellars in the world is less than sixty miles from New York City. Certainly one indicator of the sheer enormity of the cellar is when the Sommelier asks, “Would you be interested in the Red or White book this evening?” Needless to say, each carry the thickness of my Accounting I college text book and kept me busy to point where more than one kick under the table was required to move on.
The purpose of this post, and the many to follow, is just this, Curt, Joe and I wanted to share some great Cellar Tips and Wine Finds on where to eat, what dish to order, what wine to look for, what to pair, how long to decant, what are some great values, and what’s drinking today. There is no more fitting way to begin than including the cellar at Restaurant Latour and the wine of Chateau Rayas.
Cellar Tips and Wine Finds v1
Restaurant Latour and Chateau Rayas 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape
For those unfamiliar with Restaurant Latour, and its great cavern-like cellar, it is located at Grand Cascades Lodge in the Crystal Springs Resort. This is a popular ski and golf destination consisting of various lodges and restaurants. However, with a cellar that consists of 135,000 bottles, more than 9,000 unique labels, and a signature vertical of Chateau Latour dating back to 1863, you might say it is safe to add wine destination to the list of attractions. What I found to be even more exceptional to the size of the cellar was the value and provenance they delivered.
As a wine enthusiast flipping through the pages it is hard not to notice the significance of Chateau Rayas 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape on the list. It is one of those wines you do not find in the US as allocations are minute and demand outweighs supply and to put the value in perspective, it is a wine that could easily command more than two to three times what was listed at Latour! This was not a mistake, value and selection are part of the initial vision in establishing Grand Cascades as a true wine destination, not price gouging. On top of that, I can say with more than a decade in the industry I have rarely come across a bottle with this level of provenance – the wine was simply perfect and is reason for the visit alone.
A Word on Chateau Rayas
Chateau Rayas represents the more Burgundy side to Chateauneuf du Pape (CdP) and is easily one of the most sought after wines in the world. It is a wine from the right vintage that can appreciate like few others. The 2007, which was released just three years ago, has already appreciated more than seventy percent. What makes the wine standout is its finesse and complexity as opposed to the signature dense fruit, low acidity, high alcohol wines that come out of the region. Additionally, Chateau Rayas is a monovarietal based on Grenache as opposed to the thirteen varietals that many CdP producers choose from or include. With age few wines deliver the spectrum of nuances and the 2001 is drinking perfectly now with a one to two hour decant – direct from the cellar which with preparation provides for the perfect serving temperature. The meatiness and smokiness of the wine paired perfectly with the charred Filet, and went on to include nuances of sweet tobacco, saddle leather, minerals, rosemary, prunes, dark berry fruit, and more. This is a wine to seek out and drink over the next eight years.
One additional recommendation is to seek out the more reasonably priced Pignan from Rayas for an introduction what this producer is about and if it is the right selection for you.