Wines of the Week: Les Tours & Flowers

Les Tours 2016 Grenache Blanc Vaucluse 94
Flowers 2021 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast California 92
by Ian D’Agata

Les Tours 2016 Grenache Blanc Vaucluse                    94

Careful: this bottling from Emmanuel Raynaud, the owner of world-famous Château Rayas in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, can go by one of two names: depending on the vintage it’s either ‘Château des Tours Côtes du Rhône Blanc’ or ‘Rayas Les Tours Grenache Blanc IGP Vaucluse’, though on my bottle of the 2016 there was no “Rayas” in sight anywhere on the label. Then again, the three block letters ‘IGP’ were nowhere to be seen either, so you wonder what it is some people writing on wine websites are drinking and smoking first thing in the morning and maybe all day long. For sure, the label of this wine, name of wine excluded, looks the same as that of the outstanding Château des Tours bottlings of Vacqueyras and Côtes du Rhône that Reynaud also produces. In fact, this wine was previously labelled as Côtes-du-Rhône, but in 2015, the AOC Côtes du Rhône re-established its wine production borders; unfortunately (and to be clear, unfortunately not just for Raynaud but for Côtes-du-Rhône too), the Grenache Blanc parcel with which this magnificent wine is made no longer fell within the Appellation’s new boundaries. And so it is that today the wine is a Vaucluse and not a Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc (and no, there is still no ‘IGP’ in bold block letters on the label).

Château des Tours is situated in Vacqueyras and has been owned by the Raynaud family since 1935. It is the family, home, estate of Emmanuel Raynaud, who took over running it from his father Bernard in 1989 (he took on managing Château Rayas, later when his uncle Jacques suddenly passed away in 1997). Organically farmed and horse-plowed, the forty or so hectares of Château des Tours produce majestic, really sumptuous wines that cost a fraction of the price of the Château Rayas red and white wines and deliver amazing bang for your buck. About the only problem you’ll ever have with them is their limited production and how hard it is to find them. The Vacqueyras (80% Grencahe and 20% Syrah), the Côtes du Rhône Red (65% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Cinsault) and the Côtes du Rhône Blanc (100% Grenache Blanc) are essentially benchmarks, or very close to that, of each of the three wine categories just mentioned. In the best wine versions, Grenache Blanc delivers unctuous, rich, mouthcoating white wines and you get all that with the Les Tours 2016 Grenache Blanc Vaucluse.

Bright, intensely golden yellow colour. Aromas and flavours of ripe pear, crab apple, honey, beeswax, aromatic herbs, cumin, tarragon, all complicated by yellow flowers and earth tones. It’s long, delicately aromatic herb-accented bittersweet and earthy finish will make pairings with root vegetables a dream, but classics like thick-flesh fish (cod, salmon, tuna), poultry in mushroom sauces and aged cheeses will also fare marvellously well. The vines were planted in 1978-1980 on very nutrient-poor, sandy soil. Barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts, the wine matures for nine months before being bottled. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Flowers 2021 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast California     92

Over 25 years ago, Joan and Walt Flowers wished to make great wines that could speak of the rugged beauty of the Sonoma Coast. Over the years they have achieved that goal and then some, with hand-harvested grapes, use of indigenous yeasts, and intervening as little as possible during the various winemaking phases. Flowers is located in the Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticulture Area (AVA), located on the far western edge of the Sonoma Coast Appellation. It was established in 2012, and is marked, as are its wines, by elevation and the nearby Pacific Ocean (about four kilometers away), overlooked by estate vineyards Camp Meeting Ridge and Sea View Ridge. The Flowers 2021 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast California is a beauty and a very good example of just how richly satisfying, juicy and fruity, lifted, true-to-type Pinot Noir wines can be made in this specific area of cooler California (and not at all in the mould of far too many “California-styled” jammy behemoths that have given the variety and the wines a very bad name).

Bright dark ruby-purple. Perfumed aromas of violet, blackberry, strawberry, anise and forest floor, with a complicating dusting of sweet spices and minerals. Generous and ample, but with harmonious acidity that nicely frames the juicy black and red fruit and woodsy-spicy flavours. The long luscious finish is broad and light on its feet. Approachable and easy to like, but with very good concentration and complexity, there’s a lot of wine for the money here. Just one taste of this juicy, fruity, floral, will have this Pinot Noir winning over fans everywhere. Drinking window: 2024-2026.



Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata