Taste and Talk: High Regards for Raymond Vineyards

Rich and Refined Wines in Napa Valley

Photo from Raymond Vineyards
Raymond Vineyards, located in the Rutherford AVA of Napa Valley, was founded in 1970.  Today, Raymond’s estate includes 300 acres in Rutherford, St. Helena and Jameson Canyon. Raymond Vineyards has deep roots, as it goes back five generations and is the offspring of two wine families (Raymond and Beringer) through marriage.
Photo from Raymond Vineyards

As of 2009, Raymond has been under the Boisset Family Estates and the guidance of Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset.

Jean-Charles Boisset (Photo from Boisset Family Estates)
This month, #WiningHourChat featured organic, biodynamic and sustainably farmed wines and wineries.  It was interesting to explore the differences and nuances between these three types of wine-growing and wine-making styles.*  Raymond Vineyards was a great choice, not just because their wines are delicious, but because Raymond’s Rutherford and St. Helena estate vineyards are certified organic and biodynamic, and 100% of the winery’s power comes from renewable solar energy. So, we were delighted to have them as our guest on #WiningHourChat to talk about the winery, wine-making process, answer questions and discuss latest vintages. We were honored to have several of our “winefriends” on for the chat, along with Raymond. Despite the rain and floods occurring recently in the Napa Valley, the folks at Raymond Vineyards were full of sunshine.  It may have been raining, but they were pouring–wine, that is!
Photo: Raymond Vineyards
#WiningHourChat’s Raymond Vineyards Tasting:

After sharing information on our chat about the location, history and background of the winery, we discussed a few of Raymond Vineyards’ latest vintages. Here are a few highlights from our conversation and tasting:

#WiningHourChat: While we enjoy all of your wines, let’s discuss Raymond Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2014.
Raymond Vineyards: The fruit used in this Chardonnay is sourced from estate vineyards in Jameson Canyon & select Napa Valley growers.  The estate vineyards are planted on rolling hills at the southern end of Napa Valley. With warm days and cool nights we maintained ideal acid levels with optimum, bright fruit.

Photo: Raymond Vineyards

Photo: Raymond Vineyards

Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay bottle

The 2014 vintage of Raymond Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay, comparable to a Burgundy, is made from 100% whole cluster Chardonnay grapes, which were cold fermented in stainless steel. After fermentation, the wine was aged sur lie in 75% French oak (20% new) and 25% stainless steel for 9 months. According Raymond’s master female winemaker, Stephanie Putnam, “the blending of barrel aged and stainless-steel aged juice lends greater complexity and roundness to the final wine while stirring the lees adds creaminess to the wine’s mid-palate.”  With it’s bright gold appearance, we smelled aromas of honeysuckle and stone fruits.  The palate is crisp, with pear, yellow apple, lemon, vanilla and oak. Rich and creamy with 14.5% ABV.  Raymond Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay would pair with fish, creamy soups, pork and other roasted white meats.

#WiningHourChat: Next we tasted the 2014 Raymond Reserve Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was exciting as this is a pre-release. We feel quite privileged!  Now, please share with us-isn’t this a “special” vintage?!
Raymond Vineyards: Yes! This is our 40th-Anniversary vintage to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Raymond’s first vintage.  Notice it has a touch of the Red Room. We created this label in velvet. This is the first we’ve ever done, and it is to symbolize the texture, emotion and feeling of this 40th vintage. Do you like the new label?
#WiningHourChat: Absolutely!  It is smooth like velvet, and truly representative of the taste. Everyone loved this one!  Maggie (@Winegal57) mentioned that she “loved the lable and the soft and velvety touch.  It’s a beautiful wine.” Cara (@CaraMia57) also felt that this was a most “delicious wine.”

Photo: Courtesy of Boisset and Raymond Vineyards

Photo: Courtesy of Boisset and Raymond Vineyards
The 2014 Raymond Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon is a special vintage indeed.  As mentioned, it is decked out in red velvet, as if it just walked out of Raymond’s Red Room. The Red Room is the name of Raymond’s tasting room, which is also lined in red velvet-a must see for anyone visiting Napa. There is also Raymond’s Red Room Salon Privé, for those wanting luxurious private tastings. The Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary Cab is crafted with hand-sorted grapes from the vineyards in Rutherford and St. Helena “to preserve the bright fruit flavors and rich earthy characters of the fruit.”   It is a rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Petit Sirah and Malbec that spent 19 months in French oak (30% new). “The wine was bottled unfiltered, contributing greater texture and presence to the mid palate.”  Raymond’s 2014 Napa Valley Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep, dark ruby and greets with cherry, black plum and rhubarb aromas.  On the palate are evolving flavors of black cherry, black currant and bittersweet cocao. This wine is very smooth, with fine tannins and a persistent finish.  14.5% ABV. Pairing options would be barbeque, steak and other beef dishes…or alone.
Raymond certainly did not hold back for this gorgeous wine’s 40th birthday!
Raymond Vineyard’s Red Room (Tasting Room)

#WiningHourChat: Raymond Vineyards 2014 Sommelier Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty interesting, and we were happy to taste this as well, as it is not in distribution. Please share some background information about this vintage.  What is the idea behind this wine?
Raymond Vineyards: Our Sommelier Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted by a group of influential sommeliers at the finest restaurants. Here’s a great short video about our Somm Selection Wines.
#WiningHourChat: That’s great!  Interesting concept.

Somm Select Video by Raymond Vineyards

Raymond Vineyards 2014 Sommelier Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is a varietal that is crafted by 10 influential sommeliers from some of the top restaurants.  On the back label of the bottle, Raymond provides a tiny handbook, as it were, with detailed information and bios of the 10 sommeliers.  This Somm Select Cab is only available on-premise at Raymond Vineyards.  The grapes for this Somm Selection Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties and consist of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, which are aged for 15-16 months in French Oak.  
Back label on Raymond
Sommelier Selection Cabernet Sauvignon
It was interesting to learn about the thought process in selecting the grapes for this production: Napa, for its fruit and tannins, Sonoma, for its structure, balance and acidity and Lake County, for the flavors it yields.  The winemakers describe it as a “full-bodied elegant wine brimming with blackberry, cherry and cassis flavors.” We experienced a nose of raspberry and plum and a palate of juicy cranberries, black and red currants and cedar. This 15% ABV wine is loaded with fruit and ripe tannins.  It is versatile and would pair with almost anything.  

There is no question that we hold Raymond Vineyards in very high regard, and that they were awarded Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2012 and the Wine and Culture award in 2015. Raymond wines are crafted with care, quality and style.

What is your experience with the rich and refined wines of Raymond Vineyards?

*In order to use the “organic” label, certification by an organization such as California Certified Organic Farmers or CCOF is needed.  Organic farms or wineries would not use any synthetics, or any artificial fungicides, herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.  Grapes are grown organically, without the use of sulfites, even though these are naturally occurring to an extent.  Biodynamic farming refers to self-sustaining, self-sufficient farming methods, or methods that are in-tuned with nature. Characteristics of biodynamic farming include the integration of plants, and livestock into the process, by means of composts, herbs, manure, etc.  Anyone can incorporate biodiversity, but to have the “biodynamic” label, certification by Demeter is necessary.  Lastly, sustainable or sustainably farmed focuses on three things: giving back to the environment, economic profitability and minimal use of synthetic materials.  Sustainable farming methods may include organic and/or biodynamic wine-growing or wine-making techniques.

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Planted, harvested and aged in NY. I have a background in education and marketing, with a love and passion for travel...and all things wine. In addition to writing about wine, I also maintain an online wine boutique (thewininghour.com) that caters to the winelover, as well as the weekly vinous winechat (#WiningHourChat) on Twitter (see page for more info).

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