Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. H No. 33

Raymond Update

by Jerry D. Mead

The Raymond family's roots run deep in Napa Valley soil. They've been growing there since the 1870s. Direct descendants (on their mother's side) of the Beringers, Walt and Roy Raymond, Jr. are carrying on a grapregrowing and winemaking tradition that few can equal and none can surpass.

Roy Raymond, Sr. came to Napa Valley in 1933, right at the Repeal of Prohibition. Starting to work in the cellars of what was then known as Beringer Brothers Winery, he soon met and married one Martha Jane Beringer and started having babies and making more wine history.

When the family sold Beringer to Nestle in 1970, Raymond and his two sons invested their share in Raymond Vineyards & Winery and released their first wines in 1974.

Even though the winery was sold to a Japanese firm a few years back, it is still operated and managed by the Raymond family, with Roy, Jr.'s son Craig joining the team and making the fifth generation of Beringers and Raymonds to grow and make wine on Napa Valley soil.

Raymond 1995 "Napa" Sauvignon Blanc ($10) Enough pleasant herbaceousness and friendly grapefruit aromas and flavors to know for sure it's Sauvignon Blanc, but with lush oak vanillin and super balance. Drink it at cocktail time or match it with swordfish or halibut, or even Dover sole. Rating: 89/89

Raymond 1994 "Amberhill" Chardonnay ($10) "Amberhill" is Raymond's label that includes grapes from other regions or other growers, and that are always exceptional values. This one's a "Best Buy." Tropical and citrus flavors with come pleasant earthy-mineral undertones. Subtle use of oak; lovely balance. Rating: 86/90

Raymond 1994 "Napa Reserve" Chardonnay ($14) You're going to have to get used to looking for the flashy new white and gold foil label, which won't be jumps off the shelf at you. A leaner and meaner Chardonnay, barrel-fermented and with more noticeable oak aromas and flavors. Ripe tropical flavors are balanced with crisp acidity. Rating: 90/88

Raymond 1994 "Private Reserve" Chardonnay ($20) I know it's confusing to have to Reserve Chardonnays, but just remember this one is "Private." All the bells and whistles you expect in a "Reserve." Very rich, ripe and luscious. Tropical flavors, including candied pineapple (without being sweet) and loads of vanilla. Roasty-toasty after flavors. Rating: 94/84

Raymond 1993 "Napa" Pinot Noir ($17) Cool climate fruit from the southern end of the valley, yields raspberry and rose perfume and fruit, damp leaves and leather and a distinctly Burgundian aftertaste. Rating: 88/83

Raymond 1993 "Amberhill" Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) Predominantly Napa fruit, with some small quantities of Cabernet Franc and Merlot in the blend. Earthy blackberry fruit, a quality not unlike "Rutherford dust," and a firm spine. Very serious, cellar-worthy wine for the price. Rating: 88/92


Raymond 1993 "Napa Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) Big, bold, intense, black cherry and cassis aromas and flavors. Supple but very firm tannins. Delicious now and with very long, nicely oaked flavors, and should improve for ten years or more. Buy several bottles to lay away for special occasions. Rating: 94/90

Raymond 1992 "Private Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.50) The biggest Cab of them all. Really ripe , intense, almost concentrated, cassis and blackberry flavors. Bold but not offensive tannins. Definitely wants to be cellared. Rating: 96/88

Raymond 1993 "Napa" Merlot ($18) Blended to 9 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this is much bigger than your average Merlot. If you're looking for one of those early drinking, fruity's not this one. Very intense black cherry flavors with earthy complexity. Think of it as Pomerol rather than St. Emilion. Rating: 94/86

Raymond wines have broad national distribution, but are more likely to be found in specialty shops and restaurants than in supermarkets. If you have any trouble finding a particular wine, contact the winery directly for nearest retail outlet: Raymond Vineyard, 849 Zinfandel Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574 (800) 525-2659.


You may have read about the disastrous wine country fire that burned major acreage in Napa and Sonoma counties. As usual, the media made it sound like it was worse than it really was. I had friends in various parts of the country thinking that the 1996 harvest was ruined because of the fire, when in truth only one vintner, Carmenet Vineyards, suffered serious damage.

Carmenet did suffer a great loss, some 160 tons of grapes we're told, a serious blow to a small estate winery.

Now comes word that Joel Peterson, the president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers, an area trade association, came up with the idea of an old-fashioned "barn raising" to help his burned-out neighbor. Actually Peterson's idea was for fellow vintners to donate a few tons of grapes each to make up Carmenet's loss.

When I talked to Peterson the project was just under way and he wasn't sure that all of the loss could be replaced, but he felt they would come close. "I've only had time to talk to a few of our members," he said, "but so far everyone thinks it's a great idea. We've already signed up Benziger, Kunde, Gundlach-Bundschu, Sangiacomo, and of course our own property, Ravenswood."

If this sounds surprising, it really isn't that unusual for the wine industry. I've been covering it for three decades and have often seen the toughest of competitors loan each other manpower and equipment when needed. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if some growers outside the area didn't chip in with a few grapes.

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value. For a reprint explaining the scoring system in depth and a pocket scoring guide, send $1 to: Mead's 100 Points, P.O. Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702-1598.


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Latest Update: September 20, 1996