Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Namesake Wine

Most of us enjoy our names.  I first tried a number of Raymond Vineyards wines nearly 25 years ago.  They were pleasant and better than commercial, but not by much.  Mind you, I wasn’t earning a lot, so I couldn’t spend a lot, and the wines we tried were modest in their pricing.  I knew there were wines in higher tiers.  Although I was somewhat disappointed, I felt my namesake wines could be better.  Fast-forward a couple of decades plus, and The Aid Man provided me with the chance to try some more Raymond Vineyards wines.  The company has changed in the meantime, and was bought by the Boisset Burgundy-based family empire in 2009.

There’s the base-level ‘R Collection’.  I wonder what ‘R’ stands for?  I think I’d like it.  The wines were quite correct but slightly uninspiring. The 2011 R Collection ‘Lot 3’ California Chardonnay the best with attractive tropical and citrus fruits showing some lusciousness.  Smart for a primarily unoaked example.  The 2011 R Collection ‘Lot 7’ California Field Blend with all-sorts, as these ‘Field Blends’ are was a fruity, plummy, jammy, easy drink.  A soft anytime number.  Better was the 2011 R Collection ‘Lot 3’ California Merlot, elegant and slender, somewhat in the cooler spectrum, but well-balanced, well-made and attractively modern.  The 2010 R Collection ‘Lot 3’ California Cabernet Sauvignon was surprisingly softer, more mellow and less structured, but pleasant.  Is Merlot the better variety over Cabernet Sauvignon? 

I was happier with the ‘Reserve Selection wines.  The 2011 Raymond ‘Reserve Selection’ Napa Chardonnay fuller, riper, with lush citrusy fruit and the contemporary reductive flinty complexities.  Pretty decent wine that put a smile on my face.  Onto the reds, and the 2009 Raymond ‘Reserve Selection’ Napa Cabernet Sauvignon did enough with its mellow ripeness and integrated harmony to make it a pretty pleasant number.  But why is this so forward and accessible?  Much more ageworthy was the 2008 Raymond ‘Reserve Selection’ Napa Merlot.  Concentrated black fruits, plenty of fine, firm structure and a real wallop of spicy new oak.  A modern Napa rendition that will keep a decade.  It confirmed how good Merlot can be.

It took the flagship 2008 Raymond ‘Generations’ Napa Cabernet to restore my belief in what California Cabernet can be like.  Powerful, but refined, complete and harmonious, with exotic oak spicing on superbly ripened fruit.  Waves of flavour.  A bit of a statement in luxury rather than varietal character for sure.  Worth keeping a decade.  I was proud to be a Raymond.         

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