Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed drinking wine. Something changed about a year ago when I started writing this column. No longer would I simply grab a bottle of wine and drink it - I wanted something more. Now, there are two things I look for when I am going to review a wine: First, a story. There has to be something that I find intriguing about the winery. And second, great wine at a reasonable price.
This week, I was digging around looking for a great story. I wanted something with a bit of history and strong family heritage. To that end, I came across Raymond Vineyards. Its roots in the wine business trace back more than 130 years- which is a feat in and of itself when you consider most wineries were forced to close during prohibition. Raymond was able to survive by producing religious wine ensuring the continuity of the winery.
During those years, the heritage stems from the Beringer name as one of the Beringer daughters married a Raymond son. It continued under Beringer until 1971, when the Beringer winery was sold. At that point, the Raymonds decided to open a winery bearing their name and continue with the tradition of family winemaking. Today, they are the fifth generation producing very balanced and flavorful wine.
When it came to the tasting, I decided I wanted to find a red wine that would pair well with salmon. A logical match was the 2005 Raymond Vineyards Merlot ($24). Colorwise, it is a perfectly clear, medium deep ruby red. Although the wine is still relatively young, it is very aromatic with lots of oak, cherry and vanilla scents. Most importantly, the taste. It is a somewhat dry, medium-bodied wine that has enough tannins to give it a chewy taste. It comes across as being acidic at first and then opens to become a very balanced and complex wine with a consistent finish.
All in all, the Raymond Merlot is a very nice wine that pairs very well with heavier fish or most meats. It will age well over the next three to five years but is certainly complex enough to drink right away. This family has a strong heritage in the wine industry and it was demonstrated well in this bottle of wine. I would rank this wine at the higher end of an everyday wine, but it is worth every penny. Drink up and enjoy.
On a separate note, I was searching for something fun and close by to take some out-of-town guests when I came across the "Family Winemakers of California Tasting." There will be more than 350 family-owned wineries pouring wine in San Francisco on Aug. 23. It should be quite an experience and make for a great Sunday afternoon; take a look at www.familywinemakers.org for more details.
Until next time, Cheers!
Don Colman, the Everyday Wine Guy lives in Danville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org