Why you should visit Raymond Vineyards

My, how things have changed at Raymond Vineyards! We’d visited Raymond Vineyards in 2007 and in our blog post wrote “nondescript tasting room and nothing memorable about the winery.” Today it is alive with activity for the wine country traveler, with several wine tasting activities and educational experiences to choose from. We had a lively visit to Raymond Vineyards on Tuesday of this past week. Here is what we found and why we think you should visit  Raymond Vineyards.

New owner at Raymond Vineyards – Jean-Charles Boisset

In 2011 Jean-Charles Boisset and Family purchased Raymond Vineyards from a Japanese company. This Japanese company had purchased the winery from the original owners, descendants of the Beringer Family who’d founded the winery in 1971. Jean-Charles Boisset is a dynamic individual who grew up with wine as the center of his life. This was in the Burgundy region of France where his family owns vineyards and wineries. Jean-Charles is affable, flamboyant, and loves to entertain wine country visitors. He also owns the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma and the DeLoach Vineyards near Santa Rosa. He has done a remarkable job transforming each of these three wineries.

Drop-In Wine Tasting at Raymond Vineyards

In the main tasting room we dropped in without an appointment. We were offered two tastings: For $15 per person, it was a wine tasting of entry level wines that are widely distributed. The $25 tasting covers the current release of wines that are sold only at the winery or through the wine club. We chose the $25 tasting that included six wines. The tasting room has a great artistic display on the wall facing visitors. See the photo below. The wines we tasted were very good, but two for us were standouts. The Meritage White Wine is 95% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillion. What makes this wine distinctive is that a portion has been fermented in neutral oak barrels. This gives the wine more depth and a wonderful mouth feel. The 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé had just been released. “Dry and refreshing” is the best way to describe this wine.

The wall in the main tasting room. Impressive!

The wall in the main tasting room. Impressive!

By Appointment tastings at Raymond Vineyards

Nearby the main tasting room are the Cystal Room, The Barrel Room, the Blending Room, the Rutherford Room, the Red Room, and the Library Room. Each of these features a different style or format for tasting. What winery have you been to that offers this many choices for tasting wine? In the blending room the actvitiy is “Winemaker of the Day.” For $100 you can work to create your own blend of wine, using all the same equipment the actual winemaker uses to craft his wine. Once done, you can take home your own bottle of wine. These tastings require an appointment, so book ahead.

The Crystal Room

The Crystal Room

Theater of Nature

The biggest change to the vineyards is the switch to biodynamic farming. Visitors can learn about biodynamic farming and other activities by taking the Theater of Nature trail. We bumped into the head gardener for the nature trail. I asked him about the vegetables growing and why they looked so healthy. “This is biodynamics in action,” he boasted. The veggie garden is used by the head chef for special events and tastings. You can spend an easy 45 minutes strolling this nature trial. It is quite informative, explaining the principles of Biodynamics and vineyard practices.

cow horns

On the trail in the Theater of Nature we see the cow horns for biodynamic tea

In one of the hallways, there is a station for experiencing the common aromas and flavors found in wine. We have seen these before, but not where they have worked as well to deliver authentic aromas to the nose. I wish there were more of these aroma stations, representing more of the common characteristics of wine.

aroma wine stations

Aroma stations for guests to experience common characteristics found in wine

The winery is on Zinfandel Lane and open daily from 10am to 4pm. It is a good idea to peruse the Raymond Vineyard Website and see which tasting experience you prefer. Call ahead for an appointment but, by all means, drop in and take in a few of the wine adventures at Raymond Vineyards.

Eco-Friendly Wine Route

Ten years ago only a handful of wineries in the Napa Valley used any solar power or practiced any sort of eco-friendly farming in their vineyards. Today that has changed dramatically. Many wineries in the Napa Valley can boast that they are eco-friendly in some fashion: certified organic, sustainable, biodynamic, Napa Green or solar powered.

For those wine country travelers who would like to visit some of these wineries, we have designed an Eco-Friendly Wine Route. We are listing five wineries that have extensive eco-friendly practices, in addition to making some very delicious wines and providing visitors with enjoyable experiences in the tasting room.

The Eco-Friendly Wine Route

  • Robert Sinskey – Biodynamic
  • Honig Winery – Sustainable
  • Round Pond Estate – Sustainable
  • Frog’s Leap – Organic, sustainable
  • Casa Nuestra- Organic

This wine route is centered around the Silverado Trail that runs along the eastern side of the Valley. Use the map below as your guide for getting to the wineries that you would like to visit on this trail. Always check the winery’s website for tasting-room hours and for booking tours.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

We begin our wine country getaway at Robert Sinskey Vineyards. The winery is located just north of Oak Knoll Road at 6320 Silverado Trail. It is on the right as you drive north. Robert Sinskey is a certified biodynamic winery and uses solar power. The terrace is a wonderful spot to sip some wine and take a look at the beautiful valley floor. Tasting is $25 per person including the appetizers from the Vineyard Kitchen. Tours are available by appointment. http://www.robertsinskey.com/visit

Honig Winery

“Family owned, sustainably farmed, and solar powered” is the slogan at the Honig Winery. This winery officially had its start in 1984 and is one of the first in the Napa Valley to start a program of sustainable farming. It has been a model for other wineries in California. To visit and hear about sustainable farming, you will need to make an appointment. If the weather is nice, you will sit outside and taste some delicious wines. We are particularly fond of both of the Honig Sauvignon Blanc labels, the Napa Valley and the Rutherford. “Sustainable” is a somewhat vague term, but essentially means that whatever farming is done does not deplete the land. Everything in some form finds it way back to the soil. “Sustainable” also means that the vineyards will keep the staff working long term.

Honig Tasting

Honig Tasting

Round Pond Estate

Round Pond is one of the new kids on the block with a first vintage date of 2002. The MacDonnell family owns the winery, olive oil plant and the vineyards. 95% of the grapes are sold to other wineries with the remainder allocated for the production of Round Pond Wines. “Sustainable” is the operative word at Round Pond, which has one of the most exciting views for a wine tasting. The patio is where you reserve your spot and enjoy a variety of food and wine pairings. The gardens, of course, are organically farmed.
Check the Website for the various tasting options.

The Terrace at Round Pond

The Terrace at Round Pond

Frog’s Leap

Frog’s Leap is another of the pioneering eco-friendly wineries of the Napa Valley. The winery has two different tastings for tourists, plus a fantastic hour-and-a-half tour that we suggest you take. It is very informative. The tour is impressive and demonstrates what each and every winery in the Napa Valley should be doing to preserve the environment. The tours are at 10:30 and 2:30, but you must call ahead to book your tour.

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Casa Nuestra Winery

For our last winery, we head up north almost to Calistoga to the Casa Nuestra Winery. This is another family-owned winery. This is a bit of a change of pace from the other wineries. Casa Nuestra is very small and on the funky side. It is a very fun tasting room to visit. The winery has been committed to organic farming for almost two decades. The winery also uses extensive solar power. The wines at Casa Nuestra are atypical of Napa Valley wines. Here you will find labels like Verdelho, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Tinto and Symphony. During the week you can probably just pop in and be able to taste wine. Weekends are busy, so be sure to call ahead to book an appointment.