Napa Valley's Wine Vineyard Experience Raymond's Vineyards
The Many Hands of Raymond
There is a long list of vineyards in Napa Valley that leave a lasting memory on those who visit them, but none can boost the sensory experience that Raymond Vineyards exhibits. From the vineyard entrance, the sounds of the chickens and goats used for biodynamic gardening lure guests through the Theater of Nature. Jaws drop as guests walk through the double doors to a dazzling chandelier glimmer from the sunlight. Down the corridor of senses, ones nose can depict the varying fragrances of wine aromas from a line of jeweled goblets. From one of the many tasting experiences, tasting each of the wines leaves the palette eager for more. In whole, when creating a scheduled list of Napa wineries, there’s nothing quite like a stop in at Raymond.
Beyond the Baccarat crystal overhead, there is plenty in the surrounding areas to become entranced with. The many faces of Raymond, including the current and former owner, as well as the winemaker, Stephanie Putnam, welcome guests from their framed portraitures that hang over a plush velvet bench. Susie at the front desk greets each person with a warm smile: “Would we like to do a tasting?” As many in Napa know, there’s only one answer to this courtesy question.
Of the ten experiences at Raymond, the first and oldest is the traditionally furnished main salon. Apart from the other uniquely individual tasting rooms, the main salon is steeped in history and importance. Against the wall is a blown-up vintage group photo of the Beringer crew dating back to the 1930’s, featuring Roy Raymond standing back-center, arm-in-arm with a fellow harvest member. Adjacent to this nostalgic memorabilia is the real centerpiece of the room – a wall of wrists and fingers extended in different directions – which reminds guests that while the history of the vineyard has deep roots, it is the many hands of Raymond that keep it alive and thriving.
The first hand of Raymond is undoubtedly its founder Roy Raymond and his sons, who kept the vineyard in the family after his passing. But perhaps the most well known hand is its new owner Jean-Charles Boisset. A flamboyant Frenchman, or “JCB” as he’s known by his elitist group of collectors and VIP members. JCB has been dubbed as “the James Bond of wine” and “the wine equivalent to Ringling Brothers – an entertainer with flair and flash.” Previously, Raymond Vineyards tasting experience was limited solely to the main tasting salon; the rest of the building was in use as corporate offices. Following JCB’s purchase of the winery in 2009, the establishment was reimagined with up to 10 different tasting experiences available on any given day, including the working cellar full of fermentation tanks, which was transformed into a glitzy, burlesque-meets-ballroom styled tasting room clad with chandeliers and mannequins. As with anything, what falls into JCB’s hands is irrevocably changed.
The next hand – arguably the most important hand – that reaches into the Raymond melting pot is that of the winemaker. Fortunately, Raymond is blessed with three intelligent and gifted winemakers – Stephanie, the head of operations, and assistants, Thane and Kathy. Each contributes something to the Raymond table, adding to the beautifully balanced and unmatched reds and whites that keep guests and members coming back year after year.
The wine tasting associates are the well-manicured hand of Raymond, charged with the responsibility of presenting the elegance, warmth, and intrigue that the winery seeks to embody. Just as each room is designed to draw in guests to enjoy and explore every diverse tasting offered, so do their hosts. Wits sharper than their appearances, their understanding of the valleys’ terroir, the unique personalities of each wine and the history of the wine industry as a whole leaves one in almost as much awe at the knowledge shared as in the wine itself. Each Raymond representative has a hand in the guests leaving with a mental as well as physical buzz after their time at Raymond.
Lastly, the unsung heroes of the wineries are the many, many hands of production and bottling whom labor day-in and day-out to keep the winery operations running with effortless efficiency. They are the men hauling heavy pallets as the sun rises, checking each tank and handling its contents with the utmost care. They are the women with backs bent over the bottling factory line who smile and never forget to say hello as you pass by. These are not the people in the magazine articles, credited on the bottle or discussed in the history, but they are the backbone of the winery and undeniably deserve the admiration of their work as much as any other in the business.
There are many factors that go into creating and nurturing a successful winery: the land and vineyards, the business side, the label, the wine history, the producing of the wine itself. But without one key ingredient, the entire equation collapses. That is the people, and their passion. Without this, the many hands at play, the vineyard has no life. With the many hands to help guide the winery, from a budding establishment into a must-see, there is nothing that the Raymond team can’t accomplish.