Johannisberg Riesling, 1982 Late Harvest. Raymond Vineyard and Cellar| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | April 1984

There is no substitute for experience. The kind of experience that is handed down from generation to generation. It is evident in the Raymond Vineyard and Cellar story. The quality of wines that leave the cellars of this young enterprise shows this experience backlog.

Fifty one years ago, Roy Raymond Sr. went to work for Beringer. He served as winemaker until 1970. His sons, Roy Jr. and Walt, also worked at the winery: Roy as vineyard manager and Walt as assistant winemaker. When, in 1970, the Beringer family was forced to sell the winery, the Raymonds sold their small interest (Roy, Sr.’s wife is the granddaughter of Jacob Beringer, the founder) and pur­chased 90 acres of land south of St. Helena.

In addition to planting a vineyard, the Raymonds decided to start a winery of their own. Since 1974, they have been producing outstanding wines. Roy Jr. continues his vineyard management expertise, while Walt makes the wines. Roy Sr. who is technically retired, still does a little of everything. He is a wonderfully energetic man in his late 60s. He takes great delight in what his boys are doing. When asked how he likes working for his sons, rather than the other way around, a gleam forms in his eyes as he replies, “Oh, yeah. They treat me good.”

At their last trade tasting, I was particularly impressed with their 1982 Johannisberg Riesling Late Harvest. Of all the dessert type wines I had tasted since last years featured dessert wine, this was the best. So here is our annual dessert wine selection for 1984.

The Johannisberg Riesling grape is a versatile one. One of the four traditionally known “noble grapes”, it earns that distinction by having desirable ageing poten­tial. The versatility emanates from its ability to become a good dry wine, as well as a good sweet wine. It is the traditional and premier grape of Germany. We adopted it many years ago, and it has adapted itself well to us. However, here in California, it produces wines sig­nificantly different than its Germanic counterparts. The late harvest examples will usually be botrytised, (infected by the Noble Mold while on the vine, thus con­centrating the juice and imparting a characteristic flavor). A flowery fragrance, with a ripe apricoty sweetness can characterise the wine. I think this Raymond Johan­nisberg Riesling Late Harvest cap­tures the quintessential character of the California grown grape made into wine in the dessert style.

Our wine is deep golden in color. It has a flowery, fresh, young aroma, with a “sweet” honey bouquet. The taste is luscious, sweet, and intense. Shades of apricot. The sweetness is followed by the botrytis flavor, which tends to imitate a dry sensation, and this, moves on to an acid finish that leaves the palate clean and crisp. But the glorious composite lingers on for minutes. An English wine critic says: “These wines serve best with light fingerfoods in the morning elevenses, or with a bit of plain cake or some nuts (unsalted) in the evening elevenses.” I concur wholeheartedly.

Cellaring Notes: Wait till you see what this wine will develop into! Give it 5 to 10 years. Gold nectar of the Gods!

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