I got connected to Raymond Vineyards through the current owner, Jean Charles Boisset. Actually, it was other way around; I got connected to Jean Charles Boisset through Raymond Vineyards! It had sponsored ‘Lot 29’ at a Sonoma Auction last year. Won by the world’s renowned motivational speaker and author Robert Kiyosaki (of Rich Dad, Poor Dad book fame) and his wife Kim as the winning bid of $ US 130,000 the Award included a trip to Hong Kong and an exclusive dinner with Debra Meiburg MW, the Competition Director of HKIWSC where I had gone for judging. I was invited for this exclusive dinner where Jean Charles presented wines from JCB Collections, several of which are produced at the Raymond Vineyards.
During my recent visit to California, I decided to visit Raymond Vineyards and De Loach. As I reached the winery on the sunny afternoon of December 2 after a beautiful drive through meandering roads, I was not surprised to see a group of around 20 Chinese visitors come out of the winery with smiles of satisfaction on their face as they boarded the all-black deluxe bus of ‘California Wine Tours.’
Located in the center of Napa Valley in Saint Helena, Raymond Vineyards has been a prize possession of the Boisset Family since 2009. It was founded in 1970 by Roy Raymond who had worked in Beringer since 1933 and married into the family in 1936. He worked there till it was sold to Nestle in 1970 and he started Raymond Vineyards. With the first harvest of Raymond released in 1974, it became one of Napa Valley’s pioneers and great estates. Five generations of the Raymond family have created a Napa icon, with a reputation for elegant wines with a beautiful balance, power and complexity.
Raymond with Boisset
It was their first Napa property and second in California (DeLoach was first in 2003). ‘It was doing very well, with most of the production being high end wines from 350 Acres in Napa. It was one winery where we were lucky to purchase since it had several vineyards. The Raymond family (sons and grandsons of Roy, still working with Kirin) wanted to retire from the business. I approached them for 5 years. I felt it had the potential to give even greater wines. So I got a two-woman team of winemakers- Stephanie Putnam and Kathy George to turn it around after I bought it. We created blending rooms, theatres, and a great guest house,’ says Jean-Charles.
Jean Charles considers the period after he bought the winery as the ‘Renaissance of a Napa Icon’. One can see his footprints in all parts and aspects of the winery which has become a ‘dynamic destination dedicated to inspiring its guests’ passion for fine whimsicality, where each in a series of diverse experiences progresses visitors into another world of discovery and exceptional wines.’
While Jean Charles seems to have more emotional connect with his later acquisition of the first premium winery of California-Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, he seems to be very proud of Raymond as it keeps his creative juices flowing-and not only because it was declared the American Winery of the Year 2012 by Wine Enthusiast.
Unlike many wineries where you are shown the cellar and possibly the vineyards and then given a flight of wines to taste, Raymond Vineyards has a lot more to offer that is different and additional-certainly magnetic for non-habitual wine drinkers, making the visit much more enjoyable and memorable. And don’t be surprised if Jean-Charles Boisset makes an appearance during your visit!
Even before you enter the winery, you would be tempted to take the optional tour of the Theatre of Nature- a two acre educational exhibit on Biodynamic farming in the Napa Valley-claimed to be the biggest in the region. It showcases how all the “actors” in the Theatre of Nature play a crucial part in crafting quality wine, from soil to the vineyard and how forces such as the lunar cycle affect the process. Like a performance in a theatre, the Theatre of Nature is divided into five ‘acts’, each devoted to a particular component of nature. You can even feed the friendly goats in one section. A part of this theatre includes an area where dogs are welcome on some particular days. For details visit www.theaterofnature.com
Winemaker for a Day
If you fancy being a winemaker, the Blending Room allows you to be the Winemaker for a Day. Here you can learn the basics of winemaking and the art of blending. You can also make your own red wine from different appellations in Napa. Following the blending session where you are given various base wines you do the blending based on your preferences for different grape varietals. Take home a bottle of your own special blend with your own custom label. You could even order cases of your personally-crafted wine to share with friends and family.
The visit to the Blending Room reminded me of a similar experience I had earlier this year in Haro, the capital of Rioja. Pedro Ballesteros MW had conducted a Master Class in which 7 wine makers from the Station District wineries of Haro had collaborated and different samples were given out from the existing production. Tasters were encouraged to make their own blends. For details, please visit
Pedro-the Pied Piper mesmerizes at Haro Station Wine Experience
Red Room and Salon Tasting
The regular tasting room is quite attractive with the wall behind the bartender adorned with bottles being held by different sculptures of hands in different positions. But Raymond has taken tasting to different levels by having different styled rooms. The visitor can choose from several options. The Red Room is very flamboyant and intimate in appearance. You can start with a sparkling rosé, followed by their best chardonnay and a small production cabernet sauvignon, culminating with the Red Room Red. In another exclusive area called the Red Room Salon Privé one can have an ultimate luxury Raymond experience. The private tasting here offers a flight of their most coveted wines, including the Red Room Red and The Surrealist- the $350 Bordeaux equivalent with a piece of jewellery designed by the versatile Jean-Charles on the bottle, making even the empty bottle a collector’s item that may be used for serving water or decanted wine.
Corridor of Senses
Although many museums have this attraction, a visitor can experience the colour, smell and texture of wine in Raymond Vineyards in this winery. Different colour shades of wine have been displayed on the wall. One can also smell various aromas some of which might be alien to Indian noses otherwise because of the non-availability of the fruit or a very limited consumer base. Through various fabrics on rollers, one can also have a sense of how the texture of a wine is described.
Thanks to Jean Charles’ French thinking, you get to see semi-clad mannequins-mostly of women dancers adorning different parts of the winery, reminding one of Moulin Rouge and breaking the monotony of the tanks and barrels. Multi coloured lights also add to the beauty of the place.
You get a feeling of opulence and aristocracy, at the same time when you visit the Crystal Cellar at Raymond. There are decanters from Baccarat to greet you as are the high ended wines from the estate including District Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, and Generations, their premiere flagship wine.
JCB Lounge at Raymond
For the ultimate experience that also helps you understand the philosophy of the Boisset family, a visit to the JCB Lounge is a must. Each of the 3 major wineries owned by Jean Charles- DeLoach, Raymond and Buena Vista winery has a JCB Lounge (as does Atelier by JCB in Yountville and the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco).
All labels in this collection have a number with a significance that only Jean Charles gladly explains (e.g. JCB French Sparkling N°69 Crémant de Bourgogne - Boisset Collection is named after his year of birth) as he greets me personally during the Private Tasting with Stephanie Putnam and Leigh Ann Reed, Export Manager for JCB.
JCB Collection is like capturing style and holding it in a bottle and entwining heritage and promise, says JC. It’s a new way of thinking about wine, a new way of exploring taste and style, in his parlance. Don’t leave the winery without tasting the Surrealist- a seductive and silky wine with Bordeaux grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot in equal proportion.
Raymond Vineyards has established a stellar reputation for making elegant wines that have a good balance of complexity, finesse and power and is a very dynamic and eminent Napa producer. It also has a sense of history. As Jean-Charles tells me in the Tasting Room, ‘every winery I have been involved in, I am guided by history and the meaning. Raymond has been into wines for 5 generations, even before prohibition-three generations of Beringer and two of Raymond.’
Thanks to JC’s passion it is also considered a sustainable winegrowing leader. You will find something new every time you visit the winery. One of the luxurious winery destinations in Napa, it is a must-visit destination for wine connoisseurs and novices alike.
For the earlier Articles, please visit
De Loach Vineyards: Star Winery in Russian River Valley
Jean-Charles Boisset: The James C Bond ‘69 from Burgundy