Raymond Burr Vineyards
2007 Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: The Orchid
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red back to Raymond Burr winery, to retrieve their just-in-time-for-summer, gold medal-winning, 2007 Chardonnay – before it goes on lock-down!
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Raymond Burr Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 Chardonnay
Winemaker: Phyllis Zouzounis
Backgrounder: Named after the late actor, Raymond Burr Vineyards may be best known for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, but their Chardonnay is truly their hidden Summertime gem. The Dry Creek Valley, in Northern Sonoma County, receives more rain and enjoys a longer growing season than neighboring regions. These conditions make for perfect Chardonnay grape growing.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Sparkling and perfectly clear, the wine shows off a vibrant straw-yellow hue, with glinting highlights at the edges of the wine. Swirl the wine as you hold it to the light to see these bright details. When the wine settles, skinny legs run slowly down the glass.
Smell – Ultra-clean and vibrant, with fresh citrus, fresh cut lemon grass, dried acacia, green fig and white peach. As the wine warms, additional aromas of hawthorn, flint and subtle apricot pit emerge.
Feel – Initially tangy and bright on the attack, the wine presents bold flavors and a hint of spice that fill the mouth with a round, then softly drying fullness that gives the wine a very full-bodied feel in the mouth.
Taste – Bold flavors or fresh, sweet citrus, leading with yellow grapefruit, pink grapefruit, pineapple and zest. These are followed by flavors of flint, white spice, orange flower honey, toasty vanilla, soft oak and tart green apple.
Finish – A very long finish with integrated flavors of its fruit, oak and vanilla. Citrus flavors, in particular, take a long time to tail off. As these fade, the soft spice and minerals leave a warm but refreshed feeling in the mouth.
Conclusion – We are big fans of Raymond Burr Vineyards red wines, so we had high expectations from today’s Chardonnay. They were met – and then some. This wine is rafted in a bolder style than many California Chardonnay and, in m opinion, this is a very good thing, as I find many a Cali Card to be flabby and boring. Drink well chilled for best results, but experiment with drinking the wine at different temperatures to experience the full range of flavors that the wine presents. Pair this wine with nearly anything, especially stronger cheeses and fruit, or grilled chicken with lemon and herb rub. If you are looking for a character-driven Summertime wine, this bold Chardonnay gets our sincere recommendation. Decant and allow to warm, just a little, for best results.
Now that we are great friends with the folks at Raymond Burr Vineyards, additional surveillance or infiltration is not necessary. Now that they have been recruited into The Wine Spies Network, we can just return to them to ask for wine.
No new mission report today, so please read below for a recap of our inaugural mission to Raymond Burr Vineyards.
Prior Mission Recap:
Ask anyone to describe Raymond Burr in a single word and, resoundingly, you will likely hear, Classy.
The veteran actor, for whom today’s winery was honorarily named, was also a cultivator of orchids, a war hero, a philanthropist and more. Most of all, he was cherished and loved by his close friends, who say that his warmth, humor and compassion made him a remarkable man.
When I was given the mission – finally – to seek out a new Cabernet Franc, I riffled through my mental Rolodex and recalled hearing great things about a Cab Franc from Raymond Burr Winery. In fact, it was in the most unusual way that I had come to hear of the wine in the first place.
On returning from a mission to Latin America, our flight got in to Miami too late to make our connecting flight back to California. the airline put us up in a swanky hotel and the next morning we found ourselves in a shuttle back to the Airport. I struck up a conversation with a young couple who were also on our inbound flight and, as always, I steered the conversation toward wine. We compared tastes in varietals and found that Cab Franc wines were among our very favorites. We traded recommendations and they assured me that Raymond Burr had a wine that I would be sure to love.
Now that I was finally assigned a Cab Franc mission I knew just where to go, so I called proprietor and long time companion to Mr. Burr, Robert Benevides. I used the direct approach and told him that I was very interested in sampling his wine and, if they passed the test, feature his Cabernet Franc here for our Operatives to enjoy.
I enjoyed this exceptional wine more with each sip. With enough time to stretch out in the air, the wine really opens up and loses the rough edges present on opening. For best results, decant the wine for a few hours – and enjoy at cellar temperature.
Aromas, flavors, acid and mouth-feel are all in harmony here and the finish is really very unique. If you love great Cabernet Franc, look no further Operative, its right here.
Finally, I remember hearing a story about Mr. Burr that sums up his life and his wines: While working with Errol Flynn, Flynn told Mr. Burr that if he died with ten dollars in his pocket he hadn’t done a good job. This inspired Mr. Burr to always share his wealth with all. His legacy lives on in today’s wine from Mr. Burr’s namesake winery.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Raymond Burr Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
GOLD MEDAL – North of the Gate Wine Competition 2009
About This Wine:
“Golden yellow in color. Lemon and citrus in the nose. Crisp, clean mouth feel. Citrus, pear and a hint of green apple flavors with a creamy lingering finish. 100% barrel fermented and 100% malolactic fermentation. Great food wine.” – Winemaker, Phyllis Zouzounis
About The Winery:
Twelve years ago, Raymond Burr and I walked the rolling bench of Dry Creek Valley, the manzanita-covered foot of Bradford Mountain. Our dream took shape with the first plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1986, and now comes to fruition with this brilliantly-complex wine. Only 1,040 cases were produced which have rested for 18 months in oak barrels before being bottled in November of 1992. I release this vintage in tribute to his vision and impeccable taste.
Thus, the back label of the 1990 Raymond Burr Cabernet Sauvignon the premier vintage of this vineyard.
Raymond Burr and Robert Benevides had met, as professional actors, in the middle 1950s on the television program which was to make a legend of Burr, “Perry Mason.” Motivated in the beginning by friendship, the Burr/Benevides relationship was bolstered and advanced by their individual interest in, and knowledge of, the cultivation and hybridization of orchids. In the next several years this shared hobby began to grow until the obvious resolution was to make it a commercial venture. And so, Sea God Nurseries was born, becoming in the 20-odd years of its life an international presence with ranges in Fiji, Hawaii, the Azores Islands and in Southern California. During this period, the partnership was responsible for over 1,500 new orchids added to the world-wide catalogue.
Phyllis Zouzounis – Pioneer woman winemaker, Phyllis Zouzounis came to Raymond Burr Vineyards at the beginning of the 2006 grape harvest. The terraced hillside, along with the soil and temperatures of the Raymond Burr benchland estate enticed Phyllis to this special spot.
Phyllis is not new to the Dry Creek Valley. She began her winemaking career working at Dry Creek Vineyard in 1980. After 15 years of experience there she moved on as winemaker and general manager of another Dry Creek winery just down the road, Mazzocco Vineyards. In 1987 Phyllis and her partner, Jim Penpraze, started their own Dry Creek winery, Deux Amis, making award winning Zinfandels.
Zouzounis believes grapes grown in the Dry Creek Valley can produce high quality wines. The 100% estate grown vineyards at Raymond Burr offer her the challenge to produce great Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and rich, fruity Chardonnay. “Great wine starts in the vineyard with quality grapes. The Raymond Burr vineyard is a good example of this,” she will tell you. “Because it is an estate vineyard winery, this allows Raymond Burr Vineyards to create and preserve the quality in the vineyard first and then follow through to the finished wine.”
Phyllis Zouzounis is a great believer in balance. “My focus is balance. Balance of the vine, balance of the fruit and balance in the wine.”