Raymond Burr Vineyards
2003 Cabernet Franc
California: Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)
What we say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes even better than that, as is the case with today’s wine from Raymond Burr Vineyards.
Mission Codename: Days of wine and orchids
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red to Raymond Burr winery to retrieve their well-reputed Cabernet Franc
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Raymond Burr Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2003 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: John Quinones
Agent Red has been moping around Central Command, saddened by the fact that The Wine Spies have not sent him on a recent mission to retrieve a great Cabernet Franc (his favorite varietal). When we got a hot tip that Raymond Burr Vineyards (yes, that Raymond Burr) had an incredible Cab Franc, we sent Agent Red to investigate. Read his tasting notes and mission report below to see if today’s wine stops Reds whining.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Pale strawberry with perfect clarity, a bouncy surface, perfectly concentrated color to the edges and fatly clustered legs that crawl down the glass
Smell – Deeply aromatic and highly perfumed with blackberry, currant, violet and tomato stem with mixed nuts and a lightly tarred bell pepper
Feel – Very round and velvet smooth, the wine hovers over the tongue at first, and then something unique happens; it settles all around the mouth, gripping the tip of the tongue at first, and then the edges and rear and, finally, the inside of the cheeks. This happens with the wine held in your mouth. Once you swallow the wine, you get a whole different experience (see Finish).
Taste – A perfect balance of fruit, vegital and herbal characteristics (sometimes just one dominates the flavor of a Cab Franc), with layers of smoky plum, mushroom, violet, tomato vine, deep currant, blackberry and tar
Finish – This wine transitions from initial taste finish so beautifully. Once swallowed, the flavors of the wine actually deepen in your mouth and they continue to do so for what seems like an endless interval! Eventually, the flavors do tail off, albeit very slowly and very sweetly, leaving behind traces of minerally fruit and a hint of dryness.
Conclusion – I am crazy about Cabernet Franc in general, and so when I taste one of such distinction, I get all giddy. This is a very exciting wine to be sure, but don’t get me wrong; it is not a big and over-the-top killer. It it way classier than that, leaving me with a feeling a reverence for nature, the Cabernet Franc grape and for John Quinones, the masterful winemaker that crafted this unique gem of a wine.
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
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Awards and Accolades:
Silver Medal Winner, L.A. International Wine Competition 2007
About This Wine:
Lightly oaked with Brazil nut, spice and smokey scents, this wine has rich currant and wild blackberry fruit firming up nicely on the finish.
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.
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.”
Varietals: 95% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet sauvignon.
Production: Less than 750 cases.