The 35th harvest at Raymond Vineyards is going strong in Napa Valley.
Founded in 1971 by father and sons Roy Sr., Roy Jr. and Walter Raymond, the first Raymond harvest took place in 1974.
“We didn’t have a lot of equipment, the crush area was just a barn really, but it was an exciting time for our family,” says Walter Raymond, winemaker since the winery’s inception and now President since the retirement of his older brother, Roy Jr., in 2006. “We planted the vineyards and built the winery ourselves. We really built the business as a family.”
Some of the first varietals planted at the Rutherford estate property were Napa Gamay, Chenin Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, along with Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Over time, it became evident to Walter that Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay were the more dominant varietals for that area of the Napa Valley.
“We started replanting areas of the property in the 1980s. Certain grape varieties didn’t seem to flourish this far north in the valley, and consumer tastes were changing too,” reflects Walter. “Bordeaux varietals, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, thrive in this area.”
“I always remember the early harvests as a time for our family to be at the winery together,” says Krisi Raymond, the winery’s Director of Strategic Planning. “My sister and I were pretty young, so we spent more time in the pool at my grandparents’ house than anything else. We did try to earn a little money by selling Kool-Aid. We would set up our drink stand at the south end of the pool so that everyone could buy a glass when they stopped for a snack or to take a phone call. It was successful for a few vintages.
“Now, harvest is a great chance to really reconnect with the joy of the wine business, the soil and the fruit,” she adds. “It is always exciting and the challenges are varied. It’s a fun way to share experiences with family and to connect with the people at Raymond that make things happen everyday.”
In celebration of this 35th harvest, all Raymond employees are participating in a harvest boot camp.
“We want everyone to get their hands dirty this year,” says Krisi. “It’s not only educational for our employees to learn more about the winemaking process, it’s a way to bond as a team. We are having a lot of fun with the newbie workers. We are making them do everything, from berry sampling in the vineyards and yeasting tanks, to helping in the lab and working on the grape sorting table.”
This milestone harvest has been an interesting one at Raymond. Consistently warm weather in the latter part of August and early September, coupled with zero overnight fog, had the Raymond team scrambling initially.
Harvest officially began at the winery on August 25, and seemed to be going non-stop until the cooling fog and lower temperatures prevailed on September 8. Harvest activity has slowed since, and at the time this story was written, Walter Raymond felt the winery’s estate Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards would be picked in mid-October, with harvest concluding in late October.
“It seems to be a very balanced vintage with great flavors and intensity,” he says. “A new vintage is always exciting.”