I had lunch with my wine rep Dennis a short time ago to revisit a great Napa icon, Raymond Vineyards, as well as sample its sister wineries under the Boisset Family Estates, DeLoach Vineyards and Lyeth Estate. The lunch was hosted by Boisset's representative, Dan, at Inovasi Restaurant in Lake Bluff, a favorite for wine lunches. Dan educated us in the ways of Jean-Charles Boisset's core beliefs in Bio-Dynamic Farming for vineyards and the new-world processes of developing a bio-dynamic wine. It was fascinating to hear these practices were taking place: the development of organic and safe ways to control pests without the use of pesticides or herbicides, the homeopathic techniques to create the world's most powerful fertilizers organically, the need for a certain number of insect and animal life on a farm to properly be bio-dynamic... it was intense.
The best part about these wines was the value. For bio-dynamic wines, the quality of these labels is incredible for the value. Most can be found for less than $20 either online or at your local wine retailer. The following format is the order in which we tasted them... and the order of intensity for food pairings. As our lunch evolved from cocktails and appetizers, to a first course, entrée, and finally dessert, these wines complimented the dining experience. Please enjoy...
DeLoach Chardonnay, Sonoma, 2009
The nose is composed of a classic California oak and an added bright acid and citrus with a hint of lemongrass. The palate is surprisingly bright for a value Chardonnay, with a slight oak presence; however, the middle is lacking body. I would more appropriately qualify this as a quaffing wine for a cocktail party. I think the nose promised more than the palate could deliver. Found for $15.95 here, but I also believe it should be carried at wine retailers in your area... I know the Russian River Valley Chardonnay can be found at Binny's locations around Chicago.
L de Lyeth Chardonnay, Sonoma, 2008
The nose is deep with a strong presence of oak. The palate is soft and clean with lavender and light oak hints. It is a very nice wine for the value. $12.99 at Wine.com here.
DeLoach Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2008
The nose is crisp, and has hints of oak and white rose. An oak and butter beginning and middle gives way for a nice smoke and fruit burst in the late middle and finish. Very nice. Found at Binny's here for $22.99.
Raymond Chardonnay, Reserve, Napa, 2009
High acidity and a touch of oak, with ripe white fruit aromas on the nose. The palate was a delight: nice fruit on the front, juicy, ripe, and crisp apple notes with a touch of tropical fruits in the mix, and a clean dry finish. This was a fantastic accompaniment to my Organic Pork Shoulder dish, but I believe it would stand alone for sheer enjoyment. $15.99 at Binny's. [UPDATE and SPOILER: not to spoil a future post, but we visited Raymond while in Napa, and this was one of our favorite Chardonnays. Erica does not like Chard, but she couldn't resist this one... it is excellent!]
Raymond Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Napa, 2009
The nose is beautifully full with bright grapefruit, lemongrass, and gooseberry with a touch of orange zest. The palate is hopping with flavor with wonderful citrus, and a bright, crisp feel. There is a high ratio of acid, but in the end, it balances nicely for an excellent representation of Raymond’s Sauvignon Blanc. $15.99 online at Liquor Outlet Wine Cellars.
DeLoach Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2008
Strong spice, slight cedar, and heavy cherry aromas. An elegant palate of cranberry and cherry rests on the creamy texture; well-natured spice on the finish; great product for the value. One of my favorites for the tasting. $22.99 on Wine.com here.
DeLoach Merlot, Sonoma, 2009
Rich berry, dark fruit, and a classic Merlot scent in the aroma department. With rich dark fruits on the forward, cocoa and sweet cherry middle, and soft oak finish, DeLoach did an impeccable job of disproving Sideways. $8.44 on Discount Wine Buys.
DeLoach Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 2009
Currant and savory herbs on the nose. A palate of pepper, dark stonefruit, toffee, and a long, lush finish accompanies this Cab. $11.99 online from Wine Access.
L de Lyeth Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 2009
Nose of deep fruit and berries, and hints of smoke and alcohol rest on the nose. The palate is full of great fruit notes, including plum and cranberry, and leaves us with an easy tannin finish. $9.99 on Wine.com here.
Lyeth Meritage, Sonoma, 2008
Defintate Merlot on the nose… in fact, Dan asked what we sensed in this glass, and I immediately shouted out Merlot. Very rich fruit, with a soft body “appearance,” if scent can be seen. J On the palate we experienced lush fruits of plum and other stonefruits, and with a clean body throughout, the Meritage was very easy to drink. Lovely. $14.99 at Binny's.
Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa, 2008
Ending a positive tasting on a very positive note, the Raymond flagship has a beautiful nose with blackberry and plum flourishing aromas. I sensed vanilla immediately, and though it was a tad hot, the deep, extravagant dark fruits came through to end doubt if rendered. With a dry cocoa finish, I wondered whether this would do well to lay down for at least a few months, but I decided it would be a great addition to the list as is. Within a few minutes, the flavor profile intensified to assure my reasoning. $26.99 at Binny's.
Overall, an excellent tasting of value wines that any restaurant would be happy to serve... and you will be happy to drink. Be sure to bring this bio-dynamic family of wines to your table or to your cellar! Enjoy!!