Sunday, March 6, 2011

***+ $ Raymond Merlot R Collection, 2005, CA - Wine Review and Rating (BEST VALUE)

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Original Review, January, 2010: The Raymond Merlot R Collection is a newer, value-priced line from the Raymond Estates vineyards and winery. The wine is aged for 12 months in French and American oak, and tips in at 13.8% alcohol. It shows value touches like synthetic cork that don't trouble me.

The selection of wines from across "California" references "Five generations of family winemaking in the Napa Valley" on the front label. So that does trouble me a bit. My first impression was naturally to think the wine represented Napa valley grapes. Nope. Not quite.

In fact, the producer on its own web site indicates that a portion (unspecified) of the grapes DO come from Napa. The balance (also unspecified percentages) come from the Sierra Foothills and San Joaquin Valley. In California, wines can be labeled by varietal name as long as 75% or more of the wine consists of that varietal. In this case, exactly 75% of Raymond Merlot R Collection is merlot; the remaining 25% is cabernet sauvignon. So, once again, the expectations may be slightly different from the reality of what's in the bottle.

The Raymond Estates have had a long quality tradition, so let's hold back on some of our sensitivities and see what is in the glass. Color is medium red, something between classical cabernet sauvignon and a lighter pinot noir. Following a 30 minute decant, aromas are classic, bold and pleasing - toasted, oaky prunes, some black cherry.

On the palate, an initial, full black cherry middle predominates. It is much rounder, bolder and more structured than the lighter color ever would have suggested. It is consistent with the aromas. Following the initial black cherry coating, the Raymond Merlot R Collection resolves into some acid tingles on the side of the mouth. Light tannins carry a sweet finish into a longer ending on the palate. Clean, nicely fading finish.

Three stars on this, with a plus for outstanding power and balance. Awesome value at its price - in fact, with its star rating two points above our quality rating, it meets criteria for a Spirit of Wine "best value".

Looks like I'll need to get over my hang-ups about California versus Napa Valley, 75% versus 100% and so on! In fact, this experience demonstrates that there are excellent values to be obtained in wines from the United States. Even in classical, and regularly maligned, varietals like merlot.

Updated review, one year later, March, 2011:  This is now six years from vintage date.  Color has held consistent.   So has the nose, retaining a deep black cherry component.  A bit of clean laundry  funk has joined in.  On the palate, it is still the black cherry that predominates.  Full, furry, fruit, with solid tannin backup.  The acids have receded.  Still quite nice!  Who keeps a value-priced wine this long?  But this one has served its time well.  Would hold the score consistent at three stars with a plus for potency, still a best value. 

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