I have no reason for why I picked Raeburn Russian River Chardonnay off the shelf other than I was looking for a Chard I’d never had before. And if I was looking for something new — in name and in flavor — I certainly found it. Bold, rich, unique, and — bonus point — food friendly.
So, there’s a reason I’ve never heard of Raeburn before. The winery was just created two years ago in 2014 by Derek Benham, who’s been working in the wine industry in the Russian River Valley for years previous to this personal endeavor. The winery is his dedication to his mother, Phyllis, and is completely focused on crafting true Sonoma Chardonnay.
The name “Raeburn,” is an Olde English term meaning “the stream where one drinks” — a dedication to the Russian River.
Raeburn is a Certified California Sustainable Winery.
About the Wine: Raeburn Russian River Valley Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, hand-pick harvested from — you guessed it — the Russian River AVA. After gentle pressing, 75% of the juice is fermented in French and Hungarian oak barrels (50% new), completing malolactic fermentation. The wine is then aged for 6 months sur lie.
Flavor Profile: Raeburn Russian River Chardonnay is a soft golden yellow in the glass. The aroma is what caught my attention because I now know what it means when someone says “apple blossoms.” The nose of the wine is simultaneously floral (think delicate Lilies of the Valley) and very subtle fruits (like yellow apple). Swirl the wine around, move your nose up and down, and you’ll get secondary aromas of nuttiness (almonds, maybe cashews) and cream.
The initial taste was quite surprising for me because the first flavor I got was honey. Don’t get me wrong, the wine isn’t sweet by any means, but it was a very distinct honey-essence that claimed my palate with my first sip. And, here’s where that sur lie aging will come into play because it had that background funky flavor that borders on yeasty. This is very subtle and you have to really let the wine sit and settle on the palate to taste it, but it’s there — and if you are sensitive enough to get this, you will totally enjoy it. This is the kind of subtle complexity that one finds in naturally fermented wines.
More obvious flavors will come mid palate and sing of raw nuts (those almonds and cashews),Crème Brûlée, a bit of toasty oak, and yes, a bit of apple.
The Raeburn Chardonnay has a good body to it, very low acidity, and a calm finish that leaves your tongue satiated and your body relaxed. You could easily sip and savor this wine all night long.
Food Pairing: I paired the Raeburn Russian River Valley Chardonnay with a grilled chicken (lightly seasoned) sandwich. I recommend a softer, subtler cheese to help amplify the creaminess of the wine (I used a provolone, but a Swiss could work just as well). Toast a ciabatta bread and see if you can’t pull out some of that yeasty undertone I was talking about. On the side I had a simple salad of greens, onions, dried cranberries, and raw almonds, lightly dressed with a honey-balsamic, which pulled on the sweeter tones of the wine just perfectly.
More Info: Raeburn Winery literally has two wines: the 2013 and the 2014 Chardonnay. So, all I can really say is that I highly recommend the 2014 vintage, which I found at Safeway (Sale Price: $15). And to Derek and his winemaker Joe, my friends, I look forward to tasting more good things from you boys in the future. Let me know if you ever want to sit, sip and interview…Cheers!
For more information about Raeburn Winery, the Chardonnay, and to find local retailers, please visit the Raeburn Winery website.
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