RAEN winery, Sonoma Coast – a great alternative to Burgundy

One of the greatest things about working with wine is when you suddenly come across hidden gems and wonder why you haven´t found them before!  In one of those special moments a few weeks ago I discovered RAEN winery from Sonoma Coast, USA. Read on to find out more about their beautiful Burgundy style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Welcome to Sonoma Coast

In California, some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines come from the cooler coastal areas which benefit from the cool breezes and morning fogs which are drawn in from the cold coastal waters.  This happens in areas where either the coastal mountains are much lower, or there is a gap in the mountain range where the fogs pushes in and sweeps far into the mainland.  The rather large Sonoma Coast AVA has become home to many ambitious producers seeking cool enough areas to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a Burgundy twist rather than the richer more tropical fruit based examples commonly produced and enjoyed in many other areas. 

Rolling fog and cold air sweeping in over the vineyards. Image copyright cathleen evangelista 

Ref: Image copyright sonomawinegrape.org

RAEN, Sonoma Coast, California

Amongst many of the very good producers located in the Sonoma Coast AVA where cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir rule,  RAEN winery owned by Carlo and Danto Mondavi stands out as one of the excellent producers.  Having tasted the wines (see my wine notes below), I was keen to find out more about the story behind the winery and why their wines tastes so good.

The legacy of Robert Mondavi

Carlo and Dante Mondavi have winemaking in their blood.  As winemakers and farmers, they firmly believe that a great deal of what they have learned, comes from their childhood and young adult lives growing up amongst the vineyards and wineries surrounded by their Grandfather Robert Mondavi and father Tim Mondavi.  Their grandfather Robert Mondavi was legendary in Cailfornia as one of the early pioneers of high quality wine in Napa Valley, and later following a break away from the family business, he found the Robert Mondavi Winery.  In addition their late grandfather who passed away aged 94 in 2008, famously created a joint venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux) to create Opus One winery in Napa, and developed other joint ventures in Europe, South America and Australia. Things changed however in 2004 when Robert Mondavi sold his empire and marked a return to his passion to once again focus on only making high quality wines.

Carlo and Dante Mondavi´s father Tim Mondavi (son of Rober Mondavi) started his career as winemaker in Robert Mondavi winery, and following the sale of Robert Mondavi winer, in 2005 he founded Continuum Estate in Napa Valley with his father Robert and sister Marcia wiht the vision to make one single world-class wine – Continuum, a bordeaux-blend. Continuum continues to grow from strength to strength and is known for its exceptional high quality.

Brothers in vision

Carlo and Dante are the fourth generation of Mondavi winemakers in California.  Following the family tradition established by their grandfather, they continue to focus on quality first.  Inspired by their father Tim, an early pioneer of Californian Pinot Noir, in their eternal pursuit to create wines with elegance and finesse, the brothers established their winery RAEN  in 2013 in the Sonoma Coast AVA.  The letters RAEN mean Research in Agriculture and Enology Naturally and fit perfectly with their vision and ethos about creating the best possible Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 3 single vineyard sites.  The Sonoma Coast sub-AVA Fort Ross Seaview AVA (est. 2012) has long been know for its potential and lies in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Freestone Occidental is an area located a little further south and is known for cool evening and lower daytime highs which allows the fruit to ripen slowly.  In addition Dante and Carlo make wines labelled purely Sonoma Coast AVA

RAEN Fort Ross-Seaview Charles Ranch Chardonnay 2018

Light gold colour.  Aromas of honeysuckle, rich white stone fruits, and citrus fruits. On the palate juicy high acidity, elegant and complex with white peach, tangy nectarine, toast, vanilla, spice and lifted creamy fern notes.  12.5% abv. Feels quite rich and savoury like Meursault in Burgundy, with a long lingering finish. Excellent wine.  Ready to drink now, however the juicy high acidity and very good concentration on the palate suggest this wine will develop and hold another 4 – 8 years. 

Price: 875,00 kr.
VMP: 12234801  Testutvalget
Rating: 94 pts

Vines: 35 yr old Charles Ranch Hillside vineyard with some of the oldest pre-phylloxera plantings in California.  Well drained, rocky clay soils located within the sub AVA Fort Ross-Seaview which is recognised for its unique conditions and particular soil types

RAEN Sonoma Coast Royal Saint Robert Pinot Noir 2018

Pale ruby colour.  Delicate perfumed aromatics with raspberries and spice.  Very fresh and elegant with a lovely touch of sweetness to the very good concentration of violets, cool raspberries, wild strawberries and savoury spice.  Delicate and restrained style – feels very Burgundian cool climate but a little lighter perhaps on the fruit. Very well balanced with 12.7% abv, layers of complexity, wiht delicate ripe fine-grained chalky tannins and a lingering finish. Still feels very young with a long ageing potential.  Will continue to improve over the next 3 – 6 years or more.  Very good example of high quality Sonoma Coast wines.

Price: 819,00 kr.
VMP: 10721401   Bestillingsutvalget
Rating: 93

RAEN Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir 2017

Pale ruby colour. Elegant and pure with violets, wild raspberries and strawberries, moss, cedar and spice. Vibrant acidity and fine elegant structure with very good concentration of red fruits and delicate fine-grained chalky tannins supporting the long lingering finish. 13% abv. Feels still quite young. Very good quality. Can drink now but the very good concentration on the palate, fine acidity and chalky tannins suggest it will continue to develop over the next 5 -8 years

Price: 1100,00 kr. 
VMP: 10721301 Bestillingsutvalget
Rating: 92 pts

Seafield Vineyard (monopole) has ancient marine soils and fractured bedrock. Less than 3 km from the Pacific Ocean lying on an elevated site within the sub AVA Fort Ross-Seaview which is highly regarded for its specific cool climate and particular soils.
Winemaking: 100% whole cluster, native ferment, no fining or filtration. 

RAEN Freestone Occidental Pinot Noir 2018

Pale ruby with deeper core. Perfume, violets, wild strawberries, raspberries, hints of cedar and spice, forest floor, very complex.   On the palate very well balanced with refreshing acidity, 13% abv, very good concentration of elegant and rich red fruits, round fine-grained chalky tannins. It has almost a Volnay plumpness to the fruit but with a slight sweetness on the lingering finish.  Very Burgundian style.  Excellent quality. Ready to drink now but has the potential to age 5 -8 years.  Beautiful wine, would make a great present for a wine lover. 

Price: 1100,00 kr.
VMP: 12385001 Tilleggsutvalget (kan bestilles ved å henvende deg direkte til ditt lokale Vinmonopol, kan ikke bestilles online)
Rating: 93 pts

Bodega Vineyard is the coolest vineyard Raen has and is located between the villages of Freestone and Occidental. It has the oldest meter-by-meter planing of Pinot Noir on the Sonoma Coast
Winemaking: 100% whole-cluster, native ferment, no fining or filtration.

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om Jane Nisbet Huseby
Oslo Wine School eies og drives av Jane Nisbet Huseby.
Jane har jobbet internasjonalt i mange år og har mer enn 15 års erfaring innen vinbransjen. I tillegg har hun jobbet som vindommer i blant annet “The International Wine Challenge” som er den mest rigorøse vinkonkurransen i verden – basert i London, og “The Berlin Trophy” basert i Tyskland.
Hun har Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, og er internasjonalt verifisert WSET-lærer.
For tiden studerer hun målrettet for å oppnå den prestisjetunge tittelen “Master of Wine” som er den mest vanskelige og krevende vintittelen å oppnå i verden. Hittil har hun bestått teoridelen ved første forsøk, mens blindsmakings eksamenene med 36 viner over 3 dager ble utsatt til 2021 på grunn av Covid19. I verden er det i dag kun 409 Masters of Wine i 30 land.

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