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Raymond Burr Vineyards
The genesis of Raymond Burr Vineyards occurred in the middle of the 1950s when two actors with a shared interest in orchids met and became life-long friends. At first Robert Benevides and Raymond Burr pursued their passion for the cultivation and hybridization of orchids by turning it into a commercial venture—Sea God Nurseries, responsible for more than 2,000 new orchids added to the worldwide catalogue.
In 1976 Robert took Raymond to see a piece of land in the Dry Creek Valley that his father had advised him to buy. The area had long been productive in hops and prunes, but was just starting to be recognized as prime grape-growing soil. Deciding on a new venture in wine, the Benevides/Burr partnership began the long process of converting a hops and prunes hillside into an award-winning vineyard.
The vines were finally planted in 1986 while Raymond went back to work as an actor to keep the funds flowing. By 1990 the vineyard produced its first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc, with a small production of Port as well. After 18 months in French and American oak barrels the wine was bottled in 1992 and released in 1995.
The next chapter in the growth of the Raymond Burr Vineyards occurred in 2006 when Phyllis Zouzounis was hired as winemaker. “Phyllis was very thorough in checking us out,” chuckles Robert. “She walked the vineyard for two weeks, tasting the wines and talking to the crew, before she agreed to the job.”
Evidently her diligence has paid off because Raymond Burr wines have won a number of gold medals and a Sweeps prize at the 2008 San Diego Wine Competition.
Remarkably, these fine wines are still priced where they were a decade ago, which for wine tourers is a fortuitous mystery even Perry Mason couldn’t solve.
This article has been provided compliments of Touring & Tasting magazine.