by Fred McMillin
for March 1, 1999


Pick a Fight


Fighting Varietal is a term coined by wine marketing consultant Ed Everett in 1983. It referred to low-priced varietal wines with cork stoppers that contrasted with screw-capped jugs.

...From C.L. Sullivan's new California Wine Companion

Raymond Winery  
In 1982 the Raymond Winery introduced a bargain-priced Chardonnay with a new brand name, Amberhill. The name recognized how the winery's green vines are silhouetted against rolling, amber-colored hillsides.

The Rest of the Story

So Amberhill and the term "fighting varietal" arrived about the same time. and Amberhill Chardonnay won the fight. Not so long ago it took first place in the Beverage Testing Institute competition. Current sales are 70% ahead of the prior year. President Roy Raymond Jr.says the numbers indicate sales will reach the 500,000 case level sooner than expected. Where to get the grapes for this expansion??

Whence the Grapes

The Raymond family knows a thing or two about the wine business. Roy Sr. started it all, going to work for Beringer the year Prohibition ended and the Napa Valley was springing to life. It was 1933. He founded the Raymond Winery in 1974. Sons Roy Jr. And Walter continued the success. Roy Jr.'s son, Craig, now manages the vineyards, and one of them supplies those Chardonnay grapes...300-acres planted in 1990-1991, not in the Napa Valley but in a marine-cooled portion of Monterey...crisp, green-apple flavors.

Today's Wine

1997 Amberhill Chardonnay, California
Produced by the Raymond Winery
Will You Like It?—You'll certainly like the $9 price. and those sales figures indicate you'll also like the flavor...I served it to a party of 25 and it disappeared in a hurry.
Contact—Sandy Timpson at (415) 346-2929


The Raymond Winery was quick to recognize that they would need more Chardonnay vineyards for Craig to manage in the '90s. However, Craig says he wasn't always so fast. As a boy he loved to help in the vineyards, but got some heat from granddad Roy Sr. who said he "wasn't quick enough" at picking. Today, he says his job is to "get top-quality grapes to the winery." Fortunately, he no longer has to pick 'em!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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