Raymond Smith has been a bottler for 20 or more years. I don't care for the label artwork (a feeling that I and a couple others at the table shared with Raymond) but he's doing some interesting blends and trying for a very different kind of Syrah. I appreciate his efforts to do something new.
- 2007 Indigene Cellars Philanthropist- USA, California, Central Coast(8/24/2009)
High pitched berry nose; berry, blackberry palate; medium finish (co-fermented Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot) (90 pts.)
- 2004 Indigene Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon- USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley(8/24/2009)
Nice berry, cassis nose; cassis, berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
- 2006 Indigene Cellars Syrah Parenthesis- USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley(8/24/2009)
Black fruit, berry, white pepper nose; different from your usual Cali Syrah, tart plum, berry palate, with depth, needs to settle out though; medium-plus finish (Estrella River clone) (89 pts.)
- 2008 Indigene Cellars Riesling I=MB- USA, California, Central Coast(8/24/2009)
Ripe peach, stone fruit nose; tasty, ripe stone fruit, mineral palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
| Indigené Cellars & Santa Maria - Wonderful Fruit!|
When we embarked on the WineMatch journey, we knew it would take us places and introduce us to people of which we were previously not "in the know". Raymond Smith of Indigené Cellars in Paso Robles is a perfect example. Indigené means 'native' and the goal here is to maximize the varietal potential by matching it to its most native climate. By any standard, he has succeeded.
Raised as one of eight siblings in Oakland, California, Raymond worked his way through life, from being a journalism major, grocery store manager, and also worked in the local shipyards. One of his earliest winery experiences was one of reaching out to help another. While spending the night at a friend's winery, he was summoned along with others at 4AM. The goal was to help a neighboring winery with a low-lying vineyard avoid a fruit-destroying frost situation. He found it both heartwarming and humbling that they were helping the competition, but realized this is what neighboring wineries do - they help one another.
He started making wines for others at that time, and for 20 years he has been making wine, commercially for the last four of them. He experienced a crush gone bad at a custom crush facility and decide to take the reins to better control his destiny. Another of his strengths is to make difficult fruit shine, as we all know not every vintage blesses us with the best fruit!
Another strong influence was Ken Brown, Pinot Noir master with his winery. Ken taught Raymond about the small lot Pinot specifics including the Martini clone, the fruit, the climate and how to really make the pinots shine brightly using the local fruit from Santa Maria and Sta. Rita Hills AVAs.
Raymond was greatly influenced by a couple of local industry icons. Christian Tietje of Four Vines in Paso Robles taught him the benefit of meticulous attention to detail. He did this not just by talk, but by actions as well. Raymond shared with me a time when he was talking to Christian for an hour and a half while Christian was assembling a well-crafted Caesar salad!
When we started profiling what Raymond Smith had submitted, the fruit blew us away, rating as high as our scale goes on the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine defines the word 'jammy' and the concentration is outstanding. The 2009 I=MB2 Riesling also stands strong with sweetness and acidity in perfect balance, allowing you the opportunity to truly enjoy the great fruit. Raymond sources his fruit from Carmel Valley and Santa Maria, where the colder climates yield greater concentration through slow maturation.
Indigené Cellars typically makes small batches using isolated clones, and Raymond closely monitors these barrels throughout the aging process to ensure the best result possible, given the fruit. Case counts are in the low hundreds, as hand punching and manual leaf and stem removal are part of this most tedious process. He is also a believer in cold fermentation and microoxygenation to maximize the fruit's potential.
The best way to sum up Raymond's method of winemaking is simply to state what he has made clear and obvious to me. "Isolated clones, handled gently and properly managed throughout the process, will yield extreme varietal characteristics".
Should the whole world be so deliberately exacting it would be a much better place!
Talk about taking risks. In your first year of publicly released wines, you take the bold step of entering wines into the San Francisco Chronicle's Wine Competition. For those unaware, this is one of the major wine judging events held each year. The main purpose is to get critical feedback on your wines. A good showing will mean strong sales. A poor showing could be devastating in the marketplace.
Oakland native, fellow Castlemont High School alumni, and owner/winemaker of Indigené Cellars, Raymond Smith took this bold step, entering five wines for judging. He was rewarded with medals for all five wines. That is an incredible accomplishment, and pretty much unheard of for a first year and first time entrant.
The medal winning wines are: the I=mb2 (2008 Riesling), 2006 Parenthesis Syrah, 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 Fourth Quarter Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Pinot Noir. I had the good fortune to meet Raymond and taste these wines at the Family Winemakers tasting event last year. All 5 wines are excellent. I was especially impressed by the 2004 Cabernet.
The good news is, all the wines are available to order from the website at www.indigenecellars.com. The bad news is, you had better move fast. A little thing like a medal from a major wine judging event makes a wine fly of the shelves of wine shops.
Congratulations Raymond! This is defininitely the start of great things to come.