Fourth-generation winegrowers, Carlo and Dante Mondavi founded RAEN (Research in Agriculture and
Ecology Naturally) in 2013 with the goal of producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from three distinct
hillside coastal vineyards in West Sonoma County. The pair learned the wine business from grandfather Robert
and father Tim. Tim was a pioneering producer of California Pinot Noir in the early 1970s.
Three Pinot Noir wines are offered from three vineyards (north to south): (1) Fort Ross-Seaview Home Field
Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (going forward known as Sea Field Vineyard) from a site located just north
of Jenner overlooking the Pacific Ocean, (2) Freestone Occidental Bodega Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
and (3) Royal St. Robert Cuvée Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
Fort Ross-Seaview Vineyard is located at 1,025-1,270 feet elevation less than 2 miles from the Pacific
Ocean. The 4.8 acres contains soil that is decomposing iron-rich sandstone of the Franciscan series. Clone
777 is planted here near David Hirsch’s property.
Freestone Occidental Vineyard is the winery’s coolest daytime site. This 1.8-acre vineyard is surrounded by
redwoods and native grasses. It is located just east of Bodega Bay between the small towns of Freestone and
Occidental. This westerly planting is one of the oldest meter-by-meter plantings of Pinot Noir on the Sonoma Coast. Elevation is 750 feet and the soils are Goldridge sandy loam and iron-rich Franciscan. The clones
planted are 667, Calera and Pommard.
Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert (RSR) Vineyard fruit is located near the village of Freestone and Joseph
Phelp’s Freestone project overlooking Bodega Bay and the Sonoma coastline, Summer mornings are
characterized by pacific fog engulfing the vines, receding in the late morning when the vines become drenched
in afternoon sunlight to ripen the fruit. 10 acres of Pinot Noir plantings include Calera, Pommard, “828,” VR1
and 667. The elevation is 659 feet. Soil is Goldridge sandy loam with the upper parcel iron-rich Franciscan. The
Cuvée is a barrel selection bottling.
A Chardonnay is sourced from the Charles Ranch Vineyard located in Fort Ross-Seaview AVA of the West
Sonoma Coast. Very limited production each year. The 2018 vintage is the third release. Charles Ranch was
the second vineyard to be planted in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. George Charles Martinelli planted it at a time
when many people thought that grapes could not ripen out there. The Ag Commission did not want to give
George a permit to plant because they did not believe grapes would grow out there in the cooler weather. He
did it anyway. Budwood planted in 1982 is Wente and 04 on AxR and St. George rootstock in well-drained
Josephine and Goldridge soil.
Both Carlo and Dante are involved in the winemaking (although Dante is listed as the winegrower on the label)
with input from winemaker Kristof Anderson of Scribe. The wines offer whole cluster aesthetic, a minimum of
new oak and very modest alcohol levels.
A 2019 RAEN The Monarch Challenge Rosé is also produced ($28).
The wines are eagerly sought after and highly allocated to a mailing list at www.raenwinery.com. Tasting is by
appointment. Members of the RAEN Society are guaranteed one automated yearly shipment of the limited production
wines (less than 1,000 cases annually). Various allocation levels are offered. Each spring, large
formats are released. For 2018, 60 magnums and 7 double magnums were released. Production is in
Sebastopol. Word on the street is that they are looking to cquire property on the Sonoma Coast to open an intimate tasting room. Follow at www.facebook.com/raenwinery/.
This young winery is offering Pinot Noir par excellence and has me hooked.
2018 RAEN Fort Ross Seaview Sea Field Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $80.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry, boysenberry, subtle oak and salt air draw you in.
The mid weight core of black cherry and blackberry fruits are framed by moderate tannins the most
of the three 2018 RAEN Pinots). There is a slight herbal tone. The dry finish is very long and
dripping with fruit. The wine is most agreeable when tasted two days after opening indicating age
2018 RAEN Freestone Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., $90.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of underbrush, potpourri and floridity present initially with dark
fruits chiming in over time in the glass, culminating in a glorious experience. Well-bred medium
weight flavors of black cherry and blackberry are accented with a subtle dried herb note. A delightful
wine with a rich middle palate, gracious harmony and a creamy mouthfeel. The finish is intensely
fruity and remarkably long like a 3-hour movie you don’t want to end. Simply delicious and still
engaging two days after opening.
2018 RAEN Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., $70. A special bottling dedicated to
Robert Mondavi. A selection of the finest barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose is more
expressive over time in the glass. revealing aromas of dark cherry, burnt tobacco and dried herbs. Soft in the
mouth and relatively light in weight, offering fruit flavors of black cherry and black raspberry with an
underpinning of dried herbs and smoky oak. Very fine-grain tannins make for easy approachability, but the wine
picks up more fruit intensity and finishing length over time.
2018 RAEN Charles Ranch Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
12.5% alc., $65.
Pre-phylloxera hillside Chardonnay plantings less than two miles from the Pacific Ocean.
golden yellow color in the glass. A complex nose displays scents of lemon curd, pineapple, white
flower blossom, warm pastry and a compliment of oak. An expressive core of lemon-lime and
pineapple fruit flavors is nicely paired with spirited acidity that walks the line between a fruity
Chardonnay and a lean, crisp style. The slightest viscosity adds a desirable texture and and the
finish offers a refreshing grip of acidity.