May 042016

Raymond Burr Vineyards

A visit to tasting room at the winery named for the star
of Perry Mason and Ironside, before it shuts its doors

I remember the Perry Mason television series. I was quite young when it originally aired from 1957 to 1965 and it may be reruns I remember. I also remember the Ironside television series which ran from 1967 to 1975. Both shows were favourites of my parents and both starred actor Raymond Burr. On a recent trip to California’s Sonoma County I discovered there was a Raymond Burr winery. I had to visit.

Patio at Raymond Burr Vineyards

Patio at Raymond Burr Vineyards

Raymond Burr was born in British Columbia, Canada, but moved to California with his mother when he was eight years old. He and Robert Benevides met as actors on the Perry Mason series. In addition to working in television together, they cultivated orchids, registering over 250 hybrids named after Raymond’s friends, and bought and managed an island in Fiji where they raised cattle and coconuts. And they started a winery in Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg in Sonoma County.

The first grapes were planted in 1986. The first vintage was produced in 1990 and released in 1995. Burr had planned to name the venture Quinta dos Dois Amigos (Portuguese for The Farm of Two Friends), but after Burr’s death in 1993, Benevides decided to name the winery in memory of Burr.

When I arrived at the tasting room, I was told the red wines were sold out.  A white and a port remained. I didn’t try the white, but I did sample the port. It was smooth and excellent. The man in the tasting room said I should have expected that given Benevides’ Portuguese heritage.

Raymond Burr Vineyards tasting room memorablia

Tasting room contained assorted Raymond Burr memorabilia from his acting career

The reason there were no reds left was because the winery was for sale. Wine-making had ceased. The winery had been on the market for six months. I asked if this was normal and was told it was not. Wineries in the area usually sold within a few weeks. But this was a very small winery. I was told it was becoming more and more difficult to survive as a small winery. It’s possible there were other reasons as well that weren’t mentioned, but I thought of my father who, as a small grain farmer, would have understood the challenges. I also think I heard Perry Mason say, “Your Honor, I object.”

Holding an Emmy at Raymond Burr Vineyards

I get to hold an Emmy (it was heavy!)

If the winery does not sell, the vineyards will continue producing grapes to sell to other wineries. I’m glad I had a chance to visit before the tasting room closed, even if I didn’t get a chance to sample the reds, described as big and full of gusto. When else am I likely to hold an Emmy?

Raymond Burr Vineyards

(Postscript: While looking up information about Raymond Burr for this post, I learned that at various times in his career Burr and his managers offered false bio information to the press, including undocumented marriages and the birth and death of a son, likely to hide his relationship with Benevides.)

  9 Responses to “Raymond Burr Vineyards”

  1. Wow, interesting backstory on Raymond Burr. Had no idea he was Canadian and how sad to have to go to such lengths to hide his relationship.

  2. Wow how interesting! But also sad. I hope it sells so that it can resume full operations. When you think of all it takes to cultivate those vines, and the premise on which it was founded, it’d be nice to find a concern that would be willing to continue the tradition.

    • Jacquie, the vines will continue to be cultivated but what will happen to the wine-making operations is still unknown. It is a little sad.

  3. Such beautiful countryside and like you, I remember watching reruns of “Perry Mason” and especially the theme song. Eventually the right buyer will come along who appreciates the place and it’s peaceful setting. Anita

  4. Hi Donna, I agree with the others it’s sad…sad what they had to go through, sad the little winery is closing. But at the same time, I am so very happy that things have come so far and in 2016 in US they wouldn’t have to go to such lengths to hide their relationship. I hope someone buys the winery and is able to keep it open.

  5. So interesting! Perry Mason was my husband’s grandmother’s favorite show. Glad that times have changed.

Leave a Comment