Saturday, July 23, 2011

California in the Ozarks.

Raimondo Winery may be small, but its Sicilian-come-California vintages are making an impact here in Arkansas.

You’ve heard of many of the bigger wineries in Arkansas. But did you know there’s one in the middle of north central Arkansas? It’s tucked away in Gamaliel at the Blue Lady Resort.

That’s where Margie Roelands is continuing a family tradition. She’s a third generation winemaker, and she’s using her family’s California-grown grapes to create amazing wines in the Ozarks.

Roelands’ grandfather, Marty Raimondo, moved from Palermo, Sicily to California in the sixties. Since he was the person in the family who knew how to make wines, the family immediately gave him those responsibilities, and Marty made his wines from grapes found there in California -- Mission and Zinfandel grapes, the closest he could find to what was used in Sicily. The family wines were marketed under the name “Grandpa and Grandma Raymondo’s Family Wine.”

Roeland’s uncle Tony Raimondo went back to Sicily in the ‘80s, learned the true spelling of the family name and found the family crest -- both of which were introduced in 1988’s crop of wines.

Margie, along with Tony’s daughter Lisa Garcia, started learning the business in the 2000s -- though Margie will tell you wine’s been part of her world her entire life. That being said, she had worked her way up the ranks in the corporate world. Yeah, might seem strange, but Margie was the marketing guru for the Adobe Reader. That’s something else.

She and Lisa took classes at UC-Davis and in Napa Valley, and by 2005 they had both made their first barrels of wine.

So how did Margie end up here in Arkansas? Well, back in 2005 she and her husband Brian came to our state for a vacation on Norfork Lake. They fell in love, and when they discovered Blue Lady Resort was up for sale they jumped for a chance to own their own Arkansas resort… and eventually, wine cellar.

Margie’s still using the family grapes to make her wines. She goes back to California and chooses the specific grapes, then they’re shipped here to be produced and bottled here. 18 wines are on the list right now. They’re all considered California wines, and they all have quite distinctive identities. Margie’s wines are mostly dry or semi-dry; the Moscato Secco is in my opinion a romantically expressive beauty, though I do believe my favorite is the effervescent Grand Cuvee Brut.

She’s been hoping to utilize Arkansas fruit in her wines, and it looks like that will happen this year. It’s a different sort of business model from what you’ll find at the state’s other wineries, but it works for the Roelands.

One more thing Margie has going for her -- and that’s the oils and vinegars her wine cellar also produces. The oils are pressed with a variety of different herbs and spices to create incredibly rich flavors. The balsamic vinegars are similarly spiced but piquant and sharp with their own amazing blend of flavors. Margie offers a wine, oil and vinegar tasting that’s just marvelous, worth the drive to Gamaliel to try them all out.

Raimondo Winery * 149 County Road 820 * Gamaliel, AR * (870) 467-5115 *

1 comment:

  1. It is nice to have another winery in Arkansas.The wine is sound and tasty.
    As an Arkansas grape/wine grower,I am excited that local fruit will be used in production.

    Thomas Post
    Post Vineyards


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