Pasadena, CA – The beat goes on at The Raymond 1886 where talent is a carefully curated, ever evolving playlist. There is Executive Chef Tim Guiltinan, whose culinary prowess on traditional American fine dining fare rocks every palate. There is Bar Manager Peter Lloyd Jones, with his 1886 Bar band keeping the cocktails fresh and innovative. There is new Pastry Chef Raymond Morales jamming out the desserts. And now, the latest track to this already platinum team is rabble-rouser wine revolutionist Maxwell Leer, the grand master spinning new hits with The Raymond 1886’s all new Wine Program & List!
With a reputation for shaking things up in the wild world of wine, Leer’s journey began in toxicology in New York City, a fascinating, but financially void career. To supplement income, Leer commuted upstate to pull shifts at an Italian restaurant, where he paid particular attention to the way wine intimidated guests, inspiring questions, but receiving little to no answers. He saw an opportunity to learn. “If I have a question, I am going to go to the end of the world to find an answer,” says Leer, galvanized with a new passion. The “end of the world” turned into a cross-country trek to Portland, before heading south to Los Angeles, joining The Bazaar at SLS, Bestia and later, Hatchett Hall along with his passion project, Wine Raves – setting up environments for wine tasting to remove the pretense. Teepee in an alleyway, glow in the dark wonderlands, nothing was off limits. Leer’s avant-garde approach to wine then led him to The Raymond 1886 this past Spring and has earned him such accolades as being named a Zagat 30 Under 30 in 2013 and Leer was also just named as one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers 2016.
Known for its open mind for creative cuisine and cocktails, wine is the natural progression of The Raymond’s already innovative offerings. Essential to Leer’s Wine Program, is that all of the featured wines are produced by the same hand that grows the grapes. “Grower-Producer wines gets the owner in the field, back to wine making basics,” explains Leer. “The grower-producer can connect with their land, feel its energy and the purity of the process.” To break the shackles of a reputation for intimidation, The Raymond 1886’s Wine List has been modernized, and is uniquely co-authored by the entire Raymond staff with all of wine descriptions “democratically elected by everyone.” Whether a server, front of house or back of house staff member, everyone possessed a voice. “The servers can take pride knowing they helped bring this to life, and they can carry that pride to the table.”
Unquestionably, Leer feels that wine typically relies on an archaic system that, more often than not, alienates the average imbiber. When discussing the issues that plague wine culture, Leer goes directly for the jugular: “Wine has gotten away with peacocking; the number one issue with most wine menus is communicating that wine list to the guests. The answer is to remove the exhaustion from the equation by reinventing the menu and its approach to make it more accessible to the establishment’s clientele.”
Even the ceremony of wine pouring has taken a dramatic shift in the democratic direction. “You should not feel intimidated when someone comes to the table to pour wine,” says Leer, referring to the old guard ways of pomp and ceremony. The new process: The server sets down the stemware, the remnant of tradition for decorum. The server then returns with the selected bottle, removes the foil, shows the bottle to everyone at the table, then announces the largest words on the bottle followed by the vintage before opening the bottle and placing it at the center of the table. This last gesture is in direct opposition of the old ways, which dictated only the person who ordered the wine should have the bottle set before them. Leer elaborates: “The significance of setting the wine at the center is a sign of respect and validation to everyone at the table.”
Incorporating a seasonal menu that uses familiar terms in clever ways, the simple, single page Wine List plays off the vivacity of Guiltinan’s New Summer Menu with wines “devoted to fragrant and flavorful fruit and the pursuit of growth.” The wines are broken down by categories, very loosely inspired by the world of music, for that signature Maxwell Leer whim. All libations have been chosen for their perfect balance to be enjoyed with Guiltinan’s cuisine. A curation of wines listed lightest to fullest, Wines By The Glass represent the best wine of its category, be it the balanced and creamy K. Ruprecht Riesling White ’12 or the elegantly traditional Ch. Blaignan Bordeaux Blend Red ’12.
Wines By The Bottle are sorted in the following categories: Annuals: Live Fast and Die Young, featuring wines engineered to be consumed within a short period of time after production, like the Ehmoser Zweigelt Rose ’15. Next up are Perennials, wines meant to be consumed in a 2-10 year range, such as the Saint Glinglin Sauvignon Blanc White ’13; and Forever Young, comprised of wines aged for a decade and beyond, and unlikely to go bad, “Like an unflappable time capsule,” as Leer eloquently adds. like the Beronia Tempranillo Blend Red ’80. Lastly, Tiny Treasures are for parties looking to split that perfectly sized bottle for two, while die-hard oenophiles seeking what Leer calls “the unicorns of wine,” one can inquire about the Private Cellar Collection. Guests who wish to enjoy their favorite vintage can BYOB for a modest corkage fee of $15.00 per 750ml bottle.
A small but helpful legend at the bottom of the list decrypts the two symbols used to denote particular selections. A music symbol signifies a particularly special wine, requiring an open and curious mind. Leer explains these as “New-Age punk rock wines amidst classics, for people seeking new experiences.” A stacked double “W” implies “white wines that are juicy, rich and illuminating.”
For all of his irreverence, Leer is fully aware of the uphill battle he faces in breaking down the old guard wine culture. “At the end of the day,” Leer concedes, “It would be impossible to do this work without the trust, open mind and support from restaurants like The Raymond.” Pop into The Raymond 1886 today and raise a glass to a brave new world of wine!
The Raymond 1886 is open for Lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, for Dinner every Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 10:00 pm and for Brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm. 1886 Bar is open every Tuesday through Thursday, and on Sunday, from 4:00 pm to 12:00 Midnight, and 4:00 pm to 2:00 am every Friday and Saturday. 1886 Happy Hour is every Tuesday through Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. For more information or reservations, please visit www.theraymond.com or call The Raymond 1886 directly at 626.441.3136.