Whirling dervish meets Tasmanian Devil, meets beep-beep-The-Road-Runner, meets Jimmy Buffett Parrot Head convention. That's Johnny Marshall, tasting room manager at RayLen Vineyards, who meets my touring party a 11:02 a.m. "This here ... hits you and quits you," he says poring a slash of un-oaked 2009 RayLen Chardonnay. Which is not at all pejorative when experiencing the three very different Chard styles that RayLen crafts. Because many enthusiasts are not overly fond of an oak barrel's lingering, clinging effect, sometimes a grape's one-night-stand is what it is and you just live in the moment. I ask Johnny to run the table on us - all 16 RayLen wines before the clock strikes 12 - and Johnny is game enough, because we - and he - know it's 5 o'clock somewhere. "This here is our white-wine-to-red-wine converter kit," he says, starting the reds with the 2008 RayLen Carolinius, a silky fruit bomb of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot. By the time he gets through the story behind the 2009 RayLen Category 5, conjuring horrific tales of hurricane meets maelstrom, my friends are in love with this red. And these are friends who don't even like red wine. After the high-end, heavy-bodied fare, we wrap with RayLen's Pale Red, a semi-sweet, semi-blush where vitus vinifera meets vitis labrusca. This hook-up is no doubt wildly loveable among the I'll-have-a-little-more-sweet-tea crowd. Johnny Marshall - armed with colorful, wildly descriptive anecdote behind every wine - is juggling my posse and his tall tales and does not, at first, catch my wife's appraisal of the final wine, a licorice-colored, strawberry and cherry cocktail RayLen calls Pale Red. "Like Kool-Aid - with a hard-on," she whispers. I suggest to Johnny Marshall that Raylen fold that into its marketing, maybe some T-shirts, bumper stickers. As colorful as Johnny gets, I see in his eyes this marketing message is not one that will stick.
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