David Ramey:
Exceptional Wines from an Exceptional Winemaker

David Ramey photo © Priscilla Upton
photo © Priscilla Upton

David Ramey is that rare individual, a scholar who became a doer. At UC, Davis, he wrote a graduate thesis on the evolution of flavors in wine that is still used today. Afterwards, he worked for the Christian Mouiex family at Chateau Petrus and helped establish their Dominus Estate in California as well as several other well known wineries such as Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek and Rudd Estate. He later founded his own winery and became one of California’s preeminent winemakers. His French and California winemaking education is today revealed in his wines, which show both terroir and the rich, ripe fruit for which California is famous.

Ramey’s Wines

David Ramey produces two types of Chardonnays. One he calls his “Appellation Series”, which are blends of grapes from vineyards of different California AVAs such as Russian River, Carneros, and Sonoma Coast; the other are “Vineyard Designate” wines from some of the top single vineyards in California.. These wines are all superb examples of Chardonnay a la California—ripe, richly flavored with excellent depth and integration of fruit and smoky oak. They have the stuffing to handle fairly high alcohol levels but require pairing with equally rich, flavorful dishes to show to their best advantage. Their similar styles show the hand of a talented winemaker whose influence on the wine is at least as important as the appellation and site-specific terroir from which the grapes were sourced. Since all the wines are treated similarly—native yeasts, whole-cluster pressing, 20 months in French oak (2/3 new), and no filtration---even an experienced taster will find it challenging to identify the often subtle differences in terroir reflected in the wines in the Appellation series.

Ramey also produces world class reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. These wines are all vineyard designated and combine the best of the Old and New World, showing both ripe opulent fruit and a sense of place.

The International Wine Review has previously reviewed Ramey’s 2006 Chardonnays in the Appellation Series and 2005 single vineyard Reds (see Featured Tastings October 2008). Here we report our evaluations of the 2006 single vineyard white and red wines.

Tasting Notes

Ramey 2006 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($70) 91

A beautifully rich and balanced wine that unfolds on the palate after stimulating the senses with a sumptuous nose of bright hazelnut and lemon oil. Shows a beautifully balanced lanolin-smooth palate with tastes of ripe melon, pear, toasted nuts and hints of coconut and nutmeg. Evocative of old vines with gnarly trunks. Beautifully balanced, elegant and refined.

Ramey 2006 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros ($62) 93

Our favorite of the Ramey single vineyard Chardonnays, the 2006 Hyde Vineyard shows beautiful depth and purity of flavor accentuated by lively acidity. Shows a floral bouquet of honeysuckle and lemon zest with a hint of fresh garden herbs. Reveals a marriage of stone fruit and slightly smoky oak on a complex and harmonious palate and finishes with just a touch of sweet marzipan. The evolution of aromas and flavors in the glass only adds to the incredible pleasure of this wine.

Ramey 2006 Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros ($62) 91

An expansive wine with hints of tropical fruit, coconut and caramel. A mélange of ripe fruit, herbs, roasted grain and smoke on the nose introduce a suave, fruit-rich palate with lovely dulce de leche notes on the finish.

Ramey 2006 Larkmead Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($70) 93

A beautiful, aromatic and fleshy Cabernet that is richly flavored and can be drunk now but will improve with more time in bottle. The bouquet is absolutely gorgeous with scents of cassis, blackberry and cedar, and the attack is round and soft with superbly concentrated dark fruit. Finishes quite dry with tannic grip along with persistent fruit and licorice flavors.

Ramey 2006 Annum Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($85) 94

A first growth California Cabernet Sauvignon. Incredible purity of fruit on an expansive ripe palate. Shows a nose of cassis and blackberry with a touch of Asian spice. There’s a sweet, rich attack and a massive, beautifully flavored palate with a hint of fine herbs. Finishes spicy and almost unctuous. We enjoyed short ribs of beef with this delicious wine.

Ramey 2006 Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville ($150) 95

A wine of real finesse that truly belongs among the elite of the elite California Cabernets. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (88%) and Petit Verdot (12%), this dark ruby wine offers exotic aromas of ripe dark red fruit, roasted meat, and California underbrush. The palate shows sweet and delicious cassis and dark berry fruit perfectly integrated with honeyed, toasted oak. This is a truly exceptional wine that can only continue to improve over time.

Ramey 2006 Syrah Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($60) 94

A Syrah that is reminiscent of the Northern Rhone, the deep dark ruby 2006 Rodgers Creek offers pure fruit, complex flavors, and an impressively fat palate. Dark red fruit, spicy herbs, and cola scents serve to introduce a soft, lush palate that’s rich in dark red fruit with roasted meat and black olive notes. Finishes long and flavorful.

Ramey 2006 Syrah Shanel Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($60) 94

A wine that is among the crème de la crème of New World Syrah, the 2006 Shanel Vineyard Syrah offers great purity and density of fruit. Showing concentrated blackberry fruit with notes of violets and smoked meat on the nose, the palate is even more impressive with deliciously pure dark red fruit accented by pepper spice and vanilla oak notes. The challenge will be finding dishes that can hold up to the rich, bold flavors of the wine. We like lamb shanks with this wine.

Don Winkler, Editor - August 2009