Sitting down with one of the true masters of Chardonnay, a few things surprised me. First, I had only met David Ramey briefly at a few wine events over the last decade and had never had the opportunity to taste with him and pick his brain over several hours. Being a clinical psychologist I am always fascinated with people and their personalities. I was not at all surprised that David was so passionate, highly motivated and conscientious. Obviously he would not have a full feature in Wine Spectator, or have his winery named of the top United States wineries by Antonio Galloni, if he did not possess those qualities. However, peeling off those layers, David is a humble family man who is absolutely delightful to get to know and taste with. David has a huge range of interests from his beloved San Francisco Giants to fine dining and Tuscan wines. He is not only highly knowledgeable due to his depth of experience in the wine industry, he is an incredibly kind-hearted man that we can all learn from.
For three hours we tasted through his new lineup, starting with the new Chardonnays including several library wines. I was first introduced to these wines while I was in my doctoral studies, as my father purchased their lineup in 2005. At the time I was developing a soft spot for California Chardonnay, and was already familiar with the wines of Chateau St. Jean, Beringer and Cakebread. When I tasted these Chardonnay, I immediately saw that something was different in them — they were brighter, focused on higher toned minerals and lemon zest. They reminded me more of the wines of Burgundy that I had tried and I immediately fell in love with their completeness. I have had the great opportunity to sample them over the past fifteen years and the wines show a remarkable consistency.
Talking about the new Ramey lineup of wines, you can find that level of consistency across the board. Do not miss out on the 2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Sonoma Coast’ Chardonnay (WWB, 93) which has incredible mouthfeel, brightness and texture. Following up the stunning 2015 bottling (#51 on the 2018 WWB Top 100), the 2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Hyde Vineyard’ Chardonnay (WWB, 95) is Hyde Vineyard at its exotic best with huge range and remarkable tension in the glass. This is a truly special Chardonnay bottling. I’ll admit that I was completely blown away by the 2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Sonoma Coast’ Syrah (WWB, 94) which is the best bottling of its kind since I have tried this wine. The range imparted here is insanely good, as this is a downright steal at a mere $40.00. The best wine I tried during my tasting was the 2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Pedregal Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon (WWB, 96) which shows incredible balance and richness, with gobs of acidity and terroir. This is one for the cellar. Learn more about these beautiful wines at https://www.rameywine.com Here are my reviews of the stunning new lineup by superstar winemaker David Ramey.
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Sonoma Coast’ Chardonnay- The 2016 ‘Sonoma Coast’ Chardonnay was aged twelve months in barrel (15% new) prior to bottling. The wine opens with hints of salted Marcona almond and suggestions of butterscotch and peat moss that all build in the glass. The mouthfeel and freshness of the wine is really gorgeous. Ripe banana and melon tones mingle with cinnamon infused Challah bread on the palate with a touch of salinity. This is just an incredible value Chardonnay by Ramey as I can see this cellaring well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 93
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Russian River Valley’ Chardonnay- The ‘Russian River Valley’ Chardonnay is sourced from a host of great vineyards in the Russian River Valley and is a gorgeous entry level wine by Ramey Wine Cellars. Aged for twelve months in French oak (15%) new prior to bottling, the Chardonnay begins with bright lemon zest with pineapple and shades of clove on the nose. The palate has wonderful balance and weight with ripe pineapple and nutmeg with shades with of toasted brioche all sing together in unison. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Woolsey Road Vineyard’ Chardonnay- The ‘Woolsey Road Vineyard parallels River Road in the Russian River Valley. The wine was aged for twenty months in roughly 25% new French oak prior to bottling. David Ramey planted Hyde-Wente budwood at this three acre vineyard. The wine opens with opulent tropical fruit with lemon zest and shades of clove on this expressive nose. The texture is truly outstanding with bright lemon oil infused sourdough bread and shades of wild mushroom with wet stone that all shine brightly on the palate. Enjoyable in its youth this beautiful wine will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2033- 94
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Westside Farms Vineyard’ Chardonnay- The 2016 ‘Westside Farms Vineyard’ Chardonnay is a sensational new wine by legendary producer David Ramey. On the nose this shows incredible range from vanilla soaked pear to butterscotch and earthy undertones and shades of white truffle shavings that all sing in harmony on the nose. The palate has incredible texture and verve as the wine unveils bright nectarine with roasted pineapple and vanilla creme brûlée flavors that mingle with the minerals and wild mushroom tones. The saline streak and tension in the wine combine to create gobs of mouth-watering acidity. Highly complex and downright delicious, this beautiful wine will cellar well for decades. Drink 2019-2035- 95
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Rochioli Vineyard’ Chardonnay- David Ramey has worked with this site since 2006 which was since bottled in the Russian River Valley bottling. This is now the second year that he has made a ‘Rochioli Vineyard’ Chardonnay and we are all quite glad that he did. This famed vineyard is roughly one mile south of Ramey’s Westside Farms Vineyard as the ‘Rochioli Vineyard’ was planted to largely Dijon clones. The nose is highly perfumed with bananas foster and shades of white truffle with wet stone and ripe pineapple that all mingle aromatically. The palate is highly opulent with cinnamon infused challah bread, lemon zest, ripe banana and pineapple flavors with earthy undertones. The range imparted is spectacular, as is the lovely texture and bright sense of minerality. The earthy tones from the Dijon clones wonderfully round out this scintillating new bottling. While it is beautiful to enjoy now, this outstanding new Chardonnay will cellar well for decades. Drink 2019-2035- 95
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Hyde Vineyard’ Chardonnay- The ‘Hyde Vineyard’ Chardonnay is a spectacular new bottling by the talented David Ramey. The nose is showing gorgeous earthy undertones with shades of white truffle and wet stone that mingle with shades of cinnamon and clove. The texture imparted is soft and enticing, as is the bright sense of minerality. Bright citrus zest mingles with banana, pineapple and shades of sourdough bread with wild mushroom on the palate. This has both the freshness and weight to cellar well for a decade or more — but this is simply magical stuff in its youth. Drink 2019-2035- 95
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Ritchie Vineyard’ Chardonnay- The 2016 ‘Ritchie Vineyard’ Chardonnay is a stunning effort from this exciting vintage in the Russian River Valley. Sourced from vines planted in 1972, the vineyard is located right in the center of the Russian River AVA. the wine shows seductive white tea with clove and Challah bread and vanilla creme brûlée aromas that all shine brightly in the glass. The palate has wonderful texture and richness as this wine effortlessly glides across the mid-palate. The wine shows gorgeous tropical fruit with shades of cinnamon infused sourdough bread and wild mushroom. Drink 2019-2035- 95
2010 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Ritchie Vineyard’ Chardonnay- The 2010 ‘Ritchie Vineyard’s is holding marvelously at nine years of age. Bright tropical fruits mingle with cinnamon, wild mushroom, wet stone and shades of creme brûlée that all shine together on this expressive nose. The palate is plush and soft, delivering a seamless quality as the wine glides effortlessly across the mid-palate. Intense tropical fruit flavors mingle with lemon curd, and French baguette flavors. Delightful now, this will cellar well over the next decade. Drink 2019-2029- 95
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Russian River Valley’ Pinot Noir- The 2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Russian River Valley’ Pinot Noir is sourced from a host of vineyards in this AVA. On the nose this takes on lovely red raspberry cordial with shades of red cherry cola that all mingle together in the glass. The palate has wonderful freshness and intensity with lovely earthy undertones and underbrush that collide together with minerals. Enjoy this beautiful new Pinot Noir over the next decade. Drink 2019-2025- 92
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Sonoma Coast’ Syrah- The 2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Sonoma Coast’ Syrah is a show-stopping effort from this warm vintage in Sonoma. Right out of the gate you are enthralled by the intense bacon fat, green peppercorn and shades of white grapefruit blossom that mingle with the dark and red fruits on this gorgeous nose. The aromatic complexity is stunning. The wine shows great balance and verve, delivering a soft texture. Smoked meats, cigar ash, green peppercorn and black tea mingle with blackberry pie flavors and a bright beam of salinity. The level of complexity created here considering this is Ramey’s entry level Syrah is truly outstanding. Beautiful and intense in its youth, this great new Syrah will have a long life ahead of it. Drink 2019-2029- 94
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Cole Creek Vineyard’ Syrah- The 2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Cole Creek Vineyard’ Syrah is another sensational offering by Ramey Wine Cellars. Showing off its deep hue in the glass, the Syrah begins with an intense bouquet of Hoisin sauce and shades of smoked brisket that connect with suggestions red currant jelly and Chinese black tea that all meld nicely in the glass. Showing good freshness and intensity the wine slowly unveils black cherry cordial with black olive tapenade and shades of clove that all build on the mouth. With a silky texture and a bright sense of minerality, this beautiful wine will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 93
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Rodger’s Creek Vineyard’ Syrah- The 2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Rodger’s Creek Vineyard’ Syrah is a simply marvelous effort from this warm vintage in the Sonoma Coast AVA. Once in the glass the wine slowly builds with saline infused blueberry compote with Asian spices, black tea and bacon fat aromatics that all nicely connect. The wine shows a wonderful combination of freshness and richness, delivering a silky mouthfeel. This has a very Cote Rotie feel with dried herbs and blueberries with smoked pork shoulder and dried herbal undertones. Seductive in its youth this beautiful Syrah will cellar well for another decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 95
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Template’ Red Wine- The 2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Template’ Red Wine is a limited production, Right Bank style (70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) bottling crafted by eminent winemaker David Ramey. The Merlot for the ‘Template’ was sourced from the Paras Vineyard, located in the Mt. Veeder AVA. The nose screams Napa Merlot with its red bell pepper, black tea, anise and shades of red cherry compote that all build in the glass. The freshness and balance is lovely with black tea, exotic spices, blackberry cobbler and shades of white pepper that all mingle nicely on the mouth. Outstanding in its youth, this beautiful wine will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2033- 93
2016 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Claret’ Red Wine- David Ramey has made the ‘Claret’ since 2001 and this one is up there with the best that I have sampled. The wine shows marvelous aromatics from dried herbs to red bell pepper and black tea with blackberry cobbler aromas that all build in the glass. Highly balanced, with good richness and tension, this wine yields ripe blackberry cobbler with shades of black tea and milk chocolate that all build on the mouth. This has both the weight and structure to cellar well over the next decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2017 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Claret’ Red Wine- The 2017 ‘Claret’ was largely sourced from the Napa Valley (40%) and Lake County (31%), with the remainder coming from the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley. The wine begins with black cherry cordial with shades of milk chocolate and ripe strawberry that all mingle on the nose. The palate is dense and rich, showing good minerality. Dense black tea with milk chocolate and blackberry pie flavors all meld together on the palate. Showing great freshness, the wine will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon- The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Ramey Wine Cellars is seriously good wine from this exciting vintage in the Napa Valley and is one of the best entry level Cabernet wines that I have ever sampled from this storied winery. The nose shows really good freshness and balance, with good range from black tea to Asian spices, blackberry jam and shades of red currant. The mouthfeel really entices, as does the freshness, producing mouth-watering acidity. Enjoyable in its youth this beautiful wine will cellar well for the next fifteen years. Drink 2019-2033- 93
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Annum’ Cabernet Sauvignon- The 2015 ‘Annum’ Cabernet Sauvignon is both a seductive and highly balanced bottling from this exciting vintage in the Napa Valley. On the nose there are hedonistic aromas of red bell pepper that mingle with cigar box, dusty terroir, exotic spices and black forest cake that all build in the glass. The freshness and balance is incredible here as the bright minerals collide with black tea, exotic spices, creme de cassis and shades of blackberry cordial with black olive tapenade flavors. I adore the flavor range imparted which deftly connects with the freshness and a beam of salinity that run through the wine. Highly energetic and exotic in its youth this beautiful wine will continue to evolve well for the next two decades. This is simply sensational stuff by superstar winemaker David Ramey. Drink 2019-2040- 95
2015 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Pedregal Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon- This single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from a rocky site in the Oakville AVA, set on iron and clay loam with basalt deposits, and is located across the trail from Rudd Vineyard. The ‘Pedregal Vineyard’ was co-fermented with 15% Petit Verdot and shows enhanced terroir with dusty earth that mingles with suggestions of red bell pepper, black tea, Asian spices, blackberry compote and loads of black licorice. Round and generous on the mouth, this shows off a downright sexy mouthfeel. Once on the attack the wine slowly unveils deep blackberry cordial with blueberry compote, cigar ash and shades of creme de cassis that all mingle on the palate. Simply marvelous in its youth, this beautiful and highly elegant Napa Cabernet Sauvignon will cellar well for two decades. Drink 2020-2040- 96
2008 Ramey Wine Cellars ‘Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon- The 2008 ‘Pedregal Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon is absolutely singing at the eleven year mark. The nose shows really nice herbal character with black tea, dusty terroir and shades of wild blackberry jam that all shine brightly together in the glass. The soft mouthfeel really entices here, as does the bright sense of minerality that makes you think this is a much younger wine. Intense creme de cassis, red bell pepper, anise and shades of sweet pipe tobacco all carry momentum together on the palate. The sense of balance is wonderful. If this was blinded, I would have guessed a 2014. Outstanding now, this has fifteen years or more to go. Drink 2019-2033- 95