A tasting and visit with David Ramey of Ramey Wines


By: Carl Tiedemann

Carl Tiedemann/Tiedemann On Wines

On recent Napa Valley trip, I had the privilege of sitting down for a conversation and wine tasting with David Ramey of Ramey Wines.

I believe it is a recognized fact that David Ramey is a member of an impressive and elite group of California winemakers. One only has to do a small amount of research or spend a few minutes talking with David to learn that he has had, and will continue to have, a huge impact on the world of wine making.

To gain a better understanding of David’s history in wine making and the founding of Ramey Wines with his wife Carla in 1996, take a couple of minutes and watch David’s video highlighting his wine making history:

I am grateful that David took time from his busy schedule to meet with me. We spent about an hour and a half discussing his time in the wine industry, our families, and their involvement in our businesses and succession planning. We touched on the topics of social media, videos and brand exposure. We also spoke of how difficult and competitive the wine business is and the need to be profitable. Thanks for the reminder, David!

Naturally, we spoke of the Ramey Wines operation and the wines it produces. Ramey Wines produces 40,000 cases of wine annually. They are represented in 50 states and 20 foreign countries.

Ramey Wines is located in Healdsburg, Calif., which is located about an hour and 15 minutes north of Napa. As fits the character and demeanor of David Ramey, Ramey Wines is housed in a rather nondescript facility in Healdsburg. The winery is impressive and the second floor tasting room that overlooks the large winery area is an ideal venue for tasting wines.

David’s staff had prepared a tasting of eight of Ramey Wines’ current releases: four chardonnays and four reds.

The White Wines

Two of the whites we tasted that day were appellation chardonnays (meaning they’re made with grapes form multiple vineyards) while the other two were single-vineyard chardonnays.

2012 Ramey Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
This wine uses a blend of Chardonnay grapes from four different vineyards located in the Sonoma Coast area. The predominate vineyard is the (70 percent) Martinelli Charles Ranch Vineyard. The wine is 100 percent Chardonnay and there were 7,750 cases produced. Prior to bottling, the wine was aged in oak barrels for 12 months.

In the glass, the color of the wine is a dull, light straw yellow. On the nose, the wine has a touch of oak with hints of fruit such as melon and apple. On the palate, the wine is crisp and tastes of fruit and a little honey. The wine’s finish features some acidity, a touch of spice from the oak and it has a nice length with a pleasant aftertaste. The mouth feel is lean and crispy.

This wine generally scores in the low 90s out of 100. The price from the winery is $40 per bottle, while nationally merchants price the wine from $30 to $40 per bottle.

2012 Ramey Russian River Valley Chardonnay
This too is a blend of Chardonnay grapes from various vineyards. It is 100 percent Chardonnay and 13,980 cases were produced. As with the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the Russian River spent 12 months in oak barrels.

The color of the wine in the glass is a light gold. The nose of the wine again offers hints of fruit such as peach, pear and hints of smoke. On the palate, the wine is rich and broad across the tongue…a bit fuller than the Sonoma Coast. The finish is strong and of ample length. The mouth feel is richer and ripe.

This wine also scores in the low 90s. The wine is priced at $40 from the winery while national merchants are pricing it at $30 to $40 per bottle.

2012 Ramey Platt Vineyard Chardonnay
This is a single vineyard wine with all the grapes coming from the Sonoma Coast Platt Vineyard. It is also 100 percent Chardonnay with 1,265 cases being produced. This wine was aged for 18 months in oak barrels prior to bottling.

The color of the wine is a pale gold color. The nose produces very pretty fruit aromas of apples and lemons. On the palate it is of medium body with plenty of acidity, very well balanced and smooth across the tongue with hanging fruit flavors. The finish is a long, superb finish. Of the four chardonnays we tasted, this was my favorite — a really nice, expressive wine.

This one scores higher than the two previous wines with scores in the mid 90s — Wine Enthusiast scored it at 95 of 100. The wine is priced at $65 per bottle at the winery. Nationally, the wine sells from $55 to $67 per 750 ml bottle. I recommend you try this wine when you get the opportunity.

2012 Ramey Hyde Vineyard – Napa – Carneros Chardonnay
This is the second single vineyard Chardonnay we tasted, with all the grapes coming from the Hyde Vineyard in the Carneros appellation on the Napa side. This too is 100 percent Chardonnay with 1,212 cases being produced. It also aged for 18 months in oak barrels.

The color of the wine is a muted, light straw. On the nose there are again notes of hanging fruit with a bit of freshness. On the palate the wine reveals hints of pineapple, orange and melon. The finish is long and balanced with good acidity. Mouth feel is rich and full bodied.

This wine scores in the 93 range. The price at the winery is $65 per 750 ml bottle. Nationally, merchants are selling the wine at $57 to $67 per bottle.

David Ramey is recognized as an outstanding producer of chardonnays, and after tasting them for myself, it is easy to see how he has gained that reputation.

The Red Wines

As we did with the chardonnays, we tasted four red wines. The wines were of 2012 and 2013 vintages. We tasted a syrah, a claret and two cabernet sauvignons.

2012 Ramey Cole Creek Vineyard Syrah
This is a blended Syrah made up of 94 percent Syrah and 6 percent Viognier. Both grapes came from a single vineyard, Cole Creek in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. There were 88 cases produced and the wine was aged in oak barrels for 19 months prior to bottling.

The color of the wine is a deep ruby red…quite rich looking. On the nose there are aromas of black fruit with a hint of leather. On the palate the wine is balanced and provides tastes of wild berries and perhaps a touch of black pepper. It is a full-bodied wine with great texture and mouth feel. The finish features restricted tannins and is of a nice length with a pleasant aftertaste. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate scored the wine at 95 of 100.

The wine is sold out at the winery and I couldn’t find any available online. The 2013 vintage is yet to be released.

If you would like to try any of this delicious wine, I suggest you join the Ramey Cellars mailing list and keep a close eye on the website for news of future releases. You’ll need to keep your credit card handy, as this wine will sell out quickly when released. The cost, although not listed on the website any longer, is above $100 per bottle.

2013 Ramey Claret – Napa Valley
This Ramey claret is a blend of six different varietals and is referred to as a “Bordeaux” style wine. The varietal composition is 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 34 percent Merlot, 40 percent Malbec, 3 percent Syrah, 2 percent Cabernet Franc and 2 percent Petit Verdot. The grapes came from multiple vineyards throughout Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast. There were 4,400 cases produced and the wine was aged in oak barrels for 12 months.

The color of the wine is a dark, purplish red. On the nose there are definitely aromas of red cherries and other red hanging fruit, and it has a very nice nose. On the palate the red fruit comes out with hints of licorice and perhaps fresh herbs. The wine flows nicely across the tongue and is rich, all with opulent textures, full-bodied with a nice finish of good length. This is a very nice, pleasant wine to drink anytime.

The wine hasn’t scored all that well considering how good it appears to be — scores run in the upper 80s. The wine sells at $40 per bottle from the winery. Nationally, the wine sells from $36 to $40 per 750 ml bottle.

2012 Ramey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a blended Cabernet Sauvignon made up of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 percent Merlot and 3 percent Petite Verdot. The grapes were sourced from a number of Napa Valley vineyards. There were 8,600 cases produced with the wine spending 18 months in oak barrels.

The wine is a dark purplish color in the glass. On the nose, the wine provides aromas of spicy black fruit and hints of floral. On the palate the wine is rich, full bodied and tastes of black fruit, a little oak and herbs. The finish is full and of a good length. There is a nice aftertaste and the mouth feel is full, lush and velvety. This wine needs to age a little longer, and it will improve even more.

The wine scores in the 90 to 93/100 range. The wine sells for $60 per bottle from the winery. Nationally, wine merchants offer the wine at an average $56 with an overall range of $49 to $62 per 750 ml bottle.

2012 Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville – Napa Valley
This Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon is also a blended red wine. The blend is 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 percent Cabernet Franc. The grapes are sourced from two different vineyards, both in the Oakville – Napa appellation. There were 86 cases made, and the wine was stored in new oak barrels for a total of 20 months prior to it being bottled.

In the glass, the wine is dark in color. On the nose, it produces aromas of black fruit and is very floral with hints of spice. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with flavors of vanilla, black fruit and perhaps a little forest floor and graphite or ink. The finish was of a nice length with a soft texture and medium dryness with mild tannins. I found this wine flavorful and expressive, fun to drink.

This cabernet scores at 92 of 100 points. The wine is priced at $100 per 750 ml bottle from the winery. My research didn’t indicate the wine being available on a national level.

The time I spent with David Ramey was very enjoyable and informative. I came away with more wine knowledge and a sense of personal satisfaction.

David Ramey is one of the premier winemakers of our time. He is knowledgeable and committed to his profession and to his customers. He cares about the continued improvement of his wine and his winery! To me, he is a classy guy and a gentleman. I suspect he is that to all people. Thanks, David, for sharing your time.

Until next week,

Even though Carl Tiedemann just recently joined the Flavor 574 blogger ranks, he has been writing a blog on his own website, TiedemannOnWines.com, for quite a while now. This post marks his 100th blog post. Congrats, Carl! Sign up for the Tiedemann on Wines email newsletter to make sure you don’t miss a sip.
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