January 23 2008
If I had to draw a line of differentiation, I would say there is a difference between being a “cult” winemaker and being a winemaker with a “reputation.”
When I say reputation I mean in a good way, as in “what a great winemaker” not “he gets around with that overwrought, bombastic chard style of his.” I mean somebody with a reputation that precedes them, you know … somebody with street cred.
You could play a game of Hollywood Squares with the current crop of wine industry shining stars –cultists and those with reputation- and still have enough winemaker wattage to fuel a run in syndication, too.
Helen Turley? Cult winemaker
Heidi Barrett? Cult winemaker
Mia Klein? Cult winemaker
Ed Sbragia? Reputation
Merry Edwards? Reputation
David Ramey? Reputation
I’m not really sure what the difference is between a cult winemaker and somebody that merely has a reputation, but I surely can sense it and I’d definitely like to figure it out. Methinks that there might be an inversely proportional line between bottle price and mere reputation, but that would be very simplistic …
Whatever the reasons might be, I think David Ramey would like to know, as well. Because if anybody’s output is meritorious of cult status, it might be David Ramey from Ramey Wine Cellars.
In fact, if he keeps going, it might not be too long before he hits cult status.
The interesting thing about his winemaking style is, to my palate, making only Chardonnay and Cabernet, stock-in-trade California wine varietals, he strikes almost a perfect balance between ripe California fruit and Old World balance and finesse.
In his words, according this interview found here, Ramey strives for:
Balance, harmony, deliciousness
While trying to avoid:
Heaviness, coarseness, clumsiness
Does he ever.
In reference to a Jericho Canyon Vineyard Cabernet, which he thinks can age 30 years, Ramey says,
Tastes good now, tastes good later – but different. That’s the new mantra.
Speaking of mantra, it would be nice if all “New World” winemakers got on the same page about “tastes good now, tastes good later” and mercifully ended this New World-Old World-Parker argument.
Providing additional insight into his style ala the job interview question, “tell me what your friends would say about you,” Ramey goes on to say in the same interview that his “desert Island” wine would be:
“… a bottle of 1998 Chateauneuf du Pap Les Caillox by Andre Brunel. I really like the combination of sweetness with acidity, richness with elegance, and complexity.”
That kind of sums up his wines, I think—richness with elegance, and complexity.
Dare I say it, but if I had to pick a winemaker for Chateau Good Grape, it might be David Ramey.
This past weekend I had an opportunity to attend a public tasting of the ’05 Ramey Wine Cellars line-up held by one of our really good local wine shops, Grapevine Cottage, just outside of Indianapolis.
These sorts of tastings happen all the time, but you really have to keep your eyes open to get in on the good tastings and I feel for those that missed the Ramey tasting.
Standing on the shoulders of giants, I won’t give my tasting notes or reviews of the wine. Just know that Parker is enamored with Ramey, as is Tanzer—and for good reason.
In my estimation, Ramey might be the most un-cult, cult winemaker out there. These aren’t the cheapest wines—ranging in price from $38 to $115, but if you are going to splurge, these are some dandy wines to spend some money on.
Tasting through mostly the ‘05’s, I particularly enjoyed the following:
2005 Ramey Sonoma Coast Chardonnay $38
For more information on Ramey Cellars check out the following links: