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David Ramey: The Un-Cult Cult Winemaker

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

2005 Ramey Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay $58

2005 Ramey Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay $58

2005 Ramey Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon $75

For more information on Ramey Cellars check out the following links:

David Ramey Video Interview

Robert Parker column from BusinessWeek magazine in ‘06



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Posted in, Indy Food & Wine. Permalink | Comments (26) |


Comments

On 01/24, Josh wrote:

“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.”

Amen.

I’ve only met Ramey once, and he works with completely different varieties, but his philosophy is spot-on and his reputation well deserved. More like him, please.

On 01/24, David Ramey wrote:

Thank you so much for your very kind words, Jeff.

On 01/24, Marco Montez wrote:

I met David Ramey at his winery a couple of months ago during a post-harvest tour for interns who worked the 2007 crush season.  I was extremelly impressed with:

1. The quality of the wines
2. The down-to-earth attitude of everyone I met at the winery.

But I was mostly surprised with this… from the 14 Napa/Sonoma wineries I visited, only one stated that they do NOT filter their wines… Ramey.  Not even the Chardonnay is filtered.  I was so surprised that I asked the assistant winemaker, I believe her name is Alice, to “say that again…?”  Her response was “We do not own a filter in this winery”.

Ramey’s wines were some of the best of all the ones I tasted during my trip to Napa/Sonoma and I visited some top-rated wineries.  I left his winery wanting to go back again for more.

On 01/24, Jeff wrote:

Hey, Thanks to David Ramey for checking out the site.  I never cease to be amazed at how small this blogging thing makes the world.

Marco, I think you and I are living the same lives separately.  First it was the Cellar Rat Pinot and now the Ramey—in the same week, no less.

Thanks for reading the site.  I now know to calibrate my palate against yours!  What else are you drinking these days?

I know you’re not drinking Capozzi Pinot, yet.  But keep an eye on the other commenter, Josh from pinotblogger.com, he’s going to have some killer juice coming out in the next couple of years!

Jeff

Jeff

On 01/24, Marco Montez wrote:

Jeff,

Yes indeed.  Especially if you have two kids, a full-time job plus a part-time gig and live in a constant state of sleep deprivation grin  I believe that I exchanged an email with Josh some time ago after hearing about his Second Life endeavor.  I thought he would be selling wine by now… I will have to check out his blog again.

Marco

On 01/25, Ian Griffith wrote:

I have been a fan of Ramey’s since the late 80’s when he was at Matanzas Creek. Even spent a few days helping during crush one year to see what I could learn though osmosis from a master. Memories have faded, but I do remember an experiment where the destemmer was suspended above the press on a forklift.  The goal was to gravity drop Chardonnay into the press instead of pumping to evaluate the effect of extra bruising on the juice. 

While holding a rope to secure the destemmer, I was terrified that this thing would topple, it would be my fault, and the winery would be without a destemmer for the rest of crush. It all turned out fine and we had another sample to test in the lab. But suspect I learned then that I didn’t have the nerve do be a winemaker, certainly not one who takes risks to find small improvements in quality.

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Methinks that there might be an inversely proportional line between bottle price and mere reputation, but that would be very simplistic …  I surely can sense it and I’d definitely like to figure it out. Subjex

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