David Ramey built his reputation at such luminary wineries as Matanzas Creek and Dominus before he and his wife Carla established Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996.
From his earliest experiences in wine, David has been inspired by European styles. Having worked in France at Château Pétrus, he dedicated himself to applying the old-world techniques he absorbed to the perfectly ripe fruit of Napa and Sonoma. At a time when technical winemaking, straight out of the textbook, was the norm in California this made David something of a pioneer on the west coast. He remains one of the most influential winemakers in North America.
David and his wife Carla started small, their first two wines were Chardonnays from the Hyde and Hudson vineyards. To tell the story of their terroir David vinified each in the same fashion, leaving only the quality of the fruit to express the personality of the vineyards. This is a practice continued today across the range of Chardonnays.
In common with most Californian wineries, the majority of grapes are bought in rather than from estate-owned vines. David’s deep understanding of the region and its vineyards have ensured that he only works with great vineyards farmed by great people. His long-standing relationships allowing for a collaborative approach to get the best quality from each site and exemplify their character.
Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon play the leading roles at Ramey, with most of the Chardonnay coming from the cool Sonoma where proximity to the coast gives more exposure to the morning fogs. The Cabernet is all classic Napa. A Sonoma Syrah was added in 2004 and they have subsequently diversified the range with parcels of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir which David could not resist trying his hand at.
David believes that better farming is the key to California’s continued and growing success. They manage vineyards they lease themselves using organic methods and work hand in hand with their growers to promote sustainable and low intervention methods.
In the winery David’s approach is recognisably Burgundian. Grapes are pressed without crushing to avoid skin contact. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in barrel followed by aging on fine lees and battonage. Malolactic fermentation is allowed to happen. David’s view is that the answer to flabby over-oaked Chardonnay’s once popular with the critics is not to go 180° but to take a balanced approach. This is precisely what he has always done – making wines for critics has never been part of the mantra.