A Balanced Approach to Wine – and to Life


If there has been a movement in California away from buttery, tropical-sweet Chardonnay and over-ripe, high-octane  Cabernet, surely one of the leaders is David Ramey. Located in picturesque Healdsburg, Ramey Cellars is a craft-winery that produces startlingly fresh and balanced Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Many of Ramey’s wines express the terroir of single vineyards while others are specific to such appellations as the Sonoma Coast or Russian River Valley. With his master’s degree in enology from UC Davis, one might have expected Ramey’s wines to be faultless and squeeky-clean; however, an early internship at Chateau Petrus imbued him with the belief that wines should be restrained, balanced and crafted to accompany food. This combination of the empirical and the romantic (along with almost 20 years of experience at such wineries as Simi, Matanzas Creek and Dominus) has led him to experiment with indigenous yeasts and malolactic and barrel fermentation in search of a new California style. This style seeks to tame the naturally luscious and vivacious fruit of California with the traditional techniques of the Old World. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, novelist (and wine geek) Jay McInerny has described “his Chardonnays just a little more voluptuous than the average Puligny-Montrachet, his cabs less tannic than the typical Médoc.”

Wine Maker

David Ramey





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Wines from this Winery

RAMEY Chardonnay Fort Ross-Seaview | Sonoma Coast

At the north-western edge of Sonoma County, the tiny Fort Ross - Seaview AVA was established in 2012 to recognize the unique conditions affecting vineyards planted so close to the ocean. Cooler temperatures and heavier rainfall as well as thick fogs meant that wine growers did not begin planting here before the 1980s. Even now, acreage in the AVA totals less than 600 acres. However, the wines produced from vineyards planted on ridges at elevations from 300 - 900 meters have acidity, minerality, and bright flavors we associate with fine Burgundy. Sourced from the high-elevation Martinelli Charles Ranch vineyard, this Chardonnay shows great depth of flavor, length of finish, aromatic complexity, and a fine balance between richness and delicacy. David Ramey ferments the grapes in barrel on natural yeasts and ages the wine in mainly neutral French oak casks. Jeb Dunnuck described the wine as “fresh and lifted with aromas of salted lime, sea spray, agave, and green pineapple. On the palate. this medium-bodied white is spritely with notes of crunchy fresh fruit and has a silky soft, stony texture to round out its linear drive. It’s fresh with vibrant energy and ripe fruit, white peach, and fresh flowers.”

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¥10,670 (incl. tax)
RAMEY Chardonnay Russian River Valley

The foggy summer mornings and warm afternoons in the Russian River Valley provide a sweet spot for Burgundian varietals. RRV Chardonnays may be richer and more opulent than the lean and racy styles produced along the coast but more structured and refreshing than those from warmer appellations inland. Diverse soils and subtle differences in elevation also contribute to the complexity of Ramey’s RRV Chardonnay. This wine is always sourced from a range of vineyards; in 2022 the composition was 44% Lafranchi, 18% Martinelli Laughlin Rd, 14% Kilcullen, 12% Dutton Sebastopol, and 12% Westside Farms. Winemaking included native yeast fermentation, malolactic fermentation in barrel, and bottling without filtration. About this wine that he rated 92 points, James Suckling said, “Light butter and vanilla bean aromas lead to vivid, racy lemon curd, lime zest and cream flavors in this well-balanced, medium-bodied wine. The most affordable of the Ramey chardonnays, it still delivers an elegant texture and delicious flavors.”

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¥11,770 (incl. tax)
RAMEY Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard
RAMEY Chardonnay Rochioli Vineyard
RAMEY Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard

Located in Carneros, the Hyde Vineyard is cooled by marine air that flows through the Petaluma Gap. Nevertheless, Ramey's Carneros Chardonnays are a little rounder and broader than those from Sonoma. Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay never fails to charm with freshness, restrained energy, minerality, and depth. The complexity of this Chardonnay derives from the vines that range in age from 11 - 30 years old as well as in clonal diversity. 65% of the fruit is Old Wente field selection planted in 1997. This clone is known for its Burgundian character that tones down the tropical fruit notes. Ramey’s efforts here are highly recognized. The 2019 made #7 on the Wine Spectator’s top 100, and the 2020 received 100 points from the Wine Enthusiast!

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¥19,580 (incl. tax)
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North Coast Claret is a Bordeaux blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 9% Syrah, and 2% Petit Verdot that is sourced from a range of appellations in Sonoma and Napa counties. Released earlier than reserve wines, it provides an introduction to the 2018 vintage, which many saw as a return to normal after a few drought years. Cooler autumn temperatures led to a later start to the harvest and produced excellent fruit. Jeb Dunnuck said the wine was “fresh with aromas of graphitic earth and red plum, and the palate reveals fine tannins and the juicy, youthful appeal of red apple and crushed roses. This is ready and inviting to drink now or over the next 3-6 years.” The affordable price makes trying a bottle easy! This wine will pair well with steak, slow-braised beef or even a chilli con carne.  

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¥9,240 (incl. tax)
RAMEY Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

As he does so well with Chardonnay, David Ramey hits a sweet spot with Pinot Noir, crafting a wine that marries perfume and acidity with a rich texture. The wine was sourced from five top vineyards planted to a variety of clones located along the Westside Road, a bucolic country lane of vineyards and dairy farms as well as “A-List” producers of Pinot Noir. While it’s a bit warmer here than in the hills closer to the ocean, foggy mornings keep the grapes from ripening too quickly. The 2018 season was exemplary with a cooler late summer that extended the time fruit spent on the vine, making for a more complex palette of flavors. At harvest, 25% of the fruit was processed as whole clusters, which adds savory spice to the nose and structure to the palate. Winemaking is kept simple with native yeast fermentation in tank, lees aging in barrel, and bottling with light fining and no filtration.

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¥10,450 (incl. tax)
RAMEY Syrah Sonoma Coast

While the Sonoma Coast has earned a reputation for bright and vibrant Pinot Noir, Ramey's Syrah proves the region has plenty of potential for this Rhone variety as well. The cool climate at Ramey’s two Syrah vineyards, Cole and Rodgers Creek, allows the fruit to develop notes of green olive, smoked meat, white pepper and savory herbs — much like the classic wines of the Northern Rhone. And taking the Rhone model a step further, these vineyards each have a few rows of Viognier, which is co-fermented with the red fruit, adding more complexity and perfume to the wine. The Wine Enthusiast described the 2020 as “an adventure in savory, peppery complexity to pair with grilled quail, roast venison, or cassoulet.”

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¥11,770 (incl. tax)
RAMEY Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

By sourcing fruit from both hillside and valley floor vineyards, David Ramey produces a layered and complex expression of Napa Valley Cabernet. Modeled on the Grand Crus of Bordeaux, the wine combines Cabernet (80%), Merlot (10%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Cabernet Franc (3%) into a complex and savory blend. The 2017 spent a lengthy 30 months in barrel; however, sur lie aging and battonage (lees stirring) allowed the oak to give the wine structure without imparting additional flavor. While the fruit is naturally flavorful and voluptuous, as the wine opens up, it reveals layers of dark fruit, spice and earthy notes. This wine can be enjoyed now or savored over the next ten years. Suggested pairings might include steak au poivre, lamb ragout with roasted peppers, or, for vegetarians, baked eggplant with mushrooms and tomato sauce.

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¥14,300 (incl. tax)
RAMEY Cabernet Sauvignon Pedregal Vineyard

In Spanish, a Pedregal is a “rocky place,” and this vineyard, located in the lower hills to the east of Oakville, is one of rocky outcrops and red, iron-rich soils that routinely produce wine with intense flavors and extraordinary texture. Because the site produces such outstanding Cabernet, Ramey Cellars has a long-term lease that gives them complete control of the farming, which they carry out organically and sustainably. A warm spring in 2015 led to an early bud break, but cooler temperatures in the summer kept the fruit from ripening too quickly. The crop was smaller than usual, yielding bunches with small but highly concentrated berries. Co-fermenting the Cabernet fruit with 11% Petite Verdot, aging on the fine lees in French oak for nearly two years results in a classically made wine with the Bordeaux elements of grippy tannins and subtle aromas of cedar, pencil shavings and dried herbs. 

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¥39,600 (incl. tax)