What: When you have a nice dinner, sometimes you splurge on the food and sometimes you splurge on the wine. I lean to splurging on the wine because you can make a fabulous meal for very little money, but usually you get what you pay for with wine.
This Ramey Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard 2014 from the Russian River Valley is worth every penny.
David Ramey is one of California’s pioneering winemakers who mastered the fine art of making chardonnay. He makes seven wonderful chardonnays, including five single vineyard bottlings. They all are magnificent, but the Ritchie Vineyard is one of my favorites. The vines are among the oldest Chardonnay vines in California, going back to 1972. Old vines produce fewer grapes, but the flavors are more concentrated, leading to rich, complex wines.
As Ramey says, the Ritchie chardonnay “walks the fine line between richness and delicacy. It has a complex and harmonious mouthfeel that balances power and elegance.”
The wine is a gorgeous golden yellow in the glass, with inviting citrus, peach and mineral aromas with a hint of butterscotch. The rich texture of the wine is balanced with a crisp acidity featuring peach and citrus flavors. With some sips I tasted a strong creme brulee flavor.
I loved sipping this wine as we cooked dinner, but when I tried it with food, the flavors just exploded. This is the perfect wine for an elegant evening.
Ramey has been working with 19 rows of vines in Kent Ritchie’s vineyard since 2002. The benchland soil is gravelly, sandy loam, originating from the bed of an ancient inland sea. This soil type is common to great vineyards in this part of the Russian River Valley. The weather cooperated in 2014 to create ideal growing conditions allowing the grapes a long hang time to develop complexity.
The wine is 100 percent chardonnay. Ramey presses whole clusters to preserve the delicacy of the wine. Ramey uses native yeasts. The first fermentation and full native malolactic fermentation take place in the barrel, with regular stirring of the lees. After aging 19 months in 30 percent new French oak barrels, this chardonnay was fined and settled in tank. It was then bottled without filtration.
The result is everything you could want in a chardonnay. It is rich without being overbearing. Complex flavors, a great mouthfeel and a long finish make a seductive combination.
Most people don’t think about aging white wines, but this chardonnay should continue to get better in the bottle for another two or three years.
Winery: David Ramey has a long and celebrated history in the California wine industry. After getting a graduate degree from University of California-Davis he worked at the famed Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux and learned the Old World winemaking methods. He brought that knowledge back to California and applied it to California’s grapes.
Before founding Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996, David Ramey helped establish Simi Winery, Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus Estate and Rudd Estate. While at Dominus, David’s boss allowed him to “make a little chardonnay on the side.” That was the beginning for David and Carla Ramey. The first harvest resulted in 260 cases.
David moved to Rudd in 1998, and his own brand continued to grow, with distribution in six states and Great Britain. Russian River and Carneros chardonnays were added, and 2001 brought a cabernet sauvignon, Ramey’s first red wine. In 2002, he left Rudd to become a full-time independent producer. The winery continued to grow, adding new wines and employees.
Cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and syrah are their primary varietals, but they also produce outstanding pinot noir.
The company says it is dedicated to creating high quality, handcrafted wines with balance and richness from the area’s finest vineyards. They say they marry Old World methods with New World innovations.
They have a tasting room in Healdsburg, open by appointment.
David never stops trying new things. He and his wife started a second label, Sidebar Cellars, in 2014. This allows Ramey to explore new and diverse varietals and unconventional blends. He also is having fun trying new things without detracting from the main show.
Goes With: We had this incredible wine with roast chicken, which I stuffed with my favorite dressing. We added mashed potatoes, gravy and creamed corn.
I know it’s easy to buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, but those don’t come with stuffing, so occasionally I like to roast my own chickens. I found some for 69 cents a pound, so I could roast two at once and have several meals out of them. The Ramey chardonnay was a perfect match, with all the richness and complexity bringing out the flavors in the chicken.
To make my stuffing, I crush saltines and mix them with chopped parsley, finely diced celery and chopped green onions. I add an egg and water to get it to all hold together. Then I stuff the bird, sew it up and let it cook. I sprinkle Morton Nature’s Seasons and garlic on the inside and outside of the chicken.
A whole chicken roasts nicely at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.
The Ramey chardonnay also would pair well with chicken and turkey dishes in rich sauces, shrimp, crab and fish.