Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The 2005 Hyde Chardonnay of David Ramey

David Ramey is one of those winemakers you just admire. It’s more common to find a winemaker who works with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, or Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. David doesn’t. Instead he picked Chardonnay for his wines and Cabernet Sauvignon for his reds. And they are outstanding, the reds amazing and the whites among the best in California. No wonder his skills, digging in his past, you’ll find his name at wineries such as Château Pétrus in Pomerol, Simi Winery in Alexander Valley, Matanzas Creek in Sonoma Valley, Dominus Estate and Rudd Estate in Napa Valley, and Chalk Hill.
Since late 1990s, David make wines under his own label Ramey Wine Cellars, at first only some great chardonnays from Sonoma and Napa Carneros, which still is his trademark, but from 2001 also a selection of very complex cabernets from Napa Valley. In blind tastings, his Chardonnay wines very often overshadows the ones from premium producers such as Peter Michael Winery, Kistler Vineyards and Marcassin –at least when looking at elegance and their burgundian finesse. I just love them.

2005 Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard / 93-94 p
Hyde Vineyard is one of the great vineyards of Carneros, one of the grand crus of California. The 56.70 hectares are exposed to the cool breezes from San Pablo Bay, and the vines are perfectly farmed since they were planted, since 2004 dry farmed and completely organic. Around 25 winemakers buy grapes from this vineyard, and each block is farmed to each winemaker’s specification. David Ramey works with one of the best blocks, and so does Kistler and Patz & Hall, where the vines are 8-25 years old. Three clones are found in this block, the Old Wente, the Robert Young Clone and the floral clone of Long Vineyard. The grapes are whole cluster pressed, and the juice is then fermented in French oak barrels, of which approximately 65 per cent are new. Based on the taste, it may seem strange that the wine goes through full malolactic fermentation and up to 20 months of ageing.
Okay, you’ll find some spicy notes of hazelnuts, nutmeg and cloves, but they are extremely fine tuned and well integrated. I would never describe this wine as oaky. The lively acidity and delicious fruit, with qualities more often found in wines from slightly warmer vintages in Burgundy, confirms that this is a cool climate wine. Although the intensity and texture is more Californian, the elegance and complexity plays in the same field as really good wines from Burgundy. A great sign of quality is the fact that the wine opens up with air, and even more that it can stand temperatures up to 16-18 degrees Celsius. Most Californian chardonnays will taste sweet, clumsy and very alcoholic at this temperatures – not the ones from the talented David Ramey, and particularly not this one.
Drink it 2010-2015.

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