Prior to the mid-1980s, California winemaking techniques were hatched out of university laboratories where the focus was largely on making squeaky-clean wines. The French concept "terroir" was viewed with skepticism if not outright scorn.
Enter David Ramey. In the early '80s, David finished enology school and landed a job with the Moueix family at the legendary Chateau Petrus in Pomerol. When David returned to California, he came back with a knowledge base that would prove to be the embryo of a career that has helped revolutionize California winemaking.
For two decades, David created benchmark wines for such California wineries as Dominus, Rudd Estate, Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus and Rudd. In 1996, David founded Ramey Cellars. It's a sleek, no-frills workspace dedicated exclusively to producing top-quality wine, all made in the Old World tradition (applied to California terroir).
David sources all of his fruit from outstanding Napa Valley vineyards (contracting either the entire harvest of the vineyard or specific blocks) and he work closely with the growers throughout the year. He supervises the harvest, which is broken up into many small lots to optimize grape maturity. And, as is the tradition in Bordeaux, David blends all wines early to promote a smooth integration of the complex flavors.
This 2004 Claret is composed of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec, and 4% Syrah. This soft, easy-drinking wine is a good introduction to the vintage, and while it will improve over the course of two to five years, it is not a wine intended for long-term aging.
"Good full ruby. Blackberry, licorice and menthol on the nose. Sweet, dense and rich, with a silkier texture than the 2003 and strong chocolatey fruit. Finishes with plenty of tannins, but has the fruit to support them."
--Stephen Tanzer, 89-81 pts. International Wine Cellar
Suggested Food Pairing:
A great pairing would be a duck confit leg with spring vegetables, like carrots, onions, and leeks. Follow it up with a hard crumbly cheese such as Vella's dry jack.