Red Steeped in Ramey, Twomey, Phelps Pedigree
David Ramey is a giant of California winemaking, a man who over the last 30 years has done more than nearly anyone to define the style of West Coast Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. His stunning Burgundian and Rhône-style wines are paeans to Sonoma’s lush coastal, cool-climate terroir: sculpted, precise, and increasingly difficult to source without paying a fortune. Enter Westwood, a storied winery with a history dating back to 1985. Former partner Carl Stanton took over operations in 2014, and approached Ramey about winemaking. One look at the pristine, fog-shrouded Annadel Gap estate vineyard and his answer was yes. Twomey and Joseph Phelps veteran Ben Cane soon came aboard as well, further burnishing the team’s bonafides. A luscious, 91-point Sonoma Red, crafted by Ramey and Cane, bursting with “Savory flavors,” “lifted on the palate by fresh blueberry and blackberry tones, dusted in chocolate shavings,” from the vintage Vinous called “sensational” for $29.99 per bottle? That’s what we call a sure thing.
Antonio Galloni let the cat out of the bag last March in his report “Sonoma’s Sensational 2015s,” extolling the top releases as “exotic, viscerally thrilling wines endowed with phenomenal purity, depth, and intensity.” It was a low-yield vintage that especially favored Rhône varieties delivering impressive concentration. For the star-studded winemaking team at Westwood—headed by the legendary David Ramey and Napa veteran Ben Cane—releasing just their second vintage, the conditions were a godsend, as Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre ripened to perfection.
Westwood has changed hands a few times in its 34-year history, but the jewel of the property remains the estate vineyard, located in the Annadel Gap, nestled in the Valley of the Moon between Mt. Hood and Sonoma Mountain. By morning, a fog thick as pea soup creeps over the vines, cooling grapes and preserving the crystalline acidity that is a hallmark of both Ramey and Cane’s styles. In the afternoons, westerly, saline winds rush in off the Pacific, refreshing Westwood’s fruit as temperatures remain cool. Spread across gently sloping land, the loamy soil is reminiscent of the Gold Ridge soils that are highly coveted throughout the Russian River Valley.
For Ramey, who brought his time at Château Pétrus to bear on the founding of superstar wineries like Dominus, Rudd, and Chalk Hill, this was familiar territory. At Ramey Wine Cellars, he has long said that his desire was never to make a Meursault or Saint-Joseph, but to produce Sonoma wines that reflect this region’s unique, coastal, cool-climate influence. Together with Cane, he has succeeded brilliantly with this phenomenal under-$30 release, balancing voluptuous wild fruit and bracing vibrancy.