Sometimes great wine asks more questions than it answers. This was underscored once again last weekend when I was introduced to Sonoma County’s Ramey Wine Cellars via their bottle of Russian River Chardonnay. I mean this with all due respect, but I couldn’t help but ask: why is it that I love California Chardonnay only when it doesn’t remind me of California Chardonnay?
It’s a such a snobby thing to ponder, isn’t it? France doesn’t own Chardonnay any more than Italy owns pizza. And yet, the predominant style of California Chardonnay — still to this day, despite recent developments — is to be oaky, thick and overeager. To my palate, these wines are like enduring a road trip with a hyperactive child. Thanks, but I enjoy wine with dinner because I have enough things screaming for my attention during the day.
The 2014 Ramey Wine Cellars Russian River Chardonnay leaves an impression that is distinctly Old World. (OK, it’s downright Burgundian). I appreciated how it held back a bit on the throttle, as if it knew that I wanted to enjoy my food, too. In 2014, Ramey’s appellation-wide blend saw only 13% new oak, which may have accounted for its deftness on the palate. The fact that it came from some of the Russian River Valley’s cooler sites — namely Dutton Ranch Vineyards, Laughlin Road Vineyard and the iconic Rochioli Vineyard — further underscores that David Ramey knew what he wanted from this wine. It is precise and delicate yet vibrant throughout. A Chardonnay that I’d gladly return to again.
2014 Ramey Wine Cellars Russian River Chardonnay
Russian River Valley AVA, California
Grapes: Chardonnay (100%)
Ratings: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
• Aromas, Flavor & Structure: ★★★★ 3/4
• Food-friendliness: ★★★★
• Value: ★★★ 1/2
Tasting Notes: Light pale color yet still has a vibrancy to it. Looks more like Chablis than a Russian River Chardonnay, but on the nose, it shows distinct tones like those from the Côte de Beaune — there were notes reminding me of coconut, lemon cream, crème brûlée, grapefruit, green tea and vanilla bean. Sprightly and energetic on the palate, yet never viscous or fatiguing. Fantastically complex when you pay attention to it, yet easy-drinking if you just want something delicious. The finish was nice, even and long.
Serving Suggestion: Like all Chardonnay, do not serve this one cold, as you’ll suppress those awesome aromas. A slight chill is all that’s needed. We served this Chardonnay with a vegetarian stir-fry that carried strong sesame and soy flavors. It was a nice match. Would also do well alongside a sharp aged cheese.
Note: This wine was provided as a sample. Learn more about my editorial policy.
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