Ramey Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Napa Valley
Ramey Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Russian River Valley

Cost: $64-66
A round the holidays we usually eat a lot of seafood. I’m not sure why that is, but we are probably trying to balance out all the other heavy meals we eat.
With seafood we almost always have a white wine. Few seafood dishes can stand up to the weight of a good red wine, and white wines usually have some citrus notes that go so well with seafood.
So as you are digesting all that ham, turkey or roast beef you had for Christmas or Hanukkah, you might think about seafood and Chardonnay for a lighter meal.
There are many great chardonnays from California, but for me there are none better than those produced by David Ramey. He makes several chardonnays, and all are wonderful, but his five single-vineyard wines are outstanding.
Ramey’s skill was recognized by Wine Spectator magazine this year when Ramey’s Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay placed seventh in the top 100 wines.
It’s difficult to argue with that placement, though you could make a case that it should be higher on the list. It really is a memorable wine, as are all of his single-vineyard offerings.
His trademark style and techniques have influenced wine makers throughout the industry: no skin contact, barrel fermentation, sur lie aging in barrel, native yeast and malolactic fermentations, crisp acidity and bottling without filtration. His single-vineyard wines highlight each vineyard’s uniqueness, focusing on the soil, climate, rootstock, clones and cultivation.
The Hyde vineyard is on the rolling hills of Carneros, at the southern end of Napa and Sonoma, so it gets the cool breezes blowing through the Petaluma Gap from the San Pablo Bay. That allows grapes to ripen slowly and develop richer flavors.
The Hyde Chardonnay is a rich and powerful wine, with deep apple and citrus flavors. There are some mineral notes on the long, silky finish. This should get even better in the cellar for another five years or so. It is a complex, elegant wine. The crisp acidity make it a great food wine.
The wine was aged for 20 months in 22 percent new French oak barrels.
Ramey described this wine as “a classic, Burgundian-style wine without the tropical fruit tones of some California Chardonnays. Hyde Vineyard wines often seem charming and feminine, with high natural acidity playing a prominent role.”
We also tasted the Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay, and I thought it was every bit as good as the Hyde Vineyard. It was produced from several different clones on the Rochioli site and aged for 20 months in 21 percent new French oak barrels.
I picked up flavors of apples, tart citrus and orchard fruits with a medium body. Some buttery and spice notes showed up on the lingering finish. Crisp acidity makes this another great food wine. I think it will continue to improve in the cellar for another five years or so.
“This is our second single vineyard Chardonnay from this historic vineyard,” said Ramey. “We’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the Rochioli family for years and are excited to produce this elegant and fruit-driven wine from our neighbor’s vineyard on Westside Road.”
Every Ramey single-vineyard chardonnay I have tried over the years has been outstanding, so if you want to splurge over the holidays look for one of them. If you can’t find them, the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley chardonnays are almost as good.
Winery: David Ramey is an innovative, always-evolving winemaker celebrated in the California wine industry. After getting a graduate degree rom UC-Davis he worked at the famed Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux and learned 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: My wife Teri and I had these two great chardonnays with steamed shrimp and a salad, a staple around our house when we want a fast, light meal. We simply put the shrimp in our steamer, add Old Bay seasoning to the water and let the shrimp steam until they turn pink.
We either serve them warm or put ice on them to chill them. Everyone peels their own shrimp and dunks them in cocktail sauce and lemon juice.
Both chardonnays were terrific with the shrimp, but I particularly like the Hyde Vineyard version. It seemed to bring out the best flavors in the shrimp, while the Rochioli Vineyard wine was great for sipping after dinner. We liked them both with dinner, but gave the edge to the Hyde Vineyard wine.
Both wines will pair well with all kinds of seafood, chicken or turkey on the grill, meals with a heavy cream sauce, and a variety of cheeses.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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