The Fruits Of A Good Education

By Robert Parker

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Vintner David Ramey trained under Christian Moueix, winemaker at Bordeaux's Château Pétrus, both in France and at Moueix's Napa operation, Dominus Estate. Then, 10 years ago, Ramey set up Ramey Wine Cellars in Healdsburg in Sonoma County. Without vineyards of his own right now, Ramey buys grapes from growers he has known for years. Here are some of his current and upcoming releases.

2003 Chardonnay Russian River

92 points.

The substantial, heady, intense chardonnay comes primarily from an impeccable source, the Charles Heintz Vineyard near Occidental, Calif. Its 20-year-old vines provide minerality, lemon oil, brioche, and tropical fruit characteristics as well as substantial intensity and richness. Drink it over the next two to three years. $36

2003 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast

90 points.

The stunning white is a 700-case blend offering notes of tropical fruits, lemon oil, and crushed rocks. Layered, rich, full-bodied, it is one of my favorites of Ramey's appellation chardonnays. $36

2003 Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard

94 points.

A dazzling wine of great individuality, with wonderful minerality, sweet lemon oil, honeysuckle, white currant, and floral notes intermixed with a crushed rock-like note and a long, heady, full-bodied finish. This beautiful, pure chardonnay should age nicely for five to seven years. $56

2003 Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard

95 points.

Fashioned from a vineyard planted in 1972, this wine shows opulent levels of tropical fruit intermixed with beeswax and orange skin/nectarine notes. It is full bodied, with superb purity, terrific acidity, and a long, heady finish. $56

2004 Jericho Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

93 points.

A blend of 76% cabernet sauvignon, 22% merlot, and 2% cabernet franc, it exhibits a deep purple color and a sweet nose of jammy black fruit intermixed with smoke, licorice, and incense. The wine is ripe, opulent, fleshy, and up front, as so many 2004s tend to be. This full-bodied, velvety-textured effort should drink well for 15 or more years. $75

2003 Jericho Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley

93 points.

From a 40-acre parcel at the base of Mount St. Helena, this blend of 87% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, and 3% cabernet franc represents Ramey's homage to Bordeaux's Pauillac. With a big sweet nose of white chocolate, crème de cassis, cedar, spice box, and high-quality smoky oak, it is full bodied, rich, and tannic with notes of chocolate and espresso in the mouth. It needs several years of cellaring and should last 15 to 20 years. $95

2004 Larkmead Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points.

This 1,400-case blend (78% cabernet sauvignon, 13% petite verdot, and 9% malbec), is an example of just how special this Napa Valley site is. Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by aromas of graphite, licorice, flowers, and black currants in addition to some minerality. This medium- to full-bodied, noble, complex red should benefit from one to two years of cellaring and drink well for 10 to 12 years. $95

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.

Visit for the Internet's most active wine bulletin board, tens of thousands of tasting notes, or to order his recent book, The World's Greatest Wine Estates: A Modern Perspective. You can also subscribe to Parker's newsletter, The Wine Advocate. Request a sample copy at: The Wine Advocate, P.O. Box 311, Monkton, MD 21111

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