sidebar: David Ramey Navigates a New Course
David Ramey launched sidebar cellars in 2014 to push boundaries. He and the next generation of Rameys, Claire and Alan, are exploring new grape varieties and wine styles. They are making not only Sauvignon Blanc but also Zinfandel, rosé and…Kerner! From the taste of things, sidebar will be much more than its diminuitive name suggests.
sidebar 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley 13.5% $34
This is a class act. It’s a distinctly unique Russian River Sauvignon Blanc that combines the pedigree of a classic variety with the heritage of 44-year-old vines and the deft touch of legendary winemaking (David Ramey.) This Ritchie Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is an unusual California Sauvignon Blanc because it is not all upfront with exuberant fruit, despite the presence of some Musqué clones in the vineyard. Rather, energy and poise dominate the wine. (That’s not too surprising as the whole cluster pressed fruit is fermented in concrete eggs.) Fully dry from start to finish and mercifully without nuances of the French forests, the wine shows brothy, savory characters and only the vaguest notions of green gauges and pineberries (a cross between a pineapple and a strawberry.) The flavor is mouth-filling, the acidity is buoyant and the finish is persistent. I’d love to watch this cuvée develop over the next few years.
sidebar 2016 Sauvignon Blanc High Valley 13.5% $22
This is supremely elegant Sauvignon Blanc hailing from the coolest micro-climate of Lake County. It’s neither aggressively grassy nor is it obviously oaked. (In fact, the wine was aged sur lies for eight months in neutral oak and stainless steel barrels.) While this is the cleaner, lighter, more easy-going of the two wines, it’s nonetheless equally engaging. This isn’t knock-it-back Sauvignon Blanc. There are typical flavors of guava, passion fruit and lime peel, but each is rounded out and gentle rather than tasting in-your-face. Structurally, everything is smooth, too. There is an accommodatingly rounded mouthfeel from start to finish, with just enough of everything to make this dangerously drinkable.