Ramey Revisit and Napa Valley Master Class with Matt Stamp and More Balanced Wines from California

Sorry its taken a while between entries.  I have been working on several related pieces that by coincidence were related.  I decided to condense and combine.  I have included numerous links to relevant resources if you want to spend some extra time and explore.

Ramey Revisit Cropped

Part I : Ramey Revisit

In my blog “Searching for Terroir in Napa, and Finding It” I included impressions from a tasting of appellation and vineyard designate wines at the Ramey Winery in November 2012.  We left the winery with several bottles, including the 2009 “Pedregal” Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Hyde Carneros Chardonnay.  Today, I visited with Silas Rushton, the southwest regional sales manager for Ramey and had the opportunity to re-taste both the Pedregal 2009 and the Hyde 2009, along with the Russian River Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2009, and the Napa Cabernet 2009.

The opportunity to revisit the Ramey lineup confirmed that I had made wise purchases at the winery.  The 2009 Hyde Chardonnay has all the hallmarks of a fine white Burgundy that will develop nicely over the next decade or more.  The Pedregal Cabernet was as dense and complex as I remembered it.  According to Silas, tannin management is a focus of Dave Ramey’s winemaking philosophy.  With this in mind, the Pedregal is relatively approachable now.  But, it is certain the Pedregal is a wine that will be far better with at least ten years of cellaring.   As I don’t have great depth in my wine collection, impatience is something I battle with constantly.  Nonetheless, this is a wine that I will put in the back of my chiller and forget about for a while.

The Ramey tasting provided an excellent segue to a Master Class on Napa wines that I attended at Pappas Steakhouse in Houston.  The class was sponsored by the Guild of Sommeliers and Napa Valley Vintners and taught by Matt Stamp, the Guild’s educational director, who gained notoriety as the Sommelier at the French Laundry.

The class included a flight of whites and two flights of reds.

Flight One, Whites:

Matthiasson White 2011 – 56% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Ribolla Gialla!!, Semillon 18%, Friulano 8% – Made in a style reminiscent of the whites of Northeastern Italy in the Grave and Alto Adige.

Chappellet Chenin Blanc 2011 – Available in small quantities at the winery

Massican Chardonnay 2011

Mayacamas Chardonnay LabelMayacamas Chardonnay 2000 – Yes, a 2000 vintage, drinking beautifully!!!  This amazing wine dispelled any notion that a California white cannot age very gracefully.

Kongsgaard Chardonnay 2010 – A bold, California-styled Chardonnay.  It was noted that this wine is made through a “death and revival” process, meaning that the wine is allowed to completely oxidize in the barrels and then is revived with sulfur.  According to Matt Stamp and Drew Hendricks, the barrel samples prior to “revival” are undrinkable.  The bottle tastings are dramatically different.

Flight Two, Valley Floor Reds:

Frog’s Leap Merlot 2010 – A restrained, food-friendly Merlot.

Corison “Kronos” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Bressler Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – Tech Sheet

Araujo Eisele Label


Arajuo “Eisele” Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – From a bottle labeled on a piece of masking tape. Property abuts to 100 Acre Vineyards

Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” 2005 – The first vineyard-designate Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa.  Showcasing “airborne terroir” Eucalyptus trees surround property.  A consistent eucalyptus component on the nose is attributed to some of the oils depositing onto the grapes. For more information also check out this link.


Robert Mondavi “Reserve” Cabernet 1992 – To illustrate the “old school” style of Napa Cab prior to the “Parkerization” of California wines.  A style that would age magnificently, and did – Brilliant!!

Flight Three, Mountain Vineyards:

Lagier-Meredith Syrah 2010 – Syrah is the focus of this Mt. Veeder vineyard. Click through and explore the Lagier-Meredith website.

Spring Mountain Vineyards “Elivette” 2009

Ovid 2009 (Pritchard Hill)

Continuum 2010 (Pritchard Hll)

Dalle Valle “Maya” 2009 (Pritchard Hill) Uber-expensive – Not a somm in the room indicated they would pay the price of entry

Diamond Creek LogoDiamond Creek “Gravelly Meadow” 2008 Diamond Mountain – Noted as the most tannic of the bunch.  Diamond Mountain in general tends to render the most tannic wines in Napa.  I personally gravitate towards this AVA.  A visit to Diamond Creek Winery and a sampling of their wines provides an excellent lesson in how a wine will express different soil types.

Cardinale 2001 Napa Sonoma – Soft and smooth.  I recently attended a Jackson Estates (Majestic Brands) tasting and had the opportunity to visit the current release of Cardinale 2010.  It is a fantastic, though expensive, wine for those who prefer velvety smooth tannins and complex fruit character.  The 2010 is featured on the website through the link above.

One of the more interesting points that came out of our discussion was that changes are occurring in what might be considered “Napa Style”.  As we know, the Napa Style, and perhaps New-World style in general, has become associated with super-ripe wines that exhibit jammy fruit, high ABV (Alcohol by Volume), low acidity, and that don’t tend to age well.  The emergence of this style of wine is largely attributed to winemakers going for big scores by trying to please the “Parker palette”.  During this era, there has been a stalwart core of winemakers that have ignored the trends, refusing to alter their styles, content to stay off the radar.  But, as the pendulum swings in both directions, more producers are moving towards the “new trend”, shifting their focus to the creation of balanced wines. Matt jokingly referenced an article that he read on a United in-flight magazine titled “The New Napa”, which detailed this trend. According to Matt, “If it has made it to the United magazine, it must be mainstream now.”

“Balanced” does not always indicate a low ABV.  A wine that is balanced will have alcohol, tannin, acid and sweetness incorporated in such a manner that no component stands apart from the others. 

The “New Napa” at $20 and Below

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to tastes a lot of wine.  I am pleased to confirm that I am finding increasing numbers of balanced wines from California.  Based on my experience, the trend has thoroughly pervaded white wines, particularly Chardonnay.  The days of “butter bombs” are long past.  The percentage of creamy-buttery Chardonnays has fallen dramatically in the last couple of years.  Undoubtedly, this trend has been accelerated by the ABC (i.e. Anything but Chardonnay) movement that has led consumers to seek out alternatives to Chardonnay.  This is definitely not a bad thing as it has opened the doors to the fabulous whites of the Tre-Venezia and other food-friendly whites of Italy.  It has also brought a new group of consumers to sample the bounty of French whites.  Fortunately, there will still be stalwarts that hold fast with the “old style” Chardonnays as well.  Variety IS the spice of life.

I also see this trend in the California red category as well.  Merlot is making a comeback from the, perhaps justified, damage from the film “Sideways”.  The $15 gems from Highway 12 (Available exclusively at Spec’s in Texas) are great examples of what an inexpensive California red can be.  Wente is making a nice product in that same price tier.  The Robert Hall Cabernet from Paso Robles (recently tasted, also a Spec’s exclusive in Texas) is excellent! Tudal Family Wines Cabernet is an equally good value at $20.  A number of wines from the Jackson Family Estates portfolio are excellent.  These wines still show a purity of fruit that should and will remain a hallmark of California wines, but in a more restrained style. Of course, this list is far from complete, but I hope it compels you to keep an open mind and keep tasting.

Last night, as I left work with two bottles, a co-worker peeked into my bag and surprised, he commented, “All New World tonight”.  Yes, times are changing.




My Plans to “Life Blog” with Memoto Camera while in Italy

On my upcoming trip to Italy in July, I plan to wear the Memoto Life Blogging Camera.  The Memoto Camera debuted at SXSW in Austin, Texas last month.  This is a cool concept and great for someone who will have their hands full more often than not. Read more below:

Stumble Memoto
We’re seeing a lot of visits from SU recently, and we’re so happy we decided to give a discount on pre-orders to stumblers during all of January. Enter the code SUPERSTUMBLERSAVER (after Paypal step) to get 30% off! See video below if you don’t know what Memoto is.

// With love, the Memoto team

  Yes, we ship to

Free shipping worldwide for preorders! Coming 2013

    • Memoto Camera, Memoto Orange

      Memoto Orange


    • Memoto Camera, Graphite Gray

      Graphite Gray


    • Memoto Camera, Arctic White

      Arctic White


1 Year Memoto Secure Storage Included

Memoto offers safe and secure photo storage at a flat monthly fee.

Memoto Lifelogging Camera

A tiny, automatic camera and app that gives you a searchable and shareable    photographic memory.

For the best user experience we recommend a connection of 1Mbit/s or higher when uploading.

  • Windows or Mac for sync/upload.
  • Android or iPhone for accessing the smartphone apps.

The world’s smallest wearable camera

(Sample photos are finally here!)The Memoto camera is a tiny camera and GPS that you clip on and wear.    It’s an entirely new kind of digital camera with no controls. Instead, it    automatically takes photos as you go. The Memoto app then seamlessly and    effortlessly organizes them for you.


Easy and effortless

The camera has no buttons. (That’s right, no buttons.) As long as you wear the    camera, it is constantly taking pictures. It takes two geotagged photos a minute    with recorded orientation so that the app can show them upright no matter how you are    wearing the camera. And it’s weather protected, so you don’t have to worry about it    in inclement weather.

The camera and the app work together to give you pictures of every single moment    of your life, complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This    means that you can revisit any moment of your past.

memotolifeloggingcameraThe Memoto lifelogging camera – only 36x36x9 mm

Long battery life

The camera’s batteries won’t need to be recharged until after approximately 2 days    of use. To recharge the camera’s batteries, you connect the camera to your computer;    at the same time the photos are automatically uploaded to Memoto’s servers. There are    no buttons to press. You just wear the camera, then charge it and wear it again.

Get your Memoto camera now

Technical specifications



  • Automatic photo capture every 30 seconds (Can be adjusted to a different interval)
  • Can be double-tapped to take a single shot outside the regular interval
  • 5 megapixel resolution images
  • Log of GPS positions and timestamps
  • Built-in rechargeable battery which lasts up to two days
  • LED battery life indicator
  • 2 full days of constant photographing (4000 pictures) space on memory
  • Built-in accelerometer ensures that pictures are correctly oriented regardless of how the camera is worn
  • Micro-USB port for charging and connecting to computer
  • Stainless steel clip to connect the camera to your clothes
  • 36x36x9 millimeters small


  • Automatic uploading of the photos to Memoto’s servers by connecting the camera with your computer
  • Encrypted storage for an indefinite number of photos (1 year subscription)
  • Easy access of your photos through smartphone apps and browser
  • Apps for Android and iPhone
  • Private and social layer – all pictures are in private mode only, until you choose to share them with your friends
  • All photos are stored and organized for you. None are deleted, but the best ones are more visible.
  • Browse through your memories moment by moment. Tap to relive a moment.
  • Search for events in your history. Share with the ones you trust.


Access your life through the Memoto app

With this many pictures captured and stored every day, we think it’s crucial    that you can easily browse among the best and most meaningful ones. The app we’re    building for iPhone and Android organizes the photos to work as a photographic memory    even after many years.

Relive your life like you remember it

The way this works is that the photos are organized into groups of “moments”    on a timeline. On the timeline, you’re presented with keyframes (about 30 per day)    each representing one moment. You can tap a moment to relive it in a stop-motion like    video of all the pictures in that moment.

The image analysis and organization is made out of the images’ metadata, such as    time, place and light. This enables you to not only browse your life the way you    remember it, but to search for specific events of your life: who was it that you met    at that party or what did the sunset look like in Lapland in June? (Fun fact: there    is no sunset in Lapland in June).

Read more on the blog:
– Designing storage for your memories
– Seamless lifelogging with the Memoto app
– Making sense of all your moments – Moment View

memotomomentsThe app organizes all your photos on a timeline, making        them easily accessable to search and share.

Your photos are yours and only you can share them

The app comes with features for sharing through the biggest social media services.    Additional social features are something we would like to develop more of in the future.    However, we want to stress that your Memoto pictures will always be private by default.    That is, you only share pictures when you deliberately want to share them.

Cutting your storage costs at least in half

The Memoto Camera potentially produces a huge amount of bits and bytes. 4 GB data    per day amounts to up to 1,5 terabyte per year. Instead of you storing all this on    unreliable and expensive hard drives that can get stolen or lost, Memoto offers safe    and secure infinite photo storage at a flat monthly fee, which will always be a lot    more affordable than hard drives.

      Legality and safety

Memoto’s products and services are all about integrity. Everything you create    with Memoto is yours – only yours. If you want to share your content with someone    else we think you should. But only you decide when to do that. And even when you    have shared your content you are still the owner of it.

All pictures you transfer to Memoto’s cloud service are stored    encrypted. The pictures are only visible to you: only you can see them and    only you can change them. If you want to share a picture or a moment with someone    you trust you have to make an active choice. The software contains no automatic    share features, no hidden buttons, no “share-by-default”. You only share your    content when you want to.

Legally, you may photograph what you want, as long as you don’t obviously    infringe someone else’s integrity or violate an official photo ban. If someone    asks you not to use your Memoto camera – then please don’t. If someone doesn’t    explicitly ask you, but you have reason to believe that the place or the context is    inappropriate for photographing – then please don’t.

Memoto’s products and services are made for those of us who like to    collect memories and stories about ourselves