2009 Ramspur Winery Carneros Merlot

Mission Codename: The Other Right Bank

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate Ramspur Estate Winery, in the Los Carneros regions, and secure an ample allocation of their exceptional 2009 Otton Vineyards Carneros Merlot for our choosy, merlot-loving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Ramspur Estate

Wine Subject: 2009 Otton Vineyards Carneros Merlot

Winemaker: Nancy Otton

Backgrounder: The Carneros region, established in 1983 was the first AVA to be designated by climate as opposed to political boundaries. Straddling both Napa and Sonoma counties, the Carneros region is heavily influenced by the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay. Moderately cool temperatures and summer time fog coupled with dense clay soils that inhibit root development make this region ideal for Burgundian varietals, but Merlot the surprise Bordeauxvarietal in this cooler-climate region.

To true wine lovers, Merlot is one of the finest wine varietals in the world. Today, Merlot continues to sell in record numbers across the US, outpacing most other varietals. Merlot is sincere, food-fabulous wine for serious wine drinkers. Today’s wine is a stellar example of the varietal.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep garnet hues at the edges, transitioning to a much darker core. The wine is slightly opaque at its heart. When swirled, wine-colored tears take a very long time to appear, high up on the glass wall, before meandering slowly downward.

Smell – Dark and lush with plentiful black cherry, black plum, spiced oak and black currant. These mingle with exotic spice, dried fall leaves, a hint of fennel and sweet brown spice.

Feel – Cool and light on entry, then bright acids usher in the fine-grained tannins. These combine to give the wine a supple, gently textured feel with a hint of spice and flint. A soft dryness starts at the mid-palate and then radiates outward to the lips and cheeks.

Taste – Black fruit leads the way, with bold black plum, blackberry, tart blueberry, black cherry and black currant. These are followed closely by dark mocha and subtle flavors of tobacco leaf, earthy mushrooms, sweet brown spice and a hint of cracked pepper.

Finish – Very long and very flavorful with lingering flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum. Medium tannins and a balanced acidity give the wine great backbone. Flavors tail off very slowly, giving way to flint and black pepper.

Conclusion – The 2009 Ramspur Estate – Otton Vineyards Carneros Merlot delivers a dark, juicy, balanced wine that has enough acidity and flavor to make it an easy companion for most meals – especially heartier ones. Merlot from Napa Carneros is a unique beast, often drawing comparisons with those from the Right Bank of Bordeaux. Today’s flavorful wine exhibits plenty of character without sacrificing any of its approachability. Again, balance comes into play, making the wine delightfully flavorful without overpowering. Pair this food-fantastic wine with a hearty pasta, a grilled steak or any other hearty, complex meal.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Nancy Otton

WINE EDUCATION: On the job training!

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Honestly, I moved to Napa and the “bug bit me.”

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Personally, I like my wines low in alcohol. I want to not only taste the fruit, but appreciate the love and care it took to get into the bottle. My mission is to make clean and fruit forward wines that aren’t masked by the alcohol. That’s really it…

WINEMAKER QUOTE: A glass a day to celebrate life.



AGENT RED: Greetings, Nancy. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Otton Vineyard Merlot today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

NANCY: Thanks for having me, exciting to join a great company like Wine Spies.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

WINEMAKER: I moved to Napa and bought a vineyard…that’s when the bug bit me.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

NANCY: Mark Swain my mentor. He also likes clean, fruit forward, low alcohol wines.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKER: Me, myself and I. Okay, really for my customers!

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

NANCY: Once again in 2009 our hillside vineyard produced an elegant bouquet true to its terroir. The wine is filled with spicy ripe black cherry, current, and red-raspberry fruit with complex aromas of chocolate, black pepper, vanilla and hints of toasty oak. The flavors are full of rich ripe, black and red fruits – smooth and balanced with supple tannins. The mouth feel is medium full bodied with a round mid-pallet and lingering finish of fruit and soft oak; perfectly suited for fine dining. Pairs very well with rack of lamb, wild game, all grilled steaks and roasts and anything with mushrooms or pasta!

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

NANCY: Any steak is great with this wine…a nice ribeye would be perfect

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Carneros region such a special place for Merlot?

NANCY: I think it’s the soil. It’s rich, rocky, and has deeply beautiful mineral components. You can literally “see the proof in the pudding”(clusters) when you tend to the vineyards. The grapes are just unbelievable.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

NANCY: Filtering the 2010 and taking it into lab to be tested. I’m also getting ready for bottling. SO, basically lots of babysitting to make sure everything is perfect

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

NANCY: Just to enjoy them…to be honest, my wines aren’t made for the snobby enthusiast. I make what I like. As an average consumer that believes I also have average good taste, I make wines that I enjoy and think others will too. Once you’ve tasted them you’ll understand ;o)

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

NANCY: My annual overall production is under 100 cases….so you won’t see ANY of my wines in grocery stores. Only high end restaurants and online. No current distribution as I’m so small. Bottom line if you’re looking for a unique small production wine that you won’t find anywhere, this is for you. Thank YOU for your support!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Ramspur Estate Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

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