The Corkscrewer Report

If the history of wine could be made into a movie western, David Ramey would be the maverick of the American West.


“I’m a winemaker. It’s all I’ve ever done as a grownup.” says David Ramey in his signature off-handed way as we sit down to discuss his revered winery of 20 years, Ramey Wine Cellars. And sitting before us, a sea of poured wine glasses on the large conference table as we wait in anticipation of tasting through his current and future releases. He takes us through to his lightning bolt moment—that moment of a-ha! in 1974—when he first decided to become a winemaker. It happened to him sitting alone in his ’71 Toyota Hilux pickup truck with no radio in the middle of the Mexican desert. “Just me and the cacti.” Fortified with a degree in American Literature from UC Santa Cruz, it was a moment of questioning that every young college graduate goes through: What am I going to do with my life?

THE CORKSCREWER REPORT: What were you planning to do with a degree in American Lit?

DAVID RAMEY: Nothing. All I wanted to do was to be educated and well-read in my culture. I wanted to look at American Literature as the expression of the American consciousness. Starting with the Puritans and then civilization versus the wilderness—it’s themes the great writers like Faulkner wrote about. And then it hit me: Why don’t I make wine? It’s an esthetic statement like literature, like the elements of composition in film. Literary and visual . . . well, that applies to wine too. It makes people happy, and it’s not bad for the environment. But you’ve got to go to UC Davis for that, and that’s only for sons and daughters of industry, who am I kidding?

With that thought, he turned back around towards the American West and, four years later, graduated UC Davis with a Master of Science in Oenology. David was 28 years old at the time.

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