Ramulose Ridge Vineyards

Ramulose Ridge Vineyards was one of the last visits of my latest Southern Virginia excursion; although to be technically correct, they are in the Virginia Mountains AVA. Located a short drive from Smith Mountain Lake, the area is a mix of residential housing and farm country. It’s a pretty area to visit, both for the lake and nearby city of Roanoke.

Driving there it’s easy to miss the turn into the long driveway; after a false start I passed through the gate towards the house in the distance. Sadly, I couldn’t linger here, although that patio upstairs overlooking the vineyard seemed very inviting.

In an industry full of places where most tasting room associates are all too often only somewhat acquainted with their wines, Ramulose was a treat as owner/wine maker Sandi Ramaker was pouring. Although the tasting room was busy we still found a corner to chat.

Ramulose Ridge translates as “Having many branches”; certainly an apt description for a vineyard. Sandi and husband Jim were living in Hong Kong when they decided to turn their Virginia property into a winery. While many places utilize consultants and hire a wine maker, they decided they wanted to forge their own path. In preparation Sandi studied enology at UC Davis, and together they researched what to plant for their future vineyard.

Today they have 5 acres of vines, roughly split between hybrids and vinifera.  Notably these vines include Syrah, Malbec and Muscat; all varietals that are rare for Virginia. Sandi was justifiably proud how they’ve produced several vintages of each – although the Malbec was long gone when I visited. At the time of my visit they were producing just under 3000 cases/year, all made with estate fruit.

The tasting menu was surprisingly extensive for such a small vineyard. But if that’s not enough they also make small packets of fruit-driven wines. Think of them as sippy packets, but for adults!

I was also surprised to learn that Ramulose is a participant in the Virginia Wine and Cigar Trail; I actually didn’t know there was such a thing. It’s quite useful to know, since my dad is a cigar smoker but not a wine drinker, so now I can hook up mom and dad at the same place.

Across the board I thought the wines were well made. For someone who was more-or-less a winemaker by accident, you definitely could have fooled me. I was also shocked how well priced everything was. Coming from northern Virginia where bottles often start in the low 20s and often go higher, it was a pleasant surprise to see well-made reds in the under $20 range.

Viognier: Crisp, apricot notes.

Chardonnel: Light oak, very nice

Traminette: Also apricot, but more of a full bodied white.

Muscat: Specifically, “Golden Muscat”, a sub-variety of the Muscat family. At 4% sugar this is most definitely a sweet wine.

Vidal Blanc: While it has 1% sugar it almost fooled me into thinking it was a dry wine.

Cabernet Franc: Very unusual for a Franc but I liked it a lot (and bought a bottle). Almost raspberry notes, with some spice. Very nice wine.

Syrah: One of a handful of Syrahs in Virginia. Spicy, definitely a good steak wine.

Pineapple: Served in a package. Good porch sipping wine that is good for a sangria base.

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