David Ramey, a highly regarded winemaker whose wines have frequently appeared in Wine Spectator's Top 100, has left Rudd Estate in Napa Valley to concentrate on his own label.
Replacing him is Charles Thomas, winemaker for Cardinale, the Cabernet Sauvignon—based flagship wine for Jackson Family Farms, the boutique wineries owned by Jess Jackson. Since mid-2000, Thomas -- who will hold the title of vice president and director of vineyards and winemaking at Rudd -- has also overseen winemaking and vineyard development for the various JFF estates, which include Atalon, Hartford Court, Lokoya, Matanzas Creek and Stonestreet. He will continue with Cardinale and JFF as a consultant.
The parting, according to Ramey and winery owner Leslie Rudd, was amicable. "I turned myself into a consultant for Rudd a year ago, and Leslie really wanted someone there full-time," Ramey said. "And my brand has grown more rapidly than I thought, as I take over some of the product lines I created for Leslie that he is divesting himself of."
After buying the old Girard Winery on Silverado Trail in 1996, Rudd replanted the vineyard there, relying on purchased grapes for its initial releases. The winery is now focusing on a red wine from the estate vineyards since the new vines have begun producing fruit. It will also continue producing a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blance and a Russian River Valley Chardonnay from the Bacigalupi Vineyard.
The Ramey label will now include the Russian River and Carneros Chardonnays and the Jericho Canyon Vineyard Cabernet blend formerly bottled under the Rudd label. Wine Spectator has consistently given high scores to the Rudd and Ramey wines.
"David did an outstanding job for us and raised the profile of the winery and the quality of the wines far beyond my expectations," Rudd said.
Ramey, who has made the wines for his label at Rudd, is looking for a new home for the 2002 crush.
Before joining Rudd in 1998, Ramey was winemaker and general manager at Dominus Estate, and had previously worked at Sonoma County wineries Chalk Hill, Simi and Matanzas Creek.
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