Instant Gratification Wines — California Guru Touts Reasonable, Indulge Today Selections

Life is Short, Drink Now


David Ramey needs no introduction, at least to those who have more than a passing acquaintance with the California wine world. He’s a U.C. Davis grad, and his resume includes work at Simi Winery, Matanzas Creek and Chalk Hill, not to mention his own Ramey Wine Cellars. His reputation as a winemaker and scholar is stellar, and deserved (read his paper on the effects of skin contact temperature on Chardonnay here).

Ramey produces some fine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon — not to mention Syrah — under the Ramey label, and if you’ve never tasted any of his wines, make sure you do so soon. Start with the 2016 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, and then proceed to the 2015 Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. These won’t disappoint.

Another way to taste Ramey’s approach is by opening a bottle of Sidebar, a project the winemaker started in 2014 and calls his “second label.” It is “the product of the Ramey team’s desire to have some fun and a little instant gratification while waiting for our Ramey bottles to mature,” the Sidebar team states.

And instant gratification you shall receive.

David Ramey, winemaker and scholar, has put his experience to good use at Sidebar Cellars. (

A few days ago, I tasted the 2016 Old Vine Zinfandel and the 2018 Kerner Mokelumne River, the latest releases from Sidebar Cellars, and recommend them both for your next gathering, be it a dinner party or cocktail hour. They’ll appeal to most drinkers, they don’t require much of an investment, and they are fun to drink.

The Kerner grape was born in Württemburg, Germany, in 1969, and is named for Justinius Kerner, a poet, physician, and medical writer (1786-1862, click here to read more about him). It’s a cross between my favorite grape, Riesling, and Trollinger, and, at its best, is fresh and bracing. Sidebar’s Kerner hails from the Mokelumne River AVA, and is made using native yeast; it ages sur lie for two and a half months in stainless steel.


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What results is a dry, aromatic, and crisp wine that you’ll enjoy with roasted Brussels sprouts (as I did), mild cheeses, and  turkey meatballs. The grapes are sourced from the Mokelumne Glen Vineyard. Look for this to cost you around $25. Alcohol level is 14.1 percent, and 329 cases were made.

Lydia Cummins has produced some great things at Sidebar Cellars. (Courtesy Ramey Wine Cellars)

Sidebar’s Zinfandel is a blend, a bottling of 15 grape varieties — 78 percent Zin, 10 percent Alicante, 10 percent Petite Sirah, and 2 percent 12 other varieties (Sangiovese, Carignane, Trousseau, Petite Bouschet, Syrah, Beclan, Tannat, Peloursin, Graciano, Plavac Mali, Palomino and Monbadon) — all from the historic Alegría Vineyard, located in the Russian River Valley AVA. It’s aged in neutral oak barrels for 12 months, and is bottled unfiltered.

Drink this with lamb chops, hamburgers, or meatloaf; it possesses the typical Zinfandel flavor profile (you’ll appreciate the ample acidity and moderate tannins in this bottle), and the additional grapes used give it intriguing complexity. It’s a taut pour, with admirable acidity. It retails for around $28, and the alcohol is 14.5 percent

These Sidebar offerings are made extremely well — Lydia Cummins is the winemaker for the label — and represent a great value for their price. Drink the Zinfandel and the Kerner now.

Want more wine? Check out PaperCity’s drinks library:

A Zinfandel for Daily Drinking
A Wine Family’s Excellent Adventure
Four Brothers and Some Great Young Wines
Your Endless Crush Rosé
Enrique Varela Loves Malbec
This Geologist Knows His Italian
A Chardonnay For Your Mother (and You)
Don’t Dismiss the Peat
Distinctive Whisky Enters a New Era
A Whisky Legend Visits Houston
A Rare Cask, Indeed
Austin Whisky, Strange Name
Here’s Your Texas Rum Goddess
A ZaZa Wine Guy Loves Great Service
A Merlot That Your Snob Friend Will Love
French Couple Make a Sauvignon Blanc in California
A Perfect Afternoon Chardonnay
Terry Theise Talks Reisling
A New Wine Wonderland
Paris Wine Goddess Tells All
Rice Village Wine Bar Has a Cleveland Touch
A Texas White Blend for Your Table
A Pinot Noir Full of Flavor
This Pinot Gris From Oregon Pairs Well With Cheese
Willamette, Dammit!
A Value Rioja
Drink Pink!
Underbelly Veteran Goes for Grenache
A Man of Letters and Wine
Ms. Champagne Wants a Nebuchadnezzar
The Wine Artist Goes for Chardonnay
This American Loves Spain and Its Wines
Houston’s Wine Whisperer Has a Soft Touch
Blackberry Farm’s Somm Pours in Splendor
Mr. Pinot Noir: Donald Patz of Patz & Hall
A Cork Dork Wants to Spend More Time in Tuscany
Sommelier Turned Restaurateur Daringly Goes Greek
Texas Master Sommelier Debunks Wine Geeks
A Bottle From Gigondas Changed This Houston Man’s Life

Oil Man Falls in Love, and the Rest is Good-Taste History
Ryan Cooper of Camerata is a Riesling Man
Mixing It Up With Jeremy Parzen, an Ambassador of Italy
Sommelier at One of Houston’s Top Wine Bars Loves Underdogs

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