Drinking Good Wine at Ramos Torres Winery in Kingsburg
Earth & VineDecember 2014
By Fache Desrochers
Photos: Kelli Avila
Terroir is an important word in the world of wine. It translates from French to “earth” or “soil.” However, as with most things French, the literal meaning is just the tip of the iceberg. Terroir refers not just to the actual earth in which wine grapes are grown, but also to the characteristics specific to the region’s soil, climate, style of winemaking and subtleties of that year’s fruit. Ultimately, terroir refers to the entire story of a wine: where it has come from, what it has become, and what makes it special.
Oscar Ramos Torres, the eponymous founder and winemaker behind Kingsburg’s Ramos Torres Winery, has a special terroir all his own. As a first-generation Californian of Mexican descent, Ramos was introduced to horticulture at an early age, as his parents instilled in him their knowledge of farming and how to coax harvests out of the valley soil. Ramos continued to build on this foundation during his time at Fresno State University. Home to a top-tier oenology program, Ramos stepped into the university’s viniculture world and never looked back. “I took the intro to oenology class, and I just fell in love with it,” Ramos says. “The program was great as far as giving you all the working knowledge you need to build a career in wine. But it’s up to the individual to decide how much they want to specialize, how far they want to pursue it.”
For Ramos, the pursuit has always been that of a wine that meets his standards, from vine to glass and everywhere in between. His goal is to create balanced wines that highlight the nuances of the varietals, while prioritizing organic and sustainable farming methods. He embarked directly on the quest for that goal just after graduating college, by working as an assistant winemaker to Jim Van Haun at Cedar View Winery in Sanger. “Jim was my first stepping stone into winemaking,” recalls Ramos. “It was while I worked with him that I got a clear view of what my role in the wine industry would be, and that was to create my own wines, my own brand.”
In 2005, the Ramos Torres brand was born. The first vintage was small, comprising only a couple hundred cases. But Ramos had succeeded in his own standard: the wine was wonderful, well-made and entirely his own. “If I’m going to do something, I’d like to do it to the level of my expectations. And my expectations are set pretty high,” Ramos says with a laugh. “So the idea is to create a product that I can impart my own style into and enjoy, and then share it with people.”
Having crafted a vintage that he could be proud of, Ramos turned his attention to the next step of his prescribed process: letting others in on his enjoyment. In 2008, he opened the Ramos Torres tasting room, and began to delight local wine enthusiasts with his offerings. “Wine brings people together to imbibe and to enjoy, to take the time to figure out why what they’re drinking is special,” Ramos says. “It’s a social process, but also a thoughtful one. And that’s one of the most special things about the tasting room: sharing a wine with someone and knowing that they will share it with somebody else.”
As the brand’s popularity grew, Ramos was able to expand the tasting room’s building to include an on-site winemaking facility. And now, with the recent acquisition of an estate vineyard, Ramos is able to personally orchestrate every step of his winemaking process, ensuring that his wines become everything he wants them to be. “The estate vineyard is wonderful, because I have total freedom to organically, sustainably produce the grapes I want. I can really fine-tune all aspects of it,” Ramos says with a smile.
To those in the know, the Ramos Torres tasting room also delights the palate with more than just wonderful wine. “I’ve started to cook for some of our events here,” Ramos confides. “I’ve always liked to cook, but now I can really share my enjoyment of the relationship between food and wine and what they mean to each other.” The tasting room offers a variety of events, but the winemaker dinners are quite special: small, intimate, and only occurring a time or two annually.
The French have a saying: La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” And with their winemaker’s warm, philosophical view on the power of good wine, and his meticulous attention to the science of its production, Ramos Torres Winery proves with every vintage that it knows this statement to be absolutely true.
Ramos Torres Winery • (559) 419-9159
1665 Simpson St, Kingsburg
www.ramostorres.com • www.facebook.com/ramostorreswines