Rock Stars of Wine: Rodger from RAM Cellars, Portland OR
Fortune smiles on people who are open to the world. That is how we became lucky to meet Rodger of RAM Cellars. We talked about the wine he was making with Enso, where he is the assistant winemaker, but also about Vynl and how we wanted to change the way the world sees, and drinks, wine. Almost immediately he reached down to grab a case of wine, to share with us and to share with friends. Except this was his own wine, his solo project, his labor of love. Something quite unique, and incredibly special. You realize instantly that you are in the presence of a man who loves his wine, and loves to share it with his friends.
After drinking RAM Cellars wine (in particular their 2014 Cabernet Franc) everything I suspected was true. Rodger takes a very careful, very simple approach to making wines. His creativity shines from its simplicity, sourcing the finest grapes from Alder Ridge, and minimal intervention during the winemaking process. This allows Rodger to tell the story of the varietal, of the grape, what it went through, the season, the environment, or if you want to call it by that fancy French term, the terroir. This way, Rodger is able to tell the story of the grapes, the vineyards, the winery, and take you on a journey through the wine.
Go to the RAM Cellars website and you will see pictures of Rodger smiling, being happy, with plenty of wine there for friends to drink. Being a micro urban winery really does suit them. The flexibility it affords them allows their creativity to flourish. With no rules, or limitations as to what he can make, Rodger smirks when he says he may experiment with Tempranillo (we sense a Rioja fan here). It makes Rodger a budding rock star in the wine world, and we wanted to know more about him, about RAM, and what the future will hold. We are telling you right now, this micro urban winery wont be very micro for long.
When did you first realize you loved wine?
About a decade or so ago, after several years of exploring wines in the Yakima valley in Washington, I had my ‘ah-ha!’ moment at a winery on the red mountain AVA. The winery, Kiona, was doing a barrel tasting comparing the differences in various oak aging treatments and I got to talk to the winemaker that was running the visitors through the tasting… And at that moment it occurred to me that I was drawn to the both the science and the art of the process as much as I enjoyed drinking wine. So at that point I looked at programs in the pacific northwest to learn about the science of winemaking and ended up doing two professional certificate programs, one in viticulture and one in enology, before / during getting real time experience at Portland area wineries…
How did you get your start in winemaking?
After volunteering at a few different wineries in 2011 & 2012, (including Enso in 2012) / then doing weekend work at a winery in Forest Grove during harvest of 2012, I joined Enso winery for the 2013 vintage, originally as the harvest intern. I stayed on as the assistant winemaker and have been there since. I started RAM Cellars in 2014 and released the first vintage of the RAM Cellars wines in March of 2016.
Did you like the first wine you made?
Although it was not the best wine I have ever made, I certainly loved the first wine I made, which I actually made from a small batch of Washington State Tempranillo grapes, in my garage (this was pre-RAM Cellars obviously). I have enjoyed sharing those few cases with friends
You clearly put a lot of care and effort into your wine. And it rocks! What makes these wines so special to you?
It’s truly a labor of love. It brings me a lot of joy to know that when I’m spending countless hours on these wines, it’s so that they can be enjoyed among family and friends; on a day of celebration… or after an average day. The creation of the wines themselves yields special moments along the way, but the best moment is when they are enjoyed!
What is next for you, and for Ram Cellars? Will you be expanding your range of wines or focusing on new vintages of the awesome stuff?
Next for RAM Cellars will be an increase in production and the inclusion of additional varietals into the mix. Tempranillo and Riesling are future releases already in the works to broaden our range of wines! Additionally, I’m working on additional options for distribution outside of the Pacific Northwest
What, for you, is the perfect moment (or moments) to drink these wines?
The beauty of the wines, I think, anyway, is that it’s acceptable to drink them on a myriad of occasions, whether celebratory or mundane! As it was just thanksgiving, I was happy to think of bottles of our wine accompanying thanksgiving get-togethers and I’ve got to say that’s up there with perfect moments to drink our wines!
Is there a moment that nobody drinks or pairs wine with? Would you make a wine for it?
Keeping in mind a healthy sense of moderation, I think that crafting a wine specifically for your ‘average Tuesday night’ if you will, would be cool. Wine is oft enjoyed with meals, in celebration, as a way to cut loose, but it truly has a place at the table for all occasions. Maybe at some point you’ll see a RAM Cellars red blend crafted for just such an occasion!