The Best Wineries in Sonoma Valley: Ram’s Gate Winery SpotlightJoe Campbell
Founded in 2011, Ram’s Gate Winery is the brainchild of four wine-loving investors who shared a vision to create a world-class winery in the heart of Sonoma County. Inspired by the region’s unique terroir and diverse grape varieties, they aimed to showcase the best of what the area had to offer. Their dream was to create a place of elegance and sophistication where visitors could experience exceptional wines and the beauty of Sonoma Wine Country. Ram’s Gate Winery is not just a winery; it is a destination in its own right.
Reflecting on the early days of Ram’s Gate Winery, the hiring of a dedicated winemaker, Joe Nielsen, in 2018 marked a significant milestone in the winery’s development. Joe’s appointment signaled a renewed focus on elevating the quality of the wines and taking the winery to the next level. With Joe on board, the winery was able to have a winemaker on-site who could intimately get to know the space and vineyards, allowing for a deeper understanding of the terroir and how to best express it in the wines. His vision has not only shaped the wine program but also every aspect of Ram’s Gate Winery. His passion and dedication to quality have helped to define the direction of the winery, driving its pursuit of excellence in all areas.
Food & Wine Pairing
Large Groups OK
Ram’s Gate Winery’s estate spans 130 acres, 28 of which are dedicated to grapes. The estate is situated at a unique location where the Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Carneros AVAs intersect, providing it with distinct climate and topography characteristics. The estate benefits from the fog from San Pablo Bay and the wind from Petaluma Gap, creating a cooler microclimate that is ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the winery’s primary grape varieties. The estate also grows Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Grenache, and its soil type is rocky loam. It is worth noting that the estate has been farmed organically for the last three years, ensuring that the wines are of the highest quality.
Their approach to winemaking is to spend ample time in the vineyard to gain an understanding of how best to truly understand the terroir, which helps avoid a rigid recipe and instead tailoring the winemaking process to what is required from the vineyard to produce the highest quality wine. Favoring a “less is more philosophy”, prioritizes a more natural, holistic approach with hallmarks including the use of whole cluster fermentations in Pinot Noir and Rhone style wines, native fermentations on all the red wines and working with artisan coopers to craft the barrels.
When it comes to Pinot Noir, Ram’s Gate Winery’s philosophy centers on seeking out unique expressions of the variety and maintaining balance in the wine. They work with world-class growers who practice precise farming techniques that allow for confident picking based on flavor and preservation of acidity, rather than sugar and alcohol levels. Several partner vineyards include Gap’s Crown Vineyard, El Diablo and Bush Crispo Vineyard with whom they have worked with since 2010. They are also expanding partnerships in Green Valley and the Sonoma Coast to discover new and unique expressions of the variety.
Ram’s Gate Winery takes inspiration from old world techniques when it comes to crafting their Syrahs, keeping a close eye on water stress in the vineyard to allow the terroir to drive the final product. In the cellar, they use a healthy amount of whole cluster fermentations ranging from 30% to 100%, and prefer native fermentations. This allows the wines to age and mellow at its own pace in the barrel, sculpting the tannin structure over time.
They have taken significant steps towards promoting sustainability in their vineyards and winemaking processes. For over eight years, Ram’s Gate Winery has been certified sustainable, and for the last three years after farming organically they are now seeking to get organic certification. They are always looking for innovative ways to improve such as adding more owl and bat boxes and purchasing an electric Monarch tractor.
At Ram’s Gate Winery, guests are treated to a world-class experience that embodies the essence of excellence, genuine hospitality and culinary bliss. With a range of options to choose from, guests can indulge in different offerings including the mult-course Seasonal Wine and Food pairing or a caviar experience–they are given personalized attention, as the winery’s staff takes great care to guide them through their tasting journey.
If you are looking for an unforgettable experience that is sure to tantalize your senses, look no further than Ram’s Gate Winery.
RAM’S GATE WINERY OVERVIEW
- Who – Ownership team, Michael John, Jeff O’Neill, Paul Violich, and Peter Mullin
- Winemaker – Joe Nielsen
- What – A Sense of Place
- When – Open, by appointment, Thur – Mon 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM
- Where – 28700 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, CA 95476
- Reservations – Can be made online here
- Phone Number – 1-707-721-8700
The 2019 vintage broke with the past as we pursued an intense, vine by vine farming protocol with a hope of increased vine health and a resulting wine with vitality and focus. The final blend was assembled from four different lots; however, the core of the wine is built around a small subsection of our older vines that find footing in gravel soils—a unique soil for the area. There, the vine roots reach nearly 4 feet down, the clusters are miniature, and the resulting wines are without question, the most concentrated. Fermented completely natively, the nose is driven by açai berry, cocoa, and blood orange. On the palate, the naturally higher-acid fruit drives the wine, while the weight and concentration are felt on the mid-palate accelerating nicely into a long, satisfying finish. This wine embraces the vintage perfectly and we are incredibly proud of the final product.
The wine is built around the Pommard clone which drives the wine with dense fruits of Santa Rosa plum, ripe pomegranate, and red currant. The wine’s compelling edge comes from the balanced blended with the older block planted to clone 115 which turned 21 years old at the time of harvest. The older block is the quintessential spice-box, with Asian 5-spice and incense. On the palate, the Pommard is plush and round, while the 115 is masculine and defined, creating balance between the two in the final assemblage.
Black currants, plum sauce, and baking spice are welcoming elements on the nose, while red fruits are tucked below the surface—evident with time in glass. On the palate, the wine is textural, with well-woven tannins and bright focused acidity. Like many of our 2019s, the wine is inviting, elegantly poised and concentrated. Bottled after 11 months, the wine leans toward a more complex and compelling direction and will benefit from some bottle age, allowing the wine’s bouquet to shine through.
Fermented in very small sublots with pick dates that spanned 10 days through the middle of September it is an overall classically charged vintage. Wente clone drove the blend with 73% of the volume and is grown in three different blocks. The Robert Young clone, 21% of the blend, provided a richer core on the palate. The remaining 6% of the blend is a combination of 3% clone 15, 2% Mt Eden and 1% clone 98. With no malolactic fermentation, the 2019 Chardonnay is elegant yet sophisticated. Aromas of orange blossom with a hint of petrol greet the nose and lead into flavors of honey and lychee with a bit of spice. This will certainly be a wine we will love to watch evolve in the coming years.