Ram’s Gate Winery Review
Address: 28700 Arnold Drive Sonoma,California 95476.
Phone Number: 707-721-8700
Tasting Hours: By appt. Thurs-Mon 10:00-6:00
Region: Sonoma Coast AVA, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley AVA, Los Carneros AVA, California
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Review Date: 5/2/2014
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
As we left our tour of San Francisco (cut short by the desire to explore wine country) and headed North, we passed the “Welcome to Sonoma” sign and were greeted to our right with Rams Gate Winery high on the hillside – the first winery just over the Sonoma line (from San Francisco).
The land of the former Roche Winery now houses the winery, production facility, and wine caves for Ram’s Gate Winery. The property was chosen by Jeff ONeill, third generation vintner, and friends, Michael John, Peter Mullin and Paul Violich, to craft their unique wines and offer them in an elegant, yet relaxing setting. The building was designed by famous architect Howard Backen who chose a modern look that meshes with tradition to help highlight the landscape, yet put a modern spin on the old Carneros farmsteads. Much of the interior of the facilities bear the touch of world famous interior designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy who crafted the accent colors, eclectic furniture, and lighting. The beauty of the winery was the first thing that really stood out as we made our way past the manicured gardens, up the walkway into the open courtyard bearing dark wicker padded chairs and tables. The facility also contains a gorgeous members’ section with views of the vineyard slopes below and a room for private events.
Tastings are conducted at the long, rectangular, marble-topped tasting bar, and the decor in the comfortable, living room setup is stunning. Along the back wall, glass doors and windows open up to an additional patio that overlooks the rear vineyards. The glass walls allow the tasting room to be an extension of the outside.
The winemaking is tackled by Jeff Gaffner, the lead winemaker, with the help of assistant winemaker Jesse Fox. Rams Gate has an Estate Vineyard, but the winery also sources fruit from eight other vineyards throughout Sonoma County.
Ram’s Gate has two tasting flights called Collections One and Collections Two. A cheese and charcuterie add-on can be added to either flight for an additional fee. Collection One ($20) consists primarily of Chardonnay, and Collection Two ($25) is dominated by Pinot Noir. Ram’s Gate was my first Sonoma winery experience, and I felt compelled to spring for the full boat of Collection One and Two to share with my fiancée. As a result, we tasted twelve wines and were really impressed by most of them.
When scoring wines during tastings, I utilize the 5 point scale and, by that guide, had scored 5 of the wines above 4 stars – and the remainder over 3 ½ stars. Describing twelve wines to express just how good the wines are is a bit much, so below are the top five wines we tasted.
First was the 2011 Carneros Chardonnay ($36), which proved very aromatic with plenty of smooth, vanilla notes that blanketed intense Asian pear, butterscotch, and apple flavors. An outstanding Chardonnay and an excellent start to the tasting. We mixed up the order of the tasting a bit and moved onto the 2009 Blanc De Noirs ($48), which is made from 100% Rams Gate Estate fruit. Moderate aromas of orange zest with bready notes lead the charge. This delicate and crisp sparkler then exhibited ripe pear and a crisp minerality on the palate. Moving on to the last of the whites, we tried another estate-grown wine, the 2012 Pinot Blanc ($38). With plenty of floral character, led by fresh cut honeysuckle, light citrus, and juicy pear, the Pinot Blanc finishing with fresh summer herbs, a kiss of minerality, and a dab of citrus zest.
Based on the white wines, I had high expectations for their Estate Vineyard reds. Two wines truly stood out – the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Sangiacomo Vineyard ($68) and the 2012 Bush Crispo Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70). The Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir displayed moderate aromas of fresh herb and cranberry. Luscious, black cherry, smoldering brown sugar, and notes of cinnamon comprise the core of this Pinot that finishes with a nice, spice driven finale. A great curve ball that had us in awe towards the conclusion of the tasting. We rinsed our palates and then tasted the 2012 Bush Crispo Pinot Noir. Nuances of eucalyptus mix with juicy, wild berries and dried herb. The Bush Crispo has juicy plum, raspberry, and boysenberry flavors and a spice-driven backbone. Fresh acidity, well balanced, and medium soft tannins capped off one of our favorite wines of the day, and an absolute purchase on our part.
We finished our tasting with a couple of Late Harvest dessert wines and purchased bottles of the Bush Crispo Pinot Noir, Blanc De Noirs, and Carneros Chardonnay. Our tasting experience was amazing, and we had lots of laughs while exchanging stories with our knowledgeable Tasting Ambassador, Todd Curtis. If you happen to see Rams Gate along the way, which its nearly impossible not to, be sure to stop in and try both collections, like we did. You will not be disappointed!