ram's gate winery

Winery of the Week: Ram’s Gate Winery

Ram’s Gate Winery, which straddles the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and Carneros AVAs, is a marvel. The 21,000-sq.-ft. visual masterpiece is perched atop a majestic rolling hill and is the first winery those driving in from San Francisco will see off of Highway 121, making it an unofficial “Welcome to Sonoma” mile marker of sorts.

Upon parking, there are two towering structures on the winery’s 28 acres that manage to both feel like antique barns and modern art at the same time. The structures, inspired by homesteads in the area more than 100 years ago, are connected by an ample outdoor living room and complete with multiple fireplaces that could each easily keep 50 people warm. One element that especially impressed my non-design-minded brain was how seamlessly the indoor and outdoor spaces felt, almost becoming one. Complementing the design are the sweeping views in every direction, available at nearly 360 degrees thanks to the use of floor-to-ceiling windows, open air spaces and ample natural light.

The design inside and out – notably designed by the acclaimed Orlando Diaz-Azcuy – incorporate redwood, marble and steel, which together allow the surrounding area to shine even brighter.

Given the insane visual, I was scared the wine and culinary offerings would not live up to everything my eyes had been gorging on, but I was wrong.

Here is how I best describe the wine tasting experiences at Ram’s Gate…

Imagine Architectural Digest, Food + Wine and Wine Enthusiast magazines merged into one, and then came to life. Yeah, it is that good.

Director of winemaking and sustainability advocate Joe Nielsen – a one-time pre-med student who began studying viticulture before he could legally even taste the wine he was creating – is at the top of his game, as is the culinary team. The team shares Nielsen’s passion for the land and take great care to source hyperlocal ingredients and deliver them direct to your fork during a pairing.

Let’s talk pairings.

The Five-Course Wine & Food Pairing ($160 per person) changes often based on seasonality of ingredients as well as the five wines that Nielsen hand-picks for guests any given day. Over the course of 90 minutes, your tastebuds will be taken on a wild ride of flavors, textures and nuanced varietals with a little sweet, a little savory and all kinds of umami.

Beyond this, there are of course flights as well as smaller bites available. Outside of the full pairing, however, I recommend signing on for one of the Sunday Seminars, each of which focuses on one really cool aspect of wine, be it winemaking, blending, barrel tasting and even an interactive chemistry class (seriously, it is fun!).

I have yet to leave the property without a case of wine, and you will be hard-pressed not to pick up a few bottles of your own when visiting (or checking out the website), too. Some of my faves right now:

2018 Pinot Noir, El Diablo Vineyard: This Wine Enthusiast 94-point-rated beauty is a tricky little devil (see what I did there?). On the nose, there is chocolate and ever-so-gentle rose notes. But then to the taste, all of the sudden comes juicy red fruit, especially strawberry and raspberry followed by a naughty little spiciness. $75

2018 Chardonnay, Hyde Vineyard: Made in partnership with the iconic Hyde family, expect apple tart on the nose but then a switch when it hits your mouth, as then notes of white peach and apricot join the party. $70

2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Ram’s Gate Estate: This one is chilling in my fridge as we speak, awaiting the first hot day of the year so it can be enjoyed by the pool. The lemongrass and grapefruit here are killer, not to mention the ripe melon that sneaks up on you every few seconds. $38

For more information on Ram’s Gate Winery, visit ramsgatewinery.com.

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