Wine Tasting a Different Way

Rams Gate Winery

The vineyards at Rams Gate Winery (Photos courtesy of Kopol Bonick Photography).

One of the most common questions that comes my way is, “What are your four or five favorite wineries in Napa Valley? [Or Sonoma, Paso Robles … fill in the blank.] We’re headed there this Saturday and would like to hit a few.” The question is wrong on so many levels—name five favorite Napa Valley wineries?! But mostly I just want to scream, “No, don’t do it! Don’t even think about a five-winery afternoon!” How could you possibly appreciate anything about that fifth place except that it’s made you a little drunker and happier (let’s hope there’s a limo waiting).

RamsGate7

Weekend before last I discovered a winery that aims to change that behavior. It’s Ram’s Gate, conveniently one of the first wineries you get to heading north across the Gate from San Francisco, then east into Sonoma Valley. Sure, you can just drive up and head to the tasting bar for a few sips, and then move on. But that would be to miss the layers of this place completely—like the welcoming nooks to settle in by the outdoor fireplace, suggesting that you might want to stay awhile. But here, it’s not just about rustic high style (which is everywhere in spades). That’s just matching backdrop to seriously well-crafted wine—single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from some of Sonoma’s most venerable growers. And to feed the inner wine geek in us all, Ram’s Gate has deep dives arranged, so you can find out why the Hyde Vineyard Pinot tastes different from the Sangiacomo bottle.

RamsGate5

Reserve ahead for a guided tasting or, even better, one paired with food (wine is very much a food partner here). Another great track is the picnic plan. The pond beyond the Chardonnay vineyard out back is one of the sweetest picnic spots I’ve seen in wine country. Call ahead, and a basket will be waiting. But the deepest dive of all—and the reason I was at Ram’s Gate—is their summer Sunday suppers in the vineyard.

RamsGate9

Long, sunflower-decked tables surrounded by the vines your wine came from, the likes of grilled Sonoma lamb over a tangle of fresh greens and ripe plums, earthy and complex Pinot Noir vying for your head to kick in along with your happy heart at this moment … Okay, I wax too elequent. But great food and wine—in spectacular settings that they happen to be related to—can be unsettlingly exhilerating. I think that’s a good thing.

RamsGate10

Vintner Jeff O’Neill (L) and Sunset wine editor Sara Schneider (R).

COMMENTS

  1. Chuck Fiorentino

    Great article Kevin! You captured the culture and the memory of our great food, family and tradition. Pasta was always on the menu at Grandma’s house. The making of the pasta was always a part of the experience. The strescinati was always the kid favorite at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Such a simple food that brought us all together!

    June 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s