Joe Nielsen’s goal, to capture what he calls the “three C’s of winemaking” is shown effortlessly in the debut of his first vintage with Ram’s Gate, each bottling from the 2018 vintage is complete, complex and compelling.
Ram’s Gate Winery is set amongst the picturesque hills of Carneros AVA, a point where Napa & Sonoma meet the San Francisco Bay. Founded in 2011 the winery is admired for its architectural details. Designed by illustrious Howard Backen, the tasting room is a rendition of traditional farmsteads of Carneros. The grand structure is rustic and modern at the same time, and is finished by interior designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy. The breathtaking farmhouse like tasting room with indoor and outdoor spaces create a warm, welcoming environment for guests.
At Ram’s Gate, the focus is on premium small-lot Chardonnay and Pinot-Noir. Many of the wines showcase the expressions and characteristics of their unique vineyard sites.
Joe Nielsen – Winemaker
Joe Nielson joined Ram’s Gate Winery in 2018, on what he considers to be a “hill of gold.” The morning fog and wind from the San Pablo Bay, create the ideal setting for grape growing. The vineyards are planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Grenache and Syrah.
Joe joined Ram’s Gate after spending five years as head winemaker for Donelan Family Wines in Sonoma. After spending time studying soils and understanding each vineyard block at Ram’s Gate, Joe introduced a variety of practices in the cellar, including whole cluster fermentation, native fermentation, and increasing cooperage variety. Joe is successfully transitioning the estate vineyards into a model of thoughtful precision farming and sustainability.
I had the pleasure of tasting two of Joe Nielsen’s debut Chardonnays. The 2018 Ram’s Gate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($46) and the 2018 Ram’s Gate El Diablo Chardonnay($70) were both exceptional.
The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay spent 10 months in barrel with 25% in new French oak. This youthful Chardonnay is fresh and savory with crisp minerality. Nice texture on the palate from the partial malolactic fermentation. There are vibrant notes of white flowers, nectarines and almonds. Zippy acidity keeps me coming back for more. There is great depth and energy in this lively Chardonnay.
The El Diablo Chardonnay spends 11 months in barrel with 35% in new French oak. Expressive on the nose and palate, the El Diablo Chardonnay is elegant, complex and alluring. Present in the wine are notes of lime, almond, honey, vanilla and distinct minerality. Medium-bodied, the wine has bright acidity and a wonderful silky long finish. This Chardonnay will only continue to get better and better in the bottle, making it ideal for cellaring. A stunning Chardonnay.
A new winemaker and incredible wines, make a visit to Ram’s Gate Winery a must. With a stunning tasting room and a full in-house culinary program, Joe has all the tools necessary to present a holistic winery experience like no other.