Rams Gate Winery: The Gateway To Wine Country
Ram’s Gate Winery is aptly named for the region it resides in, the Carneros AVA. Carneros means Ram in Spanish and the ram is a mascot that has long been used by many businesses in the area. If you have heard of Domaine Carneros Winery or Gloria Ferrer Winery, then you know the location I am talking about. For those that haven’t visited Napa before, Carneros is the first AVA when you enter the Napa Valley and it’s the only AVA that has both Napa and Sonoma as designations (this means, on the label you will see Carneros representing both Napa and Sonoma Counties), very rare! The Carneros region is famous for its cooler climate that makes it a wonderful region to grow varietals such as: Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
My gal friend Jess Lander who writes for the Napa Valley Register, 7x7 Magazine and Napa/Sonoma.com is the BEST for dragging me along to Ram’s Gate for a delicious Food and Wine Pairing. The experience we were treated to is called “Palate Play.” It is a combination of four different dishes paired with their current release wines. We tasted two of the eight chardonnays they produce; their 2014 Chardonnay El Diablo Vineyard from Russian River, paired with a Carrot Pannacotta/Heirloom Apple/Madras Curry/Shallot and then their 2014 Chardonnay, Hudson Vineyard, Carneros paired with Dungeness Crab/Citrus/Frisee/Pink Peppercorn/Candied Fennel. I was absolutely blown away by the creativity of the carrot pannacotta and El Diablo Vineyard Chardonnay, it was a cleaner, brighter style chardonnay with less cream and butter than a typical chardonnay. The Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay was all butter and oak, but very well balanced and paired perfectly with the crab!
When it comes to food and wine pairings, it’s very important to consider that the wine should be the star, but at the same time, the food need not be forgotten. In this instance, the wine was the star, but the food was also the star. Neither item competed with the other, instead they complimented each other in the best way possible. Another factor that really cemented our experience was the excellent service we received. From the start, we entered the property and were greeted by their Estate Host, she offered us some of their delicious Estate Sparkling Brut Rose and a tour through their gorgeous hospitality building, designed by Howard Backen (highly revered architect in the Napa Valley). We were sat in their member’s lounge, which depending on the wineries you visit, this lounge could be the entire winery, it was that large. They clearly have built quite the following, because even in the midst of the slow season starting and our lull from the Fires, they were packed! It was nice to be given the members treatment, I almost joined, but then I remember my husband would probably kill me if I joined another wine club, so I decided to hold off. However It seems like a really great deal, you get access to their gorgeous wines and if you were to join the day you decided to experience the Palate Play ($95 per person), it would automatically waive two experience fee’s! You’re welcome in advance!
They are well known for their Chardonnay, but I am sure their Winemaking team of Jeff Gaffner and Luke Stanko would not want you to forget the star of the Carneros show, Pinot Noir! They make 8 different pinot noirs and syrah as well. The two Pinot Noir’s we were treated to, the Roberts Vineyard (I felt like it was a sign from my dad that that Pinot was chosen for us to try – or just timing. My dad’s been passed away for 4 years and I try to look for the signs that he is with me) and then we tried 2014 El Diablo Pinot Noir (from the same site as the Chardonnay) and then as well the 2013 Hyde Vineyards Syrah (renowned Syrah Vineyard located in Carneros)…the pairings with the Pinot Noir, Braised Short Ribs and Polenta and the Duck Confit Dumpling were out of this world….I asked for seconds, they would have done it if I were serious, I am sure, they are just THAT hospitable !
I highly suggest making the trek from Napa to Rams Gate, or if you are in the bay area, it Is one of the first stops coming into the valley off of highway 37. Definitely add it to your “Must Visit List.”