Ram’s Gate Winery

This past Saturday I took a group to visit Napa and our first stop was Ram’s Gate Winery. This winery has a great presence – gorgeous architecture and appointments, and a decent view. Unfortunately, the experience with the employees leaves me wondering what the mission of Ram’s Gate is: a winery producing very good wine to share with potential customers – or to be a close destination from San Francisco to have a mediocre experience, and pay through the nose for it.

Case in point: when I called to reserve the tasting, the employee couldn’t bother to get my name correct, despite me correcting them and spelling it multiple times. I was left with the feeling that they were shorthanded and very busy, even though it was the morning of a weekday. Upon arrival on Saturday, sure enough my name was misspelled on the reservation.

After being greeted and shown the area for the tasting, we were left to twiddle our thumbs for a bit until someone in the winery decided they would get things started. We had been handed a menu of two different tastings, the basic flight starting at $40 for four wines. As things go for Sonoma tastings, that’s a pretty stiff tasting fee. The tasting attendant couldn’t have been more cold and unapproachable, either. Overall, the feeling thus far was that we were an unexpected bother to the whole operation.

Having been to a great many tastings, the pours at Ram’s Gate were not accompanied by any information on the wine from the attendant other than the two sentences that were already on the tasting menu. And once everyone had the wine, the attendant would disappear. Perhaps this is their business choice – to provide an experience similar to a wine bar?

The wines themselves were decent, and had improved in the two years since I last tasted their offerings. Two chardonnay’s – one being a single vineyard designation. While I’m not one to enjoy a chardonnay, I will continue to taste them. For that Saturday morning, those two wines were striking me well. The third was a pinot noir from Russian River Valley, and it had the classic over-extracted flair you frequently find from this AVA. The last wine I was looking forward to was a syrah from Sonoma, which was restrained and had an elegance to it. When it was time to have the syrah, the attendant screwed up and almost poured another wine from another menu.

The take-away on this experience was overall negative. I feel like this winery is leaning too heavily on their location and architecture – all fluff and no stuff. The wines we had were decent, but with them being the “entry level” products, they were priced way too much. A chardonnay for $68 and the pinot was $70. And with such mediocre service from the staff, it was clear that this winery is positioning itself to be a large wine bar in wine country.

With that knowledge, I can recommend Ram’s Gate to be a place to stop on your way to other destinations to get your wine tasting juice’s flowing and enjoy some good architecture and views. Don’t expect much more than that, and it’ll be ok. But make an appointment, I’m scared to think how an experience would be like if you just “stopped in”.

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