Ram’s Gate Winery opened in the fall of 2011 as a place to press pause, to stop and savor what we love most. Our Sonoma winery focuses on small-lot Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and our aim is simple: to create the finest possible wines that only our climate and our terroir can produce.
It Begins in the Vineyard
We have the privilege to work with the marquee vineyards of Sonoma and Carneros, including Sonoma Coast’s famed Durell and Gap’s Crown Vineyards, Ulises Valdez’s admired Russian River portfolio, the Sangiacomo family’s Green Acres and Roberts Road Vineyards and from Carneros, Hyde Vineyard and Hudson Ranch along with our own estate vines, 28 acres of seven grape varieties representing the diversity and unique signature of southwestern Carneros.
Our winemaking team, spearheaded by industry veteran Jeff Gaffner, approaches winemaking as a way to showcase the signature of a unique site, often as specific as a few rows within a vineyard. Fruit is harvested and handled with care and intention, from selection in the vineyard to cluster- and berry-sorting on our custom designed tables.
Our wines are made to be food-friendly, and we like to showcase that through delicious, locally sourced food pairings crafted by our culinary team. Our chefs first taste each wine carefully, thoughtfully and repeatedly to understand its unique composition of flavors and textures. They consider the wine as an ingredient — the base ingredient — in the palate masterpiece they then create.
An Inspiring Setting
We believe our wines deserve a breathtaking environment in which to be enjoyed. Architect Howard Backen designed Ram’s Gate, and the award-winning architect’s sensitivity to the natural landscape has resulted in a modern interpretation of the weathered farmsteads of old Carneros. In addition, the visionary style of internationally acclaimed interior designer, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, is everywhere – a glorious mix of antiques and vintage items along with accent pieces, creating a dramatic story of high and low.
Sustainability is a difficult word to define, particularly in a place so land-focused as Sonoma Wine Country. To sustain something is to keep it going — in ecological terms, it means working with our resources in a way that cares for our environment. It means honoring the place that grows our precious vines. It means caring about the fellow living things depending on the Ram’s Gate Estate for life.
Our commitment to sustainability at Ram’s Gate Winery manifests itself in several ways:
CERTIFIED FISH-FRIENDLY FARMING
Fish Friendly Farming® is a process of certification for agricultural properties managed in a way that restores fish and wildlife habitat and improves water quality. This is especially paramount based on our location, so close to the San Pablo Bay and with our own Tolay Creek bordering the property.
“The certification was a way of documenting current practices,” says Cameron Smith, who tends for the Ram’s Gate Estate, “and making known practices which would improve land management and water quality.”
CERTIFIED CALIFORNIA SUSTAINABLE WINEGROWING
Ram’s Gate Winery is honored to be a Certified Sustainable Vineyard since July of 2015. Administered by the Wine Institute and California Association of Winegrape Growers, this certification strives to advance the entire California wine industry toward best practices in environmental stewardship, conservation of natural resources and socially equitable business practices.
The certification requires a detailed list of prerequisites—measuring and recording water use, nitrogen use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The detailed list of requirements can be read here: http://www.sustainablewinegrowing.org/certifiedsustainable_prerequisites.pdf
Taylr Behnam Cuneo
Culinary and Hospitality
Taylr Behnam Cuneo
Culinary and Hospitality
Taylr Behnam is a culinary adventurer and conceptual visionary whose career has been built in the kitchens of great restaurants and influenced by the centuries-old Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines passed down to her by her Iranian father and Mexican mother.
Classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, Taylr then polished her skills in wine and food pairing as Sous Chef for Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast. In the fall of 2011, Taylr became one of the first members of the Ram’s Gate Winery team as Sous Chef before taking the lead as Executive Chef in 2012. She now oversees both the culinary and hospitality programs as a whole, approaching each day as a new opportunity to showcase Ram’s Gate wines through delicious food pairings and an unparalleled experience.
Sales & Marketing
Sales & Marketing
In her work overseeing the Private Parties team, Dilushka is Ram’s Gate’s residential expert in wine-inspired celebrations, spending her days creating the illusion that seamlessly aligned detail and coordinated execution is effortless.
With over fifteen years’ experience in the hospitality and event industry, Dilushka speaks fluently the language of event and private party planning. Her love for food, beverage and hospitality placed her behind the scenes of high-profile fashion shows and red carpet events, including the official style studios for the Grammy and ESPY Awards.
While honing her celebration savoir-faire serving on the opening teams of boutique sites for Viceroy Hotel Group, Dilushka was all the while fostering her love of wine. After five years at Ram’s Gate Winery, her role expanded to include overseeing all Ram’s Gate Winery communications and marketing, where she applies the same attention to detail and drive to share the Ram’s Gate wines and experience with the world.
Director of Winemaking
Director of Winemaking
Joe Nielsen’s winemaking philosophy is, in a word, observation. “I don’t think about winemaking as a recipe,” he says, “but as a process or evolution.” It starts with understanding the greater principles at play in the art of capturing personality out of the ground and into the glass.
Ram’s Gate Director of Winemaking since summer 2018, Joe joins the team with over a decade of winemaking experience, most recently as Head Winemaker at Donelan Family Wines, where he received over fifty 90+ ratings from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and other leading critics, including a 100-point score from Jeb Dunnuck.
A Michigan native with a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture, Joe also completed the Ag Tech program in Enology and Viticulture at Michigan State University. Just as gardening requires time, diligence and foresight, Joe’s winemaking starts with his continual presence in the vineyard. “As early as budbreak, I’m starting to make decisions about how we’re going to make a wine based on what I see in the vineyard,” he explains. “Berry size, flavor concentration, vigor, cluster counts and even a site’s orientation all go into the narrative that will play out in the cellar.”
Joe lives in Santa Rosa with his wife and daughter. In addition to spending time with his family, Joe spends his time enjoying Sonoma County’s great outdoors and pursuing his passion for gardening while also finishing his Executive Wine MBA degree from Sonoma State University.
Michigan native Luke Stanko comes from a long line of people in the business of making things. The great-grandson of European immigrants who came to the US to farm and work in the auto industry, Luke spent his childhood following his family’s footsteps, growing produce in his home garden, making homemade sausage and spending as much time as possible outdoors. By the age of sixteen, Luke knew he wanted to apply his craftsman skills to becoming a winemaker.
After attaining a degree in cool-climate viticulture and enology from Niagara College with five wine harvests under his belt, Luke moved to Sonoma, California in the fall of 2012 to work as a harvest intern at Ram’s Gate Winery, a role that grew into Cellar Master and now, Assistant Winemaker, where he works closely alongside Winemaker Jeff Gaffner to oversee the grape lots every step of the way along their journey to becoming Ram’s Gate wines.
When not working around the clock during the harvest season, Luke spends his time hiking in the Russian River Valley, kayaking off the Bodega Bay coast and drinking Beaujolais and the wines of the Northern Rhône at his home in Sonoma.
Born and raised in Northern California, Emily Floyd brings to Ram’s Gate a decade of wine hospitality experience, providing exemplary customer experiences at small-production wineries in Northern California.
Emily entered the wine industry in 2007 through a part-time tasting room job while studying business and history at Sonoma State University. “My plan was to be a teacher,” she describes, “I was taking a full load of classes and working with at-risk youth in Petaluma. While deeply rewarding, I needed a break and started looking for something different my junior year. A professor suggested I try out the wine industry.”
As Emily’s love of wine and hospitality grew, what started as simple part-time job became her career. “I realized my love of education could be utilized when hosting guests and explain the winemaking process and history,” Emily says.
Emily was able to carry out that vision in her various roles in Direct to Consumer management both in Napa and Sonoma County with experience in overseeing allocation programs, membership, tasting experiences, and local outreach. Emily’s philosophy is “Taking care of members and customers is more than just shipping wine or sending an email,” Emily says, “it’s about recommending hotels, knowing which drivers are the best and which restaurants have dishes that pair best with the wines—the whole Wine Country experience.”
When not taking care of members at Ram’s Gate Winery, Emily is most likely found in her kitchen, sipping on single-vineyard Sonoma Pinot Noir while cooking with her husband and son.
Contact Emily at EFloyd@ramsgatewinery.com or 707 721 8700.
Estate Director Greg Miller joins the Ram’s Gate Winery team with an expansive background, from training dolphins at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium to running ultra-marathons in California. Greg’s “ah-ha” moment with wine led him to attain degrees both in hospitality at the University at Nevada, Las Vegas and in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis. His successful studies at Davis backed by his love of the French language and culture took him to Burgundy through the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, where he worked alongside Véronique Drouhin and the winemaking team at the Maison Joseph Drouhin, an experience instrumental in his understanding of terroir and its expression through wine.
Before joining the team at Ram’s Gate, Greg honed his working knowledge of northern Californian winegrowing and the business around it through his years in multifaceted positions with notable wineries including Quintessa, Jordan Vineyard & Winery and Flowers Vineyard & Winery.
“I’m thrilled to be working with the exceptional vineyard sources at Ram’s Gate Winery,” Greg says, “stunning sites across Sonoma and Carneros that I haven’t had the opportunity to experience first-hand until now.”
When not at the Ram’s Gate Estate or sharing Ram’s Gate wines with the world, Greg can be found tending to his home Pinot Noir vineyard with his wife and two sons or running up and down Sonoma’s coastal ridge line in training for his next ultra.
Six years after first walking through Ram’s Gate’s doors, Zach Chamberlin has returned to his home away from home as Hospitality Director. We couldn’t be more thrilled—especially since Zach knows the ropes better than just about anyone: he has worked every role in the hospitality department, from his first days on the support team back in 2012 evolving into a Wine Guide, then into management leading the Tasting Hall.
As every adventurous spirit has a desire to explore the world around them, Zach has also spent a few years working beyond the gates of Ram’s Gate, perfecting his hospitality and service skills in the Michelin-star rated Single Thread restaurant.
Back at Ram’s Gate, he oversees the entire hospitality team in their vision to offer every guest a truly unparalleled experience. “What Ram’s Gate offers is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Zach says, “I couldn’t stay away.”
A San Rafael native and Certified Sommelier with a hospitality degree from the University of San Francisco, Zach lives in Sonoma with his wife and two daughters. When not at Ram’s Gate, he spends his time cheering on the Bay Area sports teams (Go Warriors!), exploring the hiking trails of Sonoma County and honing his golf game.
THE RAM’S GATE FOUNDERS
Ram’s Gate Winery opened in the fall of 2011, founded by four friends with a shared love of wine, hospitality and design. The Ram’s Gate ownership team is led by Managing Owner Michael John, a San Francisco private equity investor and wine collector, with strong ties to the wine industry in addition to being active in environmental improvement efforts; Jeff O’Neill, the owner of O’Neill Vintners and former Chair of the Wine Institute, Paul Violich, a well-known Northern California investor and agri-business leader specializing in walnut and almond plantings; and Peter Mullin, a businessman and passionate wine grower who owns a 15-acre estate in Umbria, Italy, where he grows Sagrantino and Sangiovese grapes. Ram’s Gate Winery is the realization of their shared passion for fine wine and commitment to land stewardship.