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
“It is a rare privilege to pursue in adult life your childhood dream.”
What would four friends who are passionate about wine, architecture, design and food do with prime real estate right at the gateway to the Sonoma Valley? Ram’s Gate is the answer.
Owner of O’Neill Vintners & Distillers and one of the industry’s most successful entrepreneurs, Ram’s Gate Owner Jeff has worked in wine for most of his life and is a former Chair of the California Wine Institute. Naturally charming and gracious with an impeccable eye for design, O’Neill is blessed with an eagle’s eye for detail and an instinctive flair for design, and he believes that the setting in which you enjoy exceptional wines should equal the quality of the wine in the glass.
Those traits, combined with his passion for the very best in wine, food and hospitality, make him the perfect individual to realize every single aspect of this project, from the ground up.
A grower at heart, Ram’s Gate Winemaker Jeff Gaffner is most content in the vineyard. He believes that wine is made there and focuses a great deal of his energy in the vineyards during the growing season to ensure balance and flavor, bringing the best possible fruit to cellar.
With more than 30-years of experience as both a grower and winemaker in Sonoma, Gaffner has developed longstanding relationships and recognition as a highly sought-after consulting winemaker. His first collaboration with Ram’s Gate Proprietor Jeff O’Neill began 15-years ago, and O’Neill, impressed by Gaffner’s depth of knowledge and belief that only great vineyards produce truly great wines, knew Gaffner was the obvious choice to lead Ram’s Gate’s mission: to produce the region’s finest single vineyard designate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
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.
Director of all Ram’s Gate operations since our launch in 2011, David has a passion for wine and a penchant for detail. He comes to Ram’s Gate with a wealth of hospitality experience, having begun his restaurant tenure at the ripe age of 13. His knack for delivering gracious service led him to manage some of the best hotels and resorts across the United States, including The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Inn at Spanish Bay and Hualalai Resort on the Kona-Kohala Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii.
Even before mastering the art of management, David was surrounded by wine. First gaining a reverential appreciation for the vins de pays of the South of France, he and his wife began crafting their own wines at home and have continued to do so for years. Meanwhile, David spends his days honing every element of Ram’s Gate Winery to create a delightful experience for each and every guest.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Luke Magnini developed a passion for hospitality from a very young age, surrounded by food, wine and entertaining courtesy of his Greek and Italian family, where every day was a new opportunity to open their doors to family and friends.
After achieving a Hospitality Business degree at Michigan State University, Luke put those skills into practice managing restaurants in the Midwest while working towards his Sommelier Certification, which he achieved in 2013. Luke then followed his love of all things wine and food to the Napa Valley to continue his career overseeing hospitality operations for wineries in both Napa and Sonoma, joining the Ram’s Gate Winery team in early 2017. Drawn by the opportunity to work with world-class wines sourced from Sonoma’s marquee vineyards, Luke approaches each day as a new opportunity to craft the ultimate experience for each and every guest. “To be a part of all that Ram’s Gate has to offer, from the food, wine and beautiful setting,” he says, “is truly an honor for me.”
Contact Luke Magnini at LMagnini@ramsgatewinery.com or 707 721 8710.
Taylr Behnam Cuneo
Taylr Behnam Cuneo
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.
Taylr’s approach to creating a great pairing is to begin with the wine. She will taste a wine carefully, thoughtfully and repeatedly to understand its unique composition of flavors and textures. She then considers the wine as an actual ingredient, the base ingredient, in the palate masterpiece she wants to create, to contemplate which other ingredients might combine well. From there, Taylr experiments with flavors and textures until she’s found the kind of pairing that’s so sensational it’s hard to forget. An avid supporter of the locavore and sustainability movement in food as well, Taylr is just the thoughtful, creative and experienced innovator that Ram’s Gate is honored to call mastermind of our kitchen.
Private Party Director
Private Party Director
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 ten 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. Today, her modus operandi is to bring to life each wine-centered event with such precision that by the time guests arrive, the host’s only remaining duty is to raise their glass and join the party.
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.