Joe Nielsen

General Manager and Winemaker

As Director of Winemaking at Ram’s Gate Winery, Joe Nielsen approaches winemaking with unrivaled attention to detail and precision. Joe thrives on digging into a vineyard and finding out what makes it special. It is this spirit that drew him to Ram’s Gate where the estate vineyard is uniquely positioned - the Sonoma Valley ends on the south-side of the vineyard, the Sonoma Coast on the east, and Carneros on the west, making it the compass rose of Sonoma and the gateway to Wine Country. 

Following nearly ten years at Donelan Family Wines in Santa Rosa, Joe became Director of Winemaking at Ram’s Gate in 2018 and spent his first year focused on digging into the soils of Ram’s Gate and falling in love with the estate. “Coming to Ram’s Gate, I feel like I’ve been given a pile of gold and silver and they’re asking me to make jewelry,” says Joe. “I have everything I need to make great wines that are complete, complex and compelling.”

Joe is inspired by old California wines, which drives him to create wines that capture a sense of timelessness, balancing just the right amount of acid, tannin, richness and body. During his time at Ram’s Gate, he has introduced a variety of new practices in the cellar including native fermentation, whole cluster fermentation, and new partnerships with small-production, family-owned coopers.

Joe’s inherent desire for hands-on learning keeps him involved in local wine tasting groups and keeps his passport full of stamps from some of the world’s best wine regions. He lives in Santa Rosa with his wife and two children and spends his free time enjoying Sonoma County’s great outdoors and pursuing his passion for gardening.