Wine Of The Week: Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir 2019

This under-the-radar California Pinot Noir is fresh, complex, and silky.

Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir in the wine’s lush, lavender-filled vineyard. (Credit: Kate Dingwall)

When driving out of San Francisco and into wine country, Ram’s Gate Winery is a fitting welcome to Sonoma and Napa Valley. It’s one of the first wineries in the region, and an excellent way to whet your palate for bigger (but certainly not better) wineries to follow further up the valley.

The winery focuses on fresh, compelling, and character-driven wines that show off a very specific area of Sonoma County. Expect a focus on fresh, mineral-driven whites and Rhone-inspired reds, all made with a keen focus on sustainable agriculture.

Ram’s Gate practices organic farming — “tedious, but it’s worth it,” says assistant winemaker Rachel Bordes. More than 250 tons of compost in the vineyard help keep the soil full of minerals and sheep are used as natural lawnmowers.

Walk into the vineyards and they’re lush and full of life, with plenty of flowers filling the spaces between the vines and bees looping around overhead. All are signs that the soil are happy and the vines are thriving. 

Ram’s Gate also has an excellent tasting room. (Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

Because the winery is located in Carneros at the entrance to the valley, it’s perfectly positioned to make great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Proximity to the San Francisco Bay means the nights aren’t too cold and the grapes have plenty of time to ripen. 

Across the board, the Pinot Noirs are excellent, but the 2019 is exceptional. Made with full cluster grapes to add texture and a larger tannin structure, it’s got lovely complex notes of red cherry, raspberry, and cinnamon-clove on the finish.$85

Kate Dingwall is a SET-trained sommelier and spirits writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Eater,, and Food & Wine, and she pours wine at one of Canada’s top restaurants.