Ram’s Gate Carneros Estate Pinot Blanc 2019

Medium straw-pale gold color; peach, lemon, almond, crushed gravel on the nose; pear, green apple, citrus, honeysuckle, minerality on the palate.

Ram’s Gate Carneros Estate Pinot Blanc 2019

Dry; subtle flavors. No tannins, vibrant acidity. Clean, refreshing. Light-medium body. Velvety mouthfeel. No noticeable oak. Aged five months in 85% neutral barrels, 15% in stainless steel. Grapes come from three south-facing estate blocks enhanced by cool, foggy mornings and afternoon breezes. The fruit is subtle, the acidity welcomed. 12.9% ABV

Pinot blanc is not a common variety in Los Carneros, or California for that matter. There are 90,000 acres planted in chardonnay in California, only 324 acres in pinot blanc. Four of those acres are on the Ram’s Gate estate. So this has unicorn appeal, if nothing else. And there is else. It is a pretty good wine. Pinot blanc is a mutation of pinot noir, and therefore is a subtle wine, and this is subtle with charms that unfold demurely rather than brazenly flaunt themselves.

Ram’s Gate Director of Winemaking Joe Nielsen

Joe Nielsen is the director of winemaking. Website notes: “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.’”

Ram’s Gate is a project of managing owner Michael John, a San Francisco private equity investor and wine collector who is active in environmental improvement efforts. He is joined by Jeff O’Neill, Paul Violich, and Peter Mullin. The winery opened in 2011 with a focus on small-lot wines.

Ram’s Gate founders

Hands-on management is interesting. From the website: “Taylr Behnam Cuneo is Managing Director for Ram’s Gate Winery. While she has always held a passion for the art of pairing a delicious meal with high-end wine, today she oversees not just the Ram’s Gate culinary program but the winery operations and hospitality, as well.

“A California-native, Taylr graduated with a business degree from Loyola University Chicago in 2007. Immediately following, she pursued her passion for culinary arts and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2010. Fueled by a desire to explore how wine and food can interact, Taylr found herself drawn to wine country. She was among the first members of the Ram’s Gate team when she joined as Sous Chef in 2011 and by 2012, she transitioned to Executive Chef. During her tenure, she helped build the winery’s state-of-the-art culinary program. With her background in business and management, along with her can-do attitude and willingness to tackle any challenges that come her way, she climbed the ladder and became Managing Director of Ram’s Gate Winery in 2017. Taylr believes that, like wine, building a legacy brand takes time and patience, and is motivated by a desire to see Ram’s Gate constantly catapult to the next level.”

Ram’s Gate Managing Director Taylr Behnam Cuneo

Cuneo participated in the making of this wine but apparently left Ram’s Gate for Reeve Wines and BloodRoot Wines in November 2021, two years after this vintage.

Ram’s Gate Carneros Estate Pinot Blanc 2019 is elegant, lilting, ephemeral pleasure. It is most associated with Germany and Austria, rare in California, but Ram’s Gate has never hesitated to do the unusual. The result here is a delightful wisp of a wine. Demure, certainly not dramatic. Audrey Hepburn rather than Katherine Hepburn. Pair with lighter fare; garden salads with creamy dressing; flaky fish; baked chicken; vegetable dishes and vegan fare. Cheese—soft, creamy cheeses; gouda, feta, baby swiss. $28-38

Ram’s Gate website

Ram’s Gate winery
Ram’s Gate vineyard
Ram’s Gate courtyard
Ram’s Gate tasting area
Ram’s Gate vineyard tour
Ram’s Gate food-wine tasting
Ram’s Gate outdoor tasting