Exquisite Wine and Dine Open-Air at the Breathtaking Ram’s Gate Winery

Known for their small lot premium wines, innovative culinary experiences and beautiful farmhouse-meets-modern design, Ram’s Gate is a modern winery nestled between Sonoma and Napa at the heart of Carneros Valley. This fall, Ram’s Gate will open new Veranda and Arbor venues for private outdoor tasting experiences. The very first Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs by Director of Winemaking Joe Nielsen, who joined Ram’s Gate team in 2018, will also be released. These wines will be featured throughout the tastings and available for purchase at the winery. 

Ram’s Gate Winery

Veranda By the Fire

The new Veranda Experience offers guests a privately hosted tour by an in-house wine expert, tasting of five wines with locally sourced cheese and charcuterie, and a complimentary Ram’s Gate blanket per guest to sit by the outdoor fire. This experience is available Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, at $165 per person.

Open-air tasting areas at Ram’s Gate.

Innovative Culinary Experience at The Vineyard Table

If you want a special Chef prepared experience with friends, the Arbor Experience is a six-course wine-pairing of seasonal, locally grown produce prepared by Executive Chef Stacey Combs, paired with selections by Nielsen at the Vineyard Table under the Arbor, with a tour of the winery and vineyards before the six-course pairing. This two-hour experience for up to 10 is available beginning October 16 at $275 per person.

Wine and dine at Ram’s Gate.

Open-air Tasting and Pairing

Notably, the Ram’s Gate tasting room is designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, as a modern take on the weathered farmsteads of old Carneros, blending the indoor and outdoor spaces. You can experience the Open-Air Tasting with a 5 wine flight at $50 per person, and an additional three-course Wine & Food Pairing Experience for a total of $105 per person.

Wine flight at Ram’s Gate.

Planning Your Visit

The Ram’s Gate tasting room is open Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made at https://www.exploretock.com/ramsgatewinery/.

How You Can Help Our Community Recover

Our wine community is fighting multiple challenges yet again, affected by the Glass Fire shortly after LNU fires were contained in an already difficult year. However, there are some ways you could make a difference while connecting with the community.
How? Here is a short list of resources for you to check out.

Offer a helping hand: Volunteer!

You can volunteer both in-person or even from home by preparing and delivering food, helping at animal rescue shelters, promote social media, translate, etc. For area-specific volunteer opportunities, visit:

Napa area: Napa Disaster Relief Volunteering

Sonoma area:Sonoma Disaster Relief Volunteering

Many ways you can help without leaving your home.

Volunteer from Home: help translate, promote social media, or even bake for foster kids all from your home!

**Remember to keep checking for more, as these lists are continually updated.

Wildfire-specific volunteering: Visit California Volunteers’ special wildfire page

The American Red Cross needs volunteers and accepts donations for wildfire relief not just in California but other states.

Help prepare and deliver fresh, healthy food in Sonoma for those living in poverty, alone without support or chronic disease patients through The Ceres Project  

Ceres Project volunteers preparing fresh healthy meals in Sonoma

Donate

You could donate to different relief funds set up for specific causes.

California Wildfire Relief

Providing emergency supplies including medicine, food, water for firefighters, low income families and animals affected by current fires.

The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund
Offering gifts in forms of temporary shelter, meals, counselling services, other assistance, and even gift cards to evacuees and emergency relief services to those affected by the fire.

Wine Country Fire Relief Fundraiser

A Gofundme campaign to cover a variety of items, including food, supplies, shelter, COVID testing at shelters to ensure safety for evacuees, and gift cards so families or individuals can tailor to their specific needs.  

Special causes

Check out the Latino Community Foundation, an umbrella organization that works with Latino-founded / Latino-led organizations, with over 500 members and 22 Giving Circles. They recently set up a special NorCal relief fund for Latino-led organizations supporting families displaced by the current wildfires across all the state of California.

Help plant a tree with just a dollar at One Tree Planted, or even become an Ambassador to help global reforestation.

And of course, drink Napa and Sonoma wines!

Keep going…

These are just some ideas to get started. While this is sadly very unlikely the last time our community needs your help, every single effort can make a difference. Let’s join hands and help where we can.

Breathless Winery Wins “Rising Wine Star Winery of the Year” Award

In less than 10 years since it opened, Breathless Wines has already won multiple awards, including the San Francisco Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Wine Enthusiast, among others. This time, it is awarded by LuxeSF, a luxury marketing organization, as their “Rising Wine Star Winery of The Year”, after a tough competition with 74 other nominations across 5 award categories, selected by a 14-person panel of respected industry veterans.

Have you tried Breathless Wines yet? They are currently offering a special duo Blanc De Noir and Brut Rose pack at $60 including shipping this week until September 18. Better yet, you could visit their winery in downtown Healdsburg and try a flight of 4 wines for just $16 in their outdoor patio, or join their Friday Bubbly Happy Hour, or try a Breakfast at Breathless Breton Crepe paired with their sparkling on September 27. For more options, check this page out!

Breathless Brut in their flutes.
Lady on a Flying Cork, a poster from 1920s, used as Breathless Wines Logo.

A Breathless Experience: My First Time Breaking A Wine Bottle With a Saber

Have you seen a champagne or sparkling wine bottle being broken open with a saber? I have not, until I was very lucky to have a chance to try it at Breathless Wines, known for their traditional method (the original method for making Champagne) sparkling wine in Healdsburg when Dr. Thach and our group visited!

What is Sabering?

A saber is a type of sword with a curved blade associated with light cavalry in the early modern and Napoleonic periods. The technique of breaking open a champagne bottle using a saber, called “sabrage”, was popularized after the French Revolution, when Napoleon’s cavalries celebrated their victory by using sabers to open champagne bottles.

A saber breaking open a champagne bottle. Credit: Last Bottle Wines

Safety First!

For someone who has never held a saber, let alone cut a bottle open with one, it can be quite intimidating. Luckily, Breathless has very careful protocols guided by their friendly experts. I was led by Sharon, one of the Founding Sisters of Breathless Wines. The “Saberer” first puts on protective heavy duty gloves and safety goggles. Because of Covid-19, an extra pair of disposable gloves are worn before the heavy duty gloves, and of course I was masked up like everyone else. Also, using a cold bottle makes it easier to break.

The saber, cold Breathless Blanc de Noir bottle, and protective gear

Power Pose

Having the correct posture helps to wield power. To start, Sharon demonstrated how to stand sideways, almost like an archer, and hold the body (where the label sits) using my non-dominant hand. Of course, the bottle must be pointed far away from anyone – everyone needed to stand back!

Sharon demonstrating the power pose and how to hold the bottle.

Learning The Technique

Next, Sharon demonstrated the actual technique of holding the saber, and how to strike the bottle. With the saber in hand, the blade sits at an angle to the bottle, and I took a few turns running the blade along the bottle towards the lip, which is the breakage point.

How to hold a saber and where to guide it

Blast off!

Finally, the wire cage was taken off as an extra step to make it easier. Shortly after the demo, I was ready. My hand went faster than I was mentally prepared and POP! Went the top. I did not apply much force, and it felt a lot smoother than expected. Indeed, I read later that it is simply the force applied at a fragile point of the bottle – with already much internal pressure – that breaks it. Some wine was lost, but I held it up in victory, still shocked at what happened just seconds ago. I was relieved no one was hurt!

This happened within seconds!

Serving the Wine

What good is opening a wine if you can’t enjoy it? After sabering, make sure to check for shards before serving. We all got to enjoy a fresh glass afterwards!

Dr. Thach gets the first glass!

Certified Saberer!

Certificate and cork wrapped in Breathless Seal

Breathless Wines awards every Saberer with a “Certificate of Completion”, and the cork sealed with their signature Breathless label. I am really grateful for such an unforgettable experience, and hope to lose less wine next time!

Try it Yourself!

For more information and to schedule this exciting Sabrage Experience, please click here:
https://www.breathlesswines.com/Visit-Us/Sabrage-Experience

Wine is My Love Potion: Adventures as a Harvest Intern

(Contributed by Alexandro Gomez) Wine is my love potion. Never before would I have thought wine could be this interesting. It all started in the summer of 2019 when I met the Robledo family, owners of Robledo Family Vineyards in Sonoma, California. They established the first tasting room in the United States that is owned by a former Mexican migrant vineyard worker and his family. After much discussion of my interest in wine, they offered me a harvest internship. Although I was very excited about this opportunity, I was also scared and nervous as I knew nothing about harvest or wine in general.

Robledo Family Winery
Harvesting grapes at Robledo Winery. (Credit: Robledo Family Winery)

First Day on the Job

As I was pulling up to the vineyard at around 5am, I noticed how fast the harvest workers already were at picking grapes. Luckily, my father taught me about hard work and how to quickly adapt to tough situations. I began picking as fast as possible, knowing these workers were also relying on me to do the job well. After about 6 hours and 24 blade cuts later, I sat under the shade for some water and thought to myself – I want more!

A Promotion to the Cellar

Seeing my instant enthusiasm, the Robledo brothers offered me work in the cellars where I would soon realize the art of winemaking. Again, it was an extremely fast-paced working environment, but I went with the flow, despite being very green. My curiosity and motivation helped push me to learn more. I was assigned to clean tanks, disinfect barrels, mop floors, clean hoses, and many other tasks. Working in the cellars was a major eye opener, because I learned winemaking techniques and the language of wine.  The experience was just what I needed to immerse myself into the wine production world.

My internship at Robledo Family Winery ended after four months, and I decided to focus on my final exams and also gain more experience on the business side of the wine industry. It has been a great learning journey so far and I’m looking forward to more!

Larson Family Winery – A Tale of Rodeos, Race Horses and $4 Million Dollars

 (Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) The SSU Winesense Club was honored to host Larson Family Winery at one of our recent tastings. We were all entranced to learn their amazing history, and then very pleased to taste such delicious wines.

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Picnic Tables at Larsen Family Winery

The Colorful History of Larson Family Winery

The 100-acre winery has been around since 1899 when the Millericks purchased the property. They began to hold the rodeo on the property in the 1920’s until the 1950’s, and it became the largest rodeo in the west.  The rodeo attracted many people as well as a few famous horses, including Seabiscuit who was trained at the facility on site for about 6 weeks in between races.  Another great horse that was reared at the property was Native Diver, the first horse to win a million dollars.

The family started to make wine in the 90’s under the label Sonoma Creek. The brand grew so large and became so popular that the Larson’s sold it in 2004 for $4.1 million and started a mobile bottle company. They also decided to focus on a small production of high-quality wines, which are only sold Direct to Consumer (DTC) at the winery or online. They have also created a few new wine brands, including Three Labs, Millerick Roads, and jug wines with interesting names, such as Wingo White.

Tasting Larson Family Wines

We were allowed to taste four wines at the SSU Wine Sense Club meeting. These included a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon Blend:

  1. The Pinot Grigio was a blend of Pinot Grigio, a little Chardonnay and a very small amount of Gewürztraminer to bring in a little sweetness.
  2. The Chardonnay was steel tank fermentation and then was transferred to neutral oak for 8 months to soften up the wine but not contribute flavor.
  3. The Pinot Noir was a very light Pinot, good for the summer and was only a few shades darker than a Rose.
  4. Finally, the blend was 75% Cab, 20% Merlot and 5% Tempranillo. Being a blend, the wine was very smooth and very easy to drink for a Cabernet. It is also their best selling wine.

Favorites of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious and well made, but the favorites of the evening were:

Millerick Road Chardonnay

Larson Family Red Blend

MRCHSC13 145

 

Kenwood Kicks Off SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Kenwood Winery was kind enough to kick off the first SSU WineSense meeting of the semester. Based in Sonoma Valley, Kenwood has a long reputation for high-quality wines, and is the home of the famous Jack London brand to honor the writer who wrote so many wonderful stories, including Call of the Wild and Valley of the Moon. Kenwood Winery also donates money to support the Jack London State Historic Park.

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Photo Courtesy of Kenwood.com

About Kenwood Winery

Kenwood Winery was originally started in 1906 by the Pagani Brothers, in an old barn near the site of Jack London’s property. Later the winery was purchased by the Lees Brothers who introduced a French style of wine making, and began to separate varietals by vineyard to create a more organized business. Cuvee style wine making was used to create the new vintages, enabling them to focus on boutique wines.

Eventually Kenwood was purchased by Gary Heck of Korbel, and slowly grew in size until it gained its current excellent national reputation for high quality Sonoma Valley wines. Today Kenwood is owned by Pernod Ricard, who has insured that the wines continued to be distributed nationally and appear in well-known restaurants. Kenwood has become somewhat of a household name and we were very lucky to have been able to have them come present at SSU.

Kenwood Wines We Tasted

We were presented with six different varietals, starting with three whites and finishing with three reds. Highlights included a Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc that was very light and crisp with nice floral notes to it. It was the favorite white of the evening. When beginning with the reds we tried a Jack London Zinfandel that was very nicely balanced with the perfect amount of spice. We finished with a Cab that had a nice smoky finish as well as a good amount of tannins that many people appreciated.

The Favorite of the Evening

Everyone unanimously agreed that the 2013 Kenwood Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite wine of the evening.

bottleshot_2013_jack_london_cs

Enriching Wine Tasting with La Crema and Murphy Goode Wineries

Halloween Wine Tasting

Halloween Wine Tasting

Cheers to our fourth WineSense Club meeting of the Fall 2015 semester!  We were very excited to welcome back alumni Kate Hansen from La Crema and Emily Creaven from Murphy-Goode to come speak with us about what their wineries offer.

A Little Bit of History on La Crema and Murphy-Goode Wineries

La Crema Vinera meaning the “Best of the Vine,” founded in 1979, is a family owned and operated winery that focuses exclusively on the exploration of premier West Coast cool-climate appellations.  When La Crema was first founded, the Russian River Valley had yet to establish itself as one of California’s most important regions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  However, as time passed, La Crema expanded its collection of vineyards to include some of the most esteemed sites that include: the Sonoma Coast, Green Valley, Fort Ross-Seaview, Mendocino, Carneros and Monterey.

The tale of how Murphy-Goode established itself is quite original! In 1985, during a friendly game, Tim Murphy, Dale Goode and Dave Ready decided to make their love of fine wines official.  They first began with two wines, they created Fume Blanc and Chardonnay from Murphy Ranch and Murphy-Goode Vineyard in Sonoma County.  Now, Murphy-Goode has over 20 vintages.

Kate and Emily Lead a Wine Tasting at SSU

Featured Wines of the Evening

Featured Wines of the Evening

La Crema’s vineyards are all harvested by hand and their winemaking techniques are primarily traditional to ensure that the wines are true to both the variety and the terroir.  We were fortunate to try a selection of 6 wines from both wineries.  We tasted three wines from La Crema: a 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and a 2013 Green Valley Pinot Noir.  We also tasted three wines from Murphy-Goode: a 2014 Russian River Single Deck Chardonnay, a 2012 Snake Eye Zinfandale, and a 2011 Terra A Lago Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Favorites Wines of the Evening

At the conclusion of our fourth meeting, the club members were asked to vote for their favorite wines of the evening as they do for every meeting.  Each participant could vote a total of two times and the two winners of the evening were:

  • 2013 La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay
  • 2013 La Crema Green Valley Pinot Noir

It was a great meeting, costumes and all, that the members will not forget any time soon!  We can’t thank Kate and Emily enough for coming!

 

Which Do You Prefer? Dry Creek Valley AVA or Alexander Valley AVA

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Which do you prefer – Dry Creek or Alexander Valley? This was the question on the minds of the more than 40 students who attended the SSU Wine Sense tasting last Thursday. In the end it was impossible to choose a favorite, because they were both excellent! But everyone learned much about these two distinctive and different AVAs located in Northern Sonoma County.

Dry Creek Valley Wine Association 

Location in Northern Sonoma County on the West side of 101, the Dry Creek Valley Wine Association was created in 1989. It is made up of 60+ wineries and 150 grape growers. They share a commitment to growing high-quality fruit to produce world-class wines and an interest in sustainable farming practices to ensure a pristine valley for future generations.   Dry Creek Valley is world-famous for its big, hearty Zinfandels, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone varietals.

Ann, a representative from the Dry Creek Valley AVA, led the students through a virtual tour of the Dry Creek Valley, explaining the typically foggy climate, metamorphic and sedimentary soils and the most common varietals, which are Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Next she poured three of the most popular wines from the Dry Creek Valley for us. The first, being an organically grown 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Quivira Winery. Followed by a 2011 Grenache from Mounts Winery and a 2012 Zinfandel from Mazzacco Winery.  

Alexander Valley and Stryker Sonoma Winery

Located in Northern Sonoma County on the East side of 101, the Alexander Valley is 22 miles long, has 26 wineries and 130 grape growers. It is known for its world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition, the gravelly loam soil produces well-rounded Chardonnay wines, as well as some Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. 

Brian Shapiro from Stryker Sonoma Winery represented the Alexander Valley that evening.  Stryker mixes tradition with modern technology to create award-winning wines. The winemaking is focused on creating wines that speak for themselves. The tasting room won the Architectural Design Award for Northern California by AIA, due to its beauty and harmony within the landscape.  Their philosophy is “bold but thoughtful” which is evident in everything from their wines to their tasting room.

Brian poured three amazing wines, a 2012 Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon – all made in small quantities to ensure the highest quality wines. 

Favorite Wines of the Evening

At the end of the tasting, the students were asked to vote on their favorite wines.  The winners were:

ZinmalbecMazzacco Winery Zinfandel 2012 ($52): Composed of 95% Zinfandel grapes and 5% Petite Syrah, this wine offers hints of raspberry, boysenberry and currants, with a bit of habanero pepper.

Stryker Sonoma Malbec 2012 ($50): Blueberries, pepper jam and cedar give this wine a rustic bouquet followed with cherries and a hint of baker’s cocoa.

My Favorite Tasting Room Series: Stephen & Walker’s, Healdsburg, CA

Stephen and Walker Tasting Room

Stephen and Walker Tasting Room

(By Guest Author Emily Mobley) As soon as I walked into Stephen & Walker’s Wine Tasting Room located in Healdsburg, I knew I was going to have a good time. Enticed with excitement and enjoying the atmosphere of summer, I could not wait to have my first sip of “real” wine. I had recently turned 21, and wine was still a mystery to me. What was so special about it? “Real” wine was everything I didn’t know and was looking forward to experiencing.

It was August and my neighbors invited me to go wine tasting with them in Healdsburg. Because I felt awkward and a bit embarrassed, I invited my best friend Scott to come along. While he tried to be enthusiastic about tasting wine, I knew his wine etiquette was nothing compared to his envious beer attitude. However, I felt relieved that he was tagging along, and excited about what I was going to learn.

As we entered Stephen & Walkers (http://www.trustwine.com/), I was delighted with the smell of wine, the sound of laughter, and the sight of long wooden countertops. The lighting in the tasting room was majestic and highlighted the wine glasses hanging above the wine bar.  The windows were filled with beautiful plants, and barrels of wooden tubs overflowed with sample selections of wines to come.

A tall gray-haired man smiled at us as we approached the bar, and asked how we were doing. We said we were here to taste the specialty wines they had to offer. He laughed and then began to describe the background of the winery, giving credit to Nancy Walker, the winemaker. He was charming, sweet, and hilarious with his stories of how the Stephen & Walker business was established, and how hard they worked to put love and passion into their wine.  We then proceeded to taste through several special wines.

Looking back on the visit, I realize what an exceptional moment it was for me, because I witnessed how people who work in wine want to share with others and make them feel special.  Instead of the uptight and pushy wine server I expected, we encountered a sweet and friendly person who changed my world.

It was then that I realized this was a world I wanted to enter, because I knew that I would never get bored with wine because of all the stories, networking, and connections I could make. It was a career that would challenge me and place me on a path of perseverance and wonderful friends to come, all while enjoying wine and the people who are attracted to it.

NOTE:  This post is part of the Favorite Winery Tasting Room Series, in which Millennial wine business students describe one of their favorite tasting room experiences.