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/.

A Silver Lining for Chianti Classico

Needless to say, 2020 has been challenging for most of us. Fortunately, some vintners in Italy are trying to make the most of the situation despite an overall decline in wine sales. Chianti Classico Consortium, one of the oldest Italian wine consortiums with 515 Chianti producer members, remarks how vineyards have “never looked so good” as a result of winemakers having extraordinary time to dedicate greater care on the 2020 vintage.

Beautiful vineyard slopes of Chianti.

New opportunities for Chianti wineries

To provide extra support for Chianti producers and boost local economy, the organization launched several initiatives, such as financing schemes and a wine tasting program collaborating with top restaurants around Tuscany. This situation also forced some wineries to rethink their online presence. For Ricasoli winery, which boasts an 800-year old Castello di Brolio family castle, started an online campaign on social media that includes sharing a Chianti “recipe” from 1872 by Ricasoli ancestors, a video showing Sophia Loren in their vineyards, and using drones to take footages. 

The Castello di Brolio owned by Ricasoli family in Siena. Credit: Ricasoli
One of the Chianti wine and dine participating restaurants

A Silver Lining?

Since Italy’s coronavirus measures started easing in July, visitors are slowly starting to increase. While sales has clearly not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the Consortium believes that 2020 may just turn out to be an exceptional vintage as a result of the extra resources dedicated to it.

Safely distanced outdoor dining at one of the participating Chianti restaurants.

About the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico:

The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico exists to protect, oversee, and valorize the Chianti Classico denomination. Since the Consortium’s founding in 1924, the organization has changed its name and the design of its logo, the Black Rooster, which since 2005 has been the trademark of the whole denomination. As one of the premier institutional organizations in the European Union in the grape-growing and winemaking sector, the Consortium represents 96 percent of the DOCG production. The entire production chain is supervised by a public tracking system, which enables consumers all over the world to check the bottle they’ve purchased via the Consortium’s website. The Consortium also conducts research and development in the agronomic and enological fields, in collaboration with prestigious educational and research institutes. For more information, please visit https://www.chianticlassico.com/

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.

Frank Family Vineyards Welcomes You Back to Napa with “Sweet Caroline” Parody

Frank Family Vineyards reopened for in-person, by-appointment tastings on June 10th. The entire Frank Family team celebrated the winery reopening with a music video parody of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, featuring Patrick Davis of Songwriters in Paradise on guitar and vocals. Frank Family’s Marketing Manager Marisa McCann wrote the lyrics, covering their new safety protocols in light of COVID-19 regulations, such as limited party sizes, outdoor seating, and requirement of personal face coverings.  

A Snapshot of the Welcome Back “Sweet Caroline” Parody. Credit: Frank Family Vineyards

Welcome Message From Owner Rich Frank

“While the world has changed, our passion for sharing wine and memories with our guests has not,” says Owner Rich Frank who plays the role of Welcome Crew, Dancer and Sign Holder in the video. “We are so grateful to welcome guests back to Frank Family. In addition to our patio seating, we’ve set up tables outside in our front courtyard so that guests may sit with proper distance between them, and also enjoy our beautiful surroundings.”  

Two Reservation-only Premium Tastings

Frank Family Vineyards is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering two tastings by reservation only: the “Estate Tasting” ($50) on the back patio, estate courtyard and on the front lawn, and the “Wines of Winston Hill Reserve Tasting” ($70) held only in the courtyard.

About Frank Family Vineyards
Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank. First constructed as the Historic Larkmead Winery in 1884, the stone building on property is the third oldest in Napa and appears on the national Register of Historical Places. Today, Frank Family owns over 380 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley, and in 2015 received Napa Green certifications for both the land and winery. Frank Family’s reputation for having the friendliest hospitality in Napa Valley has fans flocking to the tasting room on Larkmead Lane, which was named “Best Napa Winery” by the Bay Area A-List for eight years in a row, making it one of the most popular tasting rooms in wine country. The Patriarch was recently ranked #5 in California Cabernet by Vivino and the 2016 Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve as one of the Top 30 White Wines of 2020 and awarded it the #2 best Chardonnay in Napa for 2020. Frank Family’s Napa Valley Chardonnay ($38), Pinot Noir ($38), Zinfandel ($38) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) are distributed nationally.

Historic St. Helena Winery Charles Krug is Now Ropened For In-Person Tastings

On June 9th, Napa’s oldest winery, Charles Krug reopened its St. Helena estate adhering to local guidelines, after being closed since March 16th in compliance with California’s statewide Shelter-in-Place order. The reopening comes with a variety of new protocols that go above and beyond county and state recommendations to ensure health and safety for everyone.

Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley
The New Cabana at Charles Krug for Safe Wine Tasting.

A Pleasant Physically-Distanced Wine Experience

5 new WiFi-enabled cabanas within the winery’s Picnic Grounds will be unveiled with the reopening. Although the cabanas were already under construction before the Pandemic, they are particularly timely to facilitate efficient physically-distanced wine experiences. The winery’s diverse culinary offerings will still be available on a modified schedule: artisan pizzas from Charles Krug’s wood-fired Mugnaini oven will be available Friday through Sunday, while local culinary partner, Tre Posti, will offer both cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as grab-and-go items.

Additional Winery Safety Measures

On top of meeting Napa County’s official safety guidelines including face masks worn by employees, extra hygiene protocol and more, Charles Krug’s tasting room consulted with Winery Safety Officer AJ Perez to implement stricter standards:

  • Comprehensive “Deep Clean” disinfecting, misting of general and targeted touchpoints in all areas of the winery before Grand Opening
  • Appointment-only booking to limit occupancy within winery
  • Outdoor-only tasting, with wine delivered in pre-poured glasses. Wine service will be guided by a masked Wine Ambassador from a safe distance
  • All tables, furnishings, and flat surfaces will be sanitized after each guest visit
  • A concierge will manage customer flow and monitor physical distancing while guests are waiting to be seated, entering or leaving the property 
  • Touch-free transactions, with goods being placed directly in the guest’s car or carried out by customers as they prefer
  • Water will be served in single-serve recyclable containers
  • Restrooms are cleaned every 30-60 minutes

About Charles Krug:
In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic Charles Krug property, the oldest winery in the Napa Valley and longest-running tasting room in California. The brand was built on a foundation of family values, hard work and a European winemaking tradition; it remains a family-owned winery today, producing estate-driven, top of the line Napa Valley wines. The wineries are under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi, who steward the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr.  The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started over 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

Wine Tetris Blocks – How I Fell In Love with Wine

(Contributed by J. Onodera) My interest in wine is like a game of tetris, as the “blocks” slowly fell in place over time. It all started during spring break of my junior high school year, when I toured different colleges in the Northwest, one of them being Sonoma State University. As our tour group walked to the Wine Spectator Learning Center on campus, our guide mentioned that the university was the only one in California offering wine degrees in business topics, rather than the traditional Viticulture and Enology degrees. The idea of becoming a player in wine business sparked a sense of motivation in me, and that was how I laid the first row of blocks in the game of Wine Tetris.

“Wine Tetris”

Second Tetris Row – Learning about Wine through People

Laying the foundation of the second tetris row of wine had to do with interactions with other people.Having lived in different parts of California, I have many groups of friends from various demographics, which is also reflected in their drinking habits, ranging from drinking cheap beers to sipping pricier wines. Often at social gatherings with friends, we would open a bottle of wine and pair it with different foods, and then discuss the unique taste combinations that emerged. Through such experiences, I learned how to communicate and connect with different communities, and grow my wine knowledge.

Third Tetris Row – An Unforgettable European Trip

After my sophomore year at Sonoma State University, I decided to splurge on a 3-week cultural and food tour through Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. I’ll never forget that first day in Madrid, where I was introduced to Sangria – a glass jar filled with ice, red wine, green apples, oranges, and blackberries. Enjoying the ice-cold sangria with a spicy dish of paella was an incredible experience.  As I continued my tour across Europe, the wine and food encounters continued to blow my mind, and I fell more enchanted with the world of wine.

An Evolving Experience

Now as I pursue my degree in Wine Business, I’m really enjoying the chance to explore, develop my palette, and appreciation the diversity of wine. The tetris blocks are coming together faster now, and all of these experiences have made me more confident in my decision to study wine.

My Favorite Wine Tasting Experience at Caymus Vineyards, Napa Valley

(Contributed by K. Mead) My absolute favorite wine tasting was at Caymus Vineyards, one of the oldest Napa wineries, started by the pioneering Wagner family winemakers. Located just north of Napa in Rutherford, Caymus is situated amongst vineyards that produce some of the highest quality grapes Napa Valley has to offer. Each year they craft highly-regarded wines, such as their signature Caymus Cabernet.

Outdoor Tasting at Caymus Vineyards. Credit: Meyer Sound for Caymus Vineyards

Cozy Wine Tasting on a Cold Fall Day

I had the pleasure of stopping by Caymus for a tasting in late fall of 2019. Grey and overcast, it wasn’t the most pleasant of conditions for the occasion. Luckily, Caymus thoughtfully offered guests a fleece blanket, along with a complimentary Caymus wine glass. If visitors prefer staying indoors, Caymus welcomed them to a comfortable lounge area which emulates the personal Wagner family living room.

Friendly and Knowledgeable Tasting Associates

With top notch service, the Caymus tasting staff are not just inviting and friendly, but passionate and knowledgeable about the entire Wagner Family wine portfolio. Adding a personal touch to every tasting, they tailored each conversation according to the guest and the mood, gladly answering all questions, regardless of level of wine knowledge.

Delightful Wine Tasting Selection

The wine tasting menu consisted of a variety of wines from not only Caymus, but other wines in the family portfolio, such as Emmolo, Mer Soleil, and Conundrum. I was delighted that the final wine of our tasting was the celebrated Caymus Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. Words fail me each time I have the pleasure of tasting this wine. It tastes like a warm summer evening, when you can smell the crush in the air. Its full and comforting flavors were the perfect ending to a rather cold and dreary weather day.

SSU WineSense Announces New Executive Board and Fall 2015 Tasting Schedule

2015/2016 Executive Board for SSU Wine Sense Club

2015/2016 Executive Board for SSU Wine Sense Club

The Sonoma State University (SSU) WineSense Club proudly announces the members of the 2015/2016 Executive Board. In addition, they have developed a very exciting line-up of wineries and organizations who will be visiting campus to conduct educational wine tastings throughout the semester.

2015/2016 Executive Board for SSU Wine Sense

  • President: Rachel Minor
  • Vice President: Taylor Hood
  • Treasurer: Justin Stushek
  • VP of Marketing: Jingmei Su
  • VP of Operations & Culinary Experiences: Matt Lopez
  • Director of Membership: Christian Gutierrez
  • Director of Campus Outreach: Sophia Fish
  • Director of Campus Marketing: Jamie Huerta
  • Director of Meetings: Brooke Bartolome
  • Director of Volunteers and Fundraising: Itze Pema-Andrade

SSU Wine Sense Mission

The mission of the SSU Wine Sense Club is to create a responsible, fun and educational environment for all levels of wine enthusiasts to further expand their knowledge and appreciation for the wonderful world of wine. We are dedicated to provide students the opportunity to experience and enjoy events that showcase the wine industry and help students connect with the industry and their leaders.

Fall 2015 Wine Sense Schedule 

Tastings are open to SSU students over the age of 21. Meetings will be held in the Bennett Valley Room of the Student Union beginning at 7pm. Membership fees for the semester are $30, payable at the door. Fees are pro-rated for students who join later in the semester. Each session includes an educational briefing and responsible wine tastings accompanied by appetizers. ID’s are checked at the door for each meeting.

  • Sept 17 – Kenwood Winery
  • Oct. 1 – Somm Select
  • Oct. 15 – Rare Cat Wine
  • Oct. 29 – La Crema & Murphy Goode
  • Nov. 5 – TBD
  • Nov. 19 – Dewey Wines
  • Dec. 3 – TBD

Wineries interested in providing an educational tasting are encouraged to contact SSU Wine Sense Board Members at WinesenseSSU@gmail.com

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir and Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon Tie as Top Favorites in Classic Red Tasting

Sbragia Wines With Cheese Platter

Sbragia Wines With Cheese Platter

What is a classic red wine grape? It is a variety that has proved it can produce consistently high quality over a long period of time in more than one region of the world. Therefore, though there are more than 120 commercially produced wine grapes, there are only 4 classic red grapes. In California, however, we add Zinfandel as well, because it is one of our most beloved State grapes:

  1. Pinot Noir – famous in Burgundy, Oregon, Sonoma, New Zealand and many other regions of the world
  2. Merlot– famous in Bordeaux, Italy, Washington, and many other regions
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon – famous in Bordeaux, Napa, Italy and other regions
  4. Syrah – famous in the Rhone, Australia, and Paso Robles
  5. Zinfandel – famous in California, Croatia and Italy

Winning Pinot Noir from Paul Hobbs Winery

Winning Pinot Noir from Paul Hobbs Winery

In a blind tasting of these five famous varietals in Bus 305W, the 42 Millennial wine business majors tied in a vote of their favorites. Paul Hobbs 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir ($55) with dark raspberry, mushroom earth and cola notes tied with the 2011 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon ($49), with complex cassis cedar and earthy notes from the famous Monte Rosso Vineyard. Both wines were of high quality with good balance of fruit, oak, acid and alcohol; complex flavors, excellent concentration and a very long finish.

Sparkling Wine, Port & Chocolate Truffle Tasting with Mumm and Sonoma Portworks

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Bring on the sparkle, chocolate, and the heady taste of port please! This was the siren’s call of a recent SSU Wine Sense Club meeting, where students were introduced to Olivia Najjar from Mumm Napa and Bill Reading from Sonoma Portworks!

About Mumm Napa

Most people recognize that Mumm Champagne was started in France, but Mumm has also been in Napa Valley for many years. The founding president and wine maker, Guy Devaux, worked with an architect in 1986 to create the Domaine Mumm facility in Rutherford. Three years later the first vintage of DVX, in honor of Guy, was produced.

mummIn 1990 the winery underwent a name change from Domaine Mum to Mumm Napa, and officially opened up to the public. In 2002, Ludovic Dervin was named head winemaker and has worked on many custom projects, such as a collaboration with Carlos Santana to create a series of customized sparkling wines to benefit the Milagro Foundation. Mumm was recognized in 2012 as the first sparkling winery to receive 94 pointes from the Wine Spectator for their 2004 DVX.

Olivia poured four of their most popular sparkling wines; the 2010 Blanc de Blancs, 2007 DVX and a non-vintage Brut Rosé and Demi Sec. 

About Sonoma Portworks

Next we welcomed Bill Readings, the owner and portmaker at Sonoma Portworks, the first place in Sonoma County to make port. He explained that his love of port began accidentally when chocolate essence was dropped into an after dinner wine. Suddenly, Bill was obsessed with creating the perfect chocolate port, which later became the first in the country.

petaluma-roomSonoma Portworks is also responsible for revolutionizing traditional port packaging, through the use of sleek contemporary bottles and labels. The first tasting room was opened in 2002 in Kenwood, but today do the only taste room in Petaluma.

Bill brought three different ports for us to try; Petite Verdot port, Petite Sirah port, and Deco port. 

Favorites Wines of the Evening

Mumm_WineBottles_NoVintage_BdeBlancs-LG_f1f8decoAt the end of the tasting, the students voted on their favorite sparkling and port wines.  The winners were:

  • Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs 2010 ($42) made up of mostly Chardonnay and some Pinot Gris. Light and fruity, Blanc de Blancs means “white of whites”.
  • Sonoma PortWorks Deco Port ($20, 500ml) – composed of Zinfandel grapes blended with Grenache, Alicante Bouschet and natural chocolate essence.

We cannot thank Olivia and Bill enough for taking time to show us their amazing wines!