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Holidays at Ram's Gate Winery in Sonoma

Ram's Gate Winery in Sonoma.

At the gateway to wine country, in the green hills of southern Sonoma County, Ram’s Gate Winery has gone all-out for the holidays. Lured by the claim that this just might be Sonoma County’s most festively outfitted winery this season, I recently warmed my hands by the roaring gas fireplaces of this Howard Backen-designed ultra-barn and previewed a glass of Carneros-grown sparkling wine to find out.

Ram’s Gate Winery is set upon a knoll overlooking Sonoma Carneros, the Sonoma side of a two-county wine region that’s influenced by breezes off the San Pablo Bay north of San Francisco. On their way to the spacious hospitality center, visitors will find a gleaming red “Santa’s Sleigh” packed with presents—a crimson 1954 MG convertible, a treat already for vintage car enthusiasts.

This also is where you check in to the winery. Ram’s Gate operates on an appointment-only basis, and although it’s possible to secure an appointment on the spot, on weekends and busier days it’s best to reserve ahead of time.

Inside the rustic-chic space, there’s a “letter to Santa” on a vintage red typewriter and what’s on the winery’s “naughty and nice” list of wine themes to discover. If you miss Ram’s Gate holiday decor this December, there’s still an entire new year to check out the winery—starting on New Year’s Day, when Ram’s Gate will be open for business. The big, lighted “Cheers” sign stays up through Valentine’s Day.

Whatever day you visit, it’s best to allow some time even for the regular tasting bar flight ($40), and, for the money, enjoy the many seating opportunities while you’re there. A nicely presented cheese board is also available, with house-made treats that may include trout spread and fig jam.

Even more delicious aromas drift over from the kitchen, at one end of the main room. The fee for the “Palate Play” food pairing experience ($90) is waived with a new membership—the wine club’s the thing at this relatively small case-production winery.

Members get to order more food a la carte, and the membership model, though surprisingly it does not include a discount on wines, seems to be working very well here.

The 2010 Estate Carneros Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine ($76) works very well for me, as a toasting wine—an aroma like popcorn raspberries on this bright, salmon-gold sparkler.

The 2013 Bush Crispo Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70) and 2013 Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir ($70) offer not just a contrast of sites, but of PInot clones—777 for the sweetly potpourri scented Gap’s Crown, and mainly Pommard informing the earthier, mulled black fruit notes of the Bush Crispo.

Though on the spendier side of Sonoma wineries in all respects, the visitor experience and the quality of the wines at Ram’s Gate do deliver, so it’s a nice treat for holiday guests, or even for yourself—that is, if you’ve been nice this year.

Details: Open Thurs–Mon, 10am–6pm. Closed Dec. 24–28; open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Tasting fees start at $40. Call to make an appointment: 707-721-8700.

Check out more wineries that you should visit during the holidays in Sonoma County. 

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