A new winery has opened in Sonoma Valley. Since Roche Winery sold their production facility several years ago we locals have been wondering what all the new construction at the site has been about. There was a sign on the property announcing “Rams Gate,” a very thin web site, and a lot of speculative talk.
Well, according to their press releases Ram’s Gate Winery opened their doors today. Their new website is no less lean and cryptic than the old one, but hey they have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed so they MUST be serious.
Far be it from me to second guess how a new winery would choose to manage the PR around their opening, but I would not have known anything about it except for a couple of emails that dropped into my inbox from the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance (SVVGA). Perhaps that is deliberate. Turns out that even if I did not have a winery it looks like perhaps I am not a part of their target demographic.
Let me ‘splain. RE: those emails I got from SVVGA–each contained a press blurb. One was a little more extensive than the other. Here’s the lite version:
Ram’s Gate Winery to Open!
Scheduled to open Sept. 13, Ram’s Gate will be home to a portfolio of estate and single-vineyard wines crafted onsite in the 22,000-square-foot winery. The wines will be small lots averaging 300 cases or fewer, mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and sparkling wine (brut, blanc de noirs, and rosé). Priced from $25 to $75 per bottle, they will be sold exclusively at the winery and via the winery website and wine club.
Succinct and to-the-point. Evocative, such that it left me wanting to know more. I especially like how it stuck to just the facts. As a winery owner I don’t think I am alone in believing that the more cool, high-quality wineries we have in Sonoma, the more people are going to come here. Critical mass is a wonderful thing.
But then I received the longer press release–the one the bit above was apparently culled from:
Wine Country’s Most Anticipated New Artisan Estate!
At the Carneros Entrance to Historic Sonoma and Napa Valleys Ram’s Gate will bring together the best in wine, architecture, interior design, food and an unprecedented guest experience. Ram’s Gate will be home to an exclusive portfolio of estate and single-vineyard wines crafted on the Estate. Released with the opening of the winery, the wine offerings will be comprised of small bottlings (average 300 cases or less) of mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and sparkling wine (Brut, Blanc de Noirs, and Rose). The wines showcase Sonoma County sites including Durell Vineyard, Hudson Vineyards, Ulises Valdez Vineyard and the winery’s own 30-acre estate vineyard, which is the southernmost planting region in Carneros.
Ram’s Gate wines, priced from $25-$75/bottle, will be sold exclusively at the winery and via the winery website and wine club.
Tasting Room: Ram’s Gate will be open to the public starting September 13, 2011 from 10-6pm for wine tastings, winery tours, special chef demonstrations, and wine & food pairings. The winery is located at the entrance of historic Sonoma and Napa Valley on Hwy 121 (across from Infineon Raceway).
Ummm… really? “We have ‘the best’ in in wine, architecture, interior design, food and an unprecedented guest experience.” Compared to what? To whom? And then: “Ram’s Gate will be open to the public…” right after they have told us how exclusive their wines will be. And to top it off, we have the beginning and ending repetition of the confused geography: “…located at the entrance of historic Sonoma and Napa Valley…” Seriously, guys–did anyone look at a map before crafting this last little brown nugget of prose?
Sorry but based just on this press release they have lost me. I could have been–and wanted to be–excited about this place. But this second press release comes off as a me-too “look at us!” cookie-cutter remake of what I have seen from countless “all hat and no cattle” wineries since time immemorial.
(If the Ram’s Gate people read this, don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m looking at these two press releases as a case study. I could have redacted the winery name or changed it to something unrecognizable, or substituted any of a number of other winery names, and my point would be the same.)
As much as these folks want us to believe they are the Sine Qua Non (oops–winery name already taken!) the second press release suggests to me they are anything but. This concept–small-lot wines, food pairings, beautiful architecture, an ‘unprecedented’ guest experience–is so well-trodden that the feet have beaten a path into the earth deep enough there is no seeing out of it.
How will this be different, much less better, than the successful efforts of wineries like Robert Sinskey, or the failed efforts of Copia? There’s nothing in this press release to tell us–instead of answering questions, it raises them.
I care about the guests who go out of their way to find our Tasting Salon. Eddie and I take pride in our skills to concierge for our guests–to make their current visit to Sonoma memorable if it is their first, or to make it better than their last. After seeing this second press release, we won’t be comfortable referring any of our visitors to the new kid on the block–until we have seen that they aren’t more of just the same-old same-old. We’re going to be looking for their Yelp reviews, just like everyone else.
Yesterday Leah Hennessy (the quitessential Millennier) tweeted: “I remember when all I wanted was for millennials to be respected in wine. Now it’s happenned. So why does it feel like nothing has changed?” My answer would be: “because nothing has.”