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Ram’s Gate Winery sold to O’Neill Vintners & Distillers

A premium winery known as “the gateway to Sonoma” due to its plum position has been wholly acquired by one of its original founders and folded into a new company.

The first wine estate that people drive past when they turn off Highway 37 on route to Sonoma, California, is Ram’s Gate Winery, meaning the property is in plum position for wine tourists looking to explore the region.

Founded in 2011, with the property designed by famous wine country architect Howard Backen, the 125-acre (10ha) estate has just been acquired by O’Neill Vintners & Distillers.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, some industry insiders have remarked on the chasm between the US$85 Chardonnays and Pinots that Ram’s Gate produces and the comparably inexpensive wines among the rest of O’Neill’s portfolio such as Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay which retails for around US$11.99.

However, there is a watertight link between the two companies, as Jeff O’Neill, founder and CEO of O Neill Vintners & Distillers, also happens to be one of the four original founders of Ram’s Gate. He stepped back from the Sonoma business to focus on O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, but has now bought out his other Ram’s Gate partners to become the winery’s sole owner.

The winemaking team, led by Joe Nielsen will stay on following the acquisition.

O’Neill had not planned on bringing Ram’s Gate under O’Neill’s wing, but said that “an opportunity presented itself for us to get in the Sonoma region, and it was an opportunity for (the other founders) to take advantage of their investment.”

Following the acquisition of Ram’s Gate and its premium wines, O’Neill Vintners & Distillers plans to create a new luxury wine division, geared towards younger consumers who are buying less but better wine.

“What used to be a US$5 entry-level wine 25 years ago is a US$15-$20 today, and I believe a lot of these new consumers are going to be coming in at a much higher level.”

Farmed organically, Ram’s Gate has rare waterfront views thanks to its elevated position overlooking the San Pablo Bay, the cooling influence of which makes its vineyards perfect for growing high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Ram’s Gate describes itself as being placed at “the epicentre of Sonoma’s three greatest AVAs” – the Sonoma Valley on the south side, the Sonoma Coast on the east, and Carneros on the west.

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