November, 1986—A ferocious wind whipped my hair, mimicking the madness under my scalp: scattered thoughts, billions of ideas.
The sky was blue, the sand bright and the waters raging as I clutched the tightly closed 2-liter Coke bottle. My mother tried, but failed, to hide her impatience. She has a knack for ruining a moment.
Inside were two notes. Two notes from two desperately lonely children. One from 9-year-old me, in all her weirdness and whimsy, desperately seeking a friend. Someone who’d know me as something other than the weirdo. The other, written in the same hand, but dictated to me by my then nineteen-year-old brother who has developmental delays.
Needless to say, after throwing the bottle as far as I could (my mother grumbling that it was just going to wash back up and get thrown in the garbage) there was no response.
On Sunday, these pieces of my history showed up at my mother’s door. A 21-year-old woman held them gently, as if sacred relics. And nine-year-old me gave me a huge, toothy grin and thumb’s up. It’s gonna be okay, kid!
The Stories Inside Bottles: Terroir
(Please note: I was sent these Ram’s Gate bottles and asked to review them. As with all samples, I only review the ones I love. Also: affiliate links ahead)
With vineyards in several distinct and coveted terroirs of Northern California, Ram’s Gate Winery is able to send a message in every bottle. It may not be a message from your former self, but it’s just as beautiful. Since 2011 they have vinted an impressive portfolio that puts vineyard expression at the forefront.
The website includes this from Director of Winemaking, “I believe our portfolio of wines should play like a musical album, each wine builds on a narrative of vintage and varietal that is captivating from start to finish without duplication.” Mission: Accomplished.
It’s evident with each sniff and sip that the wines are made from the ground up. They know their sites and soils, the varietals are perfectly paired. They carefully align to put the best message in the bottle: a note describing the story from germination to glass.
Tasting and Pairing Notes
2019 Sauvignon Blanc
This estate-vineyard Sauv Blanc comes from an exceptional vintage. Carneros 2019 is one for the ages with a late bud break that allowed for insanely-flavored fruit. Add to that a finessed hand applying oak (5 months in new French, stainless, and neutral) and you end up with a bright, sunny day in a bottle.
Expect a complex nose of honeydew, ripe pear and spice. While this continues to the palate, it gets more complicated with grapefruit, lemon pith and a mouthfeel that’s a perfect balance of acidity, ABV (14%) and oak. The spice from the oak is an utter delight and the finish on this puppy is sublime.
Saturday night is Kris with a K’s homemade pizza night at our house so we designed a few pizzas with these wines in mind. We enjoyed this bottle with a pie with a simple marinara spiced with garlic, chili peppers and oregano, caramelized onions and sautéed spinach. The cheese was a blend of fontina and gouda. The dough was a simple but delightful biga.
2019 Sonoma Coast Rosé
With a nose of strawberry jam, raspberries and cherry pie it’s no secret this rosé is brimming with Pinot Noir. In fact, it’s 90% Pinot Noir with 10% Grenache making up the balance. The grenache adds some zest and makes this the perfect summer (and fall!) sipper. The ABV is noticeably lower in this one (12.9%) but perfectly in balance. Five months in neutral oak gives this a silky, smooth mouthfeel that’s a nice counterbalance to the zip. An absolute joy.
Using the same biga, Kris crafted a white pizza with a base of garlic alfredo. Usually he makes his own but it’s been HOT here so he opted for our favorite store-bought garlic alfredo: Rao’s. Topped with broccoli, a melange of mushrooms and a cheese blend of mozzerella and smoked Vermont cheddar, this had notes of Old Forge throughout!
2019 Pinot Blanc
I loved ending the night with a genetic mutation. Did you know that that’s what Pinot Blanc is? It doesn’t matter. It’s delicious and, as I would be reminded the next day, sometimes it takes a while to uncover the good in something that’s seemingly flawed beyond repair.
This is a beautiful wine that will only get better with age. In fact, I’ll be ordering some bottles to do just that. Zippy but smooth, this one bursts with fruit (pear, nectarine) and flowers (apple blossom). I got notes of melon and a candied lime note that I particularly enjoyed. Also clocking in at 12.9% ABV it’s perfectly balanced. The star of the show here might be the neutral oak which gives it a beautiful whiff of freshly-baked bread.
I designed the pizza for this bottle and what a pizza it was. Quite a bit of prep work went into it. I “grilled” asparagus and lemon slices in the Le Creuset and roasted a bulb of garlic in the oven and then mashed it. High-quality ricotta with some smoked paprika mixed in was a risk I was willing to take. I’m glad I did! The end result was a crust with Kris’ chili-inflused olive oil, shaved parmesan, asparagus, lemon, garlic and ricotta. And it was incredible.
Time Isn’t Linear
We’re on a crazy journey and it’s undisputable: the tapestry we weave recycles loose threads and scraps thought destined for a forgotten pile of items to be used later. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how hopeless it seems, there are messages in bottles just waiting to be found. Nine-year-old me wants present me to keep looking for signs. 42-year-old me wants little me to believe that it will get better. And the winemakers at Ram’s Gate want you to experience the distinct terroirs of Northern California they’ve put into these beautiful bottles.
Selin, if you read this: thank you for making that drive and reaching out. You have no idea what it means to me!
“…Rescue me before I fall into despair.”