Joe Nielsen

Director of Winemaking

Joe Nielsen’s winemaking philosophy is, in a word, observation. “I don’t think about winemaking as a recipe,” he says, “but as a process or evolution.” It starts with understanding the greater principles at play in the art of capturing personality out of the ground and into the glass.

Ram’s Gate Director of Winemaking since summer 2018, Joe joins the team with over a decade of winemaking experience, most recently as Head Winemaker at Donelan Family Wines, where he received over fifty 90+ ratings from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and other leading critics, including a 100-point score from Jeb Dunnuck.

A Michigan native with a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture, Joe also completed the Ag Tech program in Enology and Viticulture at Michigan State University. Just as gardening requires time, diligence and foresight, Joe’s winemaking starts with his continual presence in the vineyard. “As early as budbreak, I’m starting to make decisions about how we’re going to make a wine based on what I see in the vineyard,” he explains. “Berry size, flavor concentration, vigor, cluster counts and even a site’s orientation all go into the narrative that will play out in the cellar.”

Joe lives in Santa Rosa with his wife and daughter. In addition to spending time with his family, Joe spends his time enjoying Sonoma County’s great outdoors and pursuing his passion for gardening while also finishing his Executive Wine MBA degree from Sonoma State University.

Our Team