Though Taylr Behnam Cuneo, 33, first was trained in business, her path to management of Ram’s Gate Winery on the Sonoma County side of the Carneros appellation came by way of her passion for hospitality and the culinary arts.
A venture by Michael John, O’Neill Vintners & Distillers owner Jeff O’Neill, Paul Violich and Peter Mullin, Ram’s Gate opened in 2011, and Behnam Cuneo was one of the first employees, joining as a sous chef after about a year in that role at Timber Cove Inn. She had graduated from Loyola School of Business in Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in business and operations management then received formal chef training at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
Less than a year after arriving at Ram’s Gate, she was offered the executive chef spot when it opened. Early last year, she was given the additional responsibility of culinary and hospitality director. A year ago, the owners divided day-to-day management between Behnam Cuneo and Dilushka Wanigatunga, who leads the private-parties team.
Annual production is around 15,000 cases, but this year’s bumper crop increased it to 18,000. Wines retail for $42 to $80 a bottle and are sold mainly to club members, with some sent to restaurants and hotels in select Texas and East Coast markets. A goal for 2019 is to invest in e-commerce, especially as production increases, she said.
“We have the (website) traffic, by the analytics, but if you wants to buy wine on the site, it is difficult,” she said.
Behnam Cuneo sees a next step for improving her knowledgebase is pursuing some form of certified wine education.