Having been sent three wines (as samples) from Rombauer Vineyards, I was curious. None of those I received was Chardonnay, the beloved variety most often associated with this well-known winery. Although I always enjoy a glass of that buttery, food-friendly Chardonnay, it was a treat to taste other choices.  In fact, when I told a friend that I’d be tasting a Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, she couldn’t believe that the winery produced anything other than Chardonnay… Well, it’s time for everyone to re-visit Rombauer Vineyards; I did just that during my chat with Reagan Blackwood, third generation member of the family who started it all.

Located about one hour north of Sonoma, on 3522 Silverado Trail North in St. Helena, is Rombauer Vineyards, founded in 1980 by Koerner Rombauer, a former airline pilot with wine industry experience, and his wife, Joan.  The couple, their two children, and assorted dogs and horses settled in Napa Valley in 1972 with a penchant for delicious food (Koerner’s great-aunt Irma Rombauer was the author of everyone’s favorite, if not first, cookbook, The Joy of Cooking) and exceptional wine (his family’s place of origin is the iconic winegrowing region of Rheingau, Germany). It was only natural that the couple would establish a winery and produce wines to pair with whatever Irma (and others) suggest!


Rombauer Vineyards

Photo Credit: www.rombauer.com

The first Rombauer wines were released in 1984: a 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1982 Chardonnay, both priced at a mere $12.50. The first vintage of Merlot and Zinfandel was in 1990 and in 2014, the first Sauvignon Blanc was harvested. Years later, Rombauer Vineyards continues to be owned and managed by first-, second-, and now third-generation family members.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy lunch and a few sips of wine with Reagan Blackwood, newly minted Sales and Marketing Support Manager of Rombauer Vineyards, granddaughter of Koerner, and daughter of Sheana Rombauer. Just as lively and interesting as the wines I tasted, Reagan grew up in Napa Valley, a small community during those years, living by her family’s conviction that one must “work hard for what you do”. She admitted that she had a “normal, humble upbringing” and that the family believes that “if you want to work in the business, go away to school, have a job elsewhere, and if you have the skills and there’s a job available, you can work here”.


Rombauer Vineyards - Reagan Blackwood

Photo Credit: www.rombauer.com

Following that specific path, Reagan, the oldest of Koerner’s five grandchildren, is the first third-generation member to be an integral part of the team at Rombauer Vineyards. As a young girl, Reagan worked at the winery, assisted with special events and the wine club, and held jobs in the accounting department and tasting room. Following graduation from Boise State University, she became a licensed real estate agent in Las Vegas, Nevada before joining the winery in 2016 as Assistant Regional Sales Manager. Currently, she represents Rombauer Vineyards at industry conferences, promotional and philanthropic events, assists in marketing efforts, conducts sales presentations, and assists in developing sales programs. Radiating positivity for the future of Rombauer Vineyards, Reagan is an effective ambassador of her family’s winery.

“Our brand is the family name and we’re building it with integrity to pass it on. High quality is the key”.  Reagan Blackwood

Those wines! Reagan mentioned that each wine in the portfolio is meant to be enjoyed with food and people…but, of course! The Rombauer heritage rings true in each sip of the outstanding selections that were sent as samples, as well as those enjoyed during lunch.

Paired with high-spirited conversation and an array of salads were two impressive wines. The newly released 2016 Carneros Chardonnay ($38) exuded aromas of white flowers, pear, and melon and notes of minerality, tropical fruit, and creamy butter that led to a glorious finish of utter finesse. The 2015 Rombauer Zinfandel ($32), cultivated from over 100 year-old vines in the Sierra Foothills, was replete with jammy red fruit, bright acidity, and a balanced, round mouthfeel.

Samples that were sent and tasted prior to meeting Reagan included the 2016 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($24). Refreshing and vibrant, I loved every sip of this 100% Sauvignon Blanc cultivated in four sites in Napa Valley. Intense aromas of juicy citrus, tropical fruit, lime, lemon, stone fruit, and wet grass after a summer shower were absolutely delightful. Flavors of orange, lime, grapefruit, and nectarine were vibrant thanks to mouthwatering acidity. Prior to bottling, 90% of the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks; 10% was fermented in neutral French oak barrels to offer weight and texture then blended back into the tank after three months.

Rombauer Vineyards
2013 Carneros Merlot ($35) was elegant from the first sip to the last. The blend of 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon was from Carneros region vineyards owned by the Rombauer family and select growers. The Merlot grows on clay soil in cool Carneros, where fog and cold air from San Pablo Bay is pulled by rising heat in the northern areas of Napa and Sonoma valleys, resulting in a slower ripening of the grapes. On the nose, delightful aromas of black cherries, dark raspberry, cedar, earth, ripe purple fruit, and violets were intense. I discovered lively acidity and integrated tannins while exploring the flavors of lush plums, cherries, figs, and red fruit that led to a luscious finish. The 2013 Carneros Merlot was aged for 17 months in French oak barrels.

Rombauer Vineyards
“Sophisticated” was my first thought as I tasted the 2013 Diamond Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($80). The stunning blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot was from estate vineyards and exceptional grower vineyards in Stags Leap, Calistoga, Atlas Peak, St. Helena, and Rutherford AVAs. Aged for 17 months in new French oak, the finest lots were chosen and blended to produce the Diamond Selection. Aromas of black cherries, plums, anise, pomegranate, vanilla, and purple flowers wafted from the glass…I was in Cabernet Heaven! Balanced and full bodied, notes of ripe black cherries, blueberries, dark chocolate, and spice were threaded with vibrant acidity and velvet tannins. The finish? Long and smooth, rich and textured.

Rombauer Vineyards
I admired each wine I tasted. But remember the Rombauer Chardonnay that everyone recognizes? The 2016 vintage, the wine I enjoyed at lunch, shows traditional components yet bursts with a high-quality profile that’s fresh, lively, and modern. Sounds a lot like Reagan Blackwood, doesn’t it?

Cheers! ~ Cindy


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1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Thank you again for another elegant and informative post. You really do give a sense of both the history and texture to the Rombauer wines

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