2017 Rombauer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Winery

Founded by Koerner Rombauer (a relation of Irma Rombauer, author of the best-selling Joy of Cooking), Rombauer Winery is a successful, family-owned Napa Valley winery with sales of over 150,000 cases per year, six estate vineyards, and some of the most loyal fans of any winery anywhere. (Employees are loyal as well. Ritchie Allen, Rombauer’s Australian-born winemaker, began his career as a harvest intern in 2004). Yet becoming one of Napa Valley’s premier wineries did not happen overnight. In the 1970s, the Rombauers began as partners in the Conn Creek Winery, only establishing their own label and winery in 1980. It wasn’t until 1990, with Chardonnay from the Sangiacomo Vineyard in Carneros, that the transformation into a major winery truly began. The 1991 Carneros Chardonnay not only received rave reviews, it placed 68th on the Wine Spectator list of top 100 wines. As demand grew, Rombauer decided to begin farming. In 2002, Rombauer purchased the Buchli Station Vineyard in Carnernos to serve as a main source of Chardonnay. Other vineyards – on Atlas Peak and in St. Helena and Calistoga – produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Their estate Zinfandel comes from the old-vine vineyard that surrounds the winery as well another in Amador County. The winery also maintains long-term leases with growers throughout Napa and Lake Counties and the Sierra Foothills.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Rombauer wines are unashamedly Californian; they are rich, opulent, luscious, fruit forward, and ready to drink upon release. Their complex spectrum of aroma and flavor includes not only the primary fruit but an amalgam of butter and spice notes from oak ageing, malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and other winemaking techniques. Though popular, they are not easy or inexpensive to produce. Vineyard managers use aerial photography to tailor their practices to individual vineyard blocks. Many tons of grapes must be harvested within a critical time window, when they have developed ideal ripeness while retaining enough acidity to undergo barrel aging. In order to make wine from only the best berries, Rombauer owns not one but two optical sorters, so that large quantities of grapes can be processed quickly. All the Chardonnay and many of the red wines go through primary and malolactic fermentation in barrel in order produce the flavors and textures so loved by the customers and critics alike. Some have said that Rombauer wines exemplify a powerful, “in your face,” style of California wine. Rombauer would respond that their legions of fans are more than happy with the winery continuing to refine its house style. While there is a role (and market) for leaner wines modeled on Chablis or Graves, Rombauer reminds us that we can take pleasure – and get joy – from the rich bounty of the Napa Valley.

Wine

All it takes to smash a preconception is to taste the wine you think you know. The word that many use to describe tasting Rombauer’s relatively new (2017 is the fourth vintage) Sauvignon Blanc is: SURPRISED. It’s a surprise to find how surprisingly fresh, crisp, complex, and textured it is and to find these qualities not only in a Napa Valley Sauvignon but from the makers of the ever popular (and surprisingly delicious) Rombauer Chardonnay. The fruit is sourced from four Napa Valley vineyards with 90% fermented in stainless steel and 10% fermented and aged for three months in neutral French oak. The barrel fermentation adds texture without imparting “oakiness.” The surprise starts with lively aromatics on the nose (mango, papaya, ripe citrus) and continues through the mouthwatering midpalate and long finish where flavors of citrus and green apple evolve into secondary notes of lemon-lime and saline minerality. This is an excellent food wine. Seared scallops, cauliflower soup, linguine with clams or swordfish steaks all come to mind. 

Winemaking

Grapes were whole-cluster pressed at cold temperature after a cool night harvest. 90% is fermented in stainless steel and 10% fermented and aged for three months in neutral French oak before being blended back in.  

Tasting notes

90 points – Wine and Spirits; 90 points Wilfred Wong/Wine.com.  Aromas of lime, mango, papaya and nectarine entice with hints of fresh-cut grass; refreshing flavors of grapefruit and green apple wash over the palate into a long mineral finish with notes of dried herbs and spices.

Appellation

Napa Valley

Varietal

Sauvignon Blanc

Size

750ml

Closure

Screw Cap

Alcohol

14.4%

UPC

097921877101