The Joy of Wine

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 Maker

Richie Allen





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Wines from this Winery

2021 Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc

Pour your friends a glass of Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc, and smiles and appreciative murmurs are sure to follow. Aromatically exciting and with flavors so fresh, crisp, and layered, one sip leads to another. The winery is hailing the 2021 vintage because “the dry conditions delivered fruit full of flavor and bursting with aromas of lime zest, lychee, grapefruit, and white peach. It’s mouthwatering, thirst-quenching, and downright delicious.” A blend of Napa Valley and Sonoma County vineyards, it was fermented largely in stainless steel with about 10% fermenting in barrel and 4% in concrete. A taste starts with lively notes on the nose (lime, citrus, white flowers) and continues through the mouthwatering midpalate and long finish where flavors of pink grapefruit and tart apple evolve into secondary notes of lemon-lime and chalky minerality. This is an excellent food wine. It will rock with guacamole, teriyaki shrimp, or pad Thai.

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¥5,720 (incl. tax)
2020 Rombauer Zinfandel

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¥8,580 (incl. tax)
2021 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay

While Rombauer Chardonnay is reputed to be juicy rich, ripe and buttery – i.e. a style that epitomizes “California” – it’s usually a hit with both critics and die-hard fans. For beyond the fruit forward notes of baked apple, citrus and spice, Rombauer’s Carneros Chardonnay is balanced, fresh and food-friendly. Rather than make a wine that will reach perfection in ten years, Rombauer suggests, “Why not make it taste good right off the bat?” As in previous years, the wine is attractive and smooth, with nuances of peach, citrus, pie crust, and a deliciously creamy texture. Recommended pairings include fettuccine with salmon and asparagus or even a roast turkey with herbs and gravy.

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¥8,690 (incl. tax)
2018 Rombauer Napa Valley Merlot

While the rolling hills of Carneros are well-known as a land of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Carneros Merlot has been on a roll — and earning high scores, too. The cool climate and clay soils inspire compelling dark and red fruit flavors, savory spice and earthy notes, as well as excellent acidity and tannin structure. As in a right-bank Bordeaux, this wine is not 100% Merlot but includes 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot for additional tannin and structure. Uniquely, Rombauer strives for additional richness by fermenting some of the must in barrel, a troublesome process that few wineries would undertake with their red wines. The result is a Merlot that is plush and pure, soft and supple, a versatile wine that pairs well with such meat dishes as seared pork chops, braised lamb, as well as vegetarian dishes with meaty mushrooms. 

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¥10,120 (incl. tax)
2018 Rombauer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Purple-black in hue and brimming with bold cherry, blackberry and spice, Rombauer Cabernet is is about as “Napa Valley” as it gets. Sourced from vineyards in St. Helena, Calistoga, Oakville, Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, and Carneros AVAs, this Cab combines extraordinary terroir and exquisite craft. Each year, a significant portion of the wine is barrel-fermented, which, with red wines, is a difficult, labor-intensive, even risky process. Instead of punching down or pumping over, each barrel has to be rolled by hand throughout the maceration. However, the reward lies in the rich and silky mouthfeel and in the early-drinkability of the wine. That Rombauer barrel-ferments even this higher-volume bottling is yet one more example of the value the winery seeks to give its customers. Try this complex, fruit-driven wine with grilled steaks, rack of lamb, or braised beef shanks. 

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¥14,080 (incl. tax)