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

2019 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay (375ml)
2019 Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc

This crisp and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc is another knockout from Rombauer! The fruit was sourced from cooler parts of Napa Valley (64%) and Sonoma county (36%). Mostly fermented and aged in stainless steel, about 10% was fermented and aged for three months in neutral French oak before being blended back in. The barrel fermentation adds texture without imparting “oakiness.” Sauvignon Blanc enthusiasts will love the varietal character of intense lime, grapefruit and hints of freshly-cut grass. The bright flavors and mouthwatering acidity will turn a light meal into an occasion. Shrimp, seared scallops, linguine with clams or swordfish steaks all come to mind. 

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¥5,060 (incl. tax)
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2018 Rombauer Zinfandel

Decadence served with panache and style - that’s Rombauer Zinfandel. Sourced from old-vine vineyards in El Dorado (42%), Amador, (32%), Lake, (17%), and Napa (6%) counties as well as Lodi (3%), this is Zin with power (15.9% ABV!) that nevertheless aims to use its charms to seduce rather than overwhelm us. As the winery puts it, “On the nose, concentrated aromas of ripe blackberry and boysenberry meld with black tea, vanilla and spice. Lush flavors of fig, blackberry jam, licorice and vanilla flood the palate, followed by touches of dark chocolate and white pepper in the background. Subtle and round tannins and great length make for a fresh and enticing finish.”

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¥7,040 (incl. tax)
2019 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay

Like a chart-topping pop song or a best-selling paperback, Rombauer Chardonnay has its die-hard fans and its “too-cool-for-school” critics. But how does a work reach icon status if not by true artistry and dedication to craft? In Rombauer’s case, this includes meticulous management of vineyards in Carneros, where cool temperatures are balanced against warm sunlight, and years of tinkering with such winemaking variables as ripeness of the fruit, tank vs. barrel fermentation, new vs. neutral oak, and the amount of wine to put through malolactic fermentation. And while Rombauer’s Carneros Chardonnay is undoubtably richly tropical and buttery, it also has balance, verve, and food-friendly freshness. As in previous years, the wine is attractive and smooth, with nuances of peach, ripe apple, mango and a deliciously creamy texture. Recommended pairings include fettuccine with salmon and asparagus, tuna avocado burgers, or even a roast turkey with herbs and gravy.  

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¥7,590 (incl. tax)
2017 Rombauer Napa Valley Merlot

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¥9,240 (incl. tax)
2018 Rombauer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Rombauer Zinfandel (1.5L)

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¥15,180 (incl. tax)
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2018 Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay (1.5L)

While Rombauer Chardonnay is reputed to be juicy rich, ripe and buttery – i.e. a style that epitomizes “California” – it’s been known to confound plenty of those who thought their taste for this grape ran strictly through the Cote de Beaune. For beyond the fruit forward notes of baked apple, citrus and spice, Rombauer’s Carneros Chardonnay has balance, verve, freshness and food-friendliness. 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, ripe apple, mango 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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¥16,280 (incl. tax)