SIAG Member Profile – Rombauer Vineyards

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When you’re an iconic winery like Napa Valley’s Rombauer Vineyards, you don’t mess with tradition. That is, until the right opportunity comes along. And, that opportunity is Sauvignon Blanc! The winery, known for its Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon, has introduced Sauvignon Blanc as the first new varietal in their portfolio since 1990. It’s also the first new white wine offered since they debuted their legendary Chardonnay in 1982. If you’re thinking “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?” don’t be concerned. Their Sauv Blanc is another winner in their lineup!

“Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect complement to our existing wines. We had a hole in our portfolio. We lacked an aromatic white wine. Being in Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc was the best fit when you consider what varietals are suited for the area.” ~ Winemaker, Richie Allen

Rombauer’s story began in 1972 when the winery’s founders, Koerner and Joan Rombauer, moved to Napa Valley. The intention for their move had little to do with opening a winery. They liked the bucolic nature of the region, reminding them of the small-town and agricultural environment in which they grew up in Escondido, California. Napa Valley seemed like an ideal place to raise their two children, KR and Sheana. The Rombauer’s purchased some land along the Silverado Trail in St. Helena and moved in.

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The Rombauer Family

Koerner’s great aunt, Irma, was the author of the famed cookbook The Joy of Cooking, and his ancestors came from the German winegrowing region of Rheingau. So, wine and food appreciation were in the blood, so to speak. In 1976, the Rombauer’s became partners in noted Napa winery Conn Creek Winery. The winemaking bug was caught and, in 1980, they sold their interest in Conn Creek with the intent of opening their own operation. It was also in this year in which they harvested their first grapes. By 1982, they had broken ground for their winery on some land next to their home. To this day, the winery is still owned and operated by first- and second-generation members of the Rombauer family.

Their first wines were released in 1984 — a 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1982 Chardonnay. Nineteen eighty-eight saw the introduction of what is now their famed Zinfandel with the purchase of a seven-acre vineyard near their home and winery. Fast forward to 2004, when Richie Allen, a native of Australia, joined the team as a harvest intern. In turn, he worked his way up to head winemaker in 2008 and then to Director of Viticulture and Winemaking in 2013.

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Rombauer Vineyards Winemaker Richie Allen

After much convincing of Koerner by Richie, as the story goes, the winery introduced Sauvignon Blanc as its first new varietal in over 20 years and just the second white wine in their 35-plus year history! They started with a limited production of the wine in 2014 and fully introduced the varietal into their portfolio with the 2015 vintage. The grapes for their Sauvignon Blanc were carefully selected from different Napa sites that all boast good sun exposure, but also moderate temperatures — key ingredients for making a good Sauv Blanc. Sustainable farming practices are used in the vineyards throughout the season.

“Five years of thought and planning went into how we would make a Sauvignon Blanc before we even harvested our first grapes. By the time we go the OK to do it, it all came down to execution. We knew exactly what we wanted to make and how to do it. We wanted to make a Sauvignon Blanc with true varietal character. It’s not Rombauer Chardonnay. There’s no butter, no oak. It’s very vibrant and mouthwatering.” ~ Winemaker, Richie Allen

The grapes were harvested in the cool temperatures of dawn by hand and sorted in the vineyard. The grapes were processed utilizing a gentle whole-cluster pressing. Most of the juice, 90%, was fermented in stainless steel tanks. The remaining 10% was barrel-fermented in neutral French oak and aged for 3 months before being blended back into the tank with the other juice.

The result is a terrific expression of Sauvignon Blanc! It shows tremendous balance and freshness. It doesn’t miss the mid-palate, as many Sauv Blancs can do, but, rather performs evenly from first taste through the nice, lingering finish. Notes push, pleasantly, into the tropical fruit range without going too far in that regard. The acidity is crisp without being overbearing. Certainly, it is an excellent food wine as well as being a nice “porch sipper!”

See our exclusive wine pairing crafted by our Resident Chef, Julie Hoskins, for the 2015 Rombauer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley here…

See our review of the 2015 Rombauer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley here…

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Visit the Rombauer Vineyards Website here…

Learn more about visiting Rombauer Vineyards here…

More on the Rombauer Vineyards current Sauvignon Blanc release, the 2015 Napa Valley (from the winery):

NV-Napa-Valley-Sauvignon-Blanc_png_medOur Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc marks an exciting milestone for Rombauer Vineyards — the first new varietal introduced in more than 20 years and only the second white wine in our 35-year history.

VINEYARDS

The fruit for this wine comes from four carefully selected sites in Napa Valley offering lots of sunshine yet moderate temperatures — ideal conditions for growing Sauvignon Blanc.

WINEGROWING

2015 brought the earliest harvest in our 35-year history. Yields were down overall, but prolonged warm weather resulted in exceptional fruit quality and richly flavored wines. Sustainable farming practices throughout the growing season were tailored to each block with the assistance of aerial photos produced using NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) technology. The fruit was hand-picked at dawn and sorted in the vineyard.

WINEMAKING

The grapes were gently whole-cluster pressed while the fruit was still cool. Ninety percent of the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks. The remaining juice was fermented in neutral French oak barrels to impart weight and texture to the wine. The barrel-fermented portion was blended back to tank after three months in barrel.

TASTING NOTES

This wine is brilliant pale yellow with a bright green hue. It exudes aromas of ripe lime, grapefruit, pear and white nectarine with a subtle hint of fresh-cut grass. The palate is fresh and enticing, as grapefruit, white nectarine and deep tropical notes intertwine making the mouth water. Balanced yet lively acidity lingers on the palate inviting another taste. Boxwood on the finish gives the wine length and vibrant freshness.

FOOD PAIRINGS

Our favorite Joy of Cooking® pairings for this wine include Oysters on the Half-Shell with Mignonette Sauce (Pg. 568), Black Cod in Sake-Miso Marinade (thejoykitchen.com) and Rolled Sushi (Pg. 359).

RELEASE DATE February 2016

APPELLATION Napa Valley

VARIETAL COMPOSITION 100% Sauvignon Blanc

HARVESTED Aug. 13-Aug. 24, 2015

AVERAGE BRIX AT HARVEST 23.1

COOPERAGE Stainless steel tanks (90%) and neutral French oak barrels (10%)

ALCOHOL 14.2%

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