Deep ruby color; plum, sweet cherry, mocha, vanilla on the nose; tart cherry, plum, redcurrant, blackberry, oak spice on the palate.
Dry; silky tannins on the pop-and-pour complemented by good acidity. Medium-plus body. Ripe fruit from one of the longest harvests on record. Fruit was hand-picked at night and sorted in the vineyard. Blend of 83% merlot, 13% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit verdot.
Grapes come from estate and grower-partner vineyards on the Napa side of Carneros where clay soils are similar to the right bank of Bordeaux. Cool climate develops flavor and helps retain acidity. About a quarter of the juice was barrel fermented. Basket-pressed and racked into French oak (40% new) for 15 months of aging. 14.8% ABV
Koerner Rombauer enjoyed a nearly 30-year career as a pilot. First with the California Air National Guard in 1956, then as a commercial pilot beginning in 1965. Although Koerner and Joan Ransome attended the same high school in Escondido, California, they did not begin dating until they meet after college. In 1959, they married.
Seeking a small-town, agricultural life, the Rombauers and their two children moved to Napa Valley in 1972. They first rented a property on Highway 29, then purchased a home atop a knoll on 40 acres in St. Helena in 1974. They got into the wine business as partners in the Conn Creek Winery in 1976, then sold their Conn Creek interest to start their own winery in 1980.
Wanting more knowledge and experience, Joan joined the sales team at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in 1981. She became national sales director. The inaugural wines for Rombauer Vineyards were bottled at Stag’s Leap in 1982. Later, the Rombauers built a winery larger than their needs to serve as their winery and as a custom-crush facility for up-and-coming elite wineries: Dominus, Duckhorn, Merryvale, Etude, Spottswoode, and other signal makers today. Recently, they introduced cutting-edge technology to ensure—guarantee, even—no Rombauer cork will have cork taint.
Rombauer wines won accolades almost from the beginning. Although their first emphasis was cabernet sauvignon, in 1995 their Carneros chardonnay ranked as No. 32 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines list. They now are known as much for their chardonnays as their cabs. In January 2019, they purchased the former Renwood Winery, in part to increase their focus on zinfandel and other red wines. Sauvignon blanc joined the lineup in 2014.
In 2002, Joan passed from pancreatic cancer. The family established endowments to support the University of California–San Francisco’s pancreatic research efforts and the Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services. Richie Allen joined the Rombauer team in 2008. He rose through the ranks and is head winemaker today. In 2015, Rombauer Vineyards celebrated its 35th anniversary as a family-owned winery, operated by Koerner and his children, KR and Sheana. In 2016, Reagan Rombauer Blackwood became the third generation to join the team. In 2018, Koerner passed at age 83. Richie Allen is the vice president of viticulture and winemaking.
Rombauer Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2018 is a bold, ripe-fruit, easy-drinking iteration of Napa merlot. Varietally correct with rich, tasty plum and cherry notes abetted by well-done oak and acidity. Quality maker with a four-decade history of working with Napa merlot fruit. Pair with rack of lamb; braised lamb shanks; Cornish game hen; seared duck breast; beef and veal; spaghetti with meat and red sauce; venison and wild boar; barbecued pork; seafood gumbo; baked butternut squash with sausage and apples; Swiss, camembert, cheddar, gouda, gorgonzola, gruyere, parmesan, baked brie cheese. $45-50