At Rombauer Vineyards, their philosophy has remained true since their founding in 1980: do everything possible to produce the best quality wines. With almost 40 years of winemaking, they’ve achieved consistency of style — distinctive, fruit-driven wines — while continually refining and improving their winemaking practices. For National Chardonnay Day, we caught up with Reagan Blackwood, granddaughter of founders Koerner and daughter of Sheana Rombauer, to learn about their world-famous Chardonnay.
Rombauer is recognized worldwide for their amazing Chardonnays. Can you take us back to its beginnings in 1984 when the first vintage was made available?
Our first vintage of Rombauer Chardonnay was made in 1982. This was a favorite of my grandparents. It wasn’t until the 1990 vintage that we discovered Chardonnay from the Carneros region. It took years of experimenting, honing vineyards and refining winemaking techniques until we arrived at the wine that we all know and love today. But we didn’t stop there. With each new vintage, our Winemaker Richie Allen and his team review the hundreds of decisions that are made from vineyard to bottle, searching for ways to increase quality. The adjustments they make are smaller now, tweaks really, but that doesn’t deter us. We will stop at nothing to make the very finest Chardonnay that we can. Every vintage, every step, every bottle represents a pursuit of perfection. That is the Rombauer commitment, and our way of continuing to share The Joy of Wine.
Can you walk us through some of the core flavor characteristics of a Rombauer Chardonnay?
There are five key components to the signature style of Rombauer’s Carneros Chardonnay: the intensity of fruit, a creamy texture, vanilla oak, and buttery character all tied together with mouthwatering acidity. The balance of these core components is what sets Rombauer Chardonnay apart from others.
Are there differences between a Napa Valley Chardonnay verses a Chardonnay from France?
It’s difficult to define Napa Valley Chardonnay and Chardonnays from France with one style. The Chardonnay grape is extremely versatile and is heavily influenced by terroir and winemaking.
For example, Chardonnay styles hailing from France can differ from one another. A Chablis is typically unoaked, light bodied with minerality and notes of lemon or lime, while a Côte de Beaune is typically oaked, full bodied with flavors of apples, lemon, cream, vanilla. The Chardonnay grape is also used to make world-renowned Champagne.
Within California, you will find many variations of Chardonnay styles. I think what is most important for drinkers is to understand what their personal preferences are and then seek out the best producers of that style, regardless of the region.
Over the years, Rombauer has expanded its Chardonnay growing to Buchli Station Vineyard and Davitto Ranch. How does this offer a different take on your Chardonnay?
We purchased our Buchli Station Vineyard on the Napa Valley side of Carneros in 2002 and replanted it from 2003-2007. Our Buchli Station Vineyard is one of the primary sources for our Carneros Chardonnay, consistently producing the “mother” wines for the blend. Buchli Station sits near San Pablo Bay, where the temperatures are relatively moderate compared to farther north in the Napa Valley. Davitto Ranch Vineyard is one of our family’s newest vineyards, located on the Sonoma side of the Carneros appellation. In addition to the cool Carneros climate, the property’s terroir makes it ideal for Chardonnay. Development was done in three phases in as many years, with the last completed in the summer of 2016 as we harvested our first grapes from the initial planting.
The development of our own vineyards has always been a key part of our long-term mission to improve the quality of our wines by replacing good vineyard sources with ones that are extraordinary.
Your Chardonnay has made the prestigious Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines List five times. What do you think it is about your wine that sets it so far apart from other Chardonnays?
We are so honored that our Chardonnay has made the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines List five times! I’m also proud to share that Rombauer Chardonnay was named the #1 Chardonnay in American restaurants by Wine and Spirits Magazine this year. That is our 16th consecutive year on their top 10 list. Additionally, every one of our current releases have received 90 point or higher reviews by top publications. I think our wines are regularly recognized by consumers and trade for their consistency, outstanding quality and value.
Have you had a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay? Do you have a special vintage set aside for special occasions? We want to hear about it! Share with us on social by tagging @Coravin on all channels, or @rombauervineyards on Instagram and Facebook, and @rombauervino on Twitter.