Rombauer Vineyards: A New Chapter, E & J Gallo Luxury Wine Group Acquisition
An Interview with Richie Allen, Sr. Director, Winemaker/Production
Richie Allen, Question: What does the New Rombauer Chapter Look Like?
“We’ve moved from one family ownership [Rombauer] to another family ownership [Gallo]. Everyone keeps asking ‘what’s changed?’ Honestly, very little. On the winery side, it’s the same vineyards, the same people, the same winemaking style, the same growers. The wine is still labeled Rombauer, and they will continue to taste the way everybody expects them to taste.”
-Richie Allen, Sr. Director/Winemaking and Production
Discussing What E & J Gallo Luxury Wine Group Acquired Along with the Rombauer Brand
Richie Allen asked us to “go on a wander” with him this week around the St. Helena tasting room, production facility, and barrel aging area. He discussed his five-person winemaking team some of whom have 20+ years of Rombauer wine making experience working together. They are all staying put. The active production area was buzzing with the 2023 harvest.
According to Richie Allen, the 2023 harvest is “looking great. The metrics are good. It might be like the 2018 vintage or better.”
The Rombauer vineyards use high-tech sensing equipment, and the winemakers have a range of decisions at their disposal for each varietal wine made. The vineyards are found in Napa Valley (Carneros, Atlas Peak, Calistoga) as well as Sonoma Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, and the Sierra Foothills. We did a full portfolio tasting between the St. Helena tasting room and the Sierra Foothills tasting room experience two weeks ago. See Recommended wines below.
The Rombauer assets acquired include 700 acres of planted vines, 3 production facilities, and two tasting rooms (St. Helena and the Sierra Nevada tasting room in Plymouth, CA). Rombauer is a huge world-renown brand which sells out annually even at the 400,000 or so case production. The staff and leadership is talented. This is an enormous attainment for E & J Gallo.
“The Rombauer brand and family have built a reputation around quality and integrity. It’s an iconic brand rooted in distinctive and respected wines,” said Joseph C. Gallo, Vice President and General Manager of Gallo’s Luxury Wine Group.
About Richie Allen, Sr. Director/Winemaking and Production
Richie grew up in one of the most famous wine growing regions-- the Yarra Valley, Melbourne, Australia. Following graduation from the University of Adelaide and winemaking experience in Australia and New Zealand, Ritchie Allen began his tenure at Rombauer in 2008 as a harvest intern and worked his way up through the ranks, becoming the winery’s head winemaker.
Richie has been ushering in a new era of innovation at Rombauer that includes the early adoption of cutting-edge technology such as optical sorters and the embrace of traditional methods like barrel fermentation for red wines. I met Richie initially in 2019 at a Symposium for Professional Wine Writers event where he demonstrated the Rombauer use of aerial photos that they use to tailor viticulture needs for each vineyard growing block using NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index.)
Richie credits the strong Wine Club, hospitality programs, his winemaking team, and virtual tastings as helping Rombauer survive and thrive and grow even during the 2020 Pandemic and Glass fire. There were several happy private tasting groups sampling wines at the winery this August as I left the winery late morning. Visit Rombauer.
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History: Rombauer Founding, Family, and Growth
Established in 1972, Koerner and Joan Rombauer and their children moved to Napa valley, having gained an appreciation for wine and food from Koerner’s great aunt, Irma Rombauer, internationally famous author of The Joy of Cooking. Following Koerner’s 30-year career as a military and commercial pilot, the inaugural wines for Rombauer were initially bottled at Stags Leap Wine Cellars. The family built a winery with capacity beyond its own needs and organized a custom-crush business to help finance construction. From 1982 to 2008, Rombauer served as home base to many famous Napa Valley up-and-coming wineries including Dominus, Spottswoode, Duckhorn, Merryvale, Corison, Etude and others.
Success began early in Rombauer history with the Rombauer Chardonnay. With the grapes grown in cool-climate sites, the 1993 Carneros Chardonnay ranked No. 32 on 1995 Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines List. These are spectacular wines; in particular, see the Proprietor Selection and Buchli Station Chardonnays below.
In 2002 the Rombauer family purchased multiple a cool-climate sites on the edge of San Pablo Bay that became the cornerstone of Rombauer’s Chardonnay and Merlot programs. Other vineyard acquisitions at Atlas Peak and more recently in the Santa Lucia Highland added to the basis for the red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
Although perhaps better know for their white wines especially the iconic Chardonnay, what struck me about this portfolio tasting was the strength of the Rombauer reds like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. The new chapter with E & J Gallo family ownership has now begun. Let’s celebrate “The Joy of Wine” with the Rombauer Brand. The Chardonnay will be on my Thanksgiving table this year.
Fresh peach and brioche leap from the glass. 55% French and American oak with a lively acid balance this wine perfectly. My personal favorite white.
Wine Spectator, 92 Points
Wine Spectator, 92 Points
This highly aeromatic SB has great depth and concentrations of lime, pink grapefruit, and apricot.
Wine Spectator 91 points
Richie Allen notes, “When we have staff parties, the Merlot disappears first.”
This complex wine has an elegant taste plus tannins and bright aromas and flavors of black cherries, plums, rose petals, and chocolate. It would be perfect with braised beef, but I plan to drink this bottle with friends while sampling a savory appetizer.
James Suckling, 92 Points
JEB Dunnock, 92-94 Points, (awarded while still in barrel)
This wine is produced from the finest Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, the best between 2 to 6 select lots.…..a personal favorite red.
Wine Spectator, 92 Points
Wine Enthusiast, 91 Points for 2019 vintage
Visiting Rombauer Vineyards
3522 Silverado Trail North
St. Helena, CA 94574
12225 Steiner Rd.
Plymouth, CA 95669
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