By Rick Riozza
The autumn wine scene here in the desert is dynamic. Wine trade tastings are a happening at many of our local hotels; Wine events, such as last week’s LULU Catering & Events Wine & Dine Around the World—which was a blast! eld at the Palm Springs’ Airport; and, wine tasting dinners, such as the one serving up a Rombauer porfolio.
Did someone mention Rombauer? What fun did I have being somewhat of a spoiler at a private dinner tasting that featured some delicious Rombauer wines. Fittingly for the occasion, we were all dressed up and feeling on top of the world! Then I opened my mouth—yes, to sample a fabulous array of wine, and then to spill the beans.
The previous morning I had read the news—oh boy! From the Napa Valley Reporter: “E. & J. Gallo’s Luxury Wine Group announced today that it has reached an agreement with the Rombauer family to purchase Rombauer Vineyards, producer of critically acclaimed wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, the Sierra Foothills, and the Santa Lucia Highlands.”
The news hit the dinner party host and guests like a brick. Of course there was vehement denial, accusations, murmurs, and a lot of mean faces. No news here: Rombauer enthusiasts and aficionados are a dedicated and loyal bunch. The idea of even drinking a “Gallo” wine, shudders them.
But after a few glasses of wonderful wine and some needed wine counseling, our dinner group finally came around to accepting their fate of having to, indeed, enjoy a “Gallo” wine. They understood well that “business is business” after all, and sooner or later the “Gallo Generale Immobiliare” (my words) will figuratively envelope the wine world.
According to some details on the web, the Gallo Wine Group paid an estimated $85.6 million to buy Rombauer Vineyards properties, according to the amount of property transfer tax paid to the Napa County Recorder’s Office. That figure may not include the value of the brand, equipment, contracts and vineyards in other counties.
The Shanken News Daily has reported that, “The deal includes the Rombauer brand, three winery facilities, two tasting rooms and more than 700 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards in Carneros, Atlas Peak, St. Helena, Calistoga, Sonoma Valley, and the Sierra Foothills.
Founded in 1980 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer, Rombauer Vineyards is known for its high-quality wines, exceptional vineyard sites, and commitment to sustainability, as well as family-style hospitality. Four decades later, the winery has become widely acclaimed for its well-balanced, fruit-driven varietal expressions.
Best known for its Chardonnay, which helped define modern California Chardonnay as big, rich and bold, Rombauer also produces outstanding Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, and recently branched out into Pinot Noir. The family has a long history in American food culture; Koerner’s great aunt, Irma Rombauer, wrote the original The Joy of Cooking in 1931.
“The Rombauer brand and family have built a reputation around quality and integrity,” said Joseph C. Gallo, vice president and general manager of Gallo’s Luxury Wine Group, in a statement. According to Gallo, Rombauer’s leadership and winemaking staff, including vice president of viticulture and winemaking Richie Allen, will remain at the company.
“It’s an iconic brand rooted in distinctive and respected wines. We are excited to work on this next chapter alongside the very talented Rombauer leadership and winemaking team. Their values, along with their long-term focus, align seamlessly with our culture. Our shared goal is to honor and build on this legacy.”
“Gallo is a family-owned business, exemplifying long-term vision and patience,” said owner K.R. Rombauer, son of Rombauer’s founders. “They demonstrate respectful stewardship of every brand in their luxury portfolio. We have strikingly similar company values.”
“It’s humbling to recognize how far we’ve come—from our first vintage of wines in 1980 where we hand sold every bottle—to where we are today,” said Rombauer. “My hope for the future is continued success delivering the wines our consumers know and love.”
Rombauer joins a Gallo premium domestic portfolio that also includes Pahlmeyer, Orin Swift, Louis M. Martini, J Vineyards & Winery, Hahn Family Wines, Denner Vineyards and Talbott Vineyards. Gallo remains the top wine marketer in the U.S. with annual volume of approximately 90 million cases, according to Impact Databank, more than twice that of its closest competitor, The Wine Group.
And now—probably the most popular Rombauer wine we’re happy to recommend:
2021 Rombauer Chardonnay “Carneros” ($37) Winemaker Notes: Ripe peach, citrus fruits, spice, and pie crust aromas all mingle and lift from the glass. The citrus supported by notes of apricot continues onto the palate which is concentrated with a rich, creamy middle palate, and strong supporting acidity. The finish is long and marked with hints of vanilla. This wine will continue to build richness as it ages in the bottle. The consummate Chardonnay pairing is lobster, prepared any way. We suggest lobster rolls on a summer day with a glass of our chilled Carneros Chardonnay.
Ken’s Wine Guide writes: “This pale straw-colored Chardonnay from Rombauer opens with a fragrant oak, vanilla, and Bartlett pear bouquet. On the palate, this wine is full bodied with moderate acidity. The mouthfeel balanced, round and concentrated. The flavor profile is an oak, butterscotch, and ripe pear blend with notes of Dr. Brown’s cream soda and baking spice. I also detected some hints of dried coconut in the after taste. The finish is dry and its flavors last for a very long time. This Chard would appeal to the oak lover crowd.” Cheers!