Rombauer Winery Review
Address: 3522 Silverado Trail St. Helena,California 94574.
Phone Number: 800-622-2206
Tasting Hours: By appt 10:00-5:00
Region: Napa Valley AVA, St. Helena AVA, California
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Review Date: 12/28/2016
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
When I think of Rombauer wines, I think first of overstatement. Their famous Zinfandel typically sits just under a hot 16%, while their notorious Chardonnay, unaffectionately known as cougar juice by many in the wine industry, tastes a lot like an oak stave slathered in butter. These are observations, not insults, please understand, yet they also serve to illustrate the rather paradoxical experience that is visiting the Rombauer tasting room in the Napa Valley, where understatement, even litotes, are not what one might expect to experience.
Up a winding, paved driveway, past cultivated hillside vineyards and into a thicket of dense trees our rented chariot took us, to the gravel parking lot of the Rombauer tasting room. A beautiful balcony offered a stunning view of the valley to the west thats as good as any Ive seen from land. On a slightly foggy morning, our view was imperfect, yet we stood and gazed for quite some time. Around us were gardens with fascinating sculptures and, below the tasting room, the sealed entrance to the caves. In all, we found the environment to be peaceful and serene, atop a small mountain without the ability to see or hear the traffic below us on the Silverado Trail. It was relaxing, and we immediately felt at ease.
Once inside, the tasting room at Rombauer was neat and clean, almost too much so, and it gave off something of a doctors office waiting room feel at first. Quickly we were greeted by our hostess, a pleasant and knowledgeable woman with a permanent smile on her face. She escorted us to one of the numerous tasting stations encircling the small rectangular room; it immediately appeared that the room had been created with pragmatism and efficacy as the guiding principles, a place where a relatively large number of people could taste wine as efficiently as possible. An absence of seating suggested the intent that a tasting was not intended to last indefinitely, while each station appeared identical from our side of the bar, equipped with crystal glasses and Rombauer wines for tasting, coolers for the Chardonnay, and branded pens along with the necessary paperwork for signing up for the wine club. We declined. Our hostess was gracious and talked us through each of the wines while fielding our questions about the estate, the Rombauer family, the vineyards, and general inquires about the Valley, and soon we began to feel as if our little tasting station was the only one in the room, oblivious to what was going on around us as the woman pouring our wines stayed put, focusing solely on what she was doing with us, and affording us a very personal sort of service which we appreciated.
While Ive often found the wines that Rombauer distributes in my home market in Omaha to be overstated, as I mentioned earlier, (though in truth I do enjoy the Zinfandel), I found myself enamored with a number of their estate wines. Specifically, the Fiddletown Zinfandel (2013), Stice Lane Cabernet Sauvignon (2012) and Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon (2012) were of particular interest, with the mark of small production excellence upon them. Their Zinfandel Port was also quite enjoyable. We spent about 45 minutes tasting and talking, jotting notes and snapping photographs, before stepping outside again to enjoy the view and a quick stroll through the gardens and then hopping in our car and heading to the next stop.
All things being equal, I found visiting the Rombauer tasting room to be an enjoyable experience. It does little to set itself apart from the literally hundreds of other tasting rooms in Napa, but there is nothing there to criticize, and if you happen to be a lover of cougar juice, well, then you might just find your mecca there. As for the rest of us, I recommend the estate Cabs, the Zin port, and a camera.