History

When founders Koerner and Joan Rombauer moved their two children, two horses and five dogs to Napa Valley in 1972, they arrived armed with an appreciation for the intimate relationship between food and wine. Their appreciation stemmed from Koerner’’s great aunt Irma Rombauer having authored internationally renowned cookbook the Joy of Cooking and his ancestors originating from the winegrowing region of Rheingau, Germany, where wine is considered an essential complement to a meal.

Appreciation bred passion, and Rombauer Vineyards was established in 1980. Thirty-five years later, the winery remains owned and operated by first-, second- and third-generation members of the family.

We invite you to take a trip through some highlights of the history of Rombauer Vineyards, a story still very much in progress!

 

1956

Inspired by a lifelong interest in speed, travel and all things mechanical, Koerner Rombauer joins the California Air National Guard, launching his nearly 30-year career as a pilot for the military and commercial airlines.

1959

Koerner Rombauer and Joan Ransome marry in their mutual childhood hometown of Escondido, California. The two had attended the same high school but didn’t begin dating until they met again after college.

1965

Koerner, Joan and their two children, Sheana and KR, move to Dallas when Koerner becomes a commerical pilot with Braniff International Airways. Koerner’s tenure gives him opportunities to see a world far beyond anything he could have imagined as a small boy, including routes to South America and an assignment transporting troops from the U.S. to Saigon during the Vietnam War.

1972

Seeking a small-town, agricultural environment similar to that of their childhood homes, Koerner and Joan move their children, two horses and five dogs to Napa Valley. After a long search during which they rented a property on Highway 29, Koerner and Joan, who both grew up in hillside communities, purchase a home atop a knoll on 40 acres in St. Helena in 1974.

1976

Having made many friends in Napa Valley’s growing wine community, the Rombauers become partners in Conn Creek Winery with Bill Beaver and Bill Collins. The family learns the business from the ground up, helping with everything from office work to washing tanks to working on the bottling line. (Photo courtesy of Conn Creek Winery, Napa Valley, CA)

1980

The Rombauers sell their stake in Conn Creek, deciding to invest in their own winery. The family harvests their first grapes — Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District — marking the launch of Rombauer Vineyards. The first vintages are produced at Shafer Vineyards and even in Koerner’s garage, which is bonded as a winery for the purpose. Bob Levy is winemaker.

1981

To gain more knowledge and experience in the wine industry, Joan Rombauer joins the sales team at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, marking the start of a 12-year tenure that sees her quickly promoted to National Sales Director.

1982

The inaugural wines for Rombauer Vineyards are bottled at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. The Rombauers break ground for a winery on their St. Helena property and crush their first grapes, Chardonnay, in August. The family builds a winery with capacity beyond their own needs to house a custom-crush business to help finance construction. From 1982 to 2008, Rombauer Vineyards serves as home base to an elite group of up-and-coming wineries, including Dominus, Neyers Cellars, Spottswoode, Duckhorn, Merryvale, Corison, Etude and others.

1984

The first Rombauer Vineyards wines are released — 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1982 Chardonnay. Suggested retail price for each wine is $12.50 per bottle.

1988

The Rombauer family purchases their first vineyard — seven acres of Zinfandel on the hillside site that surrounds their home, christening it Joan’s Vineyard. This old vine Zinfandel is still a key source for Rombauer’s Napa Valley Zinfandel, though some of the vines have since been grafted to Petite Sirah.

1990

Rombauer Vineyards purchases its first Chardonnay grapes from the Carneros region, from the Sangiacomo family, farmers for three generations who become lasting and significant grower partners.

1993

The ideal match of vineyard and winemaking come together in the “best Rombauer Chardonnay in years,” as Rombauer’s 1991 Carneros Chardonnay makes Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 Wines list, ranking No. 68. It is the first of four appearances on the annual list for the winery’s iconic Chardonnay.

1995

Critical acclaim and popularity with consumers continue to grow as Rombauer’s 1993 Carneros Chardonnay ranks No. 32 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines list.

2002

The Rombauer family purchases Buchli Station Vineyard in Carneros, a cool-climate site on the edge of San Pablo Bay that becomes the cornerstone of Rombauer’s Chardonnay and Merlot programs.

2002

Joan Rombauer passes away from pancreatic cancer. Diagnosed in 1999, Joan worked tirelessly not only at the winery, but also to support other cancer patients. The Rombauer family establishes endowments in her memory in support of University of California, San Francisco’s pancreatic research efforts and Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services.

2003

The Rombauer family continues its investment in estate vineyards with the purchase of a 20.5-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Atlas Peak. The 1,600-foot-elevation vineyard, which overlooks a veritable “who’s who” of Napa Valley vineyards, is the source of the Atlas Peak Single Vineyard Cabernet and a key component of the Diamond Selection and Napa Valley Cabernets.

2004

Rombauer’s Carneros Chardonnay is ranked among the Top 10 Chardonnays in Wine + Spirits Magazine’s annual Restaurant Wine Poll for the first time. It has ranked on the list every year since.

2005

The Rombauer family purchases Stice Lane Vineyard, a 30-acre site planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in St. Helena. The vineyard’s classically structured fruit becomes a cornerstone of Rombauer’s Cabernet programs and the source for the Stice Lane Single Vineyard Cabernet.

2008

Richie Allen, who began his tenure at Rombauer as a harvest intern and worked his way up through the ranks, becomes the winery’s head winemaker, ushering in a new era of innovation 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.

2010

Koerner Rombauer and Sandy Rogers marry. The two had crossed paths through Sandy’s nursing career and became close friends, eventually marrying.

2010

The family adds two key properties to its collection of estate vineyards: Bennett Lane Vineyard in Calistoga, which had been a key source of the winery’s Bordeaux varietals and Zinfandel under a long-term lease, and El Dorado Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills. The family begins the years-long process of re-establishing El Dorado Vineyard as a premier high-elevation site for Zinfandel and the source for Rombauer’s celebrated El Dorado Single Vineyard Zinfandel.

2013

The Rombauer family purchases Davitto Ranch, a former home to cattle and fruit trees in Sonoma Carneros, and begins development of a 150-acre Chardonnay vineyard.

2015

Rombauer Vineyards celebrates its 35th anniversary as a family-owned winery in Napa Valley, operated by Koerner Rombauer and his children, KR and Sheana (both pictured).

2016

Reagan Rombauer Blackwood joins Rombauer Vineyards as Assistant Regional Sales Representative, becoming the first member of the family’s third generation to be employed at the winery.