Koerner Rombauer was born and raised in Southern California, in the small, agricultural town of Escondido near San Diego. He attended public schools in Escondido and went to the same high school as Joan Ransome, who would later (in 1959) become his wife. Koerner’s first great career passion was flying; he began with the California Air National Guard in 1956.
Upon leaving the service in 1965, Koerner became a commercial pilot with Braniff International. He and the family, including two children by then, moved to Dallas, Texas. Koerner flew as a captain on Braniff’s South American route. In 1972, as the airline began to cease operations, the Rombauers moved their family, two horses, and five dogs to the Napa Valley. They chose the area because it reminded them of the small-town, agricultural environment in which they had been raised and it appeared to be a clean, safe place to raise children. They purchased 40 acres of beautiful hilltop land on the Silverado Trail, near the town of St. Helena.
When the Rombauers moved to Napa Valley they had no intention of starting a winery. They did, however, have a great appreciation for the role of wine in the fine dining experience. Koerner’s great aunt Irma Rombauer was author of the internationally renowned cookbook “The Joy of Cooking.” It didn’t take long in their new surroundings before they became fascinated with the wine industry and in 1976 Koerner and Joan became partners in Conn Creek Winery. Koerner learned the wine business first in the cellar, working hand-in-hand with the winemaker and learning all phases of winery operations. By 1980 the Rombauers had become interested in making wine under their own label; they had it custom produced in a neighbor’s winery. In 1981 they sold their interest in Conn Creek and began construction of the Rombauer Vineyards winery on the property adjacent to their home.
Since 1982 Koerner has devoted himself to making Rombauer Vineyards a successful business in which the whole family participates. His great efforts have been amply rewarded. Not only have the wines of Rombauer Vineyards been consistently recognized as some of Napa Valley’s finest, the entire Rombauer family contributes on a daily basis to the winery’s management and operations.
Although he has spent countless hours managing Rombauer Vineyards, Koerner has managed to find the time to continue his interest in flying and pursue his other hobby, collecting and restoring rare automobiles. He still maintains his pilot’s license and flies his Citation Jet on a regular basis. Koerner’s automobile collection, includes a very rare 1955 Mercedes Benz SL 300 Gullwing Coupe formerly owned by actress Sophia Loren, a 1968 Lamborghini 400 GT, and a rare 1957 Cadillac Biaritz convertible.