Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting: Napa Valley, Diamond Selection, Stice Lane and Atlas Peak

Hate to admit it, but we are all probably guilty of this at one time: I haven’t tasted or visited Rombauer Vineyards in a few years. Just like when you check out the constant barrage of new restaurants and forget about your old favorites. So I was very pleased to be reminded of this long-running Napa winery when I received some samples of their current Cabernet Sauvignon offerings to review.

I was also only familiar with their Chardonnay, so this was definitely a treat for me.


Tasting the Cabs

2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

$55, 15,000 cases, 14.5% alcohol

90 Wine Spectator

Color: Black cherry, opaque.

Aroma: My glass is 2-3 feet away and I can smell boysenberry. Now, nosing it I also get thick waves of blackberry, black and white pepper, grilled mushroom, toasted oak and an overall impression of the abundance of ripened dark fruit.

Flavor: Smooth as velvet at first taste, drying tannins at the back palate and an incredibly long finish. In between I got the same lush dark berry fruit, nicely balanced with black pepper, coffee grounds and charred steak – which now want to pair it with.

Conclusion: Robust enough to stand up to a nice steak, pasta with meat sauce, meat-lovers pizza, blackened salmon, chocolate…I’d have to give it 92 Eve pts.

2012 Diamond Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

$80, 1,500 cases, 14.8% alcohol

Color: Dark purple, opaque.

Aroma: Dark fruit, plum, blackberry, black cherry, vanilla bean, something vegetal and tinny, clove, chocolate, cinnamon.

Flavor: Tart cherry, oak, cracked black pepper, green peppercorn, very tingly in a long tannic finish.

Conclusion: This one I think would benefit from decanting, and served with food. Some of the tartness definitely blew off within 10 minutes in my glass. 88 Eve pts.

2012 Stice Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

$90, 250 cases, 14.8% alcohol

90 points Wine and Spirits Magazine

“Best Rombauer I’ve tasted in many a year…” Robert Parker (read more)

Color: Blackberry, inky, opaque.

Aroma: Black cherry jam, blackberry brandy, black pepper, crushed wet leaves, mulled spices, rich and deep.

Flavor: Same fruit profile from the nose to the palate with the addition of very firm tannins. Pizza is on its way.

Conclusion: If you are a fan of dark fruit this one is for you. 89 Eve pts.

2012 Atlas Peak Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

$90, 250 cases, 14.8% alcohol

Color: Deep purple, opaque.

Aroma: Dark plums, plump raisin, mint chocolate, wet wood and suede. A general feeling of thickness, wholly appealing.

Flavor: Dark spicy berries, dried blueberry, wet wood again, tannic, mouth drying.

Conclusion: Wanted this one with food: fresh bread dipped in marinara sauce, meat ravioli, and a charcuterie plate with plenty of salami, prosciutto and hard cheeses. 87 Eve pts.

Winemaking at Rombauer (from website)

The Rombauer philosophy hasn’t changed since our founding in 1980: We believe in doing everything in our power to produce the best wines possible.

With just three head winemakers in our 35-year history, we’ve achieved consistency of style — distinctive, fruit-driven wines — while continually refining and improving our winemaking practices. Richie Allen, our Director of Viticulture and Winemaking, embraces traditional and cutting-edge practices in the vineyard and cellar to make certain each wine gets the customized attention it needs.

This marriage of old and new begins with optical sorters, ensuring only the best fruit makes it into our wines. All lots are separated, no matter how small, allowing Richie to determine the best fermentation and aging option for each. For reserve red wines, barrel fermentation is used to produce a more textured palate and silky tannins, and up to 25 types of French oak barrels are used for fermentation and/or aging. For all wines, a basket press and peristaltic pumps — larger versions of those used to move blood during surgery — provide for gentle handling every step of the way. Our caves provide ideal conditions for aging red wines.

Along with Richie, Associate Winemaker Luke Clayton and Assistant Winemaker Andrew Holloway round out our winemaking team. Each started out as a harvest intern at Rombauer, working their way up to their current roles. They have a combined experience of more than 30 years producing Rombauer wines.

Guided by their passion and expertise, Rombauer spares no effort or expense to produce the finest wines each vintage offers.

Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years.  She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via