Not only do I taste wines, but I can now say I also harvest them! I was lucky to join the Rombauer team on their 2021 harvest of the Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon. Rombauer Vineyards is a Winery that I recently got to know better after meeting their amazing CEO Bob Kenbel at Valette. How fitting to meet at my favorite Healdsburg restaurant and start a conversation over the beautiful wines we were both enjoying. They invited me to join them for their 2021 Harvest and I was ecstatic to join them for the Rombauer Vineyards Harvest day!
Viticultrualist Patrick Tokar and Winemakers Richie Allen and Luke Clayton (read my interview with Luke on the blog here) were the best hosts during this experience. I left with so much information and knowledge on the harvesting process… I think I am a pro now. Haha!
Once you have finished reading below about my amazing Rombauer Vineyards Harvest experience, make sure to read my feature of Rombauer Vineyards in The Most Beautiful Winery Gardens blog post as well as in the Napa Family-Owned Wineries to Know and my Interview with Luke Clayton from Rombauer Vineyards.
Atlas Peak Vineyard Grape Picking
To start the Rombauer Vineyards harvest day, I joined Viticulturist Patrick Tokar and his team at Atlas Peak Vineyard which is just one of the many vineyards Rombauer harvests at. The Atlas Peak Vineyard is central to their Cabernet Sauvignon program with fruit that forms the heart of their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. At 1,600 feet, this spot is just stunning!
Look at the beautiful grapes ready for harvesting! Winemakers Richie and Luke shared that the Atlas Peak grapes were anticipated to be the best pristine Cabernet Sauvignon grapes of the 2021 harvest (based on the scores the lab was yielding) during their pre-harvest metrics. How exciting that I got to visit this Vineyard firsthand and it may have been the best of the best 2021 fruit Rombauer Vineyards harvested. Wow!
Happy girl over here! What a perfect day it was for harvesting.
There are 26 acres of this Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at Atlas Peak with many different blocks due to irrigation. During this harvest, we were in lower block C.
This Rombauer Vineyards Harvest team is a hardworking and dedicated crew…they had been harvesting since sun-up. They were so quick and efficient at their job! Fun fact, each of the teams have 8 people (both men and women) and they’re paid based on the weight of the grapes (in tons) that they harvest. Hence why they work so quickly, the more they harvest, the more they get paid!
Here I am with Rombauer Vineyards Viticulturalist Patrick. Patrick was so knowledgeable and explained the process of how he decides when it is time to pick the grapes. The low-vigor soils at Atlas Peak mean the vines work hard for water and nutrients.
Patrick came from the vineyard management side at Renteria Vineyard Management Co and eventually come on board with the Rombauer Vineyards team. Patrick went to UC Davis and studied plant protection and pest management where he obtained his Masters’s Degree. Talk about a brilliant, nice, and approachable Viticulturist!
This is just one of the many bins that the team filled. Can’t wait to watch how the team turns these grapes into a delicious Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon.
Rombauer harvest fun with Vice President of Viticulture and Winemaking (left) and Winemaker Luke Clayton (center). It was a blast working with this team and learning all about the harvesting process. So much love and hard work go into creating fabulous Rombauer Estate Wine.
The Winemaking Process
Once we headed back to the Crush Pad, we waited for the grapes to arrive to start the sorting process. (Of course, we enjoyed a glass of fresh Syrah while we waited).
As the truck arrived the forklift dumps the grapes into the optical sorter. The optical sorter’s role is to separate the good grapes verse the bad grapes. The machine shakes around these grapes and the good ones stick around and will go into the capped barrels. Also, get this! Rombauer Vineyards is the ONLY winery in the world to have 3 optical sorters. Quite impressive if you ask me!
Here is the optical sorter separating the good guys from the bad.
All the good grapes found their home in these Rombauer Vineyard barrels! It is quite impressive watching the workers seal these barrels shut. I could tell they were professionals as they did it proficiently and quickly.
The Cabernet Sauvignon barrels are ready to be cold-soaked for 5 days! Cold soaking is a pre-fermentation process that helps extract color and flavor. Then, the grapes take 14 to 21 days to ferment in the barrels. As the fermentation finishes up, the Rombauer team uses a traditional basket press to gently press the remaining wine from the skins. The Cabernet Sauvignon is done completely in these French oak barrels and is then racked for aging.
Cellar master Alberto placed these sealed barrels perfectly! And did you know, the barrels are hand-spun a few times a day? I got to see this process first hand and let me tell you, that is hard work!
I had just the most incredible time at Rombauers 2021 Harvest of their Cabernet Sauvignon. A big thanks to Viticulturist Patrick and Winemaker Richie & Luke for letting me join the team. I learned so much through this process and the Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon will hold a special place in my heart forever!
Thanks to Rombauer Vineyards for sponsoring this post. As always, I only write about brands that I adore and strongly support whether a paid partnership or not and I truly adore Rombauer Vineyards, their wines and amazing team!