I am a definite believer in destiny; I believe things happen for a reason. A few months ago I was not really happy with the pick I had made for our next wine story. I felt the winery was too big – not who we normally connect with. I had made the calls and was waiting for confirmation for interview times when I went to an industry event. I was tired that day as I remember and almost did not go since the event was in Napa and I had been at appointments in Lafayette. Something made me go and, as I made the obligatory rounds, I was really thinking of heading to the bar to get a drink. An hour later, I finally arrived at my true destination – a very comfortable lounge chair. Within a few minutes a group walked in and sat next to me and, as we started the introductions, I met a young gentleman named Luis Robledo. Over the next hour I was able to get to know Luis and learn about his family winery, Robledo Winery. Things happen for a reason!
The next day, since the interview dates still could not get confirmed, I told the other winery I had to move on. Oh well! I truly felt I was meant to meet Luis so I could have a chance to tell this true, rags-to-riches story. This is a story about life, family, love and a passion for the vines.
Having read their story before, I was very familiar with the fact that the Robledo patriarch, Reynaldo Robledo, Sr., had come to this country as a poor immigrant and had worked hard in the field, saving every penny he could to buy land on which to grow his own vines one day.
This story starts in 1968 when Reynaldo first came to the states at age 16 to find work to support his family. He started working in Calistoga pruning grapes, prunes and pears. He went on to work at several wineries and learned the trade but, more than that, came to love the gnarly vines and sweet fruit that came with them.
“I started working for $1.10 an hour in the valley and from the very first moment I loved it.” Reynaldo stated. “Once I learned how to prune a vine, it was love, and I spent the next three decades pruning and learning the business and eventually managing hundreds of acres.”
“I wanted to know everything about grapes,” he recalls. Within eight months, the teenager was in charge of 36 workers, including his own father. “I worked long, long hours learning everything.” He spent many evening hours teaching himself to drive unfamiliar farm machinery. He learned about pruning and grafting, about the April bugs and the May fungus, about cutting costs by doing everything at the right time. He took courses at University of California, Davis but says being in the vineyards was the best education.
“Working in the field is the way you learn. I know from the leaves what fertilizers and chemicals they need. I need to look at the soil. I don’t need a computer on every plant.”
“I evaluate each plant before I prune. The plant has its own energy, and you have to leave enough canes to use that energy. Some people don’t understand that if a plant is fifteen years old, it has a lot of strength, and they cut back too much.” Reynaldo explains.
When Reynaldo and his wife Maria came to the states they had no idea what was in store for them – nor did they know at that time they would eventually be the parents of nine children! They had produced their own management company without knowing it. Through the years Reynaldo and Maria saved every penny and were able to buy 14 vineyards totaling over 300 acres in Napa, Sonoma and Lake County. Most of their fruit is sold to other wineries but today they produce their own estate wines. Each of his parcels is named for his family – Rancho Maria for his wife, Rancho La Familia for all of his children, Rancho Emiliano for his youngest son. “For me, the important thing is that I can train my family and that they want to stay in the business.”
Today, seven of his nine children hold the reins of the winery’s future. Rey Jr. produces Robledo’s award-winning olive oil. Everado is winemaker and handles daily winery operations. Jenaro is vineyard manager. Francisco handles quality control, which includes monitoring the cellar to ensure smooth operations. Luis, Francisco’s twin brother, is Robledo’s sales representative, working directly with restaurants and distributors. (When not meeting magazine publishers in bars!) Lazaro manages both tasting rooms and handles winery events. The youngest, Emiliano, works at the winery while finishing his schooling.
Since 2002 the Robledo family has been honoring each other and their hard work by designating one vintage of their Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to a Robledo family member – a living tribute that shows love, pride and respect for each other.
Robledo Winery offers quite a palate of red and white wines and released a sparkling wine this year. Their Sonoma tasting room is covered in ribbons and medals that their wines have been awarded.
The Sonoma Tasting Room also doubles as an event center. They have a huge outdoor space that is warm and welcoming with tile floors and vines surrounding the patio which gives color all year. This is where they hold all of their wine club events and summer barbecues, of which there are many. Weddings are picturesque here with the spectacular views of the Sonoma-Carneros Mountains and vineyards.
As with most small family wineries, you must make an appointment for tastings. The Sonoma Tasting room, located at 21901 Bonness Road, and the Lake County tasting room, located at 2040 Soda Bay Road in Lakeport, are open Friday-Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. You may also visit their website at www.robledofamilywinery.com. Be sure to tell them that you heard they were a “Local Happening”!
2008 ChardonnaWiney, Los Carneros Gold Medal Winner!!! $38.00
Gold Medal Winner – 2011 Ensenada Tierra del Vino International Wine Competition.
Tasting notes: A rich golden topaz color. Aromas of orange blossom, jasmine and vanilla bean. A rich, smooth mouth feel with lush fruitiness. Finishes with a crisp acidity.
2009 “Seven Brothers” Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County Gold Medal Winner!!! $22.00
Gold Medal Winner – 2011 Pacific Coast Oyster and Wine Competition.
Tasting notes: Grapefruit and herbal notes turn to melon and ripe passion fruit on the mid-palate. Aromas of honeysuckle and mango. Concentrated with green tea and citrus. Rich and complex with a tang of lemongrass.
2010 Pinot Blanc, Lake County $22.00
Appearance: A beautiful pale golden yellow. Aroma and bouquet: infused with aromas of ripe melon and sweet honey. Approach: lush melon flavors with a hints of honey and vanilla. Finish: soft, well-balanced finish
2010 Pinot Grigio, Lake County $25.00
Appearance: Pale yellow straw color. Aroma and bouquet: aromas of apple and ripe pear. Approach: spice with a hint of vanilla and honey. Finish: structured with hints of citrus and a touch of mineral.
2008 Cuvée Brut, Los Carneros Gold Medal Winner!!! $40.00
Gold Medal and Best of Class – 2011 LA International Wine Competition Gold Medal – 2011 West Coast Wine Competition Gold Medal – 2011 California State Fair Gold Medal – 2011 Ensenada Tierra del Vino International Wine Competition.
The Robledo family has been growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in the Sonoma and Napa Carneros Appellation since 1984. They are very excited to introduce their first sparkling wine! The 2008 “Los Carneros Cuvée” is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay grapes. It is a lively wine with aromas and flavors of fresh apple and ripe pear. Each bottle is a celebration and they hope you enjoy it with friends and family! Salud!!
2008 Pinot Noir, Los Carneros $40.00
Double Gold – 2011 American Fine Wine Competition Appearance: a rich red ruby color. Aroma and bouquet: cherry and rose petals, anise and white pepper. Approach: medium-bodied with delicate plum and blackberry flavors with a hint of smokiness. Finish: lingering finish with bright acidity and a touch of toasted walnuts and oak.
2008 Petite Sirah, Lake County New Release! $28.00
Appearance: A beautiful, deep, rich burgundy color. Aroma and bouquet: rich characters of black cherry and mocha. Approach: full bodied, but not overpowering. Finish: lingering finish of big fruit.
2008 Barbera, Lake County $30.00
Tasting notes: This 2008 vintage is soft, ripe and fruit forward. Hints of ripe cherry, blackberry and spice. An overall elegant wine with a long finish.
2009 Tempranillo, Lake County New Release! $26.00
Tasting notes: A deep, rich, ruby color with aromas of spicy cherry and layers of blackberry, cracked pepper and a hint of toasty vanilla. A defined richness and acidity gives it a nicely balanced mouth feel.
2008 Zinfandel, Lake County $30.00
Tasting notes: Super ripe plum with spice and cedar. Jammy with layers of toasty. Vanilla and sweet oak flavors balance between ripe fruit and fleshy tannins. Finishes big but not hot. A very likeable Zin!
2006 “Los Braceros” Red Blend, Sonoma Valley Gold Medal Winner! $30.00
Gold Medal and Best of Class – 2010 West Coast Wine Competition Fair
Appearance: clear, bright red garnet color. Aroma and bouquet: aromas of black currant, ripe plum with a hint of tobacco. Approach: rich flavors of ripe black fruit and cedar. Finish: a medium-bodied wine with a spicy pepper finish. Blend of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah (33.3% of each).
2006 “El Rey” Cabernet Sauvignon Double Gold Medal Winner!!! $38.00
Double Gold – 2011 American Fine Wine Competition. Gold – 2010 California State Fair Gold – 2010 Ensenada Tierra Del Vino International. Appearance: clear bright red garnet color. Aroma and bouquet: aromas of black currant, ripe plum with a hint of tobacco. Approach: rich flavors of ripe black fruit and cedar. Finish: a medium-bodied wine with a spicy pepper finish.
2009 Merlot, Los Carneros New Release! $38.00
Appearance: a deep, rich cranberry. Aroma and bouquet: aromas of ripe blueberries, anise, clove and sweet oak. Approach: rich flavors of blackberry, strawberry and plum. Finish: a full-bodied wine with smooth, well balanced tannins and hints of clove, leather and tobacco.
2005 Syrah, Napa Valley Limited Release! $60.00
Appearance: clear, bright red garnet color. Aroma and bouquet: Aromas of black currant, ripe plum. Approach: rich flavors of ripe black fruit and cedar. Finish: a medium-bodied wine with a spicy pepper finish.
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley-2nd Collector’s Edition $150.00
Appearance: a beautiful, deep pomegranate color. Aroma and bouquet: black cherry, chocolate mint, tobacco. Approach: dried plums, figs with black cherry. Finish: full bodied wine with spice, toasted vanilla and cedar.
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley -3rd Collector’s Edition $125.00
Tasting notes: This robust red wine is seductively luxuriant with a velvety, silky full and even mouth feel. Lush aromas of blackberry, cassis and cranberry are framed by layers of spicy oak, cinnamon, coffee and tobacco. On the palate the round, elegant tannins cradle lingering nuances of a perfectly ripe raspberry, candied plum, sweet maple sugar, dark mocha and toasted vanilla.
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley-4th Collector’s Edition $100.00
Tasting Notes: This robust, red wine is mouth coating and full bodied, elegant and lush. Deep aromas of ripe blackberry, cherry and cassis are framed by layers of sweet and spicy oak, exotic spices, smoky vanilla and cocoa. On the palate, the firm but round tannins balance the ripe fruit notes, espresso and sweet oak flavors. Finishes with big, broad, fine-grained tannins and impressive length.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – 5th Collector’s Edition $80.00
Tasting Notes: Bold and opulent with riveting aromas of ripe black cherries, plums and generous hints of exotic spices. Aromas are complex, offering notes of vanilla, mocha, cassis and cedar in this perfectly structured wine. Full bodied and deftly balanced. The finish is silky smooth in this complex and age-worthy Cabernet.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley-6th Collector’s Edition $80.00
Tasting Notes: The nose begins with rich, dark fruit and subtle hints of chocolate and toasted oak. On the palate, an elegant yet full-bodied explosion of dark, luscious cherry and velvety black currant integrated with soft tannins that give way to a concentrated, complex and rewarding finish.
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley-7th Collector’s Edition New Release! $80.00
Tasting Notes: An intense, deeply colored wine of concentrated aromas and flavors. Bright black cherries lead the charge, followed by dusty cocoa and roasting coffee beans. Dense texture and a fine sense of balance enhance the pleasing aromatics of blackberry, currants, vanilla bean and dark chocolate.
As you speak to each of the sons you feel the pride and love for their family’s heritage. With so much history, what does the future hold for Robledo Winery? 19 grandchildren – just imagine!
Deanna Baillie loves good wine and great conversation – but her family and Ben, her Australian Shepherd, always come first. Here she shares a glass of wine with Regina and Robert.