Rombauer gobbled up by Gallo

September 16, 2023

Another one bites the dust. I am saddened to learn that Rombauer, the maker of rich, buttery, old-style Chardonnay decried by many sommeliers and critics, was gobbled up by Gallo. To date, Gallo has done an excellent job with continuity of product as they moved into quality names. Please do not mess with Rombauer Chard. 

Mercer Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills AVA, is my replacement for Chateau Ste. Michelle, which is one of my former standby domestic Cab producers. I stuck with Chateau Ste. Michelle when Altria bought them because they continued to produce quality/price. The new owner, private equity firm Sycamore Partners, is not my cup of Cab. Looks like a real estate deal to me. I discovered Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1977 while compiling the wine list for The Garden in Ocean City, Md. During a trip to a Wine Spectator event in New York City I sampled their wares and learned that André Tchelistcheff had consulted on their initiation in 1972. Follow the winemaker!

André, aka “The Maestro," and America's most influential post- Prohibition winemaker, enjoyed worldwide renown. He was enticed by Georges de Latour to come to the USA as head of production at Beaulieu in Napa. Tchelistcheff’s name is attached to wineries and the famous winemakers he fostered. Too many to list here. Barbara and I had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions. We shared a luncheon with him and Rob Davis of Jordan on an NRA trip. My favorite story was of him naming John Daniel Jr. proprietor of Inglenook, as the better winemaker. A humble man, André lived 92 years. Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.  

Mercer Brothers Cab 2018 can be found under $18 (89 McD; 90 WS). The 2020 (92 McD under $25) is better, if you can locate any. Blackberry, currant, cranberry, caramel, tobacco and pie-spice aromas. Fruit continues on the palate, supported with smooth tannin and balancing acidity. A long, clean finish with slightly tannic and dark color says “I will improve.” Mercer Estates Reserve Cab. 2018 (91 McD) can be found under $18 at Empire Wine, a true bargain at that price and a slightly different profile. Blackberry, red currant and savory herbs, accented with vanilla and barrel-spice bouquet. Fruit flavors are supported with mild acidity and smooth tannin. Subsoil CS, HHH 2020 is being advertised under $15 by several New Jersey stores so it is likely available in Delaware. I am unsure how they arrived at this very reasonable price. The quality and complexity of this sample was surprising. It is a Mercer product using estate fruit. For some strange reason, Mercer labels can read Mercer Estates, Bros, Family or Subsoil. Again, same HHH, AVA provides a similar profile. Blackberry, cassis, chocolate, vanilla, roasted nuts, brown sugar and herbs. Although completely dry, the nose prompts sweetness. On the palate, dry tannin and mineral acidity support the fruit and barrel flavors through its long finish. For those who enjoy Cabs under $20, it’s like stealing. Described as a second label by several critics, it is a top everyday wine. In a brown bag, unflighted, I believe it would review higher.  

Zuccardi Val de Uco, Argentina is the current darling of the wine world. Over the past few years, Parker handed out three, 100-point scores. Others name them the best in the world and Best New World Winery. These Malbecs are stellar indeed. Finca Piedra Infinita Supercal 2019 was reviewed at 97 points or better by most of the critics and JR awarded it 18 points. Zuccardi Finca Piedra Infinita 2020 and Zuccardi Aluvional Gualtallary 2019 each received 98 points.  Most of these sell for around $200 or more. That’s a lot of cash, until you compare them to 98 pointers from Napa, Burgundy, Bordeaux and other famous regions. After some due diligence, I located Familia Zuccardi, Jose Zuccardi 2019 for $45, and their Concreto label 2020 for $35 (both 93 McD). Atkins and WA rated higher. These are ready now. Follow the winemaker! In this case you are well served with any Zuccardi Malbec. Even at $250, the value is there.

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