Roberts+Rogers was founded by Roger Louer and his partner Robert Young. We first came across this label at a Howell Mountain Appellation tasting at Charles Krug Winery and then followed up later with Roger who we met for a private tasting and visit to their Howell Mountain vineyard. Roger was one of the original founding partners of Calistoga Cellars and comes from an agricultural background in Ohio where his family grew corn and soybeans. He has lived in the Napa area and been involved in the local wine industry for a number of years. Besides Calistoga Cellars and Roberts + Rogers, he also manages his 34-acre Louer Vineyard” north of St. Helena where he sells the majority of the fruit to area wineries (but also holds some back for the Roberts + Rogers wines).
In 1999 Roger and his longtime friend Robert Young decided to pool their efforts and interests towards the creation of a top Napa based brand. That same year they planted an almost 18-acre premium vineyard with the intent to create a world-class wine once the vines were established. This vineyard is located off of Las Posadas Road on on the slopes of Howell Mountain; it is primarily planted to Cabernet Sauvignon with tiny blocks of Cabernet Franc and Merlot (used for blending). This vineyard is in prime Howell Mountain terroir. Nearby historical winery neighbors include La Jota and Liparita had its start in the area. Just down the road is long time Napa veteran WH Smith’s winery. Roberts + Rogers have a very long-term lease with this vineyard which ensures the fruit quality remains consistent which is not a bad thing at all for consumers of high-end single vineyard Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard itself is planted to several clones which can be used for blending including small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The vines grow on white chalky volcanic tufa type soil which brings its own unique characteristics to the wine. The elevation alone ensures they don’t see much fog which effectively increases the ripening window and growing season. The growing season tends to be lengthy. In addition, they maintain a very low yield per acre (usually around 2 tons) ensuring they are using only the highest quality, richest concentrated fruit.
Other premium vineyards are planted in this part of Howell Mountain including the well-regarded Bancroft Vineyard (Beringer gets the fruit from here) and one of David Abreu’s vineyards. This part of Napa Valley is a nice mix of mostly forest land with some vineyards. Roger has traced the ownership of the property to an early homestead from 1878 – rather than grapes, the property was actually planted to berries at the time and the owner harvested redwood trees growing on the property at that time. Much of the property is still native vegetation.
Winemaker Barry Gnekow has crafted the wines since the inaugural vintage. Barry is a wine industry veteran, having first entered the business in the mid 1970s. He graduated from the University of California, Davis with a bachelor’s in biochemistry and later followed that with a master’s degree in Enology – also from UC Davis. Barry was on the forefront for using reverse osmosis for removing alcohol and while he was winemaker at J. Lohr Winery in San Jose, his dealcoholized wine was the first widely sold product of its kind. today Barry operates his own wine-making consulting business focusing on small brands.
The first vintage was released in 2004 (production was about 300 cases). It saw 24 months on oak, 60% of which was new French oak, and the remaining was slightly used oak. The 2004 Roberts + Roberts Cabernet Sauvignon shows excellent color- dark crimson. The bouquet is initially very earthy with aromas of dust, crushed rock and mineralities. As the nose opens up wisps of cedar box aromas, blackberry and chocolate come to the forefront. There is nice black cherry on the palate with a very long finish touched by nuances of vanilla. This wine has good structure, is well balanced with tannins that anchor well yet are delicate. This is not a light bodied Cabernet Sauvignon! This wine will pair well with big meats, thick sauces and anything on the barbecue.
Looking to add another wine to their portfolio, in 2009 Roger began making a small amount of wine from his St. Helena vineyard – he selected only the best barrels of fruit this year for this particular wine. Receiving excellent praise from friends and family – they continue to produce this wine every year; 2012 was the first vintage commercially released.
And the production has since expanded – they now produce a Napa Valley Zinfandel, Napa Valley Chardonnay (mostly from Carneros) and a unique non-vintage wine from a select part of the Louer Vineyard called Napa Five Non-Vintage Napa Valley Cabernet.
And in 2014 Roger and Robert brought on two additional partners – Drake Sneed (also involved with Wheels Up a private aviation company), and Todd Grow.
The best way to acquire the wine is via their mailing list or their website. Production has grown significantly from the first 300 cases to now several thousand cases a year. For more information, and or to join the Partners Case Club, visit: www.robertsandrogers.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a **MAJOR** update.
Vineyard photos above are of the Louer Vineyard in St. Helena.
Roberts + Rogers Howell Mountain Vineyard