Nestled in a nine-acre reservoir in California, Romeo Vineyards & Cellars offers rich red wine produced from old vines (some as old as 40+ years). Located in an area with its own very unique climatic conditions, Romeo has become an attractive location to enjoy the outdoors, observe wildlife and try a glass of delicate wine.
We talked to owner Eugenia Romeo to find out how the vineyards got their start.
CRUSHBREW: Can you tell our readers a bit about your beginnings and how did the vineyard start?
EUGENIA ROMEO: We bought our vineyard in 1996 as a vacation spot. I fell in love with a piece of land (42+ acres) but knew nothing about wine or grape growing. Organic fertilizer is our other business. Back then, it had an old Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard on it under evergreen contract to Chateau Montelena. The grapes were delicious to eat fresh.
We also have a knoll that rises more than 209 feet off the Valley floor and has never burned. It is all native trees. Plus, we have a naturalized reservoir three-sided built with the fourth side into the knoll to collect the natural run off. It was built in the 1940’s when our vineyard was an Italian prune orchard. It has big mouth bass, freshwater perch, leopard frogs and bull frogs. We even have a pair of Blue Herons that live and nest at the reservoir. Ours is a little nature preserve in the center of the north end of the valley.
After we bought the land, I headed to UC Davis and dove in to study viticulture and enology. I began to hand make wine using our old vine clone, which is truly a blessed clone as it drops its solids on its own and clarifies on its own.
CB: How has your location/local weather/etc affected your wine production?
ER: Our land is unusual because the temperatures run ten degrees hotter than on Hwy 29 or the Silverado trail, but still drop 30-50 degrees from day to night. This is due to our geographic conditions and our nine acres of water. Here, the wind moves over before it goes over our vines. Extremely hard on the human body but the vines love it and it brings in the ph and acids out naturally.
CB: You started producing just a few wines in 1997 and now have a wide variety to offer. How did you decide which ones to add?
ER: We blend everything to taste the old fashioned way. We pick for the ripeness of seeds and ferment to dry. We, therefore, have no vegetative qualities in our reds.
We have continued to plant all the five Bordeaux varietals and added merlot in 2012 – which took the number one spot in the international Finger Lakes Competition in May 2015. It’s a very exceptional Merlot. As is our Petit Verdot, which is 98% with 2% of our old vine Cab. It’s a feminine Petit Verdot.
CB: You recently started adding whites and rose wines to your catalog. What prompted that decision and can you tell us a bit about your latest one (the Petit Verdot Rose)?
ER: The Petit Verdot Rose was added in 2004. We added the 100% Petit Verdot dry rose before our white when getting ready to open our tasting room. The 2008 is still pouring beautifully. Must be the tannin structure of the Petit Verdot! Our whites are sourced from the Hill Family Estate in Yountville, as ours is an all Bordeaux vineyard. The Hill Family Estate has some of the largest holdings of vineyards in the valley and we share Allison Green Doranas a winemaker (she is hands-on in our vineyards). Wonderful family.
CB: Can you tell our readers about your wine club, how does it work and why you decided to offer this option to your customers?
ER: Because we are small, our wine club is most likely more personal than most. If you order two six pack per year, you receive 10% discount. If you order two cases per year, the discount is 20%. Always free tasting to members during visits and the two-case members can bring guests too. We allow our club members to choose their wines. Reds only, whites only, etc. One of our members only wants the old vine cab.
C: What’s next for Romeo Cellars? Any special projects or new additions coming up?
ER: We made our 100% Petit Verdot Rose again in 2014. We are considering making a sparkling out of it in the future.