A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of visiting Rubissow Wines in Napa Valley. Rubissow is located on Mount Veeder, west of the town of Napa. Truthfully, before my visit I didn't know that much about Rubissow, their wines, or their history. However I got to spend about 4 hours with Peter Rubissow and all that changed.
Rubissow was founded in the early 80's by Peter's dad and a business partner. At that time, and up until a few years ago they were known as Rubissow-Sargent. Each year they made approximately 3,000 cases of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot are the varietals they worked with. This brand had a strong following, particularly in restaurants and retail. Peter Rubissow took over the label in 2004 and he had a vision to make some changes to the brand. When he and his wife bought out Rubissow-Sargent they rechristened it Rubissow. The change in names made sense, because for all intents and purposes this is a reborn winery enjoying a second life.
The second life that Peter imagined, began naturally, in the vineyard. The goal was to make wines with a deeper intensity of flavor, speaking more obviously of their origins. The old model, which made some lovely wines, leaned towards case production. A new team was brought on board to help both in the vineyards and cellar. I got the chance to walk the vineyards with Peter and he showed me obvious things like where the Cabernet Franc was planted. But I also got to see the cover crops Rubissow plants to help with nutrients in the soil as well as other aspects of grape growing. This is an organically run farm and we spent a chunk of time discussing that. Rubissow isn't certified. The reason for that seems natural to me; they're farming the way it's been done for generations, naturally. The government giving them a stamp of approval isn't what these folks are about. They are about intent and execution. Walking the vineyards it was also easy to see how rugged their ranch is. Their vines, like mountain plantings often do, have to fight hard to make all that delicious fruit.
After walking through the vineyards we sat down and tasted through a couple of vintages of their wines. One of the big changes in philosophy on the growing side was to drop a lot more fruit than the previous incarnation did. By doing this, the fruit you're left with is richer, more intense, and has greater character. They now make approximately 1,500 total cases. Each of the wines Peter poured was a really impressive offering. Trompettes, their proprietary blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is a real gem. The Franc really comes out in the nose and carries through the wine's palate. Along with their other offerings which are a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon, it was impeccably balanced. The Rubissow wines have some commonalities. Power, elegance, intensity and richness all apply. But when it comes down to it, proportion is the key. Everything about these wines is in check. In addition to the regular release wines they also make a Rubissow-Sargent Reserve. The name is of course a nod to the previous team. In the bottle, you will find a big powerful Cabernet Sauvignon, which is quite nice now. I imagine it will be a tremendous wine to lay down for a decade or more. Great mountain Cabernet tends toward longevity. The reserve from Rubissow falls right into that category while showcasing it's unique origins.
While Rubissow is a new winery in so many ways, there are some things that aren't new. Peter has been part of the operation from the get go and obviously knows the fruit and the land incredibly well. Just as important, the vines aren't new. These vines have been producing excellent fruit for a couple of decades. With Peter at the helm, and his team around him, the fruit from those vines is now speaking louder than ever, expressing itself in the unique wines of Rubissow.
I plan to take a closer look at some of the Rubissow Wines here in the future. For now I can tell you that if you have the opportunity, these honest, well made wines, are certainly worth tasting. If you're planning a trip to Napa, I'd highly suggest scheduling an appointment to visit them. It's likely to be an unforgettable stop, punctuated by great wine. What more can you ask?