Getting to know Napa: Bison BBQ, Rombauer Atlas and Stice Cabs + Conn Creek Atlas Rose! #WinePW

Who doesn’t love summer time suppers spent outdoors in the backyard with family and friends and a glass of fine wine??

The theme for our July Wine Pairing Weekend (aka: #winePW) is Summer Supper & Wine and Nancy and Peter over at Pull That Cork are hosting our monthly online conversation.  As you may recall, Sue and I hosted back in April for Let’s Do Brunch, and we will be hosting again in September with an invitation to visit Portugal where I went in 2009 as a guest of Enoforum Wine. On the first Saturday pf the month, some of us also participate in Italian Food, Wine, Travel and on the third weekend, we focus on wine, food, and travel of France.

For this month’s Summer Supper #WinePW,  Sue and her sweetie John invited Marshall and I plus John’s brother Barry and Edie to join her and John for a backyard BBQ at their place in Ojai. We had our son and John’s son there too.

It was HOT in Ojai — in the mid-90s– so our plan was to prepare and cook everything possible OUTSIDE. And cooking outside for us is what really defines a summer supper! Bonus to watch the sunset and enjoy dinner outside under the moon and stars also.


Our menu had its genesis when I found BISON NEW YORK steaks on sale at Sprouts. From there, Sue put together a cheese board, and we went with the obvious grilled fare: corn on the cob, potatoes wrapped in foil and baked in the coals, squash, burgers, locally freshly made sausages, portabellas, and lots of salad for our crew of six adults and two teenaged boys.


And for our wines? We decided to explore Napa Valley via two wines from Atlas Peak — a Rose of Malbec from Conn Creek compared with a Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon which we then compared with a Rombauer from Stice Lane. With three couples, we could have an animated discussion about the wines and their various characteristics and learn together about these two areas of Napa with thanks to the internet!


As you can see from this map, Atlas Peak has some very rugged terrain! In fact, at 2,663 feet, Atlas Peak is the highest point of the region; the AVA ranges from 760 to 2600 feet. Established in 1992, the AVA has 11,400 total acres with 1,500 acres of appellation cultivated with wine grapes. Vineyards were first planted on Atlas Peak in 1870, with zinfandel the predominant varietal, but the first wineries didn’t get going until the early 1980s. Today you’ll find Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Zinfandel grown in the Atlas Peak AVA, as well as the signature grape Cabernet Sauvignon.

With cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers with temperatures, the Atlas Peak AVA is above the fog line, yet  the altitude makes the region cool–almost ten degrees cooler than the Napa Valley floor. While it gets full sunlight throughout the day, summertime nightly drops in temperature average 30 degrees to bring the fruit and acid into balance.  The steep, rocky, red volcanic slopes have thin, shallow soils that tend to be well drained which is important because the area receives 38 inches of rain on average.  This also helps with cooling in the AVA.


2016 – Conn Creek – Napa Valley Rose – 12.5% – $24 67 cases produced

Conn Creek’s was founded in 1973 by Bill and Kathy Collins and played an important part in establishing Napa Valley’s reputation as a fine wine growing region of Bordeaux varietals. In 1979, the Collins family built one of the first energy-efficient winery buildings in Napa; it uses 12”-thick walls made of Styrofoam, steel mesh, gunite and a total of 20,000 corks!

While today’s Conn Creek focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, they do so with an experimental style to showcase various sub-regions and AVAs in Napa. So it should be no surprise that they bring this to their rose which is made from Malbec and sourced from Atlas Peak AVA Antica Vineyard which has about 550 acres with just over three acres planted in Malbec. The handpicked grapes were then further selected by an optical sorter which is an automated sorting system that uses a camera to sort each berry by parameters such as color, size and shape, then whole-cluster pressed to minimize color and tannin extraction then fermented to dryness in stainless steel tank with no malolactic fermentation.

Good news! While the current vintage produced only 67 cases, they anticipate making 100 cases in 2017.

Rose of Malbec by Conn Creek is a relatively simple yet pleasant and enjoyable food friendly wine. In color, it’s a very pretty pale rose pink, very pastel, with a bit of salmon. The subtle nose offers soft floral notes including rose, asian pear, raspberry, and pomegranate. On the palate, we were first struck by the mouth-watering acidity, the sensual texture and heft, plus red and white orchard fruit with some earthy acidic rhubarb; pink peppercorn on the quick finish.

Conn Creek suggests pairing their rose of Malbec with Prosciutto-wrapped Figs, Marcona Almonds, Grilled Monterey Bay Squid, or a Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad; we found it pairs particularly well with fresh summer tomatoes as well as briny foods like olives, salami, grilled sausage, manchego, and aged gouda. I’d love to try it with a watermelon and feta salad. We also thought it would be good with pork loin or pizza like one with sausage and olive or a caprese pizza!

My thesis is the elevation of Atlas Peak provides plenty of intense fruit and acidity to this wine but other than that, it’s hard for me to compare or to be able to recognize this as Atlas Peak.

NOTE: This wine was a sample received so I could participate in the June 2017 Rose Extravaganza on #WineStudio. I learned a lot in that twitter chat which I included in this blog post!

As I did my research for this post, I learned that not only are the wines we tasted connected by their Napa location, but in 1976 Rombauer founders Koerner and Joan Rombauer become partners in Conn Creek Winery with Bill Beaver and Bill Collins. At Conn Creek, the family learned the business from the ground up by helping with everything: they did office work, washed tanks, worked the bottling line, and more so that by 1980, they were ready to sell their shares at Conn Creek and develop a winery of their own starting with  Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District.

  • In 1984, they released that 1980, their first Cabernet Sauvignon, for $12.50 a bottle.
  • In 2003 the Rombauer family purchased the 20.5-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Atlas Peak. Located at 1,600-foot-elevation, the vineyard provide grapes for the Atlas Peak Single Vineyard Cabernet as well as and grapes for the Diamond Selection and Napa Valley Cabernets. Soils, as discussed above, are rocky, well drained, and volcanic. This stresses the vines which produce smaller yields with intense berry flavors. Review of 2012 below.
  • In 2005, the Rombauer family purchased Stice Lane Vineyard, a 30-acre site in St. Helena planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1990s. This fruit goes into various wines in the Rombauer Cabernet program and is featured in the Stice Lane Single Vineyard Cabernet. In contrast to Atlas peak, Stice is located in a former river bed full of deposits of gravel for a concentrated, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. This single-vineyard designate is produced from the D Block, planted in the property’s southwest corner in 1995. Review  of 2012 below.
  • Cellar the 2012’s for another year or two or prepare to be patient with the wine in the glass or decant these wines so they will shine. The longer they were open, they became more complex and vibrant.
  • These wines were provided for my review consideration. Thank you! We are grateful for the opportunity to taste and compare these two vineyards and to learn more about the region!



2012 – Rombauer – Atlas Peak Vineyard – 14.8% alcohol 250 cases produced $90

In color, a purplish, red, violet iridescent, pretty dense. On the nose, plentiful plum, oak, and stewed fruit, alcohol also comes through a bit on the nose, blueberry, rhubarb pie, little bit of cherry. On the palate, this wine is so smooth with silky tannins and berry on the front.

If you are a cab lover and a fan of nice tannins you will love this wine, the tannins come out in the end but are so smooth and bring a lingering long finish.

This is a wine to be enjoyed and not gulped. A slow wine, the joy of wine. This wine is all about the fruit. Says Edie, “I like the fruit and I like the tannins.”

A bold wine, it can stand up to bold flavors.

I’d suggest drinking this wine in five years or so to maintain the lively fresh fruit character; drink between 2020 and 2025!

The 2013 is currently available; limit two bottles per purchase.

2012 – Rombauer – Stice Lane Vineyard – 14.8% alcohol 250 cases produced $90

During the growing season, the vineyards were analyzed with the assistance of aerial photos. Grapes were handpicked and after de-stemming and optically sorting, they were 100% barrel-fermented to provide texture and silky tannins, then the wine was basket-pressed and racked to French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and aging.

In color, think about rubies, rich and decadent color. On the nose, closed at first then minerals, hints of red fruit, then more pomegranate and cranberry, plus graphite and slate as well as alfalfa.

“Anthracite is really what you are smelling,” stated John.

On the palate, sandy alluvial soils come out powerfully along with herbal and vegetal notes including bell pepper and black pepper.

Barrie: This wine “grabs the top of your tongue and takes it for a ride!”

So much minerality and complexity to the Stice especially in contrast to the Atlas which is more about the fruit! The Stice reminds Sue more of a full bodied Cab Franc than a Cab Sauv.  So much more minerality in the Stice.

Really good with the blue cheese and mushroom brie. Fabulous with the meal.

The 2013 is currently available with a limit of two.

If you were to purchase one of these wines, which would you choose?

Edie – Atlas because, the initial flavor, right on your tongue fruit and back of the mouth tannins

Barrie – Stice because you could cook a slice of raw ribeye and it would go so well with the wine, the wine would bring out the wonderful flavors of the wine and enhance the flavors of the meat. atlas is nicely well rounded than stice

John – I would not know until I have them side by side.

Me – It would depend on what I was going to pair it with. Just by the glass I would go for the Atlas, just a steak, I would go for the Atlas, if an osso busco I would go for the Stice. The Atlas is more simple fruit and simple flavors, the Stice is more complex, herbal fruit mineral. All kinds of stuff going on so I’d pair it with a meal that has lots going on!

Sue – I would go for the Stice because it is more my style, I love the versatility, I get bored with fruity (even though the fruit in the Atlas is great,) I love the herbal and minerals in the Stice.

Marshall– do they sell beer? Atlas!

Have I got you curious about Atlas Peak? Then you might want to make plans to attend “Taste of Atlas Peak” where you can sample wines from fifteen Atlas Peak AVA wineries Saturday, September 23 from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. at The Ranch House at Black Stallion Estate Winery, 4089 Silverado Trail, Napa. Special Advance Tickets are $75 until sold out; $100 Tickets at the Door. Tickets include the wines from 15 Atlas Peak AVA wineries, gourmet small bites from Chef John Vlandis, live, high-energy blues from The Hummingbirdz as well as admittance to the Silent Auction where you can take home with you limited production Atlas Peak gems from participating wineries. For more information call 707-251-5631.

Next up in our “Getting to Know Napa” series is two 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Silverado: Geo from Coobsville and Solo from Stags Leap!

We’ll also be looking at three wines from Flora Springs soon: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

JOIN US! David Crowley started the group in June 2014 and this is #winePW 38. Each month each blogger creates a pairing and publishes a blog post about it on the second Saturday of the month, then we gather together via Twitter to discuss our pairings. It’s loads of fun to see what everyone pairs and it’s a great introduction to new recipes and new wines. Even if you haven’t created a pairing for the month’s event you can join the chat at 8am PST or 11 a.m. ET by following #winePW or check the hashtag to see what we chatted about.

Discover new recipes, new wines, and new pairings! Check out what we will be writing about and then chatting about using the hashtag #WinePW. The photos will make you drool!

Here’s who is participating this month:



12 thoughts on “Getting to know Napa: Bison BBQ, Rombauer Atlas and Stice Cabs + Conn Creek Atlas Rose! #WinePW

  1. Pingback: Lamb Gyros and a Super Sauvignon Blanc for #winePW – Pull That Cork

  2. So curious about Atlas Peak, in fact. It is ideal that this had come up because I was just recently asking “what are they doing up there” while in Napa last month. It totally caught my attention. So cool, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Cool Kitchen Seafood Rolls for an Easy Summer Supper #WinePW | foodwineclick

  4. Pingback: Southern Summer Supper with a French Twist #WinePW - Always Ravenous

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