Robert John Vineyards
Napa Valley AVA
An impressive Napa Valley winery producing outstanding wines from the very first vintage
What do you do if you are a highly successful orthopedic surgeon in Columbus, Ohio and you suddenly have an urge to try something completely foreign to your established regime?
If your name is Dr. Robert John Nowinksi, you develop a formula that allows you to pursue what you call your “passion project” - owning and operating a successful winery in California’s Napa Valley.
Nowinksi, 49, is a Cleveland native with degrees from John Carrol University and Ohio University. He credits his residency director in medical school with first introducing him to the wonders of wine.
“He was a wine collector who enjoyed sharing his expertise with his residents and he introduced a number of us to a number of outstanding wines and to the fact that certain wines complimented certain foods. It all made sense to me and I was asked to speak at a surgical conference in the Napa Valley that really opened my mind.”
A number of years later and with numerous visits to Napa Valley under his belt, Dr. Nowinski had an epiphany that he remembers clearly.
“It was an afternoon in 2009, and I had finished my surgery early. I sat down and decided it was time for me to act. I called several wineries I had become friendly with and asked their advice. I called my lawyer and put the business in motion. I agreed to purchase several tons of premium grapes and arranged for them to be custom crushed. All of this happened quickly during the afternoon. Five hours later, I was in the wine business for real.”
The original production for Robert John Vineyards was a minuscule 250 cases and was met with immediate positive feedback.
Were you surprised with consumer reaction to your wines? “Not at all,” Nowinski quickly replied. “I always intended to produce a phenomenal product, it was part of my business plan. I had learned that great grapes produce great wines, so I sought out the very finest grapes that were available. While most Napa fruit sells for around $5,500 a ton, I was paying almost twice that for my grapes. I don’t regret that decision for one minute - the scores we have received proved the superiority of what we purchased.”
An important aspect of Robert John Vineyards’ business plan was to market their products to high-end markets in major cities throughout the country. Special emphasis was placed on ultra-quality restaurants whose patrons would not shy away from expensive wines with colorful stories.
“In my opinion, the story behind the wine is as important as the actual product. I was interested in the science behind winemaking and its ultimate effect on one’s palate. When we sold our wine, we presented facts and features that sommeliers and interested wine servers connected with. It was my approach to marketing and it seems to have worked.”
Nowinski’s wife Candice is the operations director and sales and marketing manager for Robert John Vineyards. She has directed the grass roots movement that has propelled the winery into Napa Valley’s upper echelon of producers, both cult and famous.
“We owe a great deal to our restaurant clientele,” Nowinski related. “You can go to a large number of high-end places in any major city and find our wines on their lists. We are in thirteen states and are happy with the direction our winery has taken.”
Robert John Vineyards operates a tasting room and production facility in downtown Napa City that is viewable by appointment only.
The impressive label was designed by Dr. Nowinski himself. “The gold bar has always been a symbol of excellence,” he explained. “Since my name is on the label, I wanted something that looked nice. The black on the label provides good contrast and makes the words stand out. The labeling on our reserve products is even more impressive. It’s all part of our marketing idea.”
Robert John Vineyards has also made the most of its Ohio roots. An extremely fine restaurant chain whose owner was from Columbus now features its wines. And, a new project by the winery will feature wines that will be aged in special oak barrels made from Ohio oak that will hold Robert John Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
Time and circumstance have proven that Dr. Robert John Nowinski’s game plan for his winery has reached fruition. The winery currently produces around 1,500 cases annually.
We are delighted to introduce our Platinum Wine of the Month Club members to this excellently conceived winery. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
My first visit to the Napa Valley was on a business trip to attend a convention. As a fresh-faced orthopedic surgeon starting a new practice with a group of other surgeons, my wine palate was limited to Australian Shiraz and Corona Light. On the first night of my stay in Napa, there was a group dinner I attended with the more established fellow members of our new practice. Wine was ordered and was nothing like I had ever tasted before; rich, juicy, full bodied, jammy Cabernet was the wine of choice and I was mesmerized.
I spent the next few years learning everything I could about wine. History, production, AVA’s, grapes, winemakers - everything. In addition, I tasted all the wine I could afford (and quite honestly, some wines I couldn’t afford!). And from this knowledge quest was borne a new passion - a passion to create great Cabernets that would stand up against the great cult Cabernets California had to offer. Actually, not just stand up against them, but defeat them in blind tastings.
RJV wines are created literally with hand-selected grapes. We have relationships with four growers in the Coombsville AVA in the southeastern area of the Napa Valley and our winemaker, Patrick Saboe, visits our dedicated blocks throughout the year to ensure that come harvest time, he has no doubt as to which grapes we will use for that vintage year. Our ability to select the best grapes combined with our modern yet artisanal winemaking process, allows us to produce the best wine we can, year after year.
We are proud to share our 2014 vintage with you. 2014 was a great vintage characterized by warm, abundant sunshine. You’ll find this wine has ample structure, finely balanced tannins, and is quite approachable today with the ability to age nicely. We always say we make wines for ourselves and share them with others. We are happy to share this wine with you and we are confident you’ll enjoy this rich, unforgettable wine.
Robert John Nowinski