Full Circle: An Interview with Reagan Blackwood
By Fran Endicott Miller
Reagan Blackwood, eldest grandchild of Rombauer Vineyards’ founders Koerner and Joan Rombauer, was not initially drawn to a career in the family business. Though she fondly recalls her youthful days spent in the Napa Valley vineyards and at the winery,
Blackwood, who lives in Dallas, had found a calling in residential real estate sales before being lured back to Rombauer, where she now serves as associate brand manager. As marketing strategist and the vineyard’s representative at industry conferences and promotional and philanthropic events, Blackwood is proud to be representing the
company her family founded 40 years ago.
65˚: Tell us your fondest memories of growing up in St. Helena at what is now an iconic winery?
Reagan Blackwood: [When I was] growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s, the winery was really starting to grow and see solid success. At that time, it was my family putting in all
that they had to make the business work. When we first started the wine club, I remember my mom, grandmother, and me building boxes, putting in inserts, picking the
wine, packing the boxes, and labeling them by hand. We would all be tired, have a few cuts from the boxes and tape gun, but proud of our work and excited to get our customers their wine. We grandkids always looked forward to harvest. My mom would . . . call us sick into school and take us to work with her to help pick fruit, pull out leaves, and ride with my grandfather, moving bins around on the forklift [and all]. I can still remember the smell of harvest-sweet grape juice, pomace, fermentation, and diesel from the trucks and equipment.
65˚: Do you have a favorite remembrance of your grandfather?
RB: When I was young, driving around with my grandfather in his blue 1957 Cadillac Biarritz, we would run errands, visit his friends at their wineries and homes, and have lunch at Tra Vigne . . . I remember listening to jazz and big band music on the radio as we drove. To this day, whenever I hear that music, I’m back in the car with my grandpa.
65˚: When did you have your first sip of wine?
RB: I can’t quite remember . . . but I do remember at holidays it was a big
deal to me that I got a couple sips of watered-down Chardonnay.
65˚: Many children and grandchildren of vintners say they did not really know how unique their family business was until they ventured out into the world. When and how did you develop an appreciation for the winery?
RB: Many underappreciate their hometowns or how hard their parents work to build a life for their family until [they] leave, travel, go to school, work to earn [their] own money. It really wasn’t until I graduated [from] college and worked a few other jobs that I understood what a special business my family had built. A business where everyone has a shared goal, treats each other with respect, a feeling that we are all in this together, and a place of employment that people look forward to going to each day.
65˚: What did you do prior to returning to Rombauer full time?
RB: In college, I worked a few part-time jobs, including tutor, bootcamp instructor, and office assistant . . . to build up my work experience and help pay the bills. Once I graduated with my business degree, my husband, Jake, and I moved to Ridgecrest, California, where he worked with the Navy weapons division. I interned with a local government contractor, that turned into a project management position. We moved to Las Vegas, where I received my real estate license and got my feet wet in sales. I really enjoyed helping people buy and sell their homes, and my schedule gave me flexibility to
travel and spend more time helping with Rombauer Vineyards. Rombauer kept asking me to do more [while] my real estate career started taking off . . . I asked Rombauer for the opportunity to work for the company full time. I’ve now been back . . . for three years.
65˚: Is your Rombauer family connection known at work?
RB: It is generally known that I am a Rombauer. I’m extremely proud of what my family has built, and it’s very meaningful for people to meet a family member. We hear about many family-owned wineries, but sometimes I am the first real family member some buyers or customers have ever met from any of their favorite wineries. We are a humble and hardworking family, and everyone is very down to earth, so people enjoy meeting and connecting with us. In my day-to day-life, [though], I fly under the radar.
65˚: Rombauer has remained family owned for 40 years. What are your hopes for the winery and the brand over the next 40?
RB: It’s the entire family’s desire to keep Rombauer family owned for many generations. That takes a lot of planning and work, but my grandparents set a clear vision for our business that not only the family believes in but also our entire organization. It guides all the decisions we make.
65˚: You live in Dallas now—how often do you get to Napa Valley and what do you miss most about it?
RB: This year, like most people, I’m not logging my usual frequentflyer miles, but in a typical year, I’m there every other month or at least once a quarter. I miss a lot about the Valley on a daily basis, seeing friends and family I grew up with, favorite restaurants and
shops. Every time I visit, I always pack my workout clothes and make a point to go on one of my favorite walks or hikes. There is nothing like the views over the mountains of the Valley in the morning or evening light.
65˚: How do you spend your spare time?
RB: My husband and I are always flipping a house. Most of the time, we move in and improve it while we are living there, then move and sell it a year or two later. Currently, we are wrapping up our first house that we didn’t actually have to live through the construction, so that was very luxurious. On the weekends, we love connecting
and doing the construction work together, because most of the time our jobs keep us busy and apart. I also love the outdoors, working out, reading, and dining out with friends.