Crosby Roamann Winery unfolds as the shared journey of its vintners, Julianna and Sean McBride, to achieve balance. The story takes a compelling turn as both, having originally pursued corporate careers, shifted their focus to the world of winemaking. Sean’s transition from being a lawyer and Julianna’s shift from publishing set the stage for their joint venture into winemaking. This couple combined their professional experiences and passion to establish the winery.
Although the McBride’s did not initially embark on their professional paths in winemaking, their mutual passion for food, wine, and family thrived, particularly after a pivotal trip to wine country in 2000. Sean cherishes memories of his grandfather’s fondness for Franzia wines, where the rosé was treated as red, and a white version was also present. Sean actively participated in preparing dinners featuring hard salami, hard cheese, and a baguette. Pouring the wine into juice glasses, he would join in tasting before serving it to his grandfather, who had embraced the European way during World War II.
During his college years, Sean’s passion for wine further developed while working as a stock boy at a wine and cheese store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The store’s owner fueled his interest, introducing him to French and Italian wines like Montepulciano and Chianti. Julianna, raised in a small town near Chicago, gained insights into the importance of hospitality during summers spent with her Hungarian family in Budapest. Her year abroad in Bologna, Italy during college also contributed to her appreciation for diverse cultures. Later, Sean’s trip to Italy provided him with the opportunity to personally visit many of the wines he had previously sampled.
They began to use Oz Clarke’s book that focuses on different wines and began to taste each of them and learn.
How It Began
Crosby Roamann was launched in 2006 from their apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and with the 2007 vintage, it produced their first barrel of Napa Valley Cabernet. In 2009, they returned to Northern California and began scouting custom crush locations in Napa. In 2010, they quit their day jobs, packed up their twin girls and belongings in their Volvo station wagon, and drove “way out West” to begin their adventure.
At that point, they were “all in” and worked to gain knowledge about the basics of winemaking first by working with White Rock Vineyards, a family-owned winery established in 1870 in the southern foothills of the Stag’s Leap range. Henri and Claire Vandendriessche purchased the property in 1977 and revived the estate. Today their son, Christopher Vandendriessche, is the winemaker and helped coach the McBride’s in the early days on the basics of making wine. They learned about fermentation science and started to seriously think about techniques like non-interventionist, small barrel fermentations, and spontaneous fermentations. White Rock Vineyards has been a place for emerging winemakers for over thirty years. They later worked at Michael Mondavi’s FOLIO winery (the old Carneros Creek Winery, now owned by Kieu Huang), and PUNK DOG Wines (now the Eric Gordon Wine Studio). Along the way, they studied winemaking, sales, and marketing at U.C. Davis.
The tasting room is in Napa Valley’s Crusher District, an industrial section of Napa that currently has a few wineries and has lots of storage space for well-known wines. Sean talked about how for some tasting room guests who come to Napa Valley for the first time, it can be a bit disorienting to drive up to a warehouse, but it’s a cool tasting room space once you enter the building.
In Carneros, they own a 4-acre vineyard, about five minutes away.
The winery’s name holds a connection to Sean’s family Norma “Peachy” Crosby and Sally Roamann. Sally, a stage performer in the 20s, later established a department store named Roamann’s, where her daughter, “Peachy,” occasionally worked. Described as a poet, mystic, and dreamer, Peachy was a character with a vibrant personality. Sean, having grown up in a close-knit family, credits his grandmother for introducing wine into their family tradition. He emphasizes the special moments of sharing wine and food with loved ones. In tribute to the unique legacies of Peachy and Sally, Sean chose to honor them by naming the winery after them.
Sean talked about the “prayer and bootstrap” method where you learn by doing or having a crash course in winemaking. They both wanted to be personally responsible for the wines with their name on them by doing the manual labor to make it happen. Sean told me the wines had to represent “us.” And they wanted the wines to express themselves — their terroir, their vintage, their climates, and the people behind them.
He also talked about the pursuit of balance and doing what it takes to make the wines better. It’s a mindful approach to blending the philosophy of how you make the wines to trying new methods and learning from that path.
We talked about sustainability and how they are personally working toward organic certification, but he stressed they work today with a range of biodynamic and commercially farmed vineyards from small growers to get the best wine from the best fruit possible.
We talked about his twin girls and while he expressed a hope that they will be interested, they are encouraged to pursue their own interests. It’s a decision that will be up to them if they decide to join.
Crosby Roamann will continue to be a boutique family winery crafting sophisticated, small production, terroir-driven wines by hand in the Napa Valley.
- 2019 Crosby Roamann Cabernet Sauvignon — it was a balanced wine with notes of currants, black fruit, chocolate, red fruit, tobacco, leather, vanilla, and cedar.
- 2019 Crosby Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — is a selection of fruit from the Harmony School Vineyard in Coombsville. It’s hand-pressed and aged for 24 months in new French oak. This was spectacular with notes of raspberry, cassis, mocha, spice, vanilla, and mocha.
The Crosby Roamann narrative is a compelling tale of a family arriving in Napa with a vision to produce exceptional, small-batch, terroir-driven wines by hand in Napa Valley. Sean recounted a story from Julia remembering, “One barrel became two. Two became four. Before we knew it, we were acquiring a winery in Napa!” I’m excited to see the next chapter.