Do you know anything about Rodney Strong Vineyards? If you do recognize the name, as most would for the 50+ year-old Sonoma County winery, forgetaboutit for just a few more minutes while you read what I learned about their iconic label, as well as newer labels we tasted from: Symmetry Collection Red Meritage, Alexander Valley; Alexander’s Crown Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley; and Rowen Red Wine Blend, Cooley Ranch, Sonoma County; presented by Director of Winemaking Justin Seidenfeld and Director of Communications Christopher O’Gorman during a spectacular paired wine luncheon at Cafe Del Rey.
(If your appetite can’t bear waiting…see photos of the wine and winemaker Justin Seidenfeld click here, if you are after the food prepared by Sous Chef Jackie Ramsey that’s all here. I suggest a gander at both.)
What We Learned
- The winery opened in 1959 and was the 13th bonded winery in Sonoma County. Beginning with producing an annual 30,000 cases they now make 860,000 cases.
- Tom Klein and family purchased Rodney Strong in 1989.
- Rodney “Rod” Strong was a former dancer turned winemaker. He was a leader in pushing Sonoma County wines and is considered a “pioneer in the industry”.
- Seidenfeld, now on his 15th vintage for Rodney Strong, uses the vineyards and science to make great wines, as he “loves to make people happy.” He looks forward to taking Rodney Strong into the future.
- Rodney Strong is “solar powered, certified sustainable, practice Fish Friendly Farming and Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery.”
The Menu and Wine Pairing – aromas and flavors separated by ;
Welcome: 2018 Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Estate Sonoma County.
Floral, pink grapefruit, fruit cocktail, wet pebbles, some mild and pleasant salinity; fresh fruit, pink lemonade, mild acid and some of the same fruit as found on the nose. Rodney Strong lovers will note a new white label, very artistic, to catch the eye. This is the third best-selling Rose over $15 in the U.S.
Starter: 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte’s Home, Estate Sonoma County.
Fresh pear, white peach, with notes that reminded me of both a sandy beach and fresh mown grass; fresh citrus, low acid, balanced and a nice long finish. The “10% barrel fermented in French oak with completed malolactic” gave a nice creaminess to the wine, not what I expect from the usual highly acidic Sauvignon Blancs, so it was very welcoming. Nicely priced at about $17 and a new white label to catch the eye as well.
Pairing: Oyster, tuna tartar, preserved lemon aioli and cucumber mignonette. The oyster was to die for, and the slight creaminess in the wine was the perfect balance.
First Course: 2016 Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards Chardonnay.
Unsalted butter, toast, kiwi, earth and oak; butter again, hay, Meyer lemon. The 12 months in French Oak left its lovely buttery mark on this classic Rodney Strong label.
Pairing: Scallops, coconut sunchoke, pureed grilled peach, pea coulis, fried leeks. I noted that the scallops, amazing on their own, were more buttery with the Chard.
Second Course: 2016 Russian River Valley Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir.
Crushed cherries, stems, bramble, rose petal and stewed red fruit; richly layered, both peppery and velvety with bright red fruit.
Pairing: Chicken, roulade prosciutto spinach, sundried tomato, charred shallot and red wine jus. The chef had used a Pinot Noir in the red wine sauce that of course complemented the wine very well.
Third Course (two wines): 2015 Symmetry Red Meritage, Alexander Valley and MY WINE OF THE WEEK FOR SURE.
Blue to black fruit, cracked black pepper, incense and earth; great balance of fruit and spice, earthy, dark and brooding with an incredible length. This blend, 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec was great right now in my opinion. It came from five different Alexander Valley Vineyards and their estate on the hills north of Lake Sonoma: Cooley Ranch.
SECOND WINE: 2015 Alexander’s Crown, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Sonoma County.
Blueberry, dark chocolate, dust and cigar; balanced mouthfeel, peppery, dark fruit, creamy, toasted oak. This was also an exceptional wine.
Pairing: Grilled lamb, Romesco, risotto, pickled ramp and pea mint gremolata. I chewed that bone until it was bare – so very good only made better by the Symmetry.
2015 Rowen, Red Wine, Sonoma County, Cooley Ranch.
Blackberry, blueberry, lots of plum, milk chocolate, rich wet soil; peppery, dry, big, juicy fruit and tannins to give it an incredibly long finish. This wine had been decanted, so now ready to drink. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Malbec, 17% Syrah and 2% Viognier. All Cooley Ranch – in my opinion, you should keep your eye on wines from this area.
Pairing: What a delight of hard-to-get award-winning cheeses we were presented with along with toasted nuts and fresh fruit. We thought we were done. Then came a chilled chocolate truffle served alongside a little jar of white creamy pudding with a rim of red fruit. Then we thought we were done again, only to be handed a small box containing a tart…for the road.
All of the wines I would definitely buy, the last three I will look for on wine lists and snatch up if I’m lucky enough to find. (Or you could join the wine club to get yours.) The restaurant I will definitely return to, the food is incredible and matched only by the service and incredible views of boats in the Marina.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.