Rodney Strong provides dependable value at every price point
A while back I took a look at a trio of wines from Sonoma County’s Rodney Strong Vineyards. Those three wines were selections priced at $20 or under, and are perfectly suited for everyday drinking for a lot of folks. One of the great things about the Rodney Strong portfolio is that they offer well-made wines at quite a few price points. In my opinion, their forte is making wines at a number of different price tiers that offer value -- whether they are in the $15 range, $75 range or anywhere in between. With that in mind I recently tasted some of their selections from their reserve line; here are three that are standouts to me. What is most impressive is that in one vintage after another there is a consistency of quality with their offerings. I’ve mentioned it previously -- and it bears repeating -- if the wine says Rodney Strong Vineyards on it, you can spend your money with the confidence that you are getting a well-made, fairly priced wine.
The first one up is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir. Four clones of Pinot were utilized for this wine (777, 114, 115 and 667). All of the fruit was sourced within the namesake Russian River Valley, and this offering is entirely Pinot Noir. Barrel aging was accomplished over 15 months in all French oak. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $40. Succulent red fruit aromas fill the nose of this Pinot Noir. A cornucopia of cherry characteristics is on display throughout the palate, and they are underpinned by wild strawberry flavors. Hints of cigar box, minerals and continued cherries of every stripe emerge on the finish, which has very good length. A bit of toasty oak reverberates as a final note. A far as Pinot Noir goes this wine is at the bottom end of being a big wine. It’s about as hefty as I want my Pinot Noir to be. That said, let me be clear: this is an absolutely terrific wine. It’s also a fine example of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, undeniably one of the best areas in California for this finicky grape.
Next up is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the fruit for this offering came from the Alexander Valley. This wine is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes were handpicked in small lots and each group was fermented and aged separately. After 6 months of aging, the lots were tasted and the best were chosen to assemble the final wine, after which the aging process was completed. In total this wine spent 22 months in all French oak barrels. This wine is available all over the country and has a suggested retail price of $45. Blackberry and black cherry aromas are prominent on the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Wisps of pine resin play a supporting role. The palate is loaded with sweet, appealing berry fruit flavors as well as a solid and unrelenting core of spices. Bits of mocha, chicory and earth emerge on the lengthy finish. This is a classic example of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that deftly rides the line between rugged and refined.
Finally we have the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Symmetry Red Meritage. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Alexander Valley. This Bordeaux-style blend is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (65 percent), Malbec (25 percent), Merlot (7 percent), Petit Verdot (2 percent) and Cabernet Franc (1 percent). The separate lots of fruit were picked and vinified independently, and assembled approximately 6 months into the aging process when each lot was tasted and the very best ones identified. In total this wine spent 21 months aging in entirely French oak barrels. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $55. Black raspberry, boysenberry and toasty oak all burst from the nose of this 2008 Alexander Valley blend. Dark, sweet fruit flavors rule the day throughout the palate, which is deeply layered and loaded with intensity. This is a very well integrated wine, but the Malbec really pops and provides some delicious character right in the middle of the proceedings. Cassis, dark syrupy chocolate and kirsch liqueur all emerge on the finish, which is as layered and intense as the palate. As with the Cabernet Sauvignon this wine is a fine example of the sort of wine that can be achieved with quality Alexander Valley Fruit.
All three of these wines are selections that merit consideration when you’re looking for a bottle as a gift, for a special occasion or if you just want to drink something a couple notches up from the everyday wines that most of us consume regularly. Each is ready for consumption now, but will also drink well over a number of years. The Symmetry in particular is suited for cellaring and improvement over the next eight or so years. In terms of consistent California producers whose wines are widely available across the country, Rodney Strong Vineyards is on my short list of go-to choices, I hope you’ll taste a couple of their selections and give them a chance to make your list as well.