I’m very lucky to be living in Russian River Valley, where so many wonderful wine companies are based. Little did I know on my very first trip to California, when I visited Rodney Strong Vineyards in the early 1900s, that someday I’d be living five minutes away by car. My interest in Rodney Strong wines has been as a consumer; although, I did meet Rodney Strong before he passed away. He agreed to write the forward for my winery cat book…. which I’ve let slide for now, perhaps because Rodney and time just slipped away from me.
Another aspect, as a neighbor, has been the wonderful concerts that are offered in the summer season. Again, the easy access to this location is something I know many of my writing friends around the US would also love to have. I got really lucky, I know.
Rodney Strong has just released two new wines, their 2009 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Rodney Strong Meritage Alliance. In communications with owner Tom Klein, here are his thoughts on the 2009 vintage coming out of Alexander Valley.
But first… I also have to share, so you completely understand my connection to this wonderful wine company… Rodney Strong’s Rockaway Vineyard property in Alexander Valley is also part of my California history. When I was working at Belvedere Winery in the 1990s, this property was owned and developed by Bill Hambrecht. I was on the property before any vines were planted, before a private picnic area was created. I also got to entertain a lot of VIPs on this site, and even had a family wedding on this site… I have a lot of great memories based around this location in Alexander Valley, now part of what Tom Klein and his crew enjoy…
[Q] Tom, what can you share about Alexander Valley?
[TOM KLEIN] Alexander Valley is best known for the classic Bordeaux varieties, which flourish in unique soils and a warm climate. Our part of the valley thrives from cooling ocean breezes and evening fog. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown here are marked by deep plum and blackberry flavors, and are widely appreciated for their abundantly supple, tannin structure.
[Q] So, what about your wines for the 2009 vintage that you’ve just released?
[TOM KLEIN] Both of these wines were produced in our small lot, artisan cellar. We used modern techniques of pre-sorting the clusters, then sorting the berries, and finally we used extended maceration.
[Q] Tom, what are your thoughts about the 2009 vintage?
[TOM KLEIN] It’s been getting a lot of positive press; because, in many ways, it wasn’t a typical growing season. It started with an unusually dry spring, which we had seen for three years running. This gave us concentrated vintages, due to smaller than usual cluster and berry size in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
The 2009 vintage was especially remarkable for its relatively cool growing season. In fact, it was cool enough to delay harvest, had the crop not been so small. An untimely rain on October 13 was the demarking line, between the kind of concentration and the focus that we require for our top wines. Although many cabernet blocks were still in excellent condition for picking as the month wore on, winemaker Rick Sayre and consultant David Ramey employed their strict selection process. This allowed for careful selection of specific lots, for both our Reserve Cabernet and Symmetry wines.
The 2009 Reserve Cabernet is full bodied, and displays aromas and flavors of black current, sandalwood incense, white pepper, and cocoa. It has a lovely smooth and lingering finish.
[Q] Tell us about your Cab for this vintage.
[TOM KLEIN] The 2009 Reserve Cabernet is really a cabernet lover’s cab, a wine we’ve been making here since the 1987 vintage. Per usual, it’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon; and, therefore, truly reflecting the inherent nature of Alexander Valley Cabernet in the 2009 vintage. The 2009 Cabernets have magnificent fruit as one would expect in a good year. The character of that fruit is unique to the vintage: deep, dark, brooding, and quite well structured. Our 2009 Cabernet has all of this, and it also has an enlivening hint of violet blossom on the nose, with a long, silky finish that evolves as the wine sits in your glass or decanter. To me, this speaks of an age worthy wine. I’m enjoying it decanted right now. I feel this is going to “make old bones,” as they say. For those of you with deep cellars, who especially like to lose a case or two for a while, this is a cabernet with your name on it.
[Q] And, your Meritage?
[TOM KLEIN] The 2009 Symmetry is rich and silky in texture, with a significant backbone for allowing it to age for years in your cellar. We’re also honored that it just received 90 points from the Wine Spectator.
We started making Symmetry, a red Meritage, beginning with the 1996 vintage. Rick wanted to enjoy blending as a winemaker’s art form, and our Meritage Alliance seemed like the perfect opportunity. Rick and David usually strive to make Symmetry from all five of the classic Bordeaux varieties we grow. They understand that each variety contributes something uniquely beneficial to the blend. It was not meant to be in 2009, however, as the late ripening Petit Verdot wasn’t mature before the rain, and thus didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, this surprisingly didn’t weaken the blend. The richness, deep color, and structure that Petit Verdot has to offer were more than made up for by the nature of the vintage itself, especially in the expression of the Cabernet.
- Decidedly more Cabernet was selected for the blend (79 percent)
- Malbec added rich plum and deeply saturated purple (14 percent)
- Merlot softened and rounded the wine (six percent)
- Cabernet Franc accented the Meritage with the classic red fruit and cedar notes (one percent)
[Q] And, its age worthiness?
[TOM KLEIN] It is clear to me that this will be an excellent Symmetry to lay down as well. But, as Symmetry always does, it’s drinking beautifully right now… kind of the best of both worlds.