Splendor in the Glass

Arturo Ciompi's blog on wine

Rodney Strong Today

Tag icon Published under Weekly Tastings

Clock icon March 3, 2013

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Classically trained dancer Rodney Strong put down roots in California (as a resident and a wine maker) in the late 1950s. His wines took a fascinating ride with quality rising and falling over the past 50 years. But in the last 2-3 years, I’ve noticed a serious uptake in the overall quality of these nationally distributed wines. From the “Charlotte’s Home” (Strong’s wife) Sauvignon Blanc to the “Rockaway” single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, these are wines to seek out for quality and value.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte’s Home, Northern Sonoma  $15 srp

Wet stone, grassy elements, melon and chalky pineapple all inhabit the fresh bouquet. Snappy citric flavors are moderated on the pear-laden mid-palate, but the finish again turns lively, uplifting and lemon/lime tinged. Fresh fish, scallops or a couscous salad will all be enhanced. Drink now-2014.

87/100 points

2010 Pinot Noir, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Russian River Valley $20 srp

Classic Burgundian color. Overt and supple, this Pinot delivers fresh cut roses, leather, ripe strawberry compote and cola notes on the nose, with lively spice-box overtones and judicious oak. Flavors are brisk, yet mouth-filling. Pure fruit elements are in balance with a tannic structure that promises further development. Drink now-2016.

88/100 points

2008 Rockaway, Single-Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley $75 srp

Radiant, Italian plum skin color. Dense, sweet-scented nose of perfect ripeness, with fecund earth, graphite and lavender atop black cherry and black currant. There’s a freshness and over-arching grace in the bouquet that is more reminiscent of left-bank Bordeaux than Sonoma. Thrilling, with mouth-filling plum and minerality. Grip and dry tannins promise a long, expressive life ahead. If drunk now, try to uncork in the morning for that evening’s pleasure. (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot) Drink now-2023.

94/100 Points




Chateau St. Jean

Tag icon Published under Weekly Tastings

Clock icon February 15, 2013

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Chateau St. Jean is a top rank Sonoma winery whose flagship red, Cinq Cépages, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. This wine took front and center many years back when its 1996 vintage was chosen as “Wine of the Year” by The Wine Spectator magazine. I always loved selling it in my retail days and subsequently writing about it in wine columns. (I actually have a small grouping of selected vintages in my own collection.) In fact, I will be opening a bottle of the 1997 vintage this year at a dinner event. One thing that aging this graceful wine always does is create an almost nectar-like mouth texture.

2009 Cinq Cépages, Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma County $75 srp

Saturated ruby color. Expressive nose of plush berry fruits, leather, cedar, tobacco and graphite. The always judicious oak caresses the fruit/earth components that will meld over time. Flavors suggest plum, black cherry, licorice and a bit of dark chocolate. Juicy acidity keeps it lively. Never heavy, it’s the kind of California red that can alter the prejudices of Euro-centric wine drinkers. Drink now-2021.

95/100 points

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