Rodney Strong Vineyards, Charlotte's Home, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Rodney Strong Vineyards is a go-to choice for your California wine needs

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As a wine lover I often have the tendency to gravitate towards small productions wines when given the choice between those and larger productions. Similarly, I'm drawn to esoteric varietals and things that are, in general, off the beaten path. As interesting as both of those paths are, everyone doesn't always have access to these wines. As readily available (relatively speaking) as a small production single vineyard Petite Sirah might be in a major market for example, good luck finding it on the vast majority of US store shelves. That issue underscores for me the importance of large producers with a reliable track record for making quality wines that are of interest. One particular producer that I've come to consider a go to name is Sonoma County's Rodney Strong Vineyards. Their portfolio includes several tiers of wines with different price levels, styles and intents. In general though they bring a well made product to market and due to their size their wines are widely available. A dependable producer also serves another important purpose in my opinion. While you might normally drink their entry level offerings, they're a comfortable place to go when you decide to step up to the next level for a special occasion or gift. Here are three of the current releases from Rodney Strong that I like quite a bit.

2008 Charlotte's Home Sauvignon BlancThe Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc is produced from fruit sourced at several of their Estate Vineyards. Fruit from the namesake vineyard in Alexander Valley is blended with selections from a couple of others in Alexander Valley and Russian River. This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. 9% was fermented in French oak with the majority fermented in stainless steel tanks. The suggested retail price for this wine is $15.

Lemon ice, hints of lime and an overall mélange of citrus fill the nose of this 2008 Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc. The citrus circus continues through the palate; grapefruit and lemon are most prominent and underscored by orchard fruit such as Bartlett pear a wisp of granny smith apple and an array of spice notes. The finish is clean, crisp and refreshing with a lingering wallop of citrus and good punch of acidity to close things out. Pair this up with a variety of lighter fare or drink it on its own.

This is a classic example of Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc. It's also a selection that I preferred ice cold. The cooler temperature really seemed to help show off the citrus elements which are the backbone of this wine. This is a consistent and reasonably priced entry from Rodney Strong.

2007 Sonoma  County Cabernet SauvignonThe second wine is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2007 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit is sourced from many of their vineyards within Sonoma County. A look at the vineyard map shows the various Cabernet plantings they have. Barrel aging was accomplished over 17 months in oak; 85% were American, 15% were French. The suggested retail price for this wine is $17.

Strong blackberry pie aromas waft gently from the nose of this 2007 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. Cherry is particularly prominent throughout the palate. Other bright berry fruit flavors are also present to a lesser degree. Of these, red raspberry is the most noteworthy. Coffee, cedar, vanilla and a host of spice notes emerge in the medium length finish. Yielding tannins and good acidity are part of the solid structure this wine exhibits. If you shop around you're going to find this wine for less than $15. At that price, this represents an excellent choice as a go to new world Cabernet, any day of the week.

The final wine this time out is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. In addition to the Pinot Noir a small amount of Syrah (2%) was blended in. Barrel aging was accomplished over 7 months in 100% French oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $20.

2008 Russian River Valley Pinot NoirAromas of strawberry, cinnamon and cardamom fill the nose of this 2008 Pinot Noir. Black cherry in droves fills the palate and is underscored by vanilla. This wine has a lush, somewhat luxurious mouth feel. Raspberry, light plum and baker's spice notes appear at the midway point and continue through the finish which lingers. Hints of sour cherry emerge in the finish as well and serve as a lovely close to this wine which has soft tannins and good acidity. Rodney Strong was amongst the first to plant Pinot in Russian River Valley. This release of Pinot does a fine job showing why the Russian River is one of the best places in California to grow this fickle grape.

These three wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards are each fine a representation of both what the Winery produces and their home region of Sonoma County. They make many other wines, some sourced from numerous vineyards and others single vineyard offerings. The common thread for me with Rodney Strong is that they deliver quality and value regardless of price point. Their wines also speak well of their Sonoma County origins. So if you want a bottle of wine to drink with your pizza tonight, or a single vineyard Cabernet to lay down for a special occasion, Rodney Strong may well have what you're looking for.

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