Saturday, April 2, 2011

Report from ... Rodney Strong Taste and Blend - March 28, 2011

The day started for me at three, as I made my way up the elevator to the 54th floor where I would find Canoe Restaurant.  There I was shown into a side room where a seminar was just finishing up and a tasting was just about to begin - I did not get an invite to the seminar (but I did get a chance to try my hand at what they were doing - a little on that later), so I went right in and tasted 10 wines that Rodney Strong brings into Canada, way or another (Vintages / Consignment / Private Order): a Sauvignon Blanc, 3 Chardonnays, a Merlot and 5 variations on Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab dominated blends.

The seminar was on the blending of their Symmetry wine, a Cabernet dominated affair that had 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec in the 2007 version (***1/2) with the last five percent being the remainder of the Bordelais grapes (Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc).  They brought along the five building blocks for the 2009 Symmetry and asked those in attendance to make up and record their own blend.  Rick Sayre (V.P. and Director of winemaking oversaw the blending and even took notes on the ones he liked; I think this might be the new wave of winemaking - have your customers make up your blend.  Tasting through the components I used one word to describe each (keep in mind these wines had been open for 2 hours when I finally got to them):  Cabernet Sauvignon - chocolate; Merlot - raspberry; Cabernet Franc - tobacco; Petit Verdot - spice; Malbec - dark fruit.  My attempt at a blend had mainly Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) with 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec and the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot at 5% apiece ... though I didn't use any scientific measuring tool.  Rick was not a fan of my blend because he found it too heavy and tannic, Rodney Strong likes their wines to drink now, but also age.  I have to admit that I liked my version, oh well, back to the drawing board.   As for the real completed wines, here were my top choices:

The Finished Strong Wines (The Strongest) ...

2009 Chalk Hill Chardonnay
($24.95 - Vintages, April 30, 2011) - lots of vanilla and buttery notes on the nose; palate doles out the fruit by way of peach with a touch of the tropical, the vanilla nuances really round out the fruit in the mouth; lovely. (****)

2006 Sonoma County Merlot ($18.95 - Vintages, March 5, 2011) - the wines was big on cherry, and loads of other red fruit, with enough spice in the mix so that things weren't too fruit dominated; delicious and easy to drink right now. (****)

2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($59.95 - Private Order) - the nose was chocolate, black cherry and blueberry, while the palate had rich dark fruit, chocolate, spice, vanilla and cinnamon.  The tannins gave the wine nice weight without being too demanding. (****+)

2007 Rockaway ($89.95 - Private Order) - a monster at 15.2% alcohol.  This single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 24 months in 100% French oak (with less new oak than you would expect) is ready to drink now - or can be lain down for 10 years.  Amazing red cherry fruit on the nose with hints of chocolate and vanilla.  The mouth proved to be silky smooth with red fruit dominating, but with chocolate and spice playing and elegant backing role.  Real finesse on both the nose and palate makes this one of those wines perfect to consume throughout an evening, and there was a really clean yummy finish.  Deliciously approachable now, yet surely layable for the future. (**** 1/2)

1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

My take...

**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2009, $24.95 Vintages Apr 30
-Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage 2007, $79.95 private order
-Rodney Strong Rockaway 2007 Alexander Valley, $89.95 private order

***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Rodney Strong Merlot 2006 Sonoma County, Vintages $18.95
-Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2009, $16.95
-Rodney Strong Russian River Pinot Noir 2009, $24.95 Vintages Essential
-Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Alexander, $59.95
private order.

*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2009 Sonoma County, $17.95 Vintages
-Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Sonoma County, $18.95
-Rodney Strong Reserve Chardonnay 2007, $39.95 private order