Malbec

Rodney Strong, "Symmetry", Meritage 2007

For a long time now the Rodney Strong brand has stood for value regularly over delivering in their price category. Whether it’s their entry $18 Cabernet or their single-vineyard, allocated Rockaway bottling, when you see Rodney Strong on the label you can be assured you will get some thing interesting in the glass. The house style is to create round and harmonious wines with loads of sweet fruit surrounded by toasty French oak.

Their “Symmetry” Meritage is a Cabernet Sauvignon led wine that could have been labeled as this variety since it makes up 85% of the blend. But the winemaking team is aiming higher here producing a Bordeaux style blend from several vineyard sources in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. The addition of traditional blending grapes Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot adds to the complexity in the aromas and flavors, elevating what would be a very nice Cabernet to another level. My only concern was the rather generous French oak treatment which will likely work itself out with further aging.

Tasting Notes:

Rodney Strong, “Symmetry”, Meritage Red Wine, Alexander Valley 2007 ($55/sample) –  A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 3% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Very deep purple in color with complex aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, cigar box, sage and black licorice. Bold and rich blackcurrant and blackberry flavors with cassis and black pepper finishing with toasty oak and firm tannins. Decant for 2-3 hours now or put in the cellar for 5-7 years. Delicious, if a bit over-oaked, at this point but I expect this to integrate as it ages.

15.1% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 91
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Rodney Strong, Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

by Tim Elliott on January 1, 2010

I’m not sure where to start with this wine since my review of the previous vintage became the subject for the first wine blogger meltdown ever last year. I even thought of not posting a review due to this experience but my curiosity got the better of me and I had to see what the wine would be like on it’s second vintage.

Would I like it? Is it worth $75 a bottle in these recessionary times?

One of my treats for the holidays is a roast beef dinner which usually happens on Christmas Day. This past year, the roast was moved to New Year’s eve and the wine I selected to pair with this menu was not the usual Bordeaux or Napa Cab but the sample of Rockaway Cabernet received some time ago from Rodney Strong Vineyards. If you read my review of the 2005 release, there is a run down of the vineyard blocks involved and production methods used. Approximately the same process was used for the 2006 wine with most of the final blend being Cabernet Sauvignon and only slightly spiced by a dollop or two of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The result is one of the most pure single vineyard expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever tasted from California ensuring Rockaway’s position among the very best wines made from this grape in the state.

Tasting Notes:

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2006 ($75/sample) — A blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. Very dark purple in color, the wine shows the same refined aromatics from the previous vintage. Black cherry, dark currant, green olive, sage, fennel and vanilla return with some cigar box added for good measure. In the mouth the wine is very firm and focused even after more than 2 hours in a decanter with blackberry and black-currant fruit flavors along with black pepper and dark chocolate. The finish is long with very firm tannins at this point but worked as a very nice companion to the slightly fatty roast beef last night.

To be released in February 2010, I would recommend at least 5 years of aging before opening your first bottle. At this point, 3+ hours in the decanter is required to fully enjoy this wine but it is clear this will be one of the best California Cabs to collect based upon the first two vintages.

15.4% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 96
Rating: ★★★★½

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Clos LaChance, Meritage 2005

by Tim Elliott on January 3, 2009

Clos LaChance MeritageI think we’ll eventually see a renaissance in wine blends here in the U.S. I’m not exactly sure when this will be but it’s clear from the wine I’m reviewing tonight that a blend can be so much more than the sum of it’s parts. A few years back, producers in California recognized that they needed to come up with a marketing term for blends inspired by the wines of Bordeaux and came up with Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”). The term was intended to signify wines of merit that exemplified the heritage of the best wines made from traditional Bordeaux varieties in America.

And this wine from Clos LaChance really delivers on that promise. This family winery started in the late 1980’s as a backyard winery that has grown into over 150 acres of vineyards located just 20 miles south of San Jose.They make a number of wines in three different tiers with the “special select” being the top of their range. I was not familar with this producer, but from the wines I’ve tasted so far, this looks like a winery to seek out.

Tasting Notes:

Clos LaChance, Meritage, Estate Vineyard, “Special Select” 2005 ($50/sample) – Dark purple color with aromas of black cherry, eucalyptus, licorice and vanilla. Blackberry and dark currant flavors with mint and bell pepper finishing with sweet oak and moderate tannins. Well balanced and quite enjoyable now but will continue to gain complexity with another 2-3 years of cellaring. This wine is throwing a fair amount of sediment now, so you might want to decant before serving.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Altos Las Hormigas, Malbec 2005

by Tim Elliott on October 15, 2006

Altos Las Hormigas MalbecMalbec is one of the six grapes that can legally be included in the red blends of Bordeaux. When transplanted to warmer climates of California or, more commonly, Argentina, the grape can stand on it’s own and produce fleshy and juicy wines. Altos Las Hormigas Malbec is one of those inexpensive, fruit-driven wines that I first tasted on Winecast 24. A recent reader comment prompted me to pick up the latest vintage to see if this wine is still delivering the goods.

Made from 50% estate grown Malbec from Lujan and the balance from purchased grapes from Valle de Uco in Mendoza, Argentina, this wine is fermented in stainless steel and then part of it is aged in oak for 9 months before final blending and bottling. In the 2005 vintage, 35,000 cases were produced with 18,000 of those imported into the U.S. where it is widely avalible for between $8 and $10 a bottle.

Altos Las Hormigas, Malbec, Mendoza Argentina 2005 ($8) – Very dark purple-black in color with aromas of blackberry, wet earth and black pepper. In the mouth the wine is juicy and loaded with blackberry and plum fruit, a bit of pepper and spice, finishing with moderate, but well integrated, tannins. A dependable value just perfect for enjoying with grilled beef.

13.9% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Score: 85

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