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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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Rodney Strong, Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

by Tim Elliott on August 23, 2008

My wine education started with Cabernet Sauvignon in the early 1980’s. After a brief time with Bordeaux blends, I discovered California Cabernet and used to almost exclusively drink this variety daily. I soon discovered the magic of single vineyard Cabs and the majority of my most memorable wines are from these vineyards. Places like To Kalon, Fay, Martha’s and Monte Bello are etched into my taste memory.

So I was pleased to be included in the blogger sampling program for a new single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Rodney Strong Vineyards: Rockaway. In a move I expect to see more of in coming months, Rodney Strong has pre-released samples to a few wine bloggers before submitting them to more traditional critics such as Jim Laube and Robert Parker. This gives you, dear reader, the short-lived opportunity to acquire this wine before 90+ scores are published elsewhere and demand exceeds supply. I’ll be posting a bit more on this from a marketing perspective over on my company blog, as well.

This wine is made from 3 blocks of the Rockaway Vineyard in Alexander Valley which is located between Napa and Dry Creek Valleys. These small areas of the vineyard are where the viticulture and winemaking teams have found the best fruit that expresses the terroir there. The vineyard soil is primarily sandstone on a clay subsoil at an elevation that rises to 700 feet above sea level. Rodney Strong Vineyards acquired the Rockaway vineyard in 2003 which covers a little over 100 total acres of mostly Bordeaux varieties but this wine is made exclusively from the best fruit the vineyard provides.

To maximize the expression of the Rockaway Vineyard a team of winemakers was brought on including Rick Sayre, Gary Patzwald and consultant David Ramey. Readers may recognize Mr. Ramey’s work from wines he’s made at Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek, Dominus Estate, Rudd Estate and his own eponymous winery. The viticulture team on this project includes Doug McIlroy and consultant Bob Steinhauer who’s worked at Beringer for three decades.  So it’s clear from the vineyard selection to the viticulture and winemaking teams to the 2 years in new French oak that Rockaway is intended to compete with the best Cabernets in the world.

Like other wineries, the folks at Rodney Strong have decided to allocate Rockaway on a mailing list. This is becoming more common after cult Cabs such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate pioneered this direct marketing technique a few years ago. The heavy glass and beautiful graphics on the bottle also signal a cult-style effort but the true test would be tasting the wine contained therein. To be honest, other cult Cabernet blends I’ve tried have not lived up to their reputation or price level so when I opened this wine I cast a somewhat skeptical eye, nose and palate on the subject.

Tasting Notes:

Rodney Strong Vineyards, “Rockaway” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2005 ($75/sample) – A blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot, this wine is very dark purple-black in color right now. The wine’s aromas unfold with a complex mixture of dark cherry, black-currant, green olive, sage, cocoa, fennel and vanilla. Tightly wound and concentrated blackberry and dark currant flavors with mint and black pepper finishing long with moderately firm but well integrated tannins.

A fine, well balanced California Cabernet blend with 5-10 years of additional cellaring recommended before it begins its drinking window. This will be a brand to watch for the next few years as it delivers quite good value when compared to other wines at its expected release price. I recommend you sign up for the mailing list soon before this wine is unavailable.

15.4% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 93
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Related Links:

A Master Sommelier Candidate Takes on the Allocated Rockaway Release

Finding a Wine You Love? Priceless.

Rockaway—A New Allocated Brand from Rodney Strong

History in the (Wine) Making: The Inaugural Vintage of Rockaway Vineyard

Rockaway Baby in the Vineyard

Rockaway Cab, Rodney Strong, and Allocations

2005 Rockaway Cabernet

2005 Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet, Sonoma ($80 est.)

Disclosure (posted 8/27/08): Due to posts and comments from other wine bloggers, I would like to state that I received this wine as a sample from the winery. At no time did I communicate directly with anyone at Rodney Strong Vineyards or feel any pressure to write a positive review. Jeff Lefevere of Good Grape arranged for the samples to be sent to us and asked us to post our reviews last week. I complied with this request as a personal favor to Jeff.

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