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.Â 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.
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.
Natural cork closure
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.