Wandering the aisles of the local wine store, I sometimes wonder about the names of people on the labels. Are they real people? Who are they? What was their vision? Can their vision be tasted in this bottle?
I do know one who was very real. There was a Rodney Strong. Mr. Strong was the early visionary in Sonoma County who had the idea that this area and all of its micro-climates could bring forth world-class wine.
Today Rodney Strong Vineyards encompass two major brands Rodney Strong and Davis Bynum. Mr. Strong’s namesake company planted grapes of many varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the terroir of Alexander Valley. In Chalk Hill he was the first to plant Chardonnay vines in 1965. In the Russian River Valley much like Burgundy, France, he found the fog cooled climate perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From south San Pablo Bay north to Mendocino, an even wetter and cooler climate created challenges but many of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines are above the fog line to produce perfect ripe fruit.
What is remarkable about this winery, now owned by Tom Klein and family, is that they are continuing to pioneer innovation in the industry. Their solar energy system is one of the largest in the world and they are constantly reevaluating and applying sustainable practices to safeguard the local ecology. Mr. Klein favors a well-balanced portfolio of offerings to include single vineyard wines, reserve wines, estate wines and the consistent Sonoma County wines.
Rodney Strong Wines presented a Chef’s Dinner for International Food and Travel Writers during the annual conference. Guests sat oceanfront under the stars at Duke’s Waikiki at the edge of the Pacific. We enjoyed lovely wines introduced by Mr. Robert Larsen of Rodney Strong Vineyards who also expertly paired them with Duke’s executive chef’s menu of salad of Mesculin Greens and Blood Oranges with Crisp Fried Won Ton and Tropical Vinaigrette, first course of Panko Crusted MahiMahi over Braised Kale and Beurre Orange, second course of Petite Sirloin and Maui Onion and Mushroom Demi- glaze with Yukon Mashed Potatoes, and the dessert of Kimo’s Original Hula Pie®.
Can you guess which wine was paired with each course based on these Rodney Strong tasting notes provided?
We will give you one: The “dessert wine” was whatever each of us wanted to continue drinking. We toasted Messrs. Strong, Klein, winemaker Rick Sayre and Robert Larsen who hosted the dinner on behalf of Rodney Strong Vineyards. We toasted in celebration of Rodney Strong’s dedication to respecting the sense of place apparent in these beautiful California wines. We toasted to the “ hula moon” and sipped the remarkable wine on the shores of Waikiki. The same moon shining on the fruit of the vines growing in their own special place across the sea in California.
Alexander Valley Cabernet (Reserve)-Full bodied, intense flavors, round ripe tannins. . .lead to smooth finish.”
Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc (Estate)-Light, crisp, highly aromatic, ripe melon and pear for Alexander Valley and citrus, mineral, herbaceous character from Russian River Valley.
Rodney Strong 2011 Sonoma Chardonnay -Cool Russian River Valley, Chalk Hill and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay brings bright aromas toasty barrel flavor and focused fruit flavor with refreshing acidity.
Rodney Strong 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (Estate)- Cool night air of this region produces elegance and class with subtle texture, and slightly toasty vanilla character in this medium bodied wine aged predominately in French oak.