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Rodney Strong loved wine, and after he retired as a successful dancer, he turned to his second love as a winemaker. When asked why he retired from dance, he explained, “I knew I couldn’t be an old dancer, but I could be an old winemaker.”
In 1959 he began his winery, Sonoma Vineyards, in the newly discovered valley of Sonoma County, and it became the 13th bonded winery. In 1980 he renamed it and established Rodney Strong Vineyards. In 1989 the Klein family, a fourth generation of California farmers, purchased Rodney Strong Winery.
Rick Sayre had been the winemaker since 1979 and stayed on to make outstanding wines. Sayre has been making highly acclaimed wines from 14 prime estate vineyards in Sonoma County’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and calls Rodney Strong, “Northern California’s largest boutique winery.”
Through the years, the Kleins have invested millions into the vineyards with new plantings and at the winery with new crushing equipment, tanks and barrels for grape processing. They were the first to craft a single vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley and the first to produce a Chalk Hill Chardonnay. This year, the Rodney Strong Vineyards became The Wine Enthusiast’s American Winery of the Year.
I also find it interesting that Rodney Strong became the first carbon neutral winery in Sonoma by implementing sustainable farming practices, installing solar power and earning its Fish Friendly Farming certification. Its staff members are committed to sustainable farming, reducing their carbon footprint and are officially certified by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance.
I’m always asked what wines I enjoy, and this winery makes solid outstanding wines at all levels.
Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is cellared for 18 months in small French and American oak barrels. According to Sayre, the result is “a deep, saturated color which leads to lifted aromas of blackberry, cocoa and herby black currant, followed by a rich, layered mouth feel, loaded with juicy black cherry, cedar and crème de cassis, and structured with ripe, mature tannins.” Enjoy this wine with your flavored cheese, filet mignon, vegetarian dishes or pasta with red sauces. It retails for $15.99.
Rodney Strong Sonoma Chardonnay
This wine is a combination of estate-grown and locally-farmed fruit, sourced on alluvial soils from vineyards in the Russian River, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. They barrel ferment 60 percent of this wine and age that portion in the barrel for eight months, offering, according to Sayre, “a wine that has a touch of brown spice and vanilla, which cold fermenting the remainder to maximize a fresh fruit-forward character.” Enjoy this lively Chardonnay with roasted turkey, grilled salmon, sea bass, scampi, tilapia or halibut. It retails for $11.99.
You can find these wines at Acme Fresh Markets, Papa Joe’s, Buehler’s Fresh Foods, Fisher’s, Heinen’s, West Point Market, DeVitis Italian Market, 750ml, Regency, Giant Eagle and other fine retailers in the Greater Akron Area.
Wine Wisdom – On cold nights, wines higher in alcohol help warm the soul. Try a full-bodied red or a fortified wine such as Port.
/ Rick Rodger is a manager at Heidelberg Distributing Company.