06 May 2009

Green Winemaking Tour: Rodney Strong

First, a quick note. Tracy Rickman is an Auburn University doctoral student studying wine blogs. A few months ago I participated in a conference call along with other wine bloggers, and I got a chance to meet her when she joined us for my Burns Night dinner. She's a wonderful person and it's been great working with her since the beginning of the year.

As part of her research, she has created an online Wine Blog Survey and is looking for readers of wine blogs to answer a few questions. If you get a free ten minutes and feel like helping out with an interesting project, follow that link and answer the questions. Research like this will be vital in the coming years as blogs and other new media become a bigger and bigger part of the wine journalism scene.

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Rodney Strong was one of the bigger places I visited in Sonoma, and was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the little farmhouses I'd seen. It's a large, modern building with big fountains out front, ample parking, and spacious guest facilities. For instance, check out Rob Cockerham's visit for a story about a combination wine and chocolate tasting.

Founded in 1959 by Rodney Strong (a professional ballet dancer who saw a better future in the wine business), the winery has grown considerably over the past fifty years. From humble beginnings the company has emerged with a slick look and a large portfolio of wines. In the self tour, you're able to take your time and read the displays about the history of the winery while looking out over large, industrial-size steel tanks and oak barrels. While it's not certified organic, the winery employs various green technologies and is committed to sustainable viticulture.

One particular area of pride is the massive 766 kW solar energy installation, the largest in the wine industry. It provides clean electricity for the winery operations, and is part of a continuing plan to become carbon neutral. Follow that link and you can watch a video about the Rodney Strong solar project.

If you're visiting Rodney Strong, it's pretty easy to find and doesn't require any wild trips through dusty back roads. And if you've got the time, you can walk across the parking lot to taste sparkling wines at J Vineyards and Winery. Unfortunately, I did not visit J--Rodney Strong was my last stop of the day, and at some point you have to realize the limitations of the human palate.

Wines Sampled at the Vineyard

More details and ordering information for these wines can be found at the company website.

2006 Reserve Chardonnay. Mineral, light fruit, touch of pear.

2007 Estate Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Yellow apples, butter, and lots of oak.

2006 Reserve Pinot Noir. Overripe strawberries, touch of tannins, firm finish.

2007 Estate Pinot Noir. More acidity than the Reserve, lighter, seems like a great lunch wine for something like grilled salmon.

2005 Alexander's Crown Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Green bell pepper and tobacco aroma, smooth and peppery, full mouthfeel. My favorite of the tasting, recommended.

2006 Alder Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Black cherry dominates, medium tannins.

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Very delicate, with berry aromas. Made on a much smaller scale.

2005 Meritage. Very Bordeaux-like, with lots of berry and vegetal complexity. Using all five red Bordeaux grapes, there's a lot going on with this wine.


Samantha Dugan said...

I went ahead an did Tracy's survey, was not bad at all!

Benito said...


Thanks for helping out! I know she appreciates every bit of additional data.


The Wine Commonsewer said...

Me too, though it felt like cheating because I had just left your blog and well, it is such a great read that all the marks were +++++.

On a more relevant note, Rodney Strong has consistently made a decent to good cabernet that is a nice switch up when you want something a little better than week night fare but you don't want to spend a fortune. Around here' it's about twelve bucks and it reminds you of why you like Cabs. Me, anyway.