Rodney Strong Vineyards
2006 Alexander Valley Estate Reserve Syrah
Syrah •Estate Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley
What We Say
Welcome to our 3rd Annual Wine Intrigue Awards! Each year, our Operatives vote for their top wine selections – and today we proudly present the Top Syrah of 2010, from our dear friends at Rodney Strong Vineyards. If you missed this Syrah, earlier this year, this is your final chance to see why this Syrah was selected as the best of 2010.
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Mission Codename: The Revenge of the Strongman
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Our best-selling Syrah of all time was Rodney Strong’s own 2005 vintage Reserve Syrah from the Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma County. Send Agent Red back to Rodney Strong Vineyards to retrieve their 2006 Alexander Valley Estate Syrah
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Rodney Strong Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Alexander Valley Estate Syrah
Winemaker: Rick Sayre
Backgrounder: Our Operatives loved the 2005 and 2004 vintages of Rodney Strong’s Alexander Valley Estate Syrah, making the wine the most popular Syrah we have ever featured. Today, Agent Red returns to Rodney Strong to procure the newest release of the wine, a more potent and more delicious vintage to be sure.
The popularity of Syrah is undeniable. Big and bold in flavor and texture, it packs a concentrated punch of flavor that many people love. This Rhone varietal, although many believe that the grape originated in the Persia region, is 100% French in lineage. The Syrah grape is directly descendant from the Monduese Blanche and Dureza varietals and is grown worldwide with great success. Today’s delightful Syrah is a bold delight with original flavors, deep aromatics and a ultra-fine mouth feel. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and interesting mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deepest garnet, clear but with a deeper core of black cherry, the wine maintains deep concentration of color right out to it’s red-rouge edges. The wine shows a soft and heavy when swirled, settling very quickly, and leaving behind tight clusters of heavy legs that start slowly and then rocket down the edges of the glass
Smell – Dark cherry, blackberry, black pepper and dried meats lead the way. These authentic aromas sit atop brighter cranberry, pencil shavings, subtle eucalyptus and soft, dusty leathery dried fruit
Feel – Light and cool on entry, then quickly grippy, as mouth-coating tannis bite in gently at the tip of the tongue – winding the way around the entire palate, introducing a mineral-slate dryness
Taste – Overripe blackberry, black cherry, smokey black fruit, black pepper, tobacco leaf, subtle sweetwoods, cranberry and a hint of star anise
Finish – Dark and dusky, with lingering black fruit and tobacco flavors. Softly dry and slightly tart, leading to a mouthwatering reminder to enjoy another sip
Conclusion – I have had the great fortune to have tasted through three successive vintages of this great wine. I loved each one, especially today’s wine. Our Operatives love Rodney Strong’s Estate Reserve Syrah, as well, making each vintage of the wine the best-selling Syrah we have ever featured. What is the secret to this wine? In a word, experience. It is a testament to the winemaking skills, to the quality of the fruit and the care that the vineyard team showers on these particular Syrah grapes each season. Today’s wine continues Rodney Strong’s tradition of over delivering on their Estate Reserve wines. Their 2006 Alexander Valley Estate Reserve Syrah is delicious, complex and rich in flavor and aromatics. Somewhat lighter in feel this year than in previous, today’s wine is still complex and a true delight to experience. In fact, with it’s lighter feel and finer acidity, this wine is more food-friendly than past vintages. Enjoy now, or cellar for a few years. Decant for at least 30 minutes, and be rewarded with broader aromatics and richer flavors.
The call came in the middle of the night.
“Go for red,” I answered groggily.
“Do you recognize my voice?”
I perked up almost immediately. It was Teech, a great asset and local college professor. Teech is a respected professor of Wine Industry Marketing at the Sonoma State University, and a great friend to the company.
Without saying her name, I replied, “I do. Go.”
“If I can guarantee your anonymity, will you come and guest lecture to my students?”
“I would be honored. Transmit the date and details, and I’ll be there. Depending on my mission on that day, I may have to come in disguise. That’ll help me keep my cover.”
She agreed and we signed off. A few minutes later, my smartphone chimed. Coordinates and full details were revealed to me on the small screen. I confirmed the date.
The weeks passed and I eventually found myself in front of a class of college students. I was there as a ‘wine industry marketing insider’, and I gave a talk on ‘alternative sales channels’. Actually, it was more like an informal dialog, with a short presentation and a longer Q&A session. It was good fun and almost all of the students actually stayed awake.
One student, in particular, had the tougher questions for me. I did my best to answer him, but as the questions became tougher, I realized that he was testing me. Was he trying to punch holes in my cover? I wondered. I kept my cool and decided to subtly press back.
It was obvious, to us both, what was happening here, so I made it a point to encourage other students to ask questions.
The presentation now over, the young man approached me. He reached into his jacket pocket. I tensed, ready to spring. He withdrew his hand – to reveal a business card. the card read, ‘Rodney Strong Vineyard’ and contained his name, [REDACTED], and title, [REDACTED].
I took the card and then accepted his outstretched hand. He said in a whisper, “Agent Red, I’m codename King. I’m your newest asset. I’ll be acting as your mole at Rodney Strong. I’ll reach out when I can secure a fantastic RS wine.”
I don’t know how he knew my true identity – and it didn’t much matter; And so a valuable new asset was developed. And, now you know how I came to procure today’s delicious Syrah for you!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Rodney Strong Vineyards (look for the the brick-colored, X-shaped building) can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Bold and rich, with layers of black plum, forest floor, blueberry, tar, and toast, this impressive, full-bodied wine was aged in 100% French oak, which adds a subtle smoky spice character. Enjoy this flavorful syrah now and over the next 3 to 6 years.
Philosphy: Introducing our first ever Reserve Syrah! We have only been growing and making syrah since the 2003 vintage, but as the 2006 season developed we were certain that one of our syrah blocks was going to be special. The Alexander Valley has developed a reputation as one of the premier red wine growing regions in the state, and we have been growing and making wine here for over forty years. This one small lot was vinified separately, aged in our finest barrels, and ultimately chosen by our winemakers for complexity, concentration, richness, and mouth-feel. Our finest syrah yet!
In The Cellar: We crafted our first Reserve syrah in our “winery within a winery.” Techniques, such as cluster pre-sorting, berry sorting, cold soaking, and a free-run only protocol were accomplished in a truly state of the art facility, with small tanks and equipment sized for the most discriminating vineyard selection process.
In The Vineyard: The 2006 vintage began with a rather late bud break during an unseasonably cool and wet spring. March rains slowed shoot growth down considerably, and set the timer for a late harvest. After a fine May and June, much of July was a scorcher, including a 10 day stretch where every day saw temperatures over 90 degrees, and several days topped out at 110! Fortunately, the delayed development of the grapes kept sun scorch to a minimum. Our Reserve Syrah fruit was hand picked on October 13th, and was accompanied by ideal harvest conditions.
About The Winery:
Rodney Strong is one of Sonoma County’s most dramatic wineries. Visitors are invited to our hospitality center offering a sampling of the award winning wines of Rodney Strong. Enjoy wine tasting with balcony views, taking a tour of the winery’s working centers, attending special events, or just relaxing with a picnic and glass of wine on our lush lawn set among the beautiful vineyards of the Russian River Valley.
“Rodney Strong Vineyards was founded on the recognition of Sonoma County’s potential for excellence. Through decades of grapegrowing and winemaking, we continue to fulfill the promise of the fine land. Our approach is for the grapes from each vineyard and growing region to express their intrinsic character in the special wines we craft. Gentle handling, careful use of barrel and stainless steel fermentation and proper oak aging are guided and monitored to enhance the natural characteristics of our fruit.”
“Today the winery owns and farms many exceptional vineyards in Sonoma County’s prime grapegrowing appellations where our critically acclaimed Estate, Vineyard Designated and Reserve wines are grown.” – Rick Sayre, Winemaker.
About The Winemaker:
Rick Sayre – Vice President, Director of Winemaking – Rick Sayre began his winemaking career in 1970 at the age of 19 as assistant winemaker and cellar master at Simi Winery in Sonoma County. He joined Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1979 and since has been responsible for winemaking for the Winery’s Sonoma County, Estate, and Reserve wines.
As a practitioner of handcrafted wines, Rick is involved in all aspects of winemaking from vineyard management through final blending. In 1991, his hands-on approach paid off as Wine & Spirits Magazine named him “Chardonnay Winemaker of the Year”. Again, in 1999 Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences named him “Winemaker of the Year”.
Rick’s education in winemaking began in the 1970s under the direction of the world-renowned winemaster, Andre Tchelistcheff. It is to Tchelistcheff that he attributes his passion for the art and his desire to master the craft. Always a perfectionist with an eye for detail, Rick continues to apply these traits to making the fine wine of Rodney Strong Vineyards. “It’s so important to be aware of everything,” he says. “Andre taught me that a winemaker must live with his wine, from walking the vineyards, to the careful craft of guiding the wine into bottle. Even the smallest details can have an effect.”
Rick has expanded his winemaking expertise with several trips to France, where he studied the interplay of oak and wine. His voracious appetite for knowledge in winemaking from around the world also inspired journeys to Australia, New Zealand and Spain.
After visiting many of the French cooperage houses, he decided to bring their barrel toasting techniques back to the States and became the first winemaker in California to install an in-house cooperage, specializing in toasting of American oak barrels. In recent years, Rick has worked closely with World Cooperage, a renown American cooperage company, in an effort to perfect the American oak barrel for winemaking.
Since his arrival at Rodney Strong Vineyards, Rick has been instrumental in bringing worldwide notoriety to the Winery’s Estate wines. Alexander’s Crown Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Chalk Hill Vineyard Chardonnay have set standards of Sonoma County winemaking, and have become favorites to consumers all over the United States.
Rick lives in Windsor with his wife, Peggy. Avid gardeners, the two are often spotted at the local farmer’s market selling their fruits and vegetables. Rick enjoys cooking delicious comfort food to accompany his wines. He also finds solace in casting a line now and again for any of a variety of fish. And, while he enjoys a handful of other sporting activities, he admits bruises and broken bones are for days past.
Winemaker: Rick Sayre
Residual Sugar: 0.03%
Appellation: Alexander Valley
Blend: 98% Syrah, 2% Zinfandel
Cellar & Fermentation: 22 months in 100% French oak barrels