Rodney Strong Vineyards
2004 Alexander Valley Estate Syrah
Syrah •Estate Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley
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Mission Codename: The Strongman
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Rodney Strong Vineyards and retrieve any remaining bottles of their exceptional Estate Syrah
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Rodney Strong Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2004 Alexander Valley Estate Syrah
Winemaker: Rick Sayre
Backgrounder: 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 – A deep and inky garnet, with an ultra-dark heart. When swirled, this wine shows off a surface that is fast and loose. On halting the swirling, the center of the wine continues to spin as tight clusters of skinny legs move down the glass at a slow pace
Smell – Rich layers of deep blackberry, plum, black cherry and soft spice lead off, then undertones of earth and licorice fade in
Feel – Very wet, round and velvet-smooth at the front of the palate, then soft tannins appear at the mid coating the mouth and adding a pleasurable hint of dryness
Taste – A bevy of delicious flavors, starting off with a rich hit of authentic (natural) blackberry, semi-tart red cherry and smoky light plum – and followed by smoky soft oak, mild spice and a subtle hint of licorice
Finish – Starts off velvety and rich, with bright fruit, then flavors tail off very slowly, leaving behind a rich, delicious and slightly smoky/licorice flavor
Conclusion – An exceptionally delicious wine that makes me sad that I had not discovered it sooner! A big and rich wine with plenty of character and complexity, it is also refined and even subtle on some levels. This is a wine to sit and sip and ponder as its many layers and levels gradually reveal themselves to you. If you love fantastic Syrah, brace yourself to be very impressed. I know that I was. It should be noted that this wine is also very food-friendly. Where some California Syrah may overpower a finer meal, this wine has the structure and acidity to compliment beautifully. Thanks, Rodney Strong, we are very impressed by this wine!
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 Theech, 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 Rodnety 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
The noble grape of France’s Rhone valley has found new roots in Sonoma County’s beautiful Alexander Valley. Our shallow, stony soils that drain exceptionally well, along with warm to hot days and cool nights provide conditions here that must remind syrah of its original home in places like Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
The 2004 vintage began with an early bud break during an unseasonably warm March, followed by a contrastingly cool April. After a normal May and June, July and the first part of August were on the cool side, but by the end of August, harvest was well underway as a heat spell got ripening going strong and early for most varietals, with all of our syrah in by the 15th of September.
Very rich, with juicy black fruits, earth, smoke and spicy oak character, this expression of the syrah grape from this special region will impress you now, and will reward aging over the next 2 to 4 years.
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.