Rodney Strict Vineyards impressed the judges with an NCWC rosé that reflects the nurtured soil on which it was grown.
Pink wine should not just be an “extra” bottle that you take when you and your friends decide to move on. And it certainly shouldn’t be made for the sole purpose of “reusing” the juice from the fermentation of red wine to concentrate those flavors. Fortunately, rosé has experienced a renaissance in the United States in recent years, and winemakers have abandoned the groundbreaking, sweet versions favored in the past in favor of a drier European style. It’s a change that has forced wine lovers to pay attention, reevaluate and express a new understanding of rosé wine.
Today’s dews have taken their place at the judging table and proven themselves worthy of serious consideration. For example, Rodney Strictly Vineyards’ 2019 Sonoma County Rosé, made from Pinot Noir, was selected by the judges as the best rosé wine in the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge (NCWC), organized by the Democratic Press Party. The competition is open only to wines made from grapes grown in California vineyards, including those in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, Marin and parts of Solano County. Now in its ninth year, the NCWC added the rosé category just five years ago in response to the increase in quality.
“This wine is an intentional rosé,” Chris O’Gorman, the winery’s public relations manager, says of the winner. “It comes from fruit grown specifically for this wine, not from juice taken from another wine as a byproduct. “We make this wine from Pinot Noir grapes grown specifically for rosé in the Russian River Valley, one of the best places in the world to grow Pinot. And we do it in a dry, edible way. It’s really a wine where everything comes together and blends harmoniously to make a great glass of wine.”
Like many American wineries, Rodney Strong’s program has evolved over time. “We used to make a small amount of Malbec rosé for our Rodney Strong summer concert program, but five years ago we upped the ante with our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rosé, and the response has been incredible,” says winemaker Justin Seidenfeld, who has been part of the team for ten years. ‘The wine is excellent, and we seem to have synchronized the rosé and the ‘wave’ well.
What it means to win
The winery participates in several competitions each year, but for O’Gorman, the NSCJ is one of the most important. “The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is our local newspaper, so this contest is one of the most important because it’s literally in our backyard,” he says. “Plus, every year it’s fun to compete with all of our friends and neighbors to see who makes the best cabs, pinot, chardonnay, etc., and of course we then buy them and enjoy them.”
Of course, it’s even better if your wine is among the winners. “We are honored and delighted to have won this year’s award for best rosé,” he says. “It is the culmination of years of hard work by many people, from our winemakers to our winery and marketing teams.”
“This competition is important because it is associated with the most important local publication in the region and it gives our team members a great sense of pride in our hometown,” added Seidenfeld. “We are pleased and proud to have won this competition against such great wineries.
Like many other wineries in their respective counties, Rodney Strong has endured years of fires and evacuations, as well as the hardships of a global pandemic that has closed tasting rooms and limited face-to-face interaction with consumers. “Winning now gives us the opportunity to celebrate success amidst difficult years for the wine industry and our community,” says O’Gorman. “We will certainly promote this award and hope it will inspire new customers to taste Rodney Strong wines.
For Rodney Strong, community is more than just winning local competitions. The winery has long supported organizations that benefit regional institutions. “Rodney Strong Vineyards has been a passionate supporter of our community for decades,” says O’Gorman. “Our founder, Rod Strong, was a world-renowned dancer, and we sponsor the Rodney Strong Luther Burbank Dance Series in his honor. We also support dozens of local charities, including the Food Bank of Santa Rosa, the Redwood Empire Food Bank, and national charities such as C.O.R.E. [Children of Restaurant Workers], Jose Andres World Central Kitchen, American Forests and others.
That same commitment to better things extends to the fields. In the 1990s, Tom Klein, the owner of Rodney Strong, challenged the team to make sustainability a core value of the company and to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. It became the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma County. In 2003, it installed the largest solar installation of any winery in the world and recently renewed an entire system that produces more than 50% of the winery’s total electricity needs.
All of the vineyards recently received sustainability certification for the second time. “The winery has a strong recycling program and we also use pressure technology in the vineyards to reduce water,” says O’Gorman. “Part of our sustainability program is continuous improvement, so we are always looking for ways to make improvements in this area.
Seidenfeld joins Rodney Strong after working as an oenologist at Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley, where he gained a thorough knowledge of quality viticulture and winemaking methods. In addition to winemaking, his job is to oversee all of the winery’s vineyards and work closely with the dedicated winemakers to ensure continuous quality improvement.
“Rodney Strong was exciting to me because of his dedication to growing the winery’s vines,” he says of his decision to join the winery.
“All of our vineyards are certified at the highest level by CSWA [California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance] and are also certified for fish farming,” he says. “And while the certifications are excellent, we go above and beyond to make sure our process has as little impact on the environment as possible by using technology, conservation and best agricultural practices.
As the saying goes, the best soil makes the best wine.
The 2021 North Coast Press Democrat Wine Challenge is now accepting entries. Visit www.pdncwc.com for more information.
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The permission to bomb was essentially a declaration of war.
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