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Rodney Strong Wines Provide Strong Flavors

It is not uncommon to see people leaving the entertainment or sports world to pursue wine. What else are they going to do with all that money? Brad Pitt, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Zac Brown, Johnny Depp, Dave Mathews, and David Beckham are just some of the more well-known people who have put their names behind new wines. But few of these new legacy wines, as they are called, last very long, and rarely do entertainers actually get involved in wine making.

One that has lasted, however, is Rodney Strong Vineyards. Did you know Rodney Strong was a professional Broadway dancer? While dancing in Paris for four years, he fell in love with wine. When he founded the winery that bears his name in 1959, he was one of the first to plant vineyards in prime Sonoma locations, such as Chalk Hill and the Russian River Valley.

After a tumultuous series of owners, long-time family farmer Tom Klein purchased the operation in 1989 and he currently farms about 1,250 acres of vines in Sonoma County. Strong, pictured below, died in 2006.

For the last 39 years, Rick Sayres (pictured below with Rodney) has crafted the wines for Rodney Strong Vineyards, producing award-winning wines that we have often reviewed favorably. However, last May, winemaking veteran Justin Seidenfeld, who has been with Rodney Strong for eight years, took over his duties.

In a recent interview, Seidenfeld said new technology allows him to remotely monitor the winery's annual production of 850,000 cases. An app on his phone allows him to control tank fermentation temperatures and pump-overs. This intense attention to detail is critical when each fermentation tank can contain one million dollars worth of wine.

Seidenfeld will be traveling to France to supervise the purchase of barrel lumber from 250-year-old oak trees. He will then oversee the seasoning of the wood for 2 to 5 years, and their transformation into wine barrels.

Justin also supervises “Innovation Kitchen” at Rodney Strong, where staff is constantly experimenting with various elements of the wine making process. Testing with different fermentation vessels, fermentation protocols, yeast and cooperage trials are all part of the process at Rodney Strong to live up to Justin’s credo that “passion plus practice equals progress.”

Among the four wines we tasted with Seidenfeld was the debut of a rosé worth seeking. The Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Sonoma County 2017 ($22) is light in color and, according to Seidenfeld, is modeled after the iconic French rosé Domaine Ott, which he believes is the best in the world.

The aromas and flavors are strawberry and watermelon. The wine was made as a rosé and not the result of saignee, or the bleeding off of red wine, like many rosés.

Seidenfeld prefers to pick the grapes for his rosé at a lower brix tha