Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2018

Deep ruby color; black cherry, blackcurrant, plum, blueberry, chocolate, oak, tobacco, cedar, spice, minerality on the nose and palate.

Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2018

Dry; medium, dusty tannins and medium acidity (3.75 pH). This works as pop-and-pour, but became more mellow and integrated after decanting. Lot of dark fruit going on here. Full body. Not a smooth easy drinker, rather a serious cab with challenging nuances that will do especially well with rich red meats. 14.5% ABV

The deep roots of Rodney Strong began in 1904 with the planting of the River West Vineyard, just south of Healdsburg, where the Rodney Strong winery is located. The Klein family owns Rodney Strong today. Proprietor Tom Klein’s great-grandfather moved from New York to San Francisco with his three sons in 1906, when the historic earthquake destroyed their home and all their possessions. The boys were placed in an orphanage. After graduation, the boys enlisted in the U.S. Navy to serve in World War I. But, we get ahead of the story.

Rodney Strong-Klein family moves to San Fransisco
Rodney Strong
Rodney Strong dancer

Winery founder Rodney D. Strong was born in 1927 in Camas, Washington. In addition to being a three-sport athlete, musician, and senior-class president, “Rod” was a dance prodigy. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Rod studied at the American School of Ballet under legends George Balanchine and Martha Graham. He danced on Broadway, then produced shows at The Lido in Paris, where he fell in love with fine wine.

In 1959, Rod retired from dancing, married his dance partner, Charlotte Ann Winson, and began a new career in wine. “I knew I couldn’t be an old dancer,” he quipped, “but I could be an old winemaker.” After consulting with UC-Davis scientists, Rod and Charlotte settled in Sonoma. In 1962, he purchased a vineyard planted in “mixed grapes,” which he replanted mostly in chardonnay, the first chardonnay in what would become the celebrated Chalk Hill AVA. In 1968, he bought land and planted some of the first pinot noir in the Russian River Valley.

The Judgement of Paris in 1976 thrust California wine as an equal on the world stage. The same year, Rodney Strong released the 1974 Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon. Robert Parker rated the effort above all five Bordeaux First Growths in his first Wine Advocate newsletter, noting: “it is one of the finest cabernet ever made in California. If you can find it, consider yourself lucky.”

Rod handed off winemaker responsibilities to Rick Sayre in 1979. At the same time, Tom Klein completed his Stanford MBA and began working for an international management consulting firm hired to evaluate the potential of Rodney Strong Vineyards. Klein meet Rodney Strong and Rick Sayre. In 1989, the Klein family purchased Rodney Strong Vineyards and began an ambitious program of expanding and modernizing. In 2003, that included installing the largest solar array of any winery in the world.

Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong

In 2009, Rodney Strong celebrated its 50th anniversary, Rick Sayre’s 30th year as its winemaker, and the Klein family’s 20th year of ownership. In 2014, Wine Enthusiast named Rodney Strong the American Winery of the Year. In 2019, Rick Sayre became the winemaker emeritus and Justin Seidenfeld became director of winemaking, so this is the last Rodney Strong effort directed by Sayre.

Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2018 is rich, serious, dark fruit forward, full-bodied, complex. Checks the boxes for a big Sonoma cab. That will thrill some, others will not find pleasure in its austereness and lack of ripe fruit sweetness. Pair with big-boy beef—ribeye, short rib, strip, flatiron, kobe, wagyu; lamb; wild game—venison, boar; pork. Can work with comfort food—meatloaf, gourmet burgers, pizza, et al—but at this price point better to make it part of a higher-end repast. Cheese—cheddar, aged gouda, gorgonzola; aged cow’s milk cheese with some age; semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese with some age; slightly firm, soft-ripened cheese with earthy notes like triple-crème brie. $80-90

Rodney Strong website

Rodney Strong vineyard