Rodney Strong Vineyards Upshot White Blend 2018, Upshot Red Blend 2017, Sonoma County
M ost wineries today offer at least one premium blend, and often several.
That’s great for us wine drinkers. I love wines that are 100 percent of one varietal, but to make that work, the grapes have to be really good. Now when a winemaker sees a deficiency in a particular grape, or wants to achieve something beyond that one varietal, he or she can blend in other grapes to create a better wine.
Rodney Strong Vineyards has done very well with blends, starting with their iconic Symmetry Meritage in 1996. Now with their Upshot non-traditional blends they are taking the process farther.
Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld has a passion for blending flavorful, approachable, deeply nuanced and unique wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards. With Upshot it looks like he has worked extra hard at combining varietals that you might not think go together.
The result is two great blends that are designed to appeal to a younger audience. Nowhere is that more evident than in the labels. Each Upshot label has a circular calendar that illustrates the journey from harvest to release in an entertaining way.
The label will change from year to year, to reflect the winemaking process each year. It will give consumers a chance to follow an overview of the process.
Upshot is defined as the final positive outcome of an action or series of events, in this case the growing of the grapes and the blending process. The upshot of all that work is two spectacular wines.
The white is a blend of chardonnay, grenache blanc, gewurtztraminer, white pinot noir (no skin contact), viognier and sauvignon blanc sourced from vineyards in Sonoma (46 percent), Monterery (36 percent) and Mendocino (18 percent) counties.
It is a bright, fruit-forward wine with aromas of peach and apricot. On the palate I tasted peach and melon with some minerality. It is a crisp, dry wine with a long, full finish.
The composition of the wine is 27 percent chardonnay, 21 percent grenache blanc, 18 percent gewurtztraminer, 17 percent pinot noir, 11 percent viognier and 6 percent sauvignon blanc.
The fruit for Upshot Red came from Sonoma County, with an emphasis on merlot (31 percent), zinfandel (31 percent) and malbec (30 percent). Riesling accounts for five percent and petit verdot adds three percent.
This is a rich, supple wine with plenty of blackberry and dark cherry notes. The tannins are smooth and rounded, and everything is in balance.
A late-season heat wave caused harvest to begin early, so most of the fruit was picked before the disastrous October fires. The fruit that was picked before the fires was considered exceptional throughout the county.
The winery says passion is at the center of Upshot wines.
“The upshot of blending these varietals is a wine that was made to underscore my passion for blending wine, a place that I love, and my enjoyment for this amazing life that I get to live,” said Seidenfeld.
Winery: Upshot is the latest venture for Rodney Strong Vineyards, which has been making outstanding wines for more than 50 years.
Rodney Strong had been a ballet dancer, but when he retired in 1959 he decided to start a new career as a winemaker. When asked why, Rod explained, “I knew I couldn’t be an old dancer, but I could be an old winemaker.”
He and his wife moved to Northern California, where they purchased a century-old boarding house and began making their first wines under the name Sonoma Vineyards. In the beginning, he purchased bulk wine and blended and bottled it to his taste in the cellar of the house, while Charlotte operated the tasting room on the ground floor.
In 1962, Strong purchased a turn-of-the-century winery and vineyard in Windsor, Sonoma County. Three years later he replanted his vineyards in chardonnay. He bought land in the Russian River Valley after taking out a loan in 1968. His was one of the first vineyards in a place that was known for dairies and fruit orchards. Using climate data from UC Davis, Strong figured out where to plant, and today those vineyards are among the best pinot noir vineyards in the region.
A winery building he built in 1970 now serves as a tasting room and lower cellar. In 1980 the winery was renamed Rodney Strong Vineyards.
Strong sold the winery, and later it was bought from the Guinness drinks empire by Tom Klein, a Stanford M.B.A. with familial roots in California agriculture. The winery’s total production is about 830,000 cases, making it the 20th-largest U.S. wine company.
Goes with: We had the red blend with vegetable beef soup, and it was an excellent pairing. The red fruit notes balanced off the rich, savory taste of the soup.
With the white blend we had frozen breaded shrimp that I warmed up in the oven. I had hashed brown potatoes with it while Teri had sweet potato puffs. It was a no-fuss meal that was tasty and was a great match for the shrimp.
The winery offers this recipe to match the white blend:
[box] Grilled Butterflied Citrus Chicken
One 4-pound chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Upshot white blend
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Prepare the chicken by placing in on a cutting board breast side down and using sharp kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut along the spine from one end to the other. Turn the chicken over, breast side up, and using the palm of your hand press down to flatten the chicken outward. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish.
In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, wine, juice of the lemon, limes and orange. Pour over the chicken and add the thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours and overnight if possible.
Preheat your grill to high. Place the chicken on the grill and sear on each side for five minutes. Transfer the chicken to an indirect heat spot on the grill and cook for about 45-50 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees and the chicken is no longer pink in the center. Serve with vegetables of your choice.[/box]
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at email@example.com
Author Dennis Sodomka