Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Vintage- 2005
Type- Red
Producer- Rodney Strong
Variety- 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 4% Petite Verdot
Vineyard- Rockaway
Country- USA
Region- California
SubRegion- Sonoma County
Appellation- Alexander Valley
Alcohol 15.4%

The Big Wooden Guy's first impression of this wine has to do with the weight of the bottle. It weighs a ton. Well, actually, it weighs 2 pounds, 3.8 ounces (1.015 kilograms), EMPTY! For comparison, the bottle for 1998 Sociando Mallet weighs 1 pound 4.7 ounces (0.58 kilograms). Add that it was sent to me (for free, a sample, full disclosure here) in Styrofoam packing, and this thing is a carbon footprint nightmare. There is a paper label on the back containing all the legally required information. The front, though, lacks a label. Instead it is simply embossed "ROCKAWAY," with an embossed vineyard running all the way around the bottle. Everything about the bottle says "TAKE ME SERIOUSLY!"

Night One

The color is very deep dark garnet almost all the way to the edge, where it finally gives way to about an 1/8" of bright ruby.

The nose is rich and jammy, filled with dark fruit. It is mostly blackcurrant and plum, with some blackberries and eucalyptus at the back end of a big sniff. After an hour of so open a fleeting glimpse of espresso played hide-and-seek amid the fruit.

This was just as dark on the palate, very jammy and sweet. Blackcurrants and mulberry, along with some meaty smokiness opened the attack. Cedar and vanilla made their first appearance on the mid-palate, which quickly evolved to vanilla and brown sugar on toast. The sugar is cloying, the finish long but too sweet, all brown sugar and maple syrup.

Five hours it changed some. Tannins started to appear as the jammy fruit settled down a bit. There was more blackberry, less mulberry and blackcurrant, with a strong smooth leathery tannin backbone. There was a quick vegetal hint in the mid-palate. The finish, though, is still dominated by vanilla, brown sugar and maple.

Night Two

The nose seems to have settled down quite a lot. There is still plenty of fruit but it is balanced by some earth. There is also some licorice and a bit of mixed eucalyptus and menthol.

The wine settled down a great deal on the palate, too. There are still plenty of big flavors, blackberries and plums, but Night Two brings more nuance and more layers. The attack has blackberries and plums, plus licorice and a little spice. The mid-palate is greatly expanded, bringing unsweetened chocolate, cherries, and toasted almond skins. Tannins are smooth and fine, but pronounced. There is plenty of backbone to this, enough to give a few years, at the least, in the cellar.

This is a great big modern wine, very ripe and fruity, very powerful. It is not really my personal style. I prefer a bit more subtlety. That said, this has the potential to be good after several years in the cellar to settle down and integrate. $80 is a good chunk of change to spend on potential. Unfortunately, that is actually below the going rate for similar California Cabs.


Jeff (Good Grape) said...

Glad to see you reviewing this one.

You can tell this is a good wine, but it needs a good bit of time to mellow out.

I had my bottle under a Vacu-vin and on day five it not only drank well, it drank very nicely.


dhonig said...

Thanks for the comment, Jeff. Next up is a review of the Rodney Strong Reserve '04. The comparison is interesting. I get the feeling the $40 Reserve turned into the $80 Rockaway.