2015 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot
If Napa is the Bordeaux side of California – producing Cabernet and Merlot in prodigious quantities – then Russian River Valley (RRV), in Sonoma County, represents California’s Burgundy side. It produces almost exclusively Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
So named because the coast of California used to be inhabited by Russian whalers, the Valley’s eponymous river flows down from Mendicino heading south but then, just below Healdsburg, cuts west, creating a gorge in the coastal mountain range that empties into the Pacific at the tiny seaside town of Jenner.
This causeway substantially affects the environmental factors for wine production. Everyday the fog rolls in from the Pacific, pushing up the gorge and spilling into the Valley. Indeed, from the top of Chalk Hill, every morning starting around 3 am you can watch the slow seepage of fog first cover the base of the valley and then creep up the hillsides, where it will stay until 10 am to 1 pm, depending on sunlight. This fog is what allows Pinot Noir, a cool-climate-loving variety, to thrive.
While the Valley is young, being first commercially planted to Pinot in the 1960s, it is here that many of California’s most famous (and most expensive) Pinot Noir makers call home – William Seylem, Rocchioli, Kistler and many more. Yet there are a few families that got in early, own their own land, and continue producing unsung herooes of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. This is one such bottle:
The 2015 Rodney Strong RRV Estate Pinot has it all – the soft, luscious ripeness of California sunshine displaying itself in raspberry fruit; the pronounced aroma character of an actual cool-climate site making the wine dramatically aromatic in its fruit character but not restricted to it – spice, flowers, and underbrush all commingle with the fruit; a palate that is thoroughly California in its drinkability but also with energy and drive, making it full of flavor, but not heavy; and finally, with lift on the back of the palate – speaking towards its youth now, but its ageability for at least seven years.
Sadly, most of us don’t get to experience Russian River Valley Pinot Noir on a day-to-day basis – it’s now one of the most expensive places to make Pinot Noir. Yet we were able to squire away a stash of this Venus of a wine – and at a great price. Let’s get to some good drinking!
“An upbeat, modern style of Pinot that has a wealth of bright and ripe red-cherry aromas with a smoothly delivered, succulent palate that carries a long, juicy finish. Drink or hold.” – James Suckling