A couple of years ago now, I was in a bit of a quandary; I had been hired to conduct a wine tasting here in Houston and the wine I had ordered for the event was delayed in transit, doubtful to show up in time. Since I had “sold” the event as an examination of the effects of time on wine and was going to pour several vintages of a few wines, I could not just go to my local wine store and buy replacements.
In what I like to describe as an “all-out panic” I contacted a few of the friends I had made in the wine industry to see if there was any way they could help. And boy did they.
One of those people was my good friend, Chris O’Gorman, the Director of Communications at Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg, California.
I am not entirely certain when Chris and I first met, but I think it was at a Wine Bloggers Conference about a decade ago. We immediately hit it off despite his affinity for sports teams from the Bay Area. I have since visited Chris and his incredible wife Alexandra multiple times, many at their home in Cloverdale.
They are a fantasstic couple, with two fantastic kids and both have been wonderfully supportive of me and this little blog. To that end, Chris sent me two bottles each of three vintages of Rodney Strong Symmetry, the winery’s iconic red meritage which they have been producing for some thirty-odd years.
Well, it turned out that the wines I had originally purchased for the tasting showed up in the nick of time and I held onto these “emergency replacements” since then, trying to figure out a way to use them.
That happened last month as I decided to host two dinners for others in my community and raise funds for two causes that are important to both my wife and me: the Palliative Care Program at Texas Children’s Hospital, and the East Spring Branch Food Pantry. (Full disclosure: my wife is the director of the Palliative Care Program at TCH).
By all accounts (at least those who spoke to me afterward), the evening was successful and informative. Here are my notes on the Rodney Stron Symmetry Meritages–the dinners took place about three weeks apart and it was surprising how different the wines were.
2010 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $55. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot. This was the first wine of the second of three mini-verticals and this was stellar–dark in the glass, with oodles of dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis, raspberry), plum, but also spice, and a distinct greenness that comes close to green pepper, but is closer to an herbal aspect. Great balance and a wonderful finish. This is fantastic. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2015 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $65. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. I conducted a wine tasting with three mini-verticals, and this was the second wine of the second threesome. Rather dark and shy in the glass with just a bit of dark fruit, mint, and eucalyptus coming through on the nose. The palate is far more expressive, though with intense dark fruit, a near-bracing tartness, and a well above-average finish. Yowza. I am a big fan of Rodney Strong in general, and I have stated that the Symmetry brand is underpriced and undervalued. This really is gorgeous. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2016 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $65. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Big Ass Bottle. One of Rodney Strong’s top wines every year, this Meritage has been produced for three decades, regularly scoring top scores from various critics. Dark and spicy in the glass, with luscious fruit (plum, blackberry), vanilla, oak, and spice (black pepper, allspice). The palate is even more complex with an initial wave of fruit, then a nice dose of acidity, and several layers of depth. Perhaps the most striking element of the wine, however, is the finish, which lasts for at least a couple of minutes. Initially quite tight, this wine did not really open up until after a healthy decant and several hours open. Excellent. 92 Points.
2010 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $55. Heavy bottle. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot. Three weeks ago I held the exact same tasting, so it would not be a surprise if the wines were in a similar place. A heavy dose of mocha and a hint of green pepper are the first impressions on the nose, along with some dark berry fruit and a host of spices. The palate? Lovely. Still fantastic fruit, with blackberry and plum seeming to be the most present. Whoa. The tartness comes in immediately after the fruit and is assertive, but in a good, balancing way. The mid-palate introduces spice (and just a hint of heat (15.5%), but that dissipates by the finish, which is lovely and lengthy. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2015 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $65. Heavy bottle. Under DIAM30. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. When I tried this three weeks ago for a similar tasting event at my humble abode, I loved it. I still do, to no surprise. Dark, but not brooding in the glass with a panoply of black and blue fruit: blackberry, plum, cassis. While the fruit is certainly intense and at the front, there is also considerable spice behind it. Whoa. The palate follows suit as it is initially all about the fruit, so much so that it comes off as a bit round, even on the verge of flabby, but the acidity comes roaring in on the mid-palate. With. A. Vengeance. Whoa. This is wonderful now, with the tannins mostly integrated, but this will likely continue to evolve over the next 3, 5, 10 (?) years. Whoa. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2016 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $55. Big Ass Bottle. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. The last note I “wrote” on this wine was, well, less than stellar. I was hosting a wine tasting and was a bit short of time. tonight, I am again hosting a tasting, but I am going through the wines before the guests arrive. Genius. Unless I get hammered. Compared to the 2010 and the 2015, this nose is by far the shyest with just touches of dark fruit and spice coming through. After a few more swirls, mocha, basil, and oregano. In other words, surprisingly herbal. The palate is rich initially, but it quickly dials back a notch as the acidity and tannins come in. Those tannins are soft, but noticeable, all the way through the finish, suggesting this could use a little more time (3-5 years?). Still, fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points.