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A Master Sommelier Candidate Takes on the Allocated Rockaway Release

*Ed. Note* 

Guest blogging on Good Grape is Arthur Black, who occasionally, with lightheartedness, goes by the nom de plume, Arturo Negro.  Arthur is a Master Sommelier candidate well in tune, from his professional life, with Rodney Strong wines, the winery from which this new allocated offering comes.  Unbiased, cool with an insane palate, Arthur gives his take on the new Rockaway wine that releases on September 1 from RSV.  Find out more information at the web site, or sign up for the list.

Having the opportunity to assess Rockaway, a new endeavor of Rodney Strong, is an honor. Over the past several years I’ve had the pleasure of selling a lot of Rodney Strong in restaurants when I was still on the floor, in wine shops during my off premise retail stint, and I’m happy to say the wholesaler that I am currently a Director of Education for, National Wine & Spirits, is fortunate to be the purveyor of Rodney Strong wines here in Indiana.

Some may assume that I have an obvious bias, considering my history with the brand, but those that know me, would certainly tell you that my sincere appreciation of objective wine assessment has gotten me in trouble a number of times, because I am quick to speak my mind and am usually quite candid. The truth is I do not care about a wine producer’s reputation, whether they are “savvy” or trendy, the prices they may demand, or even if they have wines with multiple 90+ scores. To me, it is all about what is in the glass. Now, that being said, and in my opinion, Rodney Strong has continuously produced great, well-priced wines. They show the pedigree and class that California can yield, while deviating from increased industry trends of outrageous and undeserved price increases (thank you) and the growing tendency of many wineries to produce homogenous and monotonous wines that all taste the same and could very well be made from anything and from any where (thank you, thank you).


Since far too many people fail to appreciate the visual beauty of the things we ingest before swallowing them, let us start with how the Rockaway looks. To the eye, Rockaway, entirely opaque in its concentration, is like looking at a glass of liquid black, with a hue of aubergine (by using “aubergine,” instead of “eggplant,” the reader should assume I know ONE French word) that paints the crystal bulb of your wine glass while you twist the stem with your finger tips. Since the “tears” or “legs” snail pace their way down the inside of the glass and show an obvious blood-purple in their center, you can easily gather that this wine is not only high in alcohol and full in body, but will have plenty of extract, leaving whomever partakes of this bottle with some real purple lips.

On the nose, it shows ripe and fleshy primary aromas of dark currants and cassis with brandied black cherries, as well as soft notes of dark ground espresso, cocoa, and some sweet oak showing as vanilla extract, graham cracker cinnamon, and baking spices. Pretty cool!

Enough visual and odiferous meditation, lets drink this thing; assuming high levels of concentration from the look of the wine, one is certainly not disappointed when tasting this wine. I’m not typically in the school of “bigger is better,” but in this case I’ll make an exception because Rockaway shows what most “big” wines lack…..the concentration is well balanced by appropriate acidity, therefore the wine maintains strong structural integrity, as well as sound representation of fruits that parallel those perceived on the nose, and great tannins; sweet and ripe, coating the palate, as should be expected considering the grape variety’s nature, but not austere, unripe, nor aggressive.

I only have one criticism and it’s that a wine that shows and registers at 15%+ alcohol, whether or not it’s balanced by fruit and acid or is agreeable to this person or that critic’s palate, is not really showing Alexander Valley typicity (it also makes it hard to finish a bottle and walk a straight line….just kidding, in my case, my body’s resilience to ABV is legendary…or so I think).

For the most part, I am very pleased with the Rockaway and those I shared it with instantly noticed its obvious pedigree and multifaceted character. It certainly has layers, “like an onion,” or perhaps, “like a parfait,” depending on whether you like to quote Shrek or Donkey of course, and after all, who doesn’t like parfait! This wine is a solid, full bodied, California wine, that shows some wicked fruit and integrated oak, as well as considerable concentration in the right way {that is phenolically ripe tannins and not the mega-purple or stemish breed (look up adulteration and concentration to see what I mean)}, and definitely needs some aeration time and will most certainly benefit from some cellaring time. Point – buy multiple bottles and try one every 3-5 years to watch it develop. Rodney Strong, in the words of 2-Pac, “you are appreciated!”

Arturo Negro


Posted in, Good Grape Wine Reviews. Permalink | Comments (5) |


On 08/19, 1WineDude wrote:

Great review.  And it makes me feel like I’m not a total palate dweeb since I found some of the same elements (and relative quality).

And everybody loves parfait!


On 08/19, Christy wrote:

Mr. Black - thought I recognized the name…and then you started to talk about N&S Indiana.  I met you several years ago while I was hauling around James Gosper, winemaker for Green Point wines - we had driven all night to get to a Friday sales meeting.  Shoot me an email - would love to hear what you’re up to, sounds like all good stuff.


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On 08/20, Tish wrote:

I am a big RS fan, too. Nice to see you be able to present such a thorough and balanced review, even though you are connected to the brand. (In this age of “blind” tasters presenting themselves as the only arbiters of quality is ridiculous; people who WORK with a wine usually tend to KNOW it better.)

However, I do have a couple simple questions: What, exactly, is in the wine. ANd is this a new label, or just a new wine from Rodney Strong? ANd retail price?...

On 08/20, Robert Larsen wrote:

Okay, Robert Larsen of Rodney Strong, piping up to answer Tish (hi there Tish). The wine is comprised of 92% cabernet, 4% malbec and 4% petit verdot.  It is part of the Rodney Strong portfolio with a suggested retail of $75.  Further, it is the first of three single vineyard cabernets to come from what we call our winery within a winery, where we focus on small-lot wines and consult with David Ramey.  The other two cabs will be released over the next two years.

On 08/26, Tish wrote:

I enjoyed the review and figured it was a Cab. Just wasn’t sure if it was more of a Meritage type.

Meanwhile, I poured the 2005 RS Reserve Cab the other night alongside the more expensive WHitehall Lane 2004 Silver Anniversary Cab and it was a crowd pleaser.


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