Rockaway Baby in the Vineyard

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as sample.

Let’s talk about something really cool and revolutionary from a long established Sonoma Winery. A first, that I am aware of, in the wine industry, in what I can only hope will become an industry standard. Rodney Strong is a well-recognized and well respected wine brand, and they are breaking ground in many ways with their new wine project.

Rodney Strong chose to do something with their new allocated brand, Rockaway, that no other winery I know of has done: they released it in a concentrated effort to wine bloggers before it was released to main stream media, in a pr campaign that culminates in the release of the first vintage on September 1. I am happy and honored to join the company of Jeff from Good Grape, Dr. Debs from Good Wine Under $20, Tim of WineCast, Kori of WinePeeps, Renee from Feed Me/Drink Me, and Joe from 1 Wine Dude, in being among the first to announce this wine to you. I highly suggest you visit all of the above mentioned sites for further reviews of Rockaway, all from the unique perspectives of these great bloggers.

Tasting the Rockaway initial release, a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, presented an opportunity I could not pass up. Being part of a release of a brand new wine brand, before it even hits the standard wine publications is part of a breakthrough effort.

A little about Rockaway. Rockaway is a “winery within a winery” project for Rodney Strong, currently under the leadership of owner Tom Klein. Over the last 10 years, Rodney Strong has undergone a program of replanting or purchasing high quality vineyards in the Alexander Valley. The result is Rockaway, and its soon to be followers from the 2006 and 2007 vintages, Brother’s Ridge and Alexander’s Crown. To craft these wines, grapes from only the best (meaning most tasty) vines/rows of the vineyard are selected and sorted in the vineyard before being delivered directly to the tanks where they will undergo fermentation. In a final feat of expressing the best of the land, the wine is made completely of free-run juice, meaning that it is crushed without the use of a press, and thus containing only the grape juice, without interference from the pressing of skins and seeds, which can add bitter flavors and more tannins to the wine.

Now the wine. 2005 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petite Verdot. It has a real cork closure and clocks in at 15.4% alcohol by volume. Rockaway is a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. The wine is expected to cost about $75 and will be released only through an allocation program. An allocation program means that you sign up for the winery’s list and are then entitled to purchase a certain number of bottles. It will be the only way to get your hands on a bottle of Rockaway.

On the nose I found vanilla and another slightly sweet aroma that I can’t place. The vanilla on the nose blew off fairly quickly, revealing raspberries, blueberries, spice, earth, leather, mint, a hint of eucalyptus, blackberry, black currant, and cedar. The fruit smelled quite ripe and the aroma was wonderful. I had to yell at Matt to not drink it too quickly as I really wanted to enjoy this wine after getting a whiff of the nose! In the mouth I found black currant, earth, forest, spice, cloves, wood, cedar, blackberries, strawberry, and the slightest hint of cocoa. The fruit was dark and prominent.

I served the wine with petite fillet mignon which may have been the best match of Cabernet Sauvignon and steak I have ever had. As soon as I new I was getting this wine, I started planning my steak dinner to go with it. The wine had excellent structure and great balance, even with the higher alcohol content. The tannins were also there, making it the perfect match with the juicy meaty and slightly fatty steak. A definite must of a pairing for this absolutely delicious wine. I would be most interested to see how this wine tastes in 5-10 as I think it will be able to age with the best of them and will only get better with time.

If this sounds up your alley, be sure to head over to the Rockaway Vineyard site and add your name to the allocation list so you’ll be able to get your hands on some!


7 Responses

  1. How incredibly cool to be one of the tasters. I want to be you when I grow up.

  2. Awesome match up… would have *loved* to have tried this with some steak! Nice…!

    I also got your link posted in my review (finally… sorry! 🙂


  3. Are you saying that the fermentation was done only with the juice?

  4. Hi there. Robert Larsen, from Rodney Strong here. I checked with winemaking and our wine educator to make sure I got this right. Here is, what perhaps might be too much of an answer. I hope it clarifies.

    The use of the term “free run” can be applied in two ways.

    The one that most people think of is actually relative to white wine grapes. When they arrive at the winery, since only the juice will be fermented, they go to a press to separate the juice from the skins and seeds. When the bin holding grapes is tipped into a receiving hopper, “free run” juice, caused by the weight of the grapes on themselves, can be kept separate and is deemed by many as superior. Also, for wineries that de-stem their white wine grapes before pressing, the juice that naturally is expelled in that process, prior to pressing, can also be kept separate, and is also referred to as “free run.”

    The “free run” in red wine making is different. Red wines are fermented as berries, all skins and seeds included. When the wine has finished fermenting, the fermenter is drained over a screen, leaving the skins and seeds behind. At some point these skins and seeds, collectively known as “pomace”, are shoveled into a press to extract the remaining wine. Rockaway does not include this pressed wine, only the wine that freely drains from the pomace on its own. That is red winemaking “free run.”


  5. Hi Robert
    Ok. Thanks for your explanation. The reason why I posted the question was that the terms “juice” and “crushed” in Sonadora’s text were not coherent with the wine on the photo as they are connected with grape processing. So I wondered if you had a white wine made from red grapes, the same way it’s done with some sparkling wines.
    I’m small non-commercial winemaker from Portugal. My wine is also produced with “free-run juice” the same way you do. It’s one of the steps to do the best possible red wine.
    In here we distinguish the two free-runs: for the whites we call it “bica-aberta” that can be translated as free-run and for the reds we call it “lágrima” wine (“lágrima” means tear, from crying). The wine from the press is called press wine.
    Kind regards.

  6. Dhonig-I want to be me too….wait….

    Joe, the match was awesome!

    Milton, I’m glad Robert could answer your question for you. I’m sorry my post wasn’t clear enough.

    Thanks for answering Robert!

  7. Happy to reply. What a fun storm, huh?

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