by Laura Ness
The 2018 North Coast Wine Challenge saw some head-to-head competition between some mighty fine wines in the final sweepstakes round, including the fight for Best Rosé honors. In the end, the 2017 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rosé took home top honors.
A very pale ruby pink hue declared the 2017 Rodney Strong rosé to be pinot noir from every angle, and the delicately etched label evoked a spring turning to summer day spent in the countryside, or perhaps on the balcony of a swanky hotel somewhere in the city.
Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld says the wine came from a series of vineyards, all in the Russian River Valley. The wine was 100% pinot noir, picked for rosé at 20—21 Brix, and direct pressed, using whole cluster, with a finished alcohol of 12%.
Says Seidenfeld, “I used several different clones in this wine. To help achieve the color I wanted, I used some Martini and Pommard clones. To achieve the floral component, I picked clone 115, and for mid-palate and structure, I chose clone 2A.”
He notes that the skin contact time varied from zero to 6 hours, depending on the clone and the time the fruit got to the winery. “The fruit really shines through with focused flavors, great natural acidity and the typical balance of Russian River Valley pinot noir,” he notes.
All in all, they ended up with 13,500 cases at a price point of $25/bottle. Seidenfeld says they had been making the rosé on a smaller scale for winery only sales since 2015, but the 2017 was their first national release. It’s long since sold out.
For 2018, they definitely upped production to meet market demand. Says Seidenfeld, “We grew our production in 2018 and I updated the color to be just a little lighter. I also brought in a little of clone 777 into the blend to add more delicate floral notes to the wine.”
According to Alisa Way, Marketing Communications Coordinator, the first year Rodney Strong entered the North Coast Wine Challenge was 2013.
Although Rodney Strong has won Best of Show at other wine competitions, this was the winery’s first Best of Show award from North Coast Wine Challenge. In the past, they’ve received several 95 point Gold medals at the competition.
Asked how they decide which wines to enter in this particular competition, Way says, “We enter two of our three tiers. Our Sonoma County tier, which consists of a chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon that falls in the $20 or less category and then we have our Estate tier which consists of two chardonnays, one sauvignon blanc, two cabernet sauvignon’s and two pinot noir’s, ranging from $17 – $35. We typically don’t enter our wines that are $75+.” They plan to enter NCWC again this year, as they like to support the local competitions.
When asked what makes NCWC unique or different from other competitions, Way replied, “We like the fact that the North Coast Wine Challenge is a wine competition that focuses exclusively on wines produced and bottled in Northern California’s premier winegrowing region.”
They also enjoy pouring at the annual public tasting, sponsored by the Press Democrat. “We were a big hit, including the rosé!” says Way.