Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Rowen Wine Company

Last November on a trip to Sonoma County, I visited Rodney Strong Vineyards in Alexander Valley. Touring the property with winemaker Justin Seidenfeld, we stopped by a The Boneyard, an area of the winery that had once been a storage area for founder Rod Strong’s items, including his old piano. Justin was telling me that he had converted this space into a state-of-the-art winery for his newest project, Rowen Wine Company. This week the wines were launched and Rowen Wine Company is the Please The Palate Pick of the Week.

Rodney Strong Vineyards was established in 1959 by dancer Rod Strong and purchased by the Klein family in 1989. They own 12 estate vineyards in Sonoma Country. In 2002, Rodney Strong Vineyards signed a long-term lease for the Cooley ranch, a 20,000 acre property north of Dry Creek Valley. Actually, 16,000 acres sit inside Sonoma County and 4,000 of the acres are in Mendocino. The Rodney Strong Vineyards team spent seven years studying microclimates, charting elevations and digging 200 test pits in order to determine the best spots to plant vineyard blocks. By 2010-2011, they selected 200 acres that sit on top of metamorphic, iron-rich greenstone and volcanic soils and began planting.They planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah and Viognier, which is inter-planted with the Syrah.

In 2014, Justin converted The Boneyard storage area into the winery. Following the Rodney Strong Vineyards stress on sustainability and recycling, owner Tom Klein told Justin that he had to work within the space and not expand the footprint. Justin worked with UC Berkeley scientists to create customized square stainless steel tanks. These tanks can structurally withstand a 7.0 earthquake and require 50% less water to clean due to polish inside the tanks. And, the glycol jackets are so energy efficient that Justin can control them from his phone from anywhere around the world.

While the Rodney Strong wines are classically made wines that run the gamut when it comes to grape varieties, Justin is free to do what he feels will make the best wines possible for Rowen Wine Company, whose name comes from a farming term in which a “rowen” is an unexpected windfall or pleasant surprise. For example, Justin has selected non-traditional blends, does both whole cluster and de-stemming and ferments the grapes at different temperatures. There are currently three wines produced by Rowen Wine Company.

Rowen Red Blend ($55) – 2300 cases are made of this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah co-fermented with Viognier. The first release is a 2015.

2040 ($125) – 600 cases are made of 2040 which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from the highest point of Cooley Ranch at 2,040 feet above sea level with Petit Verdot and Malbec. The first release is a 2014.

600L ($150) – 400 cases are made of this wine, named for the custom-made 600-liter fermentation vessel. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Vedot, sourced from only twelve rows. The first release is a 2015.

In my first tastes of each wine, I found them to be elegant with soft tannins and balanced fruit notes. It is apparent that winemaker Justin Seidenfeld is crafting the wine of his dreams and that is why Rowen Wine Company is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

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