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Just Over the Hill in Wine Country; Rodney Strong Vineyards

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"I knew I couldn't be an old dancer, but I could be an old wine maker," was something Rodney Strong was often heard saying before he passed in 2006. He was a classically trained dancer under George Balanchine and spent four years in Paris. It is there that he fell in love with wine. When he retired from dance in the 1960's he moved to Sonoma, a then farming community known for rustic wines. Mr. Strong was one of the pioneers who built the wine reputation that Sonoma County enjoys today. Among his contributions to fine Sonoma wines, Mr. Strong was the first to plant Pinot Noir in Russian River and Chardonnay in Chalk Hill, the two grapes for which Sonoma is most known.

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After Rodney Strong Vineyards were purchased by Tom Klein in 1989, the winery began practicing sustainable farming. Certified sustainable and solar-generated, Rodney Strong Vineyards practices water and soil conservation and is carbon neutral. "Place is not everything, but place is the most important thing," is what Tom Klein says when he talks about the terroir of Sonoma and his winery's stewardship of the land.

Rodney Strong wines are widely distributed and reasonably priced making them fairly accessible. The Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of lemon grass and a slightly bitter, but pleasing grapefruit peal. The Russian River Pinot Noir is earthy, but light with nice strawberry and pepper flavors. The Dry Creek Syrah is tastes like tangy raspberries and oak. The Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon spends 14 months in oak and has great dark fruit aromas and oak with a nice acidity. It is crisp, but anchored in an earthy oak flavor.

Rodney Strong Vineyards is located in Healdsburg. The tasting room is open daily from 10 to 5.

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