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Wine of the week: Rodney Strong, 2011 Chalk Hill, Sonoma County Chardonnay

A Franco-American wine?

The Rodney Strong, 2011 Chalk Hill, Sonoma County Chardonnay has a house style that blends the best of two worlds, according to head winemaker Rick Sayre.

"It's the complexity of classic barrel fermentation as in Burgundy and the rich flavors of locally-grown, cool-climate chardonnay," he said.

This $19 chardonnay is our wine-of-the-week winner, and Sayre said there were no tricks in producing it.

"It was just attention to detail from growing the estate fruit, selecting the best blocks and using some great French oak to harmonize the wine without stepping on the fruit flavors," Sayre said.

The chardonnay is complex with a range of flavors. It's layered, with notes of melon, apple and spice. It's lovely, with bright acidity and a lingering finish.

"I never give any thought to designing a wine to be food friendly," Sayre said. "I believe that just happens when you grow the grapes right. At Rodney Strong we want to be known for wines of a place; the French say 'terroir.' Our terroir is Sonoma County and all the smaller places that make it unique such as Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley."

Rodney Strong has been making a chardonnay in Chalk Hill since 1977, six years before it was recognized as an appellation in 1983.

"My first vintage of Chalk Hill was 1980," Sayre said. "I also live in the heart of the appellation and can visit the vineyards stepping out my back door. This year will be my 33rd year of making this wine."

Sayre said he's a great fit for being a winemaker because he's been a farmer for as long as he can remember.


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