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Wine of the Week: Rowen 2016 Sonoma County Red Wine

This week's blind tasting

Red Blends

Red Blends

TOP PICK

Rowen

2016 Sonoma County Red Wine, a brand of Rodney Strong Vineyards,14.5% alcohol, $55. ????

A striking red blend with generous fruit and a tasty undercurrent of spice. Layered notes of black raspberry, cassis, cocoa and cracked black pepper. Supple texture. Lingering finish. Spot on. (Blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, syrah and viognier.)

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Sheriff of Buena Vista, 2017 Sonoma County Red Wine, 15%, $51. ????: A big boy red that's edgy and bold. Notes of rich raspberry, plum, blackberry and a kick of spice from the petite sirah in the blend. Firm tannins. Balanced, yet feisty. (Blend of malbec, cabernet franc, merlot and petite sirah.)

Fidelity, 2017 Alexander Valley Red Wine, 14.3%, $17. ????: A well-crafted blend with layered notes of cherry, blueberry and vanilla. Tasty undercurrent of spice. Good bones –– structure. Lush and lively. Balanced. Nice length. (Blend of merlot, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon.)

Bonny Doon, 2018 Le Cigare Volant Cuvee Oumuamua, Monterey, 13.5%, $20. ? ???½: Aromas and flavors of plum, cranberry and anise. Lean and bright. Finishes crisp. Lovely. (Blend includes grenache, cinsault and syrah.)

Beckmen, 2018 Cuvee Le Bec, Santa Ynez Valley, 14.2%, $25. ???½: A tasty red blend with aromas and flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and leather. A hint of lilac in the mix. Nice length. Smart. (Blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and counoise.)

Winemakers, like chefs, have a spice rack to craft their concoctions.

But their seasonings are liquid - wine varietals - and they blend them with the utmost care because they’re potent.

“The most challenging part is finding the perfect combination for the blend,” said Justin Seidenfeld, director of winemaking for Rowen Wine Company of Healdsburg.

“Even a 1% change will make the wine taste different. So it’s a slow, painstaking process to figure out the blend.”

This winemaker of painstaking process is behind our wine of the week winner - the Rowen 2016 Sonoma County Red Wine at $55. It’s a striking red blend with generous fruit and a tasty undercurrent of spice. The blend has layered notes of black raspberry, cassis, cocoa and cracked black pepper. It has a supple texture and a lingering finish.

Tasty, less-expensive blends in the blind tasting include: Fidelity 2017 Alexander Valley Red Wine at $17; Bonny Doon 2018 Le Cigare Volant Cuvee Oumuamua, Monterey at $20; and Beckmen 2018 Cuvee Le Bec, Santa Ynez Valley at $25.

“The Rowen red blend is crafted to take the best features of each grape varietal and allow it to complement each other,” Seidenfeld said. “The blend is 57% cabernet sauvignon, 20% malbec, 20% syrah and 3% viognier. The combination of these four grapes gives the wine great structure, fleshy juicy fruit and great acidity and freshness.”

The viognier is co-fermented with the syrah, which is a technique common in the Northern Rhone region of France.

“It helps with the color of the wine and gives it a more lush mid-palate,” Seidenfeld explained. “It also adds jasmine blossom and tropical nuances to the aroma.”

The grapes for the blend were groomed on the Cooley Ranch Vineyard, located in northern Sonoma County with elevations ranging from 1,000 feet up to over 2,000 feet.

“The amazing, iron-rich, green metamorphic soils and elevations above the fog line form a unique terroir that has been a revelation to our vineyard team and to me,” Seidenfeld said.

“The Rowen wines, including our red blend, are nontraditional yet still strive for purity and power in the fruit expression, elegance and approachability.”

Seidenfeld said he was first attracted to winemaking while working at an upscale Denver restaurant in his 20s.

“Recalling stories from customers about why they ordered specific wines and moments the wine added to was inspiring,” he said. “Now I love getting letters from people who have enjoyed a wine that I’ve made and hearing about how it has impacted them.”

Seidenfeld, 37, joined Rodney Strong Vineyards about a decade ago, and he is also the director of winemaking for the Healdsburg winery in addition to his role at Rowen.

His credits include Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi Winery and Sonoma County’s Iron Horse Vineyards. Seidenfeld graduated from UC Davis in 2006 with a degree in viticulture and enology.

“To make a great and interesting red blend, you have to be willing to think outside the box and to be innovative in the blending and winemaking,” Seidenfeld said.

“Our take on red blends is more serious and complex than most blends we’re tasting in the marketplace, but ours is still a very approachable wine.”

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week's blind tasting

Red Blends

Red Blends

TOP PICK

Rowen

2016 Sonoma County Red Wine, a brand of Rodney Strong Vineyards,14.5% alcohol, $55. ????

A striking red blend with generous fruit and a tasty undercurrent of spice. Layered notes of black raspberry, cassis, cocoa and cracked black pepper. Supple texture. Lingering finish. Spot on. (Blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, syrah and viognier.)

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Sheriff of Buena Vista, 2017 Sonoma County Red Wine, 15%, $51. ????: A big boy red that's edgy and bold. Notes of rich raspberry, plum, blackberry and a kick of spice from the petite sirah in the blend. Firm tannins. Balanced, yet feisty. (Blend of malbec, cabernet franc, merlot and petite sirah.)

Fidelity, 2017 Alexander Valley Red Wine, 14.3%, $17. ????: A well-crafted blend with layered notes of cherry, blueberry and vanilla. Tasty undercurrent of spice. Good bones –– structure. Lush and lively. Balanced. Nice length. (Blend of merlot, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon.)

Bonny Doon, 2018 Le Cigare Volant Cuvee Oumuamua, Monterey, 13.5%, $20. ? ???½: Aromas and flavors of plum, cranberry and anise. Lean and bright. Finishes crisp. Lovely. (Blend includes grenache, cinsault and syrah.)

Beckmen, 2018 Cuvee Le Bec, Santa Ynez Valley, 14.2%, $25. ???½: A tasty red blend with aromas and flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and leather. A hint of lilac in the mix. Nice length. Smart. (Blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and counoise.)

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