It’s countdown time to this weekends amazing San Francisco Rhone Rangers weekend, where I will spend Saturday and Sunday immersed in Rhone seminars, tastings, and elbow to elbow with over 100 Rhone wine producers. In honor of that, I chose my wine of the week to be a classic Rhone style wine. Rock Wren is a new producer just launching, whom you can taste at the Saturday night winemakers dinner and walk around tasting, and the Sunday Grand Tasting.
Rock Wren is the dream come to fruition of Dennis and Sandi Demonico. Their family business was among other things chocolate. Dennis was the General Manager (and chocolate maker) of Ghiradelli, prior to it being acquired by Quaker, and eventually Lindt. Sandi describes him as the true Willy Wonka, giving tours in a cape and handing out samples.
Looking beyond that venture, Dennis pondered what was next. He and Sandi had always been a big fan of wine, with a vision of living in Napa with a vineyard and making wine, but unable to afford the prices of Napa, and looked elsewhere in the Bay area for many years. Out driving one day, Dennis accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up in Green Valley (Solano County, not the Russian River Valley AVA.) A local told him about a 38 acre parcel, formerly a cherry orchard farm wiped out from blight and laying fallow. So excited, he called Sandi, a school teacher in the middle of class, and insisted she drive right then and there from the East Bay. The rest is history. (You can read more about the property and plantings here. )
Dennis had extensively toured and tasted the Northern Rhone Valley, using that knowledge to guide him on the clone selection and rootstock for the Syrah Over 3 years he took every class in enology and viticulture the Napa Valey college offered. He plamted 3 blocks of Syrah and in 2005 was winning medals in competitions. It was time to create an official label.
Sitting under an oak tree on the property, a Rock Wren landed on his wrist. If that wasn’t odd enough, it hopped up onto his shoulder, looked him in the eye, and then flew away. Dennis had his label.
Wine Review – 2007 Rock Wren Solano County, Green Valley Syrah
Dennis learned much about the nuance of the palate making chocolate for many years, and of syrah as a fan of many great US Syrah pioneers, and Rhone producers. The Syrah is designed to be elegant, approachable, and balanced. You can read about his wine making techniques here.
On the Nose: Modest blackberry, hints of spice, cocoa, smoked meat.
In the Mouth: Layered for the enthusiast, but very approachable for the non geek consumer. Opens on the front palate with dark fruit, washes over the mid palate with elegant balanced fruit and medium density weight and mouthfeel. Finishes with excellent acidity and soft tannins. A pleasure to drink alone, not always common for Syrah, and designed to pair wonderfully with a broader array of foods than you may expect from California Syrah.
Rating: Outstanding. 91 points.
Recommendation: Buy. Drinks very well now. Will improve with age.
Wine Geek Info:
- Harvest Date – Sept 4-27
- Brix at Harvest – 23-25.4
- Production – 309 cases
- Oak – 100% French, 25% new, 32 months in barrel
- Bottled – August 2010