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On a tour to Europe that culminated in France, dancer Rodney D. Strong’s glittering leaps across the stage dazzled the audiences.  But upon returning to the US in 1951, he confessed that the highlight of his four years of dancing in Paris as member of choreographer George Balanchine’s troupe and the American School of Ballet was his experience with French food and wine. He went on saying that rather than become an old dancer, he’d much rather become and old winemaker… He did; finding in Sonoma county friends, love, marriage to a former ballerina and the versatility he needed as an artist and as a serious winemaker.

Parallel to that “American in Paris”- returning-to-California story is the saga of the Klein family who migrated to San Francisco from New York City at the beginning of the 20th century to be decimated by the earthquake and rebuilt itself through the surviving children and grandchildren.  The latter, who had been involved in California agriculture for four generations, added business acumen to the art of winemaking and are since 1989, in charge of the remarkable Rodney Strong Winery in Sonoma county.   Their passion for sustainable farming practices, solar power and other green business practices have led them to become Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery and the producer of exquisite wines.

Vintner Tom Klein captured the elegance of Bordeaux and the exuberance of the Pacific Coast  in the two splendid wines from the Alexander Valley Collection he recently released:  Symmetry 2009, a Bordeaux-style Meritage, and Alexander’s Crown 2009, a Bordeaux-style Cabernet,  while claiming Bordeaux as their style, express the terroir where they come from, the vegetation and the diversity of Alexander Valley’s agriculture.

Rodney Strong Symmetry Alexander Valley, Sonoma 2009 ($55) They call this Bordeaux-blend a Meritage. 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, 6% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, have all been hand-harvested, sorted and fermented separately and aged in French oak for 6 months before being graded and selected for Symmetry.  The blend is then assembled and the wine is aged from 12 to 18 months before bottling. The result is a harmonious, concentrated, and elegant full-bodied wine with an opulent bouquet of blackberries, currants, sweet spices, and a hint of violet blossom, which unfolds on the palate with layers of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice. Rich and silky in texture it delivers a long and powerful finish. It definitely has the backbone for years in the cellar and promises an interesting evolution in the bottle.  15.5% alcohol content.

Rodney Strong  Alexander's Crown, Alexander Valley, Sonoma 2009 ($75) . 100% cabernet sauvignon. Established in 1971 and recognized as the first vineyard in Sonoma County to produce a single vineyard cabernet sauvignon, Alexander's Crown is perched on a hill rising to about 350 feet in the south-center of the Alexander Valley just west of Jimtown.   The top of the hill, block 1, is red in color, and produces the most intensely flavored wine.  Harvested on the morning of October 5 at the end of a perfect growing season, and after 23 months in French oak barrels — 40% new — The Crown is definitely an opulent wine, with floral notes and intense depth, ripe flavors centered on red fruit, and rounded tannins superbly balanced with a fresh acidity which adds brightness to the sumptuous and long finish.