Thu 11 Sep 2008
I happened to be home this morning when the UPS man came to the door, setting off a blood-curdling explosion of barking and howling and growling from the dogs. “You know,” he said, “you’d think they would be used to me by now.” Said I: “Don’t feel bad. They don’t like anybody.”
The box clearly held one bottle of wine. When I opened the box and saw the single initial “R” on top of the dove-gray capsule, I thought, “Ah ha, my Rockaway.” Indeed, that was the wine.
If you go anywhere near blogs that concern themselves with wine and the wine industry, you cannot have escaped, at the end of August, reading about the controversy surrounding the Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. This limited-edition, single-vineyard cabernet is a separate project under the aegis of Rodney Strong Vineyards, owned by Tom Klein. It’s not actually the wine that’s controversial — everyone who writes about it loves it — it’s the manner in which it was introduced.
This will be a brief recap, since I and many other bloggers wrote about these issues extensively two or three weeks ago. The gist is that a well-known wine blogger conceived the notion that it would be a good test of the influence of the concept of blogging about wine if a number of bloggers all wrote about the same wine within the same time period. Arrangements were made with Rodney Strong Vineyards to supply bottles of the as-yet unreleased debut vintage of Rockaway to the bloggers, with the stipulation that if the bloggers accepted the sample they would post something about the wine — not necessarily a review — to their blogs within a certain number of days. The project would give these bloggers a chance to write about or review an important wine before samples even went to the mainstream wine media. Who could resist?
The problem is that most of the bloggers, though all thoughtful and well-intentioned people, neglected to mention in their posts about the stipulation to publish within a set time-period. This part of the deal seemed unsavory, unduly influential to other bloggers, Wines & Vines ran a story which was picked up by the blog Vinography, and then Tom Wark at Fermentation issued a stunning denunciation of the bloggers who had participated in the experiment, accusing them of lacking ethical judgment.
Perhaps an element of rushing to condemn before the facts were all in place entered this controversy, as well as surprising naivete on the part of the bloggers who participated in the project. Anyway, there was a huge stink in the world of wine blogging, angry and sarcastic words were issued, flinging-down-the-gantlet positions were taken, feelings were hurt and relationships, perhaps a few, may have been damaged irreparably. Yes, I had my say, too, a bit shrill at first and later, I hope, mre temperate.
But, hey, here I am with my bottle of Rockaway 2005. Do I mind that I didn’t get my Rockaway in that first, brave new wave of bloggers’ samples? Do I mind that the Wine Spectator received its bottle before I did? Nah, we all move to different rhymes, rhythms and reasons.
Rockaway ’05 makes an impressive package. Obviously part of the $75-price-tag goes to cover concept and design elements and the heavy bottle with high, sloping shoulders and deep punt, the sort of bottle to which all high-end cabernets aspire. No paper labels here; all text is embossed on the glass, and etched into the circumference, about two-thirds the way up, is a representation of the lines of hillsides and strata that define the vineyard.
Unmentioned by most of the bloggers that first reviewed Rockaway ’05 is the fact that the alcohol content is a soaring 15.4 percent. Such a number is mere child’s-play for a zinfandel, but it’s unusually high for a cabernet. The test is in the balance.
Meanwhile, life goes on, the big fish eat the little fish, the days dwindle down to a precious few and I’m going to wait a week or two before opening my bottle of Rockaway 2005. It’s always a good idea to give a wine a chance to settle down and sort itself out after a long journey by airplane and truck. We’ll probably drink it with a grilled rib-eye steak; it sounds as if it’s that kind of wine. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I borrowed the Rockaway image from Dr. Debs; I hope she doesn’t mind.