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Cenay Rodgers Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
I consider myself fortunate to have worked with some of the great pioneering wineries of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. I began my career working in the vineyards and winery of B. Seppelts and Sons, one of the oldest wineries in Australia. I was introduced to the Napa Valley as a harvest intern at Stags Leap Winery during the great vintage of 1987. At Chappellet Winery, one of the first post-Prohibition wineries, I worked as Assistant Winemaker from 1989 to 1997.
In 1991, while I was learning the art of making mountainside wines at Chappellet, I also began making my own wine under the Ramspeck label. In 1997 I left Chappellet to devote myself full time to Rowland Cellars. At the same time, I began consulting for William Hill Winery in Central Otago, New Zealand. The challenges of southern New Zealand intrigued me, and for ten years I made a New Zealand Pinot Noir under the Rowland label, before ultimately deciding to concentrate my winemaking in California.
My interest in making the best wine possible has led me to the invention of winemaking equipment, including a barrel stirrer that has been reproduced by many companies around the world. I’ve also consulted for a number of small private labels and vineyards. My current research is in the improvement of grape berry phenolic production and the prevention of berry dehydration."
"I grew up in Sacramento, a fourth generation Californian, but I have called the Napa Valley home for most of my life. I worked as an art and science educator for over twenty years, teaching in the Napa Valley and presenting at national conferences. I am also an illustrator, and have designed wine labels, menus, and posters for a variety of clients.
From the very start of Rowland Cellars, I’ve been a true partner and “the other half” of our two-person enterprise. My support and input has been there during every phase of production. As a graphic artist, it was natural for me to design promotional and sales material. When we introduced Cenay in 1997, based on my family heritage, it was my pleasure to design the label.
In 2009 I began to devote myself full time to our wine business. I now work with distributors on the road in other states, meet with sommeliers and restaurant owners, run tastings, and generally back up Gerry on the business side of Rowland Cellars. I love my work! And I love the collaborative spirit of our joint passion for making the best wine we can.
When I’m not working, I enjoy hanging out with my family, performing in the Napa Valley Follies, and tasting Gerry’s delicious recipes prepared in the Food and Wine Lab, aka our kitchen."
In 1991, when I decided to make and market my own wine, we traced my family history for inspiration. We found that my ancestors had made wine with their family crest on the label as early as 1537 and sold it throughout Europe. So it was with a deep sense of pride and respect for the past that we revived the Ramspeck label. Our first bottling was 200 cases.
In 1996 we started the Rowland label, making wines from vineyards too small to bottle individually. All our red grapes came from a triangle bordered by Atlas Peak, Stags Leap and Coombsville, so we called it our Red Triangle, a play on the notorious hunting ground of the great white shark off the coast of northern California.
In 1997, we introduced the Cenay label, based on Linda’s heritage. Her ancestors purveyed the accoutrements of the good life during Gold Rush days: fine cloth, premium cigars, and quality food and wine. Cenay continues that tradition, offering exceptional vineyard-designated wines of the finest quality.
We now produce 12,000 cases of wine annually, but despite this growth, we have been able to keep the business family run, with our staff consisting of myself, my wife Linda, and our three cats. We’re very proud of this achievement, especially considering that we are competing against newer labels in the Napa Valley that have the backing of sports celebrities, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and film makers.
The quality of our wines is ensured by control over every facet of the process, from vine management to winemaking techniques and products. Our story continues in every bottle of our wine, from one year to the next, as we continue to learn and to raise the bar for excellence.
As one of Napa’s coolest sub-appellations, the area begs for diversity among its vineyards. Merlot and Chardonnay firmly compete with Cabernet Sauvignon for a place here. Some of Napa’s best Zinfandels also come from the Oak Knoll District.
Situated far in Napa’s southern end, Oak Knoll receives a strong cooling influence from both the San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Coast’s evening fog and breezes. Summer days are warm but on average ten degrees cooler than in St. Helena; summer nights are chilly. A long growing season promotes for leisurely ripening of grape berries, resulting in an impressive balance of sugars, phenols and acidity in resulting wines.
Notable producers are Trefethen, one of the appellation’s oldest wineries, Robert Biale, legendary Zinfandel producer and Lewis Cellars, a family-run, hands-on establishment.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.