Love wine, fine dining, and luxury accommodations? Then you’d love the prizes that three lucky grand prize winners will get in the Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Sweepstakes! I was invited for a sneak peek at the winners’ experience, and am so excited to share it here with you!
Sonoma County Wine Country
Oh, Sonoma County. How I love thee. (You can read all about my previous Sonoma Wine Country travels).
It’s such a special place: with hundreds of wineries, incredible restaurants, and beautiful vineyard views for miles, Sonoma County is an amazing place for a wine getaway.
And now, you have the chance to win a dream wine country long weekend getaway thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards!
Rodney Strong Master Blender Sweepstakes
A leader in the California wine industry since 1959, Rodney Strong Vineyards is dedicated to crafting world class wines that capture the true essence of sweet Sonoma County. This month, they are hosting the Master Blender Sweepstakes. Three grand prize winners will be selected to enjoy the ultimate Sonoma County vacation!
I was invited earlier this year, along with four other food & wine media, to Sonoma County to get a sneak peek of the grand prize and I am thrilled to be able to share with you what you could win!
Air Travel to Sonoma County
Each winner will receive round trip air transportation to Sonoma County.
I took a direct flight on Alaska Air from Portland International Airport to the Charles Schultz Santa Rosa Airport. It was a quick hour and 40 minute flight, and I love that those flights include complimentary northwest wine or beer. Also: flying out of the Santa Rosa Airport, you’re allowed to check a case of wine home for free!
We stayed at the Vintner’s Inn, a four-diamond luxury hotel located in the heart of Sonoma County, just a few miles away from Rodney Strong Vineyards winery. You can read all about this beautiful, peaceful retreat in this full hotel review.
Each winner and his/her guest will also stay in this gorgeous wine country inn. Trust me: you will LOVE it! And, if you aren’t feeling pampered enough by the setting and relaxing rooms, in addition to your three night’s stay, you and your guest will also receive complimentary spa treatments at the hotel. A great way to unwind after being wined and dined all day!
Fine Dining in Wine Country
During our stay, we were treated to incredible gourmet meals at local hotspots such as Catelli’s, Jackson’s, John Ash & Co. restaurant, the Vintner’s Inn Cafe (amazing breakfast!), and meals prepared exclusively for us by Rodney Strong Vineyards Winery Chef Tara Watchel. I’ll be sharing full reviews of a couple of these select restaurants in future posts!
In the spirit of the wine weekend getaway, we also enjoyed a variety of wines from the vast Rodney Strong Vineyards portfolio at each meal.
Pictured here are two of my favorites that we enjoyed over lunch at Catelli’s: the 2013 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Vineyards Chardonnay and the Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir.
I also found myself enamored with the 2012 Rodney Strong Symmetry over our first night’s dinner at John Ash & Co., which we would each later try to emulate during our wine blending session.
Winners of the sweepstakes will also be treated to gourmet meals at local hot spots, as well as by Chef Watchel, who is incredibly talented and does a lovely job of incorporating fresh, local, seasonal ingredients – many from the winery’s own garden – into her delicious dishes.
VIP Vineyard and Winery Tours
In between meals, we were whisked away to VIP vineyard and winery tours… and, of course, more wine.
If you win the sweepstakes, your weekend will kick off with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the key Rodney Strong Vineyards. The Rodney Strong team will share their expertly crafted, lovely wines with you at each vineyard stop.
You’ll also have the pleasure of meeting Viticulturist Manager Ryan Decker, who is a wealth of wine knowledge. Rodney Strong Vineyards is one of the first vineyards in Sonoma County to have a sustainability program, and Ryan does an outstanding job of managing the vineyards in ways that allow each site to flourish in the most sustainable way possible while yielding the best grapes possible.
During our sneak peek visit, we toured Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill Vineyard and the picturesque Alexander’s Crown, and learned all about the history of each vineyard.
Then we drove to my favorite vineyard: Rockaway.
Here, in this gorgeous setting, we enjoyed the latest Rodney Strong Rosé Malbec, and admired the beautiful outdoor space with benches and bocci ball courts.
Then we walked up to the top of the hill (wine tour tip: do not wear heels on vineyard tours!), where we enjoyed the Rockaway Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon while soaking up the breathtaking views of the valley, including the vineyard’s olive trees.
In addition to the vineyard tours, we were also treated to an exclusive, in-depth winery tour.
Winemaker Justin Siedenfeld shared how the winery secured these imposing 20,000 pound square steel tanks from Canada, and how they are able to store more wine than the traditional round tanks used in most wineries. It took about two years to design the tanks, and properly fit the space, including securing appropriate flooring and ensuring proper drainage. The tanks are not only more efficient, they are also super high tech: winemakers can easily manage the tank controls remotely, whether they are out at one of the vineyards or on a beach vacation.
During our tour, we did some barrel samples of the 2014 Symmetry and the 2014 Rockaway.
Then we returned to the wine tasting room, where we proceeded to sip our way through about 50 wines.
Just kidding! Although it might have felt like that many at the time, I believe we tasted about 10 wines in total.
Remember: when wine tasting, the spit/pour bucket is your friend. When in the tasting room, it’s not rude to pour out extra wine from your glass before trying a new wine. In fact, I think it’s more rude to be the loud drunk in the room than to be the person pouring out extra wine after sufficiently tasting each one.
When you’re out in the vineyards, it’s perfectly acceptable to spit out your wine on the ground after giving each a proper taste. More than likely, your vineyard tour guide will be doing so, so if you’re uncomfortable being the first person in your group to spit out wine, you can take your cue from him/her and simply wait until he or she does so.
The Master Blender Experience
At last, we come to the main event of the entire Master Blender Sweepstakes wine country weekend: the custom blending session.
You, your guests, and the other two winners and their guests, will have the opportunity to create your own custom blends using a variety of Rodney Strong Vineyards wines.
Our goal was to try to create a Meritage red wine blend using the give varietals that make up Rodney Strong’s Symmetry wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
Meritage wines are red or white wine blends crafted solely from these specific Bordeaux grape varietals, plus the rarer varietals of Saint-Macaire, Gros Verdot, and Carménère.
Rodney Strong’s Symmetry wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon-driven Meritage wine, artfully blended to capture the essence of the Alexander Valley AVA.
Now, I had never done a custom blending session in my life before, so I was basically along for the ride on this one.
I blended what I thought might be a tasty red blend, but in the end, I think mine turned out to be one of the worst of the bunch!
Head Winemaker Rick Sayre donned his official lab coat and taste tested each of our final blends. Too much petite verdot in mine, was the verdict. Luckily for everyone, I do not have any plans to make my own wine anytime soon.
This blending seminar experience was absolutely the highlight of my experience. To be able to learn more about how winemakers create their blends, to discover and actually experience and taste for myself what each varietal brings to blends and how just a teeny tiny amount off can completely change a wine… it was an experience I will never forget, and if you win the sweepstakes, I am betting you will not forget it too quickly either.
Final Gourmet Send-Off
Coming off of our wine blending seminar high, we were treated to one final gourmet send-off from Winery Chef Tara Wachtel in the beautiful private room above the wine tasting room.
She prepared an exquisite sous vide beef dish with a cauliflower steak, and a decadent dessert to send us all home smiling.
To experience a wine country weekend with friends is one thing; but to experience the VIP treatment of complimentary airfare, a weekend itinerary filled with delicious gourmet meals, exclusive tours and private time chatting with the key players in one of California’s most distinguished wineries, and to be able to recount it all in the plush accommodations of a four diamond luxury hotel… that, my friends, is truly something else. Something everyday Joe’s and Jane’s like you and me rarely have the opportunity to experience, and yet, YOU can be one of the lucky three grand prize winners of the Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender sweepstakes! Yes, YOU!
You can’t win if you don’t play, so I encourage you all to enter today. Click here to enter the Rodney Strong sweepstakes!
Here is the official lowdown of the Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Sweepstakes:
Three (3) Grand Prizes: A 4 day/3 night trip for two (Winner and one (1) guest; guest must be 21 years of age or older) to Sonoma County, California. Prize trip includes: 3 nights’ hotel accommodations (double occupancy), round trip economy air transportation for Winner and one (1) guest from a major airport near Winners’ residence to a major airport servicing the U.S. City closest to San Francisco, CA approved by Sponsor; transportation to/from airport/hotel, a total of seven (7) meals, two (2) spa treatments at hotel, a $200 gift card (for Winner only) for incidentals and a gift bag containing Rodney Strong Vineyard branded merchandise. An itinerary of scheduled events will be provided. Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) of each Grand Prize is: $3,500. Total ARV of all Grand Prizes offered is: $10,500. Actual value of prize may vary based on airfare fluctuations and distance between departure and destination. Trip must be taken July 27 – 30, 2016, if potential winner is not able to travel on designated dates, prize will be forfeited and an alternate potential winner selected, time permitting.
Click here to enter the Rodney Strong sweepstakes!
Which experience do you think you would enjoy the most if you won?
Many thanks to the incredible team at Rodney Strong Vineyards for inviting me to be a guest on this special sneak peek visit, and for providing all of the experiences mentioned here. As always, all opinions and photos are my own. I only write about places, products, experiences, events, and services that I personally enjoy and believe you will, too! Go enter this sweepstakes today, friends!