Wine Recommendations An Unexpected "Upshot" of a Weekend at Hamilton College

I was with my husband's college friends and their spouses last weekend. While letting our husbands relive their days at Hamilton College - yes, named after the US Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton - all of the other women agreed (unprovoked by me) that they buy wine based on their favorite grape variety then on the wine label appearance. I encouraged a few to look into blends to expand their palate "horizons", and these Rodney Strong Vineyards Upshot wines are ones that I would absolutely recommend to them all!

Upshot (Rodney Strong Vineyards) 2017 Red Wine Blend Sonoma County 14.5% $28
A bit of a dark, handsome stranger, this unusual and alluring combo of 31% Merlot, 31% Zinfandel, 30% Malbec, 5% Riesling (yes, a white grape in a red wine!) and 3% Petit Verdot is brooding in its black currant and blackberry flavors highlighted by anise and gingerbread spice. This is a full-bodied and rather stern wine framed by gripping and lightly drying tannins. All this despite its very fun and approachable label, which does much more to describe a wine than do many of the most fervently written, geeky back labels. With so much harmony that its flavors turn out a bit monotone, this is a pleasant sip now but may not improve much to benefit. Be sure to drink at cellar rather than room temperature, given the wine's heft, and go ahead and enjoy now. Clean, pleasant, ambitious and creative!
Drink: 2019-2021

Upshot (Rodney Strong Vineyards) 2018 White Wine Blend Sonoma County 13% $28
Bright, fresh and perky, this wine is as dynamic as its front label suggests. A mind-bending combination of 27% Chardonnay, 21% Grenache Blanc, 18% Gewurztraminer, 17% Pinot Noir, 11% Viognier and 6% Sauvignon Blanc (what an impressive tracking of details!), this is a zippy glass of wine. I was surprised to read on the label that there were 3 months of barrel aging; that that must be for a very small portion and the oak must be old because the wine is blazingly crisp and vibrant. What I really love about the front label is the notation of the pH, at 3.22, which is DARN LOW. So, whatever the varieties might be, this is destined to be a very vivacious wine. I love the fragrance "upshot" of the lychees of Gewurztraminer and the white flowers of Viognier. It's an unusually aromatic wine for California, and thank goodness that its offers some diversity! It seems more powerful in alcohol than 13%, but there's a lovely rhythm to the sip.
Drink: 2019-2020