Yes, I said rosé for Thanksgiving. Color me pink.
One of the most joyous, fairly rapid transitions I have observed in wine consumer habits the last ten years, is the adoption of rosé by as a serious wine – and for this I am truly thankful.
While the accident that a big winery had many years ago helped save many acres of old Zinfandel vines, it set palates and impressions back by a decade, equating rosé as a ‘blush’ a pink sugary wine. (You can observe me visibly twitch when I hear someone use the word blush.)
The American wine consumer has finally awoken to what Europeans have known for decades, a well made rosé is as valid a wine as a well made white or red, and as enjoyable.
Rosé – Not Just For Summer Picnics
While it’s true, nothing is more refreshing and delightful than a glass of rosé in the spring and summer, on a picnic blanket or your front porch, rosé is still cornered as a summer wine, a phenomenon I disagree with quite strongly. On a wine trip to France two winters ago, I was surprised and pleased to see many cafes had as many if not more rosé by the glass than whites – in January. I also observed, with great interest when a group of winemakers having lunch, again in January, shared a bottle of rosé amongst themselves. Real men drink Pink.
This belief is also reinforced by a fear many wineries hold of having any rosé left in inventory by July. I watch with some chagrin each year as some of the very best rosé made in California are released en masse early in the year, much sent through distribution, and are sold out sometimes in weeks. Selling wine through distribution means its been generally sold at 50% discount, when instead some of that inventory could have been maintained to sell direct to consumer at a much better margin, and lasted longer. Of course there is always the balancing act for a small winery and cash flow.
Also to note, some rosé actually improves with a bit of bottle age. While the general philosophy of Rosé is best drunk bright and fresh, some of the best rosé and my personal favorites, I often cellar for 3-6 months, in some cases longer. In fact its my observation that many wonderful rosé are released too early, too soon after bottling and are sometimes spritzy, show notes of sulfur and are a bit disjointed. I am an acid hound when it comes to wine, but many of these well made rosé also show better after a few months (or more) to let the acid soften a touch, and the flavor profile integrate. Rosé is no different than other wines, it is alive and develops in the bottle.
That said, after the last few years of buying, drinking and cellaring literally hundreds of bottles, most rosé should be drunk by the time new releases are rolling out – Easter is an excellent time to clean out that previous vintage. There are of course, exceptions to every rule – the wonderful Rosé from Bandol are generally considered best if left to sit at least one year, if not longer.
Without Further Adieu – Four Top Picks For Your Holiday Meal
I have written about rosé as a great wine for holiday meals before, and stand by it. Whether it’s as an aperitif, with salads, or if you do as I often and have 3 wines open at once to experiment with all the foods, a snappy rosé holds its own for smiles and cheer as much as a bottle of sparkling.
I have tasted through many dozens of rosé this summer, domestic and imported. Below are four that were all in my top ten, and more importantly, you can go grab a bottle this week. (I find it annoying to see articles coming out right now recommending buying wines that haven’t been available for months.) I have many other favorites from this vintage as well (Broc, Arnot Roberts, Sheldon, Mathiasson, to name a few) but most of these are long sold out.
Three of these selections are mostly sold direct and each has a small quantity left to purchase, if you don’t wait too long. The fourth can usually be found in better wine shops.
No scores this time sorry, but all of these are 90+, for those of you who like ratings. I voted for them with my credit card.
1. Mounts Family Winery – Rosé of Grenache
I am a long time fan of Mounts, and have watched with great pleasure as their Rhone program and wine making philosophies continue to evolve. I was a big fan of their 2010 rosé, was sad when they didn’t release one in 2011, and fell in love with the 2012, and have a few bottles I am hoarding.
Consumers apparently agree, as this was the #2 Consumer Vote at the Rhone Rosé tasting I organized this June, where 100 consumers tasted and ranked their top choices.
Grenache is widely used for rosé in France, but can sometimes be a challenge in California. There is a fear of picking too early and having a vegetal element, but bleeding off juice as a saignée, when Grenache is commonly picked for reds at high ripeness levels, can sometimes push alcohol up, where rosé is generally intended as a modest alcohol wine.
The Mounts Rosé of Grenache was picked just for rosé from their estate vineyard, at 22 Brix, left on the skins for 4 hours, fermented in neutral barrel, and bottled in April. The color is a very light, vibrant pink, with bright red cherry and strawberry notes, and mouth watering lingering acidity. It’s a ridiculous steal at $16 – less than ten cases left, available at the winery only. (Or of course to ship.) 82 cases made. Open this Saturday from 12-4, I will be there!
Mounts is also including shipping on 6+ bottles until Dec 31st.
707-292-8148 or email at email@example.com
2. Campovida Rosé of Grenache
The arrival of winemaker Sebastian Donoso has transformed Campovida into a winery to watch and a new favorite of mine. Sebastian, and owners Gary and Anna, are passionate, focused, energetic people who are a delight to visit, and with wonderful small lot wines.
Their 2012 Rosé of Grenache was the #1 Consumer choice at the Rhone Rosé tasting and was simply stunning. Vibrant, taut, fresh, lip smacking. The grapes were destemmed and crushed into macrobins, then cold soaked for 24 hourrs followed by pressing off the skins. Fermented in neutral oak barrels with no malolactic fermentation. Aged in barrel for four months with lees contact and stirred three times, released in April 2013. It’s a little more pricey for a rosé at $34, but it’s a serious wine and worth every penny. 134 cases made.
There are only a few cases left, held mostly in reserve for a December winemakers dinner, but if you go into their Hopland or new Oakland tasting room and tell them you read about it here and they’ll part with a bottle. I highly encourage you to taste the whole lineup.
- Hopland: 13601 Old River Road, Hopland CA Phone: 707.400.6300 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Oakland: 95 Linden St. (at W Embarcadero) Oakland, CA 94607 (707) 744-8797
(p.s. stay tuned in Jan/Feb I will organize a North Coast Rhone Rangers tasting in the Oakland tasting room.)
3. Cartograph Rosé of Pinot Noir
I have come to appreciate how difficult a good rosé can be to make after a few attempts myself, but my summer of 2012 ‘call for Rosé’ tasting where I tasted 60+ rosé over a few weeks, made me especially appreciative of how challenging Rosé of Pinot Noir appears to be, based on tasting results. It’s also gutsy to take grapes that cost $4k+ a ton, and make them into an under $30 bottle of wine.
Alan Baker’s 2011 rosé was wonderful, but is trumped by the 2012. Fortunately for consumers, there is some of the 2012 left, only because they had no tasting room all summer, while they were constructing their gorgeous new one, just recently open to the public.
The 2012 is from the Leonardo Julio Vineyard, in the north end of the Russian River Valley. Picked on Sept 9th, with ~3 hours of skin contact, with a slow ferment over 42 days in stainless steel, and 4 months aging in stainless barrels. Bottled in February, this gorgeous Rosé of Pinot Noir is a steal at $21, only 80 cases made.
The rosé is a very pale pink, an incredibly refreshing array of bright red fruit, fresh strawberry, citrus, mouthwatering acidity and a hint of minerality, that likely has continued to develop since I last tasted it.
If you live near Healdsburg, venture into their newly opened tasting room at 340 Center St, right next to Zin Restaurant in downtown Healdsburg. Don’t forget to try the amazing Russian River Gewurztraminer, and array of Pinot Noirs as well. I’ll be there on Friday stocking up. (p.s. watch for the return (one time only) of the now retired widely popular “Sonoma Wine Meetup” here in January.)
http://www.cartographwines.com (707) 433-8270
4. Bonny Doon Vineyard 2012 Vin Gris
I have raved every year about Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris (rosé.) This year I am kicking myself for not ordering my usual case from their website, however luckily a quick search on Wine Searcher shows it in stock at a wide array of CA shops, ranging from K&L, Beltramo’s and more. (It’s been in stock at Bottle Barn before, but not sure right now, will check tonight and report back.)
This is not a tiny production rosé at 7000 cases, but it holds it’s own with any I have had each year, and rivals those from Provence. The 2012 was a blend of 62% grenache, 17% mourvèdre, 9% roussanne, 6% grenache blanc, 6% cinsault.
Retail prices range from $12-16 dollars. This is a dangerously delicious Rosé, it seems to simply evaporate in the glass. It’s also one that progresses beautifully in the bottle, and I usually open one bottle a month just to enjoy its progression. Easy to drink, yet layered and complex with citrus, white peach, strawberry, ocean breeze, and minerality.
Nikki Lincoln also recently wrote about this wine. What I Drank The Last Few Weeks (Sept 23-Oct 27).
Other recommendations for your Thanksgiving table: Pinot Noir, well made sparkling, and Rhone whites pair with a wide array of foods. Give everyone 3 glasses and open one of each, and try pairing each with what’s on your plate.
And with that, Happy Thanksgiving and cheers!