Ever since I had a taste of DUNSTAN Rosé at a summer wine event, I lusted after this wine. Finally I caught up with it at the launch of the 2009 vintage. I got to explore what it was about my first taste that made this wine so memorable. In the process I spent time on the Durell Ranch where the grapes are grown and learned the story behind the wine and it’s label.
Like most romances, this one begins with the visuals. An extraordinary salmon-peach wine color radiates through clear glass, with a silver foil that seems to reflect the color of the wine. Label information is spare … an ethereal horseshoe shape etched in metallic ink and a website address on the back. At this point, we don’t know from which type of grape this Rosé is made, which process is used, nor anything about it’s character. But I am only more enchanted and more curious.
I went over to meet with Chris Towt, who in partnership with Ellie Phipps Price make wines from a single block of the Durell Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast wine-growing region. I learned that the object of my desire is a Rosé of Pinot Noir, from grapes planted by Phipps Price in 2005, resulting in this first vintage in 2009. This silvery liquid is produced using the saignée (pronounced ‘sonyay’) method that involves making rosé from red grapes by bleeding off some of the juice after a limited time in contact with skins. Since skin contact is what gives color to wine, limiting time “on the skins” results in the many shades of Rosé you see in the marketplace. (The two other methods of making Rosé are vin gris – where red grapes are pressed to yield lightly-colored juice; and blending – where red and white wine or juice is blended together.)
The DUNSTAN Horseshoe
The website tells the Dunstan story in the words of Ellie and Chris: “You’ve seen a horseshoe hanging above a doorway — a symbol of protection and luck. According to 10th century legend, a blacksmith named Dunstan was visited by the Devil to have his shoes reset. While fitting the shoes, Dunstan quicked the Devil who implored for the shoe to be removed. Dunstan agreed, but only after the Devil promised never to enter a dwelling with a horseshoe hanging above the door. When we were first planting the Ranch House Block at Durell, a very large horseshoe was unearthed. Rusted and obviously very old, it served as the inspiration for the name of our new wine.”
The Durell Vineyard
The Durell Vineyard is so well-known as an origin point of fine wines of distinct complexity that many wineries include it on their labels. And many award-winning wines have their genesis from these 400 acres. I’ve even seen it advertised along the roadside, such as the “Durell Pinot” sign outside Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma Valley. Don van Staaveren is the winemaker for Dunstan. He was winemaker at Chateau St. Jean from 1985-1997, and has been making wines from Durell grapes for many years. How did DUNSTAN decide to make a Rosé? It was van Staaveren’s idea. DUNSTAN is getting such good feedback, they are already planning for more cases of Rosé in the coming vintages.
DUNSTAN’s Ranch House Block of the Durell Vineyard is planted in 3-1/2 acres of Chardonnay and 5 acres Pinot Noir grapes. The DUNSTAN launch also saw the first release of their 2008 Chardonnay and 2008 Pinot Noir. The way the DUNSTAN horseshoe image is carried out across the bottles makes for a stunning trio – golden Chardonnay with gold foil, gold metallic ink, and Pinot Noir in a commanding black bottle with black foil. The wines can be purchased at the DUNSTAN online store.
Dunstan the Pony
Towt and Phipps Price share a love of horses and ride regularly on the property. We stop by the stables to greet Dunstan, a little Indian pony Ellie purchased at auction from the BLM Colorado Wild Horse Inmate Program. Ellie is actively involved in rescue efforts and recently was instrumental in saving 172 wild horses from going to slaughter at a Nevada auction as part of the Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. Dunstan rushes up when he sees Chris and – now completely tame – responds affectionately to a nose rub and a handful of fresh hay.
DUNSTAN is open by appointment only for tours and tasting. Call the winery at 707.933.3839 or email email@example.com to schedule.
Wine: 2009 DUNSTAN Rosé, Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Color: Salmon, silvery apricot
Aromas: Layers of floral melon, butterscotch, and a hint of mint
In the Mouth: There’s a soft mouth feel, a pleasant viscosity. Front of mouth is fruity, distinctly strawberry. Fleeting taste of bacon at the back of the mouth, with a lingering mineral finish that expands and contracts … like an almost-remembered summer day. Refreshing, addictive.
Pairing: Salmon and tuna sushi, thin sliced cured meats and melon, white mushroom and cream sauces, herb-roasted poultry. The romance of this Rosé lends itself well to a picnic, BBQ, or festive holiday table.
Wine Geek Details:
Hand-harvested, Sept 9, 2009
TA: 0.82 g/100ml
Acreage: 5 acres Dijon clones (115, 667, 828, Clara, and Swan)
Aging: 50% neutral oak / 50% stainless steel
Cases Produced: 59
AVA: Sonoma Coast
Winemaker: Don van Staaveren