Archive for November, 2013

Four Rosé Top Picks for the Holiday Table. Grab One This Week.

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.rose 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.Mounts Rose

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.

http://www.mountswinery.com/ 

707-292-8148 or email at info@mountswinery.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. Campovida RoseVibrant, 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: info@campovida.com
  • 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.Cartograph new tasting room

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, Bonny Doon Vin GrisBeltramo’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

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!

William

 

Related Articles:

Wine of the Week: Campovida Grenache Rosé – Mendocino

Rosé the Rhone Way – A Post in Pictures

Wine Of The Week: 2011 Cartograph Pinot Noir Rosé (Sat. June 26th Release Party!)

Rhône Rosé Panel: Quivira, Mounts, and Skinner Vineyards

Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris De Cigare, Rosé

Rosé the Rhone Way in Healdsburg June 1st with the Rhone Rangers

A Call For Rosé – May Panel Review (Drink Pink!)

Simple Hedonisms – Simple Suggestions For Thanksgiving Wine Pairingsclomid without a prescription

TBD and AQ: Two Restaurants, One Memorable Dining Experience

by Nikki Lincoln

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Courtesy of Thrillist.com

When I signed on to write for this blog, one of the things I was really excited to write about was food and frankly, I haven’t really written too much about it at all. However, this week I had such a crazy dining experience that I decided it was time to take a break from your irregularly scheduled programming and tell you a story about a recent dining experience (there is wine too though, of course).

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One of my favorite parts about living in San Francisco are all of the new restaurants that are constantly popping up around the city. Food has been around as long as people have so it never ceases to amaze me that chefs and restaurateurs are constantly thinking of new concepts for dining experiences. When my friend, Shannon, sent me this article about a new restaurant called TBD opening near my apartment, I was once again amazed and excited to try it out.

20131113_201536The two of us had originally planned to go to the rock climbing gym before dinner so our reservation was pretty late. However, those plans fell through and we decided to show up early to see if we could get a table early or at least get started on some drinks. Our table wasn’t ready early but after browsing through the wine list, Shannon spotted a wine called “The Chocolate Block” and wanted to get it based on name alone. As it turns out, this was one of my favorite wines from South Africa and we decided to just get a bottle and start enjoying it while we waited. We talked about other restaurants we should visit, including TBD’s neighbor (with the same owner) AQ. The wine is a Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet, Cinsault, Viognier blend from the Western Cape as has an amazingly fruit forward nose with delicate black fruit flavor. It is a really enjoyable blend and I would like to pick up a few bottles of it for the house.

The restaurant seated us exactly on time and we quickly knew what we wanted to get after perusing the menu while we waited. Neither of us eat any gluten and Shannon is lactose intolerate. The restaurant had actually called ahead to check for any dietary restrictions or allergies and after we ordered, they checked to see if the dishes were all ok. It was a really appreciated extra touch that can make a big difference in a dining experience. We’ve both become really good at sifting through menus for things that are ok but a lot of times there are unlisted ingredients and it was helpful to have the restaurant checking as well.

Our first dish was a grilled lettuce and duck prosciutto salad. It was incredible and we both loved how the char on the lettuce tasted. As our second dish, a plate of thinly sliced cured ham, appeared, Shannon began to notice it was a bit smoky in the restaurant. With an open kitchen format, it was easy to see the chefs clamoring around the grill. She noted that maybe the hood was broken and we went back to our ham. As two people who love cured meats (I’m a bit worried at the moment because I only have two packages of bacon at home at the moment), this was an amazing treat. There was a great level of saltiness and the texture ranged from chewy to crispy. It was amazing.

Our third dish, a scallop and persimmon ceviche, was dropped at our table when the manager came by and asked if we could step outside while they tried to restart the hood (“I knew it”). We could take our wine with us and they would let us know when it was clear. We grabbed our classes and headed outside with both of us thinking that we should have at least tried a bite of our ceviche before getting up.

It was pretty clear to see that we would not be going back into the restaurant. The servers brought us out our ceviche and the rest of our wine. They also gave out some pumpkin spice soft serve and some sort of cake. They let us know that whatever we were able to enjoy would be comped and the manager gave out his card and said that we could contact him directly for future reservations and he would handle it directly. Then, he came around and said they may be able to accommodate some people next door at AQ.

We headed over there with our wine and were able to be seated rather quickly. We ordered a dish to share and an entree for each of us. Shannon got a quail and sweetbreads dish and I got a lamb with pomegranate. They were both amazing and afterwards, the servers brought around the only gluten free dessert they had. Everything here ended up being comped as well and so we left a nice tip and headed home.

Courtesy of SFGate.com

I don’t think there is anything I appreciate more than great customer service. TBD and AQ delivered this and so much more. Eating out is about good food but it’s also about stepping out of your own kitchen and getting treated well. Sometimes things happen that are out of anyone’s control and in this case, I couldn’t imagine it being handled any better than how TBD and AQ handled it. Everyone was polite and accommodating. That goes both ways. The restaurant couldn’t help what happened, we didn’t need to make it worse by being difficult customers. All in all, it ended up being a great night with great food, and a fun little story.

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