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Springtime for Rosé

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Bandol wine region in Provence. (Courtesy photo)

Although modern rosé wines are designed to pair with food and be enjoyed year-round, they still come to mind when the spring air begins to warm. While some are “bled off” from juice destined for a red wine — a process known as the Saignee method — others are planted and field-blended specifically for the rosé.

While Provence remains the worldwide leader in the production of fine rosé, I have discovered several releases from California and the Pacific Northwest that are composed of Burgundian, Rhone and Bordeaux varietals.

I first tasted the Whispering Angel rosé from Chateau d’ Esclans at a 2006 tasting of Cote de Provence wines. A blend of grenache, cinsault, vermentino, syrah and tourben, the Chateau d’ Esclans Whispering Angel 2017 ($22) is clean with dense flavors and a rich mouthfeel, the result of regular lees stirrings. Another release, the Chateau d’ Esclans Rock Angel Rosé 2016 ($35) has an herbal/mineral character that is exceptional with food.

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From Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the full whole cluster pressed 2017 Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Rosé of Pinot Noir ($28) is crafted from designated stock in two vineyards. Once it opened up in the glass, the floral hints in the bouquet heightened and the crisp, complex berry and melon flavors were revealed.

Grenache is among my favorite varietals, as a red wine, in a Rhone blend or as a rosé. Recent tastings of grenache rosé from Santa Barbara, Napa and Sonoma counties showcase the grape’s adaptability and the welcoming terroir throughout California.

From the estate Colson Canyon Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, grapes were purposely harvested early to retain the bright acidity in the 2017 Tensley Colson Canyon Grenache Rosé ($22). Nicely structured, it expressed complex, balanced tropical fruit, melon and citrus flavors.

Sharon Kazan Harris sources the grapes for her Rarecat Rosé 2017 ($36) from a vineyard in Davis, Calif., with, as she describes, poor, rocky soil, perfect for the core grenache. Aside from the soothing salmon color, the floral aromas are pronounced and pink grapefruit dominates the palate. It has a noticeable acidity that will compliment seafood and shellfish.

The 2016 Domaines Ott “Chateau Romassan” Bandol Rosé. (Courtesy photo)

I’m told that the inspiration for the 2017 Limerick Lane Rosé ($24) came from eating mussels and drinking rose in the village of Cassis, along the French Meditteranean, something I can relate to. The syrah (62 percent) and grenache (38 percent) grapes for this Russian River Valley blend were specifically designated and harvested. The rich citrus and strawberry flavors set up a nice, long mineral finish.

Produced from Mendocino County carignane grapes that are bled off after three long days with skins, the 2017 Carol Shelton “Rendezvous” Rosé ($15) has a darker red color than most. There are spice notes on the nose and rich, expressive fruit flavors that peak through the finish. It pairs well with Thai food or BBQ, but I prefer it by itself.

St. Supery Winery, located in the heart of the Napa Valley, has produced a variety of Bordeaux-style wines for nearly three decades. With a darker cherry color, the St. Supery Rosé 2015 ($29), a merlot-dominant blend, features five Bordeaux varietals that convey elegant flavors of red berries, currants and herbs. It pairs well with seafood and rich sauces.

Bandol, in southern France, is one of the premier wine regions in Provence with soils and climate fitting for the mourvedre grape that imparts structure to wine. All red and rosé wines from the region must contain at least 50 percent mourvedre. The highly acclaimed 2016 Domaines Ott “Château Romassan” Bandol Rosé ($47), is 60 percent mourvedre with added cinsault, grenache and syrah. Earning reviews in the mid-nineties, the bouquet is a scented flower garden and the vibrant hints of pink grapefruit remain throughout the lush finish.

From Washington’s Columbia Valley region, the 2016 Dunham Cellars/MacLachlan “Pursued by Bear” Blushing Bear Columbia Valley Rosé ($28) is another grenache-dominant release with strong support from cinsault and mourvedre. “Pursued by Bear” is actor Kyle MacLachlan’s label, and he apparently was personally involved in the development of this wine. I found it clean and balanced with a diversified and opulent flavor profile.

This list hardly scratches the surface of what is available. Whatever suits your palate, new rosé, with all the complexities of red wine, is something that should not be overlooked.

Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com.

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