Rose is breaking out of its stereotypes

Vineyards in the Pfalz region of Germany produce notable rosés of pinot noir.

While it is now something we enjoy year-round, good rosé is still associated with the arrival of spring. In recent years, many of its stereotypes have been put aside as rosé has become more of a pink designer wine rather than an afterthought use for the remaining, less desirable juice.

Statistics show that women drink more rosé but the gender pendulum is shifting as the complex flavors casts an image that is less threatening to men. Many are adopting a “real men drink pink” attitude.

Although rosé has its own identity, it reflects the characteristics of the grape varietals used. While pinot noir is one of my favorite wines, it has taken some time for me to warm up to rosé of pinot noir, especially when it is too dry and the acidity overpowers the true flavors and aromas.

The pinot noir grape is thin-skinned and temperamental, but proper care before and after harvest can result in unmatched finesse and elegance. In rosé, pinot noir is crisp and dry with a firm acidity, but with time I have found releases that also express a true flavor profile of the grape with limited skin contact.

One such wine, the readily available 2018 La Crema Pinot Noir Rosé ($25) from Monterey County, expresses balanced flavors of watermelon, strawberry and grapefruit with mineral elements and a vibrant acidity.

Aside from the brief maceration (contact with the skins), most rosé of pinot noir come from grapes that are generally picked early, then slow-pressed and cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. Some are pressed whole-cluster and others fermented on the lees. Old stereotypes are diminished by this new diversity in style.

Most of the finest rosé of pinot noir comes from the same appellations in California, Oregon and France’s Burgundy region that produces pinot noir. Two acclaimed exceptions originate from South America and the Pfalz region in Germany.

Rising temperatures have enabled Pfalz a region in western Germany to successfully produce spätburgunder (pinot noir), known as the “heartbreak grape” because of its delicate temperament.

Founded in 1849, Reichsrat von Buhl is one of the oldest and largest wine estates in Germany, specializing in riesling, sekt (sparkling wine) and now, spätburgunder. The 2016 Reichsrat von Buhl “Bone Dry” Spätburgunder Rosé Pfalz ($17), available online and at various local outlets, has distinguished, subtle cherry aromas and spice on the palate.

Well-balance with intense aromas define the Bodega Garzon Uruguay Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ($18) from South America’s fourth largest wine region. While awarding this pink wine 91 points, James Suckling described “rose petals, watermelon, strawberries and cream. Bright and fresh on the palate with razor-sharp acidity and a fresh finish.”

Made from a variety of estate-grown fruit in Burgundy, France, the 2005 Bourgogne Pinot Noir Rosé, Chateau de Puligny Montrachet ($17) is a good value, available locally, and provides an opportunity to enjoy a true wine from the region that gave birth to pinot noir.

Warmer temperatures in Oregon’s Willamette Valley allowed the grapes to fully ripen, resulting in a nice balance of brix (sugar) and acidity in the whole- cluster pressed 2018 Gran Moraine Rosé of Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton ($28). Very pale salmon in color with floral and pineapple aromas, the flavors are well- integrated and the mouthfeel is both dry and creamy.

The Tous Ensemble is a series of approachable, everyday releases from Sonoma County’s Copain Wines. A cooler growing season in Mendocino County to the north allowed the harvest to occur over a period of time, resulting in a diversity of ripeness and flavor development in the 2018 Copain Tous Ensemble Rosé of Pinot Noir ($20). I found a vibrant nose combining floral notes with hints of grapefruit. The crisp, dry mouthfeel delivered flavors of melon and cherry with a spice element on the finish.

Utilizing fruit from five vineyards within the cooler Sonoma Coast appellation, Ernest Vineyards produced the Rosé of Pinot Noir 2018 “The Motley” ($18) in the saignée method that, after limited skin contact, “bleeds off” some juice before the remainder goes through complete maceration and fermentation. Released under their Eugenia label, this rosé has herbal notes that accompany traditional flavors and a vibrant acidity.

When the rain stops and the sun emerges, rosé of pinot noir belongs on your patio table aside those made from Rhone varietals like syrah and grenache.

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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 or email him at He is a guest columnist.

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