Spring has Sprung: Break out the Rosé
Spring is the time of the year when many Pinot Noir producers offer a limited amount of Rosé crafted from last
year’s harvest. Sure, Rosé gets a bad rap and is poo-pooed by wine cognoscenti. But when the weather turns
warm, a chilled glass of Pinot Noir Rosé can refresh the palate on its own or provide a perfect accompaniment
to a versatile range of food options. Perhaps you grew up with slightly sweet Mateus and Lancers Rosé wines
like I did and frequently enjoyed them. White Zinfandel later appeared on the wine scene and catered to the
American soda pop palate, but was never for me. Today, serious, bone-dry versions of Rosé have become
increasingly popular and a favorite of mine. The fresh fruit aromas and minimal tannins make for perfect
quaffing or drinking with summer fare like hamburgers, grilled chicken and seafood, or a BLT sandwich.
I find it challenging to critically review a Pinot Noir Rosé wine, because it is an unpretentious wine to enjoy, not
a wine to be critiqued. Admittedly, there are serious versions, crafted with the same intent as regular Pinot Noir,
and their superiority can be recognized, but most do not require contemplation. Despite the increasing
popularity of Pinot Noir Rosé, the wines are produced in small lots because quality Pinot Noir grapes are
expensive to farm and buy. The wines demand prices in the range of $18 to $30, much less than half the price
of premium Pinot Noir and this value pricing, along with the appeal, make the wines disappear rapidly from the
marketplace in the year following harvest. When you taste Rosé, you taste the sun.
For a good read about Rosé, check out Rosé All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine, by Katherine Cole.
Here are four excellent examples. Scores are for the Rosé category and represent the score of the wine in
relation to other Pinot Noir Rosés, not premium still Pinot Noir.
2016 Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir Rosé
13.5% alc., pH 3.16, TA 0.78, 630
cases, $28. Released April 2017. Estate grown. Crafted from grapes specifically grown and vinified
to showcase the attributes of a Rosé. Martini, Pommard and Dijon 115 clones. Whole cluster
pressed while fruit was still cool with minimal skin contact. The juice was transferred to older
French oak barrels and fermented cool, aged on the lees for four months, with no malolactic
Moderate pink color in the glass. A blend of fruity and savory aromas including
cranberry, red cherry, strawberry, and herbs. A soulful, satisfying wine with embracable flavors of
red cherry, strawberry and rose water backed by snappy acidity, finishing with a grip of citrus on the
finish that offers some length. Similar in style to a Provence Rosé.
2016 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.16, TA
0.78, 393 cases, $32. Release May 2017. Sourced from Dutton Ranch Wat and Dutton Ranch
Galante vineyards located in the cool Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Clones 37 (Mt. Eden)
from Wat and Dijon 115 from Galante. Harvest Brix 21.0º specially for this bottling. Whole cluster
pressed as a white wine using a gentle Champagne press program. Fermented in stainless steel
tank. After a few days in tank, 40% of the juice was transferred to 3-year-old French oak barrels
where it fermented to near dryness. The two components were later combined in a stainless steel
tank where the blend remained on its primary lees for about two months.
Light salmon pink color in
the glass. Lovely perfume of blood orange, strawberry and floral notes. Clean and bright, in a light styled wine,
with tastes of nectarine, raspberry and blood orange. Finishes up tempo with refreshing acidity.
2016 TongueDancer Putnam Vineyard Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.19,
TA 0.82, 95 cases, $25. Released March 8, 2017. A saignée of Pinot Noir from the Putnam Vineyard
in Annapolis. 2-day skin contact, fermented in stainless steel with M2 yeast. 100% malolactic
Moderate copper hue in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of strawberry,
watermelon and yellow rose. The flavors echo the aromas along with tastes of blood orange,
persimmon and herbs. Clean and upbeat, with some persistence on the citrus peel infused finish.
The alcohol in this wine, above the level of many Rosés, gives the wine more body and a hint of
2016 Waxwing Blair Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir Rosé
12.7% alc., 42 cases, $23. Release March 2017.
Pommard 4 clone. Whole cluster pressed, fermented in
stainless steel. Aged in barrels with weekly lees stirring.
Bottled January 27, 2017, after 3 months in barrel.
apricot color in the glass. This is a people-pleasing wine with
many admirable attributes. The nose is alive and sustained in
the glass, offering aromas of apricot, strawberry, cherry, blood orange
and a floral note. The delicious flavors of cherry, strawberry white peach
and apricot have good weight and are bright and lifted. The wine is
perfectly balanced with fresh acidity, finishing with a blood orange tang.
The best domestic rosé that I have experienced in quite awhile. Serve
chilled of course.