Download &
print (pdf)

Pinot Noir Rosé is REAL Wine...Honestly

Rosé still wines, particularly those from Provence, France, receive considerable press this time of year since this seasonal varietal is traditionally released in the spring. The United States is second only to France in rosé wine consumption, with women consuming more rosé than men. There are reports touting the rise in popularity of “brosé” among men, but the pink varietal still retains an emasculating connotation to many men.

Rosé wines have a history of introducing neophytes to wine over the last fifty years. Slightly sweet Mateus and Lancers rosés were a favored quaff of young people of my baby boomer generation, and more recently, white Zinfandel, a high-volume wine produced in California, has filled the role. These sweet rosés appeal to the American soda pop palate, but can lead to interest in dry versions which have become increasingly de rigueur.

Domestic Pinot Noir rosé wines make up a very small percentage of the market, but their limited production is one factor driving their popularity, along with an attractive price point (usually $18-$25). Pinot Noir specialists frequently offer small quantities of rosé each year, often bleeding off some juice (saignée), concentrating the color and flavor compounds from the skins in the remaining juice to enhance the quality of red Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir rosé is rarely profitable at it’s lower price point, and therefore few producers farm vines specifically for rosé and vinify it in a serious manner befitting regular Pinot Noir. Exceptions can be found, and a number of serious Pinot Noir rosés are offered in both Oregon (examples are rosés offered by Antica Terra, Stoller Family Estate, and Van Duzer) and California (Heintz, Ousterhout and Red Car). Although the best examples of domestic Pinot Noir rosé are rarely epiphanic, they should not be judged by their color, and can offer a “real” and exceptional drinking experience in the right context.

For me, the biggest advantage of Pinot Noir rosé over red Pinot Noir is that rosé is best chilled and therefore ideally suited for steamy summer days when grazing and dining outdoors is best enjoyed with a lighter, colder wine companion offering lower alcohol and higher acidity. The only thing better on a hot day than a well-crafted and chilled glass of rosé is another glass of rosé.

Rosés are best enjoyed when fresh, that is, consumed within a year or two of the vintage date. Vintage can make a difference with Pinot Noir rosés just as with red Pinot Noir, and the current offerings are from the excellent 2014 and 2015 vintages. 2015 was another warm vintage but nearly ideal growing season for Oregon, like 2014, with the resulting harvest generous due to great fruit set, making Pinot Noir rosé readily available. 2015 was also an outstanding vintage for California, and one of the earliest harvests on record (Richard Sanford, owner of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards said it was the earliest harvest in his 46 years as a winegrower). Yields were down, following three larges harvests in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but the quality was superior. California Pinot Noir rosé production should be noticeably less prolific from the 2015 vintage.

I have reviewed here several recently released serious domestic Pinot Noir rosés. The scores are not comparable to those of red Pinot Noir, but are uniquely gauged for rosé Pinot Noir.

2015 Bacigalupi Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 75 cases, $30. 34% Wente clone, 33% Pommard clone, 33% clone 667. Brix at harvest 24.3º. The 667 was de-stemmed, gently crushed and sat on skins for 8 years, then pressed and cold fermented for 3 weeks. The Wente and Pommard grapes were destemmed, placed into tank, and at 24 hours a saignée was done. The rosé was fermented separately for 3.5 weeks until dryness, then blended and stored 4 months in neutral oak barrels until bottling. · Moderately deep pinkish red color in the glass. This is the heartiest, ripest and darkest colored of the rosé wines reviewed for this article. Deep aromas of dark red berries, watermelon, orange zest and a hint of toast. Robust flavors of darker cherry, strawberry, black raspberry and blackberry are offered in a softly textured and mid weight wine. This wine drinks more like a still Pinot Noir. Score: 88

2015 Furthermore California Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 190 cases, $25. · Moderate pinkish red color in the glass. Demure aromas of red berries lead to modestly rich flavors of blueberry, cranberry and peach. Soft and smooth in the mouth, lacking in vibrancy. Score: 86

2015 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., pH 3.20, TA 0.72, 215 cases, $28. Sourced from The Wat Vineyard of Dutton Ranch in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley. UCD 37 (Mt Eden) clone. Harvest Brix 21.1º. Whole cluster pressed using a gentle Champagne press program that minimizes extraction and maximizes desirable solids for fermentation. 70% stainless steel fermented, 30% fermented in neutral French oak barrels for two weeks. Entire blend remained on the primary lees for about two months. · Delicate coral color in the glass. Striking aromas of crushed strawberries, blood orange and rose petal. A gorgeous, lighter styled rosé that sports vibrant acidity lifting the fruit flavors of strawberry, melon and citrus. Softly textured, finishing refreshingly dry. Score: 91

2015 Hartford Court Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.16, 331 cases, $30. Harvested from estate grapes ( primarily Fog Dance Vineyard) at 22.8º Brix. Whole cluster pressed, tank fermented with 20% of the wine finishing ferment in neutral barrels. · Very light pinkish orange color in the glass. Aromas of fresh strawberry and pink grapefruit are echoed on the palate with additional notes of blood orange and orange peel, finishing bright, clean and dry. Score: 90

2015 Kutch Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir

12.3% alc., $25. · Moderate pinkish orange color in the glass. Demure aromas of red berries, spice and ocean air lead to a full-flavored rosé replete with bracing acidity that frames the blood orange, strawberry and lime theme. The citrus-driven acidity sticks out on the soprano finish. Score: 87

2015 Lynmar Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.35, 743 cases, $25, screwcap. Release May 8, 2016 (Mother’s Day). Multiple clones. Produced from estate fruit using French saignée method, and aged in stainless steel tanks four months. · Darkest in color among the wines tasted in this feature showing a moderate watermelon color. Very even tempered and easy to like, with aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, and hints of peach and herbs. Fuller-bodied, with a bright frame and a refreshing finish. Score: 90

2015 Martin Ray Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

$20, screwcap. Estate grown. Clones 943 and 115. Produced by the saignée method by which grapes are crushed to a stainless steel tank, allowed 6 to 8 hours of skin contact, then drained to stainless tanks and fermented with proprietary yeasts. · Moderate pink color in the glass. The most inviting nose of the wines tasted in this feature, offering aromas of blood orange, strawberry, apple, lime and watermelon. Vivid flavors echo the nose with added hints of cherry and pink grapefruit. This is a deftly balanced and refreshing wine that will turn you on to Pinot Noir rosé. Score: 92

2014 Ousterhout Woods Vineyard Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.71, 298 cases, $N/A (sold out). Sourced from a small vineyard planted to clone 777 in Goldridge soil. Double Gold Medal from the 2015 Sonoma Harvest Fair. Slow, cool fermentation in stainless steel vessels. · Moderately light pinkish orange color in the glass. Aromas of blood orange, roasted nuts and floral bouquet lead off. Slightly creamy on the palate, with inviting flavors of peach, red berry and orange peel. A serious wine with good focus, and a snappy, long finish. Score: 91

2014 Ousterhout 800 Vines-Jenna’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 352 cases, $N/A (sold out). 82% Jenna’s and 18% 800 vines vineyards. · Moderately light pinkish orange color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of strawberry, red cherry, earthy flora and almond skin lead to a beautifully balanced wine with flavors of orange flower and pear, finishing juicy, dry and uplifting. More Provence than California in style. Score: 91

2015 Ousterhout Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 540 cases, $25. A blend from three vineyards: Bucher, Jenna’s and Nurmi. · Moderate pinkish red color in the glass. Fruit aromas of red berries, peach and citrus mix with savory notes of peat and underbrush. Ripe flavors of strawberry and cherry with an herbal thread in the background. Some richness, finishing dry, even slightly astringent. Score: 89

2015 Ousterhout 800 Vines Vineyard Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 88 cases, $35. Sourced from a 1-acre vineyard that is in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley. · Moderate pinkish red color in the glass. Demure aromas of cherry, strawberry, cranberry and waffle cone lead to a plump, rich palate of cranberry, citrus and Damsel plum flavors. A comforting wine with a velvet mouthfeel and integrated acidity, finishing bright with some notable length. I get the sense that this wine will be even more appealing with another 6 to 12 months in bottle. Score: 91

2015 Ousterhout Woods Vineyard Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 235 cases, $29. Clone 777 planted in a tiny vineyard in the southern part of the Russian River Valley owned by the Wood family. · Delicate tangerine color in the glass. Engaging aromas of strawberry, raspberry and blood orange that I found irresistible. A charge of delicious strawberry, yellow peach, tangerine, tutti fruiti, and dried herb flavors impress and linger on an expansive finish replete with crisp acidity. Plenty to discover in this unusually gifted and beautifully balanced rosé. Score: 93

2015 Soliste Soleil Rouge Sonoma Coast Rosé de Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 148 cases, $22. 43% 12-hour skin contact, 85% whole cluster press, 4.5 months in neutral French oak barrels. · Pale pinkish orange color in the glass. Lovely aromas of strawberry, cherry, pink grapefruit, rose petal and herbs replicated in the flavors in a vibrant, mouthwatering style that finishes with a welcome cut of steely acidity. Score: 90

2015 Scribe Estate IV Odd Angel Sonoma Rosé

12.0% alc., pH 3.23, TA 0.78, $38. Harvest Brix 21º. Blend of fruit from Estate and Carneros vineyards. Whole cluster pressed followed by a long, cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks. · Moderately light pinkish orange color in the glass. Upon opening, bright aromas of pear, strawberry, lime and pink grapefruit leap from the glass. Luscious, yet crisp on the palate, with flavors of strawberry, peach, pink grapefruit and a subtle petrol note. A wine of admirable intensity and purpose that finishes dry. Score: 90

2015 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé

12.5% alc., pH 3.06, TA 0.69, $25, screwcap. Estate grown grapes with specific sections of vineyard farmed intentionally for rosé. Whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel. · Appealing light pink color in the glass. Lovely aromas of crushed strawberry, peach and rose petal. Exquisitely balanced and refreshingly crisp, with many nuanced flavors including strawberry, pink grapefruit, lime, herbs, peach and red berry. Score: 91

Print entire newsletter