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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 fermentation. · 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. Score: 92

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. Score: 90

2016 Tongue Dancer 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 fermentation. · 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 perceived sweetness. Score: 91

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. · Delicate 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. Score: 93

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