Pinot Noir Rosé: A Wine with a Dissociative Identity Disorder
Pinot Noir Rosé has two distinct identities. One personality is that of a flirtatious, welcoming and social quaff
that refreshes and casually satisfies as well enhances the enjoyment of many foods. A contrasting second
personality is that of a wine begging to be taken seriously by the wine cognoscenti.
There is no question that Rosé wines have shown more growth in popularity recently than any other varietal as
shown by these Nielsen statistics for U.S. retail wine sails the year ending 11/05/16. The wine is affordable,
easy to like and consumers are currently attracted to it in its dry form, while sweet forms such as white
Zinfandel are losing popularity. The French, who know a thing or two about wine, can’t get enough Rosé, and
one out of every three bottles consumed in that country is a Rosé.
However, some question whether Rosé wines are serious enough to be discussed in the same breath as
popular Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Wine critics have even been downright
degrading, questioning whether Rosé should be seriously reviewed. Susan Manfull recently published an
article online - “Is Rosé a Serious Wine? at www.provencewinezine.com. Although her comments focused on
Rosé from Provence, her quotes from informed sources are applicable to domestic Rosé wines as well. Like
any wine, there are cheap, inexpensive insipid examples, but the overall quality has markedly increased over
past two decades. “The results are a very diverse palate of quality Rosés - some are simple ones for everyday
enjoyment and others are made to be enjoyed with gastronomic meals.”
I would say most domestic wineries offering Pinot Noir Rosé are committed to quality and take their wine very
seriously. Certain wine critics, including myself, review Rosé wines like we would any other premium wine since
it can be a somewhat complex wine with seductive perfume, tantalizing flavors and refreshing acidity. That
said, because Rosés generally lack the nuance, the tannic structure, the concentration and the finish of Pinot
Noir wines, I judge them only against other examples of the genre and score them in comparison to other Pinot
Here are a number of recently released 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé wines (and one outlier) that show the
commitment of their winemakers to quality. The wines are, after all, a reflection of the winery’s reputation.
There is considerable variety in the types of bottles used for Rosé wines. The wines reviewed here were
bottled in various formats, including the traditional sloping Pinot Noir bottle, the tall Alsatian bottle, as well as
Bordeaux white wine styled bottles. The wines are noticeably lower in general in alcohol as the grapes are
usually picked at a lower Brix. All of these wines are best served chilled.
National Rosé day is coming up on June 10. Three new books have recently been published on Rosé: Rosé All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine, Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé, and Rosé Wine: The Guide to Drinking Pink.
2016 Balletto Vineyards Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir
4,800 cases, $18. Estate
grown and bottled. The winery’s rosé was originally a saignée with residual sugar, but Anthony
Beckman has taken the wine more seriously since 2009, now producing 50% of it whole cluster like
a white wine, 50% saignée, and vinifying it in stainless steel in a completely dry style. One of the few Russian
River Valley wineries making a significant quantity of Pinot Noir Rosé.
strawberry, blood orange and herbs leads to a bright, clean, crisp and smoothly textured wine,
offering delightful flavors of red berries, peach and pink grapefruit.
2016 Big Table Farm Laughing Pig Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Rosé
14.3% alc., 129 cases, $32. Smaller
crop load, smaller berries and clusters meant less saigné this vintage.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Highly
appealing nose featuring aromas of wild strawberry, peach, garden herbs, sweet tobacco and potpourri.
Medium bodied with flavors of strawberry, cranberry, yellow nectarine, savory herbs and spice. Nicely
balanced, with some persistence on the red-fruited finish.
2016 Cosa Obra Sonoma County Los Carneros Rosé of Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.09, TA 0.88, $18.
Sourced from Sangiacomo Southern Sonoma Vineyard, first planted in 1974. 100% Pommard. Produced by
the saignée method.
Moderate salmon color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of golden apple, strawberry
and lychee. More expressive in the mouth with noticeable richness and intensity, offering flavors of nectarine
and blood orange, finishing dry and slightly tart with a charge of pink grapefruit.
2016 Liquid Farm Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon Santa Barbara County Rosé
11.5% alc., $22.50.
Light apricot color in the glass. Slight reduction on the nose with aromas of slate, wild
strawberry, blood orange and white flowers. Clean, refreshing and smoothly textured, with flavors of apricot,
peach and blood orange, finishing with a juicy cut of acidity.
2016 LUMOS Chiquita Estate Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé
13.5% alc., 86 cases, $25. Released April 1, 2017. Produced
from organic grapes.
Moderate ruby red color in the glass.
Inviting aromas of strawberry, white flowers and a hint of
spice. Good richness of fruit, with flavors of red berries and
orange flower water. Bone dry, with a cleansing finish offering
2016 Spell Estate Sonoma County Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
348 cases, $23. A saignée of Pinot Noir (juice removed from each lot of
Pinot Noir as it is being de-stemmed into the fermenter. Aged in neutral
French oak barrels and stainless steel.
Light pink color in the glass. Reserved, but pleasant scent of cherry
juice and yellow peach. Bone dry, with flavors of melon, peach, orange zest and a hint of dried herbs.
2016 Red Car North Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., $22. 60% Sonoma Coast and 40% Mendocino
Ridge. Harvested at very low Brix, whole cluster pressed off the skins and fermented in a mix of oak barrels
and stainless steel. Wild yeast fermentation.
Very light pink color in the glass. Engaging aromas of red berries,
orange zest and a hint of nutty oak. A bit of spritz is evident. Flavorful, with tastes of pear, strawberry and
passion fruit, finishing dry and tangy with the slightest tannin.
2016 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Los Carneros Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $26. Fromorganic grapes grown at
Robert Sinskey vineyards. Whole cluster pressed.
light apricot color in the glass. Exuberant aromas of blood
orange, strawberry, peach and floral bouquet. Highly
satisfying, with flavors of orange, apricot and yellow peach.
This wine speaks of California sunshine and is consistently
one of the finest domestic Rosés in the marketplace.
2016 Tongue Dancer Putnam Vineyard Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 35 cases, $(sold
Moderate pink color in the glass. An array of aromas are offered, including dark strawberry, spice, yellow
plum and floral bouquet. A richer style and darker fruited style, with flavors of blueberry and purple berry, along
with orange, pink grapefruit and nutty oak. Nicely composed, with gentle tannin and some length on the finish.