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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 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 Noir Rosés.

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. · Aromas of 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. Score: 92

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. Score: 92

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. Score: 88

2016 Liquid Farm Vogelzang Vineyard Happy Canyon Santa Barbara County Rosé

11.5% alc., $22.50. Mourvédre grapes. · 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. Score: 90

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 some length. Score: 91

2016 Spell Estate Sonoma County Vin Gris of Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 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. Score: 88

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. Score: 88

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. · Moderately 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. Score: 92

2016 Tongue Dancer Putnam Vineyard Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 35 cases, $(sold out). · 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. Score: 89

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