By Mary Orlin
Pink wine is finally getting the respect it deserves. It can be as sophisticated as any red or white wine. I’ve been a huge fan for years. While Rosé is the perfect wine for warm and hot weather, I like to drink it year round. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot more people drink it year round too. You can find at least one Rosé option on wine lists, and grocery stores have a few more bottles of pink wine on the shelves.
Now it’s not fair to Rosé to clump it into a one size fits all description. After all there’s a vast range of styles, including sparkling wine, that you’d gloss right over. I’m not talking about the slightly sweet “blush” wine that is white Zinfandel. Sure, that wine has its place, and I wouldn’t turn down a glass on a sweltering summer day where barbecue is on the menu. You can actually make a dry Rosé of Zinfandel that’s nothing like its sweet sibling.
One of my favorite wine tasting events is “Pink Out,” put on by a group of Rosé diehards, the Rosé Avengers & Producers (RAP). Imagine walking into a room of only pink wine. Yes, it’s fabulous. Add in all the pink outfits, and you’re seeing the world through Rosé colored wine glasses. The Rosé in those glasses just happens to run the color spectrum of pink, from pale, shimmery copper to salmon, rose, hot pink and magenta.
I love finding wines that are delicious and that also have great stories behind the label. At Lorenza, the story is actually on the label. Mother-daughter team Melinda Kearney and and Michele Ouellet make this one wine. That’s Michele on the label, perhaps one of the first fashion models to ever grace a bottle of wine. Michele models all over the world, but she also makes wine. This Rosé is a blend of grape varieties common to southern France, but grown in Lodi, CA. Michele’s also the face of the winery’s Twitter and Facebook sites and you can follow her jaunts to various modeling assignments, and when she’s back in the vineyard.
The wine bottles at Dunstan have a horseshoe on the label, turned up, so that luck doesn’t run out. On the Rosé label, the horseshoe is pink. The winery owners found an old horseshoe as they were planting a vineyard block. That led to the icon for the winery, and also the name. According to legend, a blacksmith named Dunstan made a deal with the devil to stay out of places where an upturned horseshoe hangs over the door. This wine is a Rosé of Pinot Noir, and the grapes come from the coveted Durell Vineyard in Sonoma County. In fact, Dunstan vintner Ellie Phipps Price owns the Durell Vineyard, and also sells grapes to other boutique wine labels. The horseshoe icon for Dunstan is fitting as Price loves horses and is involved in efforts to rescue wild horses.
One winery was pouring its Rosé debut. Midsummer Cellars (a perfect label for Rosé don’t you think?) makes only Cabernet Sauvignon. Owner Rollie Heitz contemplated making a Rosé for years, and finally did it in the 2010 vintage. But he didn’t use Cabernet grapes, he blended Grenache, a red grape that makes an appearance in many pink wines, with Viognier, a white grape. The result is a Rosé that’s a little richer, and more floral than most. I’ve not seen this blend, and as a Viognier lover I have to give Midsummer a big thumbs up.
Up to this point, all the Rosé wines at Pink Out retail between $18 and $28, and none of them had any oak aging. In fact, you rarely talk about aging and Rosé; it’s a wine meant to be drunk young. At Chateau d’Esclans, they turn that notion on its head. The French winery, in the Cotes de Provence region (southern France is pink wine’s spiritual home), not only ages the wine in oak barrels, they also charge $80 for their top bottling, “Garrus.” If this is not the most expensive Rosé on the market, then it’s gotta be in the top three.
Only three barrels of it are made each year (one barrel is 25 cases of wine; three barrels is 75 cases of wine, or 900 bottles). D’Esclans produces four levels of Rosé, with complexity and price rising for each. “Whispering Angel” is a blend of grapes, with no oak, and sells for $20. I found it on a by-the-glass wine list at dinner later that night. Garrus, on the other hand, is made from 80 year old Grenache and Rolle vines. This wine is aged in oak barrels for eight months. The creamy texture on this wine comes from sitting on the lees (dead yeast) in the barrel, and getting stirred up together every so often. That’s a technique called battonage, more common in Chardonnay. Some people at Pink Out compared this wine to a French White Burgundy. Garrus a seductive wine, and I’m smitten.