Last month, I invited a few writers here in Houston to my house for what I believe to be was the second largest blind tasting of American True Rosés in history (our tasting last year was technically bigger but too big).
What is a “True Rosé”?
Well, there are essentially three ways to make a rosé wine. The first, which is rarely practiced outside of sparkling wine production, is simply a blend of red wine and white wine. The second, which is widely practiced around the world, is called the “Saignée Method” where shortly after a red grape crush, a portion of the grape juice (after brief contact with the skins) is bled off (“saignée” means “bled” in French). This bled off wine is then vinified as if it were a white wine.
The third option is what I call a “True Rosé.” In this process, the grapes are raised, picked, and processed with the singular idea of making rosé in mind. True Rosés are therefore not a byproduct of red wine production (like saignées), they are intentionally or purposefully made. They are True Rosés.
Last year, just a few days after The Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés, two articles landed in my inbox. The first was from the online wine ‘zine, Vinepair, and its Executive Editor Emily Saladino who took a rather meandering look at the current rosé market in the U.S.
Among other puzzling points, Saladino claimed: “At this point, we have absolutely hit peak rosé.” I imagine that she meant that after several years of rather dramatic growth, the U.S. market has become over-saturated with pink wine. She continued, suggesting that the market has nowhere else to go but down since the market is now flooded with hundreds of inexpensive, “bad” rosés.
The other article, by Mitch Frank in the June 30th (2019) issue of Wine Spectator, also took a multi-faceted look at the rosé market (which frankly lacked focus, but that is another matter, perhaps). Among many of his claims, Frank suggested that the current rosé “trend” (which he posited was a step above a”fad”) had likely hit his zenith. He also seemed to imply that rosés, were less serious than other styles of Wine:
And rosé can be a lot of fun, its alluring hues often packaged with eye-catching labels and creative bottle shapes. Market research firm Nielsen claims that 40 percent of rosé consumers are women ages 21 to 34, but the pink wine audience is broader in scope-just search the hashtag “brosé.”
While both articles provided interesting points of view and several unsubstantiated assertions, they based their opinions on the bottom of the market, wines that cost $10 or less. The Spectator article did mention that many of the “new” rosés on the market were saignées, which “was an afterthought, and the quality of most of it reflected that.” Neither of the pieces spent much time on the wines at the upper end of the spectrum, on intentional or True Rosés, which for me represent the best of the category, both in the present and future.
Too many continue to see rosé as a niche, a fad, a non-serious wine that does not require much thought. Well, if our tastings these past four years are any indication, there are oodles of wines that prove that some rosés are not only at the top of the genre but should also be considered outstanding wines regardless of hue.
A couple of weeks ago, four of us tried 74 American Rosés on a glorious Saturday afternoon, trying to find the best. As promised, I am publishing my actual notes from the tasting, which we tasted in 13 flights of 6 wines. Here is the third set of two flights.
2019 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc Sylviane St. Helena, CA: Retail $32. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc. Rich pinkish-red color. Lovely nose of ripe red berry fruit. Tart, tangy, and tasty. Holy cow. Bursting with flavor and quite balanced. Lovely. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2018 Kokomo Grenache Rosé Pauline’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $26. Pale, with just a hint of color (orangish pink). Lovely nose, peachy strawberry. Tart and lovely on the palate with balance and fruit. Really nice. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2019 McCay Cellars Carignane Rosé, Lodi, CA: Retail $24. Classic pink in the glass with quite ripe fruit on the nose. Fruity, rich, even a bit sweet on the palate, but lacking a bit in tartness. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Michael-David Vineyards Cinsault Bechthold Vineyard, Lodi, CA: Retail $19. Part Saignée. Classic pink hue. Exotic type aromas: mango, papaya. Rich, almost syrupy on the palate with intense fruit, almost medicinal. Good to Very Good, 86-88 Points.
2019 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Rosé, Santa Barbara County, CA: Retail $22. Cotton candy pink. Rich fruit, a bit floral, nice nose. Lovely. Fruity, tart, a hint of sweetness. Fantastic. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2018 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve, California: Retail $17. 82% Pinot Noir, 15% Syrah, 3% Grenache. Pale orange in the glass. Floral on the nose with some lemon. The palate is a bit soapy, but good acidity and subtle fruit. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2019 Furioso Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $32. Pinkish-orange but more pink with lovely red fruit on the nose. Tart, quite tart, but also fruity initially, but drops off a bit by the finish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Bokisch Vineyards Rosado Terra Alta Vineyard Lodi, CA: Retail $18. 85% Garnacha; 15% Tempranillo Quite light with an orange tint in the glass with ripe strawberry and peach aromas. Another lovely wine on the palate with subtle fruit and considerable minerality. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2019 McCay Cellars Cinsault Rosé, Lodi, CA: Retail $24. Reddish pink with a really rich, fruity, sweet nose. Intense fruit with some tannins, could use a bit of acidity, but this is very nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rosé, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $25. Pale with a hint of orangish pink. Muted nose. Fruity, tart, balanced. Lovely. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2017 Alara Cellars Grenache Rosé, San Benito County, CA: Retail $25. Slight orange pale. Peachy on the nose. Tart, fruity, lovely. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2019 Ferrari-Carano Sangiovese Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $15. Lightly reddish-pink. Good nose, the palate is on the fruity side so it comes off a tad sweet, but very nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.