A couple weeks ago, I invited a few writers here in Houston to my house for what I believe to be was the largest blind tasting of American True Rosés in history (the previous “largest” was the one we held two years ago year).
What, one might ask, 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 a simple 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 idea of making rosé in mind. True Rosés are therefore not a byproduct of red wine production, they are intentionally or purposefully made. They are True Rosés.
A couple of years ago, a few days before The World’s Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés I got into a rather heated argument on Twitter with two Master Sommeliers worlds away (one, who literally wrote a book on rosé, was in the UK and the other, who made a rosé by blending red and white wine [a practice that is practically unheard of outside of Champagne] was in Australia). They both took exception to my use of the term “True Rosé” to characterize an approach to making rosé that otherwise does not have an agreed-upon term to describe it.
As I have mentioned before, the term saignée is largely understood and accepted to describe what a True Rosé is not. (For those just joining, a saignée rosé is a byproduct of red wine production where, after a brief maceration, a portion of the juice is “bled off.” Until relatively recently, that bled off juice was either sold off as bulk wine or simply let run down the drain. This is done to both further concentrate the remaining juice on the skins and today, to make a rather quick rosé. The problem is that the juice was intended to make red wine and is thus often a bit lacking in acidity which is perhaps the defining characteristic of a good rosé.)
Their collective contention? By using the adjective “true” I was inherently implying that all other rosés were “false.” While I understand their position, I tried to explain (and by their responses it was largely unsuccessful) that the word “true” has many definitions such as an “ideal” (true love) or “consistent” (true to character) or even “narrow” (in the truest sense).
They did not seem swayed by my argument as they remained fixated on “if something is not true, then it must be false.” In a desperate attempt, I mentioned the concept of a bicycle wheel being “true” but that landed like a lead zeppelin.
Look, there are really good, even outstanding saignées out there (one of my absolute favorite rosés is a saignée—Tongue Dancer by James MacPhail), but all other factors being equal, there is no doubt in my mind that rosés that are made intentionally, id est, a True Rosé, are better than those that are byproducts of red wine production.
Feel free to argue with me. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, no matter how wrong it might be.
A couple of weeks ago, four of us tried 74 American Rosés, trying to find the best. As promised, I am publishing my actual notes from the tasting, which we tasted in 13 flights of six wines. Here are flights 7-8:
2019 A to Z Wineworks Rosé Oregon: Retail $16. “Mostly Sangiovese.” Reddish pink and fruity and lush on the nose. The palate is also lovely, fruity (red berry), tart, a hint sweet. Nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 ACORN Rosato Alegría Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $29. 41% Sangiovese, 30% Zinfandel, 15% Syrah, 11% Dolcetto, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Other. Reddish-pink, a bit dark. A bit vegetal. Nice flavors, good acidity, and a hint of tannin. My wife said it smells like left-over Chinese food, which I like. A lot. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2019 Raeburn Rosé, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $20. “Pinot Noir, Grenache and other red varietals [sic].” Really light. Just a flash of orange. Sweet and floral on the nose. Lovely. Close to a whoa. Nah, I’ll give it one. Fruity, tart, good finish. Yep. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2018 St. Amant Winery Touriga Nacional, Lodi, CA: Retail $18. Corked, unfortunately, as this is one of my favorite producers in Lodi. Oh well, it happens. Screwcap Stuart? Not Rated.
2018 Murphy-Goode Rosé, California: Retail $14. 81% Pinot Noir, 17% Syrah, 2% Grenache. Pale orange in the glass. Fruity on the palate, but a tad light in acidity initially, but comes through on the finish along with some minerality. Yum. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Rosé, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $25. Pale, really pale, barely even “orange.” Fruity in the glass and really tart on the palate. A classic Provençal style. Tart, lovely. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Moshin Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. Pale pink with a bit of orange. Sweet and fruity on the nose (strawberry). Fruity, almost Kool-Aid kinda sweet. The acidity tries to catch up but doesn’t quite make it. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2018 Jason Stephens Winery Pixelated, California: Retail $18. 100% Sangiovese. Fairly dark reddish-orange. A nose of raspberry Kool-Aid. Pretty fresh and actually tasty on the palate, but still that raspberry kool-aid aspect. I didn’t want to like it but I do. A lot. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2019 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Le Rosé, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $22. 69% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 15% Counoise. Reddish-pink with cotton candy nose. Quite dry, particularly as compared to the last, but this is delightful: fruity, tart, balanced. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $15. Orangish-red, slightly dark with quite a funky smell on the nose. The palate has a bit of funk to it but is otherwise pleasant. I can’t place it. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2019 Cambria Pinot Noir Rosé Julia’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, CA: Retail $22. Light pink in color with a slight funkiness to it. Again, though, the palate is much better than the nose, even quite good. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2019 Oak Farm Vineyards Estate Grown, Mokelumne River, Lodi, CA: Retail $26. 65% Sangiovese, 35% Barbera. Really light pink in the glass with plenty of melon and strawberry. Fruit, but subtle on the palate, quite lovely. Excellent. 90-92 Points.