Last month, 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 (surpassing our own record of two years ago).
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.
I have been fortunate enough to be on a few press trips and thus I have visited numerous wine regions with other members of the media. Many of them have become friends and I look forward to reconnecting when we are paired once again on a trip or at a tasting.
There is one aspect of this familiarity that is a bit of a pain in the rear, however. Whenever I taste a new (to me) rosé, I always ask whether it is a True Rosé or not. Why? I’ll get to that below. It becomes a pain in the rear because the other wine writers in the group (at least those who know me) let out a collective groan as if to say “Here he goes, again.”
I never ask, but my question to those other writers (and PR people for that matter) is “Why aren’t you asking this question??”
I am about to go into the weeds of wine writing/wine geekdom here, so if you would rather not end up with a headache, skip the section below in BLUE.
In general, wine writers want to know about all aspects of wine production from the broad (e.g., what grape varieties are used) to the ridiculously sublime (not just if oak is used, but American or French [or Hungarian, etc.], what “toast” [the amount of charring done to the barrel] is applied, even the particular effing forest from whence came the trees).
But I have never heard a single writer (other than me) ask about how a particular rosé was made (I know this for a fact since had someone else asked, I would have dropped to a knee and proposed on the spot, regardless of gender or either of our individual marital statuses).
The same is not true when the discussion turns to sparkling wine and most people want to know the method used. Specifically, writers (and therefore their readers) want to determine whether the given wine was made using the “traditional method” (i.e., it was made in the same fashion as champagne).
That does not seem to be the case when it comes to rosé, for whatever reason, which is too bad for the simple reason that those winemakers who make an intentional rosé (again, what I call a “True Rosé”) tend to be pretty darned enthusiastic about it. And, let’s not forget, that True Rosés tend to be better than their saignée counterparts.*
*Here I insert my regular disclaimer that there are many fine saignées out there (including one of my favorite rosés, the Tongue Dancer Rosé of Pinot Noir) but all things being equal, a rosé made with intention will be better than one that is a byproduct of red wine production.
OK. Enough geekiness.
A couple of weeks ago, four of us tried 74 American Rosés on a sweltering 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 4-6 wines. Here is the fifth set of two flights.
2019 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $20. Light pink in the glass. Floral and slightly fruity on the nose with subtle fruit and great tartness on the palate. Very nice, classic provençal style. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 Brooks Pinot Noir Rosé Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $22. Light pink with an orange tint. Sweet nose with honeysuckle and over-ripe cantaloupe. Fantastic on the palate with some chalk on the back end. Whoa. Lovely. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2018 La Crema Pinot Noir Rosé, Monterey, CA: Retail $25. Fairly light pink in the glass. Rather floral in the glass with a bit of minerality and another lovely wine on the palate. Fruity, well-balanced, and tart. Delightful. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 Oak Farm Vineyards Rosé, Mokelumne River, Lodi, CA: Retail $26. Saignée of 65% Sangiovese, 35% Barbera. Really light pink with a touch of orange. Fruity, but lacking some acidity and a tad sweet for me, still, yum. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2019 Copain Rosé Les Voisins, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $32. 100% Pinot Noir. Lovely pink color. Strawberry and red flower. Good acidity, restrained fruit, a bit of spritz on the finish might cause some concern, but tasty nonetheless. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Canoe Ridge The Expedition, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $16. 35% Syrah, 19% Roussanne, 18% Mourvèdre, 11% Cinsault, 10% Counoise, 7% Viognier. Light pink with a really muted nose; I can’t get much of anything here. Decent, but muted flavors (citrus, peach) on the palate as well, eventually, it came out of its slumber. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2019 Brooks Pinot Noir Rosé Willamette Valley, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $22. Light Cotton Candy pink. Strawberry and red rose. Lovely on the palate fruity tart, great depth. Whoa. Really fantastic. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2019 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28. Light pink. Mostly floral on the nose, and another decidedly joyous palate. Provençal in style, light, but layered with flavors, fantastic. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 Fullerton Wines Pinot Noir Rosé Three Otters, Oregon: Retail $20. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Gris. Medium provençal pink and extremely floral: rose bush, lavender, potpourri. Amazing. The palate is another classic provençal. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2019 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Medium pink color. Strawberry, rhubarb, a bit sweet. The palate is fairly fruity, but also a bit flabby. Good, but not stellar. Very Good, 87-89 Points.
2018 Peltier Pinot Noir Rosé of Pinot Noir, Lodi, CA: Retail $26. Provençal pink. Cotton candy on the nose. Great tartness, decent fruit, and balance. Good. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2019 Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Rosé, Anderson Valley: Retail $25. Provencal light pink. Savory on the nose, with some strawberry and rhubarb. Tart, decent fruit, balanced. Nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.