The Third Annual Blind Tasting of American Sparkling Wine (Part One–Rosé)

This past weekend, I conducted another Blind Tasting at our humble little abode here in Houston, to which I normally invite other wine writers from the area. This year, however, with the pandemic raging out of control here in Texas, I limited the attendees to my lovely wife (who has a fantastic palate) and me. As you may recall, I conduct a tasting of American True Rosés in the Spring, and the second was this Fall when I tasted through American Pinot Noirs.

Both tastings produced some surprises, which is, quite frankly, why tasting blind from time to time is healthy. It is often too easy to be influenced by price, producer, or PR firm when tasting non-blind, and it is also good to “re-center” one’s palate in a way—to focus only on what is in the glass.

This year’s full lineup.

This was the third tasting of American Sparkling Wine and while last year there were 32 corks to pop, this year it ballooned all the way up to 35 wines ranging from $12 up to $125. 14 of the 35 were rosé, and all (except one) were produced using the “traditional method” (the same method used in Champagne where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle).

The rosés.

I first removed all the corks and foil from the bottles and then inserted them into bags. Then, after I had left the room, my wife randomly numbered the bagged wines. This way, while we knew what wines were in the tasting, there was no way to identify the order in which we tasted the wines.

We tasted five wines at a time, discussing each flight afterward for general impressions and preferences.

Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the 14 rosé wines. I will publish the remaining 21 tasting notes, along with my list of top wines from the tasting, over the next couple of days.

NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé Washington, Columbia Valley:
Retail $13. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Faint pink with an orange tint, fruity aromas of strawberry, a touch of rhubarb, and a hint of sweetness. Tart, fresh, fruity, noticeable sweetness, but good depth, flavors, and length. Nice. Very Good. 89 Points.

2019 Bryn Mawr Vineyards Sparkling Rosé, Oregon, Willamette Valley:
Retail $28. 52% Pinot Noir, 28% Pinot Gris, 17% Tempranillo, 3% Maréchal Foch. Cotton candy pink, large-ish bubbles, and quite sweet on the nose with watermelon jolly rancher and, well, cotton candy. Fruity, but not quite as sweet as expected. The palate initially comes off as sweet, but I think it is from the fruit more than the dosage. I get a bit of that Jolly Rancher fruitiness, but I have to say I like it. I discovered after the tasting that this is an infused carbonation wine. Very Good. 88 Points.

2016 Stoller Pinot Noir Legacy LaRue’s Brut Rose, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills: Retail $65. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. Barely a hint of pink and could be classified as a non-rosé easily. Flinty, creamy, fresh on the nose, but not much fruit. Even some salinity. Elegant on the palate, really nice. Creamy, some citrus, and maybe a hint of red berry, close to a whoa. Quite a bit of acid here, suggesting this needs some time to settle down a bit. But Whoa. OK, I said it. Outstanding. 94 Points.

NV Korbel Brut Rosé, California: Retail $13. Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Gamay, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc. Light in color, pink with an orange tint. Muted aromas, eventually some cherry (less Bing and more Jolly Rancher). The palate is immediately sweet, but nowhere near cloying, with good fruit flavors, some depth, and a lengthy finish. As a champagne purist, of sorts, the sweetness is a bit off-putting, but once past that? This is a pretty well-done wine. Cut the dosage in half, please. Very Good. 89 Points.

Bagged and ready.

NV Gran Moraine Brut Rosé Gran Moraine Vineyard, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton: Retail $50. 57% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir. Another pale wine in the glass, just a hint of pinkish-orange with a fairly muted nose. Eventually, some creamy strawberry-rhubarb ekes out, but only just barely. The palate is tart with different flavors than what I normally expect. I can’t really place the fruit, but it is certainly tart and nuanced. Again, this is not what I expect from a rosé sparkling, but I do know that I like it. Perhaps a lot. Excellent. 90 Points.

NV Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé, California, Carneros: Retail $45. 72% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay. Pale, really pale, with just a hint, a subtle hint, of an orangeish-pink. Flinty. Gunpowder. Rhubarb, creaminess, a splash of yeastiness. Tart, fresh, subtle fruit, really, really nice. While this does not have a ton to offer regarding fruit, it more than makes up for it in every other aspect. Long, deep, layered. This is really stellar. Outstanding. 95 Points.

NV Gruet Winery Brut Rosé, New Mexico: Retail $18. 100% Pinot Noir. Light pink with just a subtle orange tint, lovely nose of strawberry, cherry, and minerality. The palate is immediately a bit sweet, but that is balanced by the searing acidity. There is not as much fruit as I expected here, but it all seems to work, accentuated by the well-above-average finish. Very Good. 89 Points.

2014 Mumm Napa DVX Rosé, California, Napa Valley: Retail $80. 52% Pinot Noir, 48% Chardonnay. The color here, honestly, is more of an aged Chardonnay than a rosé sparkler. I guess I can find some hints of pink and orange, but it’s a chore. Flinty, matchstick, tart, even a touch herbal on the nose. The palate is tart, but impeccably balanced with a hint of fruit, a zesty, yeasty, creamy goodness, and a delicate, yet fervent sparkle. OK. Whoa. And Maybe a holy cow. Outstanding. 93 Points.

NV Korbel Sweet Rosé, California: Retail $16. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Gamay, Chenin Blanc. More of a “traditional” rosé here in color with a rich, brilliant pink with ruby highlights. The nose? This is a full-blown cherry jolly rancher on the nose, which is not, inherently, a bad thing. Sweet. Really sweet, but it stops well short of cloying. If it were not for my Champagne bias, I could get past the sweetness and focus on the fact that there are fine fruit flavors, some depth, and an above-average finish. The sweetness? I can’t say I am a fan, but if you like some sweet in your bubbles, it would be hard to find a better choice. Very Good. 88 Points.

Rosés always seem festive.

2018 Chehalem Pinot Noir Chemistry, Oregon, Willamette Valley: Retail $20. 100% Pinot Noir. Perhaps the best color in the glass thus far, a rich and deep pink, but still brilliant and nowhere close to a red. In brief—what one thinks of when they hear “rosé.” The classic nature of this wine continues on the nose: strawberry, cherry, even some rhubarb. At the backend of the nose, there is a nutty-yeastiness that makes me want to do a cartwheel or two (even though I have never attempted such foolishness). I come back to earth a bit on the palate—it is certainly laden with fruit, has above-adequate tartness, and sparkle. But it lacks the pizazz that the nose promised and that leaves me a bit disappointed, if only slightly. Very Good. 87 Points.

2018 Iris Vineyards Areté Brut Rosé, Oregon, Willamette Valley: Retail $34. 100% Pinot Noir. A flinty, orangish-pink in the glass with hints of tart cherry and rhubarb on the nose. Tart initially on the palate but after that? This might be another Whoa. Subtle fruit, close to eye-tearing acidity, layers of flavors, a finish that lasts. For. Ever. Initially, this was too cold, but it is a full-throttle Wow. Excellent. 92 Points.

NV Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, California, Napa Valley: Retail $24. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. A subtle pinkish-orange in the glass with a muted nose with eventually some red berry fruit comes through. Lovely nose. The fruit comes forth on the palate, and there is some acidity, but honestly, this is a bit flabby. Don’t get me wrong, it is a solid sparkler and I would go back for more, but it pales a bit in this lineup. Still? Giddy-up. Very Good. 88 Points.

NV La Crema Pinot Noir Brut Rosé Russian River Valley, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley: Retail $45. 73% Pinot Noir, 27% Chardonnay. Another faintly hued wine, which is slightly more orange than pink, but it is definitely in the splitting hairs realm of argument. Tart on the nose, quite lovely, even. Heavy on tartness, subtle fruit, layered. Yeah, I could hang out here for a while, even a long while. Perhaps not to the level of the top wines here, but it is close, really close. Excellent. 91 Points.

NV Piper Sonoma Brut Rosé, California, Sonoma County: Retail $22. 53% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Blanc. A deeper color here, but only barely—again, a mélange of orange and pink, with neither clutching the upper hand. The nose is inviting, but odd. Mocha? Coffee? It is certainly not off-putting in the slightest but unexpected? You betcha. The palate is fruity, balanced with tartness, and certainly well-made. It’s a lovely wine. Excellent. 91 Points.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Wine, Zinfandel. Bookmark the permalink.

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