This past week, 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, I had planned on hosting the Fourth Annual World’s Largest Blind Tasting of American Sparkling Wine once again for other members of the wine media here in Houston on the 11th of December. That would leave me more than enough time to clean up my notes and publish them before the end of the year.
It was still not an issue when I had to rush off to Paris for a week which included the weekend of the 11th as I could still have the tasting on the weekend of the 18th.
Until it didn’t. This past week, I was in Detroit (yeah, I know) for yet another funeral and once I looked at the calendar, I realized I was completely out of weekends before the holidays. Thus, the Fourth Annual World’s Largest Blind Tasting of American Sparkling Wine would have to happen in fits and starts during the week and potentially without other members of the Houston wine media.
That proved to be particularly painful given the fact that this year was the largest thus far at 45 submissions (both my Pinot Noir and American True Rosé tastings are larger, but still…). Given the end of the year time crunch I was facing, I decided to attack the 14 rosés first, before I boarded my plane for the lovely state of Michigan this past week, with those results below.
As with years past, 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.
I tasted five wines at a time, taking notes on each wine, focussing on general impressions and preferences.
Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the 14 rosé wines. I will publish the remaining 31 tasting notes for the Brut wines, along with my list of top wines from the tasting, over the next couple of days.
2016 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Brut Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $50. 100% Pinot Noir. Fairly dark salmon color in the glass with aromas of strawberry, rhubarb, and a distinct minerality. A fine sparkle and quite refined on the palate, sure, there is some nice red berry fruit, but it is intermingled with a yeastiness which I find to be fairly rare in American Sparkling Rosé, sadly. Fuller bodied and certainly “muscular” this would be great with grilled salmon. Quite nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Rosé, Carneros, CA: Retail $25. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Really, really light in color. So light, in fact, that I would not call this a rosé, just the slightest hint of salmon. Quite fruity on the nose, even really fruity with red berry fruit, a bit of apricot, a dash of vanilla, and oodles of baked bread. Lovely. The palate is well-balanced between the fruit and the tartness with just the slightest hint of sweetness (but it works with all that acidity). Very nice. Excellent. 92 Points.
2017 Stoller Pinot Noir LaRue’s Brut Rosé, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills: Retail $65. 84% Pinot Noir, 16% Chardonnay. Delicate salmon in the glass, almost a Provence-style hue. Quite shy initially on the nose but as it warmed slightly, intense strawberry rushed in. Extremely dry on the palate, really, really dry—I would think the dosage has to be next to nil. But the fruit really shines, lasting all the way through the mid-palate and onto the lengthy finish. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
NV Korbel Brut Rosé, California: Retail $15. Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Gamay, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc. Medium pink, on the verge of bubblegum, with oodles of fruit (strawberry and cherry) and a bit of minerality. On the palate, it comes off as a bit sweet but I think it is just that intense fruit witnessed on the nose. Really rich and a fun quaff. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé, Carneros, CA: Retail $45. 59% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay. Pale salmon color, quite brilliant in the glass with rich red berry fruit, but not over the top, also some peach and red delicious apple, a bit flinty, a fantastic nose. The palate is certainly on the dry side with just a hint of sweetness coming in right before the lengthy finish. Great fruit, plenty of acidity, solid top to bottom. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Scharffenberger Brut Rose Excellence, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $29. 55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir. Another pale salmon, quite similar to the rosés from the South of France. Sweet ripe strawberry on the nose with a bit of yeastiness. A fine sparkle leads to a wine that is both quite tart and a tad sweet, it works, though, as the finish is both tart and surprisingly dry. An interesting wine. Very Good. 89 Points.
NV Chemistry Pinot Noir Rosé Bubbles: Retail $20. 100% Pinot Noir. Bubblegum pink with a strawberry-rhubarb going on in the glass. Very fruity and a bit on the sweet side, but the tartness is able to keep up. Plenty of fruit and a vibrant sparkle, I could see how this would be a crowd-pleaser. Very Good. 88 Points.
2017 Korbel Rouge, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $16. 100% Pinot Noir. Dark in the glass, really dark, so I am 99% sure which wine this is. Dark red fruit, quite rich, with dark cherry and even some red plum on the nose. The palate follows the nose as there is a ton of dark red fruit here, even some red and black currant. It is close to dry, but given the fruit and the richness, it would be fairly easy to convince me that this was a Kir Royale if it were even slightly sweet. Very Good. 89 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Rose Sauvage, New Mexico(?): Retail $20. Pinot Noir? A bit darker salmon than those that I compared to Provençal rosés but only slightly. While there is some red berry fruit here, the nose seems more tree fruit driven with peach and pear evident. The palate is quite dry, even extremely so which really puts the red fruit and zingy tartness at the forefront. For casual drinkers of bubbles, this might be a bit too austere, but I really like it and think it will only be enhanced with food. Excellent. 92 Points.
2016 Left Coast Estate Pinot Meunier Estate Brut Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. Another light salmon, on the verge of orange, even with a very floral nose (rose, acacia flower) along with rhubarb and strawberry. The palate is quite tart, and close to completely dry, this wine is compelling. The red berry fruit comes through, but the story here is the acidity, which is screaming for food. Very Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé, Carneros, CA: Retail $54. 90% Pinot Noir & 10% Chardonnay. Light to medium color, perhaps a mix of salmon and bubblegum with plenty of strawberry and a bit perfumed. A delicate bubble and great fruit on the palate, the tartness is also fantastic and balances the fruit nicely. Dry with mineral notes and a lengthy finish, this is one of the top wines thus far. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Brut Rosé, New Mexico: Retail $16. 100% Pinot Noir. Darker than most of the others in this group with an orangish pink, I guess it is a salmon (more Alaskan than Atlantic). The strawberry dominant wine is flanked by flintiness and minerality, both of which I find compelling. There is also a hint of matchstick, which is a concern that the fermentation was a bit too warm. The palate has good fruit and tartness, but the sparkle is a bit too aggressive. A nice wine, but pales in comparison to some of the others here. Very Good. 88 Points.
NV Laetitia Winery Brut Rosé, Arroyo Grande Valley, CA: Retail $39. 65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir. Medium color, at least in this group, tending more to a light brilliant salmon than anything else. A shot of sulfer initially on the nose, which is never a plus, after several swirls and a bit of time, that burnt match was still there (another case of a too hot fermentation?). The palate is much more approachable and pretty close to fantastic with plenty of red berry fruit, the requisite acidity, and just the right amount of dosage. But that nose. Very Good. 89 Points.
NV Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $36. 56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay. Right down the middle of the road when it comes to color, a light pink with salmon accents. An inviting nose of rose petals and cherry fruit with a subtle nuttiness, maybe macadamia (?), which I find interesting and compelling. The palate is a magnificent blend of tart red fruit and a zingy, unifying acidity. Yowza, this is really good. Outstanding. 93 Points.