A couple of 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 of the year.
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) or not.
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, our intrepid group tried 51 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 wines. Here is the fifth set of two flights.
2021 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Rosé, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $25. Saignée. This is one of the few saignées that I allow into the tasting since a) it is always fantastic and b) James and Kerry MacPhail (the winemakers) are two of my favorite people on the planet. Light salmon color, but with a slightly odd nose, a bit on the sour side. The palate, however, is completely delightful with great fruit, wonderful tartness, and some heft. Excellent. 92 Points.
2021 Flaunt Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosé, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $24. Very light in the glass, almost Provencal, with subtle fruit and white flower. The palate is also full-blown Provence with excellent balance and brightness. This might be a bit light for some, but if they were trying to imitate Provence, they certainly nailed it. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2021 Lofty Pinot Noir Rosé Putnam, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $30? I am pretty sure this was made by James MacPhail for a private client. Medium-plus color with a sweet nose of strawberry, peach, really nice. The palate? Big and bold, holy cow. An explosion of fruit and tartness. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2021 Calafia Pinot Noir The Princess, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $25. Bubblegum pink with a sweet, fruity nose, think a cross between Jolly Rancher and cotton candy. The palate comes off as sweet as well, but it seems to work. Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2021 Lucia Pinot Noir Lucy Rosé, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $24. Pale salmon color with a delicious nose of ripe strawberry and cherry. Nice. Rich, fruity, lovely tartness, maybe a bit of Residual Sugar, but this is a lovely wine. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2020 Ancient Peaks Rosé, Paso Robles, Santa Margarita Ranch, CA: Retail $26. Varietal composition? I believe this is a saignée. Pale salmon color with a fruity, yet also meaty nose with dark cherry predominate. Fruity, fun, with some depth and body. Excellent. 90 Points.
2021 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $25. Pale pink with a joyous nose of tart strawberry, peach, and maybe even watermelon. Tart, on the verge of austere on the palate until the fruit washes in mid-way through and lasts through a lengthy finish. Excellent. 92 Points.
2020 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $40. Very light salmon with plenty of melon and it has that country road on a cool summer morning kind of vibe to it. The palate is tart and balanced with good fruit and length. A delightful quaff. Excellent. 90 Points.