The Seventh Annual Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés–Flights 3-4

Two weekends ago, I invited a few wine professionals here in Houston to my house for what I believe to be the largest blind tasting of American True Rosés, This year we tasted 53 wines, slightly more than last year’s 51,  but thankfully lower than 2021’s 68 (three years ago we tasted 74, in 2019 there were 54, 68 in 2018, and the first year we had 36), while maintaining physical distance (for the most part).

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 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 (“saigné” 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 intention of making rosé. True Rosés are therefore not a byproduct of red wine production, they are intentionally or purposefully made. They are True Rosés.

As I have stated before, there are some very good saignées out there. In fact, one of the Top Five wines chosen four years ago was a saignée. Make no mistake about it, though, a saignée is a by-product of red wine production. Red wines get almost all of their character (i.e., flavors, depth, tannins) from their contact with the skins, seeds, and at times, stems during the maceration period.

53 bottles of pink ready to be chilled down.

Early on in that process, about 10-20% of the juice is bled off (saignée) so that the remaining juice has a higher skin-to-juice ratio, thus further concentrating the flavors, depth, and tannins of the red wine. Not long ago (20 years-ish), that bled-off juice was sold as bulk wine or simply dumped down the drain.

The Provençaux take everything about rosé seriously, particularly the color (mandarine, mango, cantaloupe, peach, pomelo, red currant).

A few enterprising winemakers realized that the liquid with a pink hue could be saved, vinified, bottled, and sold as a rosé. Brilliant! (On a side note, today, at least a few winemakers add water back to the reduced juice, thus effectively producing another 20% from the vineyard, but that is for a future post.)

The problem, in my view, is simple: those grapes were grown to be red wine. That means, in general, they were higher in sugar and lower in acidity than would be grapes grown with the purpose of becoming a rosé wine.

Since the vast majority of rosés are vinified like a white wine, which does not derive much (if any) character from the skins, the wines require plenty of fruit and acidity (what many call “freshness”). If the juice comes from grapes that had higher pH (i.e., lower acidity), that key element is lacking. (Another side note: many saignées are made from highly acidic grapes, like Pinot Noir, and thus can make a solid rosé despite the above limitations.)

Two weeks ago, we tried 53 American Rosés on Saturday, trying to find the best. As promised, I am publishing my actual notes from the tasting, which we tasted in 13 flights of four wines. Here is the second set of two flights.

2022 Ullage Wines Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $30? Medium color with a considerable orange tint. Rhubarb and grapefruit explode on the nose, and it is quite tart on the palate with that grapefruit and a bit of underripe strawberry. Good weight and a lengthy finish. Nice. Excellent. 92 Points.

2021 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Rosé, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $25. Saignée. Medium color with a dirty, even meaty nose with some ripe strawberry. Good fruit initially, but a little lacking in acidity, nice weight, and balance, although I still would have liked a tad more tartness. Still, very nice. Excellent. 90 Points.

2022 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $22. Fairly light pink in the glass, but a stunning nose, the best thus far of the tasting. Strawberry, peach, pear, yowza. Tart and fruity on the palate as well, I am sure that this wine pleases many a palate. There is a Kool-Aid aspect to it on the palate, though, which I am not crazy about. Still, this is Excellent. 90 Points.

2021 Acorn Rosato Alegría Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $35. 20% Syrah, 20% Zinfandel, 15% Dolcetto, 15% Sangiovese, 5% Cinsaut, 10% various Muscats, 2% Blue Portuguese, 3% Viognier, Liatiko, and other varieties. Quite dark, the darkest thus far, with a dirty, meaty nose, and not much fruit. Not much on the palate either, it really is perplexing as there is tartness, just not much fruit. Very Good. 87 Points.

2022 Lucia Pinot Noir Lucy Rosé, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $30. Medium to light color with another lovely nose of great fruit (strawberry, peach, a bit of rhubarb). Whoa. Great tartness and fruit. Whoa. Balance, verve, weight. This is easily the best of the tasting thus far and a fantastic wine. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2022 Sangiacomo Wines Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $30. Medium to light color with a really sweet nose. There are hints of fruit but they are pushed aside by the overriding cotton candy sweetness. Mineral and sweet on the palate. Perhaps not overbearing, but there seems to be Residual Sugar here and the cotton candy thing is clearly what they are going for. Very Good. 87 Points.

Getting chilly (hopefully).

2021 Malene Wines Rosé, Central Coast, CA: Retail $22. 53% Grenache, 23% Cinsault, 12% Vermentino, 7% Mourvèdre, 5% Carginan. Medium color with a quite tart nose of slightly underripe peach. The palate, though, is curiously missing some tartness. Sure, the fruit is there and it is a fairly pleasant quaff but needs a jolt. Very Good. 89 Points.

2022 Clif Family Winery Grenache Rosé, Mendocino County, CA: Wow, another really expressive nose, quite fruity and ripe. Light in color, really light even. A bit odd initially as there was not much of anything on the palate, but as it warmed, the fruit and tartness really began to shine. 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 Blue Portuguese, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Cinsault/Cinsaut, Dolcetto, Grenache, Liatiko, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Vermentino, Viognier, Wine, Zinfandel. Bookmark the permalink.

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