A couple weeks ago, I invited a few writers here in Houston to my house for what I believe to be the largest annual blind tasting of American True Rosés in the country.
What, one might ask, 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 (“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 idea of making rosé in mind. True Rosés are therefore not a byproduct of red wine production, they are intentionally or purposefully made. They are True Rosés.
A couple of years ago, a few days before The World’s Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés I got into a rather heated argument on Twitter with two Master Sommeliers worlds away (one, who literally wrote a book on rosé, was in the UK and the other, who made a rosé by blending red and white wine [a practice that is practically unheard of outside of Champagne] was in Australia). They both took exception to my use of the term “True Rosé” to characterize an approach to making rosé that otherwise does not have an agreed-upon term to describe it.
As I have mentioned before, the term saignée is largely understood and accepted to describe what a True Rosé is not. (For those just joining, a saignée rosé is a byproduct of red wine production where, after a brief maceration, a portion of the juice is “bled off.” Until relatively recently, that bled off juice was either sold off as bulk wine or simply let run down the drain. This is done to both further concentrate the remaining juice on the skins and today, to make a rather quick rosé. The problem is that the juice was intended to make red wine and is thus often a bit lacking in acidity which is perhaps the defining characteristic of a good rosé.)
Their collective contention? By using the adjective “true” I was inherently implying that all other rosés were “false.” While I understand their position, I tried to explain (and by their responses it was largely unsuccessful) that the word “true” has many definitions such as an “ideal” (true love) or “consistent” (true to character) or even “narrow” (in the truest sense).
They did not seem swayed by my argument as they remained fixated on “if something is not true, then it must be false.” In a desperate attempt, I mentioned the concept of a bicycle wheel being “true” or “out of true” but that landed like a lead zeppelin.
Look, there are really good, even outstanding saignées out there (one of my absolute favorite rosés is a saignée—Tongue Dancer by James MacPhail), but all other factors being equal, there is no doubt in my mind that rosés that are made intentionally, id est, a True Rosé, are better than those that are byproducts of red wine production.
Feel free to argue with me. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, no matter how wrong it might be.
A couple of weeks ago, seven of us tried 53 American Rosés, 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 are flights 7-8:
2022 Silver Trident Pinot Noir Folly Rosé, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $35. Medium to light in color with a slight orange hue. Lovely nose with strawberry and a bit of rhubarb and pear. The palate is pretty darned fantastic. Whoa. Great fruit, impeccable acidity, and just a busload of verve. I have no idea what this is, but I want to but it by the case. Outstanding. 96 Points.
2022 Cattleya Alma de Cattleya Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $32. More pink than orange for a change (compared to the rest of the wines in this blind tasting) with a nice fruity nose (watermelon and rhubarb) and a mineral, salinity aspect. Bright and fresh on the palate with all of that fruit upfront, the acidity is there as well, Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2022 Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $22. Bubblegum pink with another lovely, fruity nose, bright peach, and cherry, yowza. Really fruit on the palate, even like a red wine fruity. Really fun and tart, a real crowd-pleaser. Excellent. 91 Points.
2022 Bells Up Winery Pinot Noir Prelude, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $35. One of the darker wines in the tasting. A bit of a candied nose and the palate is big, surprisingly, for a rosé. The palate seems to be a bit lacking in acidity, which allows the fruit to rule the roost. Very Good. 88 Points.
2021 Cline Cellars Mourvèdre Rosé Contra Costa County, CA: Retail $21. Again, more orange than pink in color and I would characterize it as “medium”. Rich nose of baked peach and cantaloupe. Rich on the palate as well, even really rich. Almost a dessert wine kind of richness. Heavy peach to which the acidity just manages to keep up. Long finish. Excellent. 91 Points.
2021 Rocky Pond Winery Stratastone Rosé Double D Vineyard, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $30. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre, Viognier, Semillon, Marsanne. Light to medium pink with some orange. Classic nose of wild strawberry and a bit of salinity. A bit spritzy on the palate, but really nice fruit flavors, with some nice tartness, fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2022 Kalasi Cellars Sangiovese Heritage Collection, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $30. Dark in the glass, more of a light red with an odd nose of almost cherry beer. The palate? Um, let’s just say it was not my favorite. Good? 85 Points.
2022 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Rosé, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $25. Saignée. Medium color, with a nice, just short of spectacular, nose with some minerality and plenty of fruit. Comes off as a bit sweet initially but it evens out on the midpalate with plenty of fruit (citrus and cherry) and a tartness that serves to balance the wine quite well. Very nice. Excellent. 92 Points.