Last month, 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 in history (surpassing our own record of two years ago).
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, four of us tried 68 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 17 flights of 4 wines. Here is the fifth set of three flights.
2018 Fullerton Wines Pinot Noir Rosé Three Otters, OR: Retail $20. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Gris. I liked this wine last year (91 pts.) and I still do. Medium plus pink with orange highlights. A bit funky on the nose with good fruit, a tad savory on the nose. Fruity, a bit sweet on the palate, but quite vinous. This might be the heaviest wine of the flight. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Sosie Syrah Rosé Vivio Vineyard, Bennett Valley, CA: Retail $25. Orange in the glass, maybe with some pink highlights. Maybe. A bit smoky on the nose, perhaps roasted red pepper?. Rich and unctuous on the palate. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. Under screwcap. Cotton Candy pink. Lovely nose: great fruit, floral. The palate is quite lovely. Another one that sits near the top of the tasting. Also more evidence that the folks at Rodney Strong know what they are doing. Back up the truck. Excellent. 93 Points.
2020 Purple Star Rosé, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $18. 70% Mourvèdre, 30% Syrah. Medium to dark pink. A wonderful nose, fruit, mineral, quite lovely. Fruity, peach, watermelon, strawberry. Palate is quite lovely and balanced with intense fruit and tartness. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Flaunt Wine Company Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $24. Really dark for a rosé, almost a red. Candied nose, almost over-the-top strawberry, but the palate is quite delicious, rather surprising, actually. Very nice. Excellent. 92 Points.
2020 Be Human Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, WA: Retail $18. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Another more-orange-than-pink with candied peach, watermelon, and strawberry. The palate is stunning. Rich, balanced, tart, this really has it all here. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2020 Lucia Pinot Noir Lucy Rosé, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $24. Medium pink, a little muted on the palate. With some faint fruit and considerable minerality. Intense fruit on the palate, great tartness, and just a touch of sweet. It works and works well. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 Murphy-Goode Rosé, California: Retail $14. 81% Pinot Noir, 17% Syrah, 2% Grenache. Light orangish-pink with a tree fruit nose, intense fruit, even. It’s all about the peach on the palate, really peachy. But this wine works as well. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Rosé, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. 60% Primitivo, 40% Tinta Roriz. Really light in color, barely a rosé. Beautiful nose of strawberry, cherry, rhubarb. Fantastic on the palate with lovely fruit, tart acidity, great balance. Nice. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2019 Gran Moraine Rosé of Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28. Lovely light pink with an elegant nose of red flower, rhubarb, a tad savory. Another homerun on the palate, great fruit, acidity, the whole nine here. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Fields Family Wines La Vie, Lodi, CA: Retail $19. Variety unknown. Deeper color, but an odd nose. Medicinal, which blocks out the fruit. Flat, not very interesting on the palate. Very Good. 87 Points.
2018 Division Winemaking Company Gamay Noir Division-Villages, “L Avoiron”, Oregon: Retail $20. 100% Gamay. Orangish pink with a really odd nose. Really odd. The palate is not much better either. It is trying really hard to be interesting, but it’s out of balance and, well, not good. (I know the winemaking team here and this is out of whack in some way.) Not Rated.