Rosé - Growing Trend or New Staple?

Rosé…a recent growing trend for oenophiles and no I’m not talking about “blush” wines. I have to admit, after my last blog on whether I was a red or white kind of gal, I had a few people asking me “But what about Rosé”. To be honest I hadn’t really given it much thought until Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of the Today Show, and some of those Orange County Housewives, started talking about it and ultimately posting shots of it on Instagram accounts. All of a sudden I had to reorient myself with this conundrum of a varietal, mostly because inquiring minds want to know…

While I’ve always known that “White Zinfandel” wasn’t necessarily what we were going for when we talked about Rosé, it’s still ultimately what people think of when it’s mentioned in this country. It might be more pink than a red, but it’s not even close to what this has evolved into. While it is considered “Rosé”, once again, this is much sweeter than the drier ones that have come into popularity over the past few years. The other thing that I’ve been noticing, in shops like Whole Foods per se, is this need to make Rosé into some upscale version of Arbor Mist. (Not that they don't carry good ones.) Taking what would be anotherwise decent rosé and mixing it with grapefruit or strawberry or some other fruity thing. Basically making it like kool-aid. I’m sure there are people who enjoy such things and while I’m not one of them I don’t judge you if you do…but this is not what we are talking about either.  

So what is Rosé I'm talking about do you ask? For those of you who might not be familiar, is simply when the winemaker lets the juice mix with some of the color from the grape skins during fermentation, but not enough to call it “Red”. All of the juice from the grapes is clear or lighter. It is the skin that gives the wine its color. The longer the contact with the red skins, the deeper the color of the final product. For decades, Provence, France has been considered to be the best producer of this varietal worldwide.

I recently had the opportunity to go back and, although briefly (vacationing with two autistic children can make vineyard-hopping difficult) was able to re-visit the Napa Valley. I was also able to visit three vineyards in rural Eastern Virginia in the beginning of August. Luckily it’s summer and I was able to “research” their rosés.

While we all know that Napa is essentially the Mecca of wine in America, I was happy to have had the opportunity to visit the ones in Virginia, the birthplace of American wine so to speak. It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve found ways (for the past 30 years or so) to make some varietals that I think actually hold up to some of the ones I’ve had in Napa. Their yield is much smaller and of course they are not as well known. Linden for example had one of the best roses I’ve ever tasted, Glen Manor as well. Ducard, another one in the area, we quite good as well.

In the past three years I’ve managed to visit about 20 vineyards in Napa & Sonoma. This trip, on the recommendation of a friend who is in the field, I visited the humble yet incomparable Saddleback Cellars in Oakville. (Winemaker Nils Venge, received a 100 point score from THE Robert Parker for his 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon). Across the street from Silver Oak and next door to Groth, you would never find it unless you were looking for it. And you had better have a reservation. Jacquie, my hostess, was a well of information on the vineyard and poured some of the most well balanced wines I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. One was their Aleatico Rosé, made from the Aleatico grape which is mostly found in Italy. A deep rose color with oddly enough aromas of lychees and roses which a nice hint of cranberry actually. The vineyard was a lovely place for a picnic and very little pretense. I did try some of their other varietals as well which were also splendid, they even got a new member of their “Posse”, which is their name for “wine club”. I truly look forward to receiving my shipments from them.

My next stop was for a private tour at the Franciscan Estate Winery, also in Oakville, (Winemaker Janet Meyers, creator of their Stylus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) which included a barrel tasting which was quite a treat.  Another surprise as most of the wines I tasted are winery exclusives and once again, an outstanding rose.

Since I am an appraiser, people ask me about price points and appreciation including cellaring. From what I've gathered, you can cellar some of the better rosés, but they usually only have a shelf life of about 8-10 years. They don't necessarily get better with age like the reds or whites. These are wines that are created to drink young. You also don't need to, in my opinion, break the bank for a good one. For $35 or less you can get a great one! 

The other question I get is “What foods do you think Rosé pairs with?”. Living in humid, hot, muggy Miami, I would have to say this is a great wine to sip on its own or to have with any outdoor meals. Barbeques, light pasta dishes, tapas or picnic style meals. Me personally, I love it with fried chicken, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Last summer I saw a window display at a local wine shop that said “Yes Miami, you can be tough and drink Rosé”. I have to say that since I broadened my horizons with this varietal, not only do I agree, but I am definitely a fan!