I've just returned (literally) from the RAP (Rosé Advocates and Producers) Pink Out, a first of its kind event here in the Bay area devoted exclusively to the promotion of dry pink wines of all kinds. RAP, like ZAP or any of the other similar organizations, is a marketing co-op of sorts. Membership in the association provides wineries a source of marketing and another opportunity to connect with a particular niche market.
Today's tasting (still going on as I write this) took place at Butterfly Restaurant and Lounge on the Embarcadero here in San Francisco, with about 50 producers pouring their wines for media and the trade, and later this evening, for the general public. Attractive waitresses moved through the space providing tasty treats from the Butterfly kitchen while all in attendance drank pink.
Unfortunately, the event was average at best, both in terms of its execution as well as in terms of the wines on offer. I don't like being harsh, but I have to be honest -- it felt amateur in all respects, from its operation and layout, to even some of the folks pouring their wines, and they were supposed to be the professionals!
The folks putting on the event failed at several of my key rules for putting on public wine tastings. The wineries were laid out totally randomly, making it difficult to find them. The spit buckets, of the few that were provided, were not buckets at all but metal cocktail shakers, with a diameter of 3 inches. Luckily some of the wineries brought their own, but many were stuck without even the cocktail shakers. No staff seemed to be on hand to empty the rapidly filling buckets and cups, which were sloshing by the time I left (an hour into the tasting). While the waitresses were cute and the food tasty, there seemed to be very few other staff in attendance (perhaps they were told to stay out of the cramped space), and those who were there did not seem to have any idea how a tasting like this was supposed to work. Someone behind the bar even went so far as to tell me, when I wanted to hand in my glass at the end, that "he didn't normally take dirty glasses, and there should be someone out there on the floor to take it from me." Well there wasn't.
Nor was there really much room on the floor. The space, undoubtedly nice for dinner and drinks was very cramped for the trade portion of the tasting. I shudder to think what it was like for the public tasting. I hope no one gets hurt.
But enough bitching from me about the venue and the organization. What really matters is the wine.
So what makes for a good rosé wine? A great rosé is marked by a bright beautiful color, ranging from the palest of golden oranges to bright salmon colors, pale pinks, bright pale fuchsias, and everything in between. One of the key components in my enjoyment of pink wines is the aromatic quality of the wine. When I first sniff the nose, it should be rich and alluring with steely notes of minerals and parchment, or tart scents of rosehips and citrus, or floral scents, or the rich fruit of strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, or all of the above combined in a burst of sunshine in the glass. Occasionally I also tolerate and even enjoy a little funk on the nose, some leather, or barnyard, or earthy, loamy scent, but just a smidge. When I put it in my mouth, it should be crisp, not flabby, with good acidity, enough to have a little bite to it. A little spritz is ok, sometimes a good rosé is a little effervescent, and I find that can even add to its refreshing quality. As for taste, well, that's a harder line to draw. Sweet oak flavors are a no-no in general. Fruity is good, but not too much, and never sweet (anything more than about .4% residual sugar is too much in my opinion). Steely and mineraly is good, but it must be meshed with some fruit flavors. Tart can be great, but the wine can never cross the line into bitterness. Finally, the finish should be bright and clean, with only wisps of aftertaste.
Under whelmed is perhaps the most appropriate term to describe my general reaction to the wines on offer, and some of them were so bad that my scores dipped down into the sixes and even fives at one point.
That having been said, there were a few good wines and a select few excellent wines, the scores for which I am happy to provide below. I didn't bother getting retail prices for these wines. You can expect them to range from $10 to $18.
2004 Chateau Marouine Rosé, Provence, France. Score: 9/9.5.
2004 L'Uvaggio di Giacomo "Il Gulfo Barbera Rosato," Lodi, California. Score: 9/9.5.
2004 Mas de Cadenet Rosé, Provence, France. Score: 9.
2004 Montevina Winery Nebbiolo Rosato, Amador County, California. Score: 9.
2004 Tablas Creek Vineyard Rosé, Paso Robles, California. Score: 9.
2004 Iron Horse Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California. Score: 9.
2004 Maitres Vignerons de Saint Tropez "Chateau de Pampelonne Rosé," St. Tropez, France. Score: 9.
NV Mantra Wines "Bliss" Dry Rosé, Alexander Valley, California. Score: 8.5/9.
2003 Ventana Vineyards Rosato, Monterey, California. Score: 8.5/9.
2004 Carol Shelton Renezvous Rosé, Sonoma, California. Score: 8.5/9.
2004 Iron Horse Rosé of Sangiovese, Russian River Valley, California. Score: 8.5/9.
2003 Chateau Potelle "Riviera," Mt. Veeder, Napa. Score: 8.5.
2004 Chimney Rock Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Stags' Leap District, Napa. Score: 8.5.
2003 Domaines Bunan "Chateau La Rouviere," Bandol (Provence), France. Score: 8.5.
2004 Folie a Deux Winery Menage a Trois Rosé, St. Helena, California. Score: 8.5.
2004 Gargiulo Vineyard Rosato di Sangiovese, Oakville, California. Score: 8.5.
2003 Kuleto Estates Rosato, Napa, California. Score: 8.5.
2004 Toad Hollow Vineyards "Eye of The Toad" Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California. Score: 8.5.
2004 Toad Hollow Vineyards "Eyes of The Toad" Reserve Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California. Score: 8.5.
In general you can see that the French wines performed as a whole much better than their American counterparts. Despite the rather poor showing of wines (the 20 above were the only ones out of the 50 there that I would recommend anyone to purchase) I think that RAP is a great idea. Pink wines have too long held the stigma of either the sickly sweet marketing of White Zinfandel or the blush wine in a box in Grandpa's refrigerator. Pink wines, when they're good, are fantastic, and are incredibly versatile with foods of all sorts.
So while the folks who produce RAP have a lot to learn (and a lot more outreach to do to raise the quality of wines they represent) they do have the right idea. Drink Pink !!
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