Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of everything pink when it comes to wine. Rosé is one of the most underrated and least appreciated wines by “serious” wine lovers. Food friendly, refreshing, and complex, the best rosés are among the wine world’s most versatile and exciting wines. Thankfully, they are not only becoming more accepted, but increasingly popular, especially as the stigma of sickly-sweet White Zinfandel fades from the collective consciousness.
One of my favorite features of the IPNC event that I am attending this week in Oregon’s Willamette Valley has always been their afternoon rosé of Pinot Noir tasting.
Pinot Noir rosé, when made well, can be among the most elegant and sophisticated of rosés. The qualities of Pinot Noir — its perfume, its sexy texture, its bright acidity, and its lovely berry flavors — all find expression in the rosés made from the grape. At least, when they are made well. Pinot is known as a finicky, temperamental grape in the winemaking process, and this most certainly doesn’t exempt rosés. Poorly made rosé of Pinot Noir can be bitter, overly dark and ripe, or just one-dimensional in quality.
There are two (ok, three) ways of making rosé of Pinot Noir. The first, and perhaps most common, is to produce a wine using saignee, a technique which involves bleeding off (hence the word saignee, same root as sanguine) some juice from the tanks where the skins are soaking in the juice that will eventually become a fully fledged red Pinot Noir. This light colored juice, is then fermented on its own, and presto, you have a rosé.
I find a great deal of variation in saignee rosés (not just from Pinot Noir, but from all grapes). Some can be blocky and lumbering, while others can be beautifully elegant. I don’t know enough about winemaking to put my finger on the reason, but clearly making saignee based rosés is an art, and not as simple as just yanking some juice out of your Pinot Noir tank and throwing it in an old barrel.
The second way of making a rosé of Pinot Noir is by growing your grapes specifically for the purpose of making a rosé. This method involves picking the grapes a bit earlier than you would for a red wine, ensuring fruit with higher acids and snappier flavors, and then performing a shorter period of skin contact before the fermenting mass of grapes and juice is pressed off into tanks (usually) for fermentation. In my experience, which is certainly not comprehensive or encyclopedic, this is the best way to make a rosé. I find rosés made this way to consistently be elegant, bright, lighter in color, and more refreshing. These wines rarely have the notes of bitterness and dried fruit that mar many saignee-based rosés which I encounter.
The third way of making a rosé which is much less common, is of course a blending of red and white grapes. The main way that this happens with Pinot Noir is in Champagne, where the pink versions often include Chardonnay. A minor variation on this includes making a Blanc de Noirs champagne (a white colored bubbly made exclusively from Pinot Noir) and then adding in some full red Pinot Noir wine at the end to give it color.
Regardless of the method, my best experiences with rosé of Pinot Noir come from frosty bottles, gripped with condensation , containing pale salmon-pink colored wines, that all but zing when they hit the glass, and again when they hit my palate.
Here are the wines that were on offer at the afternoon tasting yesterday.
WINES SCORING AROUND 9.5
2010 Domaine les Temps Perdus “Rosé de Bourgogne”, Cotes d’Auxerre, Burgundy, France
Palest salmon in color, this wine has a nose of nose of hibiscus essence and plum fruit aromas. In the mouth, bright juicy berry and crabapple flavors are tinged with citrus zest. Stunningly fresh and electric on the palate. Amazing. 12.5% alcohol. Not yet imported.
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2010 Domaine Charles Audoin Rosé, Marsannay, Burgundy, France
Light ruby in he glass, this wine smells of bright strawberries and watermelon fruit. In the mouth it is mouthwateringly bright and juicy with flavors of watermelon, strawberry and wet stones. Balanced, with a silky texture and bright acidity. 12.5% alcohol. $17. Click to buy.
2010 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries and watermelon. In the mouth the wine offers bright citrus zest and watermelon and berry flavors. Sharp acidity makes it zingy. Yum! 12.5% alcohol. $15. Click to buy.
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2010 Dukes Family Vineyards “Blushing Kate” Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale peach in color, this wine offers bright hibiscus and watermelon aromas, with berry and citrus zest flavors mixed with a nice wet stone flavor on the palate. Excellent acidity. 12% alcohol.
2010 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Fleur de Roy” Rosé, Columbia Gorge, Washington
Pale salmon in color, with a nose of sweet peaches and watermelon aromas mixed with white flowers, this wine offers softer acidity and flavors of citrus zest and raspberry. Floral flavors also creep in with hints of crabapple and rosehip on the finish. 13.5% alcohol.
2010 J.K. Carriere “Glass” Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale salmon-pink in the glass, this wine smells of orange peels and raspberries. In the mouth, tangerine and tangerine zest flavors dominate the body of the wine which is shot through with neon acidity. A rather long finish tastes of kumquats. 13% alcohol. $21. Click to buy.
2010 Maysara Winery “Roséena” Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells sweetly of watermelon and strawberry fruit. Bright mixed berry flavors mixed with wet stones and citrus zest swirl amidst excellent acidity. The finish is tart and sour in a very pleasing way. 12.5% alcohol. $15. Click to buy.
2010 Syncline Wine Cellars Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington
Pale salmon-pink in the glass, this wine smells of alpine strawberries and wet stones. In the mouth the flavors are nicely balanced between berry fruit and wet stones, changing to cherry on the finish. An odd blend of 33% Pinot Noir, with the balance being a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Counoise, and Carignane. 13.2% alcohol. $19. Click to buy.
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2010 Matello Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Coppery pink in the glass, this wine has nose of mineral and citrus zest aromas mixed with bright berries. In the mouth, the wine offers sour even bitter citrus flavors with hints of berries and red fruit. A wonderful mineral backbone underlies everything, zippy with acidity.13.8% alcohol.
2010 Tantalus Vineyards Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Colombia
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of watermelon and bright red berries. In the mouth the wine offers nice minerality, with primary flavors of watermelon and raspberry, with hints of orange peel on finish. Nicely balance with a great mouthfeel.
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Pancrazi Villa di Bagnolo Rosato, Tuscany, Italy
Pale ruby in the glass, this wine offers aromas of rich cherry. In the mouth the wine is quite cherry, bright, and clean, though it lacks some subtlety. Not bitter. 12.5% alcohol.
WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 Montinore Estate Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2010 Penner-Ash Wine Cellars “Roséo” Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2010 Stoller Vineyards Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2010 Saintsbury Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Carneros, Sonoma County, California
2010 Sokol Blosser Winery Rosé, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
2009 Antica Terra “Erratica” Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon