by Cole Danehower | photo by Jason Tomczak
Rosé wines still get a bum rap in America. Any wine that is not robustly ruby, glowingly golden, or steely white elicits unkind remarks about namby-pamby wines that are little more than red wines on training wheels.
Adherents to this view must not be tasting our recent regional rosé wines. A rosé renaissance is blossoming in the Northwest, redefining the character of these refreshing springtime sippers and earning a place on any wine lover’s table. And “refreshing” is the operative word when talking rosés. The whole idea behind rosés is to craft a tasty and satisfying wine that’s easy to drink in the warm months. When the weather heats up, a heavy red can be unwelcome, a buttery white unwieldy, and a flinty white too austere. What is called for is a fresh-feeling wine with plenty of pert fruit and juicy flavors, low tannins and bright acidity. Voilà, rosé!
To appreciate what goes into a great rosé, it is important to remember that all grape juice is essentially colorless. Squeeze a cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir grape and you’ll get clear juice. The color of a wine—as well as much of its flavor, tannin, and even aroma— comes from exposing the skins of the grape to its juice in the winemaking process. The more exposure the skins have to the juice, the more color and flavor will be extracted.
The best rosés are the result of an exquisite balancing act. On the one hand, rosé winemakers want to make an uplifting and refreshing wine from red grapes—without the weight and substance of a fully-realized red wine—by minimizing the juice’s contact with the skins. Yet they also need to mingle the two elements enough to impart sufficient flavor and substance to make the wine interesting, engaging and enlivening.
Good rosés don’t just happen, they require careful winemaking skill and judgment. Northwest winemakers are successfully making rosés from all kinds of grapes and styles. These lovely wines deliver plenty of varietal flavor, but in a lighter, fresher style than their more fleshy big brothers. A taste of these great Northwest wines means you’ll never be blasé about rosé again.
Pick of the Pinks
Made to be consumed young, rosés are best served chilled (not cold, right out of the refrigerator) to preserve their vivacity and freshness. Most rosés are released in the spring, so look for the latest vintage at your local wine shop. Here are some reliable pink picks to get you started:
, Brut Rosé, Dundee Hills, Oregon: This stylish sparkler delivers smells of dried flower blossoms and tastes of peach and nectarine in a long, deliciously dry mouthful of effervescent rosé-ness. argylewinery.com
, Rosé, Snake River Valley, Idaho: Made entirely from syrah grapes especially farmed for rosé production, this light-bodied but potently-flavored rosé is a great accompaniment to summertime al fresco feasts. cinderwines.com
>> Dusted Valley
Ramblin’ Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Washington: This carefully made blend of grenache, syrah, cinsault and other Rhône-style grapes, usually sourced from the Stone Tree Vineyard, is heartily delicious. dustedvalley.com
>> Soter Vineyards
, North Valley Highland Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon: Full of strawberry and raspberry goodness, this combination of pinot noir, chardonnay, and gewürztraminer will open your eyes to how great rosé can be. sotervineyards.com
, Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington: Made from Rhône-style grapes harvested just for rosé, this blend is satisfyingly crisp and richly complex—a superb example of a serious rosé. synclinewine.com