PINK WINE TIME: PART 2

Muga Rioja Rosado 2018 -This one just rolled in, making it a little late to the ‘party’ but the distinctive styling and lifted freshness make this a fine summer quaff and the pricing has made it a consistent favorite over the last few seasons. This is made as a rose (as opposed to being the result of a saignee or bleeding of red grapes) and the blend is 60% Garnacha,
30% Viura and 10% Tempranillo. The usage of the white Viura gives this rose some impressions of white stone fruits like white peach to go along with the more traditional berry flavors. Lifted, fresh, and very food-friendly, this is another value performer.

Terrebrune Bandol Rosé 2018 –As we spoke about the Pradeaux in part 1 of this rosé focused piece, we mentioned that the 2017 may have been our favorite of the lot for that vintage. In the 2018 lineup, this could well be the MVP (Most Valuable Pink). These folks have been doing great work for a while but the 2018 just seems to have a little bit more ‘pop’ and vigorous yet engaging fruit. As is the norm, Mourvedre (50%) is the star of this show with the other half of the wine is split roughly equally between Grenache and Cinsault. Half of the juice is saignee (bled from the red grapes) while the other half is made directly into rosé. Limestone and organic farming are key elements in this story, with this pink as the happy ending. Equal impressions of both berries and yellow stone fruits like peach and apricot, that cool, funky little twist is the Mourvedre speaking its piece, and there’s a nice touch of minerality to the finish.

La Mordoree Cotes du Rhone Rosé 2018-This family winery has been a Winex favorite for a long time and this is the entry-level bottling among 4-5 different rosés that can range up to $50. We like this one because it gives the Mordoree experience at the most attractive price, and this 2018 is the most engaging we have had in some time. Their pinks have a huge following and for good reason. This version is made up of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan, and 5% Mourvedre. In the glass the Grenache appears to be the lead singer, delivering a broad, juicy blast of decidedly red berry fruit. It’s rounder in the mouth than some but still maintains plenty of freshness and finishes with a touch of garrigue. Far too easy to drink and a strong choice for under $20.

Leoube Rosé Cotes De Provence 2018 –Our lineup of pinks changes every year based on our tastings, so it is important to note that Leoube has been on the roster five of the last six vintages since we first discovered it. Though it doesn’t make much of a point of it, the folks that bought the Chateau in 1997 made their money in organic groceries. Also the property is located next to one of the top sites for the famous Domaine Ott. As a matter of fact, Jean-Jacques Ott of Domaine Ott wanted to sell his property but still wanted to stay in the business. The new owners of Leoube just so happened to be looking for a winemaker at the exact same moment. So, Jean-Jacques and his son Romain head over to Leoube after selling their eponymous property to Roederer Champagne and boom, magic. Now, father and son Ott work the vineyards and make the wine at their next-door neighbor. A crisper and more delicate style with a pale salmon hue, it is mainly Grenache and Cinsault with bits of Syrah and Mourvedre. Light, dry, fresh, berries, apricot, and citrus, and a touch of salinity in the finish, it is quite civilized.

Nervi Conterno Il Rosato Piedmont 2018-You can make rose out of anything, as the market continues to prove. But not all of those efforts are compelling. But there are a few cases where a non-mainstream example shines brightly. We have seen rose of Nebbiolo before, but not very many and not very often. The way this one came out, there might be a lot more folks trying their hand at it, though hitting this mark will be no picnic. The grapes come from the Nervi estate in Gattinara that was acquired by the Giacomo Conterno estate, hand-harvested with the intent to make a pink wine, fermented in stainless steel and then exposed to the lies for four months. Made from 90% Nebbiolo and 10% Uva Rara, this has an inviting nose of melon, berry, wild herbs and that perfumy floral aspect that is Nebbiolo. Deceptively broad on the palate, with plenty of energy underneath, this delivers in an aperitif scenario but has enough substance to play with some meat and sausage dishes. A 91 score from vinous. A cool diversion in pinks.

FINALLY IT’S PINK WINE TIME: PART ONE

We’ve been tasting roses literally since January, and selling them in earnest since the 2001 vintage, so we have been ready for rose season for quite some time. The weather had not been as cooperative on that front until mid-July but now, at long last, it’s pink wine time. As a vintage, 2018 wasn’t as broadly successful as some. The’hit ratio’ wasn’t as high as it has been, in part because there is simply too much mediocre pink wine out there trying to cash in on the craze. But we did find plenty of really exciting stuff over the course of some 200 offerings we tasted. Good times.

Solitude Cotes du Rhone Rosé 2018-This may be the best value of 2018. It is certainly one of them. The property has a glorious past and wines have been made at this place for several hundred years. The owners have had connection to the church and the three hats on the label refer to two bishops and a pope among the forefathers of the Lançon familiy. The medal on the label refers to an award from Napoleon after the battle of Waterloo to one family member. We have sold a number of Chateauneufs from this domaine over the years as well. Cinsault takes te lead here supported by Grenache and Syrah. Pale pink/salmon color, the delicacy of the CInsault is evident with notes of red melon, berries and a backnote of garrigue in the finish. Delicious and versatile.

Cardwell Hill Cellars Rosé of Pinot Noir 2018We have watched as this winery has become a very consistent source for quality red Pinot and, more recently, producers of a very appealing and very cost-effective Pinot Rose. They are very natural in the vineyard, and are devoted to being Salmon Safe by doing their part to protect the water quality and biodiversity in the Willamette Valley and other important northwest salmon watersheds. This is made from 100% Pinot Noir ( about 70% Pommard and 30% Dijon 777 clones if you are into that sort of thing) that is grown specifically to make this rose. The color is a moderately deep rose pink and the flavors have a definite varietal signature as well as floral aromas and immediately appealing notes of strawberry. Tasty, easy to quaff, ‘green’ environmentally, and well priced for what it is.

Fontenille Luberon Rosé 2018- While we have danced a few rounds with Fontenille and sold lots of their red wine over the years, this is the first time we can recall buying (seeing?) the rose. It stood out in our tastings as showing lots of engaging fruit and complexity at a very affordable price. The Luberon is a little more of a rustic area and the wine shows a bit of a wild, mineral side as well as a surprising depth and substance for its modest fare. The mix here is 50% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault and 10% Mourvedre that gives the traditional berry/red melon profile but also an unexpected streak of yellow stone fruits. A lively pink with evident terroir notes.

Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé 2018Now for something completely different. You won’t find many rosés made like this, in the Beaujolais or anywhere else. It is fermented with ambient yeasts, completes malolactic, and is bottled only when the wine is deemed ‘ready’. Thivin makes it like any other serious wine and allows it to run its natural course rather than manipulating it to “some ‘designer’ specs and rushing it into bottle”. The result is a sleek, nervy, mineral laced, suave rosé that expresses the nuances of where it comes from…granite soils outside the cru of Brouilly. From a one-hectare parcel of 50-year-old vines in sand and pink granite, there’s succulent flesh and a mouthwatering finish punctuated by a pleasant salinity, but the insistent minerality is a definite stylistic distinction.  

Meyer Nakel Spatburgunder Rosé 2018-A few years back when we started to see the first Germans roses, our first thought was that the ‘fad’ had gone too far. But as soon as we started tasting them, we were convinced that this was something that went beyond mere copycatting. One of our first experiences with Deutscher pinks was this one and we have been fans ever since. So what does a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé crafted by the best Pinot Noir producer in Germany taste like? It is pretty special stuff. It is light and fresh enough on the palate but still feels like a red wine by virtue of its palate weight and presence. What is it with Pinot Noir Pinks and the Germans? These guys are making better pink wine from this grape variety than anyone else in the whole entire world. This one excites with its red cherry and strawberry echo, dense yet pinpoint mid-palate and that elusive combination of ‘serious’ and ‘joy’ that separates the great pinks from the good ones. It can play with ‘serious’ food as well.

Pradeaux Bandol Rosé 2018-Last year’s(2017) was something of a best of show for us, and the 2018 is in the same mold with perhaps a little more perceived palate weight and slightly lower acidity. The blend here is 50% Cinsault and 50% Mourvedre, with the latter imparting the wine’s distinctive undercurrent of that unique musky minerality that seems to be proprietary to how Mourvedre performs in this particular terroir.  In more rustic versions it can be overwhelming, but here it is another instrument in a virtual symphony of flavors.  The effusive nose speaks of red berries, blood oranges and that earthy/mineral thing that is so indicative of the region.  In the mouth it shows layers of flavor including, strawberry, orange, earth, mineral, and spice.  There’s enough outgoing fleshiness to easily make friends who aren’t necessarily even fans of Bandol but the flavors are unmistakable. If you were as big a fan of the 2017 as we were, you will be quite happy with this one.

PINK UPDATE…

It’s time again to touch on the world of pink wine.  A few new things have come in that deserve mention.   We aren’t necessarily aggressively looking for additional roses but won’t hesitate if we run across something that truly rings our bell.  After all, here in Southern California, pink wine season can last well into October and, as we have often said, rose has a place year around.

Antinori Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri Scalabrone Rosato 2017– This rose is from one of the most prestigious properties in Tuscany (Guado al Tasso) owned by arguably Tuscany’s ‘first family’ of wine, Antinori.  The pedigree alone gives it a certain status except, of course, Tuscany doesn’t really have a significant tradition for pink wine.  Our first go round with this offering was back in the 2014 vintage if memory serves, and the wine made a significant impression on us.  In fact, it was one of the best pinks we tasted in that vintage.

For whatever reason, the next couple didn’t light it up but the 2017 is back in the saddle again.  In a place known for Bordeaux varietals, the blend here is a predictable 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 30% Syrah.  This is on the more savory end of the rose spectrum, with a firm backbone to the berry and cherry fruit and a subtle infusion of wild herbs.  This one begs for food as you would expect for something from Italy, but it is pitched to play with a wide range of dishes and has enough muscle to stand up to grilled meats.  This is not a little quaffer for that sidewalk table at the beach.  This is a pink wine with more serious intentions.

While they have been making this wine since 1990, it hasn’t been a big player in this market until recently.  The grapes were picked and fermented separately, destemmed, and saw a brief low temperature skin contact of only a few hours.  Afterward the wine was assembled from the various selected lots, and it was bottled in January.  The name (Scalabrone) comes from a local Robin Hood-esque bandit that preyed on ships here in the early 19th Century.  Given the prestige of this real estate, the price is attractive as well ($14.98).

Claude Riffault Sancerre Rose 2017Some of you might recall that last year on these pages, we extolled the virtues of the Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Moussiere 2016, pretty much conceding it was among our top performers in the glass as far as pink wine was concerned.  Thus far that importer has not presented us with the 2017 model of that wine, but another striking Loire pink has really gotten our attention.  We don’t necessarily have an agenda with respect to this genre of pink, it’s just that for the second year in a row the region gave us one of the big winners.  There will be plenty of enthusiasm for this bright, expressive, fruit-driven rose by virtue of its unabashed style.

Like the Moussiere last year, expect it to be everything you might be looking for in a pink wine.  Made from 100% Pinot Noir, the nose gives bright red melon notes and there is plenty of expressive fruit on the palate, surprising weight given the varietal and more authoritative flavors to set it apart from the rank & file pink (which there certainly are a lot of out there).  Loads of style here.  From 10-60 year old vines grown in Kimmeridgeon limestone soils in a single 2.5 hectare site called La Noue, harvested by hand and then assembled from part saignee and part direct press juice, this shows the purity and clarity that redefines the genre.

Delicacy and insistence, there is plenty of strawberry, raspberry, and other red fruits on display here, with deceptive vigor, unexpected depth, and plenty of palate authority.  This is one of those pinks that performs at a higher level and, while it can be lustily consumed as a casual beverage, the wine has the kind of panache that will get your attention on a more intimate level.  One of the best we have tasted this year.

Le Cengle Cotes de Provence Rose Vieilles Vignes 2017Given our penchant for estate bottled pinks with a long and clear history in the region, this one is a little hard to explain.  We have seen a lot of folks proffering ‘Provencal’ roses where they went to some co-op in the region, bought some juice, put it in an attractive bottle, and proceed to try and ‘brand’ it.  Most of these are adequate, but lack the depth and flair of the best examples.

Because of our extensive network of sources, we rarely have interest in this sort of wine.  This one, which follows a more specific if rather similar path, has made the cut for a number of seasons in succession.  That is saying a lot.

The L’Cengle importer gives the impression that the winery makes this wine to his specifications.  We have no way of knowing but if you can produce something this true to appellation, tasty and well priced, let’s just say whatever the ‘story’ is, keep it coming.  We don’t even need all of our fingers to count the pinks that have been recurring players on our team over the last several years, but this one has.  It’s exactly what you want of a Provencal pink.

Delicate, pale salmon color, nose of currants and berries, plus maybe a little touch of lime and white stone fruits, a fresh, lifted, engaging palate of mixed red fruits with a lick of citrus on the back-end, this hits all the buttons exactly as it should.  A blend of 50% Grenache, 25%, Cinsault, and 25% Syrah, it’s crisp and crunchy, refreshing and super friendly with all manner of lighter foods.  We buy this one every year because it delivers, and does so at a remarkably attractive price.

 

IN THE PINK, PART TWO: ROSE TIME AGAIN

We spoke our piece last time about the current market for pink wine.  In short, it is stronger than ever, but there has been a proliferation of labels well beyond what should have been.  In other words, there is a lot more rosé to look at these days, which by definition would give us more things to choose from.  That is partially true.  There are more good rosés out there, but a much higher percentage of clunkers in the mix because there are a lot of mediocre efforts being made by people who are just trying to participate in the market and many examples being made from places that really haven’t made them before.

All of this just makes our job harder because there is much more pink wine to slog through to find the few gems.  But it’s summer, we love pink wine, and the 2017s are generally quite satisfying.  So here’s another update on a few more favorites from this year’s crop.

LE PARADOU CÔTES DE PROVENCE ROSÉ 2017– This wine’s performance should be no surprise given the people involved.  The Paradou project is a partnership between the brothers Alex and Fred Chaudière of Château Pesquié and importer Eric Solomon.  We have been selling Pesquié wines for years and appreciate the honest, terroir driven character that the wines exude.  It seems only natural that these folks could create something enjoyable for this label and the  Le Paradou Côtes de Provence Rosé 2017 is that wine.

The grapes for this wine come from the more remote center of Provence, a land of lavender fields, olive groves, and wild herbs growing on the hillsides.  This is far from the French Riviera and the Cinsault, Grenache and Vermentino (known as Rolle in this part of the world) grapes come from a vineyard at the foot of Sainte  Victoire, a peak featured in a number of works by Cezanne.  The term ‘Paradou’, while it might sound like some ancient French word for ‘paradise’, actually refers to the old watermills that once dotted the landscape

Each grape plays its part.  The Cinsault provides this wine’s delicate fruit flavors reminiscent of raspberries and strawberries, the Grenache its color and spice, and the Vermentino its freshness and acidity plus a hint of white stone fruit in a supporting role.  Put it all together and you have one engaging, tasty rosé.  Here they do all the right things as the grapes are sustainably farmed, harvested by hand in the early morning, and pressed whole cluster in a cool cellar to extract the lightest color possible.

The 2017 pinks in general show a bit rounder demeanor up front and a bit more weight, yet still deliver the classic rosé experience.  Besides that the wine is nicely packaged and well priced.  Again, this one checks all the boxes.  Jeb Dunnuck had some praise for this juicy pink, “Light pink in color, the 2017 Côtes de Provence Rosé from Le Paradou is a juicy, yet textured, lively rosé that does everything right. Offering lots of white cherry, strawberry, and floral notes, with an almost salty minerality, this beauty hits the palate with medium-bodied richness, nicely integrated acidity, and a clean, dry finish. This is what Provençal rosé is all about and it’s worth a case purchase….90 points.”

 CHATEAU DE SEGRIES TAVEL ROSE 2017–  Here’s one of those classic Tavels that still thinks it is red wine.  The color is a deep orange/pink and there is considerably more mid-palate weight than most of the rosés out there.  Yet at the same time it still has the required lift to function beautifully in its capacity as a rosé.

Segries has provided us with a number of tasty selections over the years in both the red and pink variety, and it is one of the sources that still provides ‘old school’ value.  It’s added muscle allows it to play with a bit more substantial fare like grilled pork, smoked chicken, sausages, or even meats and provide a more refreshing alternative when the weather is warm.

This is a mix of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 10% Clairette, and 10% Syrah from 60-year-old vines planted in soils composed of pure silica, sand, clay, pebbles and, of course, stones.  This is a saignée which means it was light pressings from grapes that were ultimately destined to be red wines.  Everything is done by hand, the grapes were destemmed, and the fermentation takes place at low temperatures to preserve the fruit component.

The nose has an almost red wine element to it as well as notes of ripe melon, red berry and blood orange.  All of that plays on the palate along with subtle notes of mineral and pepper.  Like we said, this is a more mouth-filling and weightier version of rose than the rank and file, but it still has the freshness to pull it off.  It is one of the more impressive and distinctive efforts from this year’s crop of pinks.  Thus far the wine got a 92 from Wine Enthusiast with comments, “Beautiful ripe cherry and red berry aromas with floral scents. Good concentration on the palate, flavorful and perfectly balanced. Good acidity and mineral backbone make it a great match with Provençal or Asian cuisine, grilled meat, fresh fruit salads.”  We expect there will be more.

CHATEAU PRADEAUX BANDOL ROSE 2017- Every year as we taste through countless pink wines we find a reasonable number of engaging examples and one or two that play on a level all their own.  Most long time Francophiles will tell you that Provence is a fine source for rose, but that Bandol has ‘home run’ potential.  When a Bandol rosé hits its highest level, it is the quintessential choice.  Domaine Tempier has set the standard for years and now sits in the $40 range more or less, expensive even for Bandol.  But this one was one of the standouts we have tasted this year, and arguably one of the most memorable ever for its sheer richness, style and layered complexity.

We have had a positive, if somewhat inconsistent relationship with Chateau Pradeaux dating back into the 1990s.  This is one of the few times we have had their rosé, but we dare say that it is the most complete, impressive, engaging examples of this category we can recall.  This is classic Bandol rosé in both the most traditional and best possible way.  The current family took the helm around the time of the French revolution, and the near-the-coast location clearly has a profound effect on the wine’s personality.

The blend here is 50% Cinsault and 50% Mourvedre, with the latter imparting the wine’s distinctive undercurrent of that unique musky minerality that seems to be proprietary to how that varietal performs in this terroir.  In more rustic versions it can be overwhelming, but here it is another instrument in a virtual symphony of flavors.  The effusive nose speaks of red berries, blood oranges and that earthy/mineral thing that is so indicative of the region.  In the mouth it shows layers of flavor including, strawberry, orange and spice.  The tension is nearly perfect and there’s enough outgoing fleshiness to easily make friends who aren’t necessarily even fans of Bandol.

The bottom line is that the Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rose 2017 is an enlightened version of a traditional style and operates in this vintage a level or two above most everything else we have tasted this year.  Rosé doesn’t get much better at any price and, at $25, the intensity and complexity in this wine over delivers.  If you can find a more compelling pink drink, good on’ya.

DOMINIO DEL AGUILA PICARO CLARETE ROSE 2014- Now for something completely different.  First it is important to point out that this is the current release, not some ‘old rosé’ we found in the back room.  Some rosés are built to develop in the bottle.  The Alphonse Mellot we sold last year is still developing and the Tiburon-based wine from Clos Cibonne is kept in bottle a year before release, just to name a couple.  So we are already in rarified air with this element in general, and that is further compounded by the completely unique approach of Dominio del Aguila Picaro Clarete Rose 2014.

Firm, melon, citrus, and berry fruit laced with a kind of chalky minerality and surprising verve for a pink wine at this age, this lets it be known right away that it is not your rank and file pink.  A rather unusual blend of Tempranillo, Albillo (a  white grape unique to the Ribera del Duero), Garnacha, and Bobal (neither of which are usually associated with the Ribera), this unique mix of red and white grapes is sourced from 60-year-old vines sitting at nearly 3000 ft. elevation.  It spends 16 months in a combination of French and American oak, another indication it isn’t necessarily made to be quaffed in its youth.

Wine Advocate’s Louis Gutierrez was quite taken with this wine, and the estate in general.  His comments, “The 2014 Pícaro Clarete… is more in the style of a white wine than a red. There are white flowers, aromatic herbs, fine spices and a touch of petrol? The palate is extraordinary, incredibly fresh and complex, with good weight and very good acidity. This has to be the finest vintage to date. The 2012 is drinking superbly today and it’s still young, so I don’t see why this 2014 should not age the same or even better, as I see more freshness and balance here...93 points.”

IN THE PINK, PART ONE: ROSE TIME

It’s that time again, though admittedly when we started getting serious about rosés back with the 2001 vintage we never imagined it would play out like it has.  Back then, after a couple of decades of white Zinfandel domination, most wine buyers were reluctant to try pink wines because they thought of them as the mawkishly sweet, soda pop examples that grandma drank.  The folks that bought pink wine were typically looking for the white Zin experience and thus disappointed with a crisp dry rose.  Our only thought back then was to try to introduce more people to dry pinks because they served such a need during the warmer months because they were fresh, light, and versatile with food.

A decade and a half later we and others like us fear we may have done our job too well.  There is a thirst for rosé in the marketplace like there never has been.  People are willing to try all kinds of different pinks and many consider them a necessary part of their beverage program.  The industry has responded, as it so often does, by overdoing it to the point of silliness (see also White Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and high-octane, red  ‘mutt’ blends with artsy labels and big price tags).  There are anywhere from five to ten times as many rosé options as back when we started, a great many of them from places that never made pink wine before and arguably shouldn’t be making them now.

All of this rose madness has done a number of things.  We get a lot more selection from places like Provence, Bandol and the Rhone, places that have a long and positive history with the genre.  There are also a few intriguing new options that have been created simply because there was a potential market.  Sadly, there is way too much mediocre-to-poor pink out there and our task of working through them has almost become a slop.  Everybody has a pink wine (or two, or three) to sell.

With that, our game plan this year is to be even more selective in what we offer than in years past.  The 2017s, while perhaps a half-step behind the 2016s (which are still showing beautifully by the way) and the 2015s, are still quite complete and engaging.  Our preferred profile is still fresh, honest fruit and bright acidity.  We tend to avoid efforts with higher alcohols and lower acidity because they simply aren’t refreshing and that is what pink wine is all about.  Even as we work with fewer wines than before, it is still a fair amount of juice to talk about.  So with summer right around the corner, we’d best start talking…

RIMAURESQ ROSE PROVENCE CRU CLASSE 2017While the whole idea of Cru Classe de Provence has been around for a long time, with even the ‘official’ founding of the appellation happening back in 1955, there has been a real interest recently to put more vigor into the marketing of this special little spot for pink wine.  This is one of the ‘original’ fourteen members of this very specific delineated terroir and these guys appear to be upping their game a bit.

The microclimate of Rimauresq is a real singularity of the Côtes de Provence appellation.   The vineyard is  located at an altitude varying from 140 to 190 meters at the foot of Notre Dame des Anges. The shade of the hill and the beneficial effects of the Mistral play a role in this wines fresh personality.  The estate consists of a clay-schist and crystalline soil, with sandy and stony parts. It is common to benefit from the combination of several soils (degraded schist, pink sandstone, rolled pebbles) within the same plot and that is the case here. Rimauresq takes its name from the Moors River which crosses the Domain.

They make other ‘flavors’ but this is a house rosé built.  They make five different versions.  The Rimauresq Rose Provence is a mix of 43% Grenache, 24% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Syrah, 6% Carignan and 9% Rolle (aka Vermentino).  The aromatics speak of berries, apricot and citrus with a little garrigue and some mineral and floral aspects.  In the mouth it isd both fleshy and lifted with the red fruits as the central theme but subtle layers as befits this wine’s diverse makeup.

ELIZABETH SPENCER GRENACHE ROSE MENDOCINO SPECIAL CUVEE 2017- We aren’t going to say we weren’t a little surprised by this wine.  Usually California pinks have a tendency to be a little plodding.  To tell the truth we went back three times to make sure we weren’t just in a good mood or it was a biodynamic ‘fruit day’.  The wine delivered plenty of mouth-watering red berries flecked with stone fruit, apple, and floral notes, with just the right amount of snap at the end.  The story is that this wine came from Mendocino, where it is cooler and therefore more likely for the wine to retain its necessary acidity.

The grapes came from rocky soils in the benchlands up by Ukiah, and they were harvested specifically to make pink wine (as opposed to being a saignee of something else.  That accounts for the depth of flavor here, and some of the wine saw a bit of neutral oak for rounding out.  Bright, insistent yet still with a playful quaffabilty, this one definitely has a European demeanor, but the Mendocino fruit makes for an interesting change of pace.

Made from 100% Grenache, this one checks all the boxes in a way few domestic versions do in our minds…fresh, fruit driven, lifted, and well-priced.

MOURGUES DU GRES COSTIERES DE NIMES GALETS ROSE 2017- We go back a long way with this domaine, and their 2017 is arguably one of te best buys on pink wine values we have seen this year.  Located in the Costieres des Nimes at the southern end of the Rhone Valley.   This vineyard is covered with the round rocks that you see in Chateauneuf to the north (hence the reference to galets) which add a subtle mineral character to the rose.  The main show is red berry flanked by notes yellow atone fruit and a touch of both white pepper and garrigue.

The style here is definitely old school, with a rather broad fruit component but just the right touch of acidity to keep it fresh on the palate.  The mix here is a pretty standard one of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre, but they produce a lot of red win so the juice comes mainly from saignee.  The wine has a bit more size than some pinks which allows it to play with a wider array of grilled fare, and the price ($11.98) definitely makes it easier to swallow.

CHATEAU VANNIERES BANDOL ROSE 2017-  No discussion of rose is complete without Bandol, arguably ‘Provence reserve’ but with its own unique twist thanks to the healthy portion of Mourvedre in the blend.

Bandol is historic, the first vines being planted here by the Romans some 2500 years ago.   Also, Bandonl is arguably the elite category of French rose and prices have edged up accordingly on the heels of producers like Domaine Tempier.  Finding good Bandol Rose isn’t as big a challenge as finding good Bandol rose that is reasonably priced.  Vannieres fits that requirement nicely.

The current family that owns the property, the Boisseaux, are outliers from Beaune that bought this property in 1957.  Father Gaston has now passed the reins to son Eric who is a bit of an epicurean and is currently tinkering with concentration and elegance among other things.   This wine is an indication that the program is working well.  One could call this ‘classic’ Bandol Rose, a blend of 60% Mourvedre from saignee, along with 20% comes from the each of Grenache and Cinsault from direct pressing, all from vines ranging from 20 to 60 years of age.

The flavors range from white stone fruits to red melon to faintly citrus tones, with that inviting, intriguing musky note that the Mourvedre from this area delivers.  Mouthwatering, maybe even a little intellectual, it is a fine example of what Bandol rose is all about and very reasonable for this currently ‘too hot’ genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE PINK

There’s still plenty of summer left, not even counting the summer we have here in SoCal that can sometimes hang around until early November.  Thus, by virtually any definition, we are still in the throes of rosé season.  A brief word on that.  Our rosé section is pretty much set unless something amazing comes along.  Yet even being very selective about what we have brought in, and buying the smallest percentage of offerings since we got serious about pink wine some fifteen years back, we still have our largest and most varied selection ever.

In part, it’s because we like the 2016s a lot.  But it is largely because we were presented more pink wine than ever!  That is both good and bad.  It’s ‘good’ because the more great options you have, the better selection you can offer.  But, as we have lamented in the past, there are way too many people making rosé, and a lot of it is pretty ordinary and overpriced.  Sorting through all of that is our job.  Here are a couple of things we haven’t talked about before.

The La Bastide Blanche Rose Bandol 2016 is definitely a candidate for pink of the season.  Beyond the fact that it is an extremely well-priced for a Bandol and has a pretty glowing review from Vinous Media (92 points and some nice words), it is a textbook example of what makes Bandol unique and special.  You’ve got the inviting deeper salmon hue, a lovely nose of citrus, strawberry, and melon all happening at once with some mineral, and the intriguing muskiness to the nose that speaks the influence of Mourvedre (this is around 70% Mourvedre with the balance Grenache, Cinsault, and a splash of Clairette, a white grape that adds a little lift).

On the palate, the Bastide shows ample weight and refreshing cut, but there’s a coolness and somewhat cerebral nature to the flavors that juxtapose the fruit and florality.  Thinking man’s pink? Sure, it can play that role as well as just being a great drink if you just want that.

We had lots of success with the junior version of Puech Haut Rosé Prestige until the market absorbed it.  A consistent, well reviewed and rather ‘cost effective’ pink, if one couldn’t sell that one to wine drinkers they should consider a career change.  But while we were cruising around a large trade event not long ago, we came upon the Eric Solomon table and had the opportunity to taste their upper cuvee, the Puech-Haut Coteaux du Languedoc Rose Tete de Belier 2016Hello!  This one, side by side with the delicious Prestige showed another couple of gears.  More lifted and layered, even a bit ethereal as pinks go, this is classy juice.

The Mourvedre takes charge here, too, though playing with just Genache the Belier goes a little higher toned and stone fruit driven and has a touch of wild herbs.  Jeb Dunnuck in his Wine Advocate piece called it, “…one of the finest Rosés out there and will drink nicely over the coming year.” We agree with the first part and wouldn’t hesitate to have a little for next summer as Mourvedre based pinks do seem to have a little longevity.  There are those that insist that they aren’t even revved up until 18 months old.

Finally, Chidane rosé?  That was our reaction when we saw this pink from one of the Loire’s great Chenin masters, but this sneaky little charmer won the day.  A definite ‘all-geek’ selection, the Francois Chidaine Touraine Rose 2016 is a quirky blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Grolleau (a relatively arcane local grape) that comes off like a Sancerre rose.  Delicate cherry, a little tea, a definite tactile impression, high-toned minerality, and a nice cut to the finish, it is sedate and quite tasty.  In difficult vintages this wine probably wouldn’t work, but it’s a cool change-of-pace in this instance.

All three of these were farmed biodynamically.  Á votre santé.

 

Rosé ROUNDUP

 

First off, our  apologies for not getting to this sooner, though it isn’t entirely our fault.  Given that Memorial Day has come and gone, we have to consider ourselves somewhat remiss in how little we have done promoting pink wine so far.  The season is upon us.  Now, in our defense, we have been a little preoccupied with a few other topics.

The 2016 Bodeaux prearrivals campaign demands a certain commitment of time.  It is the most important vintage to offered on pre-arrival since the 2010s, and possibly could provide the best opportunities for consumers since 2005.   But it is a slippery slope because, as good as the wines are, we have mixed emotions about how the campaign will play out given the remarkable sea of other choices there are out there today of all kinds of wine, and how many folks are willing to put up today’s money for something that isn’t coming for two years and really won’t be drinkable until a decade or so later.  In that sense it is a historic campaign in terms of what it will say about the whole futures market moving forward.

We also are spending a lot of time evaluating more deals in the marketplace than we ever remember seeing.  You’ve seen some of the stuff we have been tossing out there, and those are only the ones that pass muster.  There are nearly five times that many don’t even initiate a serious conversation, but we still have to look.  Finally, we are still wading through a ton of pink wines brought to us by the Johnny-come-latelys.  We  have already found plenty to get us through the summer in style, but you never know when the next gem will appear.

Finally, our choice of the word ‘roundup’ was made because of alliteration.  We couldn’t possibly cover all of the highlights of our current selection in one piece.  So we’re going to give you a few that come to mind so that you can start to get your pinks in order for the summer.  We’ll start with something that kind of surprised us.  Domestic rosés all to often lack the acidity and texture to be refreshing.  It’s nobody’s fault.  It’s just warmer here, generating higher alcohols and lower acidity, and too many folks are getting into the act just to cash in on the fad.  While we are getting a lot better at it here at home, far too many vintners here don’t have the experience in this arena and most of the local pinks are at a disadvantage outside their own tasting room.

The Andrew Murray Esperance Rose 2016 was a pleasant exception to that generalization.  It is nearly 100% Cinsault that is estate grown for making rosé (as opposed to a saignee of red wine).  Light, fresh, clean, there’s dried strawberry and red melon with an impression of minerality, a pleasing tactile crispness, and the flavors are dry.  In the winery’s own words, “this is definitely not a kool-aid Rosé of yesteryear from California”.  It got the attention of some serious Francophiles when it comes to pinks (us).  Pleasing juice, and the price makes perfect sense (far too many domestic pinks, besides being a little flabby, are kind of expensive).  A well conceived effort.

The Chateau de Trinquevedel Rose Tavel 2016 has been a staple here for some time.  Tavel has a certain cache when it comes to pink wine, which makes some of them a little expensive for what they are.  This small family farm makes classic Tavel with fresh acidity but also the defining mid-palate weight and somewhat deeper color.  The blend here is 45% Grenache, 24% Cinsault, 15% Clairette, 10% Mourvèdre, and 6% Syrah.  The flavors roll to red berry and red melon, with delicate underpinnings of spice and garrigue, and a little rounder midpalate than pinks from further south.  Far too easy to drink and very food friendly.

One of the consistent pink wine bargains over the last few years is the Le Cengle Cotes de Provence Rose Vieilles Vignes 2016, pale in color, delicate and crisp on the palate but with more going on than the visuals and price ($12.98) would lead you to expect.  The blend is 25% Cinsault, 35% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 5% Mourvedre, but there are refreshing citrus and white peach tones that give it a little bit of  white wine impression.  Certainly a candidate for go-to pink given the price and performance.

Domaine Tempier has made Bandol rosé a ‘thing’ almost by themselves.  There are some wonderful examples that cost nearly half as much because the market hasn’t caught on to yet. The Gros Nore Bandol Rose 2016 is a sensational follow-up to their outstanding 2015.  Former boxer Alain Pascal fashions this blend of 50% Mourvèdre, 25% Cinsault and 25% Grenache from grapes grown in clay soils.  Red fruit, minerals, a hint of honey at the crest, some ‘orangy’ citrus streaks, and just a touch of that cool Mourvedre earthiness, this is pretty serious as pinks go if you want to dive into it, but can play the casual, delicious quaff if called upon to do so.

Finally, here’s your absolute bargain, the Mourgues du Gres Fleur d’Eglantine Costieres de Nimes Rose 2016.  We have worked with this estate for years and they are usually in the mix with both pinks and reds.  To be honest, they don’t ‘hit’ everything every year.  But they have had a number of efforts that have ‘nailed it’ and, when they do, it provides a remarkable value performances.  The 2016 Rose is one of those ‘hit’ times.  The main thrust is Mourvedre with small parts of Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah.  The wine starts with red berries, slides into an orange and garrigue note and finishes with a little salinity.  At $9.98, it’s party time.

 

 

PLOYEZ JACQUEMART-A DIFFERENT KIND OF PINK

Yeah, we are kind of weird about Champagne. We love the stuff and think it has purpose every day of the year, not just the holidays and Valentines Day. It’s great for celebrations, but also makes a fine aperitif and excellent foil for certain dishes as well. So we’re likely to spring a Champagne piece on you any time.

We were quite taken with the Ployez Jacquemart Extra Brut Rose for its sleek bead and ample, distinctive palate. We have talked about this family-run house before but this stylish pink is something new to us. This wine is only produced in years where the red grapes excel and the base cuvee here is primarily from 2013, made with first pressed Premir and Grand Cru fruit. The red juice for this primarily red cuvée sees some time in oak which gives it a bit more depth and muscle.

The toasty edge plays nicely off the surprisingly full midpalate, and the bead is fine and precise. You’d never guess from tasting it that the dosage in this bubbly is a low 3-4 grams per liter (standard bruts run 10-15 gpl, hence the ‘extra-brut‘ handle).  The lower dosage has a lot to do with the clarity of the fruit in this sparkler, but to do it this well in this style is not easy. We could say this is a food focused cuvée, but we think a lot of you will appreciate it on its own for its masculine style.