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Rosé Wines Continue to Gain Popularity
By Ed McCarthy
Jul 12, 2016
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I admit it.  I am a rosé wine drinker.  As a professional wine writer, I might have been reluctant to admit that 15 or 20 years ago.  But in the words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changing.”  And so are rosé wines.  Their quality level is way higher than before.

Local wine shop owners have told me that half of the wines they are selling are rosés, all-year round, not just in the summer.  The rosé wine phenomenon is getting bigger each year.  How did this happen--and so rapidly?

I offer you two possible reasons:

--New wine drinkers, many under 40, prefer the light-bodied, no-tannin, cool rosé wines to the heavier red and white wines that once dominated wine sales.  This was   (stereotypically) said to be true of women wine drinkers, but the rosé wine movement has crossed over to male drinkers, especially younger drinkers;

--Rosé wines are now better than ever.  Especially U.S.-made rosé wines.  At one time, American rosés were mainly sweet, or semi-sweet, and insipid.  I always avoided them, and drank the rosés from France, Italy, and Spain.  Although I generally prefer European rosés, I now do drink some of the drier American rosés as well.

There are millions of wine drinkers, particularly in the U.S., who have always preferred easy-drinking white wines to heavier, tannic reds.  They are the people who have made Chardonnay the best-selling varietal wine in the U.S.  How many times have you been in a restaurant and heard the customer at an adjoining table tell the waiter, “I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay”? 

Many of these drinkers now select the option of drinking cool, light-bodied rosés instead.  Rosé wines are especially suitable for warm-weather dining.  And another factor--rosés are so pretty to look at!

With few exceptions, most rosé wines are best when consumed in their youth.  I would especially look for 2015 and 2014 vintages.  Depending on your wine shop or restaurant’s storage conditions, 2013 might be fine as well.  Because I am writing a column and not a small book, I limit my wine recommendations below to those rosés made in the U.S. rather than take on the entire wine world’s rosés.

California rosés are often made from Grenache and/or other Rhône Valley varieties, such as Cinsault, or, increasingly--from Pinot Noir.  Rosés made from Pinot Noir are a particular favorite of mine because I love this grape variety.  I am recommending five California Rosé wines.  Most CA Rosés are in the $12 to $20 retail price range:

Presqu’ile Rosé of Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley) 2015, $19:  Santa Maria Valley, in Santa Barbara County, is one of the great vineyard sites for Pinot Noir.  Presqu’ile, known for its Pinot Noir wines, is making a super Pinot Noir rosé.

Adelaida Estate Rosé (Paso Robles) 2015, $20:  Adelaida Estate, located in the Adelaida District in the mountains between the town of Paso Robles and the Pacific Ocean, is one of my favorite California wineries.  Every wine Adelaida makes is top notch, including one of the state’s best Pinot Noirs and a superb Cabernet Sauvignon, each made in a vineyard suitable for the variety.  Adelaida’s Rosé, made from Rhône varieties, including 51 percent Grenache, is refreshingly dry.  It’s difficult to find.  The best place to buy it would be directly from the winery.

Lazy Creek Rosé of Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) 2014/2015, $20:  Lazy Creek, in Mendocino County, established its reputation for its outstanding Riesling and Gewurtztraminer (U.S.’s best, IMO).  But it is also making an excellent Rosé from Pinot Noir, no surprise from this superb winery.

Robert Sinsky Vin Gris of Pinot Noir (Carneros, Napa Valley) 2014/2015, $29: 
Yes, $29 is a bit expensive for a California rosé.  But Robert Sinsky makes highly regarded wines from his biodynamically farmed vineyards.  His “Vin Gris” rosé is pale-colored; a beautiful example of California  rosé at its best.

Martin Ray Rosé of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) 2015, $13:  Martin Ray’s rosé, made from Pinot Noir in the heart of Sonoma’s esteemed center for this variety, the Russian River Valley, is typical of Pinot Noirs from the region, robust and expressive of the variety.  Not a wimpy rosé, and a bargain at this price.

Long Island’s wine regions are a two-hour drive from New York City. There are over 50 wineries on Long Island today, and most make at least one rosé.  I recommend two Long Island wineries, both located on the South Fork, who make rosé wines a specialty:

Channing Daughters Winery Rosato di Cabernet Sauvignon, Mudd Vineyard (The Hamptons) 2015, $18:  Channing Daughters is the most interesting (some would say the craziest) winery on Long Island, if not the entire U.S.  It makes 42  varietal wines (at last count), including six different rosés (!), and it not a particularly large winery.  You must visit Channing Daughters to appreciate it, but you might want to book a nearby lodging if you intend to taste their entire wine portfolio.  Since the winery has a particularly Italian bent (many of its varietal wines are from varieties native to Italy), Channing Daughters calls its rosés “rosatos.”  I chose the Rosato di Cabernet Sauvignon to recommend because the grapes grow in the  cherished Mudd Vineyard, and because it’s unusual to taste a rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon.  You will have to taste all six Channing Daughters rosatos to determine which is your favorite.  A visit to the winery is highly recommended.

Wolffer Estate Rosé (The Hamptons) 2015, $15 to $18:  Wolffer Estate is one of the largest wineries on Long Island.  Its wines not only are sold across the U.S. but also can be purchased in Tokyo.  It limits itself to three rosés, however.  Wolffer Estate’s flagship rosé, the one made in the largest quantities, is simply called “Rosé.”  It is made from six different red varieties growing on its huge estate.  It is light in color and delicate, a perfect summer refresher.

Although I have limited my recommendations here to U.S. rosés, I must mention one French rosé in passing that I enjoyed two nights ago, Domaine du Carrou Sancerre Rosé, Dominique Roger, winemaker.  The wine comes from the Sancerre region in the Upper Loire Valley, close to Paris.  I had its 2014 ($25), which was a delight; the 2015 ($26) is also now available.  The rosés from the Sancerre region are made from 100 percent Pinot Noir.  I highly recommend them.