In the nearly quarter-century that I’ve been organizing commercial wine competitions, with now more than 60 under my belt, the rose category has been one of my greatest disappointments.
Once upon a time most of the rose wines entered were on the sweet side and of little interest to professional wine judges, so medals were few and far between.
Even as more interesting and complex dry roses were produced, the judges mostly shrugged at the category. But the times are a changin. Witness the 2017 Critics Challenge, staged over Memorial weekend in San Diego.
More than 50 dry roses were entered, which seems to be a record to most of us involved with this 14-year-old competition that features prominent wine journalists as judges. The judges were in no mood to shrug off the rose category this year, awarding 22 gold and platinum medals in a stunning reversal from previous years.
As Executive Director, I was happy to see the judges finally embrace rose, but I don’t give my colleagues all of the credit for waking up to the beauty of rose.
It’s my opinion that winemakers, particularly domestic winemakers, sense a market for dry rose and are finally taking the category seriously. A little more TLC in the vineyard and the cellar is evident in the dry rose wines presented at Critics Challenge this year.
One winery, Navarro Vineyards of Mendocino County, entered two roses and scored a platinum award for each. It’s 2016 Naravro Rose, Mendocino County ($17.50), the least expensive of the two, was given the Directors’ Award for Best of Show rose.
There was even a platinum-award rose from Texas, McPherson Cellars’ 2016 La Harencia Rosa ($18) and a gold medal for a rose in a box, the non-vintage Bota Box Dry Rose, California ($22.99).
It seems there is a rose revolution underway. Consumers have caught on to the refreshing aspects of a clean, crisp dry rose. Producers have heard them and are bending the quality curve upward. And the wine journalists, aka wine judges, have noticed.
I had the opportunity to taste a number of the best dry roses at Critics Challenge 2017 and can enthusiastically recommend most of them. Here are my ten favorites, in alphabetical order:
Chateau Minuty 2016 Rose et Or, Cotes de Provence AOP, France ($40, 93 points). One of the most elegant dry roses you are likely to find, and with the delicacy you would expect from Provence. Minuty entered three roses and medaled with all three.
Dutcher Crossing 2016 Grenache Rose, Winemaker’s Cellar, Dry Creek Valley ($26, 95 points). I loved this wine. Beautiful fruit with crisp acidity, yet it was creamy on the palate. This was my second-favorite rose from the Critics Challenge weekend.
Eberle Winery 2016 Syrah Rose, Paso Robles ($22, 94 points). This was winemaker Chris Eberle’s second rose vintage and it is better than his excellent first vintage. Darker than most high quality rose, but it’s dry and beautifully balanced.
JCB 2016 No. 5 Rose, Cotes de Provence AOP, France ($24.99, 93 points). Seem like everything Jean-Charles Boisset touches these days turns to gold.
Ledson 2016 Pinot Noir Rose, Russian River Valley ($30, 92 points). You know with all that great Pinot in the Russian River Valley, someone had to be making a knockout rose!
McPherson Cellars 2016 La Harencia Rosa, Texas ($28, 95 points). Winemaker Kim McPherson loves to play around with Mediterranean grape varieties, and this one’s Tempranillo.
Navarro Vineyards 2016 Rose, Mendocino County ($17.50, 96 points). Our favorite rose from the competition, Best of Show, and a steal at the price.
Navarro Vineyards 2016 Rose of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley ($22, 95 points). That some stable of dry rose wines at Navarro.
Unparalleled 2016 Rose Cuvee, Coteaux Varois en Provence, France ($19.99, 94 points). Another irresistible, utterly delicious rose from Provence, at a good price, too.
V. Sattui 2016 Rosato di Sangiovese, North Coast ($26, 95 points). V. Sattui only sells its wine online or at the winery. It’s almost worth the drive!
A complete list of the winners from Critics Challenge 2017 can be found at CriticsChallenge.com. In addition, all of the wines awarded platinum have been reviewed independently at WineReviewOnline.com.