Rosé wines are the olive branch of the wine industry. They share the refreshing nature of white wines, yet with the flavors of red. While rosé may be the salve on arguments about whether it’s red or white with dinner, this is just one of the benefits the style can boast. Rosé wines pair with light and rich foods: from shrimp salad to barbecue chicken to pasta in a heavy cream sauce. You won’t pay what you do for red wines in most cases, and Napa Valley vintners are giving rosés some serious attention; making them better than ever before.
Rosé comes in many styles. There are darker-colored, fuller bodied versions with tannins for those who might have trouble letting go of their red wine fetish. Lighter, moderate-alcohol rosés exist for the week-weary, whose sole goal is to spend a sunny afternoon poolside flicking water with their toes.
The St. Helena Star and Napa Valley Vintners Tasting Panel sat down earlier this month to review numerous Napa Valley rosé wines from the 2013 and 2014 vintages. Panelists discussed the wines following a blind tasting of 18 rosés.
Simon Faury at Merryvale found “the quality is getting more refined, more elegant,” and noted the style continues to be trendy. Jim Sullivan of Castello di Amorosa called the 2013 and 2014 rosés “bright and refreshing” and told panelists, “Today’s wines are a good indication that I should be drinking more rosé.”
Christie Dufault, instructor for The Culinary Institute of America and past sommelier at top restaurants in the Bay area, noted, “I drink rosé all year round,” and disagrees with some restaurants that take rosé off of their wine lists in the months following summer.
Lindsay Borenstein with beverage services at The Culinary Institute of America says that customers are coming in and asking for rosé. She currently has two on the list at the Wine Spectator Restaurant and says a third is being considered.
The prices for rosé are as diverse as the styles. There are however, as Master Sommelier Bob Bath pointed out “some tremendous values” in this group. The wines ranged from $16 for St. Supery’s Estate rosé to $65 for Nellcote’s Mount Veeder rosé.
Following the blind tasting, these rosés were revealed as the first-place winners:
Tournesol 2013 Pinot Noir, Coombsville ($35). Sitting 300 feet above the valley floor, Tournesol’s 16-acre Coombsville estate is owned by Anne and Bob Arns. Fifteen of those acres are gently sloping vineyards. There are rentals on the property with a salt-water pool and spa, outdoor cabana, wood-fired oven, and more for visitors who want to immerse themselves in the Napa Valley good life. The wine has strawberry, orange zest and honeysuckle all rolled into its refreshing package. Most of all, the Arns get it: rosé is not just for spring and summer — they have you pairing this wine with split pea soup and Caesar salad all year long, and putting it on the Thanksgiving table.
Benessere 2014 Sangiovese Rosato, St. Helena ($18). The price tag alone is intriguing, but this sangiovese rosé also has an abundance of flavor. Don’t let its pale color fool you. The wine is a crisp sip of juicy cherry fruit, herbs with the scent of lavender. The winery offers a fun lineup of Italian varietal wines including the sangiovese used in this wine, including sagrantino, moscato di canelli, pinot grigio, and aglianico.
Saintsbury 2014 Pinot Noir Vincent Vin Gris, Los Carneros ($20). This winery can always be counted on for some of the region’s best pinot noir wines, including their rosé. The 2014 Vin gris is a beautiful salmon color, opening with aromas of cherry, strawberry and wild herbs with a nice underlying streak of minerality.
Jericho Canyon Vineyard 2013 Rosé, Calistoga ($35). This Calistoga ranch is not new to wine; there was a vineyard on the property pre-Prohibition. Visit today and you’ll see the views of the Palisades and Mt. St. Helena which stole the hearts of owners Marla and Dale Breecher. They work with Aaron Pott and Michel Rolland to produce their wines. Their 2013 rosé has fresh floral, herb and a sweet, almost sponge cake aroma, which finishes with the taste of tart cherries.
Pine Ridge Vineyards 2014 Rosé Encantado, Napa Valley ($24). Not just a clever name, the encantado (meaning enchanted or charmed) has an intriguing medium pink color with lively citrus zest (orange, lime) and strawberry fruit flavors. A fun wine, it is made from equal parts merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
Boyd Family Vineyards 2014 Ruby Tuesday Rosé, Oak Knoll District ($23). A kick-off-your-shoes kind of rosé, this one is for sitting in the grass, enjoying sunny skies and the scents of surrounding flowers. You could be in the south of France, or you could be in your backyard. Either way, this is an attitude adjusting wine; sure to make you stop and, well, smell the roses.
Catherine Bugue, the Star’s tasting panel columnist, loves writing about — and drinking — wine. You can contact Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Only wines from Napa Valley Vintner member wineries are accepted and tasted. Many wineries offer local residents discounts on their wines through the Napa Neighbor program, visit napavintners.com/programs and click on Napa Neighbor to learn more.