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Domaine de Cala

Chef Joachim Splichal at  Domaine de Cala.

Rosé season is officially here. While we now drink rosé year-round, it is ideal to drink in the summer months. The sun is shining, the temperatures are warm, and a glass of pink wine is refreshing, enjoyable and has the ability to pair with a wide range of foods.

When I was invited into the Los Angeles home of renowned chef Joachim Splichal for dinner, celebrating the new rosé releases from his estate winery, Domaine de Cala, I could not resist.

While rosé wines are made in wine regions around the world, most of the world’s supply of rosé comes from Provence in the south of France. Domaine de Cala is no exception. Located outside the medieval town of Brignoles, in the Coteaux Varois AOP in the heart of Provence, Domaine de Cala was founded by Splichal in 2015.

Chef Joachim Splichal is best known as the founder of the Patina Group. He was been named “Best California Chef” by the James Beard Foundation in 1991 and was inducted into its “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” in 1995.

But before Splichal made a name for himself in California, he began his career in Europe. Born and raised in Germany, Splichal left the family’s restaurant business to travel and work in Holland, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland before working in France at Michelin two-starred restaurant La Bonne Auberge, Le Chantecler in Nice and Michelin three-star L’Oasis in Provence.

Splichal moved to California in the early 1990s where he established the Patina Restaurant Group, which has grown from one restaurant to more than 70 over the last 30 years. But no matter how long he has lived in California, Provence has always held a special place in his heart. He and his family, including his twin sons Nicolas and Stephane, would travel back to Provence regularly and in 2014, while on vacation in Saint-Tropez, Splichal found the estate that would become Domaine de Cala.

The name Domaine de Cala pays homage to his home in Los Angeles, as Cala is short for “California, Los Angeles." The 600-acre property was in poor condition with a rundown house when Splichal bought it. He hired acclaimed winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt as a wine consultant and winemaker Bruno Tringali, known for his work with rosé wines.

They renovated the chateau and are in the process of building a luxurious new tasting room. Except for some old vine Grenache and Syrah, the vines were replanted and today there are 120 acres planted to Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Rolle, Grenache Blanc and Clairette Blanche.

The town of Brignoles, where Domaine de Cala is located, is known for abundant sunshine, light rain, warm days and cool nights. The vineyard is north of the Massif de Saint-Beaume, coastal hills that run behind the Mediterranean coastline and moderates the Mediterranean’s effects on the vineyard.

The Domaine de Cala wines are made from 100 percent estate-grown fruit. The first vintage in 2015 produced 250 cases, 2016 produced 5,500 cases, 2017 produced 6,500 cases and the 2018 vintage, which was just released, produced 13,000 cases.

Domaine de Cala produces three wines, and I enjoyed them with Provence-inspired dishes created by chef Joachim Splichal:

2018 Domaine de Cala Rosé ($15.95) is a blend of 41 percent Grenache, 35 percent Cinsault, 15 percent Syrah, 6 percent Rolle and 1 percent each of Grenache Blanc, Carignan and Cabernet. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. The wine is a delicate pale pink color with aromas of strawberry and orange, light floral and herbal notes and minerality. On the palate, it is fresh and crisp with a slightly creamy finish. The freshness of the wine was a lovely pairing with deconstructed niçoise salad.

2018 Domaine de Cala Prestige Rosé ($24.95) is a blend of 40 percent Grenache, 29 percent Syrah, 17 percent Rolle and 14 percent Cinsault. The wine is fermented and aged in large oak barrels for three months with frequent battonage. The result is a delicate pink salmon color with notes of citrus, white peach and strawberry. On the palate, the wine is lively and fresh with a richer, rounder mid-palate and a mineral finish. The wine paired beautifully with a filet of John Dory with artichoke barigoule. It was quite a surprise that the wine worked with artichokes, but it was because the wine was delicate with a lovely roundness that did not fight with the artichoke.

2016 Domaine de Cala Rouge ($35) is a blend of 47 percent Syrah, 23 percent Grenache and 30 percent Carignan and aged in oak for 12 months before being transferred to concrete tanks before bottling. A medium-bodied red wine with aromas of red and black fruits, the wine is smooth with medium intensity and paired nicely with beef braised in red wine with polenta and spring garden vegetables.

Delicious to drink and affordable make the Domaine de Cala rosé wines perfect to enjoy with your summer meals.

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Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a marketing and event-planning agency. A freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her way around the world. Allison is also the host of the wine podcast Wine Soundtrack USA. Contact her at allison@pleasethepalate.com.

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