Well, with months of dreary winter weather behind us and, yes, months of dreary spring weather still in front of us here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s time to celebrate the beginning of spring. And nothing rings in the start of the season quite like the release of the new vintage of róses.
There has been a true róse revolution in the Northwest of late for both winemakers and consumers. On the winemaker side, there was long a focus on saignée-style wines where winemakers bled tanks during fermentation and used juice designated for red wine production (if you are trying to determine if this is the case, alcohol level can often be your guide; look below 14% for wines specifically made for róse). These wines were often more cash flow oriented than a deliberate attempt to make high quality wine. The result was often dark, sweet, higher alcohol, and lower acid wines, sometimes made from grapes that just weren’t a good fit for róse (Note: If the grape hasn’t been used extensively for róse elsewhere in the world, the chances of it working here in the Northwest are probably not high).
In recent years, the focus has clearly shifted with many winemakers now using grapes grown specifically for róse, resulting in higher acid, more flavorful wines. There is also a lot of experimentation with varieties used as the wines below indicate. The result has been a steep increase in the number of quality pink wines released each year.
Consumers have taken notice. Where once many disregarded these wines as cheap, low quality, semi-sweet wines (yes, I’m looking at you white zinfandel!), consumers are now craving róses. The demand has grown so steeply that supply literally cannot keep up. Many top róses in the Northwest, including a number of the wines below, are snapped up and gone within a matter of weeks or a couple months at most. Sometimes they are gone loooooong before the weather turns warm here. So when you see róses on the shelf but don’t think the grey weather quite matches up with the pink wine, do not hesitate!
This brings us to the next step in America’s Róse Revolution - because this change is not just happening here in the Northwest. For many people, these wines are indicative of spring and summer, iconic wines even. But don’t sell róses short. As I often say with sparkling wine, you wouldn’t just drink Cabernet Sauvignon on one day a year would you? Similarly, while róses are no doubt perfectly matched to the warm summer weather (all six weeks of it here in the Pacific Northwest), these are great year-round wines so drink them that way. The only caveat I would add is that, like with a number of white wines, I am inclined to drink most róses within a year or so of their release to see them at their best, though there are exceptions.
So welcome spring and the continuation of America's new love affair with with róse. While the weather here in the Northwest might look the same, at least we can look at it through róse-colored glasses.
NB: I don't have a review of the Seven Hills Winery 2013 Róse as of yet but when I tasted this wine at an event earlier this year I was quite impressed. It's the winery's first (!) róse and is already sold out at the winery. I'll get a review up when I have a bottle in hand but by then it might well be gone from the shelves. If you see a bottle, give it a look.
Balboa Winery Róse of Syrah Eidolon Estate Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013 $20
(Excellent) A single vineyard róse from down in The Rocks for $20? Yes! A very pretty pale strawberry color, it’s lightly aromatic with cherry and strawberry. The palate is dry and full bodied with a rich, rounded feel but without ever seeming overweighted. It’s tart and citrusy with an orange peel finish. NB: Shows some precipitate. 13.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Bergström Wines Pinot Noir Róse Willamette Valley 2013 $25
(Excellent) A very pretty pale salmon color. The aromas are exuberant with watermelon, strawberry, and spice. The palate is medium-plus bodied and drinks dry with a lot of richness to the fruit flavors and a clean, lingering finish. A thoroughly delicious bottle of wine. 13.4% alcohol.
Sleight of Hand Cellars The Magician’s Assistant Cabernet Franc Róse Blackrock Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $18
(Excellent) Pale copper colored. A moderately aromatic wine with abundant peppery spices along with mineral notes. The palate drinks dry with a seamless, drawn out feel. 100% Cabernet Franc. Aged four months in stainless steel and neutral French oak. 12.90% alcohol. 225 cases produced.
Julia’s Dazzle Pinot Grigio Róse Horse Heaven Hills 2013 $16
A very pretty pale pink color. It’s lightly aromatic with notes of red apple, wet stone, and watermelon. The palate drinks just about dry with a rich, full mouthfeel complementing the generous fruit flavors, showing some of the warmth on the finish. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue).
Renegade Wine Co. Róse Columbia Valley 2013 $11(Good/Excellent) A directly appealing wine with notes of bubblegum, strawberry, and watermelon. The palate drinks almost bone dry with tart, mouthwatering acidity, losing just a touch of concentration in the middle. A perfect summer wine at a case purchase price. NB: Last year’s vintage of this wine was gone by May. Don’t expect this year’s to last past April. 79% Syrah, 14% Cinsault, and 7% Counoise. 12.5% alcohol. 3,000 cases produced.