Every year about this time, a certain anticipation amongst wine drinkers begins to grow. As spring does its best to put stubborn old man winter to bed for the next 6 months, birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and the shelves at local wine shops are suddenly teeming with bottles filled with varying shades of pink. There’s an audible gasp of excitement emanating from wine lovers everywhere…Rosé season has finally arrived.
We are the first to admit that it took us a little longer to join the Pink party as we haven’t always been fans of Rosé wine. Our early exposure to it well over a decade ago were to ones that were mass produced and made by mixing a little bit of red wine with a little bit of white, along with the noticeable addition of sugar to make it acceptable to the Western palate. It’s a particularly sweet style that was abundantly available given its low price point and we quickly dismissed Rosé without properly trying the other end of the spectrum.
Thankfully some years later we were exposed to Provence style Rosés which are dry and refreshing and now dominate our deck on a warm summer’s day. As we happily explored these wines from Southern France we discovered we preferred them because they used grapes that imparted a spicy character to the wine including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Tempranillo and Zinfandel.
After several trips across the border to our neighbour to the south, we are now convinced that not only is the New World capable of making great Rosé, Washington State consistently makes some of the best that we have had and fly well under the radar in this department. When most people think of Washington State, they think of big, powerful red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Those grapes along with Grenache, Tempranillo and Mourvedre grow exceptionally well in the Washington climate and, as mentioned above, are the grapes used by many of the great Provence Rosés.
Our assessment of Washington Rosé was forever cemented 5 years ago when we attended a Chef’s table dinner at the Marc Restaurant in Walla Walla. We opted for the additional wine pairing in order to drink regional wines, and we’re pretty certain we wouldn’t have even considered a Rosé had we been in charge of ordering. The first wine up was the 2014 Julia’s Dazzle made by Long Shadows, one of our favourite wineries in Washington. It stopped us both mid-sip and was our wine of the night. It was, well…dazzling. Last year, the 2017 Julia’s Dazzle was named Rosé of the year at the Washington Wine Awards. Since that fateful day in August 5 years ago, we’ve made it a point to taste Rosé in any Washington tasting room we visit, and we’ve been rewarded with some truly terrific options.
If you’re a Rosé lover, or better yet, if you’ve written Rosé off, we challenge you to give Washington Rosé a try. Here are our top recommendations out of a State that is changing wine minds one glass of pink at a time.
As we’ve come to expect with winemaker Kit Singh, a beautifully balanced and elegant wine that has the right amount of acidity to be perfectly refreshing. A blend of Grenache and Mourvedre, it has notes of strawberry, raspberry and pomegranate backed with a little spice on the finish. This is the Washington Rosé we never leave Woodinville without! (US$18)
Last year the winery released their second label, Ashton Troy Wines, as an exclusive offering for the restaurant market. Both are made in a similar style and both are equally delicious so whether picking up Lauren Ashton at the tasting room direct or finding Ashton Troy at a local Washington restaurant, you will not be disappointed.
Long Shadows Julia’s Dazzle
As mentioned above, this is the wine that won us over to Rosé all those years ago. This wine never disappoints and is a total crowd pleaser. Unique in that it’s made from Pinot Gris as this grape is typically made into a white wine, the grape can develop more colour if left on the vine longer, combined with maceration during fermentation. Watermelon, peach, strawberry and cherry on the nose. A light, bright and flavourful wine that is surprisingly dry given its fruit forwardness thanks to a lovely minerality. (US$18)
Brian Carter Cellars Abracadabra Rosé
The 2017 vintage of this wine was rated top wine at the Washington State Wine Competition last year. Brian Carter is a blending master and while his Rosé is predominantly Sangiovese, it is also made up of Syrah, Grenache, Malbec and Mourvèdre. He uses the saignée method (“bleeding” off some of the red wine juice after it’s been in contact with the skins) to add depth to his wine and this is definitely one of the more complex Rosés we’ve tried. He explained to us that the natural acidity in the Sangiovese is key to keeping it bright while staying at a lower pH. Strawberry dominates the nose and palate backed with raspberry, cherry and some baking spice. (US$25)
JM Cellars Cinsaut Rosé
This Rosé is made with 100% Cinsaut from The Benches on Wallula Gap Vineyard. Cinsault is the Southern Rhone variety whose lighter skin and fruity profile make it ideal for making Rosé wines. Salmon pink in colour, it provides plenty of strawberry character with hints of rhubarb. Lively acidity makes it refreshing and accents the minerality, especially on the finish. Hints of spice add to the complexity. (US$28)
Delille Cellars Rosé
Medium pink in colour with bright fruit forward notes of strawberry, cherry, rhubarb and watermelon with some spice on the finish. A bigger style Rosé but so wonderfully in balance that it is still refreshing at the same time. (US$30)
Obelisco Estate Rosé
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine spends 21 hours on the skins to give it a translucent crimson colour. Spicy strawberry and pomegranate come through on a broad-shouldered frame. The tasting room manager told us the story of a rather large football player who came to the tasting room and was not a Rosé fan, saying he found them too light. They thought he might change his mind if he tried the Obelisco Rosé. The football player did and said he wished more Rosés were made in this bigger style and purchased several bottles to take away. When they packaged them up for him and said “here is your rosé”, the footballer replied, “No, this is BRO-sé”. (US$35)