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Rose Fabled French labels, and classy, curved bottles may have written the script for rosé, but it’s a brave new world out there—some exceptional values still exist in unlikely places. I dug into the icebox and found a wine that was apt for the 105˚ day that I spent in the valley.

Viña Apaltagua’s rosé of Carmenere (85% Carmenere and 15% Syrah) is of Chilean descent, specifically from the Maule Valley, and was new to me. A highly recommended value from a shopkeeper that I trust in Orange County, he had pitched the wine as a surprising find for himself.

Unscrewing the cap, the wine was chilled to the forties and would open slowly as the hot, ambient air enveloped the bottle and poured glass. After a few minutes I nosed the salmon-hued wine, finding passion fruit, lime, strawberry and something faintly green, but pleasant like rubbed Geranium stems. In the mouth it was dry, red-fruited, with more strawberry and raspberry flavors upfront, with medium-plus intensity, the citrus and tropical accents found on the nose took a backseat. The rosé had refreshing acidity, medium weight from the lees aging—not as angular as I was expecting—and finished cleanly with a nice mélange of flavors. It was delicious and inexpensive (under twelve dollars).

This wine wasn’t like analyzing a Shostakovich symphony; rather it was akin to Bach’s minuet in G, where it was pleasant and not without a little bit of surprise—perfectly cooling us down from the fiery atmospheric conditions outside. Given the circumstances I would have been happy with most dry rosés, but I was happy to have found such a tasty and affordable option from outside of Provence.

Gros NoreMy favorite baseball team was ousted on Sunday from the 2014 MLB playoffs and temperatures peaked in the triple digits over the weekend, yes, we were firmly in fall. Overloading on football and baseball, while I ate some North Hollywood Thai and sipped on a domestic Picpoul (Whoa! I’m that guy), it was a pretty lousy sports weekend. It might have been the heat or the string of defeats for the day, but I suddenly wished to be reliving another, more cheerful Sunday.

I drifted into a rosé reverie from earlier in the summer; transported alongside of an ice cream sandwich and pretzel floaty (waterbeds), a ton of friends, excellent fare and a magnum of Bandol rosé.

Domaine du Gros Noré hails from Bandol, making an excellent pink wine of Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and Grenache. Bandol, an appellation of Provence, was made famous by Domaine Tempier and the use of Mourvèdre in the reds and rosés of the region. Gros Noré, like most producers, is often overshadowed by Tempier’s rosé every year, as far as buying trends are concerned, but delivers scintillating aromatics, a suave mouth feel and lengthy finish that makes it a great value (about $10 less, and still available in wine shops where you might be laughed at for asking about Tempier by now).

With a paper plate’s worth of Wisconsin bräts and pickled sides, I uncorked the 1.5 liter bottle. Red flowers, summer berries, apricot, peach over a riverbed of wet stones filled my nose. Fanning out over the palate and propped up by moderate acidity were lengthy notes of Rainier cherries, strawberries, rubbed herbs and minerals. It was youthful, bright and weighty, living up to its place.

A companion to a multitude of flavors like spicy mustard and jalapeño relish that were drizzled on the brät, the Gros Noré rosé crawled out of the shadow of some the vaunted producers of the region to forge one of my favorite memories of this summer.

Unfortunately, when I came to, I was sweating in a dark apartment watching the Cincinnati Bengals suffer an ugly and similar fate to all of my teams that fell earlier on that Sunday. One can only hope a little summer’s rosé magic will start to follow my teams. Victory and rosé would go so well together.

Rose AbstractSipping wine under a backyard umbrella, we embraced the warm hug of summer at a safe distance, cooling down with an array of chilled brown-bagged-disguised rosés and a charcuterie spread accompaniment—our bare arms virtually as open and exposed as were our palates.

As rosés become more popular, consumers will be increasingly accepting of darker variations—ripostes to the wan glow of Provençal rosé—and origins from more exotic locales, but until then, we are happy to do the work for you! Our tasting group never shies away from these less desired places (that’s what happens when a bunch of wine nerds get together) and our tasting reinforced our risk-taking with a few new magnificent highlights.

ConfidenteThe most titillating example came courtesy of Spain, specifically a bottle of 2012 Ameztoi Rubentis from Basque country. An Ojo de Gallo (a rosado from Txakolí) captivated all in attendance… saline and spritely, the ruby-tinted Txakolina rosado was racy, light-bodied, with vibrant acidity (medium-plus to high), signature effervescence (minor but notable) and pitched a long finish of cranberry and red currants that had been sifted through the riverbed. Sexy, sharp and unlike anything else we tasted that night—fair to say it was unique.

Though there was no shortage of notable rosés, we had one bottle from Provence that showed beautifully. Saint André de Figuière La Confidentielle rosé wore a medium-bright salmon jacket, emitting an intense summer perfume of strawberries, fresh-cut flowers and apricots. In the palate, the dry, medium-bodied rosé brought with it tremendous structure (medium-plus acidity) and a lip-smacking finish of raspberries, red cherries and flowers under a light misting of white pepper. Classic and poised to catch the waning bits of sun.

This tasting embodied summer, and we stayed patio-side for hours after we had finished our assessment of the rosés, all identities revealed. The entire lot of wines offered immense pleasure and though we only paired them with a charcuterie board’s zakuskis, a few of these wines harnessed the potential to pair with main courses. If you were on the fence about pink/blush wines, you should reevaluate your position, even in the noonday sun.

Red CarBehind on rosé coverage, only sipping, spitting and noting for buying purposes, I wanted to highlight a recent personal experience I had with Red Car Winery’s rosé from the Sonoma Coast on a warm weeknight.

This rosé of Pinot Noir hailed from the Bybee Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, specifically the Green Valley AVA within it, close to Sebastopol. A cool microclimate allows these certified organic and biodynamic Pinot Noir grapes to achieve a delicate ripeness while balancing food-worthy acidity.

Getting past the sexy packaging, my eye focused on the color—a soft (medium-intensity) coral pink that was indicative of its abbreviated maceration (time in contact with the skin of the Pinot Noir grapes).

This rosé leapt from the glass with a youthful aroma of red cherry, peach and fresh rose petals. The mouth feel was decidedly rounder than expected, even with its medium-body and pert, mouth-searing acidity, which helped me negotiate slices of fatty salami. The finish smacked of apricot yogurt with a few fresh-picked cherries and strawberries thrown in for good measure.

A good start to my recorded rosé encounter, but if you were only mildly curious about rosé this one might be going slightly overboard—the price point is a tad steep (≈ $20)—for an introduction. For the more serious enthusiast, looking for something special, look no further.

I haven’t had many rosé wines this year, especially considering the seasonable weather that promotes the sanguine wines; I’m not really sure if I could explain the dearth. I am an active promoter of these ruddy wines, trying to prod more men to lighten up about imbibing Rosados, and convince more women to not think that every bottle of rosé I sell them is sweet. Although I hadn’t purchased a bottle of rosé all season I discovered an older vintage of vin gris tucked behind a few cases while rummaging through my cellar.

My surprising find—2009 Domaine Gioielli Rosé—became my thesis for that night’s dinner. Based on the complexion of my Corsican seven-fifty I was thinking salmon, asparagus and fingerling potatoes for that night’s bill of fare—these happened to be the very ingredients I was planning on using for dinner anyway, so it seemed to work out well!

I scored the foil, uncorked the vessel, and let pour the slightly tangerine-hued contents. A few swift spins in the stemware and I smelled for fault, not detecting any. After a very short time airing out, I smelled again, detecting an eye-opening amount of apricot atop earth and minerals. I thought that the fruit would start to fade since it wasn’t consumed during the bottle’s infancy. More alluring with every scent, it continued to open up through the dinner.

On the palate it was like a summer fruit smoothie with hints of shrubbery and wood that were perfectly integrated, stretching out across the tongue. The acidity carried a mouthwatering effect and the finish was impeccable. The Corsican wine found a way to tame the asparagus while melting flawlessly with the savory fillet. If anyone were on the fence about rosé, or its magical powers, I would have to recommend this bottle as a catalyst for further discovery.

Southern French and Spainish rosés I recently tasted differed far more than their nations of origin. The age, wine-making style, and grapes in the two bottles of rosé that I poured for a few people after work contrasted most. Perhaps it was the confluence of all the various factors that made the tasting so compelling. One had been an audition for the store and the other was bottle from my apartment cellar, but both shed light on the wines that proudly exist on the color spectrum between red or white.

A few samples made my way, a confident drop-off by a new representative sharing the soft pink wines in their unusual vessels, as he left me with three bottles of the newly approved wine. Later that night I would pop the bottle of 2010 Vie Vité with a rapt audience. The intensity of the cantaloupe-tinted wine was powerful, yielding aromas of melons and strawberries with fresh squeezed lemon and redolent white blossoms. The genetic make up of the wine consisted of mainly Cinsault (45%), and a balance of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, which was typical of the Côte de Provence region from which it hailed. On the palate it was clean, youthful and brimming with fruit and organic earth. Its freshness lingered on the palate favorably but its complexity was not its bright spot (medium at best), making it an aperitif for the following bottle of rosé.

One of my favorite producers in Rioja (among those that I have tasted in my brief career), known for its character and complexity, was the ace up my sleeve for the night. A side-by-side comparison would yield some overt differences in style, and make another compelling argument for terroir. The bottle of 2000 R. López de Heredia Rosé would show a lot less fruit and even more nuance from its oxidized upbringing. Nuts, soil, rocks and funk would collide in the nostrils after taking in a deep whiff of the Tempranillo, Garnacho and Viura blend. My friends observed the complexity that had made me a believer in the wine. Foods that accompanied the tasting were made a requisite part of it. Where earlier we were content to just taste the Vie Vité alone, the Viña Tondonia rosé demanded food. The wine lived up to its billing which is another reason why I cherish this producer’s traditional style, because as most wines are starting to overlap to the point of ambiguity it is nice to have something assert its uniqueness openly.

The olives and pizza disappeared as the night waned and the bottles emptied. I stopped to take some photos before they (the bottles) were completely drained of their contents. It was another nice night that left me happy as rosé season was approaching and the weather would level to near perfect conditions.

Summertime ushers in an enormous assortment of local fruits and vegetables throughout the northern hemisphere. Although Los Angeles weather has been a little cooler of late (for early July) local grocers and farmers are bringing in hoards of interesting melons, tomatoes, strawberries, etc. Figs—a favorite of mine–have come on line and make for the perfect dessert or even starter*. Restaurants and local enthusiasts flock to nearby purveyors and begin amassing all the heirloom fruits n’ veggies that will begin to complete their newly revamped menus or just make dinner a little less banal. While menus get their makeovers wine lists begin a metamorphosis.

Rosé makes its appearance as summertime begins, pinkish-hued (“blush”) and most often from France, these wines quickly take root like a runner in a garden. A rosé can be bone dry yet is always refreshing and crisp. Rosé is most commonly colored by a short lived maceration—a technique that has the red grape skins (from various varietals) lending their color to the juice—to extract the desired pantone. After the color is achieved the wine sits shortly to ferment and then quickly bottled and sent out to be enjoyed in the urban cafes to the countryside’s of every country that consumes wine. Rarely are they shelved in cellars.

Rosé is not complex but enjoyable—somewhere between a white and red; the hybrid should be enjoyed on a warm day/night. Seafood can be enhanced, fruits and vegetables can be paired with it and best of all it is a bargain wine, roughly $14 can fetch you a perfect summer sipper.

*As for those figs:

  • Wash and halve a fig(s)
  • Wrap a very thin slice of prosciutto (from Parma or even a domestic choice) around the halved fig
  • Finish with a light and artistic drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
  • You can also substitute fig with a ripe piece of Honeydew melon.
  • Serve and enjoy

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