When A Summer Day Calls for Rosé

With the Rosé Revolution still going strong after five years, you can find great rosé  just about anywhere you look, and clearly the fascination with rosé is not temporary! (Note: this is an extended version of my rosé article published in the June 6, 2019 print and online editions of the VC Reporter about three local rosé ).

As rosé  finds a permanent place in people’s palates, I get plenty of questions like

  • What exactly is rosé  wine?
  • How is rosé  wine made?
  • What kind of grapes are in a rosé  wine?
  • How and when should you drink rosé wine?
  • What rose wines do you recommend?

What is Rosé? What’s in it? How is it made?

While rosé  can be made by blending red and white wines together until the winemaker has a desired flavor, color, and texture, rosé  is more often made with red grapes that have had a very short time of skin contact (and maybe with 5-10% of a white wine thrown in). It’s the skin of the red grapes that give the wine its color, so the more contact, the deeper the color as well as flavor.

Some rosé  wines are made by the saignée method.  Saignée (pronounced sohn-yay) is the French term “to bleed” — and in this method, a winemaker bleeds off some of the red grape juice after brief skin contact to make a more intense red wine. The excess juice is then fermented into a rosé  wine, and the rest is made into a red wine.

Rosé is also made by intention – a winemaker intends to make a rosé, tends the vines to make a rosé, and then picks when they will make the best rosé —generally with a lower sugar content than in a red wine so that the resulting rosé  has greater acidity and lower alcohol.

“I pick grapes early for the correct components to create a bright, fresh rosé wine,” says Bruce Freeman, grape grower and winemaker at Clos Des Amis in Santa Paula. “I press them immediately, bottle them early, and capture that liveliness that makes a rosé  so fun to drink.”

Any red grape, or combination of grapes, can be made into rosé. Often a rosé has a blend of grapes to achieve a better balance. Traditional French Provençal rosés are blended because of regional style, history, and law — and they might even co-press white grapes with the red, for example, a viognier. A rosé made from a Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese may have the same color but they are all very different wines. What matters more is HOW it’s made rather than what it’s made of — whether it is intentional, signee or blended.

Rhone varietals — as used in the wines from Provence like Grenache– are very popular, because they pair so well with food.

So how and when should you go for the pink drink?

Rosé  works from brunch through lunch (especially picnics!) and dinner including pairing wonderfully with spicy foods, pork, and fowl.

While you can serve it icy cold, often it is better at cellar temperature — somewhere in the 50s or 60s — making it a perfect wine for outdoor dining because you can enjoy it was it warms up to the ambient temperature.

While there are special rosé  glasses, we’ve had success in pinot grigio glasses as well as pinot noir glasses — particularly for rosé  of pinot noir! We also liked the rosé of cab in a cab glass. Because a big part of the fun is the color and the aroma, you want to highlight these qualities in your glass choice. No need to obsess– clear mason jars are just fine for this wine especially at an event out of doors where  the lid will keep it from spilling and the bugs out!

Every day is a good day for rosé !

But this Saturday June 8 is Rosé Day — and, depending on who you ask, so is June 28 and August 14.

Here are four that you can find from and in Ventura County; notes, pairings, and pictures follow; last year we wrote about these six from throughout California, and we’ve also written about Italian Chiaretto and compared French with California rose.

2018 – Clos des Amis rosé  SRP $17
Grenache dominated blend of grapes from South Mountain Vineyard, Ventura County
Purchase at The Cave Ventura; no tasting room at this time

2018 – The Ojai Vineyard rosé SRP $28
Syrah dominated blend of grapes from Ventura and Santa Barbara County
Purchase at The Cave, Ventura, CA or the tasting room 109 Montgomery, Ojai, CA

NV Plan B rosé SRP $24
Mouvedre dominated blend of grapes from Santa Barbara County
Purchase a refillable growler at the tasting room and winery 3520 Arundell Circle, Ventura CA 

2017 – Labyrinth rosé SRP $26
Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend of grapes from Santa Barbara County
Purchase at the tasting room on Main Street in downtown Ventura


2018 – The Ojai Vineyard – Rosé – 13.0% –
Purchased at Wine Cave Ventura $25

The Ojai Vineyard is a landmark and winemaker Adam Tolmach a pioneer in the region. He has done saignee in the past but today his rose is intentional and made like his whites.  In 2018, the blend of  51% Syrah, 21% Carignan, 19% Grenache, 9% Riesling come from vineyards in Santa Barbara and Ojai that are whole cluster pressed and barrel fermented and aged for five months in neutral French oak.

Color: Pale pink, pretty, very light in color, almost a rose gold.

Nose: This wine has a very pleasant nose of red and white stone fruit, citrus flower, fresh minerality

Palate: Viscous, smooth, balanced acidity and minerality. Clean with a nice finish, tangerine, blood orange, meyer lemon, very nice lingering finish leaving your mouth cleansed with bright acidity. Really tart, a great wine on a hot summer day.

Paring: Fabulous with Chevoo goat cheese in truffle olive oil, elevating both the wine and the cheese. The acidity tackled the creaminess but did not take away the earthy pleasure of the truffles; the finish continued to dance and linger in a fantastic way. Perfect with a raw mild truffle gouda. We imagined the wine with a mac and cheese made from this cheese. Smoked mozzarella was good, but we thought it would be much better if the cheese was on a pizza with the wine. A nice surprise for Sue was when she had a piece of habanero mango gouda with the wine. The wine tames the spice and brings out nice fruit in the wine. Fish tacos with a bit of heat would pair well. Country chicken salad on Sue’s homemade rosemary roasted garlic bread was beautiful!

2018 – Clos des Amis – South Mountain Vineyard – 12.3% alcohol –
Purchased at Wine Cave Ventura $17 –
No tasting room at this time

Ventura College art teacher Bruce Freeman began winemaking in his garage, worked with Adam Tolmach, and now grows grapes in Ventura County where he makes wine in a solar powered winery on South Mountain above Santa Paula using grapes from vines he has planted and tended in various areas of Ventura County. His rose reflects his French roots and local South Mountain terroir. This is the epitome of locally grown, locally made, and small local production — of wine that is made in the vineyard– because Bruce planted and tends most of the vines of the wines he makes.

Color: Pale pink, rose.

Nose: Rose on the nose as well, plus honeydew or watermelon. Fruit and florals are quite expressive; after opening up there is a bit of cherry.

Palate: Florals, rose, fruit. The watermelon and honeydew that we found on the nose, and a nice roundness on the palate that lingers with a fresh umami, herbal warmness, sage. It reminds me of a walk in the chaparral near the vineyard with a cool ocean breeze at the end of a warm day. The sedimentary soils shine through.

Pairing: Since the goat cheese was so fabulous with the Ojai Vineyard wine, we wanted to repeat the test with the Clos des Amis. It was a pleasant pairing that brought more citrus and fruit into the wine, but the wine overwhelms the truffle a bit. While we were on the truffle kick, we had to have a bite of the raw mild truffle gouda with the wine. This wine tames the truffle instantly, and you are left with nice acidity and a pleasant earthy taste in your mouth. The wine we really wanted with the smoked mozzarella was this one, it worked, but we both wanted the cheese to be warm, creamy and melty.

The habanero mango gouda was even better with this rosé, bringing on a WOW moment for both of us.

We tried the country chicken salad on the homemade rosemary garlic bread, and while it was nice,  Sue felt it wasn’t as fabulous as with the Ojai Vineyard Wine. I liked it with both wines. With a green olive, the wine makes the olive taste like coffee!

I’ve been spending a few days a month at Clos Des Amis learning more about how vines are grown and wines are made. To get a tate of what goes on, check out the series here: January, February, March, April, May.

Non vintage – Plan B – Rose – 14.3% – SRP $25
Purchased at the winery

Nicknamed “The Three Roses,” this is a blend of 69% Mouvedre with brief skin contact plus 27% Grenache and 8% Syrah from a saignee. Winemaker Marlow Barger told me that he was driving this Santa Barbara Mourvedre back to the winery intending to make a red when when he realized it would make a great rose.

We love the refillable concept behind this wine: buy the bottle once and bring it in to get refilled from the barrel which I’ve done several times now!

Color: More mango than pink, a little cloudy.

Nose: Jack fruit, lemon herbal cough drops.

Palate: Very herbal, on the front and the finish, cherry and lemon on the finish as well.

Pairing: Since the truffle cheeses were such winners with the Ojai Vineyard wines, and this was a beautiful pair as well, with the wine showcasing the cheese more than the wine. With the habanero mango gouda, it was amazing. This wine really takes on spice well. I would never have eaten this cheese on its own, however I want this cheese again with rosé, and it made us think how well it would go with spicy Thai food. While the combination of country chicken salad is amazing and does not need the wine to improve it, but with the wine, it takes the flavor experience over the top. We decided that the wine would be perfect with a roast chicken with rosemary and lemon. I’ve paired this wine several times with tamales with mole sauce, and it works so well. It also went well with the shrimp.

2017 – Labyrinth – 14.2% alcohol – $25
purchase at the tasting room in downtown Ventura June 2018

Screw top, easy to open perfect for picnics and parties. Cabernet Sauvignon with two hours of skin contact and five months on lees in neutral barrels then 5% Chardonnay added to “fatten the mouthfeel.”

Color: Super ripe watermelon, rich pinkish-red.

Nose: At first, prominent funk, almost dirty socks, that blows off leaving watermelon and strawberries.

Palate: Strawberry up front, and a sulphuric mineral finish, reminding me of dried apricots. Fruit forward wine, but not overly sweet, because of the acidity.

Pairing: Our cheese tray didn’t offer any wow moments. Goat cheese in truffle infused oil was interesting as was the raw milk gouda with truffles, but once again, we both wanted mac and cheese made with this cheese and this wine. There is such a gorgeous creamy mouth feel when both the wine and this cheese meet each other.  The smoked mozzarella was terrible with the wine, maybe if it was a smoked gouda it would be better.

With the mango habanero gouda, this wine was the best.

As much as we loved the country chicken salad on the roasted garlic rosemary bread with the rest of the wines, it was ok, not exciting. A garlic and herb aged cheddar from the Snowdonia cheese company paired well: this rose was able to take on the strong flavors and the creaminess. We felt that it would be a great cheese on a turkey burger with this wine or a beet salad. The day I purchased the wine, I brought several cheeses to the tasting room, and I recall a smoked gouda and a triple cream brie working well.

How different could any four wines be? That’s rosé for you!


One thought on “When A Summer Day Calls for Rosé

  1. Pingback: #RoséAllMay? #RoséAllDay! Three Rosé from Oregon with sushi, salad, seafood skewers for #AirportRules | wine predator

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