This May, Stop and Smell the Ventura County CA Rosé from Clos des Amis and Cantara Cellars

Rose all May with Cantara and Clos de Amis

As the weather gets warmer, are you ready to Rosé All May?

We are!

And so is Clos des Amis after bottling their 2020 Ventura County South Mountain Estate Rosé of Grenache and Mourvedre.

And Camarillo’s Cantara Cellars is now offering a Rosé this spring– their first since 2008! 

Cantara and Clos des Amis Rose

Last Saturday, I inhaled the citrus sweetly blooming along the dirt road as I neared Clos des Amis. I hadn’t been to the winery since this mid-February VeroTalk, and my dog Cisco was beside himself with joy and excitement to see his dog buddies Brody and Molly and his best human pals, Bruce Freeman and Gretel Compton. 

Clos des Amis is a small, 600 case, adobe and solar powered winery nestled on the edge of South Mountain facing Santa Paula and the Santa Clara river.  Even before COVID precautions, the bottling crew worked more outside than in — there’s no room inside!

When we arrived, a dozen or so had gathered in a rough semi-circle:

many hands make light work 

with different people on different tasks and winemakers Bruce Freeman and Gretel Compton seemingly everywhere.

Bruce focused on making sure the wine kept flowing from the tank into the bottles that are first sterilized with gas which Steve helped with.  Next the corks go in, then the leads over the corks, then Sue attached the labels that Gretel designed before the bottles get wiped clean and placed into the boxes. 

As soon as we arrived, my spouse jumped right in wiping bottles and placing them in the cases while he and others told stories about various musical acts and concerts they’d enjoyed and looked forward to seeing as we leave the restrictions placed on us by COVID.

Since I have a torn my calf muscle from skiing, I had to stay off my leg, but I was sure I could make myself useful, which I did placing my knee on a chair and taking Bruce’s daughter Jade’s spot using the machine that attaches the lead capsule onto the bottles over the corks. Thanks to Steve Zambrano (in red) for the photos with me in front of the camera instead of behind!

Gretel answered questions and made sure everything and everyone kept going– including by creating a gorgeous salad and charcuterie platter for lunch which was served with plenty of rose and other Clos des Amis wines– and where I announced that I am the a new representative for Slow Wine Guide with my region focused on central and southern California .

At the end of the day, my spouse went for a bike ride on the dirt roads of the vineyard and orchards and I drove Steve to check out the vines; Steve took these photos with both of us in the also. You should check him out on Instagram!

Will these flowers turn into grapes that will go into next year’s Rosé?

Bruce Freeman puts his feet up with a glass of his wine in hand while directing the bottling crew.

Curious how Rosé is made? Check this article out with thoughts ion the subject by several winemakers.

Briefly, while Rosé may look like it’s just white wine with some red wine poured in, Rosé is almost always made from red grapes.

The color in wine comes from the skins, so when you press the juice out of a red wine, to make Rosé you barely let the pressed juice have contact with the skins.

Some grape skins give less color anyway — think about how pale Grenache or Pinot Noir can be. Pinot Noir is often used for Rosé, especially in Oregon as well as in the sparkling wine made in Champagne. The most famous Rosé region in the world is likely Provence, in the south of France where Rosé is generally made from Grenache with Mourvedre and a few other grapes common to the region. 

The best Rosé is made intentionally– it’s not just a red grape with minimal skin contact. When winemakers plan to make a rosé, they tend the vines to make a rosé, and then pick the grapes for when they will make the best rosé. These grapes generally have 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.” Read about the 2019 Rosé bottling day and learn more about Gretel Compton!

This is similar in some ways but very different than the approach Mike Brown at Cantara took with his 2020 Rose of Zinfandel from Lodi CA. 

Rose all May

Although Sue and I have been encouraging him to make a Rose for years, he hasn’t made one since 2008 when he made 120 gallons of a rose of Lodi Syrah. It sold well at $18 a bottle, he told me in a recent phone interview, but there’s so much rose out there at that price it just didn’t make sense to keep making it for the amount of effort and investment it took. So this wine is a bit of an experiment to see how the market has changed, and to help him determine whether he should make a rose or a chardonnay in 2021. 

While Mike buys most of his grapes from contacts in Lodi save for his chardonnay which he buys from his mom, for this experiment this year he purchased pressed juice that had been vinified but not fined, filtered or bottled. He tasted a number of samples to find the sweet spot of what he thought his clientele would enjoy most. Clearly he picked correctly as 255 of the 120 cases are already sold one month after release. 

Like Bruce, he wants to make rose that’s made intentionally, purposefully, from grapes grown and picked to be made into rose. “I’m super happy with it,” says Mike. “I’ve been very happy with the response. I wish we’d bought more.” The market indicates to him that he should make more rose. There’s plenty of fruit out there to purchase.

Rosé Wines


  • ceasar salad 
  • mini gourmet pizzas

2020 Clos des Amis Rosé of Grenache and Mourvedre, South Mountain Vineyard, Ventura County, CA 
ABV 12.3% 
SRP $20
sample for my review
only 20 cases produced; sells out almost immediately

Every bottle of Clos Des Amis wine features a local species and a local trail. The California wild rose which grows along creekside and even in some large shrubs is the obvious choice for this wine, and I love the drawing that Gretel did to illustrate it. I’m going to be starting a project as soon as my calf heals up to visit and hike all of the trails! I’ll be bringing a bottle of the wine that goes with the trail and pairing them with a picnic! 

This wine is very French in style from the color to the flavor and the way it reacts with food. 

Color: Pale ballet pink 

Aroma: Subtle, but evocative. Sue and I agreed that the aromas of the wine reminds us of the drive from Santa Paula up 150 toward Ojai past Thomas Aquinas College and Santa Paula Canyon to Camp Bartlett. There’s potpourri, roses, citrus orchards, wild strawberry, chaparral, river rock, limestone, creekside, chamise, herbs, minerals, and a bit of sulphurous asphalt ooze seeping out of the cracks along the side of the canyon.

As the wine warms in the glass, more of the florals emerge– a reminder not to serve rose too cold!

Palate: This is a very elegant wine with fruit and herbs, cherries and wild strawberry, fennel, with a chalkiness at the tip of the tongue and a hint of smokiness. The finish is not heavy, but has nice character and the fruit lingers pleasantly at the front of the tongue. 

Pairing: Clean crisp pairing with the Cesar salad. Loves the cheese and the creamy egginess of the dressing. It made me think of having an egg salad sandwich with this wine on a picnic for Mother’s Day. When Sue tried it with a Mediterranean inspired pizza with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and herbed feta, it was an amazing experience.  It loves the herbs, the pesto and the brininess.

Cantara 2020 Rose

2020 Cantara Rosé of CA
ABV 12.4%
SRP $30
sample for my review

Only 112 cases; 25% sold in the first month, likely sold out by August if not sooner.

The label indicates only rose of California because the grower doesn’t want the fruit to be identified as Zinfandel or from Lodi, but Mike says no one has really noticed, and they aren’t asking about it. Instead they say, “That’s a really nice rose” and buy a bottle or two or a case. 

The color and the nose in this wine really stand out.

Color: Such a pretty pink, pink like a ballerina’s tutu. Clean, clear bright.

Aroma: Beautiful ripe fruit, cherries, strawberries, delta silt, walking through a rose garden, or walking through an orchard after the rain where the fruit is so ripe it has dropped to the ground. With food on your palate, the nose becomes even more engaging.

Palate: Wild strawberry, blood orange, Meyer lemon finish. This is a very easy sipping wine. 

Pairing: Summer sipper, pool side, Mother’s Day, beach day. This is your wine. Think brunch, prosciutto wrapped asparagus. Lovely with Cesar salad, the wine loves the eggy richness and the lemon flavors in the salad dressing. I was a happy camper when pairing the wine with the pizza that had fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and fresh rosemary. Sue made a pizza with four cheeses including blue cheese and a brie which went quite nicely with this wine. The Cantara loves fresh and roasted garlic. 

Note: After a bit of a hiatus, we’ve written recently about Cantara’s 2010 Barbera here.
And Cantara’s  Left Bank Bordeaux blend here.

Rose All May

For LOTS more Rosé with lots of different pairings check out:


And there’s more Rosé to come!

Six from Puglia, Italy (soon!) and plenty of Rosé from California and other places near and far for Rosé All May, Rosé All Day, and Rosé Day in June!

Each month I write about Ventura County vineyards, wineries, and wine, with a focus on what I’ve been learning. Find the list and links here of previous posts. 

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