Archive for Rose


Pink Wines 09-06-14

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Boy, is there a lot to say about rose to really better understand what’s the dealio.  Good roses can be quite a revelation, not necessarily in terms of drama or profound-ness, but more about how they can add a whole ‘nother dimension to pairing with foods.  The challenge is finding the good ones.

In the Old Days, winemakers looked to improve their RED wines by bleeding off some juice & thereby maximizing the remaining juice to skin contact ratio.  With the bled off juice, the winemakers then sought to make something decent.   While this may make for better (?) red wines, it often made for mediocre PINK wines…..unless one was looking for a wine to just gulp & wash the food down with.

More recently, we thankfully have witnessed a fast growing number of light & fruity roses, where the grapes are harvested at lower sugar levels (& therefore less drama & lower potential alcohol levels), direct pressed in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures.  These delightfully delicious, fruit driven roses are ideal for warm weather sipping with or without food.

Now, we are seeing the next generation of this style of pink wines—those grown in marine soils, which create minerality in the finished wines, in addition to being light & fruity.  This minerality creates ethereal-ness/interestingness in the wines, in addition to adding refreshingness & accentuating the wine’s vitality & liveliness.  From my point of view, these wines are also much more diverse at the dinner & lunch table AND with a wider range of foods.

We are now also seeing more & more masculine styled roses rising in availability & popularity. These versions are produced from more hearty, rustic red grape varieties, often grown in more rugged terrain & harvested at modest sugar levels, direct pressed & fermented at cool temperatures, BUT are just more masculine, hearty with more structure, drama, depth & hutzpah.  More reminiscent of Rhone Valley Tavel….which in my mind is more similar in profile to a lighter red wine of the old days.  One could readily pair these kind of roses to lighter meats AND even red meats.

Think about—a Thanksgiving feast with all of the fixings….& then there is the cranberry.  This has been a big revelation, which I think we will see more & more of, once the public acclimates to the bigger price tags (which are highly deserved in the finest examples).

So….that is the inspirations for this tasting.  A chance to taste 4 really good examples of what rose can be!!!

Yes, just another opportunity to learn!

00002012 Eric Chevalier Grolleau Rose

Every winegrowing seems to have a real shining star who emerges from the crowd & vanguards the region into the modern era.  The very best of them capitalize on modern techniques both in the vineyard & the winery to produce better wines than their neighbors, WITHOUT compromising a core of traditions, such as using indigenous grape varieties & never losing sight of purity of terroir & unique-ness.  In the Nantais region, the western most outreach of France’s Loire Valley, that man is Eric Chevalier.  “Éric sustainably farms twenty-five hectares of vines, producing wines of great character and finesse. The Nantais is a maritime climate, and the vineyards are not far from the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, there is an interesting variety of sedimentary,  igneous, and metamorphic rocks, as this area once was ocean floor”.  Eric has a little over half a hectare of a grape variety, named Grolleau (20 year old vines), from which he produces a superb, interesting, ethereal PINK wine.  The wine is wild yeast fermented & aged on its lees in subterranean, glass lined cuvees for more texture & complexity.  Here is that wine!  Remarkably light, ethereal, salty, pure, precise AND most imporatant delicious!

2012 Maxime Francois Laurent Rose “Il Fait Tres Soif”  0003

Domaine Gramenon & its winemaker Maxime Francois Laurent is certainly that standout young phenom leading the charge in France’s southern Rhone Valley.  His style of wine is a distinct move away from the bigger, burly, brooding wines the southern Rhone has been known for, for at least since the 1930’s.  More importantly he is part of that vanguard looking to be uber-sustainable & back to basics both in the vineyard & the winery, which is why he & his wines have garnered an almost “cult” like following.  Yes, these are really hard wines to get….& for good reason.  They do not merely champion organic farming, but they incorporate the concept of sustainability into their daily lives by growing their own food and raising their own animals. Though Michèle and Maxime continue to test the confines of the appellation, the cellars are unsurprisingly old-fashioned. The Laurents use gravity-fed cuves and age their wines in oak demi-muids and foudres. That they take such gutsy risks as bottling old-vine fruit with so little sulfur, without fining or filtration, only demonstrates the lengths they will go to in order to highlight the freshness, purity, and intoxicating aromas.  of their small, rare production.  In addition to his work at his family domaine, Gramenon, Maxime also produces a small of wine under his own namesake label, which are even harder to get than those of Gramenon.  Here is his rose—1/3 each of Syrah, Grenache & Cinsault (25 year old vines) grown in clay limestone soils, direct pressed, wild yeast fermented with NO malolactic.  Another example of his thirst of purity, sense of place deliciousness & authenticity.  This wine definitely smelled & tasted of the soil.  NO tooty fruitiness here!  BUT, still brimming with deliciousness.

00012012 Maxime Magnon Corbieres Rose “Metisse

The Maxime Magnon wines are some of the hardest for us to get.  Magnon is part of one of the most revolutionary wine movements in France should give him a justifiable swagger to his step.  He was fortunate to have purchased some prime parcels of old vines from abandoned plots and rents his cellar—a garagiste if ever there was one. He farms nine parcels over eleven hectares, with steep vineyards that reach high altitudes, and manages it all on his own. Maxime is part of the new wave of passionate viticulteurs who cultivate their vines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil.  He’s certified organic, but also incorporates biodynamic practices into his vineyard management. Most of Maxime’s vineyard land is comprised of schist and limestone subsoils in the sub-appellation Hautes Corbières, bordering Fitou to the South. This is incredibly tough terrain to farm in, as there is virtually no top-soil, just pure rock and garrigue.  His one rose is 30% each Cinsault & Grenache Noir & 20% each of Carignane & Grenache Blanc (80 years-average age).  The wine is wild yeast fermented (the Cinsault separately) in concrete & aged for 6 months in 6 to 9 year old barrels.  Yes, 1 case made its way to the Islands.  I think most tasters were taken back by the darker color.  It has a very unusual color, quite striking in fact.  This wine also has a quite exotic nose–stony, flinty, even peppery with strawberry in the finish.  I would say, this is a masculine, delicious rose….one I will remember for a long time.

 2013 Yves Leccia Rose  “Ile de Beaute”  0002

Yes, Corsican wines are really happening across the country with sommeliers. And, Corsica has been on my wine bucket list to visit for at least 20 years.  I have been warned however not to travel there alone.  Seems like the remote parts of the island is rugged & inhospitable in more ways than just the countryside itself.  Where Bordeaux, Burgundy & Champagne are regions producing wines of grandeur, class & sophistication, I would say Corsican wines tend to be more hearty, masculine in nature with lots of Old World character & spirit.  That’s not to say, they aren’t good…..just intriguingly different.  In France,  Leccia’s have often been referred to as the “Rolls-Royce” of Corsican wines, a reputation earned after nearly 30 years of making consistently elegant and sophisticated wines.  Raised in a small village in the heart of  Patrimonio, Yves worked alongside his father in the vines and cellar at the earliest age he could. The Leccias have been making wine from some of the finest terroirs of Patrimonio for countless generations, Yves decided to branch off on his own in 2004 and focus on the single terroir he felt was the top in Patrimonio. This terroir, “E Croce,” sits on a thin chalk soil above a thick bedrock of pure schist, facing the gulf of St. Florent.   This rose is 60% Niellucciu & 40% Grenache, direct pressed, wild yeast fermented & full of true Corsican character.   Wow! Unlike the previous 3 vintages I had tried in the past, the 2013 had elegance, refinement & ethereal minerality, which really caught me by surprise.  Kudos.


Categories : Rose, Wine, Wine Thoughts
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Pink Wines 07-09-13

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Yes, it is Summer.  The weather is noticeably hotter & the days longer.  The seasonal food specialities seems to be lighter AND the sea is bountiful &  thankfully we therefore have all kinds of fresh seafood available.  In southern France & along the Mediterranean basin this time of the year, well chilled carafes of regional PINK wines dot the seaside cafe tables.  The locals there have had many, many years to understand & appreciate that well made roses are undoubtedly well suited for the Summer months, & its hotter weather & its seasonal foods.  Here are a few we currently enjoy.

neyers Ch

 2012 My Essential Rose

Here is a VERY light colored, pretty, refreshing, wonderfully delicious, thirstquenching & food friendly French rose from superstar Master Sommelier Richard Betts.  What a discovery this has been for us!  Here is what Richard had to say–

From the South of France, just over the hill from Aix, a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 18% Syrah, 1% each of Carignane & Mourvedre, direct press (no saignee juice here, hence the light color & lack of bitterness).  The idea is rosé as I love it; dry and refreshing, smell red yet taste like a lip-smackingly delicious white.  Importantly, this is not saignée, it’s all straight to press goodness.  Pass the chalice and get after it“.   Bouvier

 2011 Regis Bouvier Rose

Regis Bouvier is a small, truly artisan producer (1981) who makes delicious, ethereal, interesting & really food friendly wines from his stellar vineyard holdings in Marsannay.  We just had a bottle last night of his 2011 Rose & let’s just say, it was such a pleasure, it really was the inspiration for this blog.  Unlike many of the fruit driven, tooty fruity roses we see coming out more frequently today, this one is barrel aged in oak for 10 months, framing the character, adding depth & rounding out edges, without compromising deliciousness, lightness, etherealness or food friendliness.  In the Old Days, pre-global warming, Marsannay was famous for their rose wines.  I surmise that back then the area was over all too challenging to produce stellar reds.  Times have changed…..& we now see more & more winemakers looking to take advantage of the weather warming & produce red wines, rather than rose.   The soils are interesting–a mix of limestone, marl, clay, stoney & gravel & the resulting wines can be interesting & unique . I, for one, am glad & most thankful that Bouvier still makes a little rose.  This really is a superb wine, which happens to be pink.

La Spinetta Rose

Il Rose di Casanova

Yes….it is VERY hard to find “good” Italian Rose.  Most winemakers focus on making top quality RED wine, which may include bleeding off (saignee) some of the juice early on in the fermentation, thereby increasing the remaining juice’s skin contact potential.  Then with the leftover, bled off juice they try to make a decent rose or something.  While this may make for a blacker, better RED wine, it often results in a very mediocre Pink wine.  For me, this is even more apparent with Italian grape varieties.  Superstar winemaker Giorgio Rivetti, in this case, set out to make a good rose instead.  50% Sangiovese & 50% Prugnolo Gentile (another clone of Sangiovese, most notably from Montepulciano) from his Tuscan vineyard (sandy & ocean sediments influenced soils) grown at roughly 1000 feet elevation.  The skin contact is no more than 1 hour & the wine is fermented in stainless steel, & is then aged on the lees for 3 months.  We love the notes of sour cherry, pomegranite & floral qualities, how seamless it is from beginning to end & how it finishes UN-oaky & UN-bitter…..all done in a VERY tasty, lively, refreshing, food friendly style.  Bravo!!!!   Gardoni2

2012 Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto”

Remarkably……yet another delicious, standout Italian PINK wine!!!!!  This one comes from Veneto, up in the northeast part of Italy.  Records show that the Piccoli family have been growing grapes in the area since the 1600’s.  

GardoniToday Gianni Piccoli is a well-known and highly respected figure in the region as well as a fierce leader in the fight against the homogenization of the local wine scene. While local cooperatives push for laws that would force producers to plant only French grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot, the place of honor at Corte Gardoni is reserved for local varietals such as Garganega, Corvina, Rondinella, and others. The Piccolis’ vineyards occupy 25 hectares, while the rest of the property encompasses orchards, forests, olive trees, and arable land“.

Here is their Chiaretto (what the locals call their rose), which is typically produced from 50% Corvina, 30% Rondinella & 20% “other” grapes.   It is much darker in hue than those listed above….and seemingly more fruit driven….BUT still lovely, irresistibly delicious, food friendly & very well suited for this time of the year.

Categories : Rose, Wine
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2010 Witching Stick Rosato 01-14-13

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I have been a HUGE fan of winemaking maverick Van Williamson for quite some time, starting with his tenure at the Edmeades helm.  In addition to his wildly rustic, interesting Zin beasts he produced starting with the 1994 vintage, Van also made a string of fabulous, wild yeast fermented, intriguing, well textured Chardonnay (1994 thru 2000); masculine, provocative Pinot Noir (1994 thru 2000), which REALLY got better with some bottle age; hedonistic, black, murky, eccentric Petite Sirah, which were remarkably light on their feet & well textured; AND a few vintages of terrific, thought provoking Syrah.  As I have said in the past, it is so hard to find a winemaker who masterfully crafts one grape variety well, much less 4, as in this case.  Yes, the wines were NOT your normal wines, BUT they each had VERY interesting character & wonderful balance!

I was deeply saddened to hear he was let go at Edmeades by the owner Kendall Jackson.  Still, I believe it will be better for Van in the long term as he creates his new chapter in life.  Wine wise, it starts with his new label Witching Stick.

With the 2010 vintage, Van produced & launched his first wine–a Zinfandel from the Fashauer Vineyard.  In the past at Edmeades, his single vineyard Zinfandels (Ciapusci, Zeni, Alden, Piffero to name a few) were big, hearty, wild & wooly, beasty wines–full of flavor & character with deceivingly high alcohol levels.  I was always fascinated at how surprisingly well textured & delicious they all were.

The 2010 Witching Stick Zinfandel is on the other end of the spectrum, weighing in at only 12.8 degrees alcohol (naturally).  This is what mother nature handed to him in this vintage, and at the same time I think Van learned greatly from this experience. 

The Fashauer Vineyard is 800 to 1200 feet in elevation at the cooler, northern end of the Anderson Valley.  Insiders who I have spoken to, marvel at how they are able to even ripen Zin there.  This results in a VERY different profile of Zin then most are used to.

While this makes for a higher toned, tarter fruited RED wine, it is really intriguing fruit to make a rose with.  To further bolster the RED Zin, Van saigneed the wine after only 8 hours, wild yeast fermented it & aged in the wine in neutral oak for a remarkable 18 months.

 VINO7 008

 This “rosato” is a full flavored, masculine PINK wine, to the point it is actually stylistically more like a red wine.  I would expect no less from Van Williamson.  Still, the wine is amazingly NOT heady, bitter or alcoholic…..just full flavored……with a crisp, refreshing, palate cleansing finish.  I don’t recall having a wine like this before, which is why I find it so fascinating.  PLUS, in a warm climate like Hawaii’s, I would much prefer having a wine like this with long cooked meat dishes rather than a hearty, robust red wine.  It is the same thought in my mind as having a dollop of cranberry with roast turkey & the fixings at Thanksgiving.

Van recommends you have this wine at cellar temperature….60 to 65 degrees.  I suggest you serve it in a  red wine bowl, so you can better swish it around & let it open up.        Bravo, Van!!!!!!



Categories : Rose, Wine
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Birbet 01-11-13

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Brachetto is a grape variety grown in the Piemontese region of northwest Italy.  Over the years, I have tasted only a few still red versions, none of which were anything really to write home about.


My first eye opening experience with this grape variety was tasting a Brachetto d’Acqui….which today is a DOCG.  I found this fruity, slightly sweet & fizzy red frizzante wine (which can also be made in varying degrees of sweetness & bubble strength),which when made well can be an absolutely delicious, remarkably light, carefree & delightful, thirstquenching & completely refreshing, lower alcohol, RED wine, especially when served well chilled.

The DOCG zone of Brachetto d’Acqui include the Monferrato hills that extend southeast from the town of Asti with some overlap into the Asti DOCG zone.  Interestingly, this same grape variety grown in the Roero region of Piemonte, made in the same fashion must be called Birbet, since it lies geographically (& probably geologically & somewhat climatically different) out of the approved D’ Acqui zone.

In both cases however, one has to really dig around to find well made versions.

Because the Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG is growing so fast in popularity, probably piggybacking on the heels of Moscato D’ Asti, albeit on a much smaller scale, the prices for the really good ones has recently quickly escalated AND the availability is much more limited. 

It has therefore made us to really search around for some interesting Birbet, now while the prices & availability are still good.

Our latest “find” is from Filippo GallinaVINO9 006  Theirs is a very fruity, unpretentious, completely refreshing style.  Nothing fancy, intricate, ornate or foo-foo….just delicious.


Their vineyard.








One of the very best Birbets we have had to date is produced by Malvira, a high recommendation from superstar winemaker Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta fame. 

VINO9 005

This family estate is committed to growing & producing truly superb quality wines….white, red & Brachetto….& are well worth seeking out.


While this kind of wine is ideal for sipping, well chilled on a hot day or after a hard day’s work, it can also be the way to end a meal on an uplifting, completely refreshing note.  Another interesting thought is to try a glass with seared foie gras, in place of rich, unctuous Sauternes.  Plus, the pairing is much easier to follow in the sequence of the meal.  Think about it….How can one follow Sauternes & foie gras?


Categories : Rose, Wine
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Pink wines

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Why is it that many of the top restaurants across the country serve 1 or 2 rose wines by the glass?  Probably because they marry so well with the food.

The challenge then becomes finding the good ones and then training your staff how to sell them.

Yes, finding good rose is really hard……but let me tell you first hand… is easier today then it has ever been.  Thankfully, more & more winemakers understand “if you want a good rose, you have to set out to make a good rose”.

Over the past couple of decades many winemakers took the “bleed off” (saignee) from red wine production & then valiantly tried to make something decent from it.  While the saignee made for more extracted & impactful RED wine, it most often made so-so pink wine.

Why?  Well to start with the red grapes were often harvested at higher brix levels & therefore higher glycerine, tannin & potential alcohol levels.  The resulting roses would be bigger, riper…and higher in all of the wrong places.

Today in comparison, winemakers will pick the grapes earlier at lower brix, glycerine, tannins & potential alcohol levels…..then more gently whole cluster press them (looking not to extract unwanted bitterness from the greener seeds) & additionally keeping the acidity higher & the wine therefore lighter, fresher, crisper & much more food friendly.  This is quite the sacrifice in many cases as they receive a scant half the price they would have gotten for the red wine produced from the same grapes./

Still, we the consumer are now able to get more & more renditions AND of better quality.

Recently we did a tasting of PINK wines with our team down at DK Steakhouse to show them what is now available on the pink front.

2010 Birichino Vin Gris

The French refer to their red wines as Noir….& their white wines as Blanc.  What is in between black & white?  Gray……..hence Gris.  These kinds of “grey” wines, especially pale in color like this one is often an indication of where the winemaker’s head is at on this subject.  Well this is one really worth seeking out, especially given the very reasonable price point.  The base for this fabulous “grey”wine is 126 year Cinsault vines….with a little Grenache (planted in 1910) & Rolle (ala Whispering Angel) added in……all done by former long time Bonny Doon winemaker John Locke.  Pink, delicious, & ideal for Summer Time sipping AND with a WIDE range of foods.

2011 Scherrer Rose

This is without a doubt one of the finest Roses we have ever had out of California.  Winemaker/owner Fred Scherrer took advantage of the extremely cool growing conditions of the 2011 harvest in the Russian River valley & steered some of the Calypso Vineyard Syrah to create the base/foundation of the 2011.  (While the Syrah would have made for some so-so red Syrah, it made for absolutely stunning pink wine material).  To that, Fred blended in some Grenache for aromatics, delicious-ness & completeness.  Boy, did it turn out terrific.

2008 Selene Rose

Winemaker/owner, Mia Klein, has been one of Napa Valley’s winemaking icons for decades, having worked on projects such as Dalla Valle, Araujo, Viader, Spottswoode, just to name a few.  Her own label is Selene, where one of her standout red wines is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Dead Fred vineyard down in southern Napa Valley.  Well 2008 was like the 2nd or 3rd drought vintage in a row, plus this vineyard suffered severe frost damage in 2008 with a 20% loss.  Rather than discarding  the under ripe Cabernet, she decide to make a killer rose with it, since it was really good rose material.  Here it is!!!!!  100% Cabernet Sauvignon, whole cluster pressed–heady, masculine with lots of stuffing…AND well rounded & more harmonious due to the 5 years of bottle age.  Quite the experience!….especially with roasted kalua pig or beef luau.

THREE Italian Roses

Over the years it has been super challenging for me to find really good Italian Pink wines.  Here are 3 however, which should ring your bell, as it did mine.  The Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto” is an absolutely delicious, food friendly gulp-er produced from the Corvina grape in Italy’s veneto region up in the northeast (same region as the more famous Valpolicella & Amarone  red wines.  the Castello di Ama Rosato is a stellar, quite hard to come by Tuscan blend of Sangiovese & Merlot blend from a landmark Chianti Classico winery.    Finally, there is the Punta Crena Pettirosso (not pictured) which is surprisingly heady, fizzy, delicious blend of the Rossesse & Sangiovese grape varieties grown on steep, rocky hillsides on the picturesque Ligurian Coast.  All 3 are fabulous!

TWO Southern French Roses

Here are two terrific Pink wines which are not only delicious, but also capture the essence & soul of southern France.  The Clos Ste. Magdeleine Cassis Rose is a very stunning blend of Grenache, Cinsault & Mourvedre grown on their seaside, limestone soiled estate vineyard which jutts out into the multi hued blue Mediterranean surrounded on 3 sides by water.  Something special happened in the 2011 vintage, because the resulting wine is by far the best I’ve tasted from them.  Gros Nore is a standout red Bandol producer, whose hearty, gamey, masculine soulful red Bandol proved to be something to behold, especially when served with some type of roasted game or stew.  Well guess what?  They also produce a very noteworthy rose too which can rival their famous neighbor down the road, Domaine Tempier.

Marquiliani “Rose de Sciaccarellu”

is a standout Rose from the rugged isle of Corsica off the southern tip of France.  A friend noted that this rose is so weightless & airy, it is like drinking a cloud.  After you swallow, all that left is perfume.  At any rate, this REALLY is worth seeking out to try.  It offers far more than just a romantic notion.

Lasalle Brut Rose “Premier Cru”

While Rose Champagnes might be a fad, this Lasalle Brut Rose is superb & for us really stands out among its peers, because of its supreme elegance, pedigree, purity, finesse & tiny, flirtatious bubbles.  It currently is one of our absolute favorite Champagnes because of that.

Patrick Bottex Bugey Cerdon Rose “La Cueille”

We ended the tasting with this unusual, unique, fruity, slight sweet, fizzy pink “country” from an appellation which lies somewhere between Savoie (in eastern France) & Beaujolais in southern Bugundy.  The grape varieties are Poulsard & Gamay Noir as one would expect given the close proximity to Savoie & Beaujolais.  What one does not expect is how captivating & completely refreshing this wine really is.  With your first sip, you will remember it forever.  It is kind of like ending your meal with a sorbet….something uplifting & refreshing.  Given the recent, meteoric success of Italy’s Moscato d’Asti, this one is sure to follow the same path.

Categories : Rose, Wine
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