Spring is here, and with it comes longer days and the reminder that San Francisco is best enjoyed al fresco. To me, spring and rose wine are inseparable. A celebration of youth and renewal, pink wines encourage those enjoying them to go out and play. This is not a category of wine that wants to be analyzed, it is a wine that wants to be enjoyed. A good rose is coquettish and flirty. It dares you to take another sip. This week, we took a tour through a wide range of roses in pursuit of a little knowledge and a lot of fun.
Serge Mathieu NV Rose Brut:
Hailing from the Aube Department of Champagne, which specializes to a large extent in Pinot Noir, this wine is a vibrant pink with very fine perlage and a lively, fruity finish. The round mouthfeel and elegant fresh fruit nose are classic champagne, all from an off-the-beaten-path grower producer. Isabelle Mathieu (Daughter of Serge) has taken the reigns of this small champagne house and is producing wines of finesse by aging her non vintage wines for between 3 and 5 years before release. This extra aging allows her to use lower levels of dosage and to accomplish a more pure expression of fruit.
2013 Gerard Boulay Sancerre:
Gerard Boulay is best known for his clean, terroir driven expressions of Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. His Rose is more of a pet project, produced from Pinot Noir grown directly in front of his family home. In riper vintages, he produces a red wine. In cooler vintages, he produces a beautiful chalky, mineral rose. This wine is made by the direct pressing method, which means that the grapes were specifically chosen to make rose, rather than simply pulling pink juice off the top of a fermenting vat of red wine. The result is chalky and lean, with a healthy serving of fresh raspberries and strawberries to round out the acidity, which both quenches your thirst and leaves you reaching for more. This wine is dangerously drinkable, and just begs to be brought to the beach.
2014 Robert Sinskey Vin Gris:
Robert Sinskey is a bit of legend in Napa, known both for his amazing hospitality and his jaw- dropping wines. His Rose is no exception, made by direct pressing Pinot Noir grapes from Carneros. This is an unusual practice in Napa, where economics demand that most winemakers make red wines from their pinot noir rather than the typically less expensive Rose. Sinskey does not bow to financial pressures however, and instead produces a wonderful lively and rich rose bursting with ripe red fruit flavors. This was an interesting counterpoint to Gerard Boulay’s Rose, because they are both made by direct pressing. While Boulay’s wine was bracingly mineral, Sinskey’s was lusciously fruity, both were wonderful reflections of their place, and strong reminders that rose can flourish when it is made as more than just a winemaker’s afterthought.
Featured Wine: Vajra Della Neve Spumante
The Vajra family have been making wines in Vergne, the highest altitude commune in Barolo since 1972. This wine, a spumante made from 50% Pinot Nero and 50% Nebbiolo, pleasantly surprised all of us with its dried rose petal bouquet and restrained fruit flavors. It had the elegance of a much older, more serious wine. This wine was made by macerating the grapes for just a few hours before taking a saignee, and leaving the wine to age on its lees for 30 months prior to release. To me, this wine was a wonderfully refreshing take on Barolo, which is famous for wines that are almost impenetrable in their youth. Playful, young, and exuberant, this spumante was everything that a rose should be. It had a sense of place, and was made with due deference to the Nebbiolo grape, but it was also fun and youthful, providing a great counterpoint to classic Barolo. It’s easy to take wine too seriously. To get caught in tasting notes and descriptors is a trap that can rob you of the basic goodness contained in your glass. This week has been a reminder that in both wine and life, if you aren’t smiling you’re probably missing the point.