Tag Archives: Deerfield Ranch Winery

Rosé on the Table Means Spring is Here

First rosé of the season last night: Deerfield Ranch Winery 2012 Checkerbloom Rosé, Sonoma County, made from their old vine Zinfandel grapes using the Saignée method. Delicious with baked salmon, rice and baby bok choy.

In the U.S., we’ve been brought up thinking that rosés are sweet, second rate wines. Actually that’s been true for the U.S., but not so for the rest of the world where rosés have historically been regarded as mainstream wines, worthy of as much attention and respect as any other serious wine. Recently, many more wineries are making good rosés, and a lot of us are buying and drinking rosés. So what is it about rosés that is so attractive?

For me, a good rosé is an alternative to a white wine. Whenever I think of crisp, fruity white wine to drink, I’ll also check out our stock of rosés. Because that is what a good rosé should be: crisp, fruity, some acid for balance, very similar to a good Sauvignon Blanc but with different fruit flavors.

Rosés are most often made by having the grape juice from red wine grapes stay in contact with the skins for 1-3 days, instead of the usual 1-2 weeks used for red wine production. The longer the juice is in contact with the skins, the deeper pink/red the color. One other technique used is the Saignée method, in which some of the juice is bled off from the tank containing the skins and juice from a red wine. Less juice means a higher ratio of skins to juice, resulting in more intense flavor and color for the red wine. So as not to waste the good juice that has been bled off, it is made into its own rosé wine. A third technique is called Vin Gris. With this method the juice from red grapes is taken when the grapes are being pressed, so there is really no time on the skins, resulting in a very pale rosé.

What to look for in a rosé? Here are my two unofficial rules, plus one question.

1. No rosé made from Pinot Noir grapes. Sorry, I know some people like these rosés, and a number of wineries make rosés from Pinot Noir, but the fruit flavors in Pinot Noir grapes are too subdued to make a good rosé. There are exceptions to this rule, as there are to any rule, however while I have liked a few rosés made from Pinot Noir, I can’t think of any of them right now. Very non-memorable.

2. Make sure the grapes were picked specifically to make the rosé wine. One of the realities of the wine business is that red wines take a year or more from harvest to cash generation. Rosés can be ready for the consumer in 4 months. So wineries are often making rosé just for cash flow reasons, and not because they’re committed to make a good rosé. In which case, they most often will bleed off some juice from their red wine tanks after 1-3 days on the skins, and make rosé from that. The problem is that acid and sugar levels for a good rosé are different than for a good red wine.

3. Another good question to ask is how many years has the winery been producing rosés? While an answer of less than 5 years doesn’t say anything about how serious the winery is about their rosé, an answer of 10+ years says that they’re serious and successful.

One other note is that most of the good rosés in France are made from Rhone grapes, most often Grenache. For Lori and I, our introduction to seriously good rosé was having it with lunch at a sidewalk café in summer in Nice, France. Beautiful warm day, cool-crisp-tasty wine, watching the world go by.

There are two rosés that I’ll always say yes to: Storybook Mountain Vineyards “Zin Gris” rosé of Zinfandel (a nice play on vin gris), and Quivera Vineyards Rosé, usually based on Grenache. These wineries have been doing rosés for 10+ years, and they do a consistently outstanding job of it.

One other memorable rosé I’ve had was the 2013 Derby Wine Estates Rosé, Derby Wine Estates, made from 100% Mouvedre. Almost ruby red in color, nice balance, went great with the hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, dolmas and pita bread appetizers that I brought for our picnic before a California Shakespeare Festival performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year. (Great performance, the best performance of this play I’ve ever seen.)

Enjoy your Spring!



Thanksgiving 2014 – Family, Friends, Food, Merlot

I love Thanksgiving. But really, how could anyone not love Thanksgiving? 4-day weekend, non-religious and non-political holiday, family, friends, food and, of course, wine. Did I mention family? Anything cuter than 21 month old Zinnia helping her Bubie put the final glaze on the turkey?

Zinnia helping her Bubie with the final glaze on the Thanksgiving turkey.

Zinnia helping her Bubie with the final glaze on the Thanksgiving turkey.

Thanksgiving dinner is always interesting from a wine perspective because a) you can’t go wrong, b) you have guests over that appreciate the wine you’re going to serve, and c) you get to serve more than one bottle, allowing some fun wine comparisons. As Lori starts planning the food menu for Thanksgiving, I’m taking a trip into the wine cellar and planning the wine menu for appetizers, the main meal and dessert. I’ve gone in a variety of different directions for the main course in the past: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, even Zinfandel. That’s one of the things about the Thanksgiving meal and wine pairing: with the wide variety of flavors on the table, it’s hard to go wrong. (I will admit that I’ve never had Cabernet Sauvignon with Thanksgiving; not sure that Cab would work. A little bit too big of a wine.)

This year I went into the cellar and the Merlots jumped out at me. Merlots rarely jump out at me for any dinner, and I don’t have a huge selection, but there they were, begging for their opportunity to join the holiday party. OK, why not give it a try? Merlots can be very nice wines, with great flavor and balance and great with a meal. And not quite as big a wine as Cab, usually. I added to the Merlots a bottle of sparkling wine to start, plus some whites, and then some dessert wines.

Thanksgiving wine lineup included sparkling, whites, Merlots and dessert wines.

Thanksgiving wine lineup included sparkling, whites, Merlots and dessert wines.

The final lineup was

Bodkin Wines (non-vintage) Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée Januariis, Sandy Bend Vineyard, Lake County

Armida Winery 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley

Armida Winery 2012 Chardonnay, Durrell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Mitchell Katz Winery 2011 Merlot, Falling Star Vineyard, Livermore Valley

Deerfield Ranch Winery 2008 Merlot, Sonoma County

Meeker Vineyard 2004 Merlot, Sonoma County

Eagle Ridge Vineyard 2005 Mad Lyn (Souzao grapes), Carter Vineyard, Livermore Valley

Peller Estates, 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine, Niagara Peninsula

Yes, we did decant all three Merlots. Nice decanters on the table to go with the beautiful dinner, plus it helped the wine. My personal favorite was the 2004 Meeker Merlot, but everyone had their own favorite.

Clockwise from upper left:  pumpkin-chocolate brownie cooling on the stove, maple syrup glaze, sweet potatoes, another sauce, two different components of the gravy.

Clockwise from upper left: pumpkin-chocolate brownie cooling on the stove, maple syrup glaze, sweet potatoes, another sauce, two different components of the gravy.

Thanksgiving dinner had everything (the full 6-burners on the stove were in use, as were both ovens), and we’re still recovering from all that we ate. We hope you had a great Thanksgiving dinner too!