Tag Archives: derby wine estates

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!



Whirlwind Trip to the Central Coast

My head is still spinning! We are back in Dublin, getting back to our regular routine after having a whirlwind 5 day trip down to the Central Coast wine region. We left last Thursday morning and drove about 2 hours south and found our first winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands wine growing region of Monterey County. We stopped at Pessagno Winery in Gonzales just outside of Salinas. Then we drove about 10 minutes farther south to Hahn Estates in Soledad. Both of these tasting experiences will be written in a future blog. We stopped for lunch in Soledad and had a delicious Mexican meal.

We then hit the road for our destination of Buellton which is about 1/2 hour south of Santa Maria and about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, smack dab in the middle of the Santa Barbara Wine Country. We checked into the Marriott Courtyard and had just enough time to unpack and change into something nicer for our anniversary dinner we were about to venture on.

We went to Mirabelle Restaurant located at the Mirabelle Inn, just off the main highway in Solvang. Larry and I were celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary a couple days early due to the fact that we were going to be busy at the Wine Bloggers Conference on the actual day of our anniversary. We looked at the menu and decided to go with the Chef’s Tasting Menu with with the wine pairing. This turned out to be a very delicious meal, and however great the service was, it was a bit rushed and we found ourselves done with our 4-course meal in 1-1/2 hours!

It turned out to be alright since we still had quite the agenda ahead of us with registration and expo with wine tasting back at the hotel. We even had an excursion at 10:00 that evening to Standing Sun Wines where there was a wine tasting of that winery but also over a dozen other wineries were represented there from the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association. They had a beautiful display of desserts of which I passed on since we had just had dessert with our meal. After we sampled wines for awhile we then sat outside around their fire pit and enjoyed meeting fellow wine bloggers.

The next two days were filled with wine tastings, both from the U.S. and from around the world; food pairings, seminars, workshops, keynote speaker, excursions to wineries, blog awards, etc. When Sunday morning came around and we finished the last 2-hour workshops we were ready to start heading back north. We only had to go one hour as we were heading to San Luis Obispo. We were going to be staying right in town at a very nice boutique hotel, the Granada Hotel and Bistro. Our room was ready and they let us check in at 1pm! We ordered in room service to our room and watched the final game of the World Cup. We enjoyed this very much as we had been watching a great deal of the games throughout the world cup series. After the game was over we walked around town, did some shopping and found a nice restaurant, Luna Red, where we ordered happy hour snacks and sangrias.

The next morning we left to head back to Dublin with stops at 3 wineries in Paso Robles, lunch and a massage. The wineries we stopped at were Niner Wine Estates, Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden and Derby Wine Estates. Each of these were very different from each other and we really enjoyed our experience at each of them. We had lunch at Berry Hill Bistro in the square. We left Paso Robles around 4pm strategically planned so we would miss most of the work traffic up in San Jose. We got home around 7pm. All the animals were good and very happy to see us. We brought in all the literature and business cards that we acquired over the long weekend and now need to decipher through it all. That will take some time. Keep posted as I will be writing more details about the specific wineries, restaurants and highlights from the Wine Bloggers Conference, #WBC14.