Roses' In full bloom in Santa Barbara County
Rosé has become an overwhelming choice for summer sipping over the last few years. In California, with the temperate climate, we drink it year-round. But the fly-over country between the two coasts is finally catching on to how refreshing a delicious rosé can be. It would seem that the popularity of rosé has reached critical mass. I mean, you know that when Apothic, Kendall-Jackson, Menage a Trois, Noble Vines and Dark Horse jump on the rosé bandwagon, the bloom just might be off the rose, so to speak. I'm not saying any of these bottlings are bad; several of them are quite tasty. But in the great scheme of things, many of them are mass-produced, marketed to appeal to a certain customer profile and price point.
Wouldn't you rather indulge yourself with a rosé from a Santa Barbara County producer who makes rosé in a style that the winemaker simply likes to drink? No corporate committees or targeted ads; just the best darn rosé that he or she can make every year. Here are some from this year's crop that I enjoyed.
• Foxen 7200 Volpino Rosato, Santa Ynez Valley 2016 ($26): An interesting blend of sangiovese and merlot, this limited-production rosé has bright cherry aromatics along with cranberry and strawberry. Meaty and substantial in the mouth (for a rosé), it has a hard core of red and dark cherry fruit plus sour cherry chimes in, adding some more flavor interest. Bold and brash, it can stand up to a lot of savory foods, including salami, sausage, prosciutto and even pizza.
• Demetria Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley 2016 ($27): Made in the Rhone style, this one is 100 percent grenache grapes and light pink in color with watermelon, florals and just a slight hint of spice on the nose. Watermelon again comes through on the palate as well as sour cherry, cranberry and rhubarb with an undercurrent of tangy spice and minerality. Light, crisp and refreshing, it all comes together on midpalate with the flavors well-knit due to its focused structure and its acidity driven nature. One sip certainly invites another.
• Cebada Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Ynez Valley 2016 ($32): Estate-grown at Forbidden Fruit Orchards, this rosé has nectarine and tangerine on the nose with a hint of rose petal and vanilla bean. Light but sophisticatingly balanced on the palate with flavors of key lime pie, nectarine skin and a sense of crushed sea shells and minerality. Soft on mouth entry, the structure comes through on midpalate to a taut and tightly wound finish with upbeat acidity. Perfectly dry, this is a food wine in every sense of the word.
• Lucas & Lewellen Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Ynez Valley 2016 ($20): A very pretty deep carmine in color, showcased in a clear Burgundy bottle, it has rose petal and red berry fruit on the nose along with citrus highlights. Flavors of sour cherry (tart!), strawberry, raspberry and watermelon rind mix it up. Big-boned for a rosé, this is no shrinking violet, er, rose, so to speak. Still, it's not overbearing; rather, it stays within its own pinot realm: juicy, tasty and accessible but with plenty of character and pinot noir-ness.
• La Montagne Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Kessler-Haak Vineyard 2016 ($36): Drawn solely from a specific vineyard site, this rosé has inviting aromatics of red cherry and red raspberry hard candy on the nose with a whiff of watermelon and spice. Pleasantly soft red berry fruit comes through on the palate but with savory and spicy undertones. The tangy acidity creates a sustained freshness all the way to the lengthy and satisfying finish. If I closed my eyes (and couldn't see the color of the wine), I would think this was a lighter and brighter copy of an actual Santa Rita Hills pinot noir.
• Groundwork Grenache Rosé 2015, Central Coast ($15): Drawn from a variety of stellar vineyards, including Larner and Bien Nacido, this bottling is very light pink, almost elusively so. Strawberry and mineral come through on the nose with a bit of a lime twist. More demonstrative on the palate, it shows strawberry, raspberry, red cherry and rhubarb with a hint of baked pie crust as well as prevalent lemony acidity on the back end. Initially, it seems laid-back, but it rises to the occasion partnered with foods from the alfresco summer dining table.
Wine expert Dennis Schaefer's column appears every other week in the Food section. Email him at foodnewspress.com.