Drink pink: How SLO County wineries are changing the way you think about rosé
Rosé all day? Try rosé all year.
As the pretty, food-friendly wine’s popularity continues to skyrocket, some local wineries have started releasing their new rosés long before spring has sprung.
Hitting social media celebrity status with hashtags like #RoséAllDay and #YesWayRosé featuring a steady photo stream of people celebrating the pink drink, rosé is now many consumers’ go-to wine for Valentine’s Day – and a way to keep the romance going all winter long.
“Rosé season used to be spring and summer, then came Thanksgiving. Now it’s year-round,” said Molly Lonborg, assistant winemaker at Halter Ranch Vineyard in Paso Robles, one of a handful of local wineries that have moved rosé release dates from late March or April to early February. “It’s a paradigm shift more than a fad.”
Joe Barton Jr., vintner at Barton Family Wines and Grey Wolf Cellars in Paso Robles, says the rising popularity of today’s drier rosés mirrors the shift in consumer preferences from bigger, bolder wines to brighter, more acidic ones.
“A decade ago, we tried making a dry rosé, and no one wanted it,” he said. “That’s all changed in the last three years.”
If you’ve been itching for the return of rosé season, a few San Luis Obispo County wineries are now offering early releases online and in tasting rooms.
Halter Ranch Vineyard’s coral-colored 2016 Rosé ($24) is reminiscent of the dry rosés of Provence, with lots of sweet fruit showing through the crisp, dry wine. Wild strawberries and watermelon dominate the grenache-based blend.
The ranch farms specifically for rosé, with designated blocks that are picked early to retain acidity and minerality. After soaking with the skins for 24 hours to extract more flavor, the grapes are pressed, fermented and aged in stainless tanks for two months, with 3,200 cases produced.
The deeper pink Grey Wolf Soul Mate ($26) aims for the same Provençal style but through saignée, the first run of juice to come off red wine grapes. But only the best saignée goes into Grey Wolf’s rosé; the rest is sent off to the adjacent Krobār Craft Distillery to become brandy.
Notes of citrus, stone fruit and guava practically burst from the bone-dry blend of grenache, mourvedre, counoise and syrah, grown in the limestone-rich hills of west Paso Robles’ Glenrose Vineyard, with just 150 cases produced.
ONX Wines in Paso Robles throws a curveball with its 2016 Indie ($19), a salmon-hued rosé of tempranillo, a full-bodied Spanish grape not commonly used for rosé in the United States. Its delicate appearance unfolds in a tempest of blood orange, passion fruit, peaches, nectarines and rose hips that comes together with refreshing acidity.
After blowing through 237 cases last year before rosé season even hit full swing, ONX upped production to 852 cases this year.
ONX associate winemaker Jeff Strekas is behind another unconventional rosé, Paso Robles winery LXV Wine’s 2016 Heart Note ($19), made of sangiovese from Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery in the Adelaida area. Almost electric pink, the wine, which is pressed and barrel-fermented in neutral oak, dances around flavors of rose water, cherry blossom, orange and mango.
Chamisal Vineyards in San Luis Obispo has a 2016 Rosé ($28) that highlights the flavors of its Edna Valley pinot noir fruit with just a hint of sweetness. With minimal skin contact before pressing and fermenting in stainless steel, the pale peach-hued rosé is practically pinot made as a white wine, with 400 cases produced.
Last year, Chamisal launched a rosé-specific brand for distribution in stores and restaurants. With 8,000 cases produced, the 2016 Malene Rosé ($22) is a more acid-driven Provence-style rosé. Made with grenache, mourvedre, cinsault and rolle (the French name for vermentino), the orange-tinged wine exhibits classic French rosé flavors of stone fruit and melon.
Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter@sallybuffalo.