A Rosé is Not a Rosé

Don't confuse today's rosés with the sweet White Zinfandels of yesteryear. Many quality rosés are made now and released just in time for your Easter feast.

A rosé is not just a rosé anymore.

Long maligned by its poor reputation based on the sweet version of White Zinfandel mass-produced by wineries such as Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley, more rosés are now made in the food-friendly dry style. In wine regions across the world, including Washington, the Loire Valley, Provence, Tavel, Tuscany, Rioja and even California, quality rosés are produced.

Rosé is often released young, sometimes months after it was harvested. That means right about now in time for the Easter feast. The soft tannins and berry fruit qualities common in rosé counter the saltiness of ham to make a seamless pairing. Preferably, a high acid dry rosé is recommended, which plays off the saltiness of a cured ham and brings out the fruit qualities in the wine.

Several rosés from last fall’s harvest will be making it into the local market this spring. More will be released through the summer, when I plan on revisiting the pink wine. , , , , Maison Bleue Winery, and  will be releasing rosés over the next few months.

Please tell us about your favorite rosés in the comments section below. I will do my best to try them before I publish the redux.

In the meantime, here are some recommendations available now for your Easter brunch.

Washington Cabernet Franc is a natural varietal for rosé in the Chinon style from France's Loire Valley. The strawberry notes, soft tannins and natural spiciness of Cabernet Franc are ideal for rosé. Trust Cellars from Walla Walla with a tasting room in Woodinville, Independent Producers from Red Mountain, and Cote Bonneville and Chinook Wines from Prosser make balanced and food-friendly Cabernet Franc rosés. The Trust Cellars, Independent Producers and Cote Bonneville are available now. Chinook Winery will release its Cabernet Franc rosé in June.

•2011 Trust Cellars Cabernet Franc Rosé, Columbia Valley: Trust Cellars winemaker Steve Brooks sources Cabernet Franc from the storied Bacchus Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope specifically to craft a crisp, dry and food-friendly rosé. Only about 200 cases of the wine was made. It is available at the Trust Cellars tasting room in Woodinville.

•2011 Independent Producers Cabernet Franc Rosé, Red Mountain: Independent Producers is the Red Mountain-based winery of Christophe Hedges, son of Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges of the eponymous Hedges Family Estate. Christophe harvests the Cabernet Franc from Belle Villa on its Red Mountain estate. The result is a balanced, clean and versatile wine. Strawberries and honeydew melons dominate the nose and palate but it’s the refreshing acidity and length on the finish that are the hallmark of this wine. Less than 200 cases of this wine were produced. The wine is available directly from the winery for around $20.

•2011 Cote Bonneville Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley: This wine is marked by seductive floral aromas of rose petals and violets. Classic notes of strawberry, honeydew melon and raspberry fill the palate. The oh-so-velvety tannins caress the palate before it sails to a lengthy and mouthwatering finish of citrus and citrus zest. This wine is available for $30 at Urban Enoteca in Seattle’s SoDo District.

Washington winemakers have produced quality rosé in a number of varietals, including Sangiovese, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Merlot. Below are other choices.

•2011 Waterbrook Sangiovese Rosé, Columbia Valley: This refreshing wine shows flavors of strawberries, watermelon and lemons. Hints of lemon and lemon zest extend to the dry finish. This wine can be enjoyed by itself sitting on the front porch to watch the sun set on a hot summer day or with the Easter ham. At a reasonable $12 you can afford many hot summer days.

•2011  Ramblin Rosé, Walla Walla Valley: this blend of 46 percent Grenache, 18 percent Cinsault, 15 percent Syrah, 15 percent Mourvedre, 5 percent Petite Sirah and 1 percent Viognier is as complex as the blend suggests. Layers of raspberries, watermelon and spice lead to a lip-smacking lime finish. The wine is available for $24 at the Dusted Valley tasting room in Woodinville.

•2010 Cedergreen Cellars Viola Rosé, Columbia Valley: Kevin Cedergreen Cellars did not make a rosé in 2011, thus 2010 is the current vintage for this Kirkland-based producer. This wine is a blend of 40 percent Merlot, 40 percent Cabernet Franc and 20 percent Grenache. Qualities of ripe strawberries are countered by sharp rhubarb-esque acidity. Lemon and lime on the finish are backed by stony minerality. The wine is available for $14 directly from the winery by calling 425-827-7244.

Jerry Gropp Architect AIA March 30, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Chris- What a really lovely light-filled picture to illustrate your great "Cork Dork" article. Editor Kendall Watson continues to put out an ever-improving online Mercer Island Patch. Jerry-
Nicole Francois April 03, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Chris, My husband is from France where Rose a low-cost beverage. He doesn't believe Rose should cost more than $10. Can you recommend anything drinkable for under $10? As I prefer non-swill in my glass. Nicole
Chris Nishiwaki April 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Thanks for reading Jerry. The photo is of Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel of Dusted Valley Vineyards in Walla Walla. They produce a lovely Tavel-style (Rhone) Rosé.
Chris Nishiwaki April 03, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Thank you for reading Nicole. And thank you for your question. You raise a very good point. The price for Rosé ranges from under $10 to upwards of $100, such as the Chateau d'Esclans Garrus Rose from France's Provence region. Generally speaking you get what you pay for. With the exchange rate of the Euro, shipping costs and taxes it has been increasingly difficult to import wines for under $10. Also consider, that many of the value wines made in Europe rarely make it to the US market for any number of reasons.Bumping the wine budget to $12-$15 per bottle will yield exponentially higher quality and many more options. That's not to say there aren't any good values for under $10. One of my favorite Rosés is the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé. Falesco Vitiano from Umbria also consistently makes a pleasant Rosé for under $10. If you find other quality Rosés for under $10 please share. Again, thank you.
Nicole Francois April 05, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Chris, Thank you! Not only have you provided me with some great ideas for the under $10 Rose insistence, you have also armed me with a fact-based and rational argument for upping the Rose budget a bit. I appreciate your response and knowledge. Touche, Nicole


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