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CALIFORNIA ROSE

by Jyll Jara, WSET II

The history of California rosé cannot be expressed without the mention of the “profitable accident,” of Sutter Home White Zinfandel. In the early 1970’s, Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home started bottling his Zinfandel grape “bleed-off” juice. “Bleed-off”, also known as “saignée”, is a wine-making technique where black skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period; therefore providing an either light or deeper pink hue, dependent upon the length of time the skins are left in contact. The first few vintages of this light pink juice were actually quite dry. However, in 1975, for reasons unknown, fermentation abruptly stopped in the 1,000 plus gallons of the “bleed-off” juice, leaving it with 2% residual sugar. Mr. Trinchero decided to bottle this sweet pink juice, and thus history was made. By 1990, Sutter Home was producing 3 million cases of White Zinfandel. This was a happy accident for Mr. Trinchero, however the backlash was not so positive for the New-World rosé market. The majority of wine fans steered away from the domestic pink assuming that all were sweet. They instead opted for the safer, drier, Old-World style French versions. French Rosé historically has been a dry, crisp, ultimate food-pairing wine; with some of the best examples coming from the regions of Provence and Bandol.

CA rosé production became an afterthought to many winemakers due to the “sweet pink” stigma. It was not a profitable decision to plant vines exclusive for rosé production. Hence, CA rosé became more of an afterthought of bleed-off juice “leftovers”, therefore not being given the care and attention necessary for a world class rosé. Over the past decade however, CA rosé has finally found its redemption. It is difficult to pinpoint the how, when, and why this transformation occurred. Most likely, rosé has regained popularity in the New World from the championing of knowledgeable aficionados such as sommeliers and wine journalists; coupled with the accessibility of wine education for savvy wine lovers. Whatever the cause, we are now seeing some truly exceptional examples of CA rosé. Vines are now being planted exclusively for rosé production, and wine-making methods have been steadily evolving. CA is now proudly producing wonderful examples of classic crisp, dry, sophisticated and refreshing rosés.

Rosé wine is by far one of the most food friendly wines. It is predominately enjoyed during the hotter months; however I personally enjoy rosé all year long. Please keep in mind that most of the “New California” rosés are made in small production, nothing compared to the current 17 million plus of White Zinfandel. Therefore, if you find something that you truly enjoy, snatch up what bottles you can. Some rosé may benefit from 2-3 years aging, however it is best enjoyed while young, vibrant, and fresh. Serve well-chilled, with a variety of cuisine such as listed below:

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Liquid Farm, ‘Rosé’ of Mourvedre, Happy Canyon, 2013

Earth and mineral driven with layers of pomegranate, orange rind, and fresh gardenia.

Arugula, Fennel, and Orange salad.

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Copain, ‘Tous Ensemble’ Rosé, Anderson Valley, 2013

Pinot Noir grapes create a delicate floral bouquet and crisp red fruit flavors. Supple, with vibrant acidity.

Red fruit salad with mint syrup.

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Matthiason, Rosé, Napa Valley, 2013

A combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise grapes. Bright grapefruit, strawberry and fresh peach notes. Graceful and elegant.

shrimp and dill deviled eggs.

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Bonny Doon, ‘Vin Gris de Cigare’ Rosé, Central Coast, 2013

A combination of Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Carignane, and Cinsaut. Notes of chalk, tea, bergamont, and strawberry. Finishing with refreshing acidity.

prosciutto wrapped asparagus with goat cheese.

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Arnot Roberts, Rosé, Lake County, 2012

80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Cao. Intense perfume followed by aromas of red berries and minerals. Delicate floral notes with a tangy, snappy finish.

Caprese grilled cheese sandwich

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Wind Gap, Rosé, North Coast, 2013

A combination of Nebbiolo, Syrah, and Grenache. Aromas of tart strawberry, lychee and wet gravel. Steely and refreshing.

Prosciutto, fig, and arugula flatbread.

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