By Robert Whitley- The arrival of Valentine’s Day marks a turning point for many wine enthusiasts, particularly those who have recently come to love dry rose wines.
Not only is dry rose a natural for the Valentine’s tradition but it also signals the coming of spring and warmer days. Rose wines, which are seldom aged in oak barrels, are typically among the first new wine releases of spring.
This coincides with a natural move away from the heavier reds and richer whites we favor in the cold winter months, and a move toward fresher, brighter, zestier wines that are more in tune with the weather, and hence, our mood throughout the rest of the year.
Sales of dry rose have surged in recent years, as more wine lovers have discovered the remarkable versatility of these wines. Rose from France is typically made from pinot noir or one of the Rhone grape varieties, such as grenache or cinsault. Rose from Italy, where it is called rosato, is frequently made from sangiovese. In Spain, where it is called rosado, the favored grapes for dry rose are tempranillo and garnacha (same as grenache in France).
Rose made in the United States is all over the map. In the Eastern states, the Catawba grape is prominent. But that makes for a sweeter wine that isn’t universally popular. In the Western states, the Rhone grape varieties and pinot noir tend to prevail.
A few prominent producers that make excellent dry rose include Etude of the Napa Valley in California (made with pinot noir) and Eberle of Paso Robles, California, (made with syrah).
What makes these wines so appealing is their crisp bright fruit structure and their versatility with food. You could enjoy the Eberle Rose of Syrah with virtually any grilled fish, game fowl, grilled sausages or even a barbecued steak. Or you could simply quaff it on a warm spring day.
There might still be snow piled up in your driveway, but after Valentine’s Day, warmer days are just ahead, so it’s time to think pink.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger 2013 Brut Rose, Carneros ($39) — The common thread that runs through all of the Domaine Carneros sparkling wines is elegance. Always beautifully balanced, complex in aroma and flavor, and exquisitely proportioned, this is so very true of the 2013 Brut Rose. Delicate aromas of peach, strawberry and red berry, and a touch of spice make this one of the most impressive domestic sparkling roses you are likely to encounter. Rating: 96.
ACORN Winery 2014 Dolcetto, Alegria Vineyards, Russian River Valley ($35) — Dolcetto is often called the Beaujolais of Italian wine because it tends to be lighter in color and less likely to hammer the palate with astringent tannins. This dolcetto from California’s Russian River Valley is in the mold of top-notch dolcetto from Italy’s Piedmont district. It shows a floral nose followed by red berry fruit on the palate and modest bite on the finish. This is a beautiful red for picnics, Mediterranean appetizers or charcuterie. And it was a platinum award-winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. Rating: 95.
Handley Cellars 2015 Gewurztraminer, Estate, Anderson Valley ($22) — Milla Handley’s 2015 dry gewurztraminer invites you in with an alluring and seductive hint of jasmine on the nose. On the palate this wine offers honeysuckle and lychee aromas, spice and impressive length. It’s another beautiful gewurz from the underrated Handley Winery and another triumph for the Anderson Valley in the arena of aromatic Alsatian white wines. Rating: 95.
J. Lohr 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Hilltop,’ Paso Robles ($35) — J. Lohr’s 2014 Hilltop Cabernet is of the sort that made Paso Robles Cab famous. It’s ripe and juicy, spicy and racy, and priced modestly. With loads of blackberry and blueberry fruit and supple tannins, it’s a crowd pleaser that is primed for stardom during the upcoming grilling season. Rating: 95.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, Carneros ($22) — Rich and luscious with hints of lemon and brioche, Gloria Ferrer’s Blanc de Blancs is without a doubt among the greatest values in sparkling wine today. It is a perfect gift for Valentines Day. Rating: 94.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Carneros ($22) — Gloria’s Blanc de Noirs is a paragon of consistency and one of the great values in sparkling wine. This latest release shows mouthwatering red fruits with good balance and impressive length on the finish. Rating: 91.
Rodney Strong 2014 Chardonnay, Estate, Sonoma County ($17) — You could make an argument that Rodney Strong invented the California chardonnay craze, but Kendall-Jackson might dispute it. That said, Rod Strong was certainly one of the earliest champions of California chardonnay, and that legacy has been maintained through the decades by winemaker Rick Sayre. This one shows rich notes of pear and apple, and a hint of wood smoke and spice. It’s a crowd pleaser with a great price. Rating: 90.
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