Hello friends. Welcome to “spring” (which gets the air quotes so as not to tempt the weather gods to smote us with six straight weeks of 41 degrees and drizzly), and welcome to the amazing state of affairs that is Washington rosé.
There are no shortage of cynics in the wine trade who believe that consumers get stuck in ruts and only want the same old thing. Well, the developments in rosé over the past few years give big fat lie to that notion. The speed with which local rosé has been embraced has been staggering. And not sweet White Zin style rosés; not even fat/rich cotton-candy blob saignee juice. I’m talking about dry, crisp, picked-specifically-for-rosé rosé. Serious adult stuff.
Things reached a new peak last year. In early April, we offered three rosés – Renegade, Dazzle, and Pink Pape – and I thought we were offering them nice and early, early enough that reorders throughout the summer would be possible.
Instead, all three were sold out in the Seattle market by the first week in May. I’ve never seen anything like it, and apparently neither had the producers, because two of the three have moved their release dates up, and we have them today (look for Pink Pape in a few weeks). Essentially, in just a few short years, we’ve created a market for cult rosés that are sold out almost instantly on release. Amazing.
Now, I’m going to take this opportunity to reprint a missive I’ve written previously about rosé, because I know it can feel weird to order the pink drink when we just kissed February goodbye. But hear me out:
Meteorologists seem quite sure that summer is going to arrive sometime before 2015. Think of it: a sky uncluttered with clouds; a full sun spreading its munificent warmth on bare arms and legs; a pile of charcoal unhurriedly smoldering. And you.
But which version of you?
The version with foresight, who was able to calmly look ahead and order rosé in March that you won’t drink until July? The version who is the envy of friends and family and neighbors alike because you have pale pink, refreshingly dry, impossible-to-find rosés?
Or the doofus version, the schmohawk, the one who overvalues spontaneity and so on that fateful July day has to run to Safeway and grab the closest pink beverage, which turns out to be a jug of Barefoot White Zinfandel, which upon opening is revealed, to the horror of friends and family and neighbors alike right before they make their excuses and leave your BBQ, to be a bottle of alcoholized, melted-down pink cotton candy?
It’s your call.
2013 Renegade Rose
A screaming value. It’s 79% Syrah, not usually my favorite for rosé, but Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand Cellars) works magic here for his negociant label, blending with 14% Cinsault and 7% Counoise. The finished alc is 12.5%, which means this was clearly picked nice and early – purposefully for rosé – in what turned out to be a warm vintage. This takes the best of that warm vintage – ripe, fleshy strawberry-kiwi-watermelon fruit – but was picked early enough to have a serious acid spine running right down its back. The mid-palate conveys a lovely creaminess, but when this moves into its finish, it’s all lip-smacking acidity (fresh squeezed tangerine and lime), perfect for the porch on a hot summer’s day. The quality that Trey is able to coax out of rosé at this tariff continues to be deeply impressive. This is one to guzzle with gusto, and Trey wants us to remind you that the 2012 sold out in five weeks last year.
2013 Julia’s Dazzle (Long Shadows)
Without question, one of the weirdest bottles produced in Washington each year. First off, there’s the bottle, which basically looks like a big pink bowling pin. Then, there’s the technique: Gris de Gris. There are a few grapes that make white wine, but whose skin actually takes on a pinkish-gray pigment, such that a rosé is possible. The most famous Gris de Gris is Domaine de Fontsainte’s in the Corbieres region of France, made mostly from Grenache Gris. Dazzle is made from Pinot Gris, with 2% rosé of Sangiovese blended in to stabilize the color. It’s a passion project from Long Shadows, and it’s clear that this is Gilles Nicault at his most whimsical.
Unlike the 2012 version, which had a kiss of residual sugar, this drinks quite dry to me. It’s pale pink, with a lovely nose combining honeycrisp apple and melon and green papaya fruit with subtleties of wet stone and a fresh green note of cucumber. In the mouth, a light prickle of dissolved CO2 adds liveliness to a rich mouthful of plump fruit. You can tell this was from a warm year, but there is good balancing acidity for all that ripeness (13.7% alc). The creamy texture makes me think this could easily pass through the summer and be a fine pairing for autumn meals as well. Purchase just enough so that your final bottle graces your Thanksgiving table; that’s the trick.
2013 Seven Hills Winery Rose
It seems crazy, but until this year, Seven Hills Winery has never produced a commercial rosé. Crazy because Casey McClellan’s house style – low alcohol, acid-driven, texturally elegant – seems perfectly suited to dry, crisp rosés. And of course he’s made an instant classic. Something tells me that in a few years, it will be difficult to remember a time that Seven Hills didn’t make a rosé.
For this first one, the folks at Seven Hills played it conservatively on quantities, and of course there’s so much pent-up interest in Casey’s rosé. That combination has led to something I never thought I’d see: a rosé that is sold out prior to release.
Lucky for us, I knew this wine was coming. During my August 2013 Walla Walla trip, I had the chance to walk vineyard rows with Casey and Erik McLaughlin and clip clusters of rosé-intended Petit Verdot for lab analysis (I might have tasted a few grapes, too). Then I had a chance to taste the finished wine at an event in Seattle on February 10. From that point on, I agitated for as much wine as the winery could spare. Which turned out to be not very much. And it’s all tucked away in our warehouse already. I wasn’t taking any chances with this one.
Amazingly enough, the intrepid Rand Sealey already has a review up for this one. Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”
This comes in at a wonderfully low 11.6% alcohol (perfect for drinking directly from the bottle), and the aromatics are super-floral, with beautiful lilacs overlaying chalky minerals and exotic fruit. Fresh and delicious, this combines grapefruit and strawberry fruit with terrific green notes of sweet pea and jalapeno. Complex, nervy, and inviting, it is an outstanding debut for Seven Hills in this category.
For Renegade and Dazzle, there’s no telling how long they’ll last this year, so let’s open those two up – first come first served with no upper limit. For the Seven Hills, what we got is all we’re going to get, so I’m guessing we’ll need to allocate. Severely. Please limit order requests to 2 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The Seven Hills is already in the warehouse, as is a chunk of Dazzle, and the Renegade should arrive next week, at which point all the wines will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.