Nothing says summer like concerts in the park, Fourth of July parades, barbeques, and rosé swishing in the glass. As a woman who opts to wear pink on six out of the seven days of the week, rosé could easily be an accessory as much as a picnic accompaniment, but like the gradations of pink in my wardrobe, rosés come in many shades and styles. Just as one might ponder if an outfit is too bright, muted or tasteless, there is much to consider when it comes to picking the perfect rosé for one’s palate and preferences.
I attended a preview of Experience Rosé, a series and competition, which culminates with two events, the first happened in June at the CIA Copia, and the last takes place in Hopland in October. The competition, which drew 317 domestic and international entries (combined) centers on this conceit: “The concept of rosé wines as an integral part of the wine drinking experience every day, all year long ‘because every day pairs better with rosé,’” according to Craig Palmer founder and producer of Experience Rosé. What follows is my curated list of the best of the best—those that rose (wink) above the rest.
The varietal diversity at Experience Rosé was enlivening, as demonstrated with the 2017 Kelley and Young Nuits de Young Rosé ($32), which blends Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot. The wine packs a flavorful dark cherry and cranberry punch. The darker hue and full-bodied taste make it a perfect pick for those who wouldn’t be caught dead drinking anything but red.
The Draxton 2016 Pinot Meunier Napa Valley Rose ($18) was a hands down favorite, since I prefer my pink stuff bone-dry and nuanced—this one fit that profile and then some. A crisp strawberry mashup with melon flavors to round out a full-bodied, balanced wine. The perfect accompaniment to smoked trout or a light pink sauce pasta. I was not alone in my thinking as the wine garnered Best in Show at the competition.
The Domaine Anderson Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25), came in second in my grape book. Almost as dry as the Draxton but with its own aromatic style and taste on the tongue with strawberries, a slice of stone fruit, and a hint of white pepper, making it a perfect pair with ribs.
The 2017 Kokomo Grenache Rosé ($26) from Dry Creek Valley is light in hue, bold in taste. This subtle crisp sip explodes with flavors of watermelon, tart cherry, strawberry and peach with a long juicy finish. Pair with dishes like poached salmon and red curry and indulge with panna cotta for dessert.
The 2017 Muscardini Cellars Rosato di Sangiovese ($24) is a light burst of flavor that conjures every summer fruit on the spectrum with plum, cherry, peach, ripe watermelon, and a splash of ruby red citrus. Try with fish tacos, paella or straight from the bottle.
The 2017 Matrix Rose of Pinot Noir ($30) from the Bacigalupi Vineyard was a delight. While I prefer those uber dry rosés, this one stepped out from the pack with a stone fruit juiciness that smacked of some of my favorite Viogniers. Strawberry and cherry flavors collide with a hint of citrus to offer just enough crispness—smooth and satisfying. An excellent accompaniment to soft creamy cheeses, crab cakes and BBQ chicken.
While this was predominantly a wine event, the Hangar 1 rosé-infused vodka beckoned with its beautiful bottle and soft pink color. While a bartender named Ringo shook and stirred his heart out making all sorts of flirty summer cocktails, this particular swig was at its finest chilled and served all on its own. Silky and soft like the finest roses (and rosés).
Beyond Experience Rosé, I discovered some other notables at the Feast It Forward studio in downtown Napa. I love when I get to taste varietals that aren’t often found in these parts, so I enjoyed the 2015 Onesta Rosé of Cinsaut ($20) from Lodi. Light, lingering and bursting with flavors of melon, guava and strawberry.
The 2017 Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir ($38) from Inman Family was a bigtime standout, furthering my decade long infatuation with wines from the Russian River Valley. A complete contrast to the Draxton but equally worthy—juicy, lush, stone fruit bliss in a bottle. This was paired with white cheddar mac and a jamón and cheese sandwich, all of which left me wanting nothing more out of life in that moment.
My wine bender reminded me what the folks at Experience Rosé already know—rosé need not be relegated to only summer swigging status because the class and caliber of today’s pink stuff rivals the ruby reds—all year long.
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