Though the French have been drinking rosé for centuries, it’s popularity gained momentum only a few years ago in the United States. Not one to follow trends, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards has been making rosé for 10 years now—long before it became fashionable in the U.S.
“The French use it as a palate cleanser. They have a splash before dinner,” says Katie Madigan, a winemaker at St. Francis since 2011. Rosé is sold mostly in the tasting room, and only occasionally online, which is why Madigan and the St. Francis crew were pleased to learn they won Best Rosé in the 29th annual NorthBay biz readers’ poll. “I was surprised and excited,” says Madigan. “You never know the style a customer is going for, but this reward proves it. People enjoy our style of rosé. It’s nice to think our philosophy translates to taste style since there are so many Rosés to choose from.”
Rosé is made in the St. Francis style, rather than in a traditional style. “We use the best varieties the vintage gives us—it’s Zinfandel based and then we add Bordeaux varietals and Chardonnay to brighten it up,” says Madigan. “I want it to be refreshing—quaffable and easy to drink.” Indeed, it is. The St. Francis Rosé is a gorgeous deep rose in color, and the first sip is fresh and crisp, yet lush. It offers an element of delicacy—much like a spring day, simple yet complex. And though Madigan lets the bounty of the harvest lead the way for each vintage, it carries the fingerprint of the winemaker’s touch. “That’s what makes it fun to make,” she adds. “This is a winemaker’s wine.”
Crafting rosé is a delicate process. “There are so many rosés to choose from,” says Madigan. “Much of the country still doesn’t associate rosé as a high quality wine, but the quality is building and word is getting out.”
Though wine experiences trends, much like fashion, Madigan believes rosé has staying power. “It’s an undervalued wine, but it’s an all-weather wine. It’s a ‘welcome’ wine and a palate cleanser. And it’s become an everyday wine that you can drink day or night. It’s perfect for a spring picnic, or to serve as a palate cleanser at Thanksgiving,” says Madigan. “The selection in the general market will probably decline, but we’re keeping it in-house and will always make it.”
St. Francis Winery produces 500 to 600 cases, which are released twice a year—early May and in September when tomatoes are in season. “Our motto is to showcase the best of Sonoma County and I love pairing rosé with tomatoes,” says Madigan. Once released, the wine sells out in about six months. “A blessing and a curse,” she adds with a smile. But, of course, there’s always next year.
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