Nothing screams “summer” better than a good, well chilled bottle of rosé, and American grown rosés are hotter than ever.
Just ask Randy Lange, co-founder/co-owner (with brother Brad) of Lodi Wine Country’s LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards. The family’s 2012 LangeTwins Family Lodi Sangiovese Rosé ($14) is dry as a bone, yet stunningly lush, bright and juicy. “The good news,” says Lange, “is that our 2012 Sangiovese Rosé is a wonderful wine to drink right now, in the heat of summer. The bad news is that the wine sold out in a matter of days after it was released, so even we don’t have any left to enjoy this summer.”
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, but there’s a lesson to be learned here: if you find a good one, better buy it up. Mind you, we’re talking about serious rosés – that is, pink wines that are vinified completely dry and made from more intense ultra-premium grapes (as opposed to cheap, tutti-fruity, sweet tasting pink wines made from over-cropped, hot climate vineyards). These are the wines suddenly selling like hotcakes. Consumers are loving ‘em, and the serious wineries know this – which is why there are more and more of them being produced by the top quality wineries.
But the problem across the board is that top producers still aren’t making enough of them. Why? The attitude is that that pink wines, no matter how good, are more of a summer product, and so production is calculated to sell out in a matter of weeks, well before the end of summer. A seasonal thing — like the winter fashions you buy in the fall or the gay spring threads you try on in the dead of winter.
Here’s another thing consumers need to know: Lodi is the source of some fantastic dry rosés. Why? Because of the Delta’s climate, which is strikingly similar to the Mediterranean regions of Europe. It is no coincidence, for instance, that sales of rosés imported from France’s Provence region – the proverbial “rosé capitol of the world” – jumped over 41% in 2012, according to a recent report from the Vins de Provence organization.
Ana Fabiano, Rioja’s U.S. Trade Director and author of the book The Wine Region of Rioja, reports similar growth from Spain: “since 2008 shipments of pink Rioja wines into the U.S. have grown 40%.” This, in fact, is why the Wines From Spain trade commission recently began a national advertising campaign with the catchline, they say rosé, we say rosado.
Wine is now grown and produced in every state of the union; but evidently, there is not enough high quality, dry domestic rosé to satisfy American consumers’ growing thirst for the product. No wonder they are turning to imports.
Another great thing about Lodi grown rosés, though: because of the incredible variety of wine grapes grown here, there are a number of interesting styles at your disposal.
Finally, it is the combination of exuberant multifaceted fruit, natural acidity and textural complexity that makes Lodi grown rosés some of the most food versatile wines in the world. Especially foods we love in summer!
Here are six of the finest, along with delicious thoughts on some ideal food matches:
2012 McCay Cellars Lodi Rosé ($18) – No one in California works harder on his rosé than McCay Cellars‘ owner/winemaker Mike McCay. First of all, because 75% of his pink wine comes from majestic 110-year old Carignane vines owned by Lodi’s Jean Rauser; and the rest from meticulously trellised Grenache farmed by the father-and-son team of Louis and Phil Abba. Secondly, it is a painstaking process: McCay whole-cluster presses the Carignane and Grenache on the gentlest setting, and transfers the juice into small stainless steel “barrels” to hold in cold temperatures for about 35 days. Then the dormant musts are moved into room temperatures, where they begin to ferment – a slow process (at least another 30 days), since fermentation is done 100% on native yeasts. The result, as in the 2012, is a refreshingly dry, crisp, upbeat pink wine, bursting at the seams with finely delineated fragrant flavors of Bing cherry, strawberry and rose petal. A perfectly seamless, “ultimate” style of dry rosé.
Food matches for McCay Rosé: This luscious yet exquisitely balanced rosé does just as well with seafoods – like grilled fish with chutney, or tropical fruit or watermelon salsas – as it does with more toothsome dishes like squab with figs, duck with plum sauce, salmon with blueberries, turkey with fresh cranberry, or any other dish that combines meats and natural fruits.
2012 Bokisch Vineyards Belle Colline Vineyard Clements Hills-Lodi Rosado ($16) – From the rocky, rolling hills of the eastern edge of Lodi’s Clements Hills AVA (bordering Amador County), here is an even zestier, sexier, tingly, mouth-wateringly dry style of rosé composed from the higher acid Barbera grape (86%), Graciano (6%) and Albariño (8%). Much of citrus and mineral undertones of this strawberry/cranberry fruited wine come from the Albariño, and no doubt it’s the Graciano that gives the wine a pungent, earthy, rosemary/thyme-like edginess, sexing up the blend. If Bokisch Vineyards – California’s leading Spanish grape grower – is supposed to be all about olé, this wine hits it right on the head.
Food matches for Bokisch Rosado: Garlicky Spanish clams (almejas en salsa de ajo), lemony shrimp (gambas a la plancha), or olive oil drizzled sausages (salchichón) make sense, but there is enough acidity and exuberance of fruit in this wine to let you think further out of the box: think citrus marinated shrimp with stone mortared guacamole with fresh chopped chile (like the way they do it at the table in Downtown Lodi’s tony Alebrijes Mexican Bistro). Think Mediterranean, like simple fried little fish (like anchovy and sardines); or even Hawaiian, like grilled salmon or tuna with rice seasoned with everything from Japanese furikake (chopped seaweed and sesame seed seasonings) to pickled ginger, umé (sweet-sour plum), soy, and sesame seeds.
2012 Borra Vineyards Lodi Rosé ($17) – Don’t let the neon bright color of this bone-dry pink wine fool you: there is a fascinating compost/loam/earthy complexity poking out from beneath this wine’s gushy ripe cherry, strawberry jam-like fruitiness; and its natural acidity is bracingly fresh and joyous. In other words, more than just another pretty, pink thing. It is Borra Vineyards owner/grower Steve Borra’s Mokelumne River grown Barbera (70%) that contributes the wild cherry zing, and Syrah (30%) from the family’s Gill Creek Ranch in Clements Hills that delivers the bushels-of-strawberry sensations. The earthy undertones come from the non-inoculated natural fermentation favored by winemaker Markus Niggli, resulting in the pure, unadulterated taste of Lodi earth and fruit transcendent in this luminous wine.
Food matches for Borra Rosé: It would be hard to find a better wine for pungent saffron laced paellas than this wine – the earth tones in both the wine and saffron connect like electricity, making fruit and food sensations sparkle and shine. This pink red wine is also rich and earthy enough for straight-on meat dishes: Chinese-red, star anise laced barbecued pork is a no-brainer, and so is meatloaf in an herby, mushroomy or tomato-laced gravy; anything pink like salmon or barely seared or grilled (red-rare on the inside) tuna; or earthen spice laden chicken dishes, like achiote rubbed whole chicken or stews steeped in spoonfuls of Hungarian paprika.
2012 Acquiesce Lodi Grenache Rosé ($18) – Very much a full, plush, bouncy Provençal (or “Rhône”) style of rosé, made 100% from the Grenache grape. Acquiesce owner/grower Sue Tipton also tells us this is the one wine that she allowed her husband Rodney Tipton to have a hand in shaping. Says Sue, “Rodney said, ‘push the fruitiness this time,’ because he thought our 2011 rosé could have had a little more to it – and so we gave it a little extra time on the skins, which made it even lusher and juicier.” Finishing with a brighter pink color than the previous vintage, the 2012 is effusively aromatic, suggesting strawberry, cherry, and pomegranate; completely dry yet soft, plush, pliant in the mouth.
Food matches for Acquiesce Rosé: You cannot go wrong if you think ”Provence” when you pop an Acquiesce – ravioli and ragout, salt cod (or brandade) and anchovy, pesto and aioli, ratatouille and bouillabaisse, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic or rubbed with lavender laced herbes de Provence, et cetera. Roly-poly yet dry Grenache based rosés are also naturals for grilled chicken stuffed with aromatic herbs, green egg roasted turkey, squab, pigeon, and any game bird, especially with generous sides of squash and root vegetables.
2012 Sorelle Bella e Rose Rosato ($16) – Sorelle’s 2012 takes a slightly different turn from their 2011 Sogno Dolce Rosato, which garnered a Sweepstakes Award at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (an amazing achievement!). Whereas the 2011 was made 100% from estate grown Sangiovese, the 2012 is a 50/50 blend of the Sangiovese and Barbera grown around the winery. The result is more of an orange toned salmon-pink color and remarkably more citrus-like acidity, giving a dramatic lift and zesty edginess to the wine’s ebullient wild cherry, watermelony fruitiness, bouncing up and down through the palate like a lowrider, with just the vaguest suggestion of residual sugar (.4%, which is technically below the threshold). A lip smacking, Italian-ish style, bound to please consumers with more contemporary tastes in wine.
Food matches for Sorelle’s Bella e Rose: There is something about a sinewy, acid driven rosé that makes you think about summery salads a la Niçoise; pastas in fresh herbed marinara; cold shrimp with lemon wedges and sweet-spicy cocktail sauces; or out on the patio, plates of duck confit with cornichons or arugula tossed with olive oil, lemon, cracked pepper, and truffled or nori salt.
2012 Viñedos Aurora, Lodi Rosado ($15) - Viñedos Aurora‘s first vintage of rosado is more of an off-dry (1.5% residual sugar), wantonly fruit-forward style of pink, but with a serious depth of flavor derived from its field blend/co-fermentation of Clements Hills estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon (75%) and Petite Sirah (20%), with a touch of Viognier (5%) blended in at the end for a peachy, floral, tropical nuance. The nose is effusively of raspberry/strawberryish red fruits, but the flavors run deep, layered, fairly full (13.9% alcohol), almost viscous in their feel.
Food matches for the Viñedos Aurora: You may balk at this wine’s shamelessly fruity profile, but these are precisely the qualities that best balance almost any chili spiced red or white meat; that is to say, tearfully hot dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken or pork, Cajun blackened or chili specked Thai shrimp, or wok charred pork and vegetables specked with Szechuan spices. The fruity profile also makes this wine a natural for salmon – cast iron or charcoal grill charred, simply brushed with butter, or lavished in ponzu marinades or even sweetened soy glazes. ¿Por qué?