Verve’s Top 7 Rosés for Starting Summer Right

June 20th is the summer solstice, and whether you're celebrating the summer of brosé or the summer of frosé, here's a little more rosé prosé about our favorite pink wines for the season!

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Our last rosé tasting at Verve HQ was blind, meaning none of us could see the name or label of what we were tasting until after we'd tried the wines and ranked our favorites. Verve's sometime-somm, sometime-guest host Dan Pescetti— who's got a degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis and worked the cellars at Plumpjack, Schramsberg and Amici Cellars—put the pretty pink lineup together for us, and made sure nobody was cheating. We also had master winemaker Doug Fletcher (VP of winemaking for the entire Terlato Wine Group) and vintners Barry and Jennifer Waitte from Tamber Bey Vineyards in the house, to round out the Napa Valley winemaker perspective.

Ready for battle

Ready for battle

Dan started us out with a flight of four sparkling rosés with a fantastic range in color, from bright neon pink to a pale, golden blond salmon. Some smelled fresh and bright, others had nuttier and caramel notes. Some were tart, some were a little sweet, and some were even a bit sour. Ultimately, the crowd's two favorites (determined by totaling up everyone's rankings), turned out to be the 2012 Schramsberg Rosé and the 2007 J. Schram. A Schramsberg sweep! Honorable mentions went to Roederer Estate's non-vintage Brut Rosé, and a $10.99 ringer from Trader Joe's: Blason de Bourgogne non-vintage La Réserve Brut Rosé. Not exactly a fair fight in terms of pricing, but it was reassuring to see you do get more for your money when it comes to pink bubbly.

The next round was a rainbow collection of five still rosés. The lightest one was practically clear with a touch of rose gold, and the darkest was a bright red plum. Dan explained that even though all rosés come from red grapes, some are made from grapes grown and picked specifically to make rosé, and others are made by "bleeding" off a bit of the juice from grapes intended to make red wine (the saignée method). The saignée style almost always has riper red fruit flavors, lower acid and a fuller body, while the dedicated rosés tend to be lighter-bodied with higher acid and more citrus notes.

"Concentration comes out of a combination of confidence and hunger." - Arnold Palmer

"Concentration comes out of a combination of confidence and hunger." - Arnold Palmer

Thus informed, we tasted through the wines and realized we had a battle on our hands. On one side we had the acid freaks, who loved the crisp, light wines with citrus and herb aromas; on the other we had the lushes, who favored the wines with voluptuous ripe fruit and cuddle-worthy textures. (We like to use this kind of technical jargon at Verve HQ whenever possible.) These opposite tastes basically canceled each other out and made aggregate rankings useless. The one wine both groups enjoyed, however, was the 2015 Miraval Côtes de Provence— yep, Brangelina's wine— which struck an acceptable compromise between the two warring tribes. We'll be sending some to Congress this week.

Our lineup also had some great discoveries for people on each side of the divide. Acid freaks raved about the 2015 Bedrock Wine Co. "Ode to Lulu," a lovely Mourvèdre rosé crafted as an homage to Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier (possibly the most famous Provençal producer in America). Lushes swooned over the richly colored 2015 Tamber Bey Rosé, a blend of four classic Bordeaux varieties made just up the road in Calistoga. Luckily, we had Barry and Jennifer Waitte there to give us the secret, off-the-label breakdown: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 19% Petit Verdot, and 11% Merlot.

Necessary tasting provisions: the "Before" shot

Necessary tasting provisions: the "Before" shot

At the end of the day—despite several of us getting schooled on our dead-wrong predictions of what such and such wine probably was— everybody walked away happy. Because blind tasting reminds us that the best wine in a lineup is always the one you like the best. Cheers!

How to Taste Like a Pro, In Six S’s

Tasting wine is super simple, as long as you remember your six S's:

SWIRL the wine in the glass, looking at the viscosity, clarity, color, and brilliance of the wine (they vary quite a bit). To swirl, rotate your wrist and hold the rest of your arm still. The swirling action releases the wine's aromas and gets them circulating where you can smell them.

Stick as much of your nose into the glass as you can, and SNIFF deeply (looks silly, but works wonders). Most of the “flavor” we perceive with our mouths actually comes through our sense of smell. Swirl the wine again. Take another sniff, and try to identify any familiar smells. Swirl-sniff again if you’d like, but give your nose a few seconds off to rest between each round.

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SIP a small amount of the wine, and roll it over your tongue a few seconds. Focus on the difference in texture and sensation.

SWISH the wine around inside your mouth to activate all your taste buds. Notice where you feel sensations of sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and the dry grip of tannin.

SWALLOW the wine. (At last!) Breathe out through your nose as you swallow, so your taste buds and sense of smell can work together. Notice how long you can “taste” the wine after you’ve swallowed it—the finest wines tend to have the longest finish. Repeat S’s #1-5 again, a second time.

SPIT your subsequent sips into the spit bucket provided by the winery. Seriously. Most people (and all industry professionals) swallow at most one or two sips of each wine to get a sense of it, and then spit out the rest after the swishing step. It’s the only way to make it through multiple tastings with your senses intact. Trust us! (Another pro tip: don’t try for a three-pointer with your spitting. Get close to the bucket.)

A Word from Miss Manners:

Some wine courtesy dos and don'ts

DO: Feel free to ask questions, or for tasting notes about the wines you’re tasting.

DON’T: Be afraid to spit, even if you like the wine! That’s the way the pros do it and no one will be offended.

DO: Keep your voice at normal volume levels while you’re in a public tasting room. No matter how awesome the wine is.

DON’T: Be afraid to tell the tasting room attendant what you like and don’t like about the wines. They can help you identify the characteristics you do/don’t like, and give you suggestions on wines you might like in future.

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DO: Remember that cell service in a lot of wine country is spotty, thanks to all the caves and mountains. Make a plan in advance with people you want to rendez-vous with, and let them know you’re not consistently reachable.

DON’T: Bury your face in a screen (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc) during winery visits. You’ll miss out on the beauty of your present moment, and give your hosts the impression you’re bored and not enjoying your visit.

DO: Take lots of pictures and videos of our gorgeous wine country!

DON’T: Take pictures or videos of people you don’t know... unless they’ve told you it’s ok first.

DO: Have fun and enjoy yourself tasting.

DON’T: Take it too seriously!

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Wine Tasting Survival Guide

Our Verve crew has done a LOT of wine tasting over the years, and seen every rookie error there is. Here are the basics you need to know to make it through your day intact!

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  • Eat a real breakfast. Lining your stomach with something substantial is key to holding it together past your first tasting appointment. We'll have tasty snacks on board for you to enjoy throughout the day, but you really don’t want to get started with your tank at empty.
  • Don’t go crazy. Limit the total number of wineries you plan to visit in a single day. Palate fatigue is a real thing, even if you’re spitting out all your tasting pours. The more wines you taste, the less able you are to notice the distinct differences between wines (what wine tasting is all about).
  • Stay hydrated! Did you know the French recommend drinking two glasses of water for every glass of wine you consume? We’ll ply you with water every chance we get—so please drink it!
  • Skip the Scents. Wine tasting is actually more about your sense of smell than your sense of taste. To help your nose get the job done (and to help others’ noses do the same) please don’t wear perfume, cologne, or heavily scented body lotion while tasting wine.
  • Bring Layers. Wine country is definitely a sunny place most of the time, but we’re taking you down into temperature-controlled caves, tunnels, and barrel rooms that average a brisk 53 degrees. Dress in layered clothing you can easily put on and take off, and make sure you bring a sweater or light coat for evening no matter what season you’re visiting. Napa Valley gets chilly in the evening, and it happens fast.
  • Stay Shaded. We’re also going to be out and about in the sunshine, so bring a hat and sunscreen for your vineyard walks, outdoor picnics, etc. We'll have some items on board for you to use if you forget, but no promises on color coordination with your outfit.
  • Keep Feet Happy. Even if you’re not doing a walking tour or outdoor sports, wear a pair of comfy walking shoes instead of those adorable heels—you never know when you might need to cross a lawn, climb chateau stairs, or step through a winery’s production room.
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Five Wine Words To Know For Your Next Trip to Wine Country

AVA: An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is an official, U.S. government-designated wine grape-growing area that has distinctive soil, climate, and geographic features from neighboring areas. Napa Valley is the name of the biggest and oldest AVA within Napa County. It was the first AVA to be established in the state of California, and the second in the country. Napa Valley has 16 sub-AVAs that nest within it.

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Sabrage: The art of opening a bottle of sparkling wine with a saber! Legend has it that Napoleon's cavalrymen developed the technique so they could break into the Champagne at a full gallop (holding the reins in the same hand as the bottle). Let Verve teach you how… minus the galloping horse.

Sparkling Wine: The proper name to use for all bubbly wines that aren't from the Champagne region of France. All Champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagnes!

Terroir: (pronounced tair-WAHr) A word we borrowed from French that refers to the site-specific environmental conditions (especially soil and climate) of the particular place the grapes are grown. Terroir is thought to provide a distinctive character to the grapes—certain flavors, aromas, textures, etc.—that's consistent year over year.

Varietal: A varietal is a type of grape (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir), and a varietal wine is wine made primarily from a single specified grape variety. Varietal wines typically have the name of the key varietal listed on the front of the wine label. If there's more than one varietal named on the label, it's not a varietal wine—it's a blend.

Straight from T

Straight from T

Verve's founder and curator-in-chief, T Beller, has been shaking things up in Wine Country as a connector and community leader for more than 20 years. Her artistic flair and legendary Southern hospitality are the soul of our company, evident in every experience we create.

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Staff Research Day

Staff Research Day

We periodically head out into Wine Country to visit our favorite inns and hotels, wineries, restaurants, and other partner organizations. These excursions have proved invaluable to the Verve team as we curate one-of-a-kind itineraries for our guests, and refer dozens of folks to our partners on a daily basis.

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