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.
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.
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.
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!