Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The New California Rosé


As the weather gets warm I start seeing things through Rosé-tinted bottles.

Apparently, I'm not alone. People are drinking more Rosés and every year the selection grows. But I'm picky. I just don't want Rosé made as an afterthought, usually from left-over grapes or left-over juice to generate extra revenues for the winery. No. I want Rosé from fruit intended for Rosé, and I want Rosé made by people who know how to make them.

After a careful search this spring, three California Rosé producers made my cut so far: LIOCO, Bedrock, and Arnot-Roberts.

In Mendocino's Redwood Valley LIOCO buy in grapes grown in benchland vineyards planted with head-pruned old vines that are dry-farmed (meaning no irrigation). The result is this juicy, flavorful Rosé called "Indica". It is made from "old-vine" Carignan planted "mid-century" according to LIOCO. The fruit was hand-harvested, sorted and then fermented in stainless steel tanks with wild yeasts. LIOCO's winemaker, John Raytek of Ceritas fame, proves that he knows how to craft real Rosé as well. The alcohol tops out at 12% and the price is just $19.

To avid fans of California wines made from old vines, Bedrock doesn't need any introduction. Morgan Twain-Peterson is one of the hottest young winemakers in California today specializing in California's heritage vineyards. The 2013 Bedrock California Rosé "Old Vine Ode to Lulu" is the latest example of Morgan's brilliant work. The blend consists almost entirely of Mourvedre--two-thirds from the 120 year-old Mourvedre vines in Bedrock Vineyard and one-fourth from Mourvedre planted in the Pagani Ranch in 1922. There is a tiny dollop of Grenache planted in the Gibson Ranch in McDowell Valley in the 1880s and Carignane from Ukiah planted in the 1950s. In other words, this Rosé is a treasure trove of priceless old vines in California. Alcohol is 12.3% and the price is just $20!

Arnot-Roberts works closely with a select group of small growers in Northern California farming vineyards in sites ideal for the grape varieties they grow. The grapes are grown and harvested to their preference, usually harvesting early for good acid balance and modest alcohol. Their 2013 Rosé, with fruit as usual sourced from Luchsinger Vineyard in Lake County, is made with Portuguese Douro grapes, mainly Touriga Nacional and a bit of Tinto Cao. These vines are planted in volcanic soils over ancient riverbed stones at 1,400 feet elevation in the Clear Lake AVA west of Kelseyville, California. Whole cluster grapes were foot treaded and the juice was macerated with skins for 24 hours then pressed into stainless steel tanks where it fermented in native yeasts. Alcohol is 11.5% and the price is a modest $26.

These three vibrant, manifold-flavored Rosés are as thirst-quenching and full of depth and flavor as any top European Rosé I've had, and are priced very reasonably.  But make sure you stock up on these California Rosés immediately as production and availability are very limited.


Mendocino County Rosé Wine "Indica", LIOCO 2013 $19.00 (order)


California Rosé "Old Vine Ode to Lulu", Bedrock Wine Co. 2013 $20.00 (order)


Clear Lake Rosé Touriga Nacional "Luchsinger Vineyard", Arnot-Roberts 2013 $26.00 (order)

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