It’s no secret that the best American wineries are producing red and white wines that can compete with the most prestigious European bottlings, but I wonder how many wine lovers know that the same is beginning to be true for rosés.
France, in particular, and especially Provence, produces the lion’s share of the best pink wines that I tasted for the International Wine Cellar’s annual coverage of rosé, which was hardly a surprise. But in the course of running run through nearly 400 rosés over the last few months I found that the U.S. competes very favorably with the best French versions and outperforms plenty of big names—at prices that are universally quite gentle. Finding elegant, lively rosés from California and Oregon has never been easier, and since most of these wines are just-released 2013s, now’s the time to jump on them. Note that all of the wines I’ve singled out for praise below were made by top producers of red wines in their respective regions: knowing who’s who is always the best way to increase your pink wine-buying odds.
LIOCO, one of California’s hottest new wineries, produces taut, nervy wines from vineyards in the cooler parts of the North Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains. Their 2013 Indica Rosé Mendocino County ($18), made from 100% carignan, offers a complex array of red fruit and floral qualities, displaying very good vivacity as well as depth. A sweet rose pastille note resonates on the finish, which is tightened by a bright, dusty mineral quality.
The Birichino 2013 Vin Gris Rosé California ($16), a lively blend of cinsault, grenache, mourvedre and rolle—a.k.a. vermentino–shows a pale onion skin color and incisive aromas and flavors of wild red berries, orange pith and white flowers, with an intense mineral overtone. Dry, steely and precise, it finishes with weightless strawberry and citrus qualities and zero excess fat.
Eric Sussman’s Radio-Coteau winery produces some of Sonoma’s most sought-after pinot noirs (and zinfandel and syrah as well) and his 2013 County Line Vineyards Rosé Elke Home Ranch Anderson Valley ($22) is among the best California pink wines. Pale orange in color, it leads off with vibrant mineral- and spice-accented aromas of citrus fruits and red berries. Distinctly dry and nervy, it offers lively tangerine and red berry flavors and a complicating touch of anise. Notes of talc and strawberry linger on the strikingly pure, long finish.
Banshee is a relatively new but already well-regarded producer of vibrant cool-climate pinots and their 2012 Banshee Rosé of Pinot Noir Sonoma County ($25) is a highly aromatic, fleshy pink wine that also shows excellent definition and finesse. Its aromas and flavors of black raspberry and cherry are complemented by licorice and spicecake nuances that carry through a chewy, clinging finish. This wine would make a great companion to charcuterie, roasted or grilled birds, or full-flavored cheeses.
Steve Edmunds has been making some of the New World’s most inspired Rhône-style blends for going on three decades now and he also has a soft spot for gamay. His Edmunds St. John 2013 Gamay Rosé Bone Jolly El Dorado County ($20) is a dead ringer for pink Beaujolais, with mineral-laced red berry and floral scents and a hint of blood orange adding an exotic touch. It’s silky, dry and seamless, with suave floral and red fruit qualities that carry through the finish. This wine is flat-out delicious all by itself as well as a great match for spicy grilled fish or poultry.
One of Oregon’s top winemakers, Tony Soter, crafts the Soter Vineyards 2013 North Valley Rosé Willamette Valley ($24) from 78% pinot noir, 20% chardonnay and 2% gewurztraminer. Highly perfumed red berry, rose and orange zest aromas boast excellent clarity along with a hint of white pepper that carries onto the palate. In the mouth, this rosé offers intense raspberry and blood orange flavors and a touch of honeysuckle. The tangy finish displays a palate-tingling spiciness, with firming notes of minerals and quinine.
Stoller Family Estate, another topnotch Oregon winery, produces consistently elegant, poised wines. Their 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé Dundee Hills ($20) exudes a fragrant, complex bouquet that evokes raspberry preserves, cherry and tangerine, with a a sexy floral accent providing lift. Silky and gently sweet, it offers juicy red fruit flavors and a dusty mineral component that contributes verve and clarity. The tangerine quality comes back strong on the finish, which leaves intense floral and white pepper notes behind.