Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé is Good Any Time of the Year

I got an email from Little Green Pickle, a PR firm in Portland, asking me if I wanted a sample of Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé. It’s “a beautiful and unique rosé the transcends the hype associated with pink wine.” I was like, did you see my VinePair article about drinking rosé beyond the pale?!?

I do not want to be the person cleaning this countertop. / Photo via Hazelfern Cellars

Calling a wine a “winter rosé” would be kind of risky if you were sitting on it…after winter. Or perhaps in the dead of summer something with the word “winter” would transport you to a cooling, snowy oasis. A counterpart to soul-crushing heat and humidity. (In all seriousness, most rosés, even the pale/watery ones benefit from some time in the bottle as they are shipped immediately and usually bottle-shocked. I’ve no doubt this rosé would survive, and perhaps thrive in winter 2019.)

I’ve even written (2012!) about drinking rosé in winter, specifically a richer/darker Bordeaux style called Clairet. Which I was apprehensive about.

How the pink wine pendulum swings.

Now I welcome a deeper color and hue. And just like pale rosé shouldn’t be pegged to a season, nor should heartier ones. The point, of course, with the Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé is to plant their flag during a dead season for pink wine, making a rosé with extra richness and texture. Since it sold out (they held a few bottles back for privileged scribes like myself), obviously they are having success. From a marketing perspective, I like it, too: “Dangit, we’re so gung-ho about rosé lets stick our necks out and call it ‘Winter Rosé.’ TAKE THAT, SUMMER WATER!”

How do they do it? Let’s look at the wine.

Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé 2017 ($24)

A blend of 95% Pinot Noir and 5% Barbera, this rosé spent 10 months in neutral French oak. The alcohol clocks in at 12.9%. The back label accurately touts its versatility with poultry, winter veggies, and roasted meats.

I like what the barrel-aging and extra skin-contact bring to the wine. It’s still refreshing. Most boring rosé is closer to bland white wine, leaving you wondering how it even came from red grapes in the first place (besides the color). The Hazelfern Cellars WR definitely has that savory, fruity Pinot Noir character.

If “winter [rosé] is coming,” bring on the deeper-colored, richer, more savory rosés. Keep the White Walkers, tho.

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Argentina Beyond Malbec: A Duo from Susana Balbo Wines

I was offered sample bottles from Susana Balbo Wines in Argentina and while perusing the list a couple caught my eye. One thing I don’t want to see happen to the country as far as its wines is for it to be pegged as full of Malbec, more Malbec, and nothing but Malbec.

Don’t get me wrong. Malbec from Argentina is some of the best bang-for-the-buck red wine out there. But just as Australia cannot be defined by Shiraz alone, this South American country can spread its wine wings and fly.

So let’s look at a couple slightly heavy (not a fan of weighty packaging) but lovely bottles.

Susana Balbo Wines: Beyond Malbec Category

2017 Susana Balbo Signature Brioso White Blend Valle de Uco ($24)

 

Wow, this is one of the most impressive white wines I’ve had from Argentina. The Brioso is a blend of 45% Semillón, 30% Torrontés, and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. Reminds me a lot of a white Bordeaux, but that floral Torrontés moves it into a more pleasantly perfumed category. Has a definite pear-ness on the finish. A perfect medium-bodied wine.

And, yes, Brioso has some oak to it. (Praise.) Four months total time in wood. Of the barrels, 60% are new and 40% are seeing their second use. The former gives you some pleasant oak notes, the latter a more mellow, textural impact.

2018 Susana Balbo Signature Rosé Valle de Uco ($20)

Argentina Beyond Malbec: A Duo from Susana Balbo Wines

Ok, I sorta lied-ish with the title of my post. This rosé is a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Pinot Noir. A most unusual mix! Though I found the Pinot Noir to really come through, surprisingly not dominated by Malbec. I’d probably call this a PN rosé if someone made me guess the grape(s) blind. It also shows that Malbec doesn’t have to be an inky-coating blob monster red. It can play a large, yet elegant, role in a rosé.

So the next time you are perusing a wine list or at a retail shop and the Argentina section is all Malbec, make these two points:

  1. Yay for promoting wines from Argentina!
  2. BOO for only having Malbec! (A respectful, lowercase “boo.”)

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Hungarian Rosé Six Pack is All I Want, Forever

I was introduced to the Dúzsi Tamás winery and its Hungarian rosé menagerie thanks to fellow Greenpoint resident and ace wine entrepreneur Athena Bochanis. (We were introduced by Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly fame. Thank you, MP!) Athena started a company called Palinkerie Fine Hungarian Imports in 2o13, forgoing a career as a lawyer. I’d say ’twas an outstanding decision. Not that Athena couldn’t be a lawyer of great renown. But the wine thing is really working out.

CASE IN POINT: I attended a Palenkerie portfolio tasting, at the Hungarian embassy no less! Athena was showing not one not two but six (!!!!!!) Dúzsi Tamás single-variety rosés. Or, rather, rozés. Winemaker Tamás Dúzsi actually makes eight single variety rosés, of which Athena imports seven. Tamás also crafts three rosé blends that are not imported. A la This is Spinal Tap, it’s a lineup of Hungarian rosé that goes to 11.

Even better? You can buy these rosés in a six-pack. Whatever holiday wine list you have, PUT THIS AT THE TOP. STEP ASIDE, EVERYTHING ELSE.

You get one bottle each of Hungarian rosé made from:

  • Kadarka
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Shiraz
  • Pinot Noir

Look at this dang thing. Aren’t you in love? You’ve probably heard of all the grapes above except for numero uno, Kadarka, which is an indigenous grape. I’m partial to the Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, but those are grapes I love as red wines so no surprise there.
Hungarian Rosé Six Pack is All I Want, Forever

Go Forth and Explore Hungarian Rosé

If you can’t get this sweet box I recommend tracking down more than one bottle of these rosés to compare and contrast. This is a really cool learning experience. Each rosé has a different color, intensity, aroma, and flavor. Also it would make for an amazing tasting (aka drinking) party, preferably not full of navel-gazing, serial Zalto swirlers.

Athena was kind enough to put me in touch with Tamás Jr who along with his brother Bence, helps out in the cellar. Here’s what he had to say about these rozés:

Actually we wanted to try all of our red grape varieties in rosés, and we did it over the years. After that we have chosen among them the 6 best varieties beside the Kékfrankos to produce the first selection rosés in 2007. We specialize in rosé wines and wanted to show that rosé wines can be as great as great reds and whites, and that they can also be terroir products. They show the pure varietal notes of a certain grape variety without tannnis as it would be in reds.

The selection box allows people (and also us :)) to taste these single vineyard, single variety rosés in different vintages. It is always a good experience. As these rosés are ageable, we can even taste the different selection rosés from the different vintages to compare them to each other. Actually they develop with time, many of them showing late harvest notes in the nose, and ripe fruits.

Ok, you have your marching orders. Make the rest of this year, and from 2019 to eternity, all about the rozé.

For more on Athena, read this profile on SevenFifty Daily.

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Greek Rosé Time

When I visit a new wineshop I always try and buy something new to me. It’s a way to get a feel for the buyer and what they are into. So I pushed aside my penchant to buy a pale rosé and stepped up to by a bottle with a deeper pink shade from Domaine Zafeirakis in Greece. [Thanks to the folks at wino(t) in Crown Heights for carrying it.]

The beautiful vineyards of Domaine Zafeirakis. {Image from the winery website.}

Domaine Zafeirakis 2017 Limniona Rosé Wine of Tyrnavos ($17)

If you asked me if I was familiar with the Greek indigenous red grape Limniona, I would say, “Hell, no.”  I would have a similar reply if queried about the wine region of Trynavos, which I now know is in the center of the country and not too far from the Aegean Sea. Honestly, most of my Greek wine knowledge is Assyrtiko from Santorini. So this rosé from Domaine Zafeirakis is a delicious education in a bottle.

Greek Rosé Time

My wall, my bike, my wine.

As stated earlier, buying this wine is also a conscious effort to explore the darker side of rosé. As you can tell by the color, there’s gonna be some body in this bottle. A kind of “red wine drinkers rosé.” It’s substantial and savory. Not just the most unique rosé I’ve had all year, but probably the best, too.

So the next time you’re in a wine shop, resist the temptation to reach for something familiar. Pick out a bottle made from an unfamiliar grape, region, and/or style. If you’re not keen on making your own selection, speak up. Have your friendly wine shop pro pick out something that’s new to you. As a bonus, you might get a little grape and geography lesson like I did.

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Domaine Tempier Rosé 2017 is a Legendary Bottle

Much time has passed since I last had one of the world’s most iconic wines. It’s not just legendary, but vital year after year. I’m talking about the Domaine Tempier Rosé. Yesterday I enjoyed a bottle as it is best enjoyed (outside of southern France, at least): with a friend over a great, leisurely lunch.

Since I apparently can’t stop writing about rosé, I’m going to soldier on until I have scoured the earth for all the unique bottles of dry pink wine I can find. The 2017 Domaine Tempier Rosé has the extra richness you’d expect from a Bandol along with some more pronounced and delightful aromas than your average bland-o pink wine.

It’s a blend of 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 20% Cinsault. I would say it’s the Mourvèdre that really pulls its weight in the flavor and scent departments.

Also a huge shout-out to Scampi. It’s an outstanding restaurant, perfect for lunch. Especially when you roll in at 2pm and it’s nice and quiet and you can sit at the bar with a friend. And speaking of friends, I’m lucky to have a good buddy of mine who I worked with at Bottlehouse in Seattle on the staff.

If you are in NYC for restaurant week, you get two courses here for $26. The food was outstanding.

Salad with savoy cabbage (shaved raw), ricotta salata, almonds, tomato, olives:

Domaine Tempier Rosé 2017 is a Legendary Bottle

Branzino with (amazing) cippolini onions, broccoli rabe, chilies:

Domaine Tempier Rosé 2017 is a Legendary Bottle

Of course there was dessert. Perfectly jiggly panna cotta with vanilla custard, peaches, pine nuts, raspberry & peach granita:

Domaine Tempier Rosé 2017 is a Legendary Bottle

Finally, two tiny, perfectly crisp cannoli with chocolate chip ricotta cream. How about the beautiful plate they came on?

Domaine Tempier Rosé 2017 is a Legendary Bottle

So if you can’t drink it at the domaine, Scampi on a quiet afternoon is a dang fantastic substitute. We were even joined at the bar by someone very much a Manhattanite, noting nothing would compel her to go to Brooklyn now that she didn’t have a car. (Cabs and subways are, apparently, not an option.) She stepped out often for two puffs on her cigarette. I could have listened to her all day long, and wish I would have spoken to her more than I did. No doubt she has a ton of New York stories.

Domaine Tempier Rosé 2017 is a Legendary Bottle

Domaine Tempier photo from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant website.

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Liquid Geography Rosé is a Feel-Good Wine

I’ve been a fan of a small region in Northwest Spain for quite a while: Bierzo. (I first wrote about the region, albeit quite briefly, in 2005!) The main grape you’ll find there, Mencía, makes great red wines. Now I’m delighted to get into some pink examples. Liquid Geography rosé is the most recent bottle I’ve had. It’s brought to the US by Olé Imports.

The vines that go into this 100% Mencía rosé were planted in 1963, some serious old-vine material. It’s got no oak and sports an easygoing 12.5% alcohol.

Beyond the wine inside, it’s what happens when you buy a bottle of Liquid Geography rosé that makes it special. 100% of the wine’s profits go to charity. The three beneficiaries:

Liquid Geography Rosé is a Feel-Good Wine

Great wine and great causes, what’s not to love? Wine-searcher has the average price for the 2017 vintage as $11. So I’d add “great price” to the prior sentence as well.

I was joking in my newsletter (why not subscribe?) that I was going to write about rosé for a week after having three of the last four posts here about pink wine. If you missed them:

Why are Rosé Bottles Crazy with Shapes and Packaging?

Provence Rosé Podcast

Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé is Pinot Noir Pleasure

That lasted a day. So as the kids like to say, #sorrynotsorry.

All images via Olé Imports.

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Provence Rosé Podcast

Living that lavender lovin’ life. That’s what drinking Provence rosé should be all about. A chilled glass transports you to a specific time and place. It’s the “Calgon, Take Me Away” of wine.

Wow, the beginning of this commercial is very intense. And, conversely, the calming properties of a bath with Calgon are prodigious. Also, “Calgon” sounds more like a sci-fi alien overlord or planet than a scented bubble bath product.

On the latest episode of the What We’re Tasting podcast, I speak with Roger Voss about Provence rosé. While there’s a lot of boring plonk out there, we focus on three wines that make the case for a diverse region full of different blends, terrains, and styles.

Burning questions about Provence rosé: Can it age? Aspire to heights of great red wine? What about using oak? Best food pairings? Is it seasonal? What’s up with the crazy bottle shapes?

Also discussed: yachts, shopping cart snooping, and scary mountains.

Please enjoy:

And now, here it is. Your moment of Provence:

Photo by leniners via Flickr.

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Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé is Pinot Noir Pleasure

I constantly drink pink wine. But most of those bottles are blends, particularly in the style of Provence. Lots of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah,Mourvèdre, and/or Cinsault in various percentages. (And other grapes, too.) But I want to focus on Pinot Noir and particularly the Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé. The winery sent me a sample bottle along with a few other current releases.

2017 Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25)

This Sonoma winery makes its rosé from 100% Pinot Noir, sourcing it from the prestigious Russian River Valley region. Something about Pinot Noir rosé I find striking in very good examples (like from Sancerre or Burgundy) is that have a…well…how to say this?

This is going to sound really dumb.

OK, I’m going for it.

Great Pinot Noir rosé has a lovely…Pinot Noir-ness to it. Whew. Ok, I said that and the world didn’t stop turning.

My point is that a lot of nondescript rosé, particularly from Provence, it doesn’t smell or taste like much. Though, truth be told, I drink a hell of a lot of rosé like this. Falling on my corkscrew for you here on this blog.

It’s really nice to stick your nose into a wine glass, or in my case a juice glass/rando Fernet short (not shot) glass/enamel tumbler, and get some nice whiffs of classic, pretty, elegant Pinot Noir. Extremely pleasant.

2016 Rodney Strong Vineyards Upshot Red Wine Blend ($28)

I’d also like to call attention to the rosé label. It’s a departure from the old-fashioned ones you find on other bottles from the winery. Shifting wine gears, if you are a red blend fan and want to see a very modern, unique, and informative label check out Rodney Strong Vineyards Upshot. Ok, I’ll just post it here. It’s a Zin-based mix with Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and even 3% Riesling (!) invited to the party. I drank it at a Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) lunch. Don’t worry, it’s not sweet. (Also, there is a ton of dry Riesling out there, even from Germany. Sorry, getting distracted.)

Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé is Pinot Noir Pleasure

So while rosé blends are great, it’s really fun to drink one made 100% from a single grape. And then think about the red wines you’ve had from that grape and how much you get a sense of it from the pink stuff. (Cabernet Franc is another grape I find very interesting in both rosé and red form.) And by all means, keep on drinking those rosés made from a unique, thoughtful hodgepodge of grapes. Just keep slaking your thirst with rosé, period, forever.

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Do You Drink Rosé Wine Beyond The Pale?

I’m probably as guilty as anyone when it comes to my rosé wine selection. I gravitate towards the ballet-slipper pink, classic pale Provençal style widely popular, and imitated, all over the world.

While I applaud this astonishing success story, I urge you to explore the full spectrum of colors and flavors when it comes to rosé wine.

So when writing my first story for Vine Pair, I spoke with three retail pros, an importer, a somm, a winemaker, and an author to understand why people are reticent to try a variety of rosé styles. Find out what they had to say:

For Rosé Drinkers, Is It Pale Pink or Nothing?

Photo by Emrys Horton via Flickr.

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Seven Hills Winery Rosé Makes Cabernet Franc The Star

I am a huge fan of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. Many bottles are in my Hall of Fame, including one that’s probably in my Top Ten reds, ever. It’s a rising star on another continent, in a different guise, and what might seem a surprising state. Yes, Washington. Enter the Seven Hills Winery Rosé.

Recently I was invited to lunch with Casey McClellan. He holds the dual titles of winemaker and founder at Seven Hills Winery. We started with a white and progressed on to a flight of reds, but I have to admit I was most excited about the rosé.

2017 Seven Hills Winery Rosé

Mostly Cab Franc, with a touch of Petit Verdot and Malbec, this rosé has the flavors I adore in Cabernet Franc. Specifically, herbal notes, a little bit of olive, a certain savory quality. This wine has a distinct Cabernet “Franc-ness” that sometimes can be muted in a rosé, or certainly not as prominent as in a red wine.

(If you want to compare Cabernet Franc rosés from Washington, Sleight of Hand Cellars and Trust Cellars also make them. Look for the 2017s.)

During that lunch at Union Square Cafe, a serendipitous food and wine pairing happened. The (pictured) salad of cara cara oranges, fennel, pine nuts, and ricotta salata was not just stunning to look at and to eat. It was also about as ideal of a match you can get with a wine.

Seven Hills Winery Rosé Makes Cabernet Franc The Star

I also enjoyed the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, which has a dollop of Sémillon for richness and roundness. It’s also, interestingly enough, partially aged in oak barrels with acacia wood tops and bottoms. The 2016 Walla Walla Valley and the 2014 Seven Hills Vineyard were a Merlot duo worthy of praise. The combination of Seven Hills, McClellan, and Washington is a hallmark for this grape. Finally, we took a quick trip to Red Mountain to enjoy the robust 2014 Ciel du Cheval.

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