3 Lip-Smacking Rosé Wines, 3 Different Styles

People are rosé crazy right now. Sales have been brisk for some time but, with the heat over the past few months, bottles are flying off shelves. And it doesn’t hurt that rosé wines also play into two other, popular trends: less new oak and lower alcohol.

With the current excitement, I see many people referring to rosé as if it were a varietal wine. It’s not. It’s a style of wine.

Rosé wines can be made from any red grapes—and can include white wine grapes as well. There are also three very different ways of producing rosé (direct press, Saignée and blending). Those three methods could also, in theory, all be used to make one wine.

Below are three rosé wines I’ve enjoyed recently. Each uses different grape varieties and different production techniques.

[BTW, If you enjoy your rosé cold, you may enjoy this recent article of mine, 5 Ways to Chill Wine Fast.]

Notes on three rosé wines

2016 Red Car Rosé of Pinot Noir, North Coast AVA 91 12.9% 750ml $21

Red Car rosé is a perennial favorite in the Bay Area. It’s always light, crisp, affordable and food-friendly, but interesting as well. The 2016 vintage does not disappoint.

2016 Red Car Rosé winesThis rosé is pale salmon in color with a tasteful nose of tart strawberries, cherry, mineral, tangerine pith and guava. In the mouth, it has medium body with a touch of chalky texture and is refreshingly juicy. The flavors are very similar to the nose, but also include a sprinkling of savory herb. The wine finishes with saline minerality.

Red Car makes their rosé wines in a style called “vin gris,” which is a variant of the direct press method. The grapes are grown just for rosé and harvested at lower ripeness than they typically would be for a red wine. The winemaking style is then as it would be for a white wine. The grapes are immediately pressed and the juice doesn’t spend any time on the grape solids.

Red Car rosé is made entirely from Pinot Noir. 60% of the fruit is from the true Sonoma Coast and 40% from Mendocino Ridge. Both are cool climate growing areas which can produce complex Pinot Noir that tastes of more than just fruit. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, then aged for three months in neutral oak barrels.

These articles include additional tasting notes on Red Car wines

9 Reasons to Attend the 2018 Sonoma County Barrel Auction & My 2017 Favorites (May, 2017)

In Pursuit of Balance, The Final Tasting: Thoughts and Wines (Dec. 2016)


2016 Halter Ranch Rosé Paso Robles  89 13.2% 750ml $24

Attractive in the glass—light salmon color tinged with orange—this rosé is good by itself, but is structured to excel with food. The nose offers strawberries and cream, melon, mineral and orange pith. The palate is dry with medium-plus body and light, chalky texture. Its gently juicy flavors include strawberry, tart peach, peach skin and mineral. Try it with salmon, pizza with arugula and prosciutto, or roasted chicken.

Halter Ranch rosé wines

The Halter Ranch Rosé is a Rhone-variety blend; Grenache (69%) and Mourvedre (16%) were treated in the “direct press” style. They were grown for rosé but, as opposed to the vin gris above, were pressed after the juice had a full day mingling with the grape solids. This provided more skin-derived character than the vin gris: more color, more structure and more intensity overall.

The remaining 15% of the wine came from white grapes. That grape, Picpoul Blanc (which means “lip-stinger” in French) contributes bright acidity. So this wine uses two different rosé techniques: direct press and the blending of white and red. To maintain freshness, all fermentation and aging were in stainless steel.

See more Halter Ranch reviews

2014 Halter Ranch Ancestor & 3 More New Releases (Dec. 2016)


2016 Grgich Hills Estate Rosé Napa Valley 90 13.1% 750ml $25

Grgich Hills Estate rosé winesA festive, light, coral red in the glass, this rosé is based primarily on Bordeaux varieties. It offers spicier and more robust fruit than many rosés. The nose is a mix of fruity (black raspberry, red currant and cherry) and savory (spicy leaves, earth and cheese rind) notes. The lightly textured palate has medium-plus body with intense and lingering flavors of black raspberry, blood orange, red currant, cherry and leafy spice that are balanced by juiciness. Try it with dark charcuterie (bressaolo, smoked duck breast, Spanish ham), duck confit, pork rillettes or ratatouille.

The blend is 45% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 8% Zinfandel, 6% Petit Verdot and 1% Gewurtztraminer. The wine was made in the Saignée style. The grapes were picked and crushed for red wines, but some juice was drained off the skins after only five hours or so to make the rosé. The remaining juices stayed with the grape solids to become robust red wines.

This is the first rosé Grgich Hills Estate has ever released. It’s a good one and I suspect it won’t be their last.

More articles on Grgich-Hills Estate

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay: Anniversary Releases & Some History (June 2017)

Two Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon & Four Other New Releases (Dec. 2016)

Vertical Tasting: Grgich-Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Selection (August, 2014)


Copyright Fred Swan 2017. Bottle/label shots courtesy of the respective wineries. All rights reserved.


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