Saturday, July 4, 2009

Two American Rosés

I snapped the photo at right last September at J.K. Carriere's new, to-be-planted vineyard site in Oregon's Chehalem Mountain AVA. It's appropriate for two reasons. One, the weather in Chicago this 4th of July is not unlike the weather seen at right: cool and cloudy. Two, I'm celebrating America's birthday by writing about two dry American rosés from 2008.

"Oh, rosé," you say, contempt welling into your eyeballs, "that's soooo 2006." Kidding. You know that I know that you drink rosé whenever you damn well please. And I know that you know that I drink rosé all year long, except during the darkest winter. If you're reading this blog, you're down with rosé (probably).

American dry rosés often resemble their red counterparts by erring on the side of fruit. I like minerals. I like spice. I like taut acidity. I like fruit, too, but I don't want it to muddle or obscure the other things that I like. Fortunately, I can find what I like.

J.K. Carriere Pinot Noir Glass 2008
Winemaker Jim Prosser sourced the grapes for this native-yeasted, barrel-fermented rosé from three organically or biodynamically farmed vineyards and says he "utiliz[es] lees addition and incorporat[es] Champagne methodologies from 100 years ago to strip color and broaden an earthy mid-palate, similar to a rosé Champagne from that era…without the bubbles."

I've never had a Champagne made prior to the mid-90s, so I can't directly confirm that, but I can tell you that this very pale and very, very dry rosé sings of sweet cherry, musk melon, grapefruit, and floral aromas in the mezzosoprano range. The acidity cuts a tin can like this and the palate shows soft minerals for days, while white pepper waltzes with demure cherry flavors on the long finish, which I totally dig. It's not particularly complex at this time, but it has the acid structure to go there. I have one bottle left, so we'll see...

Renaissance Rosé North Yuba 2008
Whereas J.K. Carriere produces 100% pinot noir rosé year after year from sourced grapes, Renaissance culls from their estate vineyard exclusively and is willing to radically change the composition from year to year. Whereas the 2007 rosé was based primarily on cabernet sauvignon, the 2008 (which, full disclosure, I received as a press sample) is 63% syrah and 37% cabernet sauvignon. But like the Carriere wine, this was vinified from organically-grown grapes, fermented with native yeasts (albeit in steel rather than barrel), and aged for a spell in oak — in this case, for 16 weeks in neutral German oak ovals.

This has the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher but not its characteristics. Instead, it's a food-worthy rosé that's dry and spicy, with aromas and flavors of dry grassland, cherry, cantaloupe, and pepper. It's structured, its robust acidity is refreshing even after the wine warms to room temperature, and the finish balances fruit and minerals over 30-plus seconds. It's good partner with pasta tossed with leek, onion, and garlic, and damn, I wish I had more of this. Alas, with 2008 being a year of disastrous frost, Renaissance could only summon 57 cases.


David McDuff said...

The Renaissance sounds delicious, Mike. If they're looking for anyone else to send press samples to, feel free to send them my way. Their wines, if available at all, are rather hard to find in the PA area market...

Wicker Parker said...

Yeah, they're not distributed in Illinois, either. I know their wines make it to NY and I think the Northwest but I'm not sure where else.

I admit I like the ageworthy, still-waters-run-deep quality that I often find in cool wine from regions with granitic soils, e.g. Muscadet, cru Beaujolais, and the northern Rhône, so it makes sense that I'd like the Renaissance wines, too, although they (reds and whites both) have a unique spiciness that's all their own.