Watch Tricia’s Rosé Tasting Reviews
Dry rosé wines are produced all around the world in many wine regions using countless varieties of red grapes. Rosé wines have been the fastest growing category of wine consumed in the last few years. Rosé wine brands in the USA are growing rapidly.
What is not to like? Savoring the flavors and aromas of red grapes in a chilled glass on a beautiful patio is my idea of a great happy hour.
And these are not your Grandmother’s White Zinfandels!
The most well-known rosé wine brands come from Provence in the South of France. Provence rosé history goes back to Roman occupation of the region in the days of Julius Caesar. Some of the wines were called “claret” for being such a clear red/pink color.
In the 19th century tourists started to flock to the Cote d’Azur to go swimming in the Mediterranean sea on those beautiful beaches and would relax afterwards with a chilled glass of rosé. These local wines became a symbol of glamour, leisure, and summer.
But, rosé is now a year-round wine and pairs so well with many foods ranging from light cheeses and seafood to grilled meats. And, it hails from many winemaking regions of the globe.
Wines like Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel is an example against which many people measure the rosé wine brands. Whispering Angel is the #1 selling imported wine from France with a production of 3.2M bottles annually. It is probably the greatest wine brand to come out of France in 20 years. The pale color comes from just a touch of red grape skin contact.
Whispering Angel is made from the grapes of Rolle (Vermentino) along with Grenache and Cinsault, all well-known grapes in the South of France. Since Rolle (or Vermentino) is a white grapes this rosé can also be classified as being a blend of red and white grapes. The Rolle give Whispering Angel a nice touch of floral pizazz. Whispering Angel has an even more expensive, prestigious sister, Garrus. This wine is made of Grenache grapes and then is aged 12 months in French oak barrels. It is an ultra-premium wine selling for $100, and may be the most expensive dry rosé in the world.
USA Rosé Wine Brands
The USA is making world-class rosé wines now, too. USA winemaking is distinctive in the fact that each of the wine regions has the freedom to make the rosé wine they prefer. They also can select the combination of any grapes they want to use. The “Old World” winemaking in Europe does not always have this choice, as laws regulating the best wine regions are explicit in the style and blend required. We make wines in the US by any of the “The 4 Ways to Make Rosé Wine.” See Below.
I requested rosé wine brands from some of my favorite wineries across California, Texas, Oregon, Washington State, and New York. These represent 5 of the top 6 states for winemaking and grape growing in the USA. I received 10 very special bottles.
Let’s explore what the USA can do compared to the typical French rosé. For the tasting, I’ll start with the lightest in color and end with the darkest, most extracted and richly-colored rosé wines, but I describe the wines by region and state.
Washington State Rosés
You may remember Kyle MacLachlan as the dentist next door in the television show “Desperate Housewives” among his many acting accomplishments. He also owns the winery, Pursued by Bear, located in the Columbia Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) of Washington State.
This rosé, Blushing Bear, is similar to a Provence-style rosé. It has the same pale pink color as Whispering Angel yet the grapes are grown in Columbia Valley, Washington. And, the wine is made with the “Direct Press” method. The grape blend consists of 50% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, and 20% Cinsault. Nectarine and pink grapefruit come through distinctly in both aroma and flavor. This is a really well-made wine that retails for $30, and was recently highly rated at 90-point by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
When traveling to Washington State near Seattle, try to visit the town of Woodinville that features 130 tasting rooms and wine bars. This town is located a convenient 26 miles from Seattle and offers an opportunity to sample many Washington wines made in far-flung areas of the state without extensive travel required.
American Viticultural Area’s or AVA’s are scattered throughout the state of Texas. Note that 85% of the grapes grown in Texas are grown in the High Plains AVA near Lubbock, Texas, an optimal area for wine grape growing. The Llano Estacado plateau’s altitude ranges from 3300 to 3700 feet covering about 8 Million acres. Sunlight prevails during the day at this elevation, promoting very efficient photosynthesis. This elevation allows the grapes to rest and cool off better at night than other areas of Texas. The dry conditions prevent fungal disease, which is always a viticultural issue in virtually every winery appellation and AVA in the world.
A Tex-Med (Texas-Mediterranean) grape selection strategy has evolved in the last 20 years in Texas. Texas viticulturists have discovered that traditional Mediterranean grapes originating from Southern France, Italy, and Spain, for instance, do well in the Texas climate.
Brennan Winery is located in Comanche in central Texas. While visiting this winery I have been impressed with the incredible awards they have amassed for many of their wines. Brennan’s very broad portfolio consists of whites, reds, and rosé wine styles. Brennan is part of the consortia of 5 wineries called Texas Fine Wine, from which come some of the most celebrated Texas wines.
Brennan’s rosé is made from 85% Mourvedre grapes, a grape most typically grown in Southern France, and 15% Muscat of Alexandra grapes, which together give the rosé its wonderful floral aroma. Granny Smith apples and the floral/rose notes dominate this rosé’s aroma and flavor. This wine retails for $20, and I’ve given it my personal endorsement.
The brother and sister team of Julie and David Kuhlken craft award-winning wines. Pedernales Cellars is considered among the Top 10 wineries in the state of Texas, and is located in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg and Austin. It is a great place to go to sample a rosé on their wide patio. The Pedernales rosé is made from tradition Provence grapes that also grow well in Texas: 67% Cinsault, 28% Mourvedre, and 5% Carignan. Strawberries, candied watermelon, red apples, and cherry aromas dominate this wine made by the both the Saignée and Direct Press methods. I love this wine, and have enjoyed Pedernales rosé over several recent vintages.
Duchman Family Winery is recognized for making Italian varietal wines in Texas, and this rosé is no exception. Duchman is also one of the prettiest Texas wineries for staging weddings and special events. It is located in Driftwood, Texas, just 31 miles from Austin.
The Duchman rosé is made from 100% Aglianico grapes – a grape which traditionally comes from the Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy.
I adore this rosé and give it high marks. It has spiced plum and cola aromas and flavors, which would pair wonderfully with the barbeque famous in the Texas Hill Country. At $18-20 retail this is a food-friendly, good value rosé wine.
Dr. Bob Young, owner at Bending Branch Winery and a physician, has one of the most technologically advanced wineries in the Texas Hill Country. He and his winemakers, Greg and Deb, have put together a 100% Tannat grape-based rosé wine brand. They make a dark, dense Tannat red wine, too. This grape flourishes in the Southwest of France, is common in Uruguay, but is also making a splash in Texas.
Bending Branch Winery’s 2018 Rosé retails for $24. Red grapefruit and tart peach are the predominant aromas in this highly-rated wine.
Visit Bending Branch, Duchman, and Pedernales on your next trip to the Texas Hill Country where rosé wine and barbeque are a perfect pairing.
Napa Valley, California Rosés
The Napa Valley is the USA’s most famous wine region. The billboard in front of the Robert Mondavi vineyards declares “Welcome to this world famous wine growing region – Napa Valley.” “And the wine is bottled poetry,” quotes Robert Lewis Stevenson, who spent his honeymoon in the Napa Valley. 3.85 million annual tourists see this sign as they travel north on Napa Valley’s busy Highway 29 seeking their next wine-tasting location.
Alpha Omega Winery has the perfect setting for wine tasting. The fountains near the outside tasting area offer a lovely venue to sit and watch the sun set over the Mayacamas Mountains on the Valley’s west side. In this picture co-owner Michelle Baggett sits sipping the Alpha Omega Reserve Rosé in front of their iconic fountains. Don’t miss a chance to taste Alpha Omega Winery’s wonderful reserve Chardonnay and highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon wines while you are there.
The Alpha Omega Reserve Rosé is made from a single vineyard red grape blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Malbec, and 2% Merlot grapes, giving this wine the signature aromas of bright cherries, strawberries, rose petals, and vanilla. It is made by the traditional Saignée method. Alpha Omega rosé has garnered my highest ratings and sells for $80. I have enjoyed the Alpha Omega Rosé wine brand over many vintages for many years.
Winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz is well known for crafting the Ehlers rosé wine. The beautiful Ehlers estate is located just down Highway 29 near St. Helena and near the Culinary Institute of America, a food and wine-lovers paradise, which just happens to have a very fine kitchen store to find cookbooks, kitchen utensils, and handcrafted chocolates.
The Ehlers Estate has been crafting dry rosé for longer than most wineries in the Napa Valley. This rosé is a blend of Napa Valley red grape varietals including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. The wine retails for $36 – a bargain for the quality of this wine. It is their estate “Sylviane” rosé scented with aromas of my childhood including strawberry jam and vanilla. Ehlers Estate remains one of my favorite rosé wine brands over the last decade.
Winemaker Elizabeth Vianna sent me this bottle of rosé because she knows that I’m a big fan of her winemaking styles. Chimney Rock Winery is located in Napa Valley on the Silverado Trail in the Stags Leap AVA, one of the most prestigious AVA’s in Napa Valley. Her “Elevage Rosé” is a red grape blend of 67% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Cabernet Franc grape varietals. This wine retails for $42, but is worth every penny in my books. Strawberries, cherries and white peach with floral notes make this wine exceptional.
Stop by Chimney Rock and also try their “Elevage White,” another unique blend of white grape varietals, and their fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Red Blends as well. This might rank as one of my favorite wineries to visit for a thorough tasting of the best that Napa Valley offers.
Sonoma County, California Rosés
Viansa Winery, Sonoma County, is located in Carneros near the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife refuge. They are known for putting on beautiful weddings in their Tuscany-like setting. The Carneros AVA interestingly spans the southern end of both Napa Valley and Sonoma Counties. The Carneros AVA has the advantage of sun protection in the morning, as the fog from San Pablo Bay shelters the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes most commonly grown in Carneros.
Viansa Winery rosé wine brand is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. The strawberry and raspberry flavors just jump out of the glass! Rose petal overtones make this a beautiful rosé to whiff year-round. The wine, which I highly recommend, retails for $22.
New York State Rosés
The Finger Lakes country in upstate New York near Ithaca is one of the oldest American wine regions. This area is well known for their Riesling white wine, and now is successful with rosé wine brands and even red wine blends. Even though this region is in a far North latitude of the USA, the lakes temper the climate and the warmth allows wine grapes to grow.
The Buttonwood Grove Winery rosé is produced by winemaker Dave Pittard, who crafts the wine from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes. This blend gives the wine the distinct aromas and flavors of strawberries with a floral hint. Wine Enthusiast rated this wine 89 Points. It sells for a very reasonable retail $14. I like this wine! It is a food-friendly rosé – one that can stand up to oriental and spicy foods or a salad with bold ingredients like beets, walnuts, and Feta cheese.
Another wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes comes from the beautiful Willamette Valley, an AVA in Oregon just south of Portland. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay dominate the grapes grown in the Willamette Valley vineyards. The Stoller Family Estate is one of the preeminent wineries of the region. Stoller was named USA Today’s “Best Tasting Room in America” in 2018. They offer a wide portfolio of wine choices in their modern tasting room. This rosé wine brand is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes and features the tastes and aromas of the local Rainier cherries and strawberries. The Stoller Family Estate rosé would pair well with a blue cheese, walnut, and strawberry salads. At $20 retail, this is a good value wine.
USA Premium rosé wine blends offer the quality France’s Provence wines, but offer a choice of style and intensity due to the innumerable grape varietals grown in the USA. I recommend that you select your favorite rosé wine brands and welcome the summer in style. Remember rosé is a great wine to drink year-round and could complement many courses on your Thanksgiving table this fall. Better yet, travel to one of these picturesque wineries, savor the scenery, and toast a well-made rosé. Cheers to enjoying a great USA rosé!
For Travel Information Contact:
Napa Valley Vintners Association
Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association
Willamette Valley Wineries Association