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THURSDAY THORNS
11/12/2015
Rosé With Bubbles—The Best of Breed

By Stephen Eliot

Rosé has received more than its fair share of press lately and has been variously praised and dismissed by the wine writing crowd as being either a fresh new face on the serious wine scene or simple stuff whose sudden rise to fashion has more to do with novelty and price than with any inherent worth. We happen to like a good Rosé but see both views are a bit extreme, yet there is one version that is always welcome at our tables and that is the kind with bubbles. Methode Champenoise Rosés, whether from Champagne or more local climes, have always impressed us as being in a league of their own, and it is the rare still Rosé that comes even close to achieving the kind of complexity and richness found in the finer fizzy versions.

Good sparkling Rosé is made by one of two techniques, either by letting its red-grape component sit on the skins for extended maceration and accordingly gain color or, more often than not, by adding a bit of still red wine to the cepage before secondary fermentation. Regardless of method, the finished bottlings sport a sense of richness quite unlike their paler mates and can range in style from light, bright and fruity to heftier and more obviously vinous. While most can be sipped and easily enjoyed without food, they come into their own at the table, and are often our wines of choice when salmon, duck and foie gras grace the menu.

We have been tasting our ways through a considerable number of sparkling wines as the holidays grow near, and we cannot recall a time when there was so many good sparkling West Coast Rosés to be had.

We will never refuse a glass of pink bubbly from France, but we are once again struck, as we are with fine sparkling wines in general, at the remarkable combination of quality and value to be found closer to home, and following are a few recent favorites that speak volumes about those very virtues.

93 SCHRAMSBERG Brut Rosé North Coast 2012 $43.00
Fuller in body and richer than the winery’s lighter Querencia Rose bottling, this is a very different Rosé whose high percentage of Pinot Noir and youthful advantage have resulted in a tasty, deep, directly fruity, near perfectly bubbled bottling. With a slight tilt to lemony acidity, the wine has all the necessaries to be right at home in uses from a brisk, energetic aperitif to a mate alongside dishes like chicken breasts napped with savory cream sauces over the next several years.

92 ROEDERER ESTATE Brut Rosé Anderson Valley $29.00
While many sparkling Rosés emphasize vinosity and substance, Roederer versions have always aimed in a brighter, more buoyant direction, and this latest is no exception. It marries plenty of vigorous young, lightly cherry-like fruit with well-delineated yeast and consistently speaks clearly, but gracefully, to the Méthode Champenoise. Its fine and frothy mousse never lets up, and it is backed by cleansing acidity with just the slightest suggestion of Rosé's inherent grip. It manages to be both rich and infectiously lively at one and the same time, and it should keep famously.

92 J VINEYARDS Brut Rosé Russian River Valley $38.00
Finding a place at the lighter end of the Rosé spectrum and, in fact, a wine that could easily pass for a Blanc de Noirs, this lightly yeasty version fixes on energetic, slightly juicy, young fruit as its main motif. It is briskly balanced, but its ample acidity enlivens without ever once seeming sharp, and it is wholly free of the astringency that marks its more vinous mates.

89 GRUET Rosé American $17.00
Generous and very direct in juicy young fruit but never neglecting the toasty traits that its method of making should bring, this vigorous youngster hits all the right marks. It has the slight back-palate grip and vinosity that come with good Rosé but avoids the pitfall of excessive astringency and remains keyed on fruit right to the end. Sophistication and compelling depth may lie beyond its reach, but this is a noteworthy wine whose accuracy and achievement belie its modest price.

88 MUMM Brut Rosé Napa Valley $24.00
Over the years, Mumm has proved an especially steady performer with its pink sparkling wine, and this one falls right in step with its long line of successful predecessors. It is bright and engaging with but a subtle veneer of yeast to its buoyant strawberry-like aromas and flavors, and it stays on the dry side even while being a decidedly fruit-driven wine. It holds Rosé astringency to a barely evident minimum, and, if certain to please with a wide range of foods, it is equally appealing on its own.

88 SCHRAMSBERG MIRABELLE Brut Rosé California $29.00
Yet again a different direction for a Schramsberg Rosé, this wine comes with a peachy, fruity nose and lighter yeast imposition than its mates, and it is wonderfully easy to drink with its fruit in the lead and complex notes of fresh yeast coming up underneath. It offers a mouthful of mid-sized, creamy textured bubbles, and it follows on with friendly flavors and a clean and balanced finish that steers well wide of the evident tannins of other pink sparkling wines. It is a great party wine.


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