I like dry, pink wine because it’s cool, crisp, and mostly honest. Ready within months of the vintage, it delivers the fresh flavor of the grape with little wait and no fuss.
There are those who would make a fuss over whether whole-cluster pressed rosé is more authentic, or more French than that made from the saignée method, which sounds a lot more honest when translated from the, er, French—it means the juice has been “bled” from a tank of crushed grapes. That’s why a lot of rosé is available in limited quantities—it’s basically a byproduct, but one with a respectable tradition. For me, Rhône grapes like Syrah and Grenache are particularly well suited to the task. But when life, or current trends in the wine market give you Pinot Noir, make rosé of Pinot Noir.
Red Car 2013 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25) Pressed whole cluster, aged in both stainless steel and neutral oak, it’s the palest blush of salmon pink. Lush nose of strawberry, pink rose, orange sherbet; maybe fresh sourdough. Dry and searingly acidic, it’s a tough customer on its own—maybe better with brunch fare—and I can’t help but wonder if it would be happier if it was sparkling and aged in the company of its dead yeast for several years. Still, quality stuff, and my top pick. 12.7 percent abv.
J Vineyards 2013 Russian River Valley Vin Gris ($20) Mostly saignée, pale hue, with strawberry candy and pink bubble gum aromas; ditto on the palate. Crisp, dry, with weight—maybe from the higher alcohol. Just imagine a cold slice of strawberry-flavored honeydew melon, there’s the gist. 14.3 percent abv.
Balletto 2013 Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir ($18) A blend of whole-cluster pressed and free run juice. Reticent aroma, like a strawberry daiquiri on the other side of the ice bar at an ice hotel. Some clean, fresh, vinous flavor, but a little watery. 13.9 percent abv.
Fort Ross 2013 Fort Ross-Seaview Rosé of Pinot Noir ($24) Saignée. The deepest hue of the lot, rhubarb red, with Red Vines and raspberry candy, plus a hint of smoke and earth reminsicent of a light, “red wine” Pinot Noir. Still, the chewy, cherry skin flavor remains fresh. Good for rich cheeses and salumi. 13.5 percent abv.
Toad Hollow 2013 Eye of the Toad, Sonoma County Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir ($11.99) “Third pressing.” Good pink color. Bubblegum snaps the nose; the ice melted in your crantini. Refreshing, dry, if a bit watery, but at 11.5 percent abv it won’t hurt much to knock back a few cold glasses at the end of a hot afternoon.