Two Outstanding Washington Rosés
By Shawn Luke
OK, I admit it, I was never much of a Rosé drinker. No matter how many times I was told how good they were, I wouldn’t dare touch such a non-manly concoction. In my mind, rosés were the result of “not good enough” grapes or the classic saignée method of bleeding off juice to achieve concentration for the real stuff. However, with time and the continued efforts of friends, my mind began to change a couple of years ago as I learned more about how the best Rosés are made in the South of France, harvested and vinified with a specific stylistic presentation in mind. So I thought, why not, I’ll try some and see what this is all about. No one who knows me will be surprised to hear that my efforts were rapidly rewarded by locating some outstanding examples from Washington. Last year, I had the opportunity to try the 2011 submissions from Gramercy Cellars and Maison Bleue, which received outstanding reviews from Sean Sullivan at Washington Wine Report. I was thoroughly impressed with each. With 2011 being a very cool vintage in Washington I was anticipating seeing what both wineries would produce in 2012, a much different (i.e., warmer) vintage. So, it was with great anticipation that friends and I recently tried the 2012 versions, which had arrived just in time for the warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing lately. As you can tell from the notes below, my impression is that these wineries are setting the bar high for Rhone-varietal Rosés from Washington and they are showing just how good the winemaking techniques have become for these “summer sippers”. Both of these wines are intended for Rosé from the beginning and both are made in an almost (if not completely) dry style. I could not detect any residual sugar in either.
In less than a decade Gramercy Cellars has ascended to the top echelon of Washington wineries. With a dedication to wines that display terroir and pair well with food it was probably inevitable that they eventually released their first Rosé in 2011. In their second release from 2012 Gramercy has produced another winner, comprised of 46% Cinsault, 32% Grenache, and 22% Syrah with all the fruit coming from Olsen Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA (the 2011 was also from Olsen). This was nearly transparent in appearance, showing a primary pale copper with just a very light hint of pastel pink thrown in. Aromas of clean mineral, light strawberry and a very subtle acid-driven light citrus-melon note emerged on the nose. The melon was like a subtle fresh cantaloupe. There was a nice easy entry to the palate that transitioned to a light-medium body with an almost delicate lift from the acidity. This displayed a nice persistence on the palate that almost belied its subtleness and elegance showing strawberry and white stone. The finish was extended but remained primarily restrained, subtle and elegant with the acidity carrying the soft red and slightly citrus fruits. The acidity provided just enough kick to show a subdued bite without crossing into tart along with more of the melon notes. Overall, this is a very clean wine displaying subtlety, refinement and elegance all the way through. This is the wine you want on the porch, in the shade, unwinding as you watch the sun set after another warm day. Very good to excellent. 13.2% alcohol. Tasted on May 18, 2013.
Jon Meuret of Maison Bleue is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the very best in Washington with Rhone Varietals (including Grenache so there’s no wonder why he has my full attention). With the second version of his La Famille, he has set the bar even higher than the outstanding 2011. The 2012 is 100% Mourvèdre (the 2011 was 90% Mourvèdre and 10% Grenache) that was whole cluster pressed and stainless steel fermented. Both vintages are 100% Olsen Vineyard. With the emphasis on Mourvèdre you know that there was inspiration from Bandol. The wine displayed a medium copper color, showing a brightness and clarity. The aromas were like a blend of deep citrus fruits and strawberry with a juicy melon and just a hint of orange/orange zest. Some juicy stone fruit elements also worked in. On the palate, this showed a medium body with an excellent, persistent roundness from the nice viscosity. Gray stone, more fresh orange-melon and dark-leaning strawberry shined. The acidity was balanced, working nicely with the fruits and the mass without overwhelming. This has easy length with the moderately juicy acids really extending the finish. Every sip makes you want another. The acidity is so noticeable throughout (yet staying in balance) it might be hard to believe that this experienced 100% malolactic fermentation. Excellent!!! The best Washington Rosé I’ve tried. Definitely a Rosé that will work on its own or with food. Go ahead and try this side-by-side with Tempier and see if you can tell the difference. 12.5% alcohol. Tasted on May 18, 2013.