These great rosé wines are made for summer
Casting the fallible mind back a few decades, I can recall a time when there was only one rosé on offer at the LDB. Okay, maybe two. French, insipid, pallid, sweet, and tart at the same time. Must have taken some doing to have it come out that way. This was in the not-so-good old days, when you went into a store that was tiled like a washroom and you wrote your request on a form, then some loutish clerk fetched it for you from the hidden back room and wrapped it in a paper bag so you couldn’t even see it. Of course, you had already paid for it.
My, but we’ve come a long way. Bottles are on display, sometimes there are agents’ reps pouring samples, and you can even engage the clerks in conversation—and not necessarily about last night’s hockey game, either.
As for pink wines, dozens from all wine regions and countries are here, and more are coming every week—especially from B.C. wineries. “People don’t drink pink,” says a friend, curmudgeonly. Well, someone is drinking it besides me, or they wouldn’t be making so much of it. Nor is it necessarily cheap: $20-plus rosés can be found in abundance. I guess it must have been the Californians, with their white Zinfandel, who really got the ball rolling.
So far this year, I’ve tasted 30 or 40 of them and shared my observations with you on quite a few. Another batch has piled up—a dozen or so—and here goes, with prices from $16.95 to $25.
Rustico Farm & Cellars Saloon Sally Dry Cabernet Franc Rose 2011 ($16.95; limited supplies at the winery in the South Okanagan, or by direct order from the agent, Christopher Stewart)
Let’s start with the cheapest one at hand today. A lovely wine with rich fruit, great acidity, and a finish that loves food; I’m thinking Kaiserschinken, Kuhkäse (both at Urban Fare), Wasa crackers, pickled eggs and carrots, or strawberry-rhubarb pie.
CedarCreek Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($17.90)
Proprietor Gordon Fitzpatrick likes to call this his “acoustic pink Pinot Noir” or “Pinot Noir unplugged”. Lots of strawberries, good colour and depth of fruit—it’s really a meat rosé, surprisingly well matched to steak and baked potatoes, corn on the cob, cheddar cheese and apple pie, after. Part of the fine new portfolio from the winery’s fine new winemaker, Darryl Brooker.
Clos du Soleil Rose 2011 ($17.90)
From one of the many newish wineries established in Keremeos, this is a refreshing, handsome, well-built pink wine that cries out for food of all kinds—and rewards it. John Schreiner, the doyen of Canadian wine writers and a commentator not given to excessive accolades, says under the heading “My Picks” in the new edition of his Okanagan Wine Tour Guide: “Everything!”
Fort Berens Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($17.99)
From the so-far-singular winery in Lillooet, a pioneering venture that has already shown some surprising releases. This one is dark and heavy, shy on the nose at first, then quite acidic. I’m waiting for the next vintage to see if there’s potential for pink Pinot here.
B • S Rose Table Wine 2010 ($18.99)
The B is for Bartier, Michael, ex Road 13; the S is for Scholefield, David, ex the LDB et al. The two are making wines at the Okanagan Crush Pad facility and have decided to put their names to some blends and varietals. Says the B: “24 hours skin contact gives that light, ‘not-quite-salmon-but-beyond-apricot’ colour”, and he avers that it is “lightly tannic as all good rosés should be”. This is a two-fisted gulping wine with good acidity and some bright berry notes. A summer success.
Haywire Gamay Noir Rose 2010 ($18.99)
We first tasted and talked about this here some months ago, when it came, teasingly, in a test-tube sampler. Now it’s in general release—rich and hearty, nothing wimpy, big and bold fruit, tart, and with a bite. Perfect with all manner of Mediterranean-spiced roast meats.
River Stone Malbec Rose 2011 ($19.90; 138 cases total production)
A sturdy, saloon-style pink from a new winery. (It just had its official opening a few days ago, a year behind schedule.) A bit on the hard side, it really wants food to mellow it. I haven’t found many other Malbec rosés out there. Let me know if you do; I’d like some comparison.
La Stella La Stellina Merlot Rosato 2011 ($25; available by direct order from the agent, Christopher Stewart)
Too bad this is in limited supply; you’ll have to hurry. There were 560 cases, but it caught on quick! It’s full and rich and heady, dry but not tart, quite a mellow Merlot-in-the-making. Definitely a gulping wine, but a couple bucks less would be nice.
Le Vieux Pin Vaila Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($25)
There’s a good supply of this one (989 cases were produced). Ripe, bold grapes from the Black Sage Bench and the Golden Mile, built with free-run juice (“no interference from oak”, says the winemaker). Pour it, let it sit, and taste the layers of flavour as they develop in the glass—fascinating. (A general observation: most people drink their rosé way too cold—practically iced—so take it out of the fridge/off the ice a good half-hour before pouring, to let it acclimate to the room.)
Granville Island Brewing False Creek Raspberry Ale ($12.45 per six-pack of 341-millilitre bottles)
And one for food and fun, to wrap up: it’s not a wine but it is definitely pink. Great pale colour and lovely, fresh aromas of raspberry—just a hint. Not at all sweet or overwhelming. “Subtlety” is brewmaster Vern Lambourne’s middle name! Just the thing for a summer deli dinner: smoked fish, cheese both strong and mild, pickled onions and carrots, rye bread, jellied herring in brine from the north of Germany, smoked meat, salamis of all kinds, and lots of varieties of mustard. It’s a better salad companion than most wines and thoroughly refreshing if you just cool it and don’t ice it. Another of GIB’s specialty-brew success stories; they rarely get one wrong.