(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 5/8/14)
Here we are again, faced with the daunting task of finding just the right gift for Mom. Daunting, that is, until you find that perfect bottle of wine.
By most accounts – conversations with local men and women who make and sell wine – rosé continues to see its stock rise. In all its perky pink glory, this is the little wine that could, having survived years of negative PR for being too sweet and not serious enough to – finally – enjoying burgeoning appeal among the masses. The Santa Barbara wine scene is increasingly awash in rosé, and as the local choices increase, it’s tough to make a choice that’s wrong.
The pink comes from carefully calculated communion between grape skin and grape juice; the longer that tryst, the darker the hue. And the flavor comes from the fruit the winemaker chooses; certain red grapes make rosé’s flavors sing. But the experience – and that’s the most important part, no? – hinges on how it’s enjoyed, and it’s tough to beat enjoying a few glasses with Mom.
So if you’re still in the market for a gift to bring a smile to any mother’s lips, these six local rosés are a shoe-in. Heck, buy her two of each. That’s a dozen rosés!
|Tasting bubbles with Norm Yost at his Lompoc tasting room|
Mother’s Day is a celebration, right? So popping the cork on a wine from one of Santa Barbara’s foremost sparkling wine producers is a must. Winemaker Norm Yost takes on the oft-grueling task of turning still wine into bubbly by hand, employing the same classic Champagne methods that have led to some of the world’s most dashing wines; aging alone on a wine like this takes well more than a year. When Yost began courting his now-wife, Kathleen, in 2006, he used his very first Goat Bubbles Rosé to score points. “Goat Bubbles Rosé will always be special to me for the romantic memory of him disgorging that first bottle in my backyard to show off his secret project,” she recalls. “Of course, he lost about half of it due to lack of experience in hand disgorging!” The 2011 Goat Bubbles Rosé, which Yost once poured for me at the sparkling wine bar inside his Lompoc Ghetto tasting room, was made from pinot noir harvested at Solomon Hills Vineyard in Santa Maria; beautiful dark berry flavors led to a clean, refreshing finish. That wine is sold out. But the 2012 rendition went on sale in the tasting room this week! In Santa Barbara, bouchon Restaurant is already pouring it by the glass.
Municipal Winemakers 2013 Pale Pink ($22)
Winemaker Dave Potter gets it right, again. This sprightly wine is fresh and youthful – a Rhone-inspired blend featuring Santa Barbara County grenache, mainly, as well as cinsault and counoise; it features delightful strawberry and raspberry flavors with a very subtle spicy edge. Skin contact was carefully limited to four hours before the juice was drained and fermented inside French oak barrels. The color is on the lighter end – like a glistening steak of the freshest possible salmon. And on a warm afternoon (as Mother’ Day is forecast to be), it’ll sip fast. Potter has been making rosé since he launched his label in 2007; he recently doubled yearly production to 100 cases, and it still sells out every time. This Sunday will be Mrs. Potter’s very first Mother’s Day (Baby Potter is 10 months old) and Dad tells me he’ll be pouring this wine for her throughout the afternoon.
|My wife really likes Haylee's Rose|
Potter’s buddy (and former co-worker at Fess Parker Winery), Blair Fox, does his own magic on this rosé, a vibrant blend of grenache, syrah and zinfandel. The color on this one is downright sexy – a crimson-pink hue that comes from cold soaking the grapes for a full 24 hours before being fermented inside French oak barrels for a month. The acidity here shines and the flavors are layered and refined – raspberry, strawberry jam, cranberry. This winemaking endeavor is a full-fledged family affair – wife Sarah has winemaking credits under their new label, Fox Wine Co., and each of their daughters is a label inspiration. This wine is named after 7-year-old Haylee Rose, who’s certain to pour this wine generously (and proudly) for Mom on Sunday.
Riverbench 2013 Rosé ($22)
This wine is a brand new release by winemaker (and proud mother) Clarissa Nagy. This one’s made from whole clusters of pinot noir – estate fruit from those beautiful Riverbench vines in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley. This ruddy pink sipper captures the vibrancy of the pinot fruit beautifully to create a frisky, flirtatious wine that is downright seductive. Its aromas smack of red rose petals suspended in water; its pretty berry flavors create a bracing mouth feel and dry finish. “The wine is pink gorgeousness that belongs on every summertime table,” declares Riverbench GM Laura Booras. “Complex but approachable, sophisticated but fun!” I’d describe a few moms I know the same way.
Fontes & Phillips 2011 Panky ($15)I’ve had this wine a couple of times in the last few weeks and I’m blown away by how alive this three-year-old rosé can be. It’s a 2011, so it’s a bit older than many of the rosés you’ll find on the wine shop shelf. But it’s still refreshingly brilliant and bouncy, and it remains one of Santa Barbara’s premiere renditions of this type of wine. Winemaker Alan Phillips was inspired by the greatest of dry French rosés when he blended grenache, cinsault and syrah from Camp 4 Vineyard in Santa Ynez; he fermented the wine in stainless steel tanks and bottled it just a few months after harvest. The 2012 Panky will be released on Mother’s Day.
Recently, I sipped this vivacious wine alongside Mike Carhartt inside his Los Olivos tasting room; drinking pink was never manlier. The wine was expertly crafted by his wife, Brooke, and plays on the name of their son, Chase, a 20-something ball of energy that’s joined the family business. Grenache is the star here, and the explosion of flavor is awesome – watermelon, pomegranate, strawberry and a tangy sweetness that reminded me of one of those mouthwatering Now-&-Later candies. This wine and Sunday brunch are a match made in Heaven, and a match worthy of Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!