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It's a Celebration of Riches

YOLO on a budget?

Pondering the Past, Focused on the Future

Oregon's Gypsy Dancer

Original Oregon in the Umpqua Valley

The Wines of HillCrest

Under the Radar Excellence

The Wines from Mackey Vineyards

A Serious Look at Washington Chardonnay

Ashan Cellars

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The staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem, we're good

Friday, August 22, 2014

Everyday is a Celebration


Life is full of special occasions but it seems like we're too busy or something to notice. Most of us are guilty and wine lovers perhaps more than others of designating certain occasions "special occasions " and most occasions not special enough.

That's a real downer if you ask me.

There are many occasions to motivate one to pop a cork on a really nice bottle, some of us, and I can be as guilty as anyone can be a bit "stingy" when it comes to determining if an occasion is special enough of not. The foolishness inherent in that approach is that, without being too dramatic: there is no promise of tomorrow. I mean, a piano could fall out of the sky and land on you or something on your way to the coffee shop this morning.

Here's the thing, that kind of fatalistic thinking, while perhaps can be spun as a positive is not really productive. It's  like taking existentialism to a frightening degree. It's one thing to say "YOLO!" It's altogether different to say "YMBDTA" (You Might Be Dead Tomorrow Anyways) and it doesn't really roll off the tongue at all. While YOLO, which frankly is a bit annoying can lead one to take chances, YMBDTA can lead one to just be annoying, not hold down a job, save money, or even brush their teeth.

The idea though of cherishing each moment or celebrating everyday is undeniably a fantastic one. Lucky for us we have some Northwest sparkling wines that are priced for everyday celebration budgets. At some of the Pacific Northwest's larger more established producers like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Argyle they have been creating sparkling wine for some time with Argyle of course offering a range of bubbly. But smaller operations like Treveri and Kramer Vineyards also offer wines that you might offer up for a mid-week celebration.

Michelle Brut NV or non-vintage is a classic take on the dry or brut style so associated with the wines of Champagne. This Michelle line of sparkling wines from Chateau Ste Michelle has really looked at approaching sparkling wine as an everyday food pairing option. The Brut is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from the Columbia Valley AVA. It's got the classic sparkling mouthfeel thanks to it's methode champenoise production. Apples, hazelnuts and citrus aromas and flavors make this awesomely priced wine an easy excuse to go all YOLO. $13 

Michelle Brut Rosé NV A blend of Pinot Noir, and a bit of Pinot Meunier this pretty pink wine is again a great way to feel like a baller on a Wednesday night. Aromatics of fresh cut strawberries and rhubarb. The wine delivers nice acid and works well with a first course at dinner or just because you can. #BallerStatus $13

Kramer Vineyards 2013 Celebrate Pinot Gris Kramer Vineyards does a range of sparkling wines and their upper range flirt with fantastic. The Celebrate line really offers an affordable sparkling option. The main distinction being that the celebrate wines are given their bubbles not through the traditional secondary fermentation in the bottle but rather via added CO2. This Pinot Gris is vibrant and lively and with the word "Celebrate" and a sorta disco ball motif on the bottle you can shout "YOLO!" from the rooftops. The wine is crisp and clear with aromatics of fresh green apple and lime. $22


Kramer Vineyards 2013 Celebrate Müller-Thurgau Sparkling wine with an umlaut thrown in is always a winning combination.  This bubbly version of that kinda classic German cross, will have you potentially throwing down in the VIP of your favorite German night club. If there is such a thing. At the very least that old Saturday Night Live sketch Sprockets would certainly appreciate the party or maybe TechnoViking? The Müller is all sorts of fruit forward with aromas of ripe tropical and citrus fruits and great acid and fizzy lift. $22

Kramer Vineyards 2013 Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir Classic rosé of Pinot Noir notes of rhubarb, rose petals and strawberries. The Celebrate from Kramer Vineyards brings serious fizz to this pink party wine. Acidity and zip with a pink hue are a great way to turn Tuesday into a party or pair with some grilled white meats as our summer winds down. $24

In any case. Celebrate just because.

These wines were provided as samples.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Looking Forward & Looking Back: Gypsy Dancer

Gary Andrus was, from what I've read, a giant of the American wine scene. I never had the chance to meet him. In 1978 he founded Napa Valley's Pine Ridge Vineyards, and then in 1993 he founded one of the biggest names in the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, particularly as the Valley developed it's reputation, in Archery Summit. Gary gained a reputation for focus, concentration and pushing the boundaries to see what was possible. He died of health complications in 2009.

Andrus was a Willamette Valley pioneer pushing the region on it's professionalism. Advocating for the region's quality and boldly establishing price points that reflected the quality of the wine being produced there.  Gary focused on clone selection and was a big proponent of whole cluster fermentation and the use of sometimes ample new oak. His wines at Archery Summit were known for being bold, extracted and with structure that was built to age.
In 2002 Gary and his second wife Christine started a new label called Gypsy Dancer named after their young daughter. The label was an opportunity for Andrus to refocus on a small interesting project, they had purchased a vineyard near Hillsboro as well as vineyards in New Zealand. Gypsy Dancer represented an opportunity for Gary to reconnect to the personal elements of winemaking and Christine and the family were heavily involved.  When Gary passed away Christine took their two children and left the Willamette Valley. " I was so closed down to the wine industry after Gary’s death, I tried to forget and move on with the girls." They moved to South Dakota, but Christine couldn't stay away forever. 

She found herself returning to the Willamette Valley and in 2012 talked with winemaker Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis about wanting to start up the Gypsy Dancer label again. This was two weeks before harvest mind you. Rebecca and Christine scrambled and secured fruit from friends at the Dukes Family Vineyards to craft small lots of what would become the new Gypsy Dancer flagship wine, the Legacy. 

As Christine was visiting with friends in the industry she had let Todd Hamina of Biggio-Hamina know that she had dusted off the Gypsy Dancer label and he mentioned that in 2010 he had made a wine he had described as a "Gary wine." One that he found reminded him of his former mentor and one that frankly didn't fit into the Biggio-Hamina portfolio. That wine has become the Gypsy Dancer's 2010 Tribute. While the Legacy will be each vintage's Gypsy Dancer bottling the tribute wines will be made in particular vintages by different winemakers whom Gary influenced, each one a sort of interpretation on a "Gary wine." And there is still a bottling made by Gary, their 2006 Cuvee Romy a blend of Pinot clones that was made as an Oregonian homage to Domain Romanee Conti's La Tache

Today's iteration of Gypsy Dancer is both a look forward, and a tribute to the past. "What Rebecca and I are doing with the Legacy, is taking what I have learned and her knowledge and practices and creating a new wine going forward that has it’s own merits and style. It is new and fresh and unique. The Tribute is obviously a tribute to Gary by definition, but is also a wine made to pay homage to a man who influenced many accomplished and successful winemakers who have their own wonderful styles themselves." 

2012 Gypsy Dancer Legacy Pinot Noir Classically Oregon but certainly reflective of the warm 2012 vintage. Fruit forward aromatics that offer up late season blackberry, crushed earth and black tea. Though the wine is reflective of the ripeness that 2012 was known for it retains it's elegance with flavors of dried fig, montmorency cherry, cinnamon spice and cola. In their first effort Christine and Rebecca have made a very nice wine and one to note as this new iteration of Gypsy Dancer evolves. $45

This wine was provided as a sample.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Original Oregon: Umpqua Valley's HillCrest Vineyards

The Oregon wine industry and the Willamette Valley have come to be synonymous with American Pinot Noir. It didn't all start there though.


To find the birthplace of the modern Oregon wine industry you'll need to travel south on I-5 from what has come to be known as Oregon Pinot country until you get to the town of Roseburg. The Umpqua Valley is far more rustic and rough hewn than the Willamette Valley which now boasts several James Beard award winning restaurants but Oregon's modern day wine industry and the first Oregon Pinot Noir took root here in the Umpqua Valley before anything in the Willamette. If you've been to the Umpqua you were struck with it's natural beauty almost immediately. As a wine region it's still developing an identity however.

In 1961 Richard Sommer planted Oregon's first post-prohibition vinifera grapes and founded the state's oldest estate winery in Hillcrest Vineyards in the Umpqua. As the story goes he found that site looking to plant Riesling specifically but over four years he would plant a myriad of grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and the state's first Pinot Noir on a former egg farm near Roseburg. His first vintage came to market in 1964, with his first Pinot Noir appearing commercially in 1967. (There is an incredibly indepth look at Richard Sommer on the Prince of Pinot site here.) Sommer died in 2009 at the age of 79.

In 2003 Dyson DeMara and his wife Susan purchased HillCrest from Sommer with the intent of carrying on Sommer's pioneering spirit. DeMara has an extensive background in winemaking with stints at California originals Pine Ridge and Mondavi. The HillCrest winery under DeMara is producing very small lots of hard to come by wines. The wines are not available in any retail market; you have to get them directly from HillCrest.

DeMara is making wines of place with a sense of both the originality that Richard Sommer brought to the Umpqua and an old world style. The use of a basket press and a patented concrete fermenter hint at DeMara's seriousness when it comes to minimal intervention and old world technique. The lots they use are tiny and the wine is laid down in most cases a minimum of two years. Under many circumstances if you see a wine from 2008 on the market today from a region like the Umpqua that is still establishing itself you might get a little nervous. The 2008 Massimo Cabernet from HillCrest is the best wine, hands down I've had from the Umpqua Valley. So rest assured the wines of HillCrest are worth the difficulty to obtain.

2008 Massimo, Cabernet Sauvignon Easily the best Umpqua wine I've had to date. It's aromatically effusive with dried fig, graphite and crushed stone aromas. Elegance and balance as well as a definitive old-world style are the signature of this Cabernet. Fruit takes a back seat to minerality and floral elements. The wine comes from a 13 acre parcel of old-vine Cabernet original planted by Sommer in 1964. The wine was fermented in concrete and aged four years in French oak, largely neutral barrels. It makes a case for the Umpqua Valley, Oregon Cabernet and old vines all at the same time. Fantastic wine and I'd love to see more Northwest Cabernet done in a style like this. $65 

2011 Cadiz, Tempranillo Tempranillo has become part of the identity of the Umpqua Valley and this bottling is another good example of why. Tempranillo has been made in so many different styles but this cool vintage wine is floral, bright fruit and lots of elegance and great structure. Again the use of concrete fermentation accents a minerality in the wine, and it spend two and a half years in French oak barrels. At $28 this is a very nice wine for that price.





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quiet Mastery: Walla Walla's Mackey Vineyards

The Washington wine business attracts all kinds. Meticulous engineers who got into wine because they enjoyed the finer things in life, but were captivated by the science behind it. Foodies and amateur chefs who loved what wines did for their meals, and their quality of life and even the odd millionaire who made their fortune and sought the "glamorous life" that owning a winery seems to communicate. Or at least that's what people who don't work in the wine industry think.


The "genesis" story of Mackey Vineyards and how the Mackey brothers, Roger and Philip, came to Walla Walla is not uncommon. The two brothers left behind the corporate grind in California for a simpler, perhaps more honest life in the Walla Walla Valley. There they have purchased and are farming two estate vineyards the Mackey Vineyard located in the southeast Walla Walla valley and Frenchtown Vineyard a ten acre vineyard in Lowden near WallaWalla stalwarts like L'ecole 41 and Woodward Canyon (you'd pass it on your way into town). Of note: Dunham Cellars has long made a Frenchtown Vineyard designate Syrah.

The Mackey brothers were introduced to another pair of brothers who had made their way to Walla Walla, Billo and Pinot Navarene of literary and philosophical, Rasa Vineyards fame. Given the parallel nature of their lives the Mackey brothers landed on the talented Billo as their winemaker. What has resulted is an under the radar wine as there is in Washington and frankly for the price, it's almost like you're stealing.

There is a current of understatement throughout the Mackey Vineyards operation, at least from the outside perspective. And that's true of the labels as well. The labels are simple, one color and not particularly note worthy. The wines on the other hand definitely are.These wines are superbly made and when you consider that the Rasa Wines, Billo's label with his brother command prices in the $50 and north neighborhood the Mackey wines make for a great wine with an understated price-tag. Additionally less than 200 cases of each wine was made (save for the Concordia blend 340 some cases), so if you see it, seriously consider snatching some up. (I know Queen Anne's Champion Cellars carries the Mackey wines.)

Perhaps this understatement is a statement in and of itself? Rather than over the top gimmickry, pricing or catchy labels the Mackey Vineyards bottlings are all about what's inside. WHich really is the point anyways.

How would Billo characterize the style of wines he's is producing for Mackey? "The style of Mackey Vineyard’s wines is elegance and finesse rather than power. The wines are truly respective of site. The estate vineyard is signature rocks terroir, and it produces a very elegant style of Syrah that develops significant minerality, gaminess, and earthiness with bottle age. The Cabernet is slightly leaner in profile, more Bordeaux like in character than other Washington vineyards." That estate vineyard was formerly bought almost exclusively by K Vintners and was known as Wells Vineyard at the time. Having Billo on the team has also granted the Mackey Vineyards label access to some of Washington's most prestigious vineyard sites from which to source fruit.

In the Mackey wines you have reasonably priced, very well made wines that not many have yet heard of. This grants you an opportunity to get your hands on wines that drink at the same level as wines twice their price and impress your friends and family. These wines are also 2009 so you get a sense that they've only gotten and better and will likely do so for another handful of years. 

2009 Mackey Vineyards Merlot From some great Washington vineyards; Dionysus and Dubrul. This wine like all of the Mackey offering is elegant and well made. Layered and textured aromatically and on the palate. Black fruits and mocha aromatics, and flavors of black plum, dusty ripe blackberry, earth and more mocha. A fair bit of new oak is used on the Merlot, French only, the wine has great texture and finish and seems built for the long haul. (Hell, it's five years old already.)$36

2009 Mackey Vineyards Syrah A gamy Walla Walla Syrah in a style that I love. The preponderance of this wine coming from the Mackey estate vineyard as well as Walla Walla favorite of mine Les Collines and Bacchus Vineyard. Meaty and gamy aromas accented by dried herbs and white pepper. The palate is loaded up with ripe berry fruit, black licorice, earthy minerality, a kiss of fresh mint and sense of funkiness that has become a signature of that Rocks terroir. At just over $30 consider this the steal of the bunch in my opinion $32

2009 Mackey Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Refined, and distinguished. Fruit from the estate Mackey Vineyards, Gamache Vineyards and Stone Tree. Chocolate, eucalyptus and dusty aromas and a palate that is a balance of fruit and more savory character. Depth, complexity and a substantial finish for a crazy good price. $32

2009 Mackey Vineyards Concordia A GSM blend that's heavy on the S, or the Syrah. Fruit is sourced from Les Collines, Bacchus and Minick. An outstanding blend with an emphasis on savory over fruit. Effusive aromas of dried herbs, fennel, earth and spice. Great flavors acid and balance, black fruits, savory herbs and minerality make this a thinking woman, or man's wine. $38

These wines were provided as samples.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ashan Cellars: A Washington Chardonnay Focus


Chardonnay in Washington has long been, until just the last year or two the most planted variety in the state. A varietal Chardonnay likely remains the country's most popular wine, and the state has a few producers who are really demonstrating a mastery of Chardonnay. My favorites have been from Abeja, Efeste and Forgeron Cellars. With the incredible renaissance of Chardonnay in Oregon, it's high time that someone has really sought to explore the wine's versatility and potential across the state. Enter Chris Gorman and his Chardonnay only winery, Ashan Cellars.

"I've always been a huge fan of the grape from all over the world & in all styles.  It's incredibly complex & can be made in so many different ways.  I started Ashan Cellars to focus on some of the greatest & historical Chardonnay vineyards in the state.  I've been making Chardonnay at Gorman Winery since 2006 and felt I wanted to try a focus on this noble grape." 

The motherland for Chardonnay is truly France's Burgundy, but for the New World palate, California has become the archetype. Within the American wine context there seems to have been a preponderance of heavily oaked ripe and round Chardonnay that have in recent years given some ground to Chardonnay done in stainless steel with a crispness and high acidity. Chris is game for both ends of the spectrum, as well as everything in between.

"Washington has a lot of stylistically different vineyards & should be able to produce diverse styles of this wine.  We are neither Napa or Burgundy, we are Washington & should not try to copy anyone... That's never interesting." To that end Chris has sought to use Ashan to showcase the state's range of Chardonnay sites. And it's an educational venture, both for Chris certainly, but for us as well. If there's any doubt about that you need only look at the back labels. They are loaded with more detail than any I have seen before.



The Ashan Chardonnays represent four different wines in total but below reflects the three that I was able to taste. The wines are showy across the board and Chris likes to rely on oak barrel fermentation. "Barrel fermentation has been a cornerstone to my production style at Gorman since the beginning. In both red & white wine in varying amounts.  It's not about the "woody" or "toasty" flavors produced, but more of the textural feel it imparts. The 3 single vineyard Ashan Chardonnays are fermented in French oak... Using different amounts of new and used barrels. This is based on the vineyard & structure of the grapes. We do not use commercial yeast & allow them to ferment naturally in the barrel. We keep these wines "alive" through constant battonage or stirring of the lees. Very old-world techniques to preserve the character of the wine."  

2012 Ashan Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay Opulence thy name is Conner Lee Chardonnay. Fermented in 100% new French oak barrels. This is a rich wine, aromatics are robed in barrel spice, ripe pineapple and papaya. The palate is full, lush and textured. Ripe fruit flavors and a buttery roundness   "Conner Lee is turning into the  "cult" vineyard for Chardonnay in Washington State.  I have worked with this fruit since 2006 with Gorman Winery.  It is a very expressive wine with lots of concentration and layers of spice.  It really pairs well with the barrel fermentation and represents a more "full-bodied" Chardonnay for Ashan." $45

2012 Ashan Kestrel Vineyard Chardonnay "Kestrel is a very small plot of the oldest producing Chardonnay vines in the state, planted in 1972. I am lucky to get this fruit and I treat it as such. It is very complex with lots of flavor and lively acidity." Chris uses 100% new French oak on this wine as well. This wine is also not shy, though not quite as showy as the Conner Lee and it carries a fair bit more acidity. Aromatics of nutmeg and spices, as well as honeysuckle lead to a honeyed palate that shows off it's ripe fruit, creamy texture and structure. $45

2012 Ashan Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay My favorite of the bunch, it's gorgeous and complete. I find Celilo Vineyard to create the greatest of Washington Chardonnays for my palate. It's a much cooler site and the vines are quite old. Celilo is more Burgundy than California. "Celilo is most certainly the coolest site and traditionally the last fruit I pick in those years... sometimes even in November.  Its a really beautiful site with high elevation, old vines from 1973 and the same vineyard manager for the last 38 years... that's significant.  We have chosen to only ferment in used French oak barrels since its character and weight are much more subtle." Aromatics of white flowers and citrus peel, and touches of minerality. Lemon creme, cantaloupe, and apricots balanced with stony accents and great acidity make for one hell of a beautiful example of Washington Chardonnay. $45

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Wine will, wine will, ROCK YOU! (But not if you don't buy a ticket...)

So now that we're done eating burgers and apple pie and the bottle rockets have (mostly) stopped screaming over our rooftops, it's time to talk about a more noble use for a bottle: wine, of course. 

Each year Washington wine gets one very special night to kick ass and party like a rockstar, and that night has come to be known as Wine Rocks. 

Yes, wine and rock 'n roll can pair well together, but you've got to have the right blend. Thankfully, local wine-lovers and event planners, Jen Doak and Jamie Peha, have managed to perfect that: wine, music, food, and a cause. 

Wine? Well that's a no-brainer. Washington has over 800 wineries and produces 12.5 million cases of wine each year. The wine industry employs almost 28,000 Washingtonians and makes up an $8.6 billion piece of Washington's annual economy. Let's make sure we do not underestimate the importance of the wine in this equation. Wineries from every corner of the state (and some neighboring ones) will be pouring wine at Wine Rocks! (There are too many to name, so instead we are going to give you this handy hyperlink ). 

Music? Well, that seems too obvious. Seattle is the city that gave us Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Queensryche (well, that was Bellevue - yes, really - but close enough), and of course, birthed Grunge - I think we can all agree that we should take advantage of our area's unparalleled passion for music. In this instance, it's actual winemakers making the music. (Did I just blow your mind?) This year it's Gordy Rawson of Chatter Creek , Darren Des Voigne of Des Voigne Cellars , Caroline Warwick of Kestrel Wines with Micah Riesenweber of Market Vineyards , and Victor Palencia and Paula Ramirez of Palencia Winery

Food? Again, this is not rocket science, people. Wine + Music + Food = Fun! And Seattle has given us perfect drinking food for over 50 years - (Dick's Drive In, 1:36 am) - and now food trucks are lining up outside our office high-rises downtown, beckoning us at 12:17 on Tuesday afternoon to a eat chicken and waffles - (on a stick!) Yes, food definitely seems to be a good idea for this wine and rock 'n roll blend. This year's food truck lineup for Wine Rocks includes Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen, The Grilled Cheese Experience, Jemil's Big Easy, Lumpia World, My Sweet Lil 'Cakes, and Papa Bois 

Finally, a Cause: That is what really completes this pairing and makes this event the best $45 you'll spend this summer. Each year, Wine Rocks selects a local nonprofit to donate the proceeds to, and this year it is one of Seattle's busiest, the University District Food Bank. This organization has been working to prevent hunger in Northeast Seattle for more than 30 years, and manages to help feed more than 1,100 families per week in their walk-in food bank. In just about 800 square feet, this incredible group distributed 2.3 million pounds of food last year. Besides their walk-in food bank, University District Food Bank also has a delivery program to help 55 home-bound seniors, and runs a backpack program at six local schools, which provides another 250 kids with healthy meals and snacks on the weekends when they aren't able to eat at school - (Which, in case you did not realize it, is how about 30,000 Seattle students  get one or two meals a day). 

Are you ready to rock out? I thought so.  Seattle's 7th Annual Wine Rocks event will be held on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at Elliott Hall at Bell Harbor - Pier 66.

Now, I have some good news and some bad news.  I'll give you the bad news first: It's already July 8 and you still have not bought your tickets to Wine Rocks - which means you might be crying in your empty wine glass at home on Thursday night, because this event sells out each year! You might miss your opportunity to party like a rockstar, with actual winemaking rockstars, while kicking hunger in the ass...

But here's the good news. It's not too late. At least, not yet. Tickets are still available at Brown Paper Tickets  and your entrance includes delicious appetizers, an opportunity to taste wines from 40 Northwest wineries, as well as craft beers and hard ciders (and, you know, watch those wine rockers up on stage). And as a bonus, you'll get a free music download from event sponsor Sub Pop Records , who will DJs there spinning music between live sets. 

Did I miss anything? It's quite likely. But that's okay too, because all the details you want to know about this unique event are on their sweet new website, at winerocksseattle.com. But I think we covered the basics: 

Wine Rocks, music rocks, food rocks, and helping others rocks too. So make sure you let your inner rockstar out to party on July 10 at Pier 66 . You can thank us for it later. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Purposefully Pink, Southern Oregon Rosé: Made With Intention



Summertime is off with a bang in Southern Oregon’s hot, sunny Applegate, Rogue, and Umpqua valleys. Barbecues, graduations, weddings and family outings are on the docket.  What will you find on the table during the summer season? Well if you're playing your cards right, chilled – and local – rosé.

Beautiful pinks are once again rising to the top, in the Pacific Northwest overcoming a lot of bad memories of sugar-added, chemically “enhanced” White Zinfandels from the 1980s and beyond. (editor's note: Thanks California.)  Since 2008, France has been selling more rosé wines than whites.  Rosé sales in the US climbed 39% last year, making it the eighth year in a row that double-digit increases have been reported.

The reason?  Rosé is becoming a better made product.  Instead of the run-off juice left over from a precious red, many wineries are now creating rosé with intention.  Winemakers are carefully planning the next vintage.  If a winery specializes in Pinot Noir or Syrah as a red, for instance, they may want to additionally showcase the varietal as a rosé.  Pinks are showing up on the finest wine lists, offering the best attributes of both reds and whites, often with a crisp acidity and lower alcohol that loves food, even difficult pairings such as salty and spicy flavors.

Rosé flaunts the same characteristics as the spring and summer seasons it shines in, light, playful, along with being sharp and varied.  The deep, dark fruit essence of the red wine it might have been is softened into delicate and delicious strawberry, raspberry, cherry and often rhubarb.   Citrus, stonefruit, and tropical notes may also be prominent.

Depending on the grape and the desired outcome, a rosé may spend as little as a few hours or as long as a few days in contact with the skin.  Lighter skinned reds such as Grenache are frequently soaked longer than are more potent varieties, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Hillcrest Winery in the Umpqua Valley of Southern Oregon even produces a Blanc de Noir, a colorless red with as little skin contact as possible. 

Most rosés are meant to be consumed in the first year, when they are at their brightest, fruitiest and most aromatic.  (There are wineries that produce oaked rosés which are intended to be aged, although these are rare.)  Pair a rosé with meats and vegetables on the summertime barbecue grill, fruit kabobs, salty cheeses and fresh salads tossed with olives and tomatoes.  Save a couple of bottles for Thanksgiving, too – rosé can be a perfect companion for heavy sauces, turkey or ham.  A rosé can be served very chilled, as it will quickly warm a bit in the glass, allowing the wine to open and reveal layers and complexity like one might expect when letting a red wine breathe.

PebblestoneCellars 2012 Rosé of Syrah
The 2012 Rosé of Syrah from the Rogue Valley was produced by crushing the Syrah grapes and then leaving the Syrah grape juice in contact with the skins for 6 hours. It was then pressed and cool-fermented in stainless steel. Approximately 5% Viognier was blended into the final wine to enhance aromatics and flavor. The resulting wine has a beautiful ruby color with aromas and flavors of fresh plum and dried fig and a dry, balanced finish. 

2013 Quady North Rosé  (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre)
The 2013 Quady North blended rosé was originally a blend of the "saignees" from the Syrah that went into their 4-2,A, a red varietal Syrah.  Over the last few years, they have begun incorporating early picked and pressed Grenache and Mourvedre with their favorite Syrahs from the Applegate and Rogue Valleys.  The wine wafts strawberry along with hints of lemongrass and honey from the glass.

2013 Quady North Rosé  (Cabernet Franc)
The 2013 Quady North Cabernet Franc rosé from the Applegate Valley is a medium cherry color with floral notes, candied lemon, strawberry and rhubarb.

South Stage Cellars Semi Sparkling Rosé  (Petit Sirah, Cabernet Franc)
Winemaker Joe Dobbes has made a fun, slightly sparkling patio sipper for South Stage Cellars in the Rogue Valley.  A blend of 80% Petit Sirah and 20% Cabernet Franc, they recommend this rosé sparkler as a party wine with fruit salad and cheeses

Wooldridge Creek Sparkling Rosé 2013 (Tempranillo, Zinfandel)
The Wooldridge Creek, Applegate Valley method champanoise sparkling pink explodes with fresh strawberries, mango, kiwi and watermelon.

Wooldridge Creek Rosé 2013 (Tempranillo, Zinfandel)
Wooldridge Creek also makes a lovely dry still rosé, also from the Applegate Valley, which is smells of lemon zest with cherry on the palate and a little creaminess to soften the crisp acidity a bit.  Behind the tasting bar, Shelly’s eyes light up as she relates pairings with cheese, salami, calamari, and even burgers.

2013 Troon Vineyard Foundation ’72 Dry Rosé  (Sangiovese, Montipulciano, Primitivo)
Troon Vineyard has produced a light-colored rosé with aromas of key lime and meyer lemon finishing clean on the palate with strawberry and melon.  The grapes hail from one of the original vineyards in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley.  Suggested pairings are pasta, shellfish, salads and mild cheeses.