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Monday, July 27, 2015

Wine for the End of the World: Northwest Rosé

Have you been paying attention? The outlook is grim. Half of the West Coast is burning, even Canada, and word is there's a giant earthquake coming to shake us off into the Puget Sound. Doom and destruction await. Drought, fire, mishandled fireworks, maybe bedbugs or something too. Robert Frost wondered aloud, how would the world end? Fire or ice. I got news for you Bobby, it's fire, just turn on the news.

Fire & Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

What I would suggest is that we all should at least be grateful it's not death by some ridiculous zombie meme. Then not only would we all be dying but I'd be highly annoyed by the sorta smugness all of those annoying zombie survival t-shirt idiots would undoubtedly have on their faces. They'd of course be dying some sort of painful zombie death too, so I imagine their sense of over-self-satisfaction would be really short lived. But, none the less.

The thing is, if we've gotta go, and we all do, we should at least choose appropriate wine for the occasion. If we're all gonna burn into a sorta fiery ash covered hell, and it's going to be hot, we should be drinking ro

Fortunately for this unfortunate occasion the Northwest continues to deliver on rosé vintage after vintage. Seemingly, you could almost drink a half dozen or so new pink wines each year and never repeat producers such is the growth of rosé in this here doomed corner of the country.  

I think across the board Oregon is blessed with better rosé conditions than Washington. I do think there are some spectacular Washington examples of the pink stuff, but if I had to generalize, and sometimes we do I think Oregon sets up better. The growing conditions, particularly in warmer vintages, like 2014 allow Oregon and the Willamette Valley in particular to retain acidity where in some Washington examples the finish can fall a little flat. Both of our Oregon examples are skin contact wines, and so they bring an added dimension to our apocalypse party drink. 

2014 Fossil & Fawn Pinot Gris $17
So, our first rosé isn't technically a rosé from a production point of view, but in my view, pink wine is pink wine, and it'll go good with our impeding doom. Those flaming zombies aren't going to split hairs on a technicality.

Salmon hued and you'll catch a bit of sediment as well as this wine sat with it's skins while it fermented for eight glorious days. (Pinot Gris turns a light reddish color when it ripens believe it or not.) The wine then even spend a fair bit of time in oak before it's release. While so many folks tend towards steel fermenters and lip-smacking acid the folks at Fossil & Fawn, Jim and Jenny went for texture and they succeeded. The wine is balance of angularity and texture, with plenty of acid to deal with the sort of creaminess that the time sur lie has imparted. Aromas of rhubarb, stone and grapefruit followed on by a wild mouthfeel, and flavors of citrus, ripe nectarine and apricot, maybe. 

2014 Kramer Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Gris $24
Okay, so technically both of our Oregon rosés aren't rosés in the most technical sense of the term. We're all gonna die, we're just trying to get you the right wines for the occasion, stop being such a contrarian. Another cool pink wine with character out of Oregon. Where rosés often hit the spot because of their sheer simplicity, these Oregon offering actually turn up the dial on complexity. This wine, like the Fossil & Fawn sees extended skin contact, four weeks in this case, as well as time with the lees. The result is an outstanding mouthfeel, and deep aromatics of cut strawberry, stone and fresh mint. The acid remains outstanding, and the complexity puts the lie to rosé's reputation as "summer water."

Washington has seen the same rising tide of pink wine that Oregon has for the past 7 or so years and over that time it's produced some really outstanding examples. This year my favorite rosé came from Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla.  The warmer weather sometimes proves a bit challenging though in some cases and the 2014 rosés from Washington saw some superstars but across the board could have had higher acid and better balance. The wines are solid though and they may prove an excellent way to convert your "red wines only" friends to rosé.

2014 Tamarack Cellars Rosé of Mourvedre $14
The Mourvedre rosés are wildly popular  and incredibly made in Bandol and frankly, if you're going to select a variety for your rosé you could do way worse. The Tamarack Cellars rosé comes from Wahluke Slope one of the state's growing regions, outside of perhaps Red Mountain and this wine come directly from the highly regarded Weinbau Vineyard. Aromatics are all red fruit and flowers, the wine is a bit fleshy and round and doesn't deliver any zest or zing on the finish but it does have a dash of spritz to it. (I couldn't find the wine available online but it is or was, at Ballard Market.) 

2014 Amavi Cellars Rosé  of Cabernet Franc $24
The rosé from Amavi comes from their estate vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. It's aromas are reminiscent of watermelon, ripe peach and late season strawberry. The palate is fairly full, and rounder for a rosé with ripe raspberry, and watermelon flavors.  The finish is one of depth but there's not zesty acidity to carry the wine out.