May’s exploration of Washington rosé concluded this week with a tasting of nine widely ranging wines, including one that tasted so much like ruby red grapefruit juice I wouldn’t have known it was wine had it not been for the skinny glass bottle.
I drank that wine so others wouldn’t have to. Nor will you have to drink the wine that I wanted to love (granted, I want to love most Washington wines) but which, no matter how many times I got close to it, smelled vaguely of a plastic bag and tasted like watermelon lip gloss. Sure, watermelon lip gloss may be intoxicating, especially for you in the Y-chromosome set (it does suggest nubile, doesn’t it?) but it should really be left on the plump, tender lips of a 16-year old cheerleader, not a $20 bottle of Washington wine. Never mind that either might make for an exciting date.
What I did discover, however, were three Washington single varietal wines (tasted blind, as always) not to be missed this summer. None would be considered "sweet", even by the most finicky of imbibers. To that point, my reluctant bucket of sand taster (who wrinkles her nose in fear whenever I splash something pink in her glass) was stunned into shocked silence when she tasted these wines. Once she regained her faculties, I believe the exact line was "hey, that’s delicious!"
For those on a quest for examples of what Washington is doing well come three wines that should make it onto the deck this summer.ONE SYRAH
2011 Rosé (Columbia Valley)
Fjellene Cellars (Walla Walla)
In the Glass: Bright medium pink .
On the Nose: There’s light cherry, pear, not-overripe-strawberries, a hint of peach as well as white flowers—maybe a bit of lily—and some chalky minerality.
On the Palate: There is something about this wine that says “I am Washington state” without banging you over the head with a salmon.
As to how it tastes, the medium to medium-plus acid, medium body, hints of minerality and white flowers give fantastic structure to the light red (strawberry, cherry) and barely honeyed white summer fruits—pear, peach and cantaloupe. It is at once crisp and refreshing and serious, yet also has the possibility to be a crowd-pleaser kind of rosé.
Drink: If you’re not looking for a fruit bomb but are serious about finding the essence of Washington in a glass of rosé.
2011 Rosé of Mourvedre (Columbia Valley)
Gilbert Cellars (Yakima)
In the Glass: Pale salmon, leaning toward platinum. Pink gold.
On the Nose: This wine smells feral, in the best sense of the word. There are those mini wild strawberries here and some tall, windblown grasses, followed by cantaloupe, white peach and honeysuckle. The nose is full of herbes de Provence as a slight yeasty note—an essence of baking bread—and a faint whiff of grapefruit.
On the Palate: For fruits, there’s wild strawberry, cantaloupe and a hint of grapefruit. Then, there are the herbs, white flowers, honeysuckle and touch of gravelly minerality. The wine is lean, herbaceous, and delicate though not in the least prissy or simple.
Drink: When you’re looking for an Old World–style rosé with New World fruit at a fantastic value.
La Famille 2011 Rosé of Mourvedre (Yakima Valley)
Maison Bleue (Prosser)
In the Glass: Salmon.
On the Nose: The barest hint of stewed red fruit is overtaken here by cantaloupe, cranberry, peach, grapefruit and honeysuckle. More interesting still is the bramble, the herb and wet stone.
On the Palate: Maybe it’s the hint of soft, almost honeyed texture that makes one want to cuddle with this wine, though it wouldn’t let you. This is not a cuddling wine.
Go beyond the compelling, lingering mouthfeel (which is balanced by the zippy acidity) and you’ll discover lean, light red fruits like wild strawberries, a hint of raspberry and maybe even some salmonberries, as well as a essence of melon. And, there’s honeysuckle on the palate, white flowers, enticing bramble, herbs and minerality.
Drink: In Tavel or Bandol while mocking your snobby friends. This wine can—and should–stand up to any Old World rosé. It should also be served as a benchmark for how Washington can make fantastic rosé.