On the heels of our declaration that May is rosé month here on Sauced, I sat down with nine blushing bottles of single varietals: This week we examine some Washington-produced malbec, grenache, and cabernet franc.

Before going deeply into what I discovered, a few things to note. After sorting the wines by varietal, I stuck them in paper bags, mixed them up, and poured. I wanted to taste these wines blind. Also, I served them at about 50 degrees on an 80-degree Seattle day.

One of the most interesting discoveries was how the higher acid level of the cab francs served as a balance for higher sugar levels, though none of these wines could be considered austere. And while this week’s tasting was dedicated to malbec, grenache and cab franc rosé, more single varietals—sangiovese, mouvedre, and syrah and such—as well as a host of blends will be tasted and featured in weeks to come. Here, a look at one malbec, two grenaches, and five cab francs currently hitting the shelves at local wine stores.

ONE MALBEC

2011 Malbec Rosé
Sleeping Dog Wines (Yakima Valley)

In the Glass: Cherry-juice red (likely because it spent 20 hours on the skins).
On the Nose: There’s a bit of raspberry and slight black cherry, as well as wet red fruit and a bit of acetone.
On the Palate: Luckily, there’s a fair amount of acid here, which almost balances the wine’s syrupy flavor. This is what you get when your cherry Jolly Ranchers bump into the tart acidity of a green apple Jolly Rancher.
Drink: On ice or with that bucket of sand.
Price: $16

TWO GRENACHES

2011 Grenache Rosé, Alder Ridge Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills)
L’Ecole No 41 (Walla Walla)

In the Glass: I can’t decide if this wine wants to be orange, or Malibu pink.
On the Nose: There’s a delightful wet rock smell and minerality, maybe even a slight yeasty note, as well as a little black olive. The fruits here are red and slightly stewed.
On the Palate: Where the nose is exceptionally lean, the palate is full of young black cherries and some ripe strawberries, as well as a hint of lavender and other floral notes. The acidity balances the fruit.
Drink: With friends, not your grandma.
Price: $19

Vintage 2010 Grenache Rosé (Columbia Valley)
Apex Cellars (Prosser/Woodinville)

In the Glass: Copper River Salmon pink.
On the Nose: Raspberry and cranberry and strawberries meet (along with a little acetone) under a dusting of minerality, which disappears after the wine has been open a while.
On the Palate: The wine has a vaguely creamy mouthfeel and is full of barely ripe strawberry, a little cranberry, a hint of stewed fruits and some tart acidity, which balances the juicy fruits, though still cannot be considered lean or austere.
Drink: Chilled, with light foods.
Price: $12

FIVE CAB FRANCS

2011 Washington Pearlesent Cabernet Franc Rosé (Rattlesnake Hills)
Palouse Winery (Vashon)

In the Glass: The minute it spills into my glass I want to love this wine, for its elegant little color alone. This is the palest rosé in the group, a platinum pink that reminds me of the 14K red gold braided into a sorority girl’s ring There’s a bubble or two in the glass, though not on the palate.
On the Nose: Hello, watermelon! Hello, freshly fallen cool rain on green grass! Hello, barely ripe cranberry and under ripe raspberry. Hello again, watermelon.
On the Palate: The slight herbacous character here gives way to white flower, raspberry and rhubarb. It’s lean and tasty and the acidity balances the fruit nicely.
Drink: Without really knowing why, I am inclined to serve this with an avocado drizzled in olive oil.
Price: $25


2011 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Franc Rosé
Amavi Cellars (Walla Walla)

In the Glass: Again, we have that Copper River Salmon color which here, really leans toward orange.
On the Nose: There’s wet stone here, as well as lead or graphite notes and a minerality, followed by just a whiff of rosemary. Then, it gives way to cranberry, under ripe raspberry, and watermelon.
On the Palate: The bracing acidity is balanced by a moderately rich mouthfeel. There’s that hint of smoke and graphite—some good minerality—as well as cranberry, slight vegetal notes, light raspberry, strawberry and watermelon. There’s a bit of perfume highlighted here, too.
Drink: Chilled, in the sun, with friends.
Price: $21


The Magician’s Assistant 2011 Blackrock Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé
Sleight of Hand Cellars (Walla Walla)

In the Glass: Coral
On the Nose: A slight whiff of exceptionally ripe strawberries and melon gives way to a hint of wet rock minerality and maybe even a trace of smoke before landing on raspberries.
On the Palate: The wine’s high acidity and lighter mouthfeel balance its raspberry and cranberry fruits. There’s a hint of lavender here, too.
Drink: Refreshingly chilled, but not ice cold.
Price: $18

2011 Cabernet Franc Rosé (Columbia Valley)
Trust Cellars (Walla Walla)

In the Glass: Malibu. Somewhere between orange and pink.
On the Nose: A balsamic nose is layered over überfresh watermelon.
On the Palate: Luckily, cab franc’s acidity is here, since this wine is packed with honeydew melon, Starburst candy, and raspberry. There’s a hint of herbaceousness, but it’s deep beneath that basket basket of ripe fruit.
Drink: Cold.
Price: $18

2011 Rosey Outlook Rosé of Cabernet Franc
Tefft Cellars (Yakima Valley)

In the Glass: Medium light pink.
On the Nose: I immediately want to love this wine for the bracing acidity on the nose. There’s fresh grass here, and lime leaf, followed by cranberry, under ripe raspberry and perhaps even a whiff of pith.
On the Palate: The nose belies the palate—which is all cherry Jolly Ranchers and candied fruits over lime leaves—and the acid isn’t quite high enough to balance the candied fruit, even though there’s that hint of green behind it. This is a sweet wine—even Tefft encourages you to “enjoy its sweetness” so if you’re looking for something sweetish to serve ice cold at your next picnic, this could be it.
Drink: If you wish a sauvignon blanc would marry two cases of cherry Jolly Ranchers.
Price: $21

A final note: Tasting these wines made me realize I’m drawn both by eye and by palate to the palest of rosés. The lighter the color, the more hope I have before opening the bottle.

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