Why I Drink Rosé Year Round (And So Should You)

Fall! I am in my element this time of year. The sun is shining, temps are perfect, the humidity is breaking and the bugs are gone. My running game is on point. Football season is imminent. And my Cubbies- once Lovable Losers- are now perennial contenders. I absolutely revel in September and October.

But every year when it starts cooling down, everyone starts talking about zinfandel, bold Spanish reds, Rhone blends. Not me. I’m still drinking and recommending rosé. I will all fall and winter, too. Here’s why:

1. Rosé is freaking delicious.

The best ones smell and taste like berries, watermelon, peaches, citrus, and sweet strawberry candy . The more sophisticated styles from Southern France also hint at rose petals and minerality. They are dry (very little to no residual sugar) but fruity and accessible, and so darn refreshing. It’s like drinking sunshine while lounging in a hammock in a flower garden.

2. Rosé is simple. 

These wines need no accompaniment or explanation. It is great with food (as illustrated below), but not dependent on it. And while some are more expensive and special than others, most bottles are affordable and readily quaffable. Don’t decant it, don’t worry about the legs or longevity; just pop, pour, and enjoy.

 

3. Rosé goes with everything.

Seafood- flakier white fish, mussels, shrimp, scallops, tuna

Cheese- aged cheddar, goat’s milk, feta,

Pizza and pasta (high acidity wines are the best with tomatoes)

Fruit- berries, apples, pears, peaches, melon

Salads- spinach with dried cranberries, mixed greems with poached pears with walnuts

Poultry- chicken, duck, turkey (no brainer for Thanksgiving)

Spicy- Thai, Mexican, Indian, sushi

Tailgating fare- Chili, barbeque, chips and salsa, burgers, brats, dogs, doritos (totally serious)

Tuesday night supper- mom’s meatloaf, chicken pot pie, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese. ANYTHING.

The only food category that’s not ideal for rose is sweets. So save dessert for fortified or fizz. Otherwise go nuts.

4. Everyone likes it. 

Your sister, your mom, your cousins. Your grandmother who never drinks will consume at least three glasses at your Labor Day party. And don’t forget your twenty-something kids. Millennials are drinking more rosé now than Riesling. Sure, fruity pink wine is a little girly; but don’t let your burly neighbor with the Harley tatt fool you. He likes it too.

So, stop talking about ‘the end of rosé season.” Would you limit yourself to a single season indulging in chocolate cake? I think not.

Here are some of my favorite 2016’s:

Cepa 21 Hito (tempranillo)

Dupueble Beaujolais (gamay)

Anne Amie (pinot noir)

Mas Donis (grenache blend)

Lange Twins (sangiovese)

Domaine Leliervre Gris de Toul (gamay and pinot noir)

Grape of the Month: Pinot Noir

I’m often asked what my favorite kind of wine is.  My answer, like most wine enthusiasts I know, is “I don’t have a favorite.”  I think of wines like parents think of children– you love them all equally, just in different ways.  One might be pretty, one might be the funniest, one is usually the smartest, one is artistic and so on.  Obviously my family is not a good example since I am all of the above.  But typically, good parents give equal affection to all.  And so, I love all my grapes.  One is soft and elegant, one is loud and flashy; one is best with certain foods, one is perfect for sipping by the fireplace.  They’re all wonderful; I don’t play favorites.

But if I were stranded on a deserted island with one bottle of wine, it would have to be an elegant, refined, exceptional Pinot Noir.

Pinot is the great king of Burgundy, where it has thrived for hundreds of years.  From the heralded vineyards in the southern part of the Côte de Nuits come the most elegant, complex and wonderful wines of this type, and arguably the best wines in all of France and perhaps the whole winemaking world.  But alas, these wines are not cheap; in superior vintages the top Burgundies sell at auction for thousands of dollars a bottle.

So, as usual, we turn to the good old US of A to provide us with some reasonably priced but quality wines.  California cornered the market on pinot for quite some time in this country.  From Mendocino all the way to Santa Barbara, this grape has earned a stellar reputation for fruit forward, wonderfully approachable wines.  Some of these may not be wines of amazing structure, especially around Monterey and along the coast; but they are affordable and universally appealing.  Many California pinots, however have earned extremely high praise from enthusiasts all over the world, including the folks at Wine Spectator who named Kosta Brown Pinot 2009 the best wine of 2011.  So Cali gets most of the attention, as usual.  But recently the success of pinot noir from Oregon has oenophiles’ heads spinning.  In Willammette Valley especially we’re finding intriguing wines of amazing depth and complexity that, some argue, rival even the great Bourgogne.  Critics have heralded 2008 Oregon’s best vintage thus far and it appears it’s only getting better.

In Germany, pinot is called spatburgunder.  In my experience, these aren’t typically wines of great distinction, but are interesting and quite approachable.  Pinot is one of the parents of South Africa’s hybrid pinotage, which is gaining some momentum here due to a rise in quality imports.  We’ve also recently discovered some pinot from New Zealand that is worthy of praise.  At quick glance, then, it seems pinot noir can grow almost anywhere.  But the best environment for pinot involves warm days, cool evenings, lots of fog and a great deal of talent and patience in the vineyards.

Now, with this finicky grape, you really get what you pay for.  If you spend ten bucks on pinot, expect a light, fruity wine reminiscent of Kool-Aid at best, cough medicine at worst.  If you spend a bit more, you earn a little depth and complexity.  One you cross the twenty-five dollar threshold, there is a dramatic improvement.  It’s an unfortunate but very real part of life with this spectacular but variable grape.

Pinot Noir

It’s also important to note: this grape is probably the truest expression of terroir.  That is, these wines are completely different depending on from where they came.  In northern California, look for mostly fruit forward, elegant wines with soft, silky tannins.  In central and southern Cali pinot is heftier, more robust, spicy and even sometimes a bit sweet.  In Oregon, pinot is more delicate and subtle, driven by earth tones and hints of tea leaf and truffle.  New Zealand’s versions are known for their minerality and high acidity.  In France, all the best components come together to create wines of amazing depth and distinction.

Pinot is probably a sommelier’s favorite grape as it is the most versatile wine for pairing with food.  Its low tannins, high acidity, and elegant balance make it the perfect match for many cuisines.  Its best counterparts include meatier seafoods like swordfish or salmon, pasta, duck, and of course, anything with mushrooms.

Recommendations:

  • $10-15: Angeline, Cartledge & Brown, Gunther Schlink, Oyster Bay
  • $15-30: Saint Gregory, Byron, Melville, Maysara, Coopers Creek, Sineann, Luca, Capiaux Cellars, Cashburn
  • $30-60: Merry Edwards, Louis Jadot Beaune Clos du Ursules, Ata Rangi, Domaine Serene Evenstad, Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard, Loring Clos Pepe
  • $60-100: Domaine Louis Latour Corton Grancey, Domaine Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin, Kosta Browne, Martinelli
  • Before you die: Domaine Romanée-Conti

I’m Not a Snob

I’m not a “wine snob.” People who prefer attending major league baseball games aren’t sports snobs. Those who settle in with Tom Clancy or a classic Mark Twain aren’t considered book snobs. Seeing a show on Broadway does not make a person a theatre snob. An individual who is more inclined to gaze in amazement at a Monet rather than a child’s fingerpainting is not an art snob. These are all hobbies that require a similar appreciation for their respective crafts, as well as an understanding that the better quality items inevitably have bigger price tags. A wine enthusiast, then, hardly deserves the judgmental label we have been subjected to.

I appreciate wine of all kinds, from the humble table wines of Tuscany to the extravagant Chateaux of Bordeaux; from New Zealand’s racy sauvignon blanc to delicate pinot noir from the Russian River Valley; from a juicy grenache from the hills of Spain to Dom Perignon and absolutely everything in between. And yes, sometimes I am willing to pay more for a more unique or prestigious bottle. But these extravagant occasions are rare, and I deserve a luxury every now and then the same as any hobbyist. Mostly I enjoy the experience of an exceptional bottle of wine, regardless of its price or origins. Do I generally enjoy a fifteen dollar wine more than a four dollar one? Yes. Because it tastes better. Given the choice between USDA choice ground beef or a prime bone-in filet mignon, I would likewise choose the latter, even if it means spending more. It tastes better. I also prefer Cold Stone to Dairy Queen, freshly ground Columbian coffee to stale generic, Sashimi grade tuna to a can of Chicken of the Sea, as well as my dad’s homemade lasagna to Chef Boyardee. It’s not because it costs more. It just tastes better.

I resent hearing degrading comments from those who are unappreciative of wine as an art form. I hear them all the time. I am no more a snob than the gentleman who spends 60k on a luxury vehicle or the young lady that carries a four-hundred dollar purse. That man gets to work every day safely, the same as I do. But his car is more comfortable than mine and has hands-free bluetooth capabilities. And as far as I’m concerned, the woman’s designer purse holds her wallet and makeup just as well as a cheap vinyl bag from Target. But she likes the way it looks, its prestige gives her confidence and the color compliments her shoes. So I don’t judge them; I don’t call her a purse snob. They are entitled to spend their hard earned money on something they value and appreciate. Why am I not entitled to the same?

Blizzaster!

In the early afternoon hours on Tuesday, February 1st, it started snowing.  And snowing.  And snowing.  Winds were gusting up to forty-five miles per hour.  Here’s what it looked like from my front door when it all started:

Blizzaster!

It finally stopped about ten the next morning, and somewhere along the line we accumulated around eighteen inches of snow.    There were drifts in my yard about four feet high.  My mailbox was almost completely buried.

Blizzard

Then, to top it off, the temperature dropped and we had a windchill of -5 degrees.  Roads were closed for hours.  Schools all over Chicagoland were closed for two days.  Even the store I work at shut down for a full day.  It was total insanity.

On the plus side, I didn’t have to leave my property for two and half wonderful, peaceful days.  I turned into a cooking and baking machine. There was potato soup and beef stew.  Ghirardelli hot chocolate.  Pasta Bolognese.  And cookies- chocolate chip and assorted kolackies which I shared with our awesome neighbors who helped us dig out.

Blizzard Wine

And, of course, there was wine.  The first evening I enjoyed a nice but unremarkable pinot.  During the afternoon of the second day, after the shoveling and hot chocolate, I drank a lovely moscato d’Asti, which gets a bad rap in my line of work, but can be quite a nice little treat.  But it was a fabulous little Spanish number that has truly stayed with me and will, for the rest of my life, be my 2011 Blizzard Wine.

Barbazul, by the tiny bodega Huerta de Albala, hails from Andalucia, the region in southwestern Spain known best for sherry.  It is a blend of cabernet, syrah, merlot and a varietal indigenous to the area called tintilla de rota.  It was light to medium bodied, with ripe but balanced berry flavors, notes of baking spices and a hint of sweet vanilla.  I found it deliciously spicy and zesty, especially considering its modest $13 price tag.  It was incredibly juicy and tasty, a very nice accompaniment to the pasta; but most importantly, just right for a shut-in in February.

FRV 100

In the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to taste many sparkling wines.  They came in all shapes and sizes, in different colors, from all over the world.  Some truly stood out, including Perrier Jouet Grand Brut, Egly Ouriet Vrigny and Taittinger Rose.

But honestly, only one was exceptionally unique.  FRV 100 is a sparkling rosé from Beaujolais made in the style of Cerdon de Bugey: Fruity, slightly sweet, effervescent and just fabulous.  Quite simply, this wine is delightful.  Fresh, bright cherries burst from the glass, with flavors of sweet strawberries and slight hints of candy and bubble gum.  I know it sounds silly but I absolutely LOVE this wine with crispy, salty fried chicken.

Think outside the box and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is, without question, my favorite holiday.  Food, wine and football? What more could a vintage girl ask for?! But more than those things, it’s a day we stop to remember and share our blessings.  And I am grateful my life is full of them.  I have an amazing husband who loves and accepts me just the way I am.  I have friends that take good care of me, even when I resist.  I have parents that continuously inspire me and have always supported me unconditionally.  I have three amazing, hilarious, supportive (albeit dysfunctional) siblings I wouldn’t trade for anything.  I have an extended family I am honored to be a part of.  I have a beautiful home.  I have a stable job in a field I’mpassionate about that challenges me and brings me tremendous joy.  And I live in a fantastic country, where I’m free to talk and write about anything I please, in spite of my sass and questionable language.  Life is good.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now, as the culinary part of the holiday goes, of course I’m ecstatic.   And this is arguably the biggest, baddest, best day of the year for folks like me.  There are so many awesome food and wine pairing opportunities! The trick here is not to play only to the turkey.  We also have to consider the stuffing, the green bean casserole, the yams, the mashed potatoes.  Then there are the audibles: Some families serve ham; my dad always made a pan of lasagna.  Each family has its own traditions.  And, in some families, we basically have to set out to please the masses, so in many cases a good Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay is perfect.  But  generally I’m most enthusiastic about off dry-whites and light to medium bodied reds.  Riesling and Pinot Noir really reign supreme; but there are many interesting choices.

So, without further ado, here’s some recommendations for your Thanksgiving table:

  • Fritz Riesling Pfalz ($12)
  • Donnhoff Oberhauser Liestenberg Riesling Kabinett ($32)
  • Botani Muscatel, Malaga ($18)
  • Ransom Temperance Vineyard Gewurztraminer, Oregon ($20)
  • Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer, Alsace ($25)
  • Elk Cove Pinot Blanc, Oregon ($16)
  • Peter Lehman Layers White ($16)
  • Tangent Ecclestone, Central Cost ($15)
  • Patz & Hall Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($30)
  • Chateau Trinquevedel Rosé, Tavel ($22)
  • Chidaine Vouvray ($25)
  • Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras ($30)
  • Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($45)
  • St. Cosme Cotes du Rhone ($15)
  • Maysara 3 degrees, McMinnville ($18)
  • Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough New Zealand ($40)
  • Jean-Paul Thevenet Morgon, Beaujolais ($20)
  • Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas ($30)
  • Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha, Campo de Borja ($26)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

What Inspiration Tastes Like

Many of my regular followers (and when I say many, I mean two) have been chiding me for not posting lately.  Hey, Vintage Barb is a busy gal these days.  Working 40+, taking care of the new house, fighting off the flu, experimenting with a new ice cream maker… It’s all I can do to even keep up with the news.  Not to mention follow the NFL.  And frankly, sometimes thinking and writing about wine just feels like more work.

But the truth is, I haven’t been inspired much lately.  When I get into a rut it usually takes a real special bottle of wine to awaken my enthusiasm and get my blogging blood pumping.  This time, there was not necessarily one such bottle; but several great bottles, some darn good homemade grub, and some terrific company.

I hosted my first dinner party in the new house a couple weeks ago.  I spent most of the previous evening and that morning prepping and cooking.  I had plans for wine but invited guests to bring something to share if they so chose.  My wonderful oenophile friends did not disappoint.  Everything was really fantastic.  The real standouts were a white Rioja I’d been dying to try, compliments of a conscientious and generous rep, and a 2000 Bordeaux a friend brought from his cellar.  But here’s the whole selection:

October 24th, 2010

Desiderio Bisol “Jeio” Prosecco: A light, delicate and luckily, inexpensive sparkler from Valdobbiadene that’s always a perfect aperitif.  Flavors of lemon, apples and sugar cane with just the right amount of fizz.  We sipped on a couple bottles of this as everyone arrived and got to know each other.  Also accompanied some nuts and prosciutto e melone.  Delish!

Field Stone Gewurztraminer 2008: My dad sent me the newest vintage of one of my favorite FS projects.  It was fresh, dry, and classically floral and spicy.  It was quite nice with a light salad and almost perfect with my tuna tartare.  We all wished for just a touch of residual sugar; in a do-over I would choose instead an off-dry riesling.  But we enjoyed the wine nonetheless and agreed it would be better matched with a crab or scallop dish with slightly richer sauce.

Bodegas Palacios Remondo Placet 2007: This was the pairing I was most excited about.  I chose this white Rioja for my potato and leek soup, which really brought out the smokey component.  It was a very good combination, but the complexity of this wine really shone.  It was creamy but balanced, with very distinctive melon, spice, peach and vanilla bean flavors.  An enormous hit with everyone at the table, even the cola drinkers, with its only flaw being its $30 price tag.

Goldeneye Pinot Noir 2006: This wine inspired what may go down in history as the greatest thing I’ve ever accidentally cooked.  I hadn’t planned a pinot course.  I had debated for hours, knowing I needed something, but had been convinced by my spouse I was making too much food.  Then, when more than one guest brought a pinot I knew I had to improvise.  I had to give the people what they demanded! Luckily I’d bought some shitake mushrooms for my crazy vegetarian pal.  So I ended up throwing together some farfalle with the sauteed mushrooms and a wave of truffle oil I’d picked up on the fly for no particular reason the night before.  Sometimes things just work out.  And there it was- after all my planning and prepping, this dish was ironically the best of the night.  The pinot was, of course, a tremendous companion.

JC Cellars Rockpile Syrah 2004: Brought by a friend, this syrah was almost simply an afterthought.  I opened it for the others to enjoy while I was cooking up some risotto.  I poured myself some to sip as well, and was completely bowled over.  Truly a remarkable syrah, with a lot of obvious new world flair.  Several years in the bottle had softened up the tannins but the big, chewy wine was still driven by gobs and gobs of concentrated blue and black fruits.  It could have slept in the cellar for at least another five years, but was quite exciting and impressive.  I spared some for the main course and begged my guests to do the same. Ultimately, it was a fantastic accompaniment.

Clos du Marquis St Julien 2000: My friend arrived with this bottle around 5:30.  We opened and decanted it almost immediately and didn’t touch it again until after 8.  It was fairly tight and compacted, so a good amount of swirling ensued.  What eventually came to life was an exceptionally elegant Bordeaux with all the trimmings: cassis, plum, spice, cocoa, a hint of licorice, and a slightly gamey quality that paired up quite nicely with my braised short ribs.  A truly beautiful, albeit young, Bordeaux certainly worthy of its reputable sibling, Chateau Leoville Las Cases.  Although, we did feel some of the subtlety was lost underneath all the sauce and spices of the dish, so I held some of mine and savored it once my plate was licked clean.  A masterpiece!

Glunz Family Winery Angelica: This is a local company’s Sherry-style dessert wine I purchased a couple years ago on a deep discount and thought would be a nice finish to the evening.  Very, almost excessively, rich and sticky, this wine was gushing with caramel and sweet nutty flavors.  Not the best accompaniment to the rich chocolate chip bread pudding masterpiece I had created, but still very tasty.  By the end of the long evening, we were all quite satiated, so the remainder of the bottle has made for fantastic leftovers.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say the first annual Vintage Barb Dinner was a success.  I only have two regrets: One: Next time I will pre-cook the risotto.  And two: I wish my new dining room table sat more than eight.

Grape of the Month: Chenin Blanc

In my junior year of high school I was cast in my first musical. I fell in love with theatre, and over the next six years I spent every moment I can recall in theatre classes, researching roles and working on plays. I was versatile to say the least. One term I was dancing about as a jolly Irish woman, and the next I was trying to adjust as a concentration camp survivor. The next term I directed an Absurdist one-act play, and the next I played a witch with a vengeance and a wicked sense of humor (typecasted.) In my final and possibly most comical performance, I played a monkey. Although I focused on acting, over my college years I was also a stage manager, sound engineer, lighting designer, make-up artist and spotlight operator. I received many compliments over that time, but none of them sticks with me today as well as “I’ve never known anyone that could perform any role in any play the way you can.”

I don’t mean to brag; I am trying to make a point. Very few varietals are versatile in this way. But this month’s is quite an exception, extremely versatile, and is possibly the most intriguing of them all. One day it’s viscous, nutty, complex and elegant. The next it’s light, racy, tart and quaffable. Sometimes you’ll find a lovely sparkling version, distinctive but refined enough to compete with classic champagne. Then, just when you think you have it figured out, it’s dense, sweet, lush and sublime. It is perfect, depending on its mood, for any season and almost any occasion.

Ripening Chenin Blanc

This beautiful white varietal is the great Chenin Blanc. Once again, we look to France for my featured grape’s roots. It thrives in the slightly warmer parts of the Loire Valley, which incidentally, tourists claim is one of the most charming parts of the country. Here, chenin has earned a reputation for wines of amazing complexity and character. They range anywhere from bone dry to sticky sweet, depending on the region and the warmth of the vintage. In Vouvray and Montlouis, chenin is made into light to medium-bodied dry or demi-sec wines with vibrant acidity, and notable flavors of peach, melon, honeysuckle and sometimes a hint of wet hay. These wines are worthy of a decade or more of cellaring. In Savennieres, chenin is as dry as it gets and fairly full-bodied, with an almost doughy texture and flavors of almond and hazelnut. In Anjou, the extremely ripe, usually botrytised grapes are turned into amazingly complex dessert wines that rival the great Sauternes.

Outside of France, chenin is making a push in California where it’s now the third most planted white varietal. In South Africa, where it’s known as steen, chenin blanc makes up about a third of planted grapes . New world chenin is typically light and dry, with high acid and incredible drinkability. Because the grapes tend toward overgrowth, some of these producers create wines of little personality and zero distinction. This is an unfortunate but very real side effect of capitalism, greed and a failing economy. But generally, thanks to their great value, and enormous curb appeal, these sassy little whites have, over the last two years, launched chenin blanc into popularity.

But for today let’s consider one of my favorite styles of chenin: a three year-old demi-sec Vouvray.

Sight: On first sight can chenin appear quite similar to chardonnay– a vibrant golden with a pale hint of straw. But you’ll probably see slower moving, sticky legs and a fairly consistant rim.

Smell: Take a hayride on a damp summer morning through a field of freshly sheared sheep, honeysuckles, pear trees and peach groves. Reach into your picnic basket and pull out a very fresh loaf of bread and a jar of honey. This captivating combination is chenin blanc.

Taste: The first sip of this wine boggles the mind. It’s a bit of sensory overload mixed with the childlike fascination of Christmas morning. The flavors of quince, pear, melon and honey explode in the mouth, and the acidity makes everything dance a beautiful waltz on the tongue. Somewhere on the back of the palate there’s subtle viscosity and a hint of something earthy and doughy, mixed with sweet and exciting spice. Then, the lovely acidity once again kicks in and lasts on the elegant and scrumptious finish.

Pairings: Manchego with quince paste. Butternut squash ravioli. Lobster.  Sushi. Spicy thai or cajun dishes. Fried chicken.

Recommendations:

$10-15: Man, Indaba, Dry Creek, Moncontour

$15-30: Pinon, Mulderbosch, Chidaine, Domaine du Viking, Langlois Cremant de Loire, Domaine Huet

Before you die: Domaine des Baumard Quarts du Chaumes