Friday, August 26, 2011

Plenty of Summer Left to Try a Dry Rose'

Dry Rose’ has become a cause for many who take wine seriously. No, it’s definitely not White Zinfandel and pink wine is not always sweet.

Rose’ wines are food-friendly and versatile. These pink wines are dry and a tremendous value. They are also some of the hottest wines, when it comes to sales, in the summer market.

Dry, pink wine really has skyrocketed the past few years. As a matter of fact, sale of Rose’ wines priced above $8 grew more than 53 percent between 2007 and 2008.
Dry Rose’ is affordable, delicious, east to pair with food and yet delightful on a summer evening with nothing but a cracker or snack foods.

Most Rose’ is made from traditional red wine grapes. The wine is simply left in contact with the grape skins for less time than red wine. You get less tannin in the wine and more balanced fruit flavor. Rose’ wines have hints of strawberry and other red fruit. Rose’ can also be made from just about any red wine grape.

Rose’ is my summer guilty pleasure. Here are the four best Rose’ wines I’ve found this summer. All of these are widely available.

Mas Donis 2010 Rosat – Spanish winemakers know how to make great Rose’. This inexpensive Rose is 80 percent Grenache, 10 percent Syrah and 10 percent Merlot. It is a full-bodied wine that will give you hints of red fruit, smoky flavors, and nice acidity. The Mas Donis stands out for its beautiful nose. Some Rose’ can be pretty flat when you stick your nose in the glass. You’ll love the wave of strawberry you get when you take a whiff of this $8-$12 wine.

Andieux & Fils Cotes de Provence – French Rose’ is every bit as finessed and delicate as you would expect. The A&F Rose’ is refreshing and lighter than the Rosat. The blend is 60 percent Grenache and 40 percent Syrah. It has a salmon color with beautiful hints of red raspberry, strawberry, and even a hint of apricot or maybe peach on your palate. Like most Rose’, this wine has low alcohol at just 12.5 percent.

Banfi Rosa Regale – And if you really want to try something different pick up this delicious sparkler. Banfi is one of the most recognized wine names in Italy. They make this beautiful sparkling Rose’ that would be a marvelous before or after-dinner delight. Strong raspberry is lush on the mid palate. The bubbles are really quite restrained. The dark red cranberry color is beautiful. The alcohol is a ridiculously low 7 percent. This is the most expensive wine on the list at $20.

Charles & Charles 2010 Rose – Rose from Spain, France and Italy, and of course now one from the U.S.A. Charles Smith, of the two Charlies in the name, is one of Washington state’s best known, controversial, out-spoken and talented winemakers.

This Rose’ is 100 percent Syrah and it rocks. It’s the best I’ve tasted this summer and maybe one of the best I’ve ever had. It is big in flavor – think sage, raspberry, and maybe even a Jolly Rancher. This wine is proof you can enjoy world class wine for $10-$13.

Finally, I’d also suggest seeking out Pinot Noir Rose for Pinot loves. Most Pinot Rose’ is going to be above the price points mentioned here Tbut the well-made Pinot Rose’ is a palate-pleasing treat.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes about wine every other week for 17 Midwestern newspapers. Read his blog at

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Basking in Oregon's Pinot Noir Afterglow

(Published July 28, 2011) - A wine trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley July 18-22 served as a reminder why so many folks love wine country travel and good wine.

The trip was mostly personal vacation but also an opportunity to casually interview a few folks and gather some material for a few newspaper columns, Madison Magazine in Anderson, and the national online wine magazine – Palate Press.

Visiting 16 wineries in four days, and tasting approximately 50-plus wines, re-invigorated my love for sharing these stories. It’s not just the juice in the glass and the Willamette Valley’s incredible Pinot Noir but it’s the people, the food, the environment that makes a wine hobby so much fun.
As the resident wine geek for a number of folks, most requests revolve around Pinot Noir. Perhaps that’s because of Sideways, the run-away hit movie from 2004 which turned Pinot into a national sensation.

So let’s get that out of the way first. In the value Pinot category, I always recommend Mirrasou, Concannon, and Flipflop. All three labels have a nice, but very light, Pinot under $10. You can’t go wrong. If you want a little stronger Pinot flavor and will go up to $15, look for Mark West, Dashwood, or Castle Rock.

With that noted, I’ll put my wine geek hat on and head back to Oregon. Most value Pinot is very thin though some are well made. Oregon’s entry level Pinot Noirs start around $25-$35 price range.

But you really have to taste one of the wonderful Pinots at or near the upper price level to appreciate the grape. Additionally, I’d argue, tasting the upper-end Pinot will help you better select value brands.

Two suggestions that aren’t way off the price charts are Lange Willamette Valley and Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee. Both are widely available in the Midwest. The Lange wine retails around the $20 price point while Domaine Serene will range from $27-$32. Think of it as a special occasion wine if that is outside your normal comfort level.

The wine-writing thing opens doors. I chatted with three prominent winemakers, had appointments at several wineries and all were fantastic experiences. But it was the people behind the tasting room counters who made the trip. During our first three stops everyone recommended we visit Vidon Winery, a spot I knew nothing about. It turned out to be one of the best visits and awesome Pinot.

But that experience was the rule not the exception. We met two 25-year-olds at different wineries doing some of the grunt work who aspire to be winemakers. I was able to greet some old friends from two previous trips.
The people who make the wine aren’t just winemakers. Two columns ago I wrote about wine country travel and urged readers to talk to those people who are pouring the wine. The Oregon trip really drove that point home again.

Finally, for those ready to open their wallets here are a few recommendations or “Best of” from my trip: Lange Estate Vineyard Pinot ($60), 2009 Penner-Ash Dussin Vineyard Pinot ($60), Domaine Drouhin 2007 Laurene ($65), and Domaine Serene’s Etoile Vineyard Chardonnay ($40). All are available in better Indiana and Illinois wine shops and some liquor stores.

Finally, one of the most enjoyable stops was at Republic of Jam in Carlton. Two ladies take Oregon’s magnificent fruit and turn it into unbelievable taste combinations. Many of their savory delights can be used in cooking. Look them up online and order some jam!