One step outside into the blazing, balmy heat of the city and it’s clear to see change is in the air. Not only are masks coming off, and Covid restrictions loosening, but the warm weather over the past few weeks has been steadily changing the drinking trends from the hearty, full-bodied reds of cold days passed, to much lighter, fresher wines with paler color. It must mean something - that’s right, summer is here! Time to load the briquettes into the bbq and fill up the kiddy pool - it’s rosé season once again.
Rosé consumption has enjoyed a steady rise over the years, especially in the warmer months. It's a no-brainer, as these often young, refreshing, easy-drinking wines take well to the icy chill of a picnic cooler and provide respite to the sweltering summer heat and sunny rays. The versatility of these wines make them equally desirable as an accompaniment to food hot off the grill, or simply on their own.
But that doesn't mean there aren’t certain rosés that do deserve the time and contemplation as the robust reds we enjoy at the dinner table, tucked cozily inside our homes in the chilly months. Some rosés, like the Clos Saron “Tickled Pink,” are meant to be tasted, savored, and properly paired.
In early 1995, Gideon Beinstock and wife, Saron Rice, were asked by close friend, Leonard, if they wanted to take over a tiny, half-acre plot of Cabernet Sauvignon in the far reaches of the Sierra Foothills. The cooler weather was more suited to varietals such as Pinot Noir, so with Leonard’s blessing, they grafted Pinot onto the Cab rootstocks and interplanted additional Pinot Noir vines within. Several years later, Leonard sold the couple this plot of land, and Clos Saron was born.
The vineyards have expanded over the years, and additional wines are produced using both estate and purchased fruit, all following the same ethos of strict organic agriculture, and minimal intervention. Grapes are foot-stomped in open-top vats with fermentations carried out by native yeast. For the multi-varietal wines, co-fermentation takes place, allowing for better integration. All cuvées age in neutral barrels and are bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with only minimal SO2.
The 2016 “Tickled Pink” is 65% Merlot and 35% Viognier, grown by Markus Bokisch on decomposed granite soils on the low rolling hills of the Sierra Mountains. The grapes were foot-crushed and the Merlot macerated for two days before the juice was pressed off onto the fermenting Viognier along with its skins and stems. The wine was bottled after fifteen months in a neutral barrel, and bottle-aged an additional twenty-six months prior to its release.
The complexity of the winemaking is only matched by the wine produced. In the glass it shows a pale garnet color with tawny hues. The nose exhibits savory herbaceous notes of underbrush, tart raspberry, and hibiscus, while on the palate a lean texture, bright acidity, and notable tannins would make anyone convinced that they are drinking a light red versus anything rosé. At just five years old, the wine could even improve with additional cellaring, as winemaker, Gideon, suggests this cuvée shows its best 8-10 years after its release.
With the complexity and precision of the wine, it’s an ideal pairing with Mediterranean Stewed Octopus with Tomatoes and Capers. The savory herb notes of “Tickled Pink” shine in the wine and its acidity is paralleled by the tomatoes and briny capers.
As we continue to heal from the stress and strain of the last fifteen months, the warm, inviting, picnic-friendly weather of summer feels more welcome and necessary than ever. Finally, we can get back to the activities we love and have missed, to get back to the concerts, movies, sporting events, and travel we’ve craved, and return to some sense of normalcy. It’s time we drink in, rosé and all. Cheers!