Some folks say “rosé season” is long past, but rosé wines are perfect with holiday meals. Whether your centerpiece is turkey or ham, and especially if you’ve dug out your fancy salmon recipes, rosé is the ideal middle ground between a too-light white and a too-robust red.
But rosés aren’t one-size-fits-all wines, so I’ve found two locally purchasable ones with starkly distinct flavor profiles that you can pair with your particular menu. And if you’re like my friend who’s brave enough to roast a standing-rib of beef every year, don’t look away: I’ll have a red recommendation for you at the end.
First up, on the sturdier side of the spectrum, Charles and Charles Columbia Valley Rosé 2013 is my choice for a traditional turkey dinner. From Washington’s Columbia Valley, it’s a French-grape blend — largely Syrah (86 percent) with Cinsault, Grenache, Counoise and Mourvedre rounding out the team. All those red grapes combine to create a wine that pours a bit darker, and tastes a bit more tannic, than your average rosé.
Charles and Charles Rosé is a collaboration between Charles Bieler and Charles Smith, two independent winemakers who decided in 2008 to try to make world-class rosé in Washington state. Bieler had a history of making wine in the south of France but, according to his online account, wanted to branch out to Washington, so he contacted Smith, who had been making unconventional (yet delicious) Washington wines for many years. According to their website, “Making kick-ass wines is our thing,” and their rosé doesn’t disappoint.
This wine opens with a very light whiff of raspberry jam, but the portent of sweetness does not follow through in the taste — which is dry, sturdy and tannic. It’s medium bodied, with flavors of wild strawberry and honeydew melon ending in a short, sharp finish of citrus or maybe melon rind. It may sound astringent, but it’s definitely not. It’s a bit edgy, but the overall effect is food-friendly and palate-cleansing.
Speaking of food, I’d put Charles and Charles Rosé on the table with a turkey dinner, rather than offering it by itself. It can stand up to your roasted tom (turkey, not cat), savory stuffing and all the sides. I learned by happy accident that it’s surprisingly good with broccoli soup. (12.8 percent ABV; $12; available at several local wine shops.)
My second rosé recommendation is much more delicate, much less edgy and it comes with quite a pedigree. In fact, as soon as I saw it on the cover of “Wine Spectator” I thought there was no way I’d ever drink this wine. Back in June (“rosé season,” remember) it was all anyone could write about and the hype really turned me off. I ultimately caved and bought a bottle, shaped differently from most wine bottles to radiate “specialness,” but waited months to open it. When I finally did, I learned an important lesson: Occasionally, hype is justified.
The wine I’m referring to is Miraval Cotes de Provence Rosé 2013, produced at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s French vineyards. Miraval Rosé actually is made by Marc Perrin, part of the five-generation winemaking family currently responsible for producing world-class Chateau de Beaucastel Chateuneuf-du-Pape in Avignon, roughly 150 kilometers northwest of Brangelina’s 1,000-plus acre estate with its seven microclimates and reputed $60-million price tag (and yes, I’m just envious).
Anyway, Miraval Rosé blends three red grapes (Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault) with Rolle (a white grape possibly better known by its Italian name, Vermentino), grown in accordance with organic-farming practices. It’s produced primarily in stainless-steel vats, but a small percentage of the wine is fermented in oak barrels, adding an extra smidge of tannin to the limited amount the juice can absorb during its brief contact with the red grapes’ skins.
The wine pours a pale, bright orange — like thinly sliced raw salmon — with aromas that rise to the lip of the glass. Those aromas are primarily of tart red apple, lemon and red currant — a fragrance something like carnations only minus the spice. Miraval’s flavors are tart, combining soft red fruits with a drop of tangerine, more apple (maybe even crabapple) and a distinct, if subtle, grapey-ness on the ultra-long finish. What you’ll probably notice most about this wine is its sky-high acid level, which contributes to its overall sensations of dryness, silkiness and elegance.
Miraval is so light, fresh and dry it almost floats out of the glass, but that’s what makes it perfect with food. Unlike Charles and Charles, however, Miraval works best with ham and salmon, not so much with turkey (and especially not with heavy stuffing or sweet yams). It does like a good French goat cheese, though, and can easily stand alone during cocktail hour. So, even if I don’t like all the hype surrounding its parentage, I do like the wine — and I think you will, too. (13 percent ABV; $25 available at several local wine shops.)
Now, I promised a red wine for you standing-rib lovers, so here it is: Left Coast Cellars “Right Bank” Pinot Noir 2009. This Oregon Pinot Noir from the Willamette (rhymes with “dammit”) Valley has enough body and tannin to stand up to beef, yet is welcoming and ready to drink now. The grapes come from a single small vineyard planted largely in Pommard-clone Pinot Noir (Pommard being one of the most outstanding regions of southern Burgundy; I can recommend a nice hotel there, if you need one).
“Right Bank” Pinot pours dark garnet and is a full-bodied wine with mingled herb-and-berry aromas followed by mineral-enhanced cherry and blueberry flavors and a long, lingering finish. As much as 30 percent of the wine is aged in new-oak barrels, so tannins will be noticeable but in a nicely dry way — not overwhelmingly oaky. It’s got the acid needed to complement a roast, but will also show off your Yorkshire pudding and parsnips. (14 percent ABV; $30; at shops served by distributor Rush Wines.)