Summer’s On – It’s Time for Rosé

With the arrival of summer, the Paso Robles chapter of Rhône Rangers showcased the pink-hued, Rosé wine recently at their bi-monthly theme-night event held at J. Dusi Winery. Yet the Paso winds created quite a challenge for participants tasked with setting up tables on the patio.

Glasses and plastic dump buckets tumbled off the tables and a tent meant to cover the Hilary and Kate band came crashing down. Fortunately, the musicians escaped unharmed and wisely chose to relocate indoors in the tasting room. And soon enough the Rosé winemakers and pourers found ways to anchor things on their tables.

Wind notwithstanding, the assortment of Rosé wines was refreshingly welcome on this very warm and sunny afternoon — a “drink anytime” wine which is a welcome by the pool, under an aging oak tree or in a tent, hammock or jacuzzi.

A wine ideal for our summer weather and the Central Coast lifestyle, Rosé conjures up visions of small seaside towns, beaches and fresh local seafood. Summertime also brings abundance of stone fruits, berries and leafy vegetables from local farms, produce that begs to be served with pink wines.

Victoria Schmitt, Asima Syed, Victor Abascal and Kim Murphy-Rodrigues

Before I began my tasting walk-about, Kim Murphy-Rodrigues, executive director of Paso Robles Rhône Rangers, filled me in on the group. Being the champion of Rhône style wines, Paso has the largest participation in the entire group with 62 of the 110 national members of the organization.

“But we have to limit the participation depending on the capacity of the venue,” she said of the bi-monthly tastings targeted to bring awareness of Rhône varietals.

Indeed, the 22 Paso winemakers laid out quite a lineup of Rosès. The spectrum ranged from the palest onionskin hue to shades of salmon, rose petal, cantaloupe, peach and strawberry — all these colors derived from skin contact, which allows the juice to remain on the grape skins before removing them. Depending on the winemaker’s style this can mean anywhere from few hours to several days.

Paige Wilson and Natasha Boffman

The flavor profiles of the wines cut a wide swath too, offering a riot of ripe red fruits, fragrant flowers, tangy citrus and juicy watermelon. Most of the vintages featured were 2017 and 2018.  Since the winemakers were restricted to using Rhône grape varietals, there was an abundance of grenache, syrah and mourvedre  (GSM) blends.

But this being Paso, I find that zinfandel always finds it way in the blends. As was the case with Broken Earth Winery’s deep pink grenache-driven Rosé with a splash of zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.

Cypher Winery’s Susan Mahler aka SAM offered her deep colored Rosé as a big wine. A luscious blend of mourvedre and syrah, the Rosé rang with lilting notes of kiwi, rhubarb and strawberries. SAM served the wine with citrus flavored brownie bites. “Chocolate goes with anything,” she said confidently.

Winemakers Randy Phillips of Red Soles and Victor Abascal of Vines on the Marycrest nailed it when it came to the palest Rosé in the crowd. “It’s a white wine made from red grapes,” Abascal commented on the ever so light tint of his Rosé. The strawberry-scented wine was a blend of syrah, mourvedre and old vine Zinfandel from Abascal’s vineyard that was planted in 1963. ”We own the fifth oldest vineyard in Paso,” he noted. Red Soles’ Loose Laces was an ethereal watermelon-scented wine with a whisper of pink.

Janell Dusi, owner/winemaker of J. Dusi Wines, also crafted a hushed pink blend of syrah with a touch of carignane, redolent with fresh strawberry notes. Thacher’s Rosé of carignane was another faintly pale wine perfumed with rose petal notes.

Lineup of refreshing Rosés

I discovered a newcomer to this group, Concur Wines, a recent addition to Tin City. Winemaker Natasha Boffman, a 20-year veteran in the industry, poured a delicious salmon-hued Rosé with tangy watermelon and citrusy notes on the palate. Boffman has launched her own label with 2016 being her first vintage. A minuscule production of over 200 cases a year, her lineup includes 80 cases dedicated to Rosé and 150 to different red wines, and mostly Rhône blends.

MCV Wines’ Pink had some petite sirah and syrah added to grenache while Bovino’s gen.er.os.i.ty was a luscious blend of grenache and mourvedre. Both wines showed a fresh mouthwatering acidity. Sculpterra’s Paso Pink, a GSM blend in a Riesling style bottle was a deep tinted wine evocative of ripe strawberries.

Another light-hued Rosé of grenache from Shale Oak Winery was evocative of rose petals and showed structure. At Vigo Cellars, the syrah and grenache blend had a hint of spice. At Volatus, owner Victoria Schmitt offered two vintages of her Bolter Rosé, the 2017 blend of syrah and grenache showed more body compared to the 2018 blend of syrah and pinot, a lighter color, strawberry-scented version. These are “drink all day wines,” Schmitt commented. 

Steinbeck’s Rosetta (named after patriarch Howard Steinbeck’s grandmother), a syrah-driven wine with fine body and fruit, was a vibrant carousel of rose petals and strawberries. Another syrah-focused Rosé at Rabble was joined by a splash of mourvedre that added a little kick to the blend.  

At the Tablas Creek Vineyard table, I noticed two 2018 vintages, both blends of grenche mourvedre and counoise — the deep hued Dianthus loaded with strawberries and spicy raspberries and a pale salmon tinted Patelin de Tablas Rosé showing vibrancy and floral juiciness.

To balance the deliciousness of la vie en rose, there were hot pizzas dished out of J. Carson’s pizza oven on wheels. Chef and owner John Carson and his team assembled a selection ranging from Margherita and Yukon gold to sausage and peppers and BBQ pork.  

Up next on Paso Rangers calendar is Rhônes on the Range, a BBQ evening scheduled at Thacher Winery in August.