Inman’s Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir

If you read my article on Ehlers’ Rosé—made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc—then you may recall my affection for new world rosés. Yes, the classic Provence style, driven primarily by Grenache and Cinsault (Syrah and Mouvedre to a lesser degree), will likely reign supreme for a long time—both in terms of market cap and perceived authenticity (what a rosé should taste like in most people’s mind). And in the dog days of summer this style of rosé is usually what I look for too. But rosé as a segment of the wine market is unique in its sheer size and endless possibilities. Remember, you can make rosé out of almost any red varietal—from a single varietal or a blend of several. This is why the number of rosés on the shelf of your local wine merchant has probably grown over the years. They are everywhere and constantly evolving.

One varietal that has proven to work well for rosé is Pinot Noir. However—and this is key—it depends on the region. You don’t see many rosés coming out of the Côte-d’Or in Burgundy, for example. Yet this region is world famous for Pinot Noir. So why so few rosés? Rosé needs very ripe, bright fruit to achieve the kind of flavor profile that people have become accustom to—in my opinion. That’s not to say some earthiness is not also a key factor in making quality rosé. Provence has both, but it’s the warm climate in the south of France that is paramount. When I think of wine regions of the world that have the kind of soil to grow world-class Pinot Noir but also have plenty of sunshine, California and Oregon come to mind above all other regions. Particularly California.

Established in 2000 with the planting of their Olivet Grange Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley, Inman Family Wines is the result of Kathleen Inman’s love of Pinot Noir and the soil that produces it. Since her first small vintage in 2002, she has been an ardent supporter of non-interventionalist winemaking practices, ignoring the critically acclaimed riper-style and leading the movement towards more subtle, nuanced wines with a sense of place.

 

The 2019 Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, OGV Estate is no exception to these practices and reflects the winery’s success with “intentional” or “direct-to-press” rosés. Some rosés are made as a by-product of red wine by bleeding off some of the juice early in the production process to create a higher ratio of skin to juice, which concentrates the resulting wine. Whereas rosés made “intentionally,” rather than simply by drawing off the free run juice, tend to have greater complexity and structure because the entire grape is used.

 

As you might expect this wine has flavors of a classic rosé as well as the alluring, delicate flavors of a premium Russian river Pinot Noir. Strawberries and raspberries intermingle with stone fruits (peach and apricot)—held up with great minerality. This wine is indeed a result of the “direct-to-press” approach with good complexity and layers of flavor that last a while on the finish.

 

 

 

 

 

Ehlers Estate Rosé

Like a lot of people who enjoy a glass of rosé as the weather warms, I like the classic style that the Provence region of southern France is known for—light salmon color, dry, with a slight earthiness. That’s not to say, however, that the wine has to be from Provence in order to achieve this style. Put a bottle of Wollfer Estate (Eastern Long Island, NY) in a blind tasting line-up and you’ll likely fool some people who might peg it for Provence or Bandol in the south of France.  Regardless of its origins, this style of rosé is very quaffable, very popular and very available. And for years this has been my default style. But rosés, which can be made from almost any red grape varietal, come in a lot of different styles. So why not branch out.

 

I recently tried Ehlers Estate’s Napa Valley Rosé (“Sylviane”) made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc and was pleasantly surprised. While a number of Napa wineries do a rosé, most are merely a fun experiment. A warm-up wine to include in the tasting line-up for people visiting the winery. After all, Napa Valley does not exactly lend itself to rosé, at least not from a traditional standpoint. In my article, “The Real Rosé Season Starts Now” I highlighted a couple of California rosés that I love—Beckman’s Grenache Rosé and Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris De Cigare. The former is 100% Grenache and the latter is a blend, comprised (typically) of Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Carignan, Cinsault and Mouvedre. Notice a pattern here? Both of them use Rhone varietals (which are also prevalent in Provence to the south), mimicking the French style. And both are delicious. But that doesn’t mean wineries in Napa Valley most follow this script. After all, these varietals do not exactly thrive in Napa Valley. Beckman and Bonny Doon are both in the central coast. Napa vintners can certainly grow varietals like Grenache with decent quality and they do. But is that something they really want to put much effort towards? My guess is no, which is why you see many of them, like Ehlers, using what they already have—Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Why mess around with Rhone varietals when you have some of the best Cab and Cab Franc in the valley?

 

Tasting Notes: The juice of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc lots were fermented in stainless steel drums and once-used barrels. The first thing I noticed is that the wine was not quite as acid driven as the traditional roses I have talked about, yet it had more structure with mellower tannins and more body. According to the winemaker, the fermentation went very slowly and the used oak allowed for the development of a beautiful creamy texture in the wine, which I would say is dead on. Bright aromas of raspberries and strawberries, melon, vanilla beans and white peach fill the glass. This rose will certainly refresh you on a hot day but, because of the softer tannins and more muscular body, can also be enjoyed year-round.

The Lovely Lillet

Like many delicious aperitifs, digestifs, liqueurs, and other items in bottles, Lillet was underutilized for many years. In those somewhat barren times (and here I’m talking about, oh, the early 1960s through about the turn of the century) many of the more intriguing mixtures fell a bit off the cocktail map. Continue reading

Herbal Remedies

One of the greatest elements of summer is the garden–may it be on a rooftop or balcony, in a backyard or wherever else the sun shines. There’s nothing like grabbing a ripe tomato from your garden and putting it directly into a salad. But summer’s spoils are not just relegated to the dinner table. Continue reading