Rose wines


It’s a really nice day, the temp in the 80s, bright sun, blue sky, soft breeze, snoozing dogs scattered all over the backyard, looking as if they dropped from airplanes. Perfect time and place to open a bottle of rosé. So I did.

This is the Benessere Vineyards Rosato 2011, Napa Valley, a blend of 69 percent sangiovese grapes, 23 percent merlot and 6 percent sagrantino, a red grape grown in eastern Umbria around the incredibly cute hill-town of Montefalco. The color of this rosé is not super-pale but rather a ruddy copper-salmon hue. The bouquet is a beguiling weaving of ripe and slightly fleshy raspberries and strawberries with a darker tinge of mulberry; give it a moment or two in the glass and the wine brings up hints of spiced peach, nectarines, apple skin and dried orange zest. Though the texture is soft and appealing, the wine is quite dry and possesses the brisk acidity and pert limestone-tinged minerality for true structure and refreshment, while the citrus-permeated red fruit flavors are downright delicious. 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was 145 cases. Excellent. About $16, and Worth a Search.

A sample for review.

LL said a couple of nights ago, “We have any Champagne around this joint?” Not having any Champagne around the joint, I hopped in the old chariot, scooted to the nearest package store, as liquor stores used to be called, and snatched a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé from the refrigerator case. This gesture was, to be sure, an indulgence, but I had not tasted or written about the product in four years, so I thought it was time.

The mind-set among Champagne devotees nowadays is biased toward small artisan estates — preferably in the same family since 1782 and lying in one of the region’s more obscure patches — often set up as models of individuality and integrity against the large old-line houses that turn out hundreds of thousands or millions of bottles a year in a full roster of types and labels, but leveling everything down to a discernible “house-style.” Well, all right, I go along with that notion to a certain extent, who doesn’t love a dark horse, yet the grand producers sometimes benefit from decades of fine-tuning and a meticulously developed consistency that’s gratifying and comforting. Such is the case with the Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé. The firm began making a rosé Champagne in 1788 and departed from the region’s tradition of macerating black grapes in white wine to producing a rosé from black and white grapes together, in this contemporary model adding about 12 percent red wine to its typical Yellow Label base of pinot noir grapes (50-55 percent), pinot meunier (15-20 percent) and chardonnay (28-33 percent).

This entirely winsome Brut Rosé displays a lovely pale peach-copper hue vitalized by a constant surging froth of tiny silver bubbles. The ethereal bouquet wreathes hints of raspberry, pear and melon with burgeoning limestone and hints of biscuits and toasted almond. In the mouth, this Champagne offers crisp, resonant acidity and scintillating limestone minerality with touches of dried red fruit, fresh bread and cinnamon toast, all ensconced in a supple, silken texture. Charming and expressive, with a happy conjunction of power and elegance. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. As happens with popular imported Champagnes, the range of prices for the Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé is astonishing; the East and West coasts will see prices from about $52 to $65, while in the great American heartland the tab can go up to $75 or even $85.

Imported by Moet Hennessy USA, New York


We made a quick trip to New York — up Friday morning, back Sunday afternoon — to celebrate a friend’s birthday with other friends we had not seen in three or four years. Naturally the festivities included a great deal of eating and drinking, as in a small dinner Friday, a large birthday bash dinner Saturday and brunch on Sunday. Here are notes, some brief and some not so brief, on the wines we tried.

Image of NYC skyline in the 1950s from airninja.com.
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This was a hit. For dinner we were having a casserole of chicken and sausage and onions and fresh herbs — which was deeply flavorful and delicious — at the B’day Girl’s place, and I thought “Something Côtes du Rhône-ish is called for.” She is fortunate enough to live right around the block from Le Dû’s Wines, the store of Jean-Luc Le Dû, former sommelier for Restaurant Daniel, and we traipsed over to see what was available. She wanted to buy a mixed case of wines, and I wanted to pick up a bottle of Champagne and whatever else piqued my interest.

l’Apostrophe 2009, Vin de Pays Méditerranée, caught my eye. The wine is made by Chante Cigale, a noted producer of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a pedigree that reveals itself in its full-bodied, rustic savory qualities. A blend of 70 percent grenache, 20 percent cinsault and 10 percent syrah and made all in stainless steel, the wine sports a dark ruby-purple hue and burgeoning aromas of spiced and macerated blackberries, red and black currants and plums. Black and blue fruit flavors are potently spicy and lavish, wrapped in smoky, fleshy, meaty elements and bolstered by a lithe, muscular texture and underlying mossy, briery and graphite qualities. I mean, hell, yes! This was great with the chicken and sausage casserole. Drink through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. About $15-$16, representing Real Value.

Imported by David Bowler Wine, New York. (The label image is one vintage behind.)
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Also at Le Dû’s Wines, I gave the nod to Domaine de Fontenille 2009, Côtes du Luberon, a blend of 70 percent grenache and 30 percent syrah produced by brothers Jean and Pierre Leveque. Côtes du Luberon lies east of the city of Avignon in the Southern Rhone region. This wine was a tad simpler than l’Apostrophe 2009, yet it packed the same sort of spicy, savory, meaty, fleshy wallop of macerated black and blue fruit scents and flavors ensconced in the earthy loaminess and soft but firm tannins of briers and brambles and underbrush. Now that prices for Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône-Villages have edged above $20 (and $30 even), wines such as Domaine de Fontenille and l’Apostrophe offer reasonable and authentic alternatives. Drink through 2012 or ’13. Very Good+. About $14-$15.

Imported by Peter Weygandt, Washington D.C. (The label image is many vintages laggard but it’s what I could find.)
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With poached fennel-stuffed salmon, we drank the At Riesling 2009, Colli Orientale del Friuli, from Aquila dei Torre — eagle of the tower — which at two years old is as clean as a whistle, fresh and lively, and gently permeated by notes of spiced peach, pear and quince with a background of lychee, lime peel and limestone; there’s a hint of petrol or rubber eraser in the bouquet and a touch of jasmine. Made in stainless steel and spending nine months in tanks, At Riesling 09 offers crisp acidity and a texture cannily poised between ripe, talc-like softness and brisk, bracing, slightly austere spareness; the finish focuses on scintillating minerality in the limestone-slate range. The designation means “the eastern hills of Friuli.” Now through 2013. Very Good+. About $22.

Domenico Selections, New York.
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We drank the Campo San Vito 2004, Valpolicella Classico Superiori Ripasso, with roast beef at the B’Day Girl’s Big Dinner Bash. I first reviewed the wine in July 2009; here are the notes:

For wine, I opened the Campo San Vito Valpolicella 2004, Classico Superiore Ripasso, a wine that also conveyed a sense of intensity and concentration. Ripasso is a method in which certain Valpolicella wines are “refermented,” in the March after harvest, on the lees of Amarone wines; the process lends these wines added richness and depth. The color here is almost motor-oil black, with a glowing blue/purple rim; the bouquet is minty and meaty, bursting with cassis, Damson plums, smoke, licorice and lavender and a whole boxful of dried spices. Yes, this is so exotic that it’s close to pornographic, but the wine is not too easy, on the one hand, or overbearing, on the other, because it possesses the acid and tannic structure, as well as two years in oak, to express its purposeful nature and rigorous underpinnings. Flavors of black currant and plum, with a touch of mulberry, are permeated by spice, potpourri and granite, as if all ground together in a mortar; the finish, increasingly austere, gathers more dust and minerals. Quite an experience and really good with our dinner. Limited availability in the Northeast. Excellent. About $25.

What was the wine like two years later, at the age of seven? A lovely and beguiling expression of its grapes — corvina, molinara, rondinella — still holding its dark ruby hue and all violets and rose petals, tar and black tea and lavender, stewed plums and blueberries with an almost eloquent sense of firmness, mellow, gently tucked-in tannins and vivid acidity, but after 30 or 40 minutes, it began to show signs of coming apart at the seams, with acid taking ascendancy. Drink now. Very Good+ and showing its age, but everyone should hope to do so in such graceful manner.

Imported by Domenico Selections, New York.
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And two rosé wines:

The house of Couly-Dutheil produces one of my favorite Loire Valley rosés, so it’s not surprising that I found the Couly-Dutheil “René Couly” Chinon Rosé 2010 to be very attractive. This is 100 percent cabernet franc, sporting a classic pale onion skin hue with a blush of copper; so damned pretty, with its notes of dried strawberries and red currants over earthy layers of damp ash and loam and a bright undertone of spiced peach, all resolving to red currant and orange rind flavors and shades of rhubarb and limestone. Dry, crisp and frankly delightful. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through Spring 2012. Very Good+. About $19.

Imported by Cynthia Hurley, West Newton, Mass.

Ah, but here comes what could be the best rosé wine I have tasted. O.K., not to be extreme, one of the best rosés I have ever tasted.

L’audacieuse 2010, Coteaux de l’Ardeche, comes in a Big Deal heavy bottle with a deep punt (the indentation at the bottom); instead of being in a clear bottle, to show off the pretty rosé color, L’audacieuse 2010 is contained within a bottle of serious dark green glass. The producers of this prodigy, a blend of 50 percent syrah, 30 percent grenache and 20 percent cinsault, are Benoit and Florence Chazallon. The estate centers around the Chateau de la Selve, a fortified house built in the 13th Century. The grapes for L’audacieuse 2010 are grown under organic methods and fermented with natural yeasts, 1/2 in barriques and 1/2 in concrete vats; it aged six months in barriques. The color is pale but radiant onion skin or what the French call “eye of the partridge.” An enchanting yet slightly reticent bouquet of apples, lemon rind, orange zest and dried red currants wafts from the glass; in the mouth, well, the wine feels as if you were sipping liquid limestone suffused with some grapey-citrus-red fruit essence, enlivened by striking acidity and dry as a sun-bleached bone. While that description may make the wine sound formidable, especially for a rosé — and it is as audacious as its name — its real character embodies elegance and sophistication, integration and balance of all elements, but with something ineffably wild and plangent about it. This is, in a word, a great rosé. 13 percent alcohol. Production was all of 2,100 bottles and 80 magnums. Drink through Summer 2012. Excellent. About $30 and Worth a Search.

Imported by Metrowine Distribution Co., Stamford, Conn.
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I bought the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé so LL and I could toast our friend Saturday evening before going to her Big B’Day Bash. The house was founded in 1818, but the Billecart family has roots in Champagne going back to the 16th Century. According to Tom Stevenson, in the revised and updated edition of World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine (Wine Appreciation Guild, 2003, and really needing another revision and updating), the blend of the Brut Rosé is 35 percent each pinot noir and pinot meunier and 30 percent chardonnay. What can I say? This is a bountifully effervescent rosé Champagne of the utmost refinement, elegance and finesse, yet its ethereal nature is bolstered by an earthy quality that encompasses notes of limestone and shale and by a dose of subtle nuttiness and toffee, while exquisite tendrils of orange rind, roasted lemon and red currants are threaded through it; zesty acidity keeps it fresh and lively. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. I paid $78; prices around the country vary from about $75 to $90.

Imported by T. Edward Wines, New York.
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If you know anything about Renaissance, located near the town of Oregon House, north of Sacramento in the North Yuba area of the Sierra Foothills, you’ll know that the use of the word “rarities” means that these wines are rare indeed, since the winery usually makes only a few hundred cases, and certainly fewer than a thousand, of most of the wines it produces.

Winemaker Gideon Beinstock is uncompromising in his avoidance of new oak barrels and in advocating a strictly “less-is-more” attitude in the cellar, and the result tends to be wines that may be understated but are decisively authentic and expressive.

Take the Renaissance Carte d’Or Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009, Sierra Foothills, a blend of 60 percent sauvignon blanc and 40 percent semillon, fermented in stainless steel and aged 6 months in “neutral French puncheons,” that is, very large, often-used oak barrels. Now we all know what a sauvignon blanc-semillon blend should be like, right? Grapefruit! Lime peel! Green bean! Fig! Grass ‘n’ herbs! Not this glittering shaft of spare elegance. The color is medium straw-gold with a slight green tint; aromas of quince and quinine, roasted lemon and almond skin, teas both green and orange pekoe devolve to a wisp of spiced pear. This is quite dry and sleek, unemphatic in its serene balance yet crisp and lively with almost crystalline acidity; a touch of fig and leafiness, yes, but mostly this is citrus and stone-fruit and a texture riskily poised between taut and talc. I tried the wine, recorked it, stuck it in the fridge and served it with dinner; the clean camellia-tinged floral element was in high gear. LL pronounced it beautiful. 13.2 percent alcohol. Production was — sorry! — 58 cases. Drink through 2013. Excellent. About $20 and definitely Worth a Phone Call. How can they sell such a wine so inexpensively?

I’m sorry to say that Beinstock produced even less of his Renaissance Rosé 2010, Sierra Foothills. Made from 100 percent syrah grapes and, unusually for a rosé, aged four months in neutral French oak barrels, the wine displays the classic pale onion skin hue of a Provençal rosé. The bouquet offers notes of dried strawberries and peaches, a touch of apple, hints of woodsy spice, orange rind and watermelon. These qualities are consistent in the mouth, where the wine is delicate, subtle and supple, though after a few minutes in the glass it gains a bit of weight, becoming more ripe, a little fleshy. Overall, though, this rosé is an elegant and evanescent tissue of grace and charm — spare, deliberate, exquisite. 12.6 percent alcohol. Production? Well, 23 cases don’t go very far; again, this is a matter of calling the winery and seeing if they’ll send a few bottles. Drink through 2013. Excellent. About $18.

These were samples for review.

The history of Domaine du Tariquet is complicated — the progenitor was a bear-tamer — so it will suit our purposes merely to say that the same family his owned the property since 1912, first the Artaud family and then, through marriage in the early 1940s, the Grassa family. Today, the third Grassa generation operates the estate, which originally produced only Bas-Armagnac and then in 1982 added white wines in what were pioneering blends of chardonnay and chenin blanc or chardonnay and sauvignon blanc or ugni blanc and colombard. These white wines and a rosé, great values among them, are the subject of today’s reviews. The appellation is Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, in the southwest region of France called Midi-Pyrénées. For centuries, Gascony, which shares a mountainous border with Spain, was home to a Basque-speaking people whose origins and affinities really lay in Spanish culture; in fact, the root of the words Basque and Gascony is the same. Côtes de Gascogne, surrounded by predominantly red wine regions, is unusual in that 91 percent of the production is white wine, the rest being about 8 percent red and 1 percent rosé.

Imported by Robert Kacher Selections, Washington DC. Samples for review.
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Domaine du Tariquet Classic Ugni Blanc Colombard 2010, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne. 70 percent ugni blanc, 30 percent colombard. Ugni blanc is the same grape as the usually nondescript Italian trebbiano; by keeping things simple and controlling the grape’s inherent withering acidity, it’s capable of making an attractive, lively wine of no huge character; it would help if yields were kept low. Paradoxically, ugni blanc is the principle grape in Cognac and Armagnac, precisely because its neutral nature and high acidity make it perfect for distillation and wood aging. Anyway, this little quaffer is as alluring as all get-out, offering hints of lemon, pear and yellow plum woven with touches of jasmine and cloves, a bit of almond skin and something slightly herbal. Fresh, clean, delightful and very nice as an aperitif or with mild cheeses and seafood dishes. 11 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $9, a Real Bargain.
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Domaine du Tariquet Chenin Chardonnay 2010, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne. Chenin blanc 75 percent, chardonnay 25 percent. This is pleasant enough but certainly not the most attractive or compelling of this group of wines. Crisp and vibrant, with tasty touches of lemon, quince and green plum and a burgeoning spicy element supported by a hint of limestone. 12.5 percent alcohol. Good+. About $11.
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Domaine du Tariquet Chardonnay 2010, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne. While the other wines noted in this post receive no oak aging, Tariquet’s Chardonnay 2010 was given three months in barrels. Amazing quality for the price here: this is clean, fresh and bright, with pears and roasted lemon for the nose, highlighted by hints of grapefruit and pineapple and gentle spice and a touch of buttered toast, while a few minutes bring round a note of jasmine; the texture deftly balances moderate lushness and a very pleasing texture with resonant acidity and a bit of limestone in the background. Surprising heft, presence and personality for a chardonnay in this range. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $11.
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Domaine du Tariquet Cote 2010, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne. This beguiling wine is a well-balanced blend of 50 percent chardonnay and 50 percent sauvignon blanc, each grape nicely delineated yet fitting seamlessly into the package. Fresh aromas of apples, pears and slightly spiced and macerated lemons with hints of thyme and freshly-mown grass and a touch of jasmine; crisp and quite lively, with spicy, roasted lemon and grapefruit flavors ensconced in a texture seductively poised between chardonnay’s ripe lushness and sauvignon blanc’s tidy spareness, all encompassed by a finish packed with limestone. We enjoyed this wine with seared rare tuna, under a dense peppercorn crust. 11 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15.
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Domaine du Tariquet Rosé de Pressée 2010, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne. My favorite of this group. A blend of 30 percent each merlot and cabernet franc, 25 percent syrah and 15 percent tannat, the wine was made in the fashion of a white wine, that is grapes pressed and the juice removed from the skins, rather than the saignée method of crushing the grapes and bleeding off some juice before it colors completely. This example is unusually ripe and fleshy for a rosé, though the color is a pale melon-copper; aromas of fresh strawberries, red currants and melon unfold to elements of pomegranate, almond skin, thyme and limestone; a lovely, almost silken texture is riven by scintillating acidity and limestone-like minerality, pointing up spicy red fruit flavors that aim toward a finish that gets spare and almost austere. A superior rosé, charming yet with a fairly serious edge. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $12, a Great Bargain.
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Early last week I wrote about two products from the Toad Hollow winery, the Unoaked Chardonnay 2010 and Erik’s the Red 2009. Today it’s the turn of two pinot noir wines, a “regular” pinot and a rosé. These wines were samples for review.
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The Toad Hollow “Eye of the Toad” Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma County, is not a saignée rosé, in which some juice is bled off from the tank before fermentation to concentrate the resulting wine (i.e., less juice to the same amount of skins). This is, instead, made from pinot noir grapes gently pressed and then pulled from the skins after a sort maceration that yields a fine-hued rosé color, a sort of melon pink infused with light copper with a hint of violet at the rim. While “Eye of the Toad” represents the winery’s name, it’s also a take-off on those traditional rosé-color descriptions, “eye of the partridge” and “eye of the swan.” What a completely charming rosé, one of the best I have tried this summer. Delicate aromas of pomegranate and strawberry are infused with touches of spiced peach, red currants and cranberries, with undertones of limestone. The wine is quite dry and crisp, a little tart even, and it delivers tasty elements of melon, dried red currants and an increasingly spicy, slightly herbal aspect, all grounded on limestone-like minerality. Clean, scintillating and refreshing. Perfect with salade Niçoise. Alcohol content is a gentle 11 percent. Very Good+. About $13, a Great Bargain.
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I don’t want to over-use the word “lovely,” but, damnit, the Toad Hollow Goldie’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, won’t allow me to use a different or lesser term. Aged in French and American oak barrels for 15 months, the wine is smooth, supple and satiny. Beguiling aromas of black cherry, red currants and plums, slightly spiced and macerated, open to hints of pomegranate and mulberry; give it a few minutes in the glass, a bit of time and swirling, and softly earthy touches of tomato skin, thyme and moss emerge. The wine takes on a smoky element in the mouth and more spice, becoming earthier, a little “darker,” yet never losing hold of its delicious black and red fruit flavors and its seductive succulence balanced by vibrant acidity. Try with grilled or roasted chicken (if it’s not too hot to fire up the grill or turn on the oven) or with a spread of charcuterie and mild cheeses. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2012. Very Good+. About $19.
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When I was a kid, I thought that picnics must be pretty damned cool and racy events, because I was familiar with Manet’s great painting Dejeuner sur l’herbes that hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. In the book of reproductions that I looked at constantly, the two men and two women depicted in the work were described as “dining al fresco,” and since one of the women was nude and the other partially so, I thought that a picnic meant eating outside naked. Well, it didn’t turn out that way, damnit, but naked or not, picnics (under controlled conditions) can be quite charming. The foods I favor at these occasions include deviled eggs, cold roasted chicken, cucumber sandwiches, potato salad and strawberry shortcake; I don’t normally cotton to strawberries, the stupidest of the berry line, but in the picnic situation, they’re allowed. What’s also allowed are young, fresh, attractive wines that we can enjoy without worrying our pretty little heads too much; wines that offer an interesting level of complexity without being ponderous or demanding or shrill. That’s what I bring to you today, because as the temperature moderates slightly in some parts of the United States of America, My Readers might be contemplating picnics, even if they occur on the safety of their own porch or patio or backyard, rather than say, Yosemite.

None of these wines sees the least smidgeon of oak; none has an alcohol content higher than 13 percent; all slide across the counter at a reasonable price. The primary motifs are charm, delight, drinkability. With one exception, these wines are from vintage 2010; one is from 2009. All rate Very Good+ with one exception, and that’s a superb rosé that I scored Excellent. These are versatile wines intended to match with all sorts of casual fare, not just my ideal picnic menu. Samples for review, except for one that I bought.

Image from artchive.com.
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Let’s start with a delightful sip of something just a little sweet. Innocent Bystander Moscato 2010, Yarra Valley, from an area just northeast of Melbourne in Australia’s Victoria region, is exactly the color in your glass as you see in this illustration: a very pale melon/bubble gum pink. It’s what Italians call frizzante, which is to say sparkling but more of a light fizz than gushing effervescence. The wine is a blend of 65 percent muscat of Alexandria and 35 percent muscat of Hamburg. Here is pure raspberry and strawberry notched up by a spike of lime with delicate scents of watermelon and rose petals and something slightly earthy and foxy. In the mouth, Rainier cherries and orange zest come into play and a hint of cloves enveloped in chiming acidity and a bit of limestone-like minerality. The wine is slightly sweet initially, but it quickly goes bone-dry, while retaining a sense of ripe softness and talc-like lushness balanced by that crisp structure and gentle, fleeting bubbles. Absolutely charming and — a word I seldom employ apropos wine — fun. 5.5 percent alcohol, so you can drink a lot! Very Good+. Half-bottles about $10 to $12.
Old Bridge cellars, Napa, Ca.
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Torres Vina Esmeralda 2010, Catalunya, Spain. Well, now, what a sweetheart this one is! The color is pale straw-gold with a slight green sheen. The wine is composed of 85 percent muscat of Alexandria grapes and 15 percent gewurztraminer, so it’s not surprising that what you first notice about the bouquet are aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, followed by peach and pear, and then a hint of lychee and petrol. The wine is sprightly, spicy, snappy, quite dry; it’s permeated by prominent strains of limestone and shale (though the texture is moderately lush) that bolster flavors of roasted lemon, canned lychee and some of its juice and a touch of peach nectar, all devolving to a stony, acid-lashed finish that reveals a hint of bracing grapefruit bitterness. Really charming. 11.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., N.Y.
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Albariño is Spain’s white grape of the moment, and the Martin Códax Albariño 2010, Rías Baixas (in Galicia in northwest Spain) is a worthwhile interpretation. I found this wine’s invigorating dry grass-sea salt-roasted lemon-limestone character irresistible, and it immediately put me in mind of trout seared in an iron skillet with butter and capers over a camp fire (or Coleman stove), though that example truly sounds more like a cook-out on a camping trip than a halcyon picnic in a bosky dell. Add to those qualities hints of dried thyme and tarragon, yellow plums, quince and ginger, touches of fennel and cloves and a late-comer bloom of jasmine, and you get a well-nigh perfect picnic or patio wine. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Martin Codax USA — i.e., Gallo — Haywood, Ca.
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Grapes for the Chamisal Vineyards Stainless Chardonnay 2010, Central Coast, derive from all up and down the vast Central Coast region of California, but include a portion from the winery’s estate vineyard in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo. I love the name of this wine — “Stainless Chardonnay,” as if it were a product of immaculate conception — but the free-of-sin cuteness makes a point; this wine is made all in stainless steel and goes through no malolactic process in tank, so it functions as an epitome of freshness, bright flavors, vibrancy and minerality; it’s not just “no-oak” but “anti-oak.” My first note is “Lovely.” Pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors are imbued with hints of mango and guava (though the wine seems not a whit tropical) and touches of quince and lime. The texture is shapely and supple; it just feels beguiling sliding through the mouth, while plenty of limestone and steel and a hefty dose of jazzy acidity keep the keel on a purposeful cutting path across the palate. Thoughtful winemaking here from New Zealand native Fintan du Fresne. 13.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $18.
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With its engaging manner, crisp liveliness and lovely tone and presence, the Domaine du Salvard Cheverny 2010 seduces the nose and gladdens the mouth. Made all in stainless steel from 100 percent sauvignon blanc grapes, this product of a small appellation south of the city of Blois and the Loire River offers notes of fresh-mown grass, dried thyme and tarragon, roasted lemon and ripe pear and heaps of lime and limestone. Lemon and lime flavors are touched by hints of sunny, leafy fig with a bell-tone echo of black currant at the center. Juicy and spicy, yes, but dry, stony, steely, deftly balanced between scintillating acidity and a delicately ripe, rich texture. The domaine was founded in 1898 by the Delaille family and has been owned by them since then; it is operated by Gilbert Delaille and his sons Emmanuel and Thierry. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15 to $18.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Ca.
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Befitting a white wine that hails from an island, the Sella & Mosca La Cala 2009, Vermentino di Sardegna, is savory and spicy, brisk as a sea-wind fledged with brine, replete with notes of pear and almond skin, a sort of sunny lemony quality, and underlying hints of bees’-wax and jasmine. The winery was founded in 1899 by two friends from Piedmont named — ready? — Sella and Mosca. The wine is made from 100 percent vermentino grapes, some of which, after harvest, are allowed to dry before being pressed, a process that adds some richness and depth to the wine without detracting from its notable freshness and immediate appeal. Ringing acidity keeps La Cala 09 vibrant and resonant as a bow-string, yet the tautness is balanced by a texture of almost powdery softness. Completely lovely. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $12, an Absolute, Freaking Bargain.
Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla.
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Boy, is this pretty! The Bindi Sergardi Oriolus 2009, Bianco di Toscana, made in stainless steel, is a blend of trebbiano, malvasia Toscana and chardonnay grapes, to produce an unusual and very attractive combination. “Bianco di Toscana” is a basic designation that means, as if you didn’t know, “white wine of Tuscany,” so producers can do just about anything they want with it. In the case of Oriolus 09, we have a light straw color with a sort of ghostly green tone and a bouquet of almond and almond blossom, spicy lemon and lemon balm, cloves and shale and limestone. A few minutes in the glass bring up elements of spiced peach and pear, which provide high-notes in the aromas but dominate flavors bolstered by clean, fresh acidity and subtle touches of dried herbs, tangerine and steely limestone. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Le Vignoble, Cordova, Tenn.
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Luna Mater Franscati Superiore Secco 2009, produced by Fontana Candida, represents a rendition of the famous “wine of Rome” that is indeed superior. Such quality might not be such a difficult task to attain considering that most Frascati is bland and innocuous, but efforts are being made, and Luna Mater — “Mother Moon” — is among the best. Made all in stainless steel, the wine is a blend of 60 percent malvasia bianca di Candia, 30 percent trebbiano Toscano and 10 percent malvasia del Lazio, from vineyards that average 50 years old. What’s here? Almond and almond blossom with a touch of almond skin bitterness; green apples, roasted lemon and a bit of peach; dried thyme and lemon verbena; a very dry, steely and minerally effect in the mouth, with taut acidity, a rousing note of breeze-borne sea-salt and salt-marsh; rollicking spiciness from mid-palate back through a finish flecked with quince and ginger. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $23.
VB Imports, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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Chateau des Annibals “Suivez-moi-jeune-homme” 2010, Coteaux Varois en Provence, from the area of Provence between Marseilles and Toulon, an absolutely classic South-of-France-style rosé, a blend of 60 percent cinsault grapes and 40 percent grenache, with a lovely pale onion skin color slightly tinted with very pale copper; dried raspberries and red currants with a tinge of melon and peach; bone-dry, scintillating acidity, a spicy finish flush with limestone; wonderful tautness and presence, a little electrifying yet pleasantly supple and nuanced. The best rosé I’ve had this summer. 13 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $18 to $20.
Bourgeois Family Selections, Asheville, N.C. I bought this one.
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I hope my readers don’t mind another rosé. Actually, I don’t care if you mind or not; I’m in a rosé state of mind and it’s my blog, so there. Besides, as an American and pronounced Europhile, I find the history behind a wine like the Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue “Tradition” Rose 2010, Coteaux du Languedoc, irresistible. There is indeed a grand chateau on this ancient property, erected around 1557 but, as you can see from the image, incorporating older and distinctively medieval walls and towers. The building seems to be a combination of castle, palace, manor house and farmstead. The oldest part of the chateau is a chapel that was built in 987. Artifacts and other materials unearthed by archeologists indicate occupation in the Roman era and even back to the Neolithic age, long before there were such concepts as wine and winemaking. The property, in the Coteaux du Languedoc between Béziers and Montpellier (inland from where the Mediterranean coast begins to slope in a southwesterly direction toward Spain), was acquired by Umberto Guida and his American wife Joëtta in 1992, and immense amounts of money were spent in improvements to the vineyards and facilities. Manager of the estate, which produces about a dozen different wines, is winemaker Jean-Claude Zabalia.

Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue “Tradition” Rosé 2010, Coteaux du Languedoc, is a blend of 50 percent cinsault grapes, 30 percent syrah and 20 percent grenache; the grenache and syrah are bled off the tanks in a method called saignée, while the cinsault grapes are pressed directly, given minimum skin-contact to keep the color a beguiling pale melon pink with a slight copper tinge and to reduce any element of tannin. This is a lovely rose, bright and clean and as fresh as a basket of just picked strawberries and raspberries, with a touch of dried red currant and whiffs of violets and cloves. Acidity is lively, crisp and brisk, and indeed the finish, for all its delicacy, seems to offer a note of salt-spanked sea-breeze amid hints — I mean hints — of dried thyme and tarragon, melon and peach and a concluding fillip of limestone, all of this amounting to an absolutely delightful quaff. A classic expression of the South of France for drinking now through the end of 2011 or into 2012. Very Good+. About $13, a Great Bargain.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Ca. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event. Image of the Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue from stmartingarrigue.com.

Oh, why the hell not! I was cooking dinner last night and sipping from a glass of the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2010, Central Coast, and I thought, “This deserves to be a Wine of the Week, but I don’t want to wait until next week, because it would be great for this Memorial Day weekend.” So here goes.

The problem with rosé wines like the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2010 is that they’re chilly, tasty and delectable, so we tend to knock them back thoughtlessly instead of taking a bit of time to study them. That proposition presents a paradox: Can a wine be too good for itself? Well, let’s not knot our synapses into an existential conundrum about that idea; let’s just (thoughtfully) enjoy. The wine is blended from 71 percent grenache and 2 percent mourvèdre grapes, which are red, and then a combination of 16 percent roussanne and 11 percent grenache blanc, which are white; these four grape varieties are traditional to the lower Rhone Valley and the South of France. The wine undergoes no oak aging. The color is the classic pale tawny topaz called “onion skin,” hence vin gris in French, “gray wine.” Scents of strawberries and dried red currants are infused with myriad mineral elements — shale, chalk, limestone — and etched with notes of sprightly lime peel and dusty orange rind; give this a few minutes in the glass (but not letting it get over-warm) and you detect a faint aroma of shy musky rose. Flavors of melon and red currants (with hints of thyme and sage) are ensconced in a lovely silky texture sliced by scintillating acidity and a burgeoning limestone character, leaving a finish that’s high-toned, elegant and a little austere. All this, and you can still drink it with cold roasted chicken, deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches and potato salad. The alcohol content is a sensible 12.8 percent. Now through the end of 2011. Excellent. About $15.

A sample for review.

I won’t make the Benessere Rosato 2010, Napa Valley, the Wine of the Week because there’s not enough available. If it’s sold in your neck o’ the woods, however, or if you can order it from the winery, please do; this is a terrific rosé in the New World sense, meaning that it’s darker in color than the often much paler, “gris”-type rosés we see from Europe, particularly the South of France; those wines, indeed, occupy a sacred place in my heart. The color of the Benessere Rosato 2010, on the other hand, is an entrancing true crimson, that is deep, vibrant red — not ruby! — with a tinge of maroon, which in this case includes a pale brick-red or garnet rim, like the world’s most beautiful rose. The wine, made in stainless steel, is a blend of 49 percent zinfandel, 41 percent sangiovese and 10 percent merlot, a unique marriage that results in a heady bouquet of black and red currants, dried cherry, cranberry and an intriguing earthy hint of pomegranate. Limestone fills the background, with black cherry and red raspberry flavors given a savory quality by touches of dried thyme, cloves and briers. You’re thinking, “Gosh, FK, this sounds like a red wine,” but I promise that it is a rosé, just one with an unusual amount of dimension and character; it’s still a congeries of delicacy and nuance, light-hearted and carefree. I had a glass at lunch recently with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, scallions and black olives, though it would be equally appropriate with fried chicken, potato salad, quiche and other picnic and brunch fare. Serve chilled, through summer of 2012. Winemaker was Jack Stuart. 13.6 percent alcohol. The tag on the bottle said 350 cases; the printed material that came with this sample for review says 284 cases. In either case, mark this rosé Worth a Search. Excellent. About $16.

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