Local rosé is a refreshing summer choice

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Stinson Vineyards’ Bandol, France-style rosé is made from the few mourvèdre grapes found in Virginia. Photo: Ryan Jones Stinson Vineyards’ Bandol, France-style rosé is made from the few mourvèdre grapes found in Virginia. Photo: Ryan Jones

Rosé wine can be made a few different ways. Some winemakers harvest grapes specifically for rosé and press them, keeping them on the skins for a short period. Other winemakers press their red wine harvest, and bleed off some of the initial pink-colored juice to ferment separately as rosé. This technique, called saignée, a word derived from “to bleed,” will help to concentrate the red wine fermentation by increasing the skin-to-juice ratio. You can also make rosé by simply adding red wine to white wine, and most rosé Champagne is made this way.

Despite the method, in the heat of summer, a glass of rosé will hit the spot, and there are several local bottlings to choose from. Here are a few favorites:

Growlers of rosé can be found at Michael Shaps’ new outpost on Avon Street Extended. It’s called Wineworks Extended, and it opened for business a few weeks ago. From the street this looks like a large warehouse, but around the back of the building, enter into a sleek industrial tasting room with several high-top tables made from reclaimed barrels. The walls are lined with the many wines Shaps produces in France, and the centerpiece of the space is a cozy bar with wines on tap. Shaps is enchanted by the quotidian traditions in Burgundy where locals bring a glass jug to their favorite vigneron and fill it up for daily consumption. This outpost should function in a similar way with the growler program. The rosé on tap is tart and crisp, with a deep pink hue.

Blenheim Vineyards also offers growlers, but currently they are only used for a few select reds and whites. Blenheim rosé comes in a bottle, and like most of winemaker Kirsty Harmon’s wines, it is bright and juicy—pure refreshment. “I like it because it is so versatile,” Harmon says. “It can go with so many different dishes.” Harmon likes to make her rosé with slightly lower alcohol, “so you can drink more of it,” she says with a wink. The best place to drink it is on the tasting room deck, along with an expansive view of their estate vineyards.

Michael Shaps. Photo: Martyn Kyle
Michael Shaps. Photo: Martyn Kyle

There is also the locally famous Crosé made by Matthieu Finot at King Family Vineyards. Over the last few years this wine has reached a cult-like status, and with good reason: Finot puts much thought and effort into his rosé production. “It’s always merlot. We do about two days of skin contact, because you get the flavor from the skin,” says Finot. He harvests it before it becomes extremely ripe in order to preserve some of the acidity. The result: an aromatically interesting wine with subtle herbal notes and a rich center contrasted by a very refreshing acidity on the finish.

Jeff White at Glen Manor Vineyards makes his Morales rosé based on a special block of merlot at his family’s farm. He also blends in some saignée cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc to make a proper Bordeaux-style rosé. White’s rosé comes from a unique farm, recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Century Farm, belonging to his family since 1901. As a fourth-generation farmer, he switched his hill parcels from orchards to grapes in 1995, and started making wine.

At Stinson Vineyards, Rachel Stinson Vrooman and her father, Scott Stinson, take inspiration from the rosé traditions in Bandol, France. They’ve sought out some of the few mourvèdre grape vines in Virginia, and in true Bandol style, this rosé has breadth, depth, a lush fruit character and a hint of unctuousness. “The mourvèdre rosé started as an experimental wine,” Vrooman says. “We didn’t really know if anyone else would be interested in it, but those were the type of rosés we like to drink. Our consulting winemaker Matthieu Finot worked in Bandol when he was younger and was very familiar with the style of wine we wanted to make. Mourvèdre is a super-tricky grape. In the vineyard it ripens late and has tight clusters that are susceptible to rot and mildew. But the challenges are part of what makes it fun to work with.” This wine is so delicious, and made in such small quantities, that it tends to sell out by the end of the summer.

A crisp counterpoint to the rich intensity of Stinson’s mourvèdre rosé is the blush from Early Mountain Vineyards. Like Blenheim, King Family and Glen Manor, merlot is the primary base for the Early Mountain rosé. As one of its most popular wines, the Early Mountain rosé certainly delivers refreshment.

Cheers to finding your own perfect glass of rosé this summer!

–Erin Scala

Erin Scala is the sommelier at Fleurie and Petit Pois. She holds the Diploma of Wines & Spirits, is a Certified Sake Specialist and writes about beverages on her blog, thinking-drinking.com.

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