Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Occasional Hiccup In My Wine Journey

I love rosé. Where else can you find the flavors of a red wine with the light body and textural components of a white wine. Actually, you sometimes can in orange wine, but that's a topic for a different blog post. Tonight I decided to open up two bottles of rosé, in celebration of the warming weather and advent of spring.

The first bottle I opened was from Sokol Blosser here in Oregon and the (to me) wonderful 2010 vintage. That year was marked by cool conditions, leading to higher acid and tannin levels in the grapes. In other words, conditions favorable to great rosé. The second bottle, from Don Sebastiani & Sons, hails from a single vineyard in Clarksburg, California. It too is from a cooler year, 2011, one where the conditions were conducive to making great rosé. Of course, that's contingent on the site being cool enough too.

Both bottles were highly disappointing, for two very different reasons. 

2010 Sokol Blosser Rosé of Pinot Noir Dundee Hills:
The wine has a gorgeous color, a vibrant pinkish-red that sparkles in the glass. Aromatically it's full of ripe strawberry and melon, summer flowers, and a hint of something I describe as pine-sol. While not necessarily a game-changer, the aroma was curious. On the palate, it's got perceptible sweetness that manifests as sweet green melon and strawberries. There's also a richness that comes from aging on the lees, or at least I think that's what caused it. This wine is lacking in minerality and crispness, unfortunately. The finish has some strange taste, like what I imagine industrial floor cleaner would taste like. In short, not a wine I would want to drink. We dumped it out. SRP: $16. 13.0% abv.

2011 The Crusher Rosé of Pinot Noir Merwin Vineyard Clarksburg:
A sample sent to me back in February, I had high hopes for this latest release from The Crusher. I've tasted and enjoyed wines from Don & Sons before, but oh boy was this a shock. When I poured a glass, the smell that assaulted my nose was that of rubbing alcohol and mashed up strawberry. Unpleasant to say the least. I don't think the problem is with alcohol, The Crusher comes in at a listed 13.6% abv. I'd venture to guess a volatile acidity problem exists here. On the palate, it's harsh and green, with more of that rubbing alcohol. The finish is evaporative, almost mocking your palate as it scurries away. A disaster. SRP: $18.

Keep calm and carry on.

My issues with the Sokol Blosser rosé are twofold; more of a stylistic difference of opinion, but also me letting my expectations get in the way of my evaluation. There's nothing I could find technically wrong with their rosé, but I also don't feel it represents the 2010 vintage that well. Out of all the rosé from that year that I've tried (around 30), none have had either the level of sweetness or the strange quality on the finish.

The Don & Sons is much worse though, and I rarely write so strongly about a wine but based on the sample I received, I would not recommend purchasing it. When a wine reeks of rubbing alcohol it usually means something went horribly wrong during the wine making process OR the juice was low quality to begin with. Garbage in, garbage out, so to speak.

Despite my disappointment this evening, I'll keep buying and drinking rosé and continue to recommend it to everyone who'll listen to me. There is rarely a more perfect summer beverage.

Beau Carufel


  1. Hey Beau,

    Thanks for the review of The Crusher Rose. Frankly, I'm quite surprised. We've tried it recently and it's tasting great. I spoke with the winemaker and he says that the wine doesn't have a VA problem, so it must be something else. Maybe you got a bad bottle (corked, cooked, etc). It happens sometimes. We'd like to send you another sample to try if that's okay.

    1. Hey Mike, please feel free to send another bottle, I'd love to try it again. This bottle could have been cooked, but in my experience that leaves a different taste than what I experienced. Over the course of about three hours, the rubbing alcohol smell just got worse and worse, something I can't remember ever experiencing in a wine before. If I had the money, I'd send a sample to ETS to get some lab results on what is going on in this particular bottle. Thanks for commenting!

    2. Great. We'll send it to you in a few days.