There is a lot of pink wine out there, but there seems to be fewer and fewer real rosé wines. Just because you’re pink does not mean you’re a rosé.
There are several pretenders to the rosé title out there. The ubiquitous white zinfandel is the domaine of industrial wine production conjured up out of centrifuges and chemistry. Residual sugar provides the only flavor in an otherwise flavorless beverage. Certainly white zinfandel has its role as a starting place for many consumers, who then graduate up to real wine. Unfortunately because it’s pink (or kind of pink anyway) too many people think that all pink wine is sweet plonk. Also, it’s a problem as you can actually make a lovely real rosé from zinfandel.
Then there is the elegant sounding saignée, which when translated sounds less so as it means to bleed. However, it accurately describes this wine making process where juice is removed from a fermenter after a very short time. The original need for this was in cooler regions, where in lighter vintages the technique was used to help concentrate their red wines. A common practice in Burgundy, where they called the resulting wines vin gris as, I guess, the French just have too much respect for real rosé. While this is a good and useful idea in a place like Burgundy, it challenges the imagination as to why someone would feel the urge to actually need to increase the concentration of their red wines in a warm place like California. The down side of producing a pink wine in this manner is that you are harvesting your grapes at ideal ripeness levels for red wine, but not for pink wine. When done in a warm climate you get the candied flavors, higher alcohols and odd neon colors that you see in so many pink wines.
Then there is real rosé. Wines made in the classic tradition of Bandol and Tavel. Vineyards are selected to be for rosé from the start and farmed to create ideal fruit for this type of wine. The grapes are picked when the flavors are fully ripe, but you don’t have to wait for the skin tannins to ripen like you would when making red wine. This means you can pick at higher acids and lower sugars that will give you a balanced, elegant and complex rosé. With a very short contact with the skins to give just a hint of color, real rosé often can be a very light pink, but don’t let that fool you as you’ll find an explosion of flavor waiting for you. The lower sugars mean you can ferment to absolute dryness without excessive alcohol levels to mar the fresh fruit flavors. The best of these real rosé wines then spend a short time on the lees in mature oak barrels to broaden flavors and develop a rich, creamy texture. Simply delicious.
Such a wine is our Cornerstone Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé. Corallina is a real rosé made in this classic style. Made as we make our white wines, the fruit was gently whole-cluster pressed over several hours to maintain freshness, elegance and complexity. Corallina Syrah Rosé is then fermented to total dryness then followed by five months in barrel as we patiently wait for every part of the wine to come into full harmony. Produced from a single vineyard in Oak Knoll, Corallina Syrah Rosé is both a pleasure to look at and to drink, a classic rosé at its best.
You can find our Corallina Syrah Rosé here: http://d.pr/n/42Ws
Indeed Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon tastes curiously like cabernet, or, at least like cabernet used to be. Used to be as in the wines that made the Napa Valley great like those that won the famed Judgement of Paris in 1976. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Judgement of Paris was not that the California wines won both the white and red judging, but that the judges themselves could not discern which wines were French and which Californian. Such a confusion is not likely to take place today as Californian wines have increased in girth, dominated by sweet oak, overripe fruit and alcohol. The fashion for big wine with big flavor, promoted by certain critics, erased the character of the noble cabernet sauvignon variety as well as any sense of place the vineyard itself. The resulting wines showcased winemaking technique instead of treasuring the character of variety and vineyard.
There have always been producers that ignored fashion to make elegant wines which honored the true flavors of Cabernet. Wineries like Corison, Dunn and Ridge have carried that flame for decades. I am proud to say Cornerstone Cellars has joined that group of wineries making wines that taste curiously like Cabernet Sauvignon.
What does Cabernet Sauvignon taste like? First of all it does not taste jammy, sweet, flabby or like oak barrels. Classic Cabernet is bright and alive with a herbal tingle that wakes the tastebuds. Most of all, everything is brought into sharp focus by a fine tannic structure that makes Cabernet Sauvignon the most intellectual of wines. Pinot noir may be the most sensual, but Cabernet is the most thought provoking.
We are now releasing several new wines that taste curiously Cabernet, now that’s something to think about. For us it’s something that makes us very proud.
- Craig Camp