Top Rosés: Francis Ford Coppola Sofia

20 07 2008

The Rosé party is long over, but I am finally posting the last few wines from that event. I thought the top wines from our tasting deserved a little more attention than the others, so I will post each one separately.

This week is the Sofia Rosé from the Francis Ford Coppola winery. This is a really soft, delicate wine, with all the flavor characteristics claimed by the company website. Lots of rose petals and strawberries, cherries and raspberries. For me it was more raspberries and rose petals than anything else. This is something I find a little strange, because the wine is described as 100% Sonoma Coast pinot noir. The Sonoma Coast region is probably one of my favorite wine regions on Earth, and certainly in the U.S. The wines, and especially pinots from that region, have this incredible quality that I always find myself short of words trying to describe. They are also one of the first wines I could immediately identify on first sniff. This wine had none of those Sonoma Coast qualities.

Don’t get me wrong, it was excellent juice, and I’d be delighted to open another bottle sometime, but in terms of smelling or tasting like Sonoma Coast fruit, it fell flat. The other area where it came up a little short for me was acidity. A perfect rose should have an excellent balance of fruity and acidic qualities. This wine has the fruit down, and in spades, not overly fruity like juice, but certainly noticeable and contributing to the overall presence of the wine. For me it was just a little shy on the fruit end of things.

I probably would have been more glowing about this wine if I had not reviewed the technical notes on the Coppola website. Having seen where the pinot juice is supposed to be from I now feel like I’m being a little hard on it, but if you are going to claim a specific viticultural region, it should at least carry the primary qualities of that region.

All in all an excellent offering from California, and certainly a bottle I would not hesitate to enjoy again.


Rose Partay: Middle of the Pack

1 07 2008

Sorry it has taken me so long to get to part two of our rose review. The middle group was dominated by wines that had a great overall quality but didn’t quite amaze or overwhelm. Many of these wines are all really solid and very enjoyable.

#4: Red Bicyclette French Rose– This Gallo produced wine from France is made from grenache, syrah and cinsault grapes, the French trifecta of rose grapes. The grapes are sourced from various parts of the Languedoc region, the worlds largest grape producing area. Some people feel that the Languedoc produces really low-end grapes, but if you seek them out, there is some top-quality fruit to be had at bargain prices. I don’t quite think of this as top quality. However, it’s definitely solid juice, with a nice overall balance, a very fun and easy-going wine lacking a little on the acid side of the equation, but definitely with some enjoyable fruit.

#3: Marquis de la Tour sparkling Rose- This producer from the Loire valley in France started out as the Remy Pannier negociant in the 1800’s. As the link will inform you, this company has been held collectively by the vineyard and winery owners since 2002, which I think is pretty cool. As an additional plus, it’s a bubbly wine for under $10 that actually tastes pretty good. The grapes going into it are: Cabernet Franc, which is widely grown in the Loire region (famous as Chinon…but that’s another entry…), Grolleau, Syrah and Grenache. Altogether, this is another highly enjoyable wine for when you’re looking for something a step or two above that frightening bottle of Andre, but you’re not interested in paying $35 for a starter bottle of French champagne. Very Fun Bubbles.

#2: Vin Gris de Cigare– Mm-Hhmmm…so this wine comes from Bonny Doon Vineyards, just outside of San Francisco. The winery owner and wine-maker are known to be unusual even within the wine trade, which is truly saying something about them. Unorthodox to the maximum, the website features whimsical alien/spaceship designs–a major focus of their label design and packaging. Back to the wine though. Gris refers to grey, usually reserved for certain types of “black” grapes that end up producing white wines. Here, though, they use a considerable amount of Grenache Blanc to soften the other darker fruits that tincture the wine. It has great fruit flavors but not much complexity. Overall that’s the main thrust behind most of the wines in this category: great fruit, easy-going, but not much in the department of complexity. But hey, Rose is a fun, easy-going kind of wine meant to be flexible, tasty, and highly quaffable.

#1: Vanda Rose-This wine from Cherry Hill winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon is a pinot noir single varietal rose. This 2005 vintage bottling is still holding up quite well, and the fruit comes across very nicely. It was a favorite among our friends as the party. Very bright fruit, but because the wine has been in bottle for a while, the acidity and structure are somewhat minimal. Still an excellent wine that’s very enjoyable. This was also one of the higher priced bottles we had, with everything being between $9 and $18, this particular one came in at $15.

Overall, the wines in this middle group are all very enjoyable with solid fruit and good balance across the board. Some of them were pleasant surprises, like the Red Bicyclette and the Marquis de la Tour, but the Vin Gris and the Vanda were definitely good contenders for the top block. This time I promise to deliver the final selection of top rose from our little partay soon.

Rose Partay part 1 (the bottom rankings)

14 06 2008

All the Rose wine from our tasting

It’s a huge shame, but this style of wine suffers a very poor reputation based on the side effects of the 80’s. What makes it one of the best types of wines out there is what a good rose represents. Quality rose wines are dry, can be still or sparkling, and are typically only good for two years, tops, after production. There can of course be exceptions to this, but that’s the general rule. The other wonderful thing about rose wines is that a good rose blends the fruitiness of a red wine with the bright acidity of a white. This results in a truly versatile wine that can play well with a wide variety of foods.

To illustrate the power of rose, we recently had a little party and invited everyone to bring a bottle. The results were varied and pretty interesting. Below I will outline the bottom five wines (these are my picks, not the group of partygoers, just to be fair and establish that I am not speaking for any of my friends.

#5: Woodbridge white zinfandel. This wine was light pink, very sweet, with not much complexity or enjoyability to it. It sort of felt like I was drinking a wine cooler instead of wine. That said, it did go fairly well with some of the spicier things we put on the table, like the curry chicken wraps.

#4: Rockbridge’s Jeremiah, the one with the cute frog on the label. Interestingly, we had wines at this tasting from Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon and France. This one came from Virginia, and whereas the Woodbridge was light and rosy and pink, the Jeremiah was a light ruby or garnet color, with some deeper fruit flavors, but it felt almost syrupy. Maybe I didn’t put this one dead last only because I am biased against Woodbridge…sorry.

#3: Clover Hill Winery near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I believe. The winery does state on their website that this wine is one of their sweeter offerings, which I can’t say I would disagree with. It has the familiar aroma and taste of North American grapes, being made from Catawba. It smelled strongly of concord grapes though, but to me that’s just what most American varietals remind me of…very sugary, but I am a sucker for the aroma of those native grapes.

least favorite selections

#2: This I might get in trouble for. E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose. I think part of why I ranked this wine so poorly is because I am a huge Rhone fan, and so I tend to judge those wines the harshest of all. Guigal makes decent, consistent wine that is the same basically year after year. They have had some excellent productions in the past, but personally, the style is not particularly to my liking. It’s difficult because I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I don’t like about it, but there’s just something that doesn’t appeal to me. For a rose, I felt this was a little on the bitter/tannic/earthy side of things, which could be from throwing all the grapes, sticks, and everything else into the press, or could just be the fact that it is, after-all, Rhone wine.

#1: Williamsburg Plantation Blush, the other wine representing Virginia at our little soiree. This was definitely still a sweet wine, but for me it actually had a little character to it. Most of all, it had some great body and even though it was fairly dark for a rose, it had some nice acidity that balanced out the deeper fruit quite well, making it actually very enjoyable to drink. This was the one for me to go with the southeast Asian food or other spicy options.

I am trying to make up for the lack of wine posts recently by giving you lots of wine for thought at once. This is the first in three segments on Rose, which, depending on your interest, may either come one after another, or interspersed with other posts.

Section two, “The Middle of the Pack,” should be along fairly soon.