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2009 Tablas Creek Rosé Paso Robles

Rhone-varietal wines come in all shades of red and white. There are inky black Petite Sirah and cherry-red Grenache. Some of the white wines are pale yellow when young. Aged Marsanne, like those from Australia’s Tahbilk winery, can be amber. But there is another range of hues for the wines celebrated by the Rhone Rangers. It starts at powderpuff pink and runs through salmon to copper and beyond. There is actually an appellation in the Rhone Valley, Tavel, devoted solely to rosé. Unlike inexpensive blush wines, these rosés — and their excellent cousins made here in California — are bone dry and offer complexity far beyond simple red fruit flavors.

There are three principal methods for making a rosé. The first and least preferable is to blend finished red and white wines. Any color of wine can be created but, as with 3AM Las Vegas weddings, a harmonious union is rarely achieved. The vigneron of Tavel have a better way of making rosé from a combination of red and white grapes. They put the light and dark grapes together in a vat and let the weight of the fruit itself squeeze out the juice. The liquid sits with the mingled berries until the flavors and color are as desired. This doesn’t take long. Then the winemaker moves the juice to a different tank for fermentation.

But the method preferred by the most serious rosé aficionados uses no white grapes at all. Winemakers process red grapes as they would for red wine but the juice is drawn away from the skins much earlier. Called the Saignée method, this technique can deliver complexity and easy-to-recognize varietal characteristics. (If only a small amount of the juice is removed early, the  remaining will become more concentrated, tannic and packed with flavor than would otherwise be the case. Fans of intense red wines should thank rosé drinkers!)

The 2009 Tablas Creek Rosé of Mourvedre, Grenache and Counoise is more intensely colored than most rosés indicating longer than average skin contact. It has a brilliant coppery red hue that fades to a water white rim. The nose is bowl of crushed strawberries and cherries with dry thyme and watermelon rind. Dry on the palate with medium body, the wine's zesty freshness is moderated by light tannins and some heat on the back palate. Delicate flavors of cherry and strawberry get zip from a smidgen of tart green apple.

At 14.5% alcohol, Tablas Creek’s 2009 Rosé is powerful but also has enough body to appeal to those red wine drinkers who normally shun rosé. The wine will work not only with a picnic lunch of fried chicken or charcuterie, but also grilled pork loin or cold slices of roast beef. The wine will make a good aperitif, but it’s not a lightweight summer sipper that you will want to quaff in volume on a hot Summer day. As with almost all rosé wines, this one should be consumed when it's young to get the fresh fruit flavors at their peak. Drink it now through 2012. Recommended.

You will find a good number of fine rosé wines based on Rhone varieties at the Rhone Rangers events in San Francisco on March 26 & 27. Enter our contest to win a pair of free tickets (a $90 value) to the Grand Tasting. And keep up with this month’s Rhone Rangers news and articles by following @RhoneRangers and watching the #RRSF hashtag on Twitter.


Tablas Creek Rosé Paso Robles
Rating: Recommended

Drink: Now through 2012
Retail Price: $27

Blend: 46% Mourvedre, 39% Grenache, 15% Counoise
Vinification: Co-fermented in stainless steel, Saignée-method
Origin: Paso Robles, certified organic estate vineyard

Alcohol: 14.5%

Closure: Screwcap

The wine above was purchased for review.

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