WHAT: Summer is the perfect time for rosé. We tend to eat lighter foods, but we still want wine with some flavor and body, so rosé fits in nicely.
Some people tend to look down their noses at rosé, and some of it is made badly. But we have been seeing more and more outstanding rosé wines from all over the world.
The best traditionally have come from Provence in France. But now winemakers in other regions are taking their rosé seriously, and we wine drinkers reap the benefits. Wine drinkers also are paying more attention to rosé.
For the 11th consecutive year, exports of rosé wine from Provence to the United States have grown at double-digit rates.
No one takes rosé more seriously than the folks at Charles & Charles, where rock star winemakers Charles Bieler and Charles Smith have been perfecting their technique since 2008. Bieler brings the experience of producing rosé in Provence and Smith adds knowledge of the Washington vineyards.
The wine is a gorgeous deep pink in the glass, with floral notes of rose petals and violets in the aroma. On the palate there are vibrant flavors of ripe fruit including strawberry, raspberry and Bing cherry. There is a touch of citrus, minerality and a lively acidity leading to a crisp finish.
It is a great food wine, but it also is that perfect sip at the end of a long, hot day, when you just want to sit on the porch and dream.
Syrah dominates this blend, as it does every year, but the supporting cast adds some interesting elements. The wine starts with 72 percent syrah, then adds 8 percent mourvedre, 8 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent grenache, 3 percent cinsault and 3 percent counoise.
This is a good wine for the white wine drinker who thinks he or she might like to try a red. The berry flavors are there, but the wine is crisp and dry like a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.
The winery owners say that is their target market: white wine lovers who can be enticed by a light red. Young people also like rosé, and the millenials are flocking to dry rosé.
I couldn’t find any information about how the wine is fermented, but I would bet it never sees oak.
The 2014 vintage was another year of high mid-summer temperatures, pushing ripening along faster than most growers like. It cooled a bit in September to allow more flavor development while keeping sugars down.
The two Charles say this is their most complex rosé yet. They attribute that to the large number of vineyards from which they get their grapes, and cool-site vineyards on the edge of where it’s possible to grow grapes. They also pick on the early edge of ripeness, a few weeks before they would pick the same grapes if they were making a red wine.
The label is distinctive, an abstract American Flag made by Hatch Show Print, a legendary poster shop in Nashville, Tenn. This rosé has sold out every vintage since the first in 2008, but this year there are 43,000 cases available, so there should be some around.
Columbia Valley, where these grapes were grown, is Washington State’s largest wine-growing region, with nearly 11 million acres in the eastern part of the state. Because it is so large, the region allows growers to plant a widely diverse selection of grape varieties.
Washington is now the second-largest premium wine producer in the country, behind California.
WINERY: Charles & Charles is a collaboration between two celebrated winemakers that began with a rosé in 2008. Charles Bieler, who made great rosé with his father in Provence, met Charles Smith, who was making a name for himself in the Pacific Northwest.
Smith already had K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines, and was Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 2014 winemaker of the year. Bieler worked with his father at Bieler Pere et fils, and also produced Three Thieves and Gotham Project.
They say they want to make wines that can be enjoyed now, wines that reflect the varietal and the vineyards in which the grapes are grown. They make only four wines together: the rosé (which made the Wine Spectator Top 100 a few years ago), a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon blend, and a single-vineyard riesling.
Each Charles is an interesting character. Bieler became a rosé pioneer in the United States, driving all across the country in a pink Cadillac to promote the wine at a time it was considered a second-tier wine.
During his college years at the University of Colorado he captained the school’s NCAA-championship ski team and was on track to be a top-ranked U.S. ski racer. Instead he focused on the wine industry. Through his Gotham Project he sells wine in kegs.
Smith never studied wine in college and came to the business by an off-beat route. He moved to Scandinavia in the 1980s and began managing rock bands.
Wining and dining on the road fueled his passion for wine, and in 1999 he bought a small wine shop in Bainbridge Island, just across the Puget Sound from downtown Seattle.
He discovered a passion for Syrah and moved to Walla Walla to make his own wine. In 2001, he released 300 cases of 1999 K Syrah. Later he created the highly acclaimed Kung Fu Girl Riesling, which made the Wine Spectator Top 100 list two years in a row and best value list five years in a row.
He also owns the K Vintners, Secco Italian Bubbles and Vino.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this delightful wine with bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, one of my favorite summertime meals because the tomatoes are so good now, and you don’t have to do a lot of cooking to get a great meal.
We toast the bread, layer on lots of crisp bacon, thick slices of tomato and top it with lettuce. Teri adds mayonnaise, but I skip that.
We added potato chips and a salad to complete the meal.
The fresh fruit flavors of the wine match perfectly with the smoked bacon and the tart tomato. It felt like we were having picnic.
You also can drink it with barbecue, burgers, grilled fish, pork, fried chicken, boiled crawfish, salads and Asian takeout food. It’s a versatile wine. Serve it well chilled.