Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Los Carneros (California) Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2008 ($25 to $30): When the circumstances are right -- hot summer day, cold wine and a relaxed atmosphere -- I can find pleasure in almost any dry rosé wine that you might hand me. But how good are these wines really, I mean technically, when you scrutinize them against each other as wines rather than simply drinking them for pleasure? I recently put more than a dozen to the test, and the Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir blew the other rosés off the table.
The increased popularity of dry rosés has brought us an array of wines from all over the world and from every major red grape variety. The random selection of wines in my tasting included dry rosés from France (Provence, the Rhône Valley, the Loire, Beaujolais, Bordeaux), New Zealand, California and Oregon, and from grapes that included Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, among others.
Naturally, the wines varied tremendously in hue, some being rosy or orange-tinged and others nearly red; they also varied a lot in flavor intensity, in crispness or softness and in their actual flavors, all of them fruity but some with floral, earthy or even vegetal notes. From a technical perspective, many of them just seemed too light, despite 13.5% alcohol on several wines; many lacked any flavor concentration and tasted watery, and many were very short on the palate. Quaffing wines, good for casual drinking but not particularly well-made wines.
Actually, it was the Robert Sinskey Vin Gris that brought all this into perspective for me. Here was a real wine, a complete wine that happened to be a rosé. It wasn’t a diminutive version of anything else or a seasonal excuse for relaxed winemaking standards.
The Sinskey Vin Gris is pale salmon in color. Its aroma is penetrating and fairly intense, with notes of red berries, citrus, mineral notes and a floral whiff; it suggests a wine that’s fruity but not too fruity, a lovely blend of minerality and fruitiness. In the mouth, the wine is dry and crisp and has flavors of berry, mineral and citrus that walk just the right line between subtlety and intensity. The wine’s minerality seems to create a very fine graininess of texture, bringing gravitas to the wine as tannin would to a red. Despite its high-acid crispness, the wine is also round and full, thanks to its substantial alcohol (14.1%). The acidity and alcohol complement each other in such a way that the wine has vertical depth and horizontal length with richness in both directions.
This wine comes from vineyards that are certified biodynamic and organic. It is made purposely as a rosé wine -- not by “bleeding” pink juice from a red wine fermentation but instead by pressing whole clusters of Pinot Noir to extract the juice without any contact with the grapes’ skins. The juice fermented in stainless steel tanks at a cool temperature typical of white wine fermentations (58°) and therefore the fermentation lasted for a long 21 days.
This wine has enough flavor and presence to stand up to flavorful fish and seafood dishes, dishes with high-acid fruity elements or with earthy flavors, and mild meat dishes such as turkey burgers. Fine wine that it is, it can be served cool rather than refrigerator-cold.