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The Cosmos of Rosé Wine
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Mar 22, 2016
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Bonny Doon Vineyard, Central Coast, Vin Gris de Cigare 2015 ($18) and Il Ciliegiolo Rosato, Tracy Hills 2015 ($24):  Now that Daylight Savings Time is here, the season of rosé wine is close at hand.  That’s great news for curious wine lovers because the category of rosé wine is a fascinating cosmos of variations.

A case in point is a selection of four rosé wines that Bonny Doon Winery has just released.  The four wines encompass six red grapes (Grenache, Mourvedre, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Ciliegiolo, and Cinsault) and two white grapes (Grenache Blanc and Roussanne) -- singularly or in various combinations.  The four wines are all dry or nearly dry, but they range in color from light ruby red to the palest onionskin hue, and in personality from provocative to picnic-easy.

The wine that intrigued me the most is a new one, the 2015 Il Ciliegiolo Rosato (an Italian grape pronounced, chee lee ay JOE lo).  Although I follow Italian wines closely, I have rarely tasted a varietal Ciliegiolo wine in Italy.  The grape, in fact, is a fairly minor one, related to Sangiovese and grown mainly in Central Italy where it is usually part of some blend or other.  Bonny Doon’s rosé of Ciliegiolo carries the AVA of Tracy Hills with the further designation Mount Oso Vineyards, in western Stanislaus County.

In tasting this wine, I knew full well that it was a Californian wine in my glass, and yet Il Ciliegiolo tasted of Italy.  Its dryness and its firmness of structure is Italianate, as is its intensity of aromas and flavors, which are expressive but do not dominate the wine’s structure.  The wine smells and tastes of cherries above all, with a slight peachy note and a bit of spiciness and, on the finish, a savory mineral expression.  Italians would call the wine sapido, savory and mouth-watering.  It is characterful and, for a rosé, almost commanding.  In color, it is the deepest of the four wines, and could be mistaken for a light red.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, my other favorite of the Bonny Doon rosés is a classic:  Vin Gris de Cigare, 2015 vintage.  Its pale onion skin color is a stark contrast to Il Ciliegiolo’s red hue, and also Cigare is a blend of five grapes rather than a varietal wine.  Grenache and Mourvedre dominate the blend at 62 and 17 percent respectively, with 9 percent Roussanne and 6 percent each of Grenache Blanc and Cinsault.  The wine is made in classic vin gris fashion, like a white wine from red grapes, and fermented with ambient yeast to prevent confectionery aromas.

I find the 2015 Vin Gris de Cigare to be an admirably complete wine.  Its aromas and flavors suggest berries, melon, and blossom.  The wine is dry and fairly full-bodied, with rich, oily-like texture that contrasts with a backbone of crisp acidity.  The clean, long finish adds mineral notes to the flavor mix.  Easy as this wine is to drink, it is not a mere quaffing wine but a very well made wine that serious tasters can scrutinize for depth, length, balance and complexity, without disappointment.

For quaffing, 2015 A Proper Pink (mainly Tannat, with 31 percent Cabernet Franc), $16, is the choice.  It’s dryish with aromas and flavors of red berries and plum and the slightest note of tannin to take it in a non-frivolous direction.  The 2015 is the inaugural vintage of this wine. 

The most provocative wine of all, and likely the most controversial, is Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris Tuilé, in the 2013 vintage ($20).  Tuilé means brick, a reference to the wine’s color, here in a slightly cloudy rendition.  The wine, mostly Mourvedre, ferments and ages in glass carboys in the sun, as similarly unorthodox Côtes de Provence wines might.  The result is a dry, full-bodied, waxy-textured wine that fills the mouth with earthy and spicy flavors (nuts, curry) and subdued fruitiness (citrus peel).  It’s a wacky wine and as much as I told myself that it’s not for me, I continued to taste it and be fascinated by it, enjoying it more and more a couple of days after opening it.  Compelling.

Vin Gris de Cigare and A Proper Pink are available through Bonny Doon’s normal distribution channels.  Il Ciliegiolo, only 442 cases produced, is an offering in the winery’s Wine Club.  Vin Gris Tuilé, only 192 cases, is an online exclusive.

2015 Vin Gris de Cigare, 90 Points
2015 Il Ciliegiolo Rosato, 89 Points