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Revisiting an Old Favorite Variety
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
May 9, 2017
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Heitz Wine Cellars, Napa Valley, Grignolino Rosé, 2016 ($24):  During the 1980s and 1990s, my husband and I visited the Piedmont region of Italy almost every summer.  Despite the heat, we would taste newly released Barolo and Barbaresco wines at every winery we visited, along with easier-to-take Barbera and Dolcetto wines from the previous vintage.  And then we would always ask to taste Grignolino, a light red wine from a native local variety which was produced at about half the wineries we visited.  Not inclined to promote their more modest wines, many wineries didn’t offer the wine until we asked.  We love Grignolino, we would assure them, as the wine’s vibrant acidity refreshed our mouths.

Over the years, the number of wineries making Grignolino dropped precipitously, and today we typically do not taste a single example during a week in that part of Piedmont.  Grignolino -- a fairly pale, high-acid wine that has considerable tannin for its weight -- fell victim to international preference for bolder, softer, fuller-bodied, serious red wines. 

Fortunately, Grignolino lives on, not only at a few Piedmont wineries that still produce the wine but also at one of California’s iconic Napa Valley wineries, Heitz Wine Cellars. 

When Joe and Alice Heitz bought their original winery on Highway 29 in 1961, the vineyard was planted to Grignolino.  They have produced the wine ever since, even as the winery’s reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon reached legendary status.  Today, the winery grows Grignolino in a different Napa Valley location but the wine remains a part of Heitz Wine Cellars’ portfolio as well as a part of its legacy.

Heitz produces Grignolino in both a rosé and a red style.  Grignolino seems ideal for a rosé because of its refreshing high acidity and its lively spirit.  Heitz Grignolino Rosé falls into the serious end of the rosé style spectrum -- which is to say that it is not a simple, frivolous pink wine.  The 2016 is about as dry as you will ever find a rosé to be.  Bone dry, fairly full-bodied for a rosé, with high acidity and a slight but perceptible amount of tannin, the wine gives a well-knit impression in your mouth.  At its core is its fresh fruit, strawberry and citrus peel, which is expressive and juicy but does not dominate the structure.  The wine’s aromas are similar to its flavors, suggesting wild strawberry and orange, with a hint of rose.  Typical of an Italian wine, though, the taste is more important than the aroma; that’s where the energy, vitality and zest of this wine emerge, and where the wine really shows its style.

Heitz Grignolino Rosé is one of those rosé wines that you can enjoy year-round and not just during the hot months.  It seems particularly suited to meals rather than to idle sipping because of its solid structure.

90 Points