Rosé is best from International Workers of the World Day until the days grow short when you reach September.
Wine takes its color from its skins. The sooner the winemaker separates the skins from the juice, the lighter color the of the wine, and the longer the darker.
Charles McKahn, owner/winemaker of McKahn Cellars weighs in: “There are two main methods for making rosé: whole cluster, pressed like the majority of all white wines; and saignée (French for bleed). Whole cluster pressing is when you put the grape cluster, stems included, into the press and squeeze the juice out of the clusters…and remove juice from the skins and must prior to fermentation. Most people will time their juice-to-skin contact time from one to 12 hours, the longer the time the darker the final product.
Making rosé in this fashion not only gets you a rosé but it also usually improves the red wine that you are also making. It reduces the ratio of juice to skins and that enables a more concentrated red wine to be made.
I prefer the whole cluster method because I like to achieve very little color in our rosé. I’m really going for a salmon-color wine and I add a small amount of red Grenache (2%) right before bottling to get that desired color. I pick the grapes at a white wine ripeness level as opposed to a red wine ripeness level and that really makes a difference in aromatics in my opinion. The wine is brighter and more floral.”
Some websites list more ways of making rosé, including blending red and white wine. Sounds lowbrow to me. France prohibits it, except for the Champagne appellation, which is special, for its blending of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Some Livermore Valley wineries’ rosés:
2018 Occasio Rosé Livermore Valley Fong Vineyard ($25). They started picking the Grenache grapes for this rosé five hours before the sun could rise; then in the cool morning air the grapes were de-stemmed, soaked on their skins for about six hours, then the juice was transferred to a stainless steel tank for cold fermenting. This method assures purity, focus, and balance. I paired it with aubergine salad, a lucky choice since the rosé has a subtle purple essence that foreshadows the bright purple of the aubergines.
2017 McKahn Rosé of Grenache Sierra Foothills Shenandoah Valley Runquist Vineyard ($26). I was watching Ingmar Bergman’s classic movie Wild Strawberries when I held this rosé to my nose and got an aroma of strawberry. Coincidence? Passion fruit followed excitedly, then a whiff of grapefruit from the waitress’s tray held high when she passed. As it rolled around my mouth, I tasted a Goldbar apricot from the Okanagan and a peach from the farmers’ market. The salmon season is on so I rushed to my grocers and landed some Chinook tails (no bones). I wrapped them in cheesecloth and dropped the bunch in boiling water along with a thin sack of bouquet garni containing fennel, scallions, parsley, peppercorns, and some other stuff. I let the salmon cool before serving it with lemon wedges.
This rosé has a salmon hue so the choice was a natural.
2017 Las Positas Estate Rosé Livermore Valley ($25). This lovely rosé won a gold medal at the 2018 Experience Rosé Competition. The judges were wise. Delightful aromas of strawberry, watermelon, and spice provide an olfactory guarantee. This yummy medium-bodied rosé is a walk through the produce section and grabbing samples of fresh raspberry, strawberry, and pomegranate. I paired it with huevos haminados that have a terracotta shell, a creamy beige interior and a smoky flavor and were made for this rosé.
2018 Garré Rosé Livermore Valley. The sangiovese grapes for this stunner were grown near the tasting room. The winery likes to call this May release Rosato di Sangiovese. Bene! Bene! Get your nose over the rim of your glass for a fruity treat of strawberry, winter melon, tart apple and vanilla. It plays “Honeysuckle Rosé.” Waves of tart strawberry and honeydew melon enter the mouth roll-around, and you get a delicate balance of sweet and dry; now here comes a richer profile of strawberries and cream. It paired well with Wine Country Salad I cadged from the Garré Restaurant menu: mixed-up greens, crumbled Gorgonzola, fig, and honey balsamic vinegar.
2018 Concannon Rosé of Petite Syrah Livermore Valley ($24). The 2018 Rosé of Petite Sirah has a pale, blush, ballerina slipper hue. Its nose is expressive, with nuances of dried strawberries and lavender with a crisp, dry, light body and carefree finish. A fresh rosé with whispers of Provencal herbs. Pair it with basil and roasted pine nut flatbread with Manchego cheese.