My car died last week. She was worn out and cranky, but together we were an old married couple. I come from a long line of frugal Midwesterners who believe in driving a vehicle until the steering wheel falls off in your hands, so let's just say it had been a while since I bought a car.
On Sunday I trudged through a haze of auto lots. By 2 p.m., the temperature in Sonoma County was approaching 100 and all the simmering concrete and glare of car metal was just too much.
So I went home intent on opening a crisp and chilly rosé. There wasn't a bottle in the cupboard. That's a DEFCON 1 level crisis in our house on hot summer days. I wouldn't wish that desperation on any wine lover.
The irony is that I've been reviewing a lot of 2013 rosés from California in recent weeks. The vintage offers a fine opportunity for winemakers who know what they're doing. The Old World tradition of using saignée—which means "to bleed"—is not always successful in California, because the juice for red wine is often too ripe and soft for rosé. Top producers harvest the grapes for rosé earlier in order to guarantee that level of acidity and vibrancy.
I'm stocking up after this weekend's misfortune and I've put together a list. There's plenty of pink plonk out there from the big California producers, but serious, dry rosé is typically produced in small batches, fewer that 200 or 300 cases a vintage. A handful of wineries make 1,000 or more cases, which make the wines easier to find on retail shelves and restaurant lists.
Some of the best of those include J Vin Gris Russian River Valley 2013 (89 points, $20), which is sleek and succulent. Beckmen Grenache Ballard Canyon Rosé Purisima Mountain Vineyard 2013 ($20) is a zesty pink with smoky, spicy raspberry aromas. Red Car Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Rosé 2013 ($25) is delicate and supple, with floral watermelon notes, and Tablas Creek Rosé Patelin de Tablas Paso Robles 2013 (88, $20) is made in a delicate style, with aromas of wild flowers and apricot.
Wines that are more limited but worth seeking out include Le P'Tit Paysan Mourvèdre San Benito County Rosé Pierre's Pirouette 2013 (91, $19), which has dusty rose and apricot aromas and smoky watermelon and mineral flavors. Another perennial favorite is Quivira Rosé Dry Creek Valley ($22), a lovely pink with silky watermelon, peach and mineral flavors, as well as Round Pond Estate Rosato di Nebbiolo Rutherford 2013 ($24), which has rose petal aromas and delicately complex flavors. WineSpectactor.com subscribers can check our Wine Ratings Search for my latest reviews of California rosés.
And check out the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator, which features reviews of the best rosés around the globe. Look for rosé lover and actor Brad Pitt with Marc Perrin on the cover as we take a closer look at their Château Miraval project in Provence.