Good news for those who find safety in numbers when choosing a wine: rosé is moving up in national sales figures, recently bumping Cabernet Franc from 10th place as a category! I know—Cabernet who? But still, rosé is gaining popularity because it's inexpensive and easy to understand. Except when it isn't.
Castello di Amorosa 2017 Morning Dew Ranch Rosato ($39) I demand to speak with Castello winemaker Peter Velleno about this outrage: a $39 rosé wine. And to call a Pinot Noir a "rosato," of all things! Velleno just laughs, saying, "Well, we call it a rosato because, yeah, we call it whatever we like." More seriously, Velleno explains that this, their first rosé effort from the Morning Dew Ranch, is more expensive than some others because it's made from some of the best grapes on the property. The ranch was planted by Williams Selyem co-founder Burt Williams as a learning experiment in differing combinations of Pinot Noir clones and rootstocks.
Just opened and poured, the aroma is freshwater spray on a rocky coast—Superior, not Sonoma—along with bits of strawberry ensconced in ice cream, and maybe, if it's not just the pale hue suggesting it, the aroma of a pale pink tea rose. Fermented and aged in concrete eggs, the wine suggests pink cotton candy—and good rosé Champagne—but is actually quite dry.
Stewart Cellars 2017 Sonoma Mountain Rosé ($28) There's more than one way to skin a red grape. There's nothing wrong, officially, with making a rosé wine by adding a little red to white, and while that's not how this wine is made, the technical sheet does state that it contains some Pinot Gris, a white grape variant of Pinot Noir. This mandarin orange–scented wine also evokes pink grapefruit with its tooth-lashing rations of zesty acidity. Too bad this crushable blush doesn't come in cans, but they bottled a whole lot of 375s, so you can pick up picnic-size splits next time you're in Yountville.
Sidebar 2017 Russian River Valley Syrah Rosé ($21) This Syrah rosé is just a slightly deeper pink than the Pinot rosés above. Yet this wine can't escape the smoky, savory notes of the Syrah it's made from, even if it shares some qualities like bracing acidity and pink grapefruit flavor with the Pinot rosés—straight out of the bottle it's got a bit of matchstick to it. "There's nothing like spring or summer lunch with a bottle of rosé at home," winemaker David Ramey says, "and it sparkles in the sunshine." I would put it in a decanter, and it will sparkle all the more.