By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief

Croteaux_09sauvageWhen Croteaux Vineyards began producing its own wines in 2006 using the fruit grown in its 10-acre vineyard, it made (at least) two important decisions.

First, owners Michael and Paula Croteau hired veteran winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich from Raphael to make the wines, and they decided to only make rose — and make several different ones.

Spend any time with Olsen-Harbich and he's going to talk to you about how he's moved away from yeast inoculations in his the cellar. Instead he relies entirely on ambient yeast these days, making him one of only a handful of local winemakers to employ ambient yeasts at all.

So, it was only a matter of time before he brought this technique to a rose for Croteaux. The result is Croteaux Vineyards 2009 Sauvage ($24), made from 100% merlot (clone 181). Sauvage — which means "wild" in French — is a tip of the cap to those ambient or "wild" yeasts.

The nose is peachy with a unique jasmine tea floral character. As it warms to room-temperature, the aromas really unfurls and become more nuanced with strawberry and citrus emerge.

Light and crisp on the palate, Sauvage brings more peach and jasmine with an enjoyable subtle earthiness. Well balanced with faint red pear and pear skin flavors with just a little skin tannin the finish is long and balanced. 

$24 is probably more than I'd generally pay for rose, though. Then again, only 50 cases were made.

Producer: Croteaux Vineyards

Case Production: 50
Rating: 86

(Ratings Guide)