When I endeavored to write the New York Cork Report’s first-ever comprehensive vintage/style report, I deemed rosé the target. Rarely profound, mostly affordable and made by a wide array of New York wineries — it just seemed like a good place to start. I’d treat it almost like a practice run for more “serious” categories in the future.
But, mid-way into the tasting, I realized that rosé was anything but an easy a place to start.
I was joined for this tasting by three members of the local wine community — Andrew Rockwell, Laboratory Director at Premium Wine Group, Regan Meador, Co-owner/Winemaker at Southold Farm + Cellar, and Jim Silver, General Manager of Peconic Bay Winery and Empire State Cellars.
As we sat down, Andrew asked the group “So what do you look for in a rosé?” A fair question, certainly.
We talked about many of the criteria that I look for in any wine — lack of flaws, balance and the like — but unlike many other categories, there isn’t a real “benchmark” ideal for rosé. We’ve all had good, or even great examples, but with myriad ways to make them, from even more grapes or blends, from most every region in the world, context was a bit hard to nail down. That was a bit problematic for me as I tasted these wines.
I wasn’t able to gather or buy as many rosés as I would have liked, either. I kept putting off the tasting to “get Winery X” included, but ultimately that only delayed the tasting too long. There were certainly individual wines that I really wanted to include but couldn’t get my hands on, but we still had 38 wines made across Long Island, the Finger Lakes and Hudson River Valley. Comprehensive? No, but representative I think.
What we found was a lot of mediocrity. Or to borrow a construct from my colleague Evan Dawson, most of the wines were neither overwhelming or underwhelming. They were “whelming.”
Before my fellow panelists arrived, I divided the wines into flights by composition (merlot, pinot noir, red blends, red-white blends, etc.). Then for each flight, one of my fellow tasters would put the bottles into paper bags, and then someone else would number them, making this a blind a tasting as possible given the situation.
During each flight, we’d discuss the individual wines,take notes and mark our favorites on pre-printed tasting sheets and then reveal the flight. When we were done tasting all of the wines in their initial flights, the seven wines that stood out as the best along the way were re-tasted in a final flight. From those seven, we chose a favorite for each of the three represented regions and ended up choosing two overall winners because those two stood out markedly from the final seven.
Is Rosé an Afterthought in New York?
While, Channing Daughters Winery makes a handful of different rosés every year (their syrah-based wine was part of the tasting), Croteaux Vineyards only makes rosé (they did not want to be included in the tasting) and Wolffer Estate Vineyard makes two (we tasted both), with one made in significant quantities, it was clear that, generally, rosé is anything but a priority in most wineries.
There were a few wines that were flawed or just not well made or well thought out, and those seven we enjoyed enough to note for re-taste. Most of the rest of the wines fell into a large group in the middle. “For me, the best wines were clean, bright, dry, and tasting predominantly of fresh fruit,” said Rockwell, who added “I was pleasantly surprised that most fell into that category, though I longed for more intensity in many of the wines.”
But even the wines that fell into that middle category of mediocrity seemed like they could be better. Silver was “surprised at the overall lack of forethought that went into the wines” calling them, in some cases, “very clumsily put together.” That feeling was echoed by Meador, who noted a “lack of creativity, thought or intention” in some of the wines.
The wines — the good, the mediocre and the bad — shared one common theme — diversity; and they were diverse across many criteria. We tasted wines based on the grapes you’d expect — things like merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir. But we also tasted wines that included things like barrel-fermented Noiret, Traminette, and DeChaunac.
One important discovery was that some of least-successful wines came from top producers while there were gems to be found from lesser-regarded wineries.
Our seven favorite wines reflected that diversity as well:
- Keuka Spring Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose is a small-production wine (84 cases) and is made from blaufrankisch, cabernet franc and merlot
- Red Tail Ridge Winery 2012 Dry Rose is made with 100% pinot noir
- Anthony Nappa Wines 2012 Blissful is 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc
- Treleaven Wines 2012 Dry Rose is made entirely from cabernet franc
- Wolffer Estate Vineyards 2012 Rose is a blend of merlot, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. More than 11,000 cases were made.
- McCall Vineyards 2012 Marjorie’s Rose is 100% pinot noir
- Millbrook Vineyards NV Hunt Country Rose is a unique blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and traminette.
Because all of the wines we liked best were under <$20, we didn’t bother with my intended “Top Value” winner. We did agree on some other winners:
Top New York Rose: Keuka Spring Vineyards 2012 Dry Rosé and Red Tail Ridge Winery 2012 Dry Rose (tie)
Top Hudson River Valley Rose: Millbrook Vineyards NV Hunt Country Rosé
Top Long Island Rose: Wolffer Estate Vineyard 2012 Rosé
Top Finger Lakes Rose: Keuka Spring Vineyards 2012 Dry Rosé and Red Tail Ridge Winery 2012 Dry Rose (tie)
Anthony Road Wine Company 2012 Rose of Cabernet Franc ($14): Very light, somewhat dusty aromas of blackberry and watermelon. Watermelon Jolly Rancher on the palate with only subtle notes of black pepper and blackberry. Simple. Good-not-great balance.
Atwater Estate Vineyards 2012 Rose ($16): Faint fruit is dominated by vegetal and chive flavors. Good acidity, but hard to get past those vegetal flavors. Tasted again individually with the same notes.
Casa Larga Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose ($10): Very grap-y and foxy with a cidery/yeasty edge. Sweet, but with big acidity. Well balanced. Not what I look for, but fairly well done for the style.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars 2012 Dry Rose ($13): Nice aromas and flavors or mixed red berry, peach and flowers — very floral (in a good way). Swet and sour balance on the palate is a bit off. Crunchy acid that turns a bit sharp on it’s own. Probably needs food.
Forge Cellars 2012 Rose ($15): Bit stinky and didn’t really blow off (even on day two). Great mouthfeel — creamy with crispy edges, but musty and earthy without much fruit.
Fox Run Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose ($20): Fruity and pleasanet — if a bit generic. Red fruits, watermelon, herbs and cherry candy on the nose and palate. Finish drops away quickly, and is a bit of a letdown but fruity and fresh. Interesting blend of Blaufrankisch and riesling.
Hermann J. Wiemer NV Rose Cuvee ($13): Blend of 55% pinot noir, 45% chardonnay and 5% cabernet franc. Very fruity — strawberry and cranberry — almost candied, and lightly sweet. A bit flat and lacking acidity. Faded quickly in the glass.
Hosmer Winery 2012 Dry Rose ($14): Flawed — all acetic/vinegar. Long finish with subtle berries, but hard to get past the flaw. Perhaps wasn’t a rose from the beginning — failed rescue attempt? Tasted again separately with similar notes.
Inspire Moore 2012 Grace ($15): Barrel fermented Noiret that was clearly turned into rose later in the process. Woody and lactic with too much tannin not really enough fruit for the structure or spicy peppery notes. Weird and not very good.
Keuka Spring Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose ($15): My favorite of the tasting by a half-step. Complex nose 83 cases produced. Strawberry, cherry, peach and slightly grape-y fruit flavors are accented by black pepper and herbs. Intense but balanced palate — with crispy acidity — and a long finish that is dry and appetite-whetting.
McGregor Vineyard 2012 Rose d’Cabernet Franc ($15): Muted, slightly mousey nose that lacks fruit. Lighter-bodied and fresh with acidity, but just not much flavor on the palate. What is there is earthy and not particularly pleasant.
Red Tail Ridge Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose ($17): Fruity and pretty with strawberries and peaches, but also fresh and dried flowers, orange rind and rhubarb. Lighter body and very well balanced. Juicy and crisp on the finish. Versatile — from beach to fancy dinner party. 100% pinot noir. 230 cases produced.
Sheldrake Point Vineyards 2012 ($14): Nose is lightly yeasty with floral notes and just-ripe peach. Dry, fresh and citrusy (with peach and pear in the background) on the palate with great focus. I’m left wanting a bit more concentration, but this is an easy choice for a variety of foods.
Silver Thread Vineyard 2012 Dry Rose ($16): Confectionery — in a linzer torte sort of way — with rich red fruits that range from cherry to raspberry to cranberry. Subtle tannin (skins?) with a creamy mid-palate and a lingering finish. Palate isn’t as interesting as the nose.
Treleaven Wines 2012 Dry Rose ($14): Grapefruit, gooseberry and tomato leaf. The rare cab franc rose in this tasting with real varietal character (in a good way). Citrusy/juicy acidity brings plenty of freshness.
Hudson River Valley
Benmarl Winery 2012 Dry Rose ($15): Blend of 70% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 10% chardonnay and 10% riesling. Dry with bright — edging on sharp — acidity. Citrusy with subtle peach and strawberry notes notes. Simple and begs for food. 179 cases made.
Millbrook Vineyards NV Hunt Country Rose ($16): Unique blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and traminette. Candied strawberry and watermelon fruit accented by subtle spicy-floral notes. Long finish. Faded somewhat quickly in the glass, but interesting and pleasant.
Robibero Winery 2012 Rose: Earthy notes with vegetal notes that edge on green bean. Nose lacks fruit. Palate shows more — red cherry and a subtle spiciness. Simple. Gulpable. Short finish drops off quickly.
Tousey Winery 2012 Rebellion Rose ($16): Fruity and peppery, but tastes somewhat manufactured. Bit too much SO2 as well.
Anthony Nappa Wines 2012 Anomaly ($20): Pinot noir. Somewhat feminine with strawberry-rhubarb flavors, but slightly lacking fruit on the palate. Slightly grassy/stemmy edge. Good balance. Finishes with pear and apple and just a touch of abv heat.
Anthony Nappa Wines 2012 Blissful ($16): Strawberries, watermelon and rhubarb on the nose. Subtle herbal notes join the fray on the balanced, well-textured palate. Fruity and fresh with great balance.
Bouke 2012 Rose ($16): Faint nose with a bit of balsamic. Cherries dominate a fruity palate, but there is also some browned apple. Finishes with some earthy dirtiness (not in a good way).
Channing Daughters Winery 2012 Rosato di Syrah ($18): Fairly neutral on the nose — light red berry and white pepper — and very crisp/fresh on the palate, but lacks fruit/concentration and complexity. Slightly earthy/dirty finish.
Clovis Point NV Rose ($20): Watermelon and sour cherry aromas are enhanced by a sprinkling of white pepper. Creamy mid-palate and lots of watermelon on the palate. Great mouthfeel, but not as fresh as most of the wines.
Lieb Cellars 2012 Rose ($19): Grapefruit-y with light berry notes. VERY acidic. Needs food to tame. Acidified? Ends up tasting sharp on the finish.
McCall Wines 2012 Marjorie’s Rose ($17): Simple and straightforward, but also satisfying in its mix of red berry, melon and herbs/grass. Pinot noir. A bit light on flavor from the mid-palate on. Good but not quite great.
Macari Vineyards 2012 Rose ($15): Surprisingly subtle nose. Simple melange of peach, flowers and red berries. Lacks focus/freshness just a bit. Shows a bit of sweetness.
Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Northern Solstice ($16): Blend of 64% merlot, 22% chardonnay and 14% riesling. Very peachy and fruity with strawberry beneath and a bit more tannic structure than expected. Richer on the mid-palate but good balancing acidity. 450 cases produced.
Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose ($15): Undrinkable. Flawed and I didn’t even want to put it in my mouth, but I did. I won’t again until the new vintage is released. I don’t have an image for zero corks, so it gets 1.
Palmer Vineyards 2012 Rose of Merlot ($20): Tangerine and subtle raspberry/cherry nose. Big acid on the palate with more orange pulp — but not enough fruit, overall. A bit more weight would balance the acidity better. Crunchy.
Paumanok Vineyards 2012 Dry Rose ($18): Bit of sour rot on a nose that lacks fruit. Only subtle watermelon on the palate. Thin and lacks concentration or balance. Dry finish with good acidity. Probably needs food, but still underwhelming.
Peconic Bay Winery 2012 Rose ($8): Simple, but over-delivers for the price. Gobs of red fruit — red cherry, pomegranate and currant. Sweetness could use a bit more acidity. Fuller bodied. 100% merlot.
Roanoke Vineyards 2012 DeRosa Rose ($18): Fermented in older barrels. Light red fruits with hints of orange and lemon — but seems muted and a bit dusty/yeasty. Fuller bodied but finish is a bit short and slightly bitter. Finish really drops off.
Sherwood House Vineyards 2012 White Merlot ($18): Rather neutral. Simple, subtle peach and citrus aromas and flavors. Okay acid. Just not a lot going on on the nose or palate. Underwhelming, but inoffensive.
Shinn Estate Vineyards 2012 Rose ($15): Bright red fruits with notes of watermelon. Subtle skin tannin brings a bit more structure. Good acidity. Good mid-palate and lingering finish.
Waters Crest Winery 2012 Rose ($25): Blend of merlot, cabernet franc, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Aromas are mousey and also reminiscent of almond milk and earthy dried leaves. Lacks fruit.
Wolffer Estate Vineyards 2012 Grandioso Rose ($30): Barrel fermented. Lacks fruit, instead dominated by hazelnut, vanilla and crayon. Great mouthfeel — creamy and round, with good balance. Divisive during the tasting. Not a great value.
Wolffer Estate Vineyard 2012 Rose ($17): Blend of 69% merlot, 16.5% chardonnay, 5% pinot noir, 4.5% cabernet franc and 5% cabernet sauvignon. Bit of SO2 on opening that blows off quickly. Citrusy, peachy and bright with great balance. Refreshing, crisp. There’s a reason this is a Long Island classic. 11,711 cases made.