February 12, 2019 | Ralph Sands
Here in America we always copy and integrate into our lives the greatest traditions of Europe.
It seems that everyone in America is now wine crazy and has collections and birth year wines for their children, Haute Cuisine and Farm to Table dining are the norm, and beers and waters are infused with fruit. Of course we are all very proud of our now famous wine regions of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Cruz Mountains and the Central Coast.
European influence is the root system of American wine History. Families like the Harazthy’s founded Buena Vista in 1857, the Beringers in 1875, the Niebaums at Inglenook in 1879 and the de Latour’s founded Beaulieu in 1900. Italian immigrants planted some of the oldest vines in Napa and Sonoma and had names like Rossi, Gallo, and Mondavi. In the 1960’s and 1970’s. Winemakers like Tchelistcheff and Grgich helped elevate the quality and reputation of California to the pinnacle of the wine world.
And yes, I’m willing to bet my house that every one of them made Rose in their home country. If there was any extra white and red wine they were blended together to make Rose for lighter meals and warm weather. These Rose’s were not made with great quality in mind and this poor quality was directly reflected in the Rose wines from around the world in the 1950’ and 1960’s. The two exceptions were from the famous rose town of Tavel, and the region of Provence in southern France.
So you would think that California would become ground zero for Rose; and indeed it was for a short time, and then it wasn’t. I was there to happily live thru this incredible time for wine in California.
In 1975 Sutter Home Vineyards literally changed the landscape of California wine forever with their release of their White Zinfandel. The timeline on the Sutter Home website tells the story, but not quite the entire story as it pertains to Rose in my opinion.
Winemaker Bob Trinchero made great Zinfandel and in 1972 he bled off some juice, a technique called (saignee) and fermented it separately to concentrate his red Zinfandel. It was clear white and dry, and he called it White Zinfandel. In 1974 his White Zinfandel got stuck during fermentation leaving the wine bright pink/rose colored with lots of attractive fruit and 2% residual sugar, a perfect touch of sweetness. At K&L Wine Merchants we had an allocation of Bob’s fantastic Zinfandels and we received some of his now pink, White Zinfandel. It was absolutely delicious and everybody loved it and it soon sold out.
I personally loved it! You have to remember, in these days most wine was sold in 4 Liter bottles. The Sutter Home White Zin was $8.99 in a .750ml bottle, and that was almost as expensive as the red Zinfandel, so it was very expensive, but it was great. I bought a bottle of the 1974 and 1975 every weekend just in case I ran into some girlfriends from college; and they loved it too!
This wine hit California and America like a typhoon! The production in 1972 was 220 cases, in 1981 it was 25,000, and in 1987 it grew to 4.5 million. By the time it grew to 4.5 million cases two very dramatic changes had occurred. First, with the wine itself, it looked and tasted absolutely nothing like those first White Zins, it had almost zero sweet fruit and hardly any color, just a shadow of the early wines.
That aspect of the wines success is of course a bit disappointing; but the effects of second aspect can never, understated. Bob’s White Zinfandel changed the landscape of California wine forever by getting millions of people all across America, that never drank any wine to taste and enjoy wine regularly; this caused America’s Wine Boom/Explosion in the late 1980’s! So you see that the wine Boom was caused by a lucky mistake, but it paved the way for hundreds of other wineries and changed Napa Valley forever as more and more people explored and moved up the ladder of wine quality. Today Napa is known as the “Adult Disneyland” and Sutter Home has relocated to the middle of Napa Valley in St. Helena on Highway 29.
Rose is no longer an afterthought and great quality Rose is being made in every fine wine region of the world and most are now grown specifically for Rose. I currently carry 174 different Rose wines, made from numerous red grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon makes very strong Rose, like our 31 Production Rose, and Lamborn Rose while Eric Miller at Kokomo likes to make his delicious Rose from Grenache like they do in the Rhone Valley of France.
Rose is raging in popularity now and can be found on every fine wine list and at every party. Rose’s refreshing nature and attractive fruit along with its incredible versatility to a wide range of foods is undeniable. Rose is perfect with spicy foods, salads, sushi, stir fry, pizza, noodles, chicken, turkey, pork, duck, you name it, and Rose goes with it.
Believe me when I tell you folks, the Napa Valley is not going away and either is Rose, and I think it will soon be all the rage in Asia also!
Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy New Year of the Pig to all of you and your families, I hope you celebrate with a cold glass of Rose!