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Two Sonoma County Rosés of Pinot Noir

There’s the art of wine, and then there’s the artfulness of wine. Wine geeks and word nerds alike might want to note the difference.

This week’s wine picks are made in the “saignée” method from Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir grapes. Being a French winemaking term, saignée sounds lovely, of course — I’ve heard it pronounced as “sahn-yay,” but I’m told that “sehn-yay” is closer to the mark.

No matter how you say it, you can be sure that someday, someone will repeat it back to you with a different inflection, and with breezy authority. C’est la vie.

Or does it sound like legerdemain — from the French, “léger de main”? The saignée method simply means that a portion of the juice from crushed grapes was bled out of the tank, the main aim being to concentrate the red wine.

The rosé wine that you can enjoy the following spring is just a happy byproduct. It’s a neat trick, but is it artifice? Not much more so than a lot of winemaking techniques, as long as you stick to calling it the traditional French method, saignée. So pretty.

Here are two Sonoma Coast Rosés of Pinot Noir made in the saignée method, with very different results.

Robert Stemmler 2014 Sonoma Coast Vin Gris Rosé of Pinot Noir ($20)
This pale, salmon pink-hued rosé is made from free-run juice. On its own, Pinot Noir juice can be nearly clear — that’s why blanc de noirs sparkling wines are so light in color.

When served cool, the perceptible chill of the aroma plus the orange pith accent of the fruit brings orange sherbet to mind. Is there an element of oak, as well? The wine was fermented in neutral oak barrels. Subtle watermelon, strawberry and tangy orange flavors don’t turn sweet until the mile-long finish, dry, tangy, yet sweet in spirit. I’d applaud this wine if I could put down the glass.

Fort Ross Vineyard 2014 Fort Ross-Seaview Rosé of Pinot Noir ($24)
The bloom is on this rosé.

Soaked with the grape skins for 24 hours, this is a deeply pink wine, with a raw, vegetal, and candied cherry aroma that you might guess as red Pinot Noir in a black-glass tasting.

The sweet Maraschino note comes and goes, the cherry-strawberry fruit is cool and crunchy, and some young tannins even take a spin on the palate for a moment. Not for lighter fare, but I’d like this rosé with the lighter styles of pizza, salmon burgers, or veggie burgers.

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