CVIndependent

Tue11242020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The sun is shining. The weather is getting warm. The patio furniture has been brought out of hibernation. For wine lovers, this means one thing … rosé season has arrived.

As I began to write this piece, I was all set to recommend my favorite pink beauties and perhaps touch on the strange new mindset in which some people refuse to drink rosé that’s more than a year old. But … instead of celebrating the arrival of the newest, freshest wines, and the arrival of springtime in the valley—with all the amazing events, and parties, and social gatherings—life has been put on hold. We are being told to isolate ourselves while COVID-19 takes its toll on society.

Writing about wine in light of everything that is going on seems, well, trite.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the notion of keeping calm and carrying on might be exactly the thing to do. After all, I’m no expert on the coronavirus or economics, so writing about how all of this will affect the wine industry, or our health, is way out of my area of expertise.

What I do know is wine. And I know that even though, right now, things are uncertain, we can’t stop living life (even if we’re living it at home), and we should not stop doing the things we can to that bring us joy. And drinking rosé brings me great joy. So, in the spirit of moving forward, let’s talk about pink wine, shall we?

It wasn’t all that long ago that the sight of someone drinking a glass of something pink meant that they were wine novices, and their blushing beverage had to be sweet, cheap, white zinfandel. Fast-forward a decade or so, and there is such a glut of bone-dry rosé on the market that you’d be hard pressed to find anything even remotely resembling the Boone’s Farm or Sutter Home of days gone by.

But even with this increase in popularity of rosé and dry pink wine, I’m still amazed at the amount of confusion and the misconceptions regarding just what this wine is.

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many different hues and varying shades of pink—from pale salmon to deep magenta—it will help to understand just how rosé is made.

In the simplest possible explanation, rosé is created with any red-wine grape that ferments on the skins for a very short period of time. It’s the skins of the grapes that provide the color in a wine, so the darkness and thickness of the grape’s skin, and the length of time you leave the skins in with the fermenting juice, will dictate how pigmented the final product is. Even white zinfandel is really just red zinfandel—the big, hearty wine you know and love—that was taken off the skins early.

Like all things that become popular, everyone in the wine industry was eager to jump on the pink bandwagon and get a piece of the pie. So, with every region on the globe, and every red grape imaginable, offering a pink counterpart, how do you choose?

For me, I always love going directly to the source. In France, specifically the southern Mediterranean region, these wines were created around the sixth century. Called vins de soif or “wines to quench thirst,” these wines were always meant to be deliciously drinkable and, at the same time, sophisticated and every bit as serious as the other wines created across the rest of France.

The two names synonymous with exceptional Provencal rosé are Domaine Tempier and Domaine du Gros’ Noré. These are the crème de la crème of French rosé and worth every penny: If you want to experience the most sophisticated incarnations of pink wine, look no further. Of course, names like Domaines Ott and Chateau Miraval are well-known and elegant wines in their own right, if not a little over-exposed.

If drinking esoteric wines is your thing, then you and I probably already know each other and drink wine on the reg. But if, by chance, we haven’t met, I’ll share with you my favorite rosé’s that are off the beaten path.

The Massaya rosé of cinsault from the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, is a truly special wine. It’s owned and operated by Lebanese brothers who returned to their homeland after the civil war and revitalized their family’s winery, which had been ravaged by the war. They partnered with three of the greatest French houses—Cheval Blanc, Vieux Telegraphe and Chateau Angélus—and create stunning wines. The rosé has beautiful flavors of sour cherry, fresh strawberries and cracked pepper.

The wines of Corsica are also making a big splash, and Clos Alivu is presenting itself as one of the best producers on the island. They create a rosé from the region of Patrimonio using an indigenous grape called nielluccio. Turns out nielluccio is what the Corsicans call sangiovese, so perhaps it’s not that strange after all. With flavors of sweet cranberry, honeydew melon and raspberries, you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of it!

California remains a source of beautiful rosé, but finding a style that fits a specific palate can be a little more challenging. The rosés made from pinot noir coming from the cool Sonoma Coast appellation are crisp and vibrant. I adore the Jax Vineyards Y3 rosé, with its low alcohol, bright acidity and layers of fresh strawberries, rosé petals and watermelon.

The Bedrock “Ode to Lulu” rosé is a blend from historic plantings of mourvedre, grenache and carignan, from heritage vineyards all across California. Peaches, cantaloupes, fresh herbs and a touch of salinity make this rosé incredibly thought-provoking and unique.

Maybe this time of solitude can be used to learn more about ourselves. Maybe we’ll connect with our families, or maybe we’ll finally fix that broken drawer, or leaky faucet. Maybe we can sip wine from far-off places and imagine ourselves in a beautiful wine landscape. However you choose to use your time, please always try to fill it with joy.

Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with two decades in the wine industry. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Wine

What’s that, you say? You love rosé? Well, if you live in the sunny Coachella Valley, you’re in luck!

While people in a large portion of the country are preparing for a frigid future—planning to spend part of their Labor Day weekend digging out the plastic bins that house their parkas and fleece underwear—here in the valley of eternal summer, we have another two months of scorching heat. While that thought is enough to bring grown men to tears, I choose to celebrate this fact with more rosé—yes, the little pink wine that was once the recipient of scornful glances, side-eye stares and snickers from fellow restaurant patrons is now having its proverbial day in the sun.

Considering all of this newfound fame, I started wondering whether people actually know what rosé is. This question was answered, in part, when I watched the recently released Vogue video interview with Drew Barrymore, self-proclaimed winemaker. If a “wine-expert” like Drew thinks that rosé is made by peeling the skins off the grapes early, then the answer is a resounding “no.” (Seriously, watch the video. It’s both horrifying and hilarious.) Given that it takes an average of 600 grapes to make one bottle of wine, the price of a bottle of Drew’s rosé with its peeled grapes would probably cost around $5,000. Instead, this delicious summertime wine is usually cheap and cheerful.

So why are some rosés more expensive than others? Why do they vary in color? What makes a pink wine sweet? Now that our desert markets and restaurants are offering so many different options, things can get a little confusing. Let me break it down for you.

Rosé can be made from any red grape, and while the process can differ slightly depending on the producer, the idea is the same: It is red wine that is taken away from its skins after mere hours of fermentation. Skin is what gives a wine its color; therefore, less skin equals less color. (OK, Drew, your comment was half right.) If these rosés were left in the tank, they would soon become red wines—big, bold, slap-you-silly, macho reds. In fact, in an attempt to give you a bigger, punch-you-in-the-face red wine, some winemakers will “bleed” off some juice from the fermentation tank in the first few hours to increase the ratio of skin to juice for a more concentrated final outcome for the reds—with rosé the wonderful byproduct. Waste not, want not … am I right?!

Because it can be made using any red grape you’d like, you’ll see rosés spanning the color wheel: from pale salmon-colored options, probably made from grenache or pinot noir, to cranberry and pomegranate colors, stemming from malbec or syrah. However, don’t be too quick to judge a bottle by its color: The wine’s hue isn’t going to have any bearing on the sweetness, acidity or alcohol content. Nowadays, most any bottle of rosé you pick up will be a dry, delicious, delight. That said, if you’re worried about buying the “wrong” rosé, my only advice is to steer clear of the word “blush” or any pink wine that comes in a box or 5-gallon jug. (Although that stereotype is changing now, too.)

If you’re looking to drop a pretty penny on a fancy-pants bottle, there are several regions, like Bandol and Tavel in the south of France, where rosé is taken very seriously and produced with the same amount of care and passion as some top-dollar reds and whites. They’re definitely worth a splurge every now and then.

So what about white zin—that sweet beverage reserved for prom-night motel rooms and the wine-confused can’t possibly be the same thing as my delicious bottle of Domaine Tempier, right? Well, yes and no. Just to be clear: white zinfandel isn’t a grape. It, too, is a pink wine made from red zinfandel grapes, but stylistically and historically meant to be sweet. It was really just an “oops” moment at Sutter Home in the ’70s that turned into one of the most profitable accidents the winemaking industry has ever seen.

Still not sure this pink drink is your thing? Do yourself a favor, and grab a seat at one of the valley’s wine bars, and give one a swirl. A few hot spots like Dead or Alive in Palm Springs, Cork and Fork in La Quinta, and Piero’s PizzaVino in Palm Desert offer a handful of different options by the glass from regions like Washington, Austria, Provence, Tuscana and Santa Barbara, just to name a few.  

And if you need one more reason to keep drinking this sunshine in a bottle just remember: It’s socially acceptable to drink rosé for breakfast.

Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with more than 15 years in the wine industry. She is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and is currently studying with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. When she's not hitting the books, you can find her hosting private wine tastings and exploring the desert with her husband and two children. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Wine

Weather report for a dry, summer Friday afternoon in the Temecula Valley: Sunny, light wind, temps in the 90s. A group of visitors to the Frangipani Estate Winery wander outside with glasses of the 2013 Estate Grenache Rosé ($20).

It’s a bone-dry rosé, as tasting-room manager Nick Tavizon describes it.

“A floral nose, hint of strawberry … a touch of minerality,” he says. “A lot of people come in expecting it’s going to be a sweet wine. But it’s not.”

The latest vintage of Frangipani’s popular rosé was released in the spring. In Temecula, the grenache varietal is ideal for the crafting of a complex rosé. The valley’s too hot for pinot noir. Tavizon says the winery has played around with a few varietals for its rosés, but the grenache stands out.

“People are liking it,” Tavizon says. “Rosés are definitely coming back with a new twist, done in a Southern France style.”

That’s satisfying news for folks who like a chilled wine on a hot, hot day. And the weather report for fall? Looks like the heat’s going to stick around for a while.

Not too long ago, I would have snubbed any wine the color of that wine-like substance that gramps buys by the six-pack at Costco. (A Napa winery once countered the white zin craze by printing T-shirts that said: “Zin is red! Zin is red!”)

My thinking changed when my trusted wine-geek buddy—a woman who understood dry rosés before the rest of us—introduced a bottle of coral-tinged French wine at a summer barbecue. Some were dubious. She placed the chilled bottle on a friend’s patio table. Water condensed in the heat, wetting the label. I watched as another guest tipped the bottle to the side and examined the bottle copy. He set the wine down and, instead, polished off a pinot gris.

My wine geek friend opened the bottle of pinkness and poured some for me.

I suspended disbelief. She would not steer me into the land of unpleasant beverages.

“It’s a dry rosé,” she explained. “Try it with the prosciutto-wrapped melon.”

I drank the rosé, ate the melon, drank more rose, polished off the glass, and poured another. It paired nicely with everything from cucumbers to salmon.

Since then, I’ve savored many bottles of rosé. One of my favorites? Twisted Oak’s Calaveras Rosa (the label features a pink skull!), a rosé made with mourvedre.

“Mourvedre?” I said, when my friend handed me this chilled bottle as a birthday present. “You can make rosé from mourvedre?”

You can. And if the Calaveras Rosa is any indication, you should. I’ve lauded the dark mysteries of a delicious mourvedre before. But an encounter with the lighter version of the grape is like meeting Marilyn Manson as an adolescent Brian Hugh Warner: You just know this kid is going to end up seriously interesting.

The Calaveras Rosa is complicated like that, with dark fruits waiting to be discovered behind a crooked smile and clear complexion. We opened the wine that night and drank it with that night’s fusion feast—guacamole and chips, kale salad, boeuf bourguignon.

I’m bummed that the 2012 Calaveras Rosa ($20) was sold out at Twisted Oak’s online store when I last checked. Bring on the 2013.

For award-winning rosés closer to home, there’s Callaway Vineyard and Winery in Temecula. Callaway’s 2013 Special Selection Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) placed in this year’s Rosé Competition, which is open to rosés from across North America.

A standout is Callaway’s Rosé of Sangiovese ($20). The 2012 vintage nabbed a gold in the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a gold in the 2014 Pacific Rim Wine Competition. Its 2011 Special Selection Rose of Sangiovese won 10 awards.

My idea of a glorious autumn afternoon might include zipping over to Callaway with a picnic basket, attaining a chilled bottle and kicking back in the shade at a table overlooking acres of ripe grapes.

Quick note: Some of my family members and friends do not appreciate dry, aka delicious wine. Gramps, as noted above, lusts for white zin. Mom calls my favorite wines “bitter.” Most recently, a young woman my son brings to dinner has been known to adulterate reds and whites uniformly with various substances, from fresh fruit to sparkling water and, well, spoons full of sugar. “This is so good!” she’ll exclaim, sipping away at her fizzy sangria Kool-Aid.

She is extremely cute and good-natured. I like her lots. It’s not my job to try to change anyone’s tastes, so I choose the indulgent rout. The young woman recently enjoyed Andre’s non-vintage spumante ($6). She added orange-mango juice and made mimosas.

It’s a bit awkward to skulk through a grocery store with cheap pink things in my cart. I keep my head down. Yes, I’m often guilty of being a pretentious wine snob. Bumper sticker/meme idea: “Stay calm and let people drink what they like.”

Preferring sweeter wines, though, doesn’t mean a person lacks appreciation for a delectable, hand-crafted rosé.

Many options exist for, say, a meal that demands a wine with higher residual sugar. Monte De Oro, off Rancho California Road in Temecula, crafts a lovely off-dry rosé from five estate-grown grapes—syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and zinfandel.

“Wine drinkers today understand what a rosé is versus a blush,” says Allan Steward, the tasting-room manager.

The winery educates consumers of rosés at its website, describing how the winemaker uses the saignee style—pulling grape juice from various fermentations after just a few days, allowing only limited contact with red-grape skins. Winemakers who use this style can end up with exquisite roses and also, some argue, more intensely concentrated reds down the road.

At Monte De Oro, the 2014 Synergy 65 Rosé ($22) was released at the end of July. Tasting notes describe the rosé as “youthful (with) appealing aromas of strawberries, currants, cherries, cranberries and raspberries complemented by hints of vanilla bean and fresh rose petals.” Could better flavors exist to pair with the crispness of late summer, harvest around the corner, fall in the air?

Steward says he would serve the Synergy with a spicy Thai dinner—the sweet would balance the heat.

“But I wouldn’t mind having it with a hamburger, either,” he says.

So versatile. That’s what keeps me drinking the pink.

Published in Wine

This month, I am bringing you my “New Palm Springs: Vol. 2” mix—part two of a four-part series.

The goal of each mix is to reflect the valley in which we live (or the place you love to visit, if you don’t live here). The Coachella Valley has a unique collection of different cultures that come together and commingle.

As a musician and DJ, I want to create experiences that evoke emotion. This second mix builds on that ideal—I want to give you soundtracks you can keep in your pocket, so to speak. In it, I’ve included my latest remix, “One in Three,” from Name One and Maxxi Soundsystem.

This mix features a deeper, sexier collection of tracks. I wanted this mix to reflect the nightlife in our valley—but from a different angle. Think of it as offering a poolside meets nightclub vibe.

Not everyone follows a crowd; some people want to experience the unfamiliar and expand their usual listening habits. The music I find is from all over the world—including a lot of music made right here in the Palm Springs area. I love finding a balance between local inspiration and international inspiration.

Enjoy this month’s mix below!

  • Moon Boots, “Bills to Pay”
  • Rose, “No Good” (Toniia and Santiago Remix)
  • Tove Lo, “Not on Drugs” (The Knocks Remix)
  • Name One and Maxxi Soundsystem, “One in Three” (All Night Shoes Remix)
  • Disciples, “They Don’t Know”
  • Joshua Heath, “Just Funk Me Already”
  • TRU Concept vs. Beverley Knight, “Keep the Fire Burning”
  • Fabienne, “Sunstroke” (Endor Remix)
  • Me and My Toothbrush, “Show Me”
  • Redlight x Tinashe, “Pretend”
  • T. Williams and MJ Cole, “Privilege”
  • Full Crate, “Hurt Your Back”
Published in Subatomic