On June 3rd David LeClaire of Seattle Uncorked hosted the 7th annual “Rosé Revival and Other Cool Whites” event. Uncorked hosts a variety of wine events and classes in the Seattle area (see my post on Uncorked’s recent syrah event here). LeClaire likes to pair his events with good causes. This event was a benefit for the Ryther Child Center.

“Rosé Revival and Other Cool Whites” took place at Ray’s Boathouse and featured more than 60 wines from over 25 wineries, the vast majority from Washington state. The event was listed as a dry rosé event to make sure people didn’t show up looking for the white zin – wrong wine, wrong crowd. The date was smack in the middle of our record breaking dry spell, and the temperature was a sultry 88 degrees – perfect weather for rosé and white wine.

Let me say a few things up front about rosé and white wine. In terms of rosé, I like crisp, clean, refreshing wines. Residual sugar (RS) is generally a disqualifier for me, although my favorite rosé (Jones of Washington) did have a trace of RS at 0.7%. Personally I thought it worked for this wine. In terms of white wine, I am fairly sensitive to oak influence and generally prefer white wines that have been produced in stainless steel or (very) neutral oak barrels. To wit, the wines that came in first and second in the judging (see below, AlmaTerra Coeo Viognier 2007 and Brian Carter Cellars Oriana 2006 respectively) had a bit more oak influence than I care for. I thought the Oriana pulled it off; I didn’t think the Coeo quite did but it was also a bit warm when I sampled it.

Some thoughts on Washington rosé based on this event and other recent tastings. I enjoy rosé on hot a summer day. That said, it is not generally a knock-out wine – nor is it intended to be. It is meant to be light and refreshing on a hot day. If you were raised on cabernet and chardonnay and are looking for something that packs a punch, rosé might not be the wine for you. A recent Walla Street Journal article stated that many American rosés seem like throwaways, lacking real passion and care. While Washington surely has its share of these, a number of winemakers in Washington have put a considerable amount of effort into their rosés, with some even having vineyard blocks designated for rosé production.

Rosés tend to be inexpensive, as less overall cost goes in to the production due to limited barrel exposure, limited aging, etc. Rosés at this event ranged from $9 to $18 and averaged $13. Many of the rosés that I have been sampling or seeing on the shelves from Washington are at the high end of this range. Personally I think this is a bit of a mistake. Although many of these are excellent wines, once a wine pushes toward $20 I start to think about a good white wine or an inexpensive red. More importantly, I start to expect a bit more from the wine in terms of complexity and depth, so there can be an expectation mismatch at this price point. An additional concern is that there are abundant French rosés at $10 that are every bit as good or better. Indeed, Hand Picked Selections – a national wine merchant – was pouring several French rosés at this event for $10 that were excellent.

There is a lot of variation in the varietals being used for rosé in Washington, from sangiovese and cabernet franc to cabernet, Dolcetto, syrah and other varietals. There is also a lot of variation stylistically, both in terms of how they are made (see a previous post for more on this) and how they taste. I tried a rosé recently that was bright red in color and had 2% residual sugar. While some might enjoy this style, it is not what I am looking for. For the consumer, a few sugary rosés can make you a bit gun shy about picking up another bottle. This variation no doubt leads to some consumer confusion. To me, this is all the more reason to attend events like this one to try before you buy (Note: wine was also being sold at this event).

Listed below are my top rosé and white wines from this event. I have listed my top three wines as well as other wines that stood out. Also listed are the judges’ top wines as well as the people’s choice from balloting. A complete list of wine poured at the event is at the bottom of this post.

As with other Uncorked events I have attended, at “Rosé Revival and Summer Whites” the location was superb, the atmosphere excellent, there was abundant quality wine, and the food matched the occasion – all for about the cost of a bottle of wine. Uncorked’s next event is the 7th Annual “Debuts and Discoveries” which focuses on wineries in the first 3-4 years of releasing wine, on Thursday June 25th. See a list of participating wineries here.

My Top Rosés

1. Jones of Washington Rosé of Syrah 2008 $11

This was my first time trying Jones of Washington’s wines, and I must say that I came away quite impressed. Jones of WA is a family owned winery. Jack Jones is the owner and his son Greg does the winemaking and oversees the operation. The family’s estate vineyards were planted in 1997. The 2008 Rosé of Syrah is pale pink, loaded with earth and mineral, and has just a suggestion of sweetness that gives the wine a little extra body.

2. Skylite Cellars Sangiovese Rosé 2008 $17

Skylite Cellars is located in the Walla Walla Valley. The 2008 Sangiovese rosé is lightly colored and redolent with fresh melon, strawberry, and mineral. Crisp and clean on the palate and refreshingly tart.

3. Smasne Rosé 2008

Smasne Cellars is located in Woodinville. Robert Smasne is owner and winemaker. The 2008 Rosé is composed of 66% Sangiovese and 34% Muscat. The wine is lightly colored and full of fruit and earth. A light zing at the end pulls it all together. At the time of this tasting the 2008 was not released. I thought the 2007 was a bit past its prime. See a recent post on Smasne from WINO magazine here.

Other Recommended Washington Rosé (in alphabetical order)

Tefft Cellars Dolcetto Rosé 2007
Trust Cellars Rosé of Cabernet Franc 2008 $15
Yellow Hawk Rosato 2008

Recommended French Rosé (in alphabetical order):
Bargemone Ctx d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2008 $16 (Hand Picked Selections)
Chateau de Donjon Minervois Rosé 2008 $14 (Hand Picked Selections)

Cuve de Pena Rosé 2008 $10 (Hand Picked Selections)
Massamier Cuvee de Oliviers Rosé 2008 $10 (Hand Picked Selections)

My Top White Wines

1. Trust Cellars Riesling 2008 $15

I first tried this wine at Walla Walla Spring Release weekend (full report out later this month God willing) where it was one of my top wines. This is an off-dry Riesling with 2% RS. The wine has a beautiful nose with sugared grapefruit and pineapple. Exceptionally well balanced on the palate with mineral and a light sweetness.

2. Jones of Washington Viognier 2008 $14

Unfortunately the winery ran out of this wine reasonably early in the event – I got the last pour from the bottle – which is a shame as it is an excellent wine. The fruit is from Jones of Washington’s estate vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. The wine is almost completely clear in color and chock full of white peaches. On the palate it is round and generous while remaining clear and crisp. Exceptionally well done.

3. Cedergreen Cellars Old Vine Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2008 $16

Who knew there was good Chenin Blanc coming out of Washington? I have to admit that I didn’t. Cedergreen Cellars is the work of Kevin Cedergreen. The winery is located in Kirkland. The 2008 Old Vine Chenin Blanc is from Williams Farm and Snipes Road vineyards. The wine was fermented in 500 liter Hungarian oak puncheon. 100% Chenin Blanc. 13.0% alcohol. 194 cases produced.

Other recommended Summer Whites (in alphabetical order):

Brian Carter Oriana 2006 $22
DiStefano Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $16

Gilbert Cellars Riesling 2007

Jones of Washington Estate Riesling 2007 $11

KANA Katie Mae 2007 $13

Palouse Winery Cloud 9 Riesling 2008 $17

Thurston Wolfe PGV 2007 $13

The Judges
Kelly Barry – Seattle Cellars
Shannon Borg – Seattle Magazine Wine Writer
Rob Ord – Wild Ginger Sommelier
Cole Sisson – Seastar Sommelier
Sean Sullivan – Washington Wine Report
Jeff Thorsen – Cave Vivant Sommelier

The Judge’s Winners

White Winners

1st Place – Alma Terra Coeo Viognier 2007 – $23
2nd Place – Brian Carter Cellars
Oriana 2006 $22
3rd Place – Cedergreen Cellars
Chenin Blanc 2008 $16

Rosé Winners

1st Place – Wilridge Winery 2008 Rosé (Syrah) $18
2nd Place – Tefft Cellars
Dolcetto Rosé 2007 – $9
3rd Place – Skylite Cellars
Rosé (Sangiovese) 2008 – $17
3rd Place – DiStefano
Rosé Amare2008 – $17

3rd Place – Jones of Washington
Rosé (Syrah) 2008 – $11

The People’s Choice Awards

White Winners

1st Place – Skylite Cellars Viognier 2007 – $17
2nd Place – Thurston Wolfe Winery
PGV 2007 – $13
3rd Place – Brian Carter Cellars
Oriana 2006 $22

Rosé Winners
1st Place – Tefft Cellars
Dolcetto Rosé 2007 – $9

1st Place – PengWine
Fairy Cab/Malbec Rosé 2006 – $11
2nd Place – Wilridge Winery
2008 Rosé (Syrah) $18
3rd Place – Kestrel Vintners
Rosé 2008 – $12
3rd Place – Trust Cellars
Rosé of Cabernet Franc 2008 – $15

Wines Poured at the Event
Airfield Estates Unoaked Chardonnay 2008 $11
Airfield Estates Foot-stomped Syrah Rosé 2008 $13
Alma Terra Coeo Viognier 2007 $23
Brian Carter Cellars Oriana 2006 $22
Cedergreen Cellars Viola Rosé 2008 $13
Cedergreen Cellars Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2008 $16
DiStefano Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $16
DiStefano Cellars Rosé Amare 2008 $17
Eaton Hill Winery Orange Musact NV $12
Eaton Hill Winery Sun Glow NV $14
Gamache Estate Viognier 2007 $17
Gamache Estate Riesling 2007 $17
Gilbert Cellars Riesling 2007 $14
Gilbert Cellars Estate Chardonnay 2007 $18
Boniface Apremont Vin de Savoie 2007 $16 (Hand Picked Selections)
Ninet de Pena Viognier 2007 $11(Hand Picked Selections)
Massamier Cuvee de Oliviers Rosé 2008 $10 (Hand Picked Selections)
Cuve de Pena Rosé 2008 $10 (Hand Picked Selections)
Bargemone Ctx d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2008 $16 (Hand Picked Selections)
Chateau de Donjon Minervois Rosé 2008 $14 (Hand Picked Selections)
Chateau de Lancyre Pic St. Loup Rosé 2008 $16 (Hand Picked Selections)
Jones of WA Viognier 2008 $14
Jones of WA Estate Riesling 2007 $11
Jones of WA Syrah Rosé $11
KANA Winery Masterpiece 2007 $18
KANA Winery Katie-Mae $13
Kestrel Vintners Rosé 2008 $12
Kestrel Vintners Viognier 2008 $18
Lost River Winery Pinot Gris 2008 $14
Lost River Winery Rainshadow 2008 $14
Masset Winery Le Petite Blanc 2008 $13
Masset Winery Rosato 2008 $16
Naches Heights Vineyards Rose Rosé 2008 $15
Naches Heights Vineyards Pinot Gris 2007 $11
Naches Heights Vineyards Riesling 2008
Palouse Winery Golden Pearl Viognier 2008 $20
Palouse Winery Cloud 9 Riesling 2008 $17
Parejas Cellars Riesling 2007 $9
Parejas Cellars Rosé 2007 $8
Passion Vineyards Pinto Grigio 2007 $14
Passion Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 $15
Patterson Cellars Rosé 2008 $13
Patterson Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $13
Peng Wine Magellan Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 $11
Peng Wine Fairy Cab/Malbec Rosé 2006 $11
Samson Estates Winery Delilah Raspberry NV $10
Samson Estates Winery Riesling 2008 $14
Skylite Cellars Sangiovese Rosé 2008 $17
Skylite Cellars Viognier 2007 $17
Smasne Cellars Rosella Rosé 2007 $17
Smasne Cellars Rosella Rosé 2008 $17 (Not yet released at time of tasting)
Tefft Cellars Dolcetto Rosé 2007 $9
Tefft Cellars Rosey Outlook 2007 $9
Thurston Wolfe Winery PGV 2007 $13
Trust Cellars Rosé of Cabernet Franc 2008 $15
Trust Cellars Riesling 2008 $15
Two Mountain Dry Rosé 2008 $9
Two Mountain Riesling 2008 $13
Wedge Mountain Winery Dry Riesling 2007 $16
Whitman Cellars Viognier 2007 $18
Whitman Cellars Riesling 2008 $13
Wilridge Winery Syrah Rosé 2008 $18
Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio 2008 $18
Wilridge Winery Semillon 2008 $16
Yellow Hawk Cellar Muscat Canelli 2007 $11
Yellow Hawk Cellar Rosato 2008 $11