Sunday, August 19, 2012

36: Rambling Rose' (Culinaria)

36: Rambling Rose'
Deceptive pink gem:
your soft flowers on the nose 
belie crisp fruit depths.

San Antonio's annual Culinaria event at Becker Vineyards took place Saturday, August 11. Rambling Rose' invited guests to blind taste six rose' wines picked by the panel of experts. This lesson in wine was a great place for beginning wine drinkers and experts alike.

The Event

Rambling Rose panel (Dr. Becker center) and guests

Dr. Richard Becker presided over a collection of wine experts, aided by Steven Kreueger, Resort Sommelier for the Westin La Cantera. Joe Becker joined his father on the panel with a San Antonio wine retailer (Vintage 2.0), a wine connoisseur and friend of Dr. Becker's, a San Antonio food and wine writer (John Griffin from Savor SA), a Houston area chef, and Becker's new winemaker John Leahy. (Note: It was sometimes difficult to hear and keep up, which is why I do not have everyone named. I honestly feel horrible about this. If anyone knows who I left out, please let me know so I can make the change). These knowledgeable gentlemen guided the assembled group through six roses they helped choose, including Becker's Provencal.

Our six wines

We were provided six roses, ranging in color from a nearly white pink to a deep magenta pink. The group went through them, one at a time. Members on the panel described their responses to the wine and encouraged the rest of us to do the same. In addition, they gave lessons on roses, discussing each wine's merits as roses. They also happily welcomed questions about rose' wines and wine in general, answering the questions as completely as possible. At the end, we found out that most of the wines, with the exception of two, were French roses.

Food provided by Chef Brand

Before we started, we were welcomed to enjoy an array of fine cheeses and crackers. Towards the end of the tasting, what was actually a bit poorly timed, was the arrival of our hors d'oeuvres. We enjoyed lamb, carrot tar-tar, and a stone fruit with mustard salad prepared  by John Brand (Las Canarias and Ostra in San Antonio).

The Wines

At the end of the event, things got rushed. First, the food came out later than anticipated and interrupted the panel. And with all that, the wines were introduced quickly. And as I do not speak French, I struggled to get the wine's names (and had no chance to see them afterward as they needed to prepare for the 3 o'clock sitting).


First, what is a rose' wine? Basically, it is general a red varietal or blend that has limited contact with the grape skin (as I learned at Grape Creek later, it can be as little as a few days). This causes the wine to have a soft tone or hue to develop that can range from just a hint of pink (looking more like a white) to a more magenta and robust pink that is more akin to a typical red wine (these are deep or high roses).

Steven Krueger, Westin La Cantera Resort Sommelier

The panel shared some interesting trivia and info about this wine. First, in Europe, it is not uncommon to see a group, after a hard day of work, to sit down and enjoy a nice rose' (here it would more often be a beer). This wine is a part of the culture of France and Italy.

The other interesting topic was temperature. Here in South Texas, we don't mind this wine being cold. However, the panel said for the best result, it depends on the wine itself. A rose' can be enjoyed anywhere from slightly chilled to cellar temperature. In our gathering, with the heat just outside the doors of the Lavender Haus, we all would have preferred the wines a bit cooler (they were probably set out a bit early). One key thing to keep in mind when choosing temperature was flavor. The colder the wine gets, the more the fruit flavors actually diminish and the mineral flavors come out. Again, Texas drinkers are comfortable with this, as we have come accustomed to wines rich with minerals.

The Tasting

1: Becker Provencal

Wine one, one of the most popular in the bunch, turned out to be the Becker Provencal (the only Texas wine in the bunch, which I found a bit sad). It was one of the lightest in color, with the hint of pink matching the light floral aroma. This proved to be one of the most delicate with subtle fruit flavors (strawberry is just noticeable). For me, this wine was a cool spring day. I could easily see the early wildflowers in bloom, especially the light yellow and pink slips that can blanket fields.

2: Provence Rose'

Wine two, from Provence, was a bit darker with more a stronger floral bouquet and fruit tones. Here, fruits like cherry slipped in and turned earthy towards the end. This wine was like swimming on a hot summer day. The pool keeps the heat at bay, but there is still the warmth just above the water line.

3: Mondavi Deep Rose'

Wine three was a Mondavi high or deep rose' from Napa. This wine looked more like a light red than a rose', but it was pleasant nonetheless. The redder color gave way to a richer fruit aroma (versus the more floral ones) and taste. Stronger fruit flavors, like a touch of blackberry, came through. To me, this wine was like picking fruits in the early morning at the peak of the season. It is still cool but the sun is quickly warming things up and sending the smell of oozing fruit into the air.

4: Languedoc Rose'

With wine four, we returned to France and the lighter colors. This wine, from Languedoc, was a solid pink or salmon tone that smelled mainly of fruit with a hint of the floral. This wine had a fullness of flavor that the others didn't -- they were mainly a bit subtle. This wine ended up dry with a nice blend of fruit and minerals. It was a smooth wine from start to finish. This wine was a playful and yet relaxed one. This wine reminded me of the Texas coast in October. Though it is fall, the days are still warm and so is the water. It is my favorite time of year because I can go swimming by day and enjoy cool strolls along the beach at night.

5: Cape Bleue

The next wine (five) was Jean Luc Columbo Cape Bleue (I'm glad I got this one right). It had a darker tone than our fourth wine, but it was obviously a rose'. The floral tones took center stage, pushing the fruit aroma to the back. The same can be said of the taste. This wine was the earthiest and driest of the bunch. It was crisp and acidic, which caused the fruit to be light and minimal. This is a perfect spring day. The sky is an almost-white blue with only a few very thin clouds. Even the sun seems lighter in color than normal. The cool winds are still blowing and the world seems lighter.

6: Chablis region Rose'

Our last wine (six) was the second darkest, but its dark pink color was a trick, as the aroma was light and more floral than the other dark wines. This 2011 from Chablis was complex and relied on the Syrah to provide the more developed fruit flavors not as noticeable in the aroma. There was an underlying earthiness, but the deep fruit flavors like plum stood strong throughout. This wine is a summer evening; the heat of the day is slowly being washed away as the sky turns purple. The breeze picks up and is cool. This is a respite from a long summer day.

All done!

These six wines were an interesting tour of a type of wine that I am just really getting into. In fact, this has been my summer of rose'. I started focusing on this wine as the days grew warm. During my May trip, I searched for some nice, cool roses, but found that close to home I found the best: Becker's Provencal, Bending Branch's High Plains Rose', William Chris's Current, and Pedernales' Rose'. After all of this, I know it will be my go-to wine next summer.

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