It’s International Rosé Day and if you have not already popped your first bottle of rosé, do yourself a favor and find a bottle now! Sipping rosé is self-love, sharing it with friends? Well, then you are just too generous!
I know, you may be saying, “Wait Robin! Didn’t we already celebrate Rosé Day?” Well, yes, National Rosé Day was June 12th, this is International Rosé Day. Really, are you going to argue with celebrating these wines twice this month?
We think of rosé in general, I mean, it’s right there in my title! We don’t say “Red wine season is here!” We also don’t often speak of rosé with grape varieties. We just lump all rosé together, but there is a wide variety of rosé styles, varieties, and methods, each with something different to offer. Rosé is more than just a color of wine.
Rosé is delicious and bright and it is the perfect summer sipper and now that we mostly realize that all pink wine is not going to be the sweet White Zin of our youth, people are reaching for more and more of it and you will be hard pressed to find a winery that doesn’t have at least one in their repertoire.
L’Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé
Alder Ridge Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills
This month we are sampling a L’Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé that comes from Alder Ridge Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills.
Before I go and tell you about this wine, I want to break the news that this wine is sold out. Yep, rosé goes quick my friends. They released this wine in March and it was gone by mid-May.
They made just 1000 cases this year. You might, if you are really lucky, find it in a store that carries L’Ecole No. 41, a small bit of this wine gets out for distribution. There are also a few restaurants if you happen to be in Seattle, that might have some left. Other than that? This is a wine you need to order when it’s released or be a member of the wine club to get some.
I feel very lucky to have received a bottle as a sample. Back when they sent it, I don’t think they expected it to sell out so quickly.
So, what’s so special about this rosé? Well, L’Ecole No. 41 was early on the rosé train. They began making this rose in 2009. I say this rosé because they have been sourcing the grenache for this wine from Alder Ridge since this wine’s inception. The problem? They can only source so much. They will get a little more next year, enough to maybe add another 100 or so cases.
Alder Ridge Grenache, why it makes such good Rosé
They could buy grapes off the bulk market and make more rosé, but that’s not the way they roll. They want to know the grower, or to grow it themselves. This may be a rosé, but they still strive to express the sense of place.
Marcus Rafanelli, the L’Ecole No. 41 winemaker told us what makes the Alder Ridge Vineyard Grenache so good for rosé.
“Grenache is really a late-ripening varietal…it takes a lot of heat units to get ripe. What’s nice about this site is that it is right on the Columbia River and it is a pretty warm section, but it has this view …it sits on this little bluff overlooking the Columbia River, so it gets a lot of wind in there and it gets a lot of heat in there. With this particular variety and this particular site, over the years Marty has just seen the potential. It’s a warmer site so we can get a little bit more ripening…before we pick it than we would normally get in another site.”
I did tell you that they have been making this rosé since 2009. Well, perhaps not exactly this rosé. Marcus and Constance told us that it has evolved quite a bit. From a deeper maceration with much more color and a bit more residual sugar to the ballet slipper-colored wine that it is today that is dry with just a bit of residual sugar to balance out the beautiful high acidity.
This is the Provençe style rosé that everyone is clamoring for. This is the wine that makes you close your eyes and picture yourself on the beach on the French Riviera.
About making rosé
There are a couple of methods you can use to make rosé.
- You can add a bit of red wine to white wine.
This method is mostly seen with sparkling rosé where the final dosage has a bit of red wine for color (Dosage or liqueur d’expedition is the wine and sweetener added after they disgorge the yeast from traditional method sparkling wine. It tops up the bottle and adjusts the sweetness level giving you that variety from Brut Nature to Doux or Sweet)
- You can make the wine via the saignée method
In this method a winemaker making red wine, bleeds off some of the juice, allowing them to concentrate the red wine. This juice they have bled off then ferments to a rosé.
- Or you can use the maceration method.
In this method, the grapes are grown specifically to make rosé wine. Rosé like sparkling wine needs to have that extra acidity, so it is usually picked a little less ripe than you would otherwise pick the red grapes. The grapes do a short maceration on the skins, leeching out just a bit of the red color. They are then pressed and fermented into wine, much like you would do for white wine.
At L’Ecole No. 41 they use the maceration method. Alder Ridge Vineyard is about an hour and a half drive from the L’Ecole No. 41 Winery. The grapes are picked early, at about 21 or 22 brix (brix is a measurement of the amount of sugar in the grapes) by machine harvest. This allows the picking to be quick and done early in the morning when it is cool.
Those containers of stemless grapes go on a truck and head to the winery in Walla Walla. As they ride along, they are seeping out some of their juice, the bottom berries crushed under the weight of the berries on top, and they start macerating. When they get to the winery, they macerate for just a bit longer before they are pressed, keeping the wine cold with dry ice.
Sugar in Rosé?
No, this is not White Zin.
Talking about sugar. This wine came in with a pH of about 3.26. This would give about the acidity of a lime. That’s pretty tart, you would be puckering if they bottled it that way. To balance that acidity, a little residual sugar (4.5 g/L) is left in the wine.
How do they do that? Leaving the sugar in the wine? Well, while the grapes are fermenting, the yeast is eating up all of the sugar, so rather than letting the yeast eat all of the sugar, Marcus and Marty taste the wine along the way. They track the fermentation rate in the lab to see where it is just right to arrest the fermentation.
“It ended up being on a Sunday morning, that we just got to this beautiful point in the wine…it was about 10:30 and we were like, “this is it!”.
They arrested the fermentation by adding sulfur. Sulfur is used often in winemaking, it has antioxidizing and antiseptic properties. So it keeps the wine safe to drink and keeps it from oxidizing and turning brown. With a light-colored wine, sulfur can bleach the wine, but the color will over a little time, come back. Since sulfur can bleach the color out, they did not want to use it multiple times, fearing that they would lose too much color. With this rosé, they only used the sulfur this one time.
So what to pair with this lovely Grenache Rosé?
Grenache Rosé pairs with so many things! Just don’t overpower it. Lamb, melon, and prosciutto, even a hamburger (just avoid blue cheese). The wine will give you notes of strawberry, pink florals, watermelon, a bit of pepper. The group of us had a wide range of pairings and ideas, from goat cheese and crostini to sausage or ham, Asian shrimp tacos, pierogi, halibut and grilled vegetables, shrimp saffron wraps,…
Michael put together the pairing for this wine. It was a lovely day and was still cool enough to get up to the rooftop deck for some time in the sun. Now of course we would roast. He picked up chicken, sushi, lobster cakes, and some cheese and we headed to the roof to enjoy some sun, the breeze, and the view.
What do you get in the glass?
The wine was refreshing and elegantly joyful. Allow me to wax poetic…close your eyes, picture yourself in a lounge chair, with a view of the ocean, all you can hear is the sound of the wave lapping on the shore, the sun is just right, not too hot, enough to warm your skin from the cool breeze blowing off the water. This is the wine you have in your glass. Just watch the subtle smile creep across your face.
Sadly it’s sold out, but….
As I said, sadly it is unlikely you will find a bottle of this wine. But they will make it again next year, it will be subtly different, as each year is, but it will be as delicious. So, ready yourself to order a bottle next spring, or join the wine club to guarantee yourself a bottle.
Until then, pick up a bottle of rosé or two from somewhere, ideally a small vineyard and winery, somewhere with a story, where you can hear how the grapes were grown, and give a toast to summer.
Heritage by L’Ecole
They have also just recently opened their new Wine Bar in Walla Walla.
Located at the beautiful Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown Walla Walla, Heritage by L’Ecole is open for business! You can book a table online or call 509.676.3777 for a reservation. They are open daily from 11 am to 7 pm.
Heritage by L’Ecole
6 West Rose St. Ste. 103
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Of course, you can always visit them at their tasting room at the winery at the historic Frenchtown School that you see pictured on their label. That is located at:
41 Lowden School Road, Lowden, WA 99360.
You can reach them through their website at Lecole.com https://www.lecole.com/
By email at email@example.com or by phone at 509.525.0940
More about the wines of Washington and L’Ecole No. 41
- Chenin Blanc from L’Ecole No. 41 – Old Vines and Breakfast for Dinner
- Mike Sauer and the Stories of Washington’s Legendary Red Willow Vineyard
- Yakima Valley AVA -Blends of Friendship from Eight Bells Winery and Pearl and Stone Wine Co.
- Cabernet Franc Merlot – a limited rare gem from L’Ecoloe No. 41 in Walla Walla
- Armstrong Family Winery – The Journey to Washington
- Hedges Family Estate – Red Mountain Washington – the History
- Chardonnay: Nuances in expressing site – an example from the Yakima Valley
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.