Tuesday night was the 5th Annual “Pink Out”, put on by the Rosé Avengers and Producers, held at the beautiful Butterfly restaurant on a pier along the Embarcadero. I am happy to say that this was my fifth year attending this delightful event. When I ask people about rosé wines, many have varying reactions, most of which are somewhere in the “blech” category. However, to those of us in the know, a rosé wine these days is an utterly delightful, quaffable experience. Rosé is no longer relegated to uber-sweet sticky white Zinfandels that we all remember from the $3 rack at the grocery mart, or, what I call “pool wine” (because I don’t care if the pool gets in the glass or if the wine gets in the pool). Although on occasion a pool wine has its place (in the pool! Heh heh heh).
This event is a great deal of fun on many levels, the wineries are excellent and usually the vintner is there to personally represent their product. To me this is a remarkable thing as they have to travel and make time in their busy schedules to attend these events, mobbed with tipsy people who may or may not appreciate all the hard work that goes into the wines that they are swilling and dumping as they go. Sadly, rosés are still not that easy to find and most the wines presented at Pink Out! are only available at the winery or online, and at a few restaurants. As far as a party venue goes, Butterfly is a great place with a bay view and their appetizers are always amazing. The people who attend “Pink Out!” really get into the spirit of things by wearing pink clothes, jewelry, shoes, wigs, feather boas, tuxedos, you get the drift. It is hilarious people watching. But mostly, it’s all about the beautiful sunset shades of rosé in the wine glass. In honor of the occasion I visited my hairdresser who turned my usual blondeness into a rosé hued masterpiece, like my beloved Granny who had auburn hair in her youth.
When my dear pal Chris and I arrived, the press and trade had already been imbibing for a good hour so the mood was instantly festive. We grabbed our glasses from the long curving bar and headed to our top 5 wineries, based on pre-event research and plotting.
Lucia Vineyards and Winery was represented by Jeff Pisoni, whom Chris met on a private winery tour recently, and their 2008 Lucy is a delicious rosé of Pinot Noir. On a jeep tour of the vineyard Chris spotted a strange, furry column hanging from a tree. It turned out to be a long string of gophers, shot by Jeff’s grandmother, a true frontierswoman and, apparently, an exquisite shot! They chatted about family affairs while my attention was turned entirely towards the most amazing elixir in my glass. It was at this point we decided that today was not a day to dump any wine, unless it fell below the caliber of the current glassful. Our next stop was our ever favorite Tablas Creek Vineyard. Tommy Oldre poured us a taste of his 2008 rosé, which had just been bottled and needed a dash of time to settle. We had a wonderful conversation on the (hopefully) emerging trend away from fruit bombs, aka wines high in alcohol and fruit designed for immediate gratification. This has been a bugaboo of mine for a while because if all wines are created in this manner we will no longer have anything to cellar and enjoy as a wine evolves and comes into its own. The so called fruit bombs lose their attractiveness shortly after a year or sometimes less, and I believe are a response to the “I want it all now” selfish consumer. Tommy recommended that we also try the wines at his neighboring tables, Verdad Wine Cellars and Ty Canton Vineyards. Louisa Lindquist is a powerhouse and her husband Bob runs Qupé, another huge favorite of mine. Her rosé was one of my favorites of the evening of primarily Grenache and had a surprisingly low alcohol level. She agreed with me that her wine would be a perfect match for a squash blossom fritatta and joked about getting together on the weekend to try it out. Ty Canton was there to rep for his vineyard, a engaging young man with an excellent ’08 rosé. I enjoyed chatting with him so much and he kindly invited us to a free tasting up at his tasting room in Kenwood.
We then ventured over to SoloRosa, whose 2008 Dry Rosé from the Russian River beckoned with its apricot hue. Completely bone dry and with a long nose of fruit and spice, this was a terrific glass, and happily for us rosé-loving folk this is all they do at SoloRosa. I was tempted momentarily to grab a bottle and head to a corner for quiet contemplation but this felonious moment fortunately passed. We were quite excited to taste this vintage, from all things considered thus far 2008 is a tremendous year for rosés. Next was a surprise entry, Shadowbrook in Walnut Creek of all places. Ann Sorenson poured their 2008 Dry rosé. They predominately make Syrah and one year had some leftover berries from their latest crush. About to toss them, their marketing manager suggested they make a rosé with it, and economically bottled it in their 375 ml bottles in which they normally sell their housemade extra-virgin olive oil. Such a brilliant use of resources and the wine is truly remarkable, sadly only 36 cases were produced so I’m in hurry to head over on BART and get some. It was so fruit forward and yet completely dry, no residual sugar at all, a long finish, I loved this wine.
Then, after the serious conversations and connections with these talented winery personnel were completed, we just got into the swing of things and began seriously sampling. Chris mentioned he has a bias against a rosé that is too dark in color in the red range. I have a personal fondness for those rosés which are in the apricot hue, but that is neither here nor there. We both agreed that the rosés without residual sugars were most attractive to our palates, although we came across the occasional rosé that were off dry and extraordinarily pleasant. We fantasized sipping them with super spicy Hunan or south Indian fare. Some rosés we (not) jokingly told the vintner that we needed a bottle, a bench and about two hours to decide which we liked the best, preferably with something delicious to snack on and some nice music in the background.
This year RAP presented a selection of rosés from the Loire Valley and as I have had virtually zero experience with French wines it was exciting to see such a large selection. I must say with no bias to the French that our California wines were much more exceptional in my mind. That said, the Bourvet Brut rosé was quite pleasant and quaffable. The Couly-Dutheil 2007 Chinon rosé was from Cabernet Franc berries and very dry. I wouldn’t kick that bottle out of my wine cupboard even if it ate crackers in there. One was a standout in terms of unusual fruit flavor, the Chateau de Fesles 2007 Rosé d’Anjou tasted remarkably of roasted red peppers and cherries. Moving back to our California friends we tried Charles Creek’s 2007-2008 rosé. David Salzburg’s tasting room is located on the square in Sonoma, I sense a road trip up there coming on!
One winery, Carica, was surprisingly located in Santa Rosa, an area in which my colleague is extremely experienced having spent his formative years there, and he had no idea there was a winery in his old stomping grounds. Apparently the grapes at Carica were planted in the 1800’s, and Dick Keenan poured for us their 2008 “Kick Ranch” rosé and Sauvignon Blanc which were highly superior. Another local standout was Keller Estate across the road from General Vallejo’s pueblo in Petaluma. I have ridden past this place many a time on my bike and now could kick myself for not pulling in for a glass of their rosé. Of course I probably would not have been able to ride home after that so maybe it is just as well!
It was at this point in the evening Chris turned to me and said, “I am on Cloud Wine” and I concurred completely.
(Apologies for the blurry photo, but our photographer was himself feeling no doubt a little blurry.)
The next stop was I’M Winery, which is a spinoff of the Mondavi family by Robert’s son Michael and his son Rob. Their rep Brennan Anderson was very engaging, and their 2008 Deep rosé was quite delicious, it had a bit of residual sugar but not much which definitely put it in the quaffable range. Chris then steered me over to Buoncristiani Family Winery, run by an handsome tribe of four brothers in Napa. Nate Buoncristiani was pouring their 2008 Rosato of Syrah and it was dry, edgy and utterly delicious. A surprise find at the end was Azur located in Napa. The young vintner Julien Fayard and his wife were running the show and had hidden under the table a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which made me wish for a larger handbag and a cork.
Funny, do you how how it is when you are in a room full of strangers and you keep running into a couple or an individual over and over? This happened while we were waiting to enter Butterfly and were behind two friends. The lady was in a fabulous sequined floral dress with pink gems to match, and her escort was resplendent in a frilled pink tuxedo shirt, hot pink trousers and gold lame leather shoes. Every time we bumped into them it was like a reunion. “Hey! Good to see you again! Have you tried _____ (insert name of fabulous winery) yet?” We must have run into them at least four times. We had a fascinating conversation about truffle oil, and a few other topics which were riveting at the time but you know how it is, in the light of day the next morning (pass the aspirin) some of these details have passed through my memory! To come full circle we ended up walking out with them at the conclusion of the evening and crossing the street together. (and lightly on our feet as our group deftly eluded the car that decided to flagrantly run the red light and aim for us in the sidewalk! I guess we were a prime target for 4 points to this red light runner.)
Back to the fun stuff and speaking of truffle oil, the food at “Pink Out!” is delicious. This year one of my favorite appies was a hand formed pizza topped with tomato confit, sliced mushrooms, brie, drizzled with truffle oil and finished with micro-cilantro greens. One helpful server made it a point to tell me about the various wonderful ingredients in the passed appetizers once he realized my interest in them was genuine and not just a ploy for a larger portion. I was particularly impressed with the slivered asparagus salad served in an Asian soup spoon and topped with a nugget of fried goat cheese. I snagged a spoon for a most charming sales manager for Bonterra Vineyards, telling him he would absolutely love it, and really enjoyed watching the shock of recognition when he realized just how amazing this mouthful of cool crispy goodness actually was. This is one recipe I would really like to wheedle from the restaurant! Another food favorite were the summer rolls of strawberry, smoked salmon, a little chile and nam pla and mint, or the vegetarian mango version. So refreshing and a good match with the fruity rosés. Chris snagged a tiny Asian takeout box full of noodles and fried calamari and shared a few bites with me, and I somehow ended up with a demitasse cup of an unctuous shrimp bisque, with a plump rosy shrimp lurking at the bottom of the cup. An enormous platter of cheeses was quickly plundered over along the bar and we saw in the distance a chicken salad club sandwich bite on gynormous slabs of Texas toast and I assiduously avoided this as past Texas toast experiences have wised me up to avoiding mass brafuls of crumbs in public places. Maybe if I was wearing a turtleneck I might give this a try, but not that day…
We ended the evening chatting to Bill Bryant and his wife Sally of Kate’s Vineyard, what a charming couple. After our prolonged chat, he generously poured a half glass of his Sedna Rosé of Syrah for us to enjoy while the event drew to a close. This winery is named after their daughter Kate, currently living in New York, and the winery is their post-retirement business. What a retirement! I am going to stock up on some of their bottles at my earliest financial opportunity. We said farewell to our hosts and to the talented photographer Tue Nam Tom, who had kindly offered me a quick tutorial on event photography and some great equipment advice earlier in the evening. We sauntered out into the purple hour along the waterfront to await for our chariot home, chauffeured by Chris’s dear wife Debra, without whom we could have never made the event. Cheers to you my friends!
On a side note, once home, I realized I was needing a bit more sustenance and popped over to Tommy’s Joynt for a spot of roasted chicken and baseball at the bar. And a biiiig glass of water! Funnily enough I struck up a conversation with some gents who turned out to be major Star Trek groupies (I mean, really, who isn’t?) and off we went to the late show. I think I surprised them with my own Star Trek trivia knowledge, hey, I may not look like a sci fi geek but I am! What a great night!