Winter in the winery is busier than one might imagine. After putting the 2010 red wine blend together and back to barrel for its last months of aging, we turn our attention to Spring rosé. Blending goes pretty quickly, and the wine is out of it’s mini stainless drums and into tank to prepare for bottling.
This year’s rosé is special for several reasons. First, we purchased a 2-ton lot of cabernet franc specifically for rosé. Inspired by the “Fenceline Franc” running down a northern slope at our primary vineyard, Virage Rosé production is limited by that long meandering row. To increase production, I’ve been tasting cabernet franc from various potential sources in the valley, looking for similar qualities. The needs are different than a red wine – we want supple freshness, a grape that can be picked at bright acidity levels without “green” flavors. The very cool season cut short by early rains brought us a terrific opportunity. As a result, we bottled 98 cases this year vs. only 56 last year, and have wine available for restaurant accounts, including the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, a sweet spot to sip a rosé with their crab salad, overlooking the Pacific…
Nearly all of this year’s rosé comes from whole-cluster pressed franc. We added some saignee (the French term for “bleeding” the fresh, free-run juice from the red-wine tanks before fermentation starts extracting color), done immediately after crushing, instead of my “morning after saignee” of last year.
Lastly, we fermented with a French yeast strain designed for cool fermentation to support aromatics, and voila, the job was done by a trained team. No restarts and fishtank heaters this year like the long, worrisome fermentation of one 2010 lot by “natural” (what I like to call “resident”) yeast. While the 2010 results were ultimately delicious, a real nail-biter.
Pale and elegant, our 2011 rosé came off the bottling line a very dry, decidedly French style wine compared to the more intensely Californian first vintage. The bright minerality and aromatic pleasures are quite similar. Looking forward to hearing what you think.