This Summer’s Top Five Rosés

It’s summer, which means we have to drink as much rosé as we can before the local wine stores focus their stocking on reds and fall whites.

While summer is coming to a close, our love of rosé continues to go strong. We’ve tried over a dozen fantastic rosés this summer, but have selected our top five in case you don’t have the time (or funds!) to sample our full list.

In order from enjoyed-a-try to bought-three-bottles, here are our top rosés of summer 2017!

 

5. Dune Gris de Gris (2016)

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A delightful light wine for the hottest summer days, Gris de Gris holds subtle flavors of grapefruit. Sweet with a citrus edge, this rosé is a crisp, cool, light-bodied pink wine that pairs perfectly with a sweltering day and light meal.

4. Domanie de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne Blanc (2016)

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Can you tell we like grapefruit rosés? This wine holds similar grapefruit and citrus flavors to the previous wine, but with more of a fruity flavor. With light strawberry flavor, the wine has a gentle edge of sweetness on Gris de Gris. The wine also has a unique grassy nose; if you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself in the winery’s field, sipping the light wine on a warm summer day.

 

3. Phebus

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Want a little more flavor and depth to your rosé? Or are you a fan of Malbec? We have the rosé for you! This wine packs a little more body and flavor, with ripe berry flavors. And to make things better, it’s less than $10 at Total Wines!

2. Brin de Rosé 

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Simple in name and taste, this is a perfect crowd-pleaser for a sunny patio day. It’s light and gentle on the tongue in the way only a French wine can be, but with enough character to make you pour another glass (and another…and another). Not to mention, we love the bottle – it’s original shape sets it apart from traditional rosés and gives it a modern and fun non-traditional flair.

1.  La Garoche (2016)

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This is the rosé we keep coming back for again…and again…and again. The one we check is still in stock, like, weekly. Because how is no one else on to this yet? With sweet berry flavors cut by the minerally aftermath of natural tanins, this dry rosé  is perfect with anything. Especially an empty wine glass! Perfect for wine-lovers and newcomers alike, we recommend snagging a bottle before the season is up!

Photo cred:

Gris de Gris, Pellehaut, PhebusBrin de Rose, La Galoche

Love at first Sip-CA Wine Country

California Wine Country is famous for proving that America could make great wine back in the 1976 Paris tasting. California shocked the world when judges decided in a blind taste test that American wine tasted better than the French contestants. Though the entire state of CA produces wine, there are two valleys that are known the world over for their wine: Napa and Sonoma.

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I (Kristen) got to visit the American wine mecca for the first time a few weeks ago and I’ve got some tips to help you with your next wine vacation.

  1. It’s not all beautiful hotels and glittering patio set ups. First the foremost, Napa and Sonoma are farm lands. If you’re providing your own transportation, it’s a lot of driving though endless fields with more cow sightings than people. Be prepared for winding roads, little to no street signs, and lots of food stalls selling fresh produce on the side of the road.My Tip: GPS is your best friend so bring a car charger and make sure you have a good phone provider if you are using your phone.

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  2. Contrary to popular belief, don’t go hard or you will go home. Most tasting flights are at least 4 wines and drinking them quickly on top of the hot weather will get you tipsy fast. So bring water and try to pick wineries that serve food that way you can get to more than one winery a day.Pro Tip: you don’t have to finish all of the wine samples. Bring friends to help you finish. Though its frowned upon, some places will let you share a tasting if you ask.

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  3. Okay so its a HUGE place, with lots to see in both valleys. Where do you start? Do some research! Look into the most popular wineries in the area and don’t forget to leave room in your schedule for when a local gives you a good recommendation. We started at 9am and finished most days at 6 – 8pm.Hotel tip: Get a hotel in the middle of one of the valleys. We got one slightly south in Sonoma valley. It takes about an hour to two hours to get to the top of the valley for exploring.

So where did I go?

Napa:

We started in Yountville for a walking tour of the town. It’s an adorable town toward the bottom of the valley. The little town looks modern with new architecture, unique shopping plazas, and outdoor art displays.

What’s the best part? It’s a culinary paradise with gourmet shops and restaurants everywhere. My favorite was the fabulous desserts from Kollar chocolates with their chocolate sushi and the rose wine macaroons from Bouchon Bakery.  Yountville also happens to be the home of Bell Wine Cellars. Click here for my article about Bell Wine Cellars.

Next we moved on to Domaine Chandon which was literally 2 driveways away for a flight of California made bubbles. The property is beautiful and great views from their picnic area that is perched on top of a hill. The valley below is breathtaking, and here you have two options: purchase a flight to taste or purchase a bottle and drink it on the hill with family and friends. Both options are fabulous and don’t forget the glittering gift shop on the way out.

Haven you ever had an Italian California BBQ? The V.Sattui winery is an Italian winery with a rather large property covering in flowers, fountains, and the smell of brick oven pizza. Wait, why pizza? Because on Saturdays they do an outdoor BBQ that would put your fourth of July party to shame. It’s got pizzas, salmon fillets, fresh mozzarella salads made to order, ribs, short ribs, steak tips, and so many varieties of vegetables to put on the side. Beware because the place will be packed with peoplem, but the food is great and worth the wait. Don’t want to wait? Check out their authentic deli, pastry shop, gift shop, and oh yea the massive wine bar.

Last but not least, if you really want to be dazzled visit the Tuscan inspired castle in Calistoga. Click here to read my review of the castle.  It’s worth the entrance fee I promise.

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Stay tuned for my review on sonoma!

 

Tuscany Meets Napa: Castello Di Amorosa

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Resting near the top of Napa Valley is a Tuscan-inspired castle called Castello Di Amorosa (Castle of Love) in Calistoga, CA.

The castle – built only using materials available over 700 years ago for authenticity – is surrounded by gorgeous property with 30 acres just for grapes. If that’s not impressive enough, the wines are only sold at the winery or on the online website.

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The castle maintains a medieval vibe with rooms including a drinking well, church, stable, and torture chamber, as well as outdoor features such as a moat, drawbridge, and five towers.

 

 

There are different options for admission.

You can book a tour which gets you into the private rooms and entire secret floors for $40 dollars a person and includes a tasting in the barrel room. General admission is $25 which lets you walk around the open grounds like the great hall, chapel, stables, and many courtyards with a tasting of 5 wines in the main tasting hall.

I did not pay the extra to grab a tour because the grounds I saw were stunning enough but by all mean go for it if you get the chance to visit. The other options go up from $40 which are their food and wine private tasting, cheese and wine tasting, or their deluxe tour.

 

 

But what about the wine?

They produce over 30 wines a year including pinot bianco, pinot grigio, sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, semillon, and many other tuscan native grapes.

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My tasting menu alone let me choose from over 24 wines and one non-alcoholic grape juice made from muscat grapes which was delicious.

My favorites?

  1. The Gioia- a sangiovese rose that was rich in berry flavor yet bright and lighter on the palate than I expected. ‘Summer porch pounder’ would be a great use for this lovely pink drink.
  2. The Dolcino – slightly sweet Gewurztraminer that was also a perfect summer wine. It had just a hint of sweetness that made it quench my thirst in the warm castle cellar. Put it on ice and pair with the sunshine.
  3. Now best for last: La Fantasia, a dark slightly sparkling rose wine that was juicy and fruity. It tasted exactly like the sweet sparklings I drank in Italy years prior.  It was refreshing and perfect for any sweet wine lover with a bottle price of $30.

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The wines range from $23 to $98 per bottle. That may not scare some of you, but after a week in wine country it adds up fast. Luckily, there’s a discount on 12 bottles.

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If you ever want to feel royal and drink great wine at the same time, I highly recommend giving at least most of your day to exploring this work of art.

Ciao Bella!

Prestige in Napa – Bell Wine Cellars

Making their home in the beautiful town of Yountville, Bell Wine Cellars has been producing wine since 1991 specializing in grapes like Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Sav Blanc and Syrah.

The vineyards in Yountville are currently growing Chardonnay and Merlot. The winemaker Anthony Bell grows the other varietals across the other appellations in Napa.

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I was first introduced to this winery while I was at work sampling new wines that we were debating purchasing for the shop. The Syrah blew me away with its chocolate/mocha notes and dense mouthfeel. I loved all the different layers of flavor.

When I heard that our wine vendor was willing to book a tasting in CA for me, I jumped at the chance to see where my favorite Syrah was being produced.

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We pulled in to the cobblestone drive and were instantly greeted in drive way by one of the staff members. She checked us in and gave us a warm welcome. To my surprise, seconds behind our greeter was our new hostess carrying two glasses of California bubbles and a warm smile. Sandra Bell is the wife of winemaker Anthony Bell and she was a wealth of information about the winery. While sipping on our bubbly, Sandra took us around the winery we saw the fermentation tanks, wine barrel/aging rooms, grape picking equipment, and their beautiful vineyards.

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I was shocked to see that rows of vines had been ripped out due to an unexplained illness affecting the plants. When I inquired about it, Sandra mentioned that the valley has been fighting this issue for four years but they haven’t been able to identify whether it’s a plant illness or some kind of pest that is causing the vines to die.

Warning: there may be a shortage in CA wines in the future until this problem can be solved so stock up now!

After the vineyard tour, we started a wine tasting at the indoor tasting bar. Bell Wine Cellars offers a multitude of different tasting options including a current release tasting, a grape to glass tour, wine and cheese pairings, blending seminars, and sensory tastings. To be honest, I have no idea what tasting we did. But I know what we drank!

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We started with their 2015 estate Chardonnay which to me was medium bodied, with a crisp bite of acidity to start which transformed into a light caramel toast flavor at the end. I’m not normally a chardonnay person but it was a beautiful representation of California chardonnay tradition.

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Next was their Reserve Estate Merlot which was Anthony Bell’s best of that year. It was also medium-heavy body but it was a smooth criminal with hints of vanilla and chocolate after the ripe berry notes. It even had a slight bite after the swallow.

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Bell specializes in Cabernet and cloning of grapes. We tried the Cabernet Reserve which for the record is not available in MA. Their 2014 was a sunny and warm vintage which resulted in a not your average cabernet blend that was bright with berries yet layered with deeper notes of mocha and almost jammy touches. If you claim not to be a Cabernet person I would suggest ordering this bottle online or joining the wine club to taste it.

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Finally we ended with my favorite grape, the 2014 Syrah which is grown 4 hours away from their location in Yountville. This bottle was a step above the one I had tried previously at the shop. They used grapes specifically from Block 6 in the vineyards, and it was incredible. It was balanced, lighter tannins than I was expecting, bold yet controlled deep purple fruit flavor with little hints of cocoa. Straight up YUM.

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After the tasting, I got one more look around the property. It was cozy in the main tasting room with fire spires for warmth, private tasting rooms to the right, and outside were two bocce ball courts for fun in the sun.

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For lack of better words, it was probably the most high class winery I had ever been to. You see the how much care and hands on treatment goes into every bottle of wine. The barrel room alone holds millions of dollars of product yet the staff were so humble and happy to answer any of our questions no matter how dumb they may have sounded. Their wines range from $30 – $100 plus a bottle. However, it is money well spent.

Be sure to visit this winery on your way through the valley or see if their wines are sold near you!

Cheers!

Wine bottle photos from bellwine.com

Pura: Our Bottled Sangria of the Season

Nothing beats creating your own sangria recipe based off your favorite summer flavors, but sometimes you need to grab a bottle of sangria on the go.  Not everyone has the time to let a sangria pitcher sit overnight, or maybe you want to try someone else’s take on the season’s favorite wine cocktail.

This summer, our current fave is Pura, an all-organic, Spanish import, bottled sangria bursting with flavor inside the bottle – and color on the outside!

It’s a fruity, zesty sangria overflowing with prominent orange and blackberry flavors. It’s made with 100% Monastrell grapes – or, as the French call it, Mourvèdre. The finished product is juicy and light on the palate: the perfect wine for summer sipping.

We’d be remiss not to mention the gorgeous bottle. The split color, polka-dots, and the orange-headed lady – a clear fruit enthusiast,  sets the  wine scene before you open it.   Bottles are often deceiving, but this one is right on the mark!

It’s versatile, too, depending on the weather or your mood. We love this sangria straight from the bottle, or on the rocks during a hot afternoon. Want more bite? Try adding in a nip or two of citrus vodka or orange brandy; you won’t be disappointed. If you happen to create an amazing PURA sangria cocktail, try submitting your invention to their mixology page where you can literally win prizes for your summer drinking habits.

If you see this sangria at your local wine outlet, snag it while you can. We hope you enjoy sipping this drink during the hottest days of summer!

Cava’s Little Sister, Summer White!

Just when you think Spain can’t get anymore ingenious after inventing sangria, they share yet another one of their long standing traditions: vi d’agulla from Avinyó

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In Catalan, the name means ‘prickly wine.’ But despite it’s Spanish origins, this label reads ‘Petillant,’ which is a French wine designation meaning ‘slightly sparking.’

Avinyó’s Petillant white wine is produced in Catalonia Spain, with 80% Petit Grain Muscat and 20% Macabeu grapes. After being fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is given its light bubbles from the Charmat Method (tank method)  in a secondary tank.

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Why is it Catalonia’s summer drink of choice? Probably because it’s everything you need from a summer white. Crisp, lightly acidic, blooming with lychee and green apple flavors, floral, with tiny almost metallic bubbles that are a match made in heaven for summer seafood pairings – as if the tiny silver fishes on the label didn’t give it away.

If you happen to come across any petillant or vi d’agulla wines in your travels this summer PLEASE take the opportunity to taste them ice cold with all your summer food choices.

¡Salud!

Shake Before Serving: Mollydooker “The Boxer” Shiraz

If you’re a Shiraz fan, it’s likely you’ve heard someone rave about Mollydooker at some point. At the wine shop where Half-Past’s Kristen works, customers rush in whenever they hear a new case has shipped, anxiously stocking up on the Australian Shiraz. Even when we went to a local wine outlet and snagged a bottle of “The Boxer” ourselves, the cashier got wide-eyes and remarked, “You know your wine.”

So, what’s the hype? And what is Mollydooker, anyway?

We had quite the adventure getting to know this wine. Read closely: the way you drink this wine heavily affects its taste and texture. 

Not yet knowing any better, we poured our glasses through an aerator, like we would any other full-bodied red. The wine had a strong alcohol smell, and a bit of a burn on the palate in the aftertaste. We noticed a peppery aroma and loved its dark garnet color.

With our aerated glass, we noted a smooth start and a stinging finish. The wine had light spices and even slight notes of mocha among the prominent dark berry flavors.

But this is where things get interesting: the bottle is actually supposed to be shaken, not aerated, before serving. 

While drinking, we noticed a note on the side of the bottle leading us to the winemaker’s YouTube channel. Here, there was a video tutorial on how to properly serve the wine. We’ve shared the video below.

 

The ‘Mollydooker shake’ will create a foam layer of nitrogen in the bottle. After shaking, the nitrogen releases flavor back up to through the wine that it had been preserving previously. This process is also part of the winemaker’s efforts to reduce sulfides, which naturally occur in wines but can cause adverse side affects to some drinkers.

With this method instead of aeration, many of the spicy and mocha flavors we’d noted before were no longer present. It was smoother on the palate and easier drinking in general.

We hope that when you try out Mollydooker Shiraz, you’ll get it right the first time, unlike us!

Happy drinking!

Color Me Purple: Petite Petit

Elephant brothers, Petite Sirah (a red grape) and Petit Verdot (normally a French blending red grape), completely steal the show in this circus themed wine from Michael David Winery.

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As you may remember, we at Half-Past already fell in love with this winery’s Seven Deadly Zins – and their Petite Petit red blend was one for the record books. Get ready to be entertained by this dark purple wine.

This bottle is the definition of jammy. It’s silky smooth with almost creamy tannins and a  slightly gamey finish (no doubt thanks to the 16 months it spends in French Oak barrels). The wine is juicy in the front, smokey in the back, boasting straight up plum flavor with currant ripeness. Petite Petit has a bold and luscious full body with a hint of spice.

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Dear Red lovers, If you have never tried Petite Sirah or Petit Verdot we highly recommend you taste this wine; however, make sure you are not in public! The wine won’t be the only elephant in the room: after one glass of this wine, your friends will wonder how to politely ask you to brush your teeth. The pictures don’t do it justice.

 

Enjoy the circus! Let us know what you thought!

Feature image from lodiwine.com

Rare find! – Ancient Peaks Winery

Picture owning a large cattle ranch in central California…and one day some big wine conglomerate comes by and wants to buy patches of your land to grow grapes. Three years later, the grapes are finally ready to be turned into wine, but the conglomerate wants to leave – What luck! Buy the land back, and now you have perfectly managed wine fields that are yours for production. This is the lucky story of Ancient Peaks Winery at the Santa Margarita Ranch.

Don’t worry: they are still a cattle ranch too,but now produce a line up of over 8 different wines each growing in 5 different kinds of soils. Each bottle specifies which soil the grapes were grown in the back label. Did I mention that one of their soil types in an ancient sea bed? Picture massive fossilized oyster shells popping up among the grape vines!

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Why is this winery a rare find? The inside scoop is that only 6 different wine shops in the whole state of MA have been presented with the Ancient Peaks wines. We don’t have any information about other states, but so far the number of places to possibly purchase this wine is limited.

So stay on the lookout! If the search doesn’t prove fruitful, check out their online store to see if they ship to your state. Kristen was lucky enough to try their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Zinfandel.

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Cabernet Sauvignon  

It’s a rare day where I enjoy all of the wines that I try in one sitting. This cabernet was a perfect balance of everything we love about the grape. It wasn’t overly fruity or tart, it was smooth with softer tannins with medium body weight. Showing flavors of dark berries and even very subtle hints of cocoa on the mid palate. Perfect for dinner or just stand alone drinking.

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Merlot 

Now, Merlot I am very skeptical off because normally it is not my favorite grape. But this bottle was wonderfully produced.  It was velvety, rich, with black cherry and plummy notes and it included that signature mocha smell that you can expect from the grape. This bottle advertises that it was grown in the ancient sea bed, which might have something to do with its subdued quality. It’s a must for red meats or even game meats if you want to take the flavor up a notch.

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Zinfandel 

This has to be one of my favorite zinfandels yet. It was juicy, refreshing, quenching, and yet the fruit flavor was controlled in a way that made it enjoyable sip after sip. With bright berry notes in the front and a slight tart and pepper zing at the finish, this wine is a fun ride for your palate and I hope you get the chance to nab this bottle.

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Just in case giant sea shells wasn’t enough of a draw, the next time you are in CA I would recommend stopping by their site. Not only are there cows, a cafe, tasting room, and tours but they now host a 2.5 hour long zip line experience across their property!

Happy Wine Hunting!

Vineyard Header Photo from ancientpeaks.com