Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Group Tasting: Northwest Rose

More Northwest wine producers are making the decision to create roses than in recent years. This seems like a sound financial decision; the demand for roses is big in Seattle, where people love to drink local wine, and often producers are using saignee juice that they've removed to lower the alcohol content of their red wines. The alternative to making the wine is to throw that juice away, and while the costs of vinifying, bottling, labeling, and marketing a wine are not to be laughed at, the market seems to be willing to bear Northwest roses at remarkably high prices compared to some imports, particularly from Provence.

The Bottle Variations Tasting Group conducted a tasting of several Northwest roses last night. The goal was to try 2008 Northwest roses in a variety of styles and price points. Unfortunately, one 2007 rose slipped in to the mix, but we tasted it anyway (though I think we all wish we hadn't). My companions shall for now be pseudonymously known as S, T, M, and L. For scoring purposes in this post, M is disqualified because- as far as I can tell from her notes- she stopped scoring halfway through. Maybe she was having a little too much fun?

This tasting was done blind for my cohorts, but not for me. I knew what all the wines were, but did not reveal any hints.

1. 2008 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rose, Willamette Valley. $14.99
My notes:
Salmon color with a tinge of orange. Nose of strawberries, huckleberries, tart Rainier cherries, red licorice. Also, a hint of cough syrup, but not in an unpleasant way. The palate is juicy but zingy, starts out delicate but ends with a tang. L says it's too soft for food, and I agree, except for the most delicate dishes. It'd be a great deck sipper, though. L also says it has the acidity of "unripe stone fruit." I do get a kind of peachy acidity.

The scores:
Me: 5.5
L: 7
S: 5.5
T: 4.5
Total: 22.5
Average: 5.625/10

2. 2008 Syncline Rose, Columbia Valley. $15.99 44% cinsault, 30% grenache, 17% mourvedre, 9% counoise.
My notes:
Lighter pink color, nicely brilliant. Nose of citrus, cream, light spice. The group generally agrees that it smells like an orange-spiced cinnamon roll, because all these aromas combine with a slight breadiness. L says white peach on the palate, and I agree. Nice acidity, cherry, lemony on the back end. Finishes a little bitter, and also a little abruptly. In all, the palate didn't stand up to the exciting aromatics.

I was the only one who enjoyed the first one more than the second. There was quite a bit of debate as to which had more enjoyable acidity, and I definitely ended up in the minority. I think the finish of the second wine turned me off more than the rest of the group, and that I didn't mind the cough syrupy aspect of the first one as much as others.

The scores:
Me: 5
L: 7.5
S: 6
T: 6
Total: 24.5
Average: 6.125/10

3. 2008 Saviah Rose, Walla Walla Valley. 100% sangiovese, 100% Pepper Bridge Vineyard. $10.99
My notes:
Medium pink color. The nose is rich and juicy, with citrus zest, strawberry, rhubarb, and watermelon. Very fruit-forward, with a slight salinity. The palate has nice body, refreshing acidity, and a general tastiness; generally, this is a fruit-driven wine, which is how rose is supposed to be. This wine was a real hit; everyone thought it was juicy, delicious, and refreshing. We all went back for (at least) a second taste. Recommended.

The scores:
Me: 6.5
L: 8
S: 7.5
T: 7.5
Total: 29.5
Average: 7.375/10

4. 2007 (whoops!) Waters Rose, Columbia Valley. About $20 at the winery.
My notes:
Dark pink color (L says garnet, and it's darn close). Extremely ripe fruit on the nose, raspberries, cranberry juice (Ocean Spray), spoiled produce (asparagus?), sweet. Really not a very enjoyable nose at all. The spoiled produce aspect permeates the whole thing, and is obnoxious. The palate is super-ripe, the alcohol is noticeable and poorly integrated; it tastes like vodka and cranberry juice, mixed with apple cider. Pretty unpleasant; nothing I'd want to drink again.

This is really unfortunate, too, because when I had this wine at the winery a few months back it was tasty- at least tasty enough for me to buy a bottle and take it home. I guess that just goes to show you either the subjectivity of the wine experience, the volatility of a slightly aged rose, or both.

The scores:
Me: 3
L: 4
S: 5.5 (?!?)
T: 2
Total: 14.5
Average: 3.625/10
(S really brought up the average with that 5.5 score. I guess he liked it more than the rest of us, though he didn't say so at the time.)

5. 2008 Gorman Winery Rose "42-39-56." Columbia Valley. $19.99
My notes:
Medium-to-dark pink color, purple-hued. A nose of sweet, artificial fruit, cranberries, cherries. A little bit of a stink of baby diaper (S says "like the exhaust of a 1986 Datsun"), but that dissipated after a few minutes and just left pure, sweet, ripe fruit. The palate is really bright and juicy; it's pretty enjoyable, but without a lot of acidity. Also, the alcohol is very evident. Do I detect a little RS, or is that just the general booziness? L says it tastes like cherries and liqueur-soaked currants. That's pretty apt.

The scores:
Me: 4.5 (sorry Chris!)
L: 6
S: 5.5
T: 5
Total: 21
Average: 6/10

6. 2008 Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley. $9.99 (on special)
My notes:
Dark pink, somewhat purple-hued. The nose is ripe but not overripe, citrusy, and juicy. Watermelon, ruby grapefruit, bright cherries. This wine has a really expressive nose. I mean, it just keeps coming. Pomegranate, raspberry, very red-fruit-driven. T thought the nose had a little cat pee, and L said it smelled a little like stinky feet, but I just got a whole bunch of fruit. The palate is big, juicy, and delicious. L finds it to be quite tropical. S says, "This is damn good!" I thought there was awesome acidity, and it was very juicy, with a little bit of a candied, Jolly Ranchers aspect to it. We all loved this wine. Recommended.

The scores:
Me: 6.5
L: 8
S: 7
T: 7.5
Total: 29
Average: 7.25/10

So, to review the average scores:
1. 2008 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rose, Willamette Valley. $14.99: 5.625/10
2. 2008 Syncline Rose, Columbia Valley. $15.99: 6.125/10
3. 2008 Saviah Rose, Walla Walla Valley. $10.99: 7.375/10
4. 2007 Waters Rose, Columbia Valley. About $20 at the winery: 3.625/10
5. 2008 Gorman Winery Rose "42-39-56." Columbia Valley. $19.99: 6/10
6. 2008 Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley. $9.99: 7.25/10

The average score for the tasting was 6/10, which isn't too bad at all. However, the average price per bottle was about $15.17. Is that a price that people are willing to pay? Apparently so, because these wines sell well, and people come back for more.

It's interesting to note that 3 and 6, the two lowest-priced wines, were the highest-rated of the group. At about $10 each, they both got Recommended status. Also, they were the two wines made of sangiovese.

Looking at the scores posted by each participant is revealing:
Me: Total points: 31
L: Total points: 40.5
S: Total points: 37
T: Total points: 32.5

I am clearly the lowest grader; I gave out the fewest points, and my highest score was 6.5 (twice). T is not far behind me, but he had two 7.5s. They were averaged down by his grading of wine 4 with a 2. Perhaps he's just passionate about what he likes and doesn't? L is clearly the most enthusiastic, with the most points awarded (40.5) and the highest rating of the group, an 8 for wine 3. S is not far behind her with 37, but he's a little more middle-of-the-road in his scoring; his highest score was 7.5, and his lowest was 5.5 (which he awarded to 3 different wines). I hope these details are interesting to you; I'm curious to see if they become trends in future group tastings.

The members of the tasting group are official members of Bottle Variations; hopefully at some point they'll start posting notes of their own, but for now at least I can get them all together to rate some wine. Expect more soon.

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