California is best known for its blockbuster Cabernet, opulent Pinot Noir, and deep rich Chardonnay, not its pink wines ... unless you're talking about Cold Duck.
Unfortunately, it is this pungent and hangover-inducing 1970's brew of sweet red and sparkling white wine that most frequently comes to mind when most people think of California pink.
The latest generation of California winemakers is trying to change that by giving Cali rosé a sorely needed new identity.
One of these "Rhone Rangers," Wells Guthrie, is "trying to keep one foot here and one in the Rhône, to make wines that hem in the ripe fruit of California and have the elegance of great European wines."
After falling in love with Syrah, Guthrie moved to France and studied in the Northern Rhone at renowned domaines of Chapoutier and Chave before returning to the States to work at Turley.
These apprenticeships formed his belief that quality starts with the vineyard. Now the owner and winemaker at Copain Winery, he employs a minimum of intervention in winemaking, using organic farming methods and only natural occurring (indigenous) yeasts.
While dedicating most of his efforts towards producing single vineyard wine, Guthrie also makes wine for everyday in the tradition of regional French "Village" style under his "Saisons des Vins" (seasons of wine) label. Each of the four wines coincides with the climate and cuisine associated with the season, so his Rosé, "Les Printemps" is made with spring picnics in mind.
At Saturday's "War of the Rosés" tasting, the 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Syrah was the richest and most concentrated in style ... true to both its California and Rhone roots.
Those of you who find the European style too crisp and austere will enjoy the exceptional clarity of fruit, bold California mid-palate, and soft, clean finish of "Les Printemps".
Where in the World?
Part of the large and famous North Coast AVA that spreads northward from San Francisco Bay, Mendocino County is situated directly north of Sonoma County, 90 miles north of San Francisco.
Grapes (for wine) were first planted in Mendocino by failed immigrant prospectors turned farmers following the 1850s Gold Rush.
Saving the flatter lands for food crops, these pioneer winegrowers planted their grapes on the more rugged hillsides and sun-exposed ridgetops.
Isolated from San Francisco, from a transportation standpoint, Mendocino County lagged well behind Napa and Sonoma in terms of recognition, with prohibition hitting just as the county had started to establish itself.
Production (and notoriety) increased during the 1960s California wine resurgence, but most wine enthusiasts didn't really take note of Mendocino County until the 1980s.
Bounded by California's Coastal Mountain Range, the Pacific Ocean, and the great northern redwood forests, there are over 15,000 acres of vineyards in the County, with 25% of them growing certified organic grapes.