Exploring the best Sonoma County rosé wines

Sonoma County rose wines

Rosés are my “thing” in summer (well, anytime, actually) but great wines aren’t just going to land in my lap — research is needed. And foresight, since the best Sonoma County rosé wines sell out quickly. I already missed the window at some wineries, like Cartographe Wines in Healdsburg, but maybe I can glom on to someone else’s forethought to buy some of theirs? Here’s hoping! On my journey to find the tastiest Sonoma County rosés, I did not want for incredibly fruit-forward, bone dry, well-balanced pink stuff in my ‘hood. I tasted my way through eight or so wineries (I could have gone to a lot more but I ran out of space in my wine racks and wallet) and uncovered many summer-worthy finds. But here’s the rub… you generally won’t find any of these on wine shelves, except maybe around Sonoma County, so you’ll need to order direct from the source.

Read more: Exploring the best damn Sonoma County rosé wines

Wine reviews: Four Rhone style wines rocking my world

Anglim 2014 Rose

The Rhone Rangers, a group of wine producers who have a passion for Rhône grape varietals, spreads the gospel of grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne… all descendants of France’s Rhône Valley that grow quite happily in areas around California. Especially Paso Robles in the south-central area of the state where the intense heat coaxes these grapes into a ripening groove. Rhone Rangers holds regular tasting events across the country to introduce wine lovers to the beauty of these often overlooked yet sublime varietals. If you see one in your town, run to get tickets.

Read more: Wine reviews: Four Rhone style wines rocking my world

Think pink wine for summer: 2011 Clayhouse Adobe Pink (Rosé)

Clayhouse Adobe Pink 2011

Without a doubt, White Zinfandel, with its strawberry syrup-ness, has sentenced the entire class of rosés to a crude and classless reputation. But dry rosé has made a Brittany-esque comeback. Today’s new, snazzed-up pink wine is fragrant with strawberries and watermelon, and packs a tart finish fantastic for summer. My fridge is bloated with dry rosé wines all summer long, since it’s perfect for both day and nighttime, whether happy hour, picnic, lunch, dinner or brunch. I force it on everyone who crosses my threshold, explaining how the refreshing acids and understated tannins make it super food-friendly, matching both light fare and spicy food. The only thing bad about dry rosés is their lack of availability. They don’t exactly fly off the retail shelves since pink still suffers from marketing woes, so they unfortunately aren’t stocked very often. But seek and ye shall find. Especially this one from Clayhouse Wines in California’s Paso Robles.

Read more: Think pink for summer: 2011 Clayhouse Adobe Pink (rose wine review)

Why rosé wine should be in your fridge all summer

Although I drink dry rosé wines all year long, most people unfortunately lump them into the summer grog category. So by even releasing this blog post towards the end of May, I’m evidently crying uncle to the masses who lump. Dry rosés — and I’m not referring to the tooth-aching, sweet, pink-tinted swill that maligned the elegant reputation of fabulously dry rosés — are simply the best food pairing wines, the most refreshing and most crowd pleasing to those who are man or woman enough to drink them in public.

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Drink pink: There's no reason to blush when drinking rosé wine

Outside, the mercury hit 95 degrees (105 if you’re counting “heat index”). One swing of the door and the humidity slaps my face, sweat streams from my pores, and my fresh application of face powder degrades to a clumpy, taupe mess. My own private steamroom. Summer as a kid meant all play, everyday. Not sure I endured the heat then as extended daylight ushered in hours of Kick the Can, rope swings and hanging with friends. This last part hasn’t changed much in adulthood, but as summer plants its rump on my doorstep, backyard bonding over numerous bottles of rosé wine and grilled food become my new games.

Read more: Drink pink: There’s no reason to blush when drinking rose wine

Steele Cabernet Franc Rosé

Allow this dry rosé to help you over a weekday hump. Steele, a California winery based in warm climate Lake County(northeast of Sonoma), makes this cabernet franc pink that smacks of tart cherry, even acidity and a refreshingly citrusy finish.

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Big House Pink 2008

Oh how I long for the days when Randall Grahm ran this place. Incredible and affordable, Big House was go-to reliable. But as a recent swig of this rosé attests, those days are gone. Candied sweet like a syrupy white zin, with misplaced earthiness and strong chemical flavors. Is that FD Red #5 I taste?

Triennes 2008 Rosé

Hails from a region just outside Provence in southern France and made from the relatively obscure cinsault grape. Flowery, honeysuckle aromas and banana chips, candied strawberry and wet rock minerality envelop the tongue. Light-hearted, refreshing and has an intriguing black pepper finish. Drink very cold.

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El Coto 2008 Rosado Rioja

Ah, the joys of dry rosé with food – a classic, French-inspired combination. This Spanish grenache, tempranillo grape blend has tart acidity, bright candied strawberry and raspberry with a slightly earthy finish. Refreshing and cheap. 3.5 stars out of 5. Sweetness=1 out of 10 (dry to sweet). $10

Chateau de Campuget 2007 Costieres de Nimes Rosé

This obscure wine region in southern France produces fun, fruity numbers made from syrah and grenache grapes. Floral aromas of raspberry and red cherry scents, and in the mouth you get stony minerality, mild fruit and a clean finish. 3.5 stars out of 5. Sweetness=2 out of 10 (dry to sweet). $13