Monday, April 16, 2012

A Summer Sunset in a Bottle: Rosés

Originally Published July 2010

Oh Rosé, the light easy drinking wine that for me is summer in a bottle. My fondness for this style of wine stems from both its versatility when paired with foods and vacation memories where it was sipped  on the beach in St. Martin F.W.I. Very few  wines easily pair  with burgers, barbeque chicken, shell fish and summers salads as well as a variety of ethnic cuisine such as Indian, Spanish and Mediterranean dishes. This flexible versatility makes Rosé a hostess’ best friend when entertaining during summer months.

 Traditionally Rosé wines ranges from dry to off- dry (the latter characterized by a slight residual sugar). The two Rosés featured in this month’s article demonstrate both styles. Both wines are from Breaux Vineyards. The first is a 2008 Syrah Rosé (dry) and the second is a 2009 Cabernet Rosé (off –dry).

Breaux Vineyards is located in Loudoun County, Virginia, in the Loudon Heights Cluster of the Loudoun County Wine Trail. Breaux has 100 acres of vines planted in 18 different varietals. Breaux Vineyards first planted 3 acres in 1985 and opened it doors to the public in 1997.  Under the guidance of a very skilled winemaker, Dave Collins, Breaux Vineyards’ wines have won many national and international awards including “Best of Class” at the L.A. County Fair Competition for its 2001 Merlot.  Breaux Vineyards is nestled into Loudoun highlands at the base of South Mountain. The vineyard is a perfect place to gather with a few friends and enjoy a glass a wine while taking in the spectacular view that includes beautiful vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Summers in the greater Washington DC area, like most of the Mid-Atlantic, are hot and humid. This summer is turning out to be one for the record books and extreme heat has often dashed my hope of outdoor dining.  While  this food and wine pairing aspired to be held outdoors, extreme heat hustled our entertaining indoors and still served another wonderful casual evening of food, wine, good friends and family.

 First Course: Goat Cheese with Cranberry Chutney; Vegetable Samosas with Yogurt-Cilantro Dipping Sauce; and Paired with 2008 Breaux Vineyards Syrah Rosé

The Breaux Syrah Rosé (“Syrah Rosé) is a dry Rosé that at first taste hints of a mix of berries (reflecting most notably strawberry) with a dash of spice. The Syrah Rosé is a light, crisp, refreshing wine with nice acidity and finishes dry. The goat cheese with cranberry chutney brought out other berry notes in the wine. The acidity of the wine helped balance out the heavy creaminess of the goat cheese on the palette. 

The curry in the Samosas really pulled out the spice notes of the Syrah Rosé, most notably the black pepper. Once again the acidity of this wine complimented and tempered the palate coating nature of the yogurt-cilantro dipping sauce and simultaneously pulled out the earthiness of the spices and herbs in the dipping sauce.

Entrée: Marinated Gilled Chicken with Tangy Barbeque Sauce; Roasted Asparagus; and Arugula, Baby Green Leaf Lettuce, Endive, Strawberry and Roasted Almonds Salad with a White Balsamic Vinegar Reduction.
Paired with 2009 Cabernet Rosé

Despite the record heat, the Weber grill was fired up to tackle the chicken and asparagus thus sparing the kitchen any additional unnecessary heat.

2009 Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Rosé (“Cabernet Rosé”) is made in the Blanc de Noir method (meaning white winemaking methods are applied to red wine varietals). Chilled immediately after picking, the grapes are whole cluster pressed (without crushing or destemming) and result in a bright pink juice.  The Cabernet Rosé, with its slight residual sugar, is an off-dry Rosé. At first sip one detects summer fruits, especially cherries. The wine is notably sweeter than the 2008 Syrah Rosé, but still has nice balance and finishes slightly drier than expected.

Off-dry Rosés can be almost as versatile as dry Rosés when pairing with foods as long as the sweetness and savory levels of the wine and food match. That is why I chose to pair the Cabernet Rosé with the Marinated Grilled Chicken with Tangy Barbeque Sauce. The Cabernet Rosé blossomed when paired with the chicken. The acidity of the wine and barbeque sauce were well matched. The tanginess of the barbeque sauce tempered the sweetness of the Cabernet Rosé and brought out notes of strawberries and raspberries in the wine. The wine became much smoother and supple when paired with the chicken dish. The earthiness of the asparagus also tamed the sweetness of the wine while bringing out hints of spice on the finish of the Cabernet Rosé.

The Cabernet Rosé held its own when paired with the salad. I was slightly nervous as a vinegar based salad dressing can be quite a challenge for a wine pairing. However, the white balsamic reduction dressing is light and sweet with balanced acidity. The sweetness of the dressing when mixed with the peppery notes of the arugula and the toasty taste of the almonds complimented the Cabernet Rosé nicely.

Towards the end of the dinner a few of my guests asked if there was any of the Syrah Rosé left, as they wanted to see how that would pair with dinner. I had no doubt that the Syrah Rosé would pair nicely, being a dry Rosé.  Nevertheless, I was quite surprised how the Syrah Rosé adeptly brought out the spices and herbs notes of the marinade that had permeated the chicken, that were not quite as noticeable with the Cabernet Rosé.  Having had the ability to compare and contrast the two wines and the effects of each on the food was a terrific educational piece to our entertaining.   

As summer marches on and the heat wave continues to relentlessly grasp much of the country, Rosé will continue to triumphantly serve as a delightfully, refreshing choice which can be enjoyed simply by the glass or effortlessly paired alongside most summer meals.   For me, Rosé will be a reliable guest at my gatherings if nothing more than to fondly reminisce of recent vacations when carefree toes carefully tucked themselves into the sand and nearby waves crashed on the beach.