THE GOCHISO GOURMET: The wines of summer

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALAs I’ve mentioned before, the seasons are a little different here in the 50th. There is no one season where April’s showers brings May’s flowers — the 50th rains constantly, especially in my neck of the woods in Kaneohe, Hawai‘i.

There are no changing of the leaves after summer, nor is there any reason to don winter wear. We simply have two seasons, a hot summer that lasts from October through June and a very hot and humid summer from July through September. And never mind “La Nina” bringing milder climatic changes and sending less hurricanes our way, we just dodged Madeline and Lester in succession. That Doppler weather map constantly looks like Van Gogh’s Starry Nights surrounding the 50th.

Liquid Respite
So when the mercury only seems to climb, short of hibernating at every air-conditioned mall for three months, what’s a Hawai‘i native to do? Cool down with frosty beverages of course! And the first place to start is with Rose. No, not that pink-tinged Zinfandel, though it’s actually made in the traditional saignee method, whereby pressed grape juice is “bled” out of your fermentation barrels to create a lighter wine version of the parent red grape. Though “white” Zinfandel is produced in the traditional manner, its production was simply started to concentrate the red zinfandel wine with the Rose version a byproduct of red Zinfandel. I’m talking about Rose produced as the primary wine product that’s more than a tutti-frutti, watermelon and strawberry-flavored beverage, but also carries mineral and wet stone with a perfect flow over your palate. Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya would call this a wine with no “branches” that’s very food friendly and yet very “gulpable.”

Old World Rose
Probably the earliest prototypical Rose wine comes from the Southern Rhone region in the commune of Tavel. In Tavel, only Rose wine is produced from Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah grapes in the traditional saignee method. In fact, with the exception of Champagne, all Rose wine produced in France must be produced by leaving red grape juice in contact with the skin just long enough to give the juice its salmon color — you can’t simply add some red wine to white wine to create a Rose … unless you’re in the Champagne region.

And other than Tavel, there are other regions in France that grow red grapes but make no red wine whatsoever. The house of Clos Sainte Magdeleine on the picturesque southern coast in Provence grow Grenache, Cinsaut and Mourvedre — all red grapes — but it’s simply for their Cassis Rose, which is one of my favorite Roses. For the record, their two white wines — Cassis Blanc and Bel Arme are also spectacular wines perfect for summer weather.

Also in Provence, you’ll find Chateau d’Esclans, which produces four different Rose wines, starting with the “Whispering Angel” all the way up to their pricey and rare “Garrus.” I can only vouch for their entry Rose, and even if I could find a bottle of Garrus, probably would opt for three bottles of Whispering Angel, plus additional loose change.

And slightly farther east sits Domaine Tempier in the Bandol region, which primarily produces hearty red wines, but also produce one Rose that maintains much of that oomph found in the red wines, just a little lighter and refreshing.

Of course, Rose isn’t limited just to the French mainland, and one of my newest favorites hails all the way from the island of Corsica, which sits closer to Italy than the French mainland. Produced from the native red grape, Sciacarello from vines almost as old as yours truly, the resulting Rose is like drinking clouds leaving just the perfumed essence after you swallow. The last time I had a wine with the same ethereal qualities was the first time I sampled the seasonal Kubota Tokugetsu “Harvest Moon” sake.

Closer to Home
While you can still find your favorite White Zinfandel in any supermarket, the Golden State also produces many other Rose wines. The difference between Roses found in the Old World and the New World pretty much follow the same tasting profiles as red and white wines. The Old World versions tend to be a lot less fruit forward with more pronounced minerality. That doesn’t imply domestic versions are lacking quality compared to the Old World.

They’re just different and the main factor is what YOU like in a wine. For instance, during those dog days of summer when I’m consuming spicier Thai or Vietnamese cuisine, the fruitiness and sweetness in a domestic Rose would be a lot better pairing than a bone dry French Rose.

And one of my favorite domestic versions is Palmina’s Botasea, for a number of reasons: I’ve met the co-owner who seems like a really nice guy. Plus, $1 of every bottle is donated for cancer research, and sometimes you just want a fun wine when the mercury exceeds 95 degrees!

My other favorite domestic Rose is a hybrid — like a Prius. Its founder is Master Sommelier Richard Betts, who wanted to create a Rose inspired by those bottles found in Provence, France. So while he is pure American, the grapes are pure French and the resulting wine is in the words of Chuck Furuya, pure “deliciousness.” Especially when paired with Asian-inspired cuisine like ramen, siu mai and shoyu glazed pork belly.

Bubbly Rose
Rose also is available as a sparkling wine or Champagne and is my favorite sub-class of sparkling wine. And though most large Champagne houses simply add still pinot noir to their Champagne to produce a Rose (this includes Dom Perignon and Krug), the house of Drappier still produce their Rose via the saignee method. And because Drappier never had great marketing and distribution in the U.S., you basically are getting tête de cuvée quality for entry level pricing. Hands down, Drappier is one my favorite Champagne houses.

Of course, if you do hit those six numbers on your Powerball, Dom Perignon, Krug and Jacques Selosse do make exceptional salmon-colored bubbly …

My Essential Rose. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

My Essential Rose. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Short List
My Essential Rose (~$15)
Great with Asian inspired cuisine and it won’t break the bank. It also is sealed with a Stelvin (screw cap) so no corkscrew is needed to “uncork” the bottle

Marquiliani (~$36)
Like drinking a cloud … Though not the easiest Rose to procure …

Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel (~$24)
Another favorite that won’t break the bank. Maybe one day I’ll splurge on its $90 sibling, Garrus.

Clos Ste Magdeleine Cassis Rose (~$37)
Very food friendly or great simply sipped with some hot jazz.

Domaine Tempier Rose (~$39)
A hearty Rose that can pair with heartier cuisine.

Palmina Botasea (~$20)
What reason? I just wanted something chilled.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

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