Time to Think Pink

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Sure, a few wine lovers start their wine journey at age ten at their parent’s dinner table with an ounce of Sancerre to pair with the steamed mussels.  However, most of us started out at sixteen at a friend’s house with something like Sutter Home White Zinfandel sipped from a coffee mug.  It tasted alright. It did the job. As our sweet tooth switched to a preference for potato chips, so did our wine of choice evolve in to something less cloying.  Soon we turned up our noses at beginner wines in favor of a Pinot Gris, then an oaky Chardonnay, until finally, as “grown ups” we demanded BIG. BOLD.  RED. Teeth staining, pallet ripping, take-no-prisoner wines that shouted: drink drink drink me! Until our tongues turned to leather and four aspirin couldn’t quiet the morning-after head pounding.

Surely there must be more to wine than the buzz; wines that whisper and delight, wines a white wine lover can enjoy with a red-wine loving friend.  Something subtle, flavorful, charming, quiet, soft, reasonable.

Enter dry Rosé.  The red wine drinkers white wine.  The white wine made from red grapes.  Done dry (without any noticeable sugar) a dry rose speaks, quietly, of spring, of summer nights;  a wine delicious with cheese and strawberries, delicious with a medium rare filet mignon. Or, tasty all by its lonesome.

Real rosé isn’t baby stuff, it’s not a liquid Pop Tart.  France makes gorgeous rosé out of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cinsault, Syrah.  So does Italy. So does Spain.

And so do we.

Hawkins doesn’t make a lot of any wine.  We make wine we love and we love Rosé and so we make just a few barrels of it, carefully.  There are two ways to make pink wine. The first method is known as Saignée, which is basically a by-product of making red wine by pulling the juice out of the fermenter after a day or two on the skins, with the goal of trying to “concentrate” the red wine (this is extremely common with lighter bodied reds such as Pinot Noir). This style of rosé tends to be more concentrated, with darker color and riper flavors (think raspberry and blackberry). 

Why do we avoid making this style of Rosé?. For one, saignée rosé tends to be higher alcohol.  After all, the winemaker has harvested the fruit with red wine in mind.  There is a basis for the term “rosé all day.”  The spirit of rosé is that you can sit on your porch with a friend and knock back a bottle, without feeling like someone slipped you an Ambien.

For us, Rosé is not an afterthought in the winemaking process. Unlike the Saignée style of making Rosé, the preferred style by winemakers in places like Provence, and by yours truly, is by direct press maceration.  It is a technique that is intentional and stylistically purposeful.   We take extremely high quality red grapes that are specifically targeted for Rosé production, and make pink wine by dumping the grapes directly into the press, letting it sit for a few hours on the skins to pick up some color, and then gently pressing the juice off the skins. We then ferment the wine until dry (no residual sugar) and rack the wine off of the lees before bottling. Pink wine made from this method tend to be lighter, as the fruit was specifically targeted for white wine production, and therefore (generally speaking) lower alcohol.

Our Willamette Valley Rosé comes from the gorgeous Stormy Morning Vineyard in Banks, Oregon.  While we could make more money turning the pinot noir from this vineyard in to, well, Pinot Noir instead of Rosé – our love for pink wine is such that we just can’t resist the temptation to treat ourselves, and you, to spring, to sunshine, in a glass.  Our 2019 Stormy Morning Rosé is available now either at our tasting rooms, or at our website www.hawkinscellars.com .

— Written by Thane Hawkins and Holly Evans-White

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