I’ve been up on this soapbox before, and as I find wines that fit into my notion of what kinds of wines California (and indeed most New World wineries too) producers should be making, I’ll likely mount it again, so here it is (again). The New World has the great advantage (and there are lots of disadvantages too to be sure, but let’s accentuate the positive) of being unencumbered by tradition. There are few obligations in places like California to grow this or that variety or varieties that reach deeply back into the history of an ancient growing zone that haunt so many Old World wine regions. This is in so many ways a really good thing. In the New World, the primary obligation is to one’s terroir. If your region allows you to grow varieties from Portugal, Italy, and Hungary cheek by jowl so to speak, and then perhaps even blend them together, you have a wine that models the human melting pot that is the New World within a viticultural language, and thereby create a new style.
The Santa Ynez Valley near the lovely city of Santa Barbara is one of these places. Depending on where you are within this sub-AVA, there are cool, foggy vineyards (nearer to the Pacific) all the way to very dry, hot, and sunsplashed parcels further inland, and all within a few miles of each other. The ability for regions like these to freely mix and match from all over the globe is hard to beat…
Which brings us to this evening’s wine, which happens to be pink, a color of wine for which California is not particularly well known. And when you discover that this particular rose` is made from a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Sangiovese, the flexibility of California terroirs to host grapes that are rarely seen growing together anywhere in the Old World comes clearly into focus, and with this flexibility comes this great opportunity.
There is only one spot in the Old World that I can think of in which Grenache and Sangiovese can and do grow in the same soil and that is in the coastal Tuscan region called the Maremma. Here, Sangiovese and Grenache (here known by the name Alicante) can be blended together to form such strapping reds as Morellino di Scansano, but never in the proportions present in this blend, or in the pink color scheme. Would that more producers in California (or Argentina or South Africa, or…) had the courage to make wines like this one – derived from what their locations give them rather than making what turn out to be awkward imitations of Old World wines like Bordeaux or Burgundy. The struggle continues…
The menu that I matched with this creative pink consisted of a chicken broth-based butternut squash soup with mint, rosemary, sage and yogurt, to start with pan-fried salmon with an orange, dill and thyme bechamel and roasted garlic and chive mashed potatoes.
Stolpman Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley Rose` 2012
Unusual “rose gold” color. Clean and honest nose of wild strawberries, yellow peaches, fresh herbs, pine needles, fallen leaves, sea spray, minerals, sandalwood and dried flowers. In the moth the medium body is soft, “sweet” and plump balanced by a bright and tart acidity and lightly dry tannins that frame flavors of cherry, apricot, grilled pineapple, mild tea, sweet spices, and a hint of mocha. Long pleasantly bitter almond milk notes on the finish.