As we joke around my house, “Real men drink pink.”
That’s in reference to my husband Shannon’s affinity for rosés — dry ones, whether they’re from as far away as Provence or as nearby as Traverse City or Jackson or Berrien Springs.
He’s the one who got me into rosés, just like he’s the one who got me into most wines. If I get stuck in a rut, I need look no farther than my kitchen counter for a chance to try something outside of my wine comfort zone via whatever Shannon’s drinking.
In the days when I was less enthusiastic about rosés, I asked Shannon what he saw in them, as if they were potential romantic partners.
His reply: “They’re the perfect wine to sip on the patio when the weather is warm and you’re looking for something with a little more body than a white wine, but not as heavy as red.”
And a bonus answer: “They’re underappreciated as food wines. They’re some of the most versatile wines when pairing with food.”
Over time, rosés have indeed become the quintessential springtime wines to me: a fitting interlude between the heavy reds of winter and the crisp whites of summer.
Unfortunately, I find in our tasting rooms that the not-so-long-ago adoration of white zinfandel has now come full circle, manifesting in a backlash against all wines pink in hue. As soon as a guest spots the word “rosé,” he or she equates it to an over-sweet blush — even if it’s listed under the dry wines. This blind distaste has many would-be rosé lovers missing out.
Yes, there are plenty of sweet Michigan rosés out there, but their sweetness alone doesn’t mean they’re as bland or cloying as a typical, bottom-shelf white zinfandel. And there are a plethora of delicious semi-dry and dry versions just waiting to be discovered.
A whirlwind primer in rosés: The traditional method of producing rosés involves leaving the juice in contact with the grape skins for a longer period than whites, but shorter than reds. That way, some of the color and some of the body — to varying degrees, depending on the extent of the contact — remain.
In Michigan, pinot noir and cabernet franc rosés are common; Chateau de Leelanau’s Cabernet Franc Rosé was named the Michigan Wine Competition’s Best in Class Rosé in 2014, and St. Ambrose Cellars’ Vin Gris from pinot noir nabbed the title last year.
2 Lads Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula produces its rosé from cabernet franc, and “we allow 24-48 hours of skin contact to help extract more color and a little bolder fruit profile,” says Caryn Chachulski, wine educator at 2 Lads. “We fill two tanks, inoculate with two different yeast strains, and allow one to ferment dry while we stop fermentation on the other while it still has some residual sugar. We then blend the two tanks to give us our off-dry style of rosé.”
There also are countless blends. At Brys Estate, also on the Old Mission Peninsula, winemaker Coenraad Stassen uses cabernet franc, merlot, and pinot noir to craft the winery’s Signature Rosé.
“Each varietal adds a unique element and contributes to the final product,” Stassen says. “The wine has layers of different flavors that keep you guessing. It appeals to a bigger audience, and allows you to enjoy it with many different food types and throughout the year — not just in spring and summer.”
Indeed, for Stassen, rosé transcends seasons.
“Rosé, for me, has become more of a year-round enjoyment, very similar to the sparkling movement happening at the moment,” he says.
In the early spring, Stassen recommends an easy-drinking, dry rosé with higher acidity and lighter body. In the fall, he often opts for rosés with “full body and rich textures.”
Stassen’s personal favorite rosé pairings are sushi, paella, pâte, brie or goat cheese, fresh summer fruits, and grilled meats.
For Joseph Allerton, a certified sommelier and general manager at Michael Symon’s Roast in downtown Detroit, rosé screams for seafood — like bouillabaisse or octopus — as well as spring-y Caesar salads.
Rosés get Justin King dreaming of warmer days.
“The juicy and bright flavors in a dry rosé get exponentially elevated with some decked-out hot dogs from the grill,” says King, a certified sommelier and owner/general manager of Bridge Street Social, a DeWitt-based casual fine dining restaurant opening in April. “There is no greater summer pleasure than laying the mustard, relish, and onions on that beautiful dog, opening a crisp rosé … Just thinking about this pairing makes me excited for summer.”
Chachulski adores rosé with spring produce, like garlic scapes, ramps, peas, and radishes.
“I think I like dry rosés so much because they are so versatile,” Chachulski says. “While I prefer red wine, sometimes it just doesn’t work for the situation — like when it’s warm out, or I’m eating something with a little spice or has bright, fresh flavors.
“I always know a dry rosé will work. It can be still or bubbly, too; it doesn’t matter.”
What are your favorite Michigan rosés? Comment below!
Cortney Casey is a certified sommelier and co-founder of MichiganByTheBottle.com, a website and online community that promotes the entire Michigan wine industry. She’s also co-owner of Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, operated in partnership with multiple Michigan wineries, located in Shelby Township, Royal Oak and (coming in Summer 2016) Auburn Hills. Contact her at email@example.com.