I am not the biggest fan of white wines. Anything lighter than, say, a pinot noir is subject to my intense scrutiny and occasional disdain. Even pinot noirs are not on safe ground: it’s the rare pinot that I like. Beaujolais and beaujolais nouveau are lighter than pinot noir but I like them for some reason–they’re whimsical, easygoing wines.
My first exposure to rosés was when I worked at Adagia Restaurant in Berkeley–specifically, we had Brander Vineyard’s Chateau Neuf de Pink and Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rosé. From what little I remember of those two wines, I liked Tempier–it had an austere quality, bone-dry. All I remember of Brander’s selection is chef Brian Beach poking fun at the name.
All in all, however, I was unimpressed. Reds–especially the brooding malbec and the sensual shiraz–were still my willing mistresses.
That changed when I tasted the Ampelos Rosé of Syrah last year. It was the late summer, hot as heck. “Teeth-staining” and “tannic” were not the qualities I was looking for in my wines, let alone any beverage. At a tasting they poured the Ampelos rosé and it was love at first taste.
Strawberries. Strawberries everywhere. It was as if strawberries were bursting forth–Dionysus-style–from the glass. Fresh. Quite simply spring in a glass.
The taste is even better than the bouquet. More strawberries, bright and with a lively level of acidity. The acidity, though noticeable, is not overbearing at all.
The most important thing here, though, is the heft of the wine. Most rosés I’ve had are thin–Kate Moss in a redhead wig. This thin body usually led to wines that were just uninspiring or downright disgusting. The Ampelos, however, is voluptuous–a ripe, full wine (maybe on account of its being made from syrah?) that reminds me of some fetching farmer’s daughter on a warm spring night. You can think of it as the sassy daughter of a plump syrah wife and some dour riesling husband.
Not sweet. But fruity. Balanced acidity. Soft finish that is free from that cheap plasticine quality I hate in whites and rosés. Overall, quite possibly the best rosé I have ever had in my life–and contender for one of the best wines I’ve had, period.
That was, of course, the 2005 vintage. How would the 2006 compare?
My love affair with the Ampelos was tragically short. After enjoying two quick bottles I found that all the stores in my area were out. And I had to wait 10 long months until April at Silverlake Wines sent a reply to my wistful e-mail: “We received a case of the Ampelos rosé today. Let us know how many you would like us to put aside for you.”*
I set aside four: one for myself, and one each for three co-workers. (I’m not a jealous man!) At $17 – $18 it’s more expensive than, say, a white zinfandel, but worth every penny.
I just came home from a day in Silver Lake (which will the subject of a future post) with Jonathan Lewis and opened my bottle. My mom, my sister, and I quaffed copious quantities of the wine. Utterly delicious. Entrancing. Beautiful. Spring in a glass, two years in a row.
COMPOSITION: 100% syrah.
APPELLATION: Santa Rita Hills in the Santa Ynez Valley of California
* One of the guys working at Silverlake Wine asked if I was the guy who sent an e-mail asking them to set aside some bottles of the Ampelos Rosé. I said yes. He asked if my name was Joon. Again, yes.
“That’s funny. There’s another guy–I swear his name is Joon Song–who wrote us an e-mail asking about the Ampelos. I thought you guys might be related or something.”
Whatever Ampelos Cellars is putting into their rosé certainly seems to be working with Korean-American males, specifically those named Joon Song. Ladies–now you know the way to my, err… our hearts!