There's a very important annual event that has not been canceled due to COVID-19: rosé season.
Sure, we may not be able to hit the pool or the beach or Palm Springs just yet, but the weather is warming and there's no reason we can't enjoy spring's most refreshing gift right from our couch, balcony, stoop, or rooftop.
On a mission to identify the best rosés around that you've probably never heard of, I organized a socially distanced tasting with a few winemaker friends. We sipped through roughly 30 carefully selected rosés (a tough job, I know), narrowing them down to 10 favorites. The final list includes rosés hailing from Paso Robles to Mendocino, a wide variety of wine grapes and styles, and exclusively features super-small producers, which means the bottlings aren't available just anywhere. Buy them through each winery's website, but get on it—these babies sell out fast.
Captûre Wines 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese
Hands-down a top bottle across my group of tasters, this bottle was also a pleasant surprise, for none of us would have guessed it was made from sangiovese grapes. You don't see a ton of rosé of sangiovese; even in Italy, it's not the preferred grape for pink wines. They tend to be darker in color, even slightly coppery, but this bottling from Sonoma's Alexander Valley is more akin to a Provence-style rosé: very pale, almost transparent. Light and elegant, it's expertly balanced with a slight sherbert aroma and notes of strawberry shortcake, wild cherry, and citrus. An ideal cheese wine, this rosé is the full package, and as one friend eloquently put it, "it has a beginning, middle, and end." // $25 at capturewines.com
Benovia 2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Sophisticated, lush, and creamy with plenty of depth, this rosé is so much more than her pretty pink hue. Sourced from the cool, Russian River Valley, Benovia's rosé awakened happy memories of my mother's fruit trifle on the Fourth of July, a medley of peach, nectarine, and strawberry with a dollop of cool whip on top. Stow this bottle away for a romantic, al-fresco dinner on a balmy summer evening. Grilled salmon would be a perfect pairing. // $32 at benoviawinery.com
Raen 2019 The Monarch Challenge Rosé of Pinot Noir
There are a lot of wine brands out there doing good with sustainable, organic, and biodynamic farming practices, but this small Sonoma Coast winery takes its commitment to Mother Earth up a notch. Raen founded an initiative called The Monarch Challenge, which uses proceeds from this wine to spread awareness about the need for clean, chemical-free farming practices. As for the wine itself, juicy is the first word that came to mind. This rosé has what my friend dubbed "the gusher effect," because each sip literally bursts with mouthwatering, white peach flavor. // $28 (releases April 29); for more information, go to themonarchchallenge.org.
Red Thread Wines 2019 Howell Mountain Rosé
Don't let the color of this rosé of zinfandel fool you; it's not your mother's sickly-sweet white zin. In fact, this is a serious rosé for red wine lovers. Made on Napa Valley's Howell Mountain, it's dry yet still mouthwatering, and has significant structure and tannin, making it a great choice to pair with food. Only 38 cases of this wine were produced, so you'll want to jump on it quickly. // $26 (releases in May); redthreadwines.com
JustPink! 2019 Rosé from California
When I heard winemaker Julien Fayard was releasing a new rosé, I had to try it, for his Azur rosé has been a go-to for years. His latest, JustPink!, makes your mouth water like you've been wandering through a desert for 40 days. It's a "serious" rosé, especially for the price—the kind that winemakers go crazy for—and is the only true blend on this list, made from syrah, grenache, and pinot noir. Fresh and bright, it has a strong presence of ruby grapefruit with a lingering, jolly rancher finish. // $25 (releases May 1); justpinkwine.com
Clif Family 2019 Rosé of Grenache
I'm pretty much a fan of everything Napa Valley's Clif Family does (yes, it's owned by the same people that founded Clif Bar), and this rosé is no exception. Rosé of grenache is starting to have a bit of a moment in California, and it's one of the more popular grapes used in rosés of Provence. This rosé, sourced from cool and foggy Mendocino, has a beautiful, rose petal color with a floral nose to match, a burst of sour watermelon candy on the palate, and a zesty finish. Chill this one good and pair it with a Mexican or Indian meal. // $26 at cliffamily.com
Gamling & McDuck 2018 Feral Rosé of Cab Franc
You might as well just skip ahead to the link because this baby is currently on sale for half-off its usual price and is a now steal at $12 (or $72 for a six-pack). My initial excitement for this wine came from the cute cats they have printed on the bottle, which promote Gamling & McDuck's fundraiser project for cats. Secondly, I was intrigued because it's a rosé of cabernet franc, a grape you rarely find in pink form. It's always a bummer when the hype of the label doesn't translate in the glass, but the good vibes stuck around in this one thanks to its silky mouthfeel, bright aromatics—you even get a hint of the savory notes cab franc is known for—rich strawberry compote flavor, and a lasting finish. As a bonus, they're currently sending out custom quarantine dominos to play with your cat during SIP. // $12/bottle or $72/6-pack at gamlingandmcduckstore.com
March Wines 2019 Rosé of St. Laurent
If you've never heard of St. Laurent grapes, don't feel bad. Most widely produced in the Czech Republic and Austria, you won't find much of it stateside. Just how rare is the varietal? According to March Wines, there are only three acres of it in all of California, planted on a Sonoma vineyard. St. Laurent is often described as a "beefier pinot noir," which could explain the added texture and weight to this rosé. Its obscurity is reason enough to give this bottle a go, but as a bonus, it's also quite tasty, bright, and smooth with stone fruit flavors. // $25 at marchwines.com
Silver Trident, 2018 Apollo's Folly Rosé
This bottle will make you feel fancy AF, even in your SIP uniform. Packaged in an elegant and minimalist bowling pin–shaped bottle—reminiscent of the Miraval rosé from Branjelinas Provence chateau—it's one of those wines you'll want to keep on display to impress future guests (whenever we can have guests again). But, alas, this rosé of pinot noir is simply too good to sit on a shelf as a trophy. It completely blankets your tongue with great acidity and fruity notes of grapefruit, white peach, nectarines, and apricot. // $32 at silvertridentwinery.com
I've dubbed this rosé my new "old reliable." A label produced by Napa Valley's famed Far Niente, EnRoute's Russian River rosé of pinot noir is perfectly balanced with notes of white peach and strawberry dominating the glass. Facile à Boire literally translates to "easy drink," and this is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Save this one for when you're finally able to host a barbecue for all your friends. // $32 at enroutewinery.com