San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Classic Grenache rosé a lovely spring fling
Welcome to Wine of the Week, a series in which Chronicle wine critic Esther Mobley recommends a delicious bottle that you should be drinking right now. Last week, she highlighted a boxed wine from Ryme Cellars in Forestville. Check for a new installment online every Wednesday.
One of the adages that has entered the wine universe in recent years is that rosé — long considered a beverage for only the warmweather months — should actually be drunk all year long. Articles advising this allseason rosé consumption began proliferating around the internet a few years ago, and the genre shows few signs of slowing.
It’s not that I disagree with this guidance, exactly. I wouldn’t turn down a glass of good, cold rosé in any month. But around this time every year I can feel something primal kick in. The same way that the first hint of wintry weather makes me crave a hot bowl of soup, the arrival of spring makes me desperate for pink wine. Rosé may be a beverage for all seasons, but I’d wager that it tastes just a little bit better in this one.
Case in point: the Mathis 2019 rosé of Grenache, from Sonoma Valley. It’s pale — a color some rosé enthusiasts like to call “onion skin” — with aromas that feel inviting, fresh and floral. The mouthfeel is creamy and light, with mouthwatering, tangy notes that remind me of cantaloupe, orange zest and those tiny wild strawberries that always feel extrapacked with flavor. The Mathis rosé is a lovely wine, and I have no doubt it would taste great in December, but when I opened it in my backyard on a sunny afternoon last weekend, it felt like the wine could not have tasted any better than in that moment.
Rosés these days can fall into many different stylistic categories, but the Mathis rosé is a textbook example of the classic Provencal style: pale in color, light in body, dry of sugar. The small vineyard that winemaker Peter Mathis owns and farms, at the base of Moon Mountain in Sonoma, is planted mostly to Grenache, which is a grape variety commonly used in Provence rosés.
Mathis is something of a rosé purist, in fact. “I feel really strongly about this,” he told me over the phone. “The style of rosé that is the most universally appealing and attractive to me is one that has no elbows in it.” By “no elbows” he means that the wine should achieve a mellifluous balance of acid, alcohol and fruitiness, with no one element standing out. He wants his rosés completely devoid of tannin, he adds, with none of the astringent bitterness that those compounds can bring. Color may seem like a superficial concern for any wine, but Mathis says he spends a lot of time thinking about how to get his rosé’s hue exactly right. “The color is really important to the way people perceive it — it’s just the way our brains are wired,” he says. Whether or not we’re conscious of it, he believes, we process the appearance of the wine in a way that affects how it tastes to us. His 2019 rosé looks like a watermelon Jolly Rancher. Looking at it is half the fun.
Rosé, of course, does not demand food. It’s the ultimate daydrinking wine and performs beautifully outside of meal times. But it’s also a remarkably versatile pairing at the table. I love it with crunchy green salads and soft, fresh cheeses like chevre. Mathis says he likes his rosé with spicy food for its cooling effect.
The wine is available from the Mathis website or at the following Bay Area retailers: K&L, Robert’s Market, Sonoma’s Best, Sonoma Market, Sunshine Foods, We Olive (Los Gatos), Wine.com and Wine Mine. Please note that the price of the wine varies by a few dollars depending on the store, and some stores may run out of inventory.