Think Pink: Rosés Bloom in Ohio

Photo by Paris Wolfe

By Paris Wolfe

The hottest wine trend isn’t Moscato or Prosecco, says Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association. It’s Rosé – and Ohio wineries are getting in on the action.

Winchell credits millennials with the appearance of dry Rosés and their overall rise in popularity. “It’s approachable, it’s pronounceable and it’s pretty in the glass,” she says. Not to mention, it’s not grand-dad’s pink wine. “Forty years ago, American Rosé was a leftover wine with added sugar,” Winchell says. “[The sweetness] tarnished its reputation with the older wine drinking market. Millennials didn’t drink it so they have no preconceived misconceptions. If anything they may be familiar with drier French Rosés.”

French Rosés are most likely made from Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvèdre or Pinot Noir, or a blend of those varieties, but Ohio vintners are making Rosé from a range of different grapes including the cold-hardy, Minnesota hybrid Frontenac to Bordeaux favorite Cabernet Franc. And, these wines are selling out, according to Ohio winemakers.

Matt Meineke of M Cellars in Geneva sees Rosé as one of the “hottest sectors in the wine market” with Ohio’s dry Rosés being “reminiscent of those coming out of Provence.” He’s in his fourth year of making a dry Rosé with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. “With our climate sometimes it’s the smartest thing you can do with these grapes,” Meineke says. “It’s one of those things nature is telling us to do and we listen.”

Consumers seem to be encouraging him as well. “We usually sell out in three months,” he says, noting that he’s been limited by grape harvest. The strong crop in 2016 gave him the grapes to make 500 cases instead of his usual 100 to 150. His newest Rosé will be released in April or May 2017; he describes it as “huge strawberry upfront, mineral, red fruit with great acidity.”

Nearby in Harpersfield, Tony Kosicek sees both dry Rosés and semi-dry blushes gaining attention from consumers. Last year, he made 80 cases of a Rosé named Anthony from estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon. It sold out quickly, so he increased production 25 percent to 100 cases. He describes the 2016 vintage as having a floral aroma with strawberry and cherry flavors and a crisp finish He planned to release it in May.

Sam Fagnilli, owner/winemaker at Lakehouse Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake, is making about 20 cases of a traditional European-style Rosé from Pinot Noir grapes that should be available in mid-summer. He describes it as “crisp, bright, acidic with hints of stone fruit and a sharp, clean finish.”

Meanwhile, in Hartville, Todd Vaughan, owner/winemaker at Maize Valley, is making his first Rosé and using relatively new grapes – Frontenac, Frontenac Gris and La Crescent – developed at the University of Minnesota to be hardy winemaking fruit. “It kind of happened by accident,” Vaughan says. “All of our tanks were full and we still had some grapes to press. We used a portable tank to ferment it. It came out nice and dry. We have less than 1,000 bottles and are just selling it at the winery.”

Vaughan describes his dry Rosé as having “red cherry and bright fruit flavor with some berry aromas.” He planned to bottle it by the end of April.

In New Concord, Terra Cotta Vineyards has been using Chambourcin grapes to make Rosé for about five years. Here the grapes not the market dictate which years they make the Rosé, says co-owner Donna Roberts. But in the years they produce it, it sells out. “I find, at the winery, some people aren’t interested in Rosés because they think they’re sweet,” she says. “If you get someone to try it, they’re surprised and pleased.”

Look for more Ohio winemakers to join the Rosé parade.  “I think it has huge potential,” says Winchell.

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