Dark Horse Rosé 2016, California
S ometimes when a winery or a wholesaler has a lot of wine to sell you see it on sale everywhere. I get a little suspicious when I see every wine outlet with a big sale on a particular wine. Is it so bad no one will buy it, or are they dumping excess wine?
Dark Horse wines have been on sale everywhere this summer, but there should be no worry about the quality of this wine. The winery must have made a lot of it, but made it well. I have tried several Dark Horse wines and they all are fabulous.
Dark Horse is a label for E & J Gallo, and they certainly know how to make high-volume, good-quality wine at a low price. The Dark Horse logo is striking and sure to catch your eye as you browse your favorite wine shop. It looks like a horse’s skull with a wine glass in the middle.
They produced some of the wine in convenient cans, which I think is a great way to get people to take your wine along on a picnic or trip to the lake or beach.
You get much more wine than you would expect at this price. I liked all of the Dark Horse wines I tried, but I particularly liked the Dark Horse Rosé 2016 ($9-12). Floral and raspberry-scented it has crisp flavors of strawberry, red fruits and melon that fill your mouth with pleasant tastes.
It is a blend of grenache, barbera, pinot grigio, tempranillo and zinfandel. It is a dry, crisp wine full of bright fruit. For a wine of this price it is amazingly complex. You get all these fruit flavors in a smooth mix that is held together by the zingy acidity.
One of things that makes the wine so fresh and crisp is that it spent no time in oak. So all you get are the bright fruit flavors.
Winemaker Beth Liston decided to create a fruit-forward Provence-style rosé that tastes great, but fits in everyone’s budget. The flavor profile and the marketing make me think this wine is aimed squarely at the 20-something drinkers who are still trying to decide if they like wine. If they try any of these Dark Horse wines, they will become instant fans.
“We want to challenge the way the wine industry is doing things,” said Liston in a statement on the Dark Horse website, “look for better ways to do it, new ways to do it.”
The definition of a dark horse is a little-known competitor who emerges to give the front-runners a run for the money. That certainly defines these wines.
For a couple of years you could only find Dark Horse wines in Trader Joe’s stores, and that’s where I first discovered them. But now they are in grocery stores, pharmacies, discount stores and wine shops. They are certainly worth a look.
I particularly like this quote from the company’s web site, and it is another indication they are going after the young market:
“The truth is, kickass flavor doesn’t come from a price tag. It comes from a winemaker who’s obsessed with quality. We think everyone should get to enjoy that.”
Winery: There’s not much I could find out about Dark Horse, but I did discover it is a relatively new label from the Gallo wine company, one of the biggest and most powerful wine companies in America.
Based in Modesto, CA, the brand is led by Beth Liston, a winemaker who is open to experimentation. Her mantra is you can produce a reasonably priced wine that tastes crazy good.
I’m sure being part of the Gallo empire helps keep costs down. Dark Horse should have access to good grapes from throughout California and benefits from Gallo’s distribution system. And at the large volume they produce they don’t have to make a large profit on each bottle.
To me, it looks like they have hit on a great formula.
Dark Horse also makes Double Down Red Blend, merlot, cab, big red blend, pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. The rosé and pinot grigio are offered in cans as well as bottles.
Goes with: This wine was a great match for beer can chicken on the grill. I loved making this meal because I had a chance to play with my new toy that Teri bought me for my birthday.
It’s a stainless steel tray that lets you cook two chickens on the grill at the same time if you want to. We set it up to cook only one, and it worked great. I filled the can piece that slides into the chicken cavity with white wine, Morton Nature’s Seasons, thyme and some red pepper flakes.
I think beer can chicken is the best way to cook chicken. The chicken came out moist and tender, cooked all the way through because the outside gets the heat from the grill and the inside is steamed by the liquid in the “can.”
To complete the meal I used Zatarain’s red beans and rice in a microwave pouch that took only 90 seconds to cook. I also added some sliced Georgia Boy sausages to the rice mix. Corn on the cob and tossed salad completed the meal.
We had a feast, and the wine only added to the enjoyment.
This is a versatile wine that would pair with almost any meal you could imagine. It is great to sip by itself, or mixed in cocktails.
Here is a summer cocktail recipe offered by Dark Horse. This is right in line with the trend toward frozen rosé cocktails that I have seen a lot this year.
[box type=”shadow”]Frosé cocktail
Standard Blender (64oz capacity – yields 36 ounces of Frosé)
1 bottle Dark Horse Rosé
8 ounces Pomegranate Syrup
— 4 ounces Pomegranate Juice
— 4 ounces Sugar
3 ounces lime juice
1. Pour bottle of rosé into a quart container. Freeze for 6 hours or overnight
2. Combine pomegranate juice and sugar; Stir until sugar dissolves
3. Combine rosé, pomegranate syrup, and strained lime juice in a blender and blend
4. Transfer blender to freezer and let thicken for 20-30 minutes
Pour into glass and garnish.[/box]
Author Dennis Sodomka