Kenwood Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Sonoma Coast
Cost: $21-23
R osé has been catching fire in the last couple of years. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, Kenwood Vineyards has a great offering that just might make you a rosé lover.
Using grapes from cool climate Sonoma Coast vineyards, Kenwood winemaker Pat Henderson has created a rare rosé from pinot noir. It is a stunner.
In the glass it is a pretty salmon color with aromas of ripe apricots and cherries. The rich mouthfeel has some strawberry characteristics, but not sweet strawberry jam. It is a dry wine with just a touch of sweetness. The finish is lively, perfect for pairing with food.
Henderson said it was logical for him to make a rosé from pinot noir.
“Pinot noir is a big part of our program going way back,” he said during a computer video interview. “We have five different pinot noirs. We made some (rosé) way back in the day, but we developed this one in a fun way.
“I love cabernet or zin with a barbecue. We got together with the whole winemaking team to talk about rosés and what styles can be made. We wanted to do something with the grape. We wanted it to be dry.”
Many winemakers make rosé through the saignée process, in which juice is pulled off a red wine after limited contact with grape skins. He said Kenwood might do that on occasion, but he wanted this wine to be an offshoot of their pinot noir program.
“We wanted the grapes to be ripe, but not so alcoholic,” said Henderson. “We picked at night by hand. The grapes were put in the tank for about 10 hours. We thought it had just enough color. We treated it like a white wine after that.
“It took about six weeks. We let it go all the way to dryness. We gave it a little lees contact. Ten percent went in new French oak for six weeks. That gave it a little more creaminess on the palate.
“If you get really good fruit, it’s really not that complicated.”
Pat Henderson from California via computer.
Henderson was being modest, because making great rosé like this from pinot noir grapes can be tricky. It can be easier with other grapes.
While Kenwood uses oak for fermenting much of its pinot noirs, they use stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures for the rosé to preserve the fresh, fruity aroma. Then the wine is allowed to settle for several months before bottling. The grapes are 100 percent pinot noir.
The Sonoma Coast is known for its cool climate and long growing season due to the cooling breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean. This unique terroir is ideal for producing pinot noir with intense flavors and strong character. It is one of the best growing areas for pinot noir.
The 2016 vintage was the first for this pinot noir rosé, but it won’t be the last. Hederson said they started small to make sure they had a good wine before they went into big production.
“One thing we wanted to do was do something really nice before we went all out,” he said. “This is a nice wine. I was very happy with the way it turned out. We made 500 cases and it will be sold only through the tasting room. This is the first year we have done this. We have done some pinot noir rosé in the mid ‘80s and again later. That style was a little different.
“This is like a nice sparkling wine with some sweetness. This is by far the best rosé we’ve made. It has a different label with Indian paint brush, a wildflower found on the coast that blooms between May and August.”
Bloom time for this intense wildflower just happens to be the ideal time of year for enjoying this refreshing wine.
Although the wine is labeled Sonoma Coast, all of the grapes comes from a single vineyard about 45 minutes from the winery.
“This is a wine that really gives you a sense of place,” said Henderson. “The grapes come from a single vineyard, but we wanted flexibility for the future so we didn’t call it single vineyard.”
If production increases to meet demand, grapes will have to come from other nearby vineyards, but they should have similar characteristics. Henderson said he spent a lot of time getting the mouthfeel right, and he wouldn’t settle for an inferior alternative.
Michael enjoyed the Kenwood Rosé with chicken tacos.

I drank the wine while eating fol epi cheese and some soft cheddar on crackers. Both were great with this wine. I also had it with chicken tacos, and it was terrific. Most people don’t think of wine with Mexican food, but I like it with a rosé or even a light red.
Henderson said he likes the wine as an aperitif, but he also likes it with chicken or red meat. He and I agreed it’s great to drink while you’re cooking. It also would pair well with antipasto salad, barbecue, grilled salmon, or light cheeses.
Serve it cool, but not cold, a little warmer than you would serve sauvignon blanc, about 52-56 degrees. I sipped some right out of the refrigerator, but it was too cold and didn’t have much aroma or taste. Wait about 20 minutes after taking it out of the refrigerator and it will be perfect.
It has taken awhile for rosé to catch on because overly sweet white zinfandel turned many people away.
“A lot of winemakers shied away from rosé because there was so much bad stuff out there,” said Hederson. “This has that delicate palate.
“From a personal standpoint this wine is a big hit. This is the wine my wife is constantly asking me to bring more of home. This is a perfect wine for summer experiences. We want to be sold out by Labor Day.”
You won’t find this wine in any local stores, so if you want to try it you have to order it from the Kenwood website.
W inery: Kenwood Vineyards has been a mainstay in the heart of the Sonoma Valley since 1970, when it moved into the former Pagani Brothers Winery. It is a historic property, with a cellar dating back to 1906.
Kenwood is known for its Jack London wines. It has an exclusive agreement to buy grapes from the neighboring Jack London vineyard, which is still owned by his descendants. Some of the London ranch was donated to the state for Jack London State Park.
The Kenwood cellar has been modernized and now has more than 125 stainless steel fermenting tanks and large oak upright containers. The winery also has 17,000 small French and American oak barrels. All of this supports Kenwood’s small lot style of winemaking.
The varietals they work with include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, pinot noir and syrah.

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