Fine California rosé – no longer an oxymoron

Excerpts from "Fine California rosé – no longer an oxymoron"
Written by Alder Yarrow for

To put it bluntly, in 2005 most California rosé sucked. This likely had a lot to do with the fact that a majority of those wines were made via saignée from a primary red fermentation, a tank or barrel eventually made all the richer and darker for having had some juice drawn off early in the maceration to make rosé. At the time, making pink wine strictly as a by-product of red was the dominant way California rosés were produced, resulting in rather flabby, rich and often bitter wines.

The few exceptions to this rule, those wines picked early for acidity and freshness, stood out like beacons of light on a dark (pink) sea of mediocrity. In the early 2000s, rosés from the likes of Unti Vineyards and Robert Sinskey showed what was possible for California rosé, and, gradually, the ranks of the refreshing swelled.

Around that same time, Melinda Kearney had been enjoying French rosé for years, in particular those of Domaine Tempier of Bandol. Accompanying her fashion-model daughter, Michèle Ouellet, to a photo shoot in Paris at which excellent rosé was served one afternoon got Kearney’s wheels turning. ‘My job at the time was as a sales consultant to new estate wineries in Napa, Sonoma and Oregon’, recalls Kearney, ‘so I was around a lot of start-up energy. My daughter would be turning 21 soon, and it felt like the right time to embark on a wine project that would foster a sense of connection and collaboration between the two of us and our wine community.’

That project, which they named Lorenza, was to my knowledge only the second California wine brand dedicated exclusively to rosé, after the short-lived brand Solorosa launched by RAP founders Jeff Morgan and Daniel Moore in 2001.

‘The goal was to make a wine in California that shared the same discipline and rigour that produced the beautiful pale rosés of Provence’, says Kearney.

I can remember tasting Lorenza’s first vintage, the 2008 bottling released in 2009, and thinking to myself, ‘finally, someone who gets it’.

In many ways, Lorenza became a model for other producers, both new and old, who have transformed the state of California rosé over the past 15 years to the point of having almost inverted my rather dire experience of those early RAP Pink Out tastings. In my opinion, the average California rosé these days, even those found on ordinary supermarket shelves, stands head and shoulders above the state’s early efforts. Certainly the random wine samples I receive for review have dramatically improved over the years.

2022 Lorenza Rosé - Lodi

A blend of 38% Carignan, 31% Cinsaut, 18% Grenache and 13% Mourvèdre. Stainless- steel fermented and aged.
Palest baby-pink. Smells of peonies, berries and citrus zest. Bright, light and refreshing with flavours of pomelo pith, green strawberries and a hint of lemon cucumber to mix with the aromatic sweetness of berry. Excellent acidity. GV (AY)
Drink 2023–2026