The larger-than-usual perennials, the absurd ubiquity of orange plastic cones and that 90-degree day last week are sure signs that summer is around the corner, if not actually here.
So, too, are some happenings in the vinous world: wine on tap (especially at outdoor venues), an almost absurd abundance of rosé and the increasing popularity of lighter reds that almost could pass for the pink stuff.
Wine kegs are not new (see our earlier story at ow.ly/Wjay3001iQI), but they are improved and finding widespread enthusiasm among restaurants and their patrons. Enhancements in transportation, recycling and on-site delivery have all made wine on tap much more prevalent in Tundraland.
And there’s something about their freshness that makes this format especially enticing at outdoor venues such as Sandcastle, Sea Salt and Como Dockside. Landlocked eateries also have hopped on board, among them Crave, Ling & Louie’s, Happy Gnome, Lake & Irving and Terza in Rochester.
Some familiar and seriously swell brands are now kegging their wines, including Stolpman, Left Coast, Simi, Hobo, Saintsbury and the must-try Tangent whites.
Several of those wineries also make rosés, but so, it seems, does almost everybody else. (Yay!) Not all rosés are sure bets, but the overall quality has risen along with the quantity. The better news: The 2015 offerings from Europe, especially from France, are almost ferociously fresh and vibrant. The domestic stuff is swell, as well.
More than ever, there are plenty of Twin Citians ready and willing to lap ’em up. “I’ve been seeing almost exponential growth over the last four years, a doubling from season to season” of rosé’s local popularity, said Darrin Minehan of North Loop, a longtime champion of the pink stuff. “It’s actually becoming hip. To a lot of people, it seems kind of cosmopolitan.”
Women led the way in embracing rosé, Minehan added, because they eschewed “that stigma of white zinfandel” more quickly than men. But, last summer, stories emerged about males hopping on board in what some dubbed the “brosé” movement.
While men at first tended to favor the darker (more manly?) rosés, now most consumers have moved in the opposite direction, according to Minehan.
“That classic Provence pink, people have had enough rosé to know there’s a lot of flavor, a lot of substance in those wines,” Minehan said. “If anything, it’s now the reverse. People see electric reddish-pink, and those are the ones they’re afraid will be sweet.”
Some 2015 rosés that I’ve tasted and loved: Whispering Angel (spendy but heavenly), Bieler Pere et Fils, Charles & Charles, Cocagne, Les Hauts Plateaux, Bonny Doon, Maryhill, Matthiasson (yum!), Pannonia, Pomelo, Tablas Creek (double yum!) and Broadbent.
Most of these wines and scores more will be available this weekend at one of the Twin Cities’ foremost (and most fun) annual events, put on by the indefatigable pink-wine champion Chuck Kanski. Tickets for Sunday’s Solo Vino’s Rosé Tent Tasting are available at ow.ly/d46g3001njs.
Other wines will be poured at that event, and sure to be among them are some of the “lighter” (in color and weight) reds such as barbera, cabernet franc and blaufränkisch/lemberger. These varieties are perfect for the season, with sundry amalgams of fruit and herbal notes, lighter color and a delicate (but not too) nature.
They have been cork dorks’ favorites for years and are slowly gaining popularity with the wine-buying public.
“Lighter-bodied reds are becoming more acceptable, but the American palate is still driven by big, bold, aggressive wines, those fuller reds,” said Chuck Coulter, general manager at Monello restaurant in Minneapolis.
Coulter is a particular champion of the oft-maligned gamay grape, which gained disfavor for decades due to candy-like Beaujolais Nouveau. In an effort to “shed new light on a grape seen as the black sheep of Burgundy,” he, Adam Gorski (Eat Street Social) and others recently put on a Gamay Day at Upton 43 with a tasting and five- and 10-course menus (gamay is fabulously food-friendly).
“It went really well,” he said. “We will see more of these wines with lovely herb inflections and plenty of weight. … What Chuck [Kanski] has done with rosé, I’d like to do with gamay.”
Coulter rightly believes in serving gamay and other light reds chilled, to show off their freshness and expressiveness. Same goes for the other lighter reds, all the way up to pinot noir.
But here’s the deal: No matter how soon these more ethereal reds catch on, they — along with rosés and keg wines — are much more than harbingers or exemplars of summer. They are, or at least should be, wines for all seasons.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.