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The rosé fever is real: A guide to the best buys, plus Kansas City wine events

Kansas City’s cold and snowy winter has been followed by what so far has been a chilly and rainy spring.

But we all know it’s coming — those searingly hot daytime temperatures and the steamy nights of summer.

If you’re a wine drinker like me, a Kansas City summer loaded with heat and humidity poses a serious question. What wines can I drink that won’t make me sweat any more than I already am ?

The answer is a simple one — rosé. A glass or two of a chilled crisp rosé is perfect for a KC summer day or night, though quite honestly, I drink rosés year round.

Rosés are good with a wide range of food, they provide some of the best wine value around, and you can find decent versions nearly everywhere, from your neighborhood grocery store to your favorite wine and spirits retailer.

Kevin Hodge, owner of Cellar Rat in downtown Kansas City, is a big fan of rosés. Hodge says professionals have been into rosés forever, but consumers are quickly catching up.

“We still get people who think a rosé is going to be sweet like the old White Zinfandels. I just tell them that 98% of the rosés we carry are dry,” Hodge says. “Sure, there are some that are fruitier than others, but most of them, no matter their country of origin, are bone dry.”

You’ll find more than 100 rosés from all over the planet at Cellar Rat, and more are on the way. Hodge has been in the retail wine business for some 20 years. I asked him to describe the rosé scene when he first started selling wine. He has a one word response: “Nothing.”

And now? Well, it’s Katy bar the door.

”The last couple of years have been crazy with the canned rosés and all of the ‘big boys’ getting into the category. It used to be that we’d have one stack of rosés, but now we have shelf after shelf after shelf,” Hodge shares.

I personally have had rosés from Washington, Oregon, California and New Mexico in the U.S. along with international bottles from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa. I’m sure there are more out there; I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

Equally impressive is the wide variety of grapes used to produce rosés from the traditional French grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, to Italian versions such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Pinot Grigio, Tempranillio and Garnacha in Spain, and Pinot Noir in Oregon!

And you know what? I like ‘em all! I firmly believe there’s a grape, a grape blend, and a rosé style to suit every wine drinker.

For another perspective on rosés present and past, I turned to Charles Bieler, who makes traditional rosés in the famous appellations of Bandol and Aix-en-Provence in France as well as New World versions from Washington state.

This year, Bieler is hitting the road in his pink 1965 Cadillac DeVille to promote his wines, retracing steps from his inaugural trip 20 years ago.

“It’s almost the exact same progression as I did 20 years ago. Back then, it was unsupported. I would turn up in most cities without even a distributor,” Bieler said.

Bieler is stopping in Kansas City on June 11, and his appearance is just one of a myriad of rosé-themed events and tastings in the metro. I recently attended a tasting put on by Pinnacle Imports called “Ring ‘Round The Rosé,” which featured more than two dozen sparkling and still rosés.

Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen has a rosé soiree called “Stop and Drink the Rosé” on Sunday, May 26. Tannin’s General Manager Barry Tunnel tells me there will be close to 30 rosés on display and that 50% of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation of Kansas and Western Missouri.

In June, right around the summer solstice, Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar will return with its “Longest Day to Drink Rosé” dinner. Stay tuned as the date has yet to be announced.

I thought I’d leave you with some rosés for your consideration. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but here are some I’ve had recently that grabbed me by the palate.

2018 Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Aix-en-Provence ($12.99): Produced in some of the higher and cooler elevation vineyards in Aix-en-Provence, this classic Provencal rosé is a real beauty. From Bieler: “Our goal is find the delicate balance between floral, herbal, wild red fruit (not overly ripe), stone fruit, and acid. Our hope is to sew these various attributes together in such a way that no one element stands out. The goal is a wine in total harmony.” In my opinion, this wine checks all of those boxes.

2018 La Bargemone Rosé Aix-en-Provence ($19.99): Another classic Provencal rosé, La Bargemone captures the aromas of wild strawberries and red currants mixed with a soft floral character. This is one of Hodge’s favorites and I can see why.

2018 Domaine de Bila-Haut “Les Vignes” Pays d’Oc Rosé ($15): From the world-famous Rhone Valley producer, Michel Chapoutier, comes this gem. A blend of a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault, Chapoutier decided to eliminate Syrah in this vintage, and I believe that’s to the wine’s advantage. Fuller-bodied than Provencal rosés, yet still delicate and balanced, the wine is packed with red fruit flavors and floral aromas on the nose all buttressed by lovely minerality and acidity. I would buy this wine by the case.

2018 Marques de Caceres Rosado, Rioja, Spain ($10): Having just returned from Spain and a tasting at Marques de Caceres, I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for their wines. But, seriously, for $10, this rosé is an all-day quaffer. Made with Tempranillo (Spain’s national grape) and Garnacha Tinto, the wine is deeper and darker than its French counterparts, but no less delicious. If you like a bargain and a fuller-bodied rosé, this wine is for you!

2018 La Spinetta Il Rose di Casanova, Tuscany, Italy ($19.99): La Spinetta is a property most Italian wine lovers will recognize as a Piedmont producer. But this rosé, another of Hodge’s picks, comes from grapes sourced from the company’s Tuscan holdings. Made from 50% Sangiovese, the noble grape of Tuscany, and 50% Prugnolo Gentile, a lesser known Tuscan grape, the resulting blend is salmon-colored, medium-bodied, delicate and delicious. Like almost all Sangiovese-based wines, this rose has plenty of acidity, making it a great option for a wide variety of cheeses, pastas and meat.

2018 Idlewild, The Flower, Mendocino County ($17.99): Idlewild is a property owned by Sam Bilbro, devoted to telling the story of Piedmont through grapes grown in Mendocino County in California’s North Coast. Here, through a blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, Bilbro weaves a tale of a perfectly balanced and harmonious rosé. It was my favorite of the two dozen offerings at Pinnacle’s recent pouring, even besting classic French Provencal and Rhone bottles.

2018 Elk Cove, Willamette Valley ($15.99): Oregon’s Elk Cove is one of my favorite Pinot Noir producers, so it comes as no surprise that I also enjoy this lovely rosé. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, Elk Cove says it harvests the grapes “very ripe and gently presses the whole clusters with limited skin crushing.” The resulting wine is elegant, balanced and dry, yet fruity and unctuous as the same time — a difficult combination to achieve.

Okay, enough writing about rosés, time to drink some. Luckily, I’ve got plenty of choices.

Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons. Follow Dave’s eating and drinking experiences on Instagram at @eatsanddrinkswithdave.


The rosé fever is real: A guide to the best buys, plus Kansas City wine events