Rosé is hot, hot, hot.
So says Matt Duffy of Vaughn Duffy Wines, and he should know. He’s the owner and winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Vaughn Duffy Sonoma County Rosé of Pinot Noir at $20.
“You could make the argument that rosé is the most popular category wine in the last couple of years,” Duffy said. “Wine shops that used to carry a couple different rosés now carry 20 or even 40.”
Duffy said winemakers in California influenced by the benchmark dry rosés of Provence have been doing a great job transforming what the masses considered pink wine.
“It’s no longer sweet and boring,” he said. “It is dry, complex and versatile.”
The Vaughn Duffy rosé is just that. It’s an edgy rosé with bright notes of raspberry and watermelon. But what makes this a standout is its lift, from the crisp acidity to its bright minerality and its crisp finish.
“We like a dry, acid-driven rosé and employ primarily barrel fermentation in old oak barrels,” Duffy explained. “Many rosé wines are fermented in stainless steel, but I feel that barrel fermentation is better and helps round out the acidity, leaving the wine bright but not cloying.”
Duffy and wife Sara Vaughn, both 37, started Vaughn Duffy in 2009 with the purchase of 1 ton of pinot noir grapes.
“We don’t have a lot of money or come from families that were in the wine industry,” Duffy said. “Aside from a gift from Sara’s parents to get started, we have been bootstrapping this thing.”
With this wine venture, they’re both moonlighting.
Duffy is production manager at Vinify Wine Services in Santa Rosa. Sara is a speech-language pathologist and works for the North Bay Regional Center and Westside School in Healdsburg.
Neither has a background in wine. Duffy has an English literature degree from UC Berkeley and Sara has a BA from UC Davis and an MS from San Francisco State University. They moved to Sonoma County in 2007.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing or what we were getting ourselves into,” Duffy said. “But I love everything about the process of making wine. Winemaking is about hard work and paying attention to and embracing details. I was raised to value hard work, and when it comes to making wine I enjoy the process as much as the result.”
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Vaughn Duffy, 2015 Sonoma County, Rosé of Pinot Noir, 13.9% alcohol, $20. ★★★★1/2
An edgy rosé with bright notes of raspberry and watermelon. But what makes this a standout is its lift — from its crisp acidity to its bright minerality. Finishes crisp. Knockout.
Mill Creek, 2015 Santa Rosa Dry Rosé Wine, Sonoma County, 14.5%, $24. ★★★★: A tasty rosé with aromas and flavors of green apple, raspberry and mineral. Crisp acidity. Refreshingly dry.
Balletto, 2015 Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir, 13.2%, $18. ★★★★: This is a vibrant rosé that will turn heads because its red fruit is so well balanced with its crisp acidity. Notes of strawberry, cherry, mineral and a hint of lime. Smart.
Tablas Creek Vineyard, 2015 Patelin de Tablas Rosé, 13%, $20. ★★★★: A rosé that’s weighted to grenache, showcasing tangy fruit amid its crisp and clean acidity. Notes of wild strawberry and rose petal in the mix. Lingering finish. Lovely.
Lazy Creek Vineyards, 2015 Anderson Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $22. ★★★★: This is a rosé that has incredible range — pink grapefruit, strawberry, peach and lemon zest. Impressive.