Wine of the week: Ramey Wine Cellars Sidebar, 2016 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Rosé

When Lydia Cummins studied chemistry she thought it was abstract … that is until she saw it through the lens of wine.

“I had an aha moment,” she said. “Wine is applied chemistry … wine is part soil, science, botany, economics, geography and history.”

The associate winemaker at Healdsburg’s Ramey Wine Cellars crafted our wine-of-the-week winner - the Sidebar, 2016 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Rosé at $21.

This rosé is 100 percent syrah, and it has aromas and flavors of raspberry, cranberry and pepper. It’s a rosé that has great quench - pitch perfect balance - and it’s striking.

Cummins, the winemaker of Sidebar (a second label of David Ramey and Ramey Wine Cellars), is shooting for a style that’s fresh, crisp, refreshing and exceedingly dry so it’s not cloying with food. What makes this wine a standout, she said, is the fact that it’s an intentional rosé.

For the uninitiated, there are two types of rosés - the intentional and the unintentional. The intentional version has a set plan to produce rosé, while the unintentional version entertains rosé as an option with its focus on making a concentrated red wine. The later relies on a process called saignée, the French word for “bleeding.” Juice, in short, is bled off to craft a richer, denser red, with the option of using the extracted liquid to produce a rosé.

Sidebar’s intentional style of winemaking, Cummins said, calls for picking grapes at lower sugar levels and sending them directly to the press in order to make fresher, more delicate and balanced rosés.

Cummins said what makes her team a great fit for making rosé is that they love to drink it.

“For a wine to taste great, the makers must love it and know what the best examples taste like,” she said.

Cummins, 37, graduated from UC Davis in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology.

“I moved to Sonoma County in 2006 after working the 2006 vintage for William Selyem,” she said. “I had planned to work in Santa Barbara County, but after working the 2006 vintage, I knew the Russian River Valley was the place that I was meant to be.”

Cummins has worked with David Ramey and his team for 10 vintages.

“There’s still a lot to learn both in the winery and in the vineyard,” she said. “Mother Nature always has a surprise up her sleeve.”

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at 521-5310 or

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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