Waiheke Island is 13 miles from Auckland, New Zealand, and the Hauraki Gulf between the two acts like a fan blowing sea breezes to the isle. It is, in fact, these currents that have made the island famous for grooming some of the region’s finest Bordeaux-style grapes.
Jade Barrett grew up in this breezy region and a hamlet of vineyards bewitched him when he was a teenager.
“What started as a summer job in the vineyard quickly led to a burning passion for all things wine,” he said.
Barrett is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner –– the Ladera, 2017 Napa Valley Rosé of Malbec at $30.
“We apply an incredible amount of attention at every stage of viticulture,” Barrett said. “When you combine this kind of attention to detail with grapes from the finest vineyards, the results are something special.”
The Ladera has great intensity, bracing acidity and pitch-perfect balance. The grapes hail from the famed Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak and the mountain-grown fruit, at an elevation of 1,200 to 1,700 feet, plays into its intense flavors. The rosé has notes of wild strawberry, citrus and mineral, and it finishes crisp.
“We try to craft wines that are a true expression of the vineyard,” Barrett said. “Our philosophy at Ladera is always quality over quantity.”
Barrett said what makes him thrive as a winemaker are three things you can’t teach –– experience, instinct and passion.
Barrett, 38, began focusing on the sciences in high school and it led to several internships in New Zealand, Australia and California. His winery credits include New Zealand’s Craggy Range Winery, Amberley Estate in Western Australia and Calistoga’s Jericho Canyon Vineyards. He joined Ladera in 2012.
Barrett said calling the pick during harvest continues to be the most challenging aspect of producing rosé.
“Deciding when to harvest is something only your senses can confirm,” he said. “To ensure balance, there’s a small window when the grapes’ flavors, acidity and sugar level are at their optimum. Harvesting too early results in a light-colored wine with herbaceous aromas and teeth-shattering acidity.”
Despite the challenges, Barrett said he’s a fan of rosé because of its whimsy.
“Rosé is subtle, fun and unpretentious,” he said. “These are qualities I would use to sum up my personality.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.