Jeffery Cross

These pinks are easy going down—and easy on the wallet

As the weather warms up, wine-shop shelves get increasingly rosier, with rows of bottles in hues from the palest blush to vibrant salmon. When it comes to warm-weather drinking, pink is definitely the new white. In 2015 alone, the volume of rosé sales was up more than 44 percent year over year.

If 2015 was the year that rosé was embraced by all ages and genders, 2016 was when these wines became just a little less affordable. By 2016, you needed to be prepared to pay more than $20 for a bar-setting pink (in some cases, a lot more).  

Count me as a fan of those beautiful, nuanced rosés. But the times that call for rosé—a seafood barbecue, a charcuterie picnic, a sunset over the water—often aren’t about thoughtful wine drinking. Focusing on whether the cherry flavors lean toward Rainier or Bing can get in the way of a good novel on the beach. On the other hand, a flabby, funky rosé would ruin that novel.

Happily, some winemakers are making it possible to find a middle ground. Sonoma County’s Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, for example, just launched a lovely new rosé under its Angeline label—for $13. The winemaker, Bill Batchelor, believes that at that price point, the consumer still has the right to expect “clean, crisp summer-fruit flavors—a wine that’s refreshing and not too sweet.” 

But how is that done, when quality vineyard land is getting prodigiously expensive? “You have to be creative in your vineyard sourcing and look to some of Cali­fornia’s lesser-known regions,” says Batchelor (for this wine, the fruit comes not from Napa or Sonoma, but rather the eastern edges of San Pablo Bay). 

Add to that the careful treatment of the fruit in the winery, and you understand why Angeline rosé delivers impressive quality for the price. More than a few afternoons of tasting pink here at Sunset revealed that it’s not alone: An encouraging number of bottles deliver that same bang for less than $20.

Our picks

  • Angeline 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir (California; $13) — Earth notes under fresh cherry and citrus.
  • Balleto 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley; $18) — Juicy red fruit, gentle citrus, and delicate rose.
  • Elk Cove 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé (Willamette Valley; $16) — Rose petals and stones; vibrant strawberry and lemon.
  • Kokomo 2016 Grenache Rosé (North Coast; $18) — Cherry blossoms, pear, cinnamon, and loads of red berries.
  • Quady North 2016 Rosé (Rogue Valley; $17) — Spicy lily aromas, then bright raspberry, pink grapefruit, and orange zest.
  • Seven Hills 2016 Dry Rosé (Columbia Valley; $18)  Beautiful florals—jasmine, rose—soften steely citrus and minerality.
  • Three Otters 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé (Willamette Valley; $20)  Minerals and spice around raspberry, watermelon, and lemon-lime.
  • Vino 2016 Sangiovese Rosé (Washington; $12) — Citrus brightens dusty strawberries and juicy water-melon.