Wine Taste-off: Rosé

Wine Tasting 1Now that we’re grown-ups, my friends and I have become much more open to the drinking of wine.  We have also become much more snobbish about our wine.  Two Buck Chuck doesn’t cut it anymore.  But that doesn’t mean we are willing to drop all kinds of money on a bottle of wine either.  We strive to find as many affordable delicious wines as we can. As a result, I have started hosting wine taste-offs featuring mid-range priced wines.

The main intention of the taste-off (besides of course, just an excuse to have friends over) is choosing the best wine out of the bunch. We usually focus on a single type of wine and taste 3-4 bottles from different wineries. It’s all about tasting the wine, eating some food, and giving our opinions.  There is no pressure to identify the wine or show off any wine knowledge.  We do use this form from to take notes, but that’s just so we can remember what we liked about each wine.

Wine Tasting bagsUsually, my friends are in charge of the wine, and I make the food.  I do a lot of research to try to pair the food to the particular wine.  When the wines (I mean, my friends) arrive, we open the bottles and put them into paper sacks. Then, we mix them around a few times to ensure they remain a mystery.

When we are ready to serve, we label them with numbers.  We go through the wines one at a time, tasting them without food, then with food.  Once all the wines have been served, we compare notes.  Then, we have the big reveal!

By the end of the night, we know which bottles will make a host/hostess gift, and which ones are not worth the money!

The Wine

This time around, we decided to taste Rosé in honor of summer. It is so refreshing and pairs well with summer foods, like barbecue.  Perfect for a summer afternoon on the back patio.

Wine Tasting Rose

Tasting pours in fantastic plastic patio glasses from Pier 1. Drink Responsibly!

Rosé is a delicious in-between wine that is great for both red lovers and white lovers alike.  It is not just a mixture of red and white wine and is actually produced from red wine grapes. It is lighter than a red because the skins are removed at some point in the process while red wines ferment with the skins on the whole time.

We have been fans of rosés since we tasted the award-winning Curtis 2012 Heritage Rosé. Since Curtis no longer exists, we have been looking for a replacement for this delicious wine and every rosé we try gets compared to this one. We were so excited to find a new winner!

The Contenders

#1 Victor Hugo Winery 2014 Les Mis Rose Retail Price: $15

Victor Hugo Winery
2014 Les Mis Rose
Retail Price: $15

Beckman Vineyards 2014 Grenache Rose Retail Price: $15

Beckman Vineyards
2014 Grenache Rose
Retail Price: $25

Cypher Wines 2013 Pistil Rose Retail Price: $24

Cypher Winery
2013 Pistil Rose
Retail Price: $24

Zaca Mesa Winery 2014 Z Gris Retail Price: $18

Zaca Mesa Winery
2014 Z Gris
Retail Price: $18

The Food

Rosé is very food-friendly. As I learned through my research, it truly is the best of both worlds.  It is good for more delicate flavors like a white, but can also stand up to a lot of meats like a red.  I chose to serve appetizers in courses:

Cheese board featuring aged Gouda with fig jam, prosciutto, and honeydew melonFile Jul 22, 8 57 35 PM

White bean dip with crudité platter

File Jul 22, 8 56 59 PM

Recipe for the White Bean Dip coming in August 2015!

Tarragon chicken salad lettuce wraps {recipe}

Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage with crostini

Chicken Apple Sausage Crostini

I have no photo evidence of the fact that these got cooked, but they did, and they were delicious!

They all paired perfectly with the wines.

The Results

Now, I should start by saying that we almost always like all the wines.  Of course, we like them to varying degrees, and these are taste-offs, so there must be rankings! We didn’t completely agree with the rankings this time, but we were all in agreement about the top two and the bottom two.

Top Two:

Rose Zaca Mesa

Zaca Mesa Winery 2014 Z Gris Retail Price: $18


Zaca Mesa Winery, located in the Santa Ynez Valley, is actually just down the road from the old Curtis winery, so it is no wonder it was a top pick.  We also happen to love all the wines from this winery, so it isn’t surprising we appreciated their rosé.

  • This is a rosé blend with a subtle minerality for which Rhone-style wine is known.
  • I thought it smelled of pineapples and tasted fresh.  It was dry, but definitely not bitter or too acidic.
  • It paired nicely with all the food, but I especially enjoyed it with the white bean dip.
  • It was also one of the cheaper bottles, and if you are a wine club member, it is only $12 a bottle!
Beckman Vineyards 2014 Grenache Rose Retail Price: $15

Beckman Vineyards
2014 Grenache Rose
Retail Price: $25


Our other top pick was from Beckman Vineyards, also located in the Santa Ynez Valley.  I actually did not want to like this wine as we have a personal friend who had a bad experience there, but alas, it was good.

  • This is a grenache rosé also with some minerality.
  • It was a bit effervescent which made it quite refreshing, though it had a bitter aftertaste to me.
  • Again, it paired nicely with all the food, especially the white bean dip.
  • It was the most expensive bottle.  The club price is even more expensive than the regular price for Zaca Mesa, so we would probably go for the Z Gris over this one.

Bottom Two:

#1 Victor Hugo Winery 2014 Les Mis Rose Retail Price: $15

Victor Hugo Winery
2014 Les Mis Rose
Retail Price: $15


The Victor Hugo Winery is located in Paso Robles on the Central Coast. The drought made this winery’s already small production volume even smaller this year.

  • This is a blend of 42% Malbec,
    24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Zinfandel, and
    14% Syrah.
  • I thought it smelled and tasted of tart lemons.  It also had a very strong alcohol taste, even though it has a moderate ABV at 12.9%
  • It paired best with the gouda and fig jam.  The sweetness of the jam helped cut the tartness/alcohol taste.
  • This was my least favorite of the bunch, but it was still pretty good, and considering it was also the least expensive bottle, we might consider this one again.
Cypher Wines 2013 Pistil Rose Retail Price: $24

Cypher Wines
2013 Pistil Rose
Retail Price: $24


The Cypher Winery is focused on small batches of edgy wines located in San Luis Obispo county.

  • This is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Zinfandel and Syrah.
  • I thought this was sweet with a syrupy mouthfeel.  Much more body than a typical rosé.
  • It paired best with the creaminess of the tarragon chicken salad.
  • This was John’s least favorite wine, but I liked and it would be good if I was in the mood for something on the sweeter side.  If we hadn’t been comparing it to less sweet wines, I think we would have liked it a lot more.  Unfortunately, it was the second most expensive wine of the bunch, so we probably won’t be going back for more.

I think the best thing that we learned from this Taste-off was that Rosé tasted delicious with all of our dishes.  Grab yourself a bottle or try your own rose taste off with my White Bean Dip or Tarragon Chicken Lettuce Wraps (recipes coming in early August 2015).  It will make for a lovely summer afternoon!


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