With smoke blanketing the valley, it’s a great time to enjoy a visit to the coast with a good beach read and a chilled glass of your favorite rosé.
In warm weather, rosé is hard to beat. With its hint of red wine structure and crisp acidity to keep the flavors from cloying on the palate, rosé combines the best of red and white wine worlds. Here are some words and local wine pairings to consider during these dog days of summer.
“Murder Most Fermented” by Christine E. Blum (Kensington Publishing, 2018). Although I tried three different wine-centric mysteries, this is the only title I can recommend. The connection to the wine world is somewhat peripheral, involving a group of female wine lovers who meet regularly to imbibe and solve crimes. The first-person narrator and amateur sleuth is Halsey Hall, a Kinsey Millhone knock-off with a sidekick yellow lab named Bardot. Blum incorporates plenty of humor in a plot that relies as much on dog as man. With a hint of residual sugar balanced with a bright, clean finish, Goldback Rosé of Grenache is just the right quaff for lighthearted detective fiction.
“Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California” by Frances Dinkelspiel (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015). This true crime story recounts the largest destruction of wine in history, a loss of about $250 million, due to a warehouse fire in Vallejo, California, in 2005. The author painstakingly reconstructs the tragedy through the prism of both the arsonist, a shady wine collector and dealer, and the industry personalities whose years of work in the vineyard literally went up in smoke. She also delves into the history of wine production in California from early Mission days to the present. Try pairing this shocking account with a pink wine substantial enough to make a statement of its own, Upper Five Rosé of Grenache. This biodynamic wine with flavors of raspberry and watermelon will intrigue your palate.
“The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans and Me” by Nina Caplan (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018). This is by far my favorite of all the wine reads I sampled this year. The author is an award-winning food and wine journalist with a deep background in the classics (Greek, Latin and ancient history) as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of modern European wine regions and vintages. Her book explores sites where there is evidence of the wines the Romans took to the lands they conquered, leaving heaps of no-deposit-no-return clay wine jars (amphorae) along with architectural remains often used as foundations for churches, mosques and temples. Caplan meditates on human mortality as she contemplates the beauty of landscape and varietal, weaving in historical and literary references that add depth and charisma to the story of her quest. I was blown away. For a book that’s hard to put down you need a rosé that refreshes with every elegant glass. Awen Winecraft Rosé of Grenache, a classic in its own right, is the one.
“In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire” by Peter Hellman (Experiment, 2017). Bringing up the end of my list is another true wine crime story, the tale of improbable Indonesian swindler Rudy Kurniawan, who manufactured millions of dollars-worth of fake wines that he passed off as some of the most iconic vintages on the planet. An illegal immigrant who started his high-rolling career as a cult wine dealer in 2002, Kurniawan’s activities began to unravel in 2008. Finally convicted of fraud in 2011, he now sits in a California prison and faces deportation upon release. With this I recommend Naumes Rosé of Pinot Noir. Its delightful strawberry notes will lift your spirits no matter how dark the saga.
Even if you go no farther than your favorite armchair, you can still enjoy summer reading and sipping — and you won’t need the sunscreen. In any case, take time to broaden your wine horizons while keeping it Rogue. Look for these and other great local rosés at Ashland Wine Cellar, Ashland Food Co-op and Old 99 in Medford.
What’s your take? Email MJ Daspit at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on this topic, check out her Backstory Blog at mjdaspit.com.