Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Favorite things: Brut Rosé

Brut Rose & Eileen Crane

Chatting with winemaker Eileen Crane is almost as delightful as a glass of sparkling wine. In fact, Eileen is a bit like the sparkling wine she makes--bright, sophisticated, elegant but completely unpretentious and fits in just about anywhere. She's a great person to talk to about wine, because she's been making it at European style wineries in California for ages. She's been a winemaker at noted sparkling wine producers Gloria Ferrer and Domaine Chandon, in addition to Domaine Carneros in Napa Valley, where she's been for the last twenty years.

I talked to Eileen because I wanted to get to the bottom of why I am so crazy about sparkling rosé, especially brut rosé. Now as we are heading in to Valentine's Day it seems like the perfect bubbly, but actually, it's the perfect bubbly all the time, as far as I'm concerned. Sure it has a festive color, and a rarity about it, but there are so many more reasons to love it.

Perhaps most importantly, we talked about brut rosé being one of the of the more versatile wines around. Even Julia Child noted, "Rosés can be served with anything." Hamburgers? Seafood? Salad? Pork? Barbecue? Charcuterie? Turkey? Indian food? Pizza? Yes! In fact, it has become one of my favorite picks to go with a multi course tasting menu because there is hardly anything it doesn't complement. Eileen blends Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the color comes from Pinot, and it's the Pinot that gives sparkling rosé some backbone.

Just because it's pink, doesn't mean it's sweet, brut still means dry. The brut rosé from Domaine Carneros is particularly crisp and almost lemony with some just a hint of strawberry and melon or peach. Called Cuvée de la Pompadour, it's namesake is Madame de Pompadour who introduced Champagne to the court of King Louis XV and was known for her artistic eye and her seductive ways. It used to be available only at the winery, but now it has much wider distribution and sells for about $36 a bottle.

Eileen told me she opens a bottle of it and keeps it in the refrigerator. If it's sealed properly with a good champagne stopper, it actually holds its flavor better than many other wines, not to mention the bubbles. At 12% alcohol it is also an easier drinking wine that I can enjoy a splash more of, something I can't say about too many wines these days.

When it comes to lesser sparkling wines, Eileen recommends making cocktails out of them and I couldn't agree more. Any berry or fruit flavored simple syrup will turn bubbly into a blushing refresher. But if you find a brut rosé you like, I suggest you enjoy how special it is without any adulteration. And by all means, don't just drink it on Valentine's Day!