More than a decade ago, I served on a panel of judges at the New York State Fair Wine Competition with a friend and mentor, Bill Moffett, the former publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. We were assigned a large flight of rosé made with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and other grapes.
Moffett was shocked by how good some of them were. All the wineries in the East, he noted, want to anchor their tasting sheets with Bordeaux-style blends. But generally, cooler regions struggle to produce wines in the style of big blends of California or even Bordeaux, he said.
Wineries can take those same grapes, though, and make world-class rosés, he said. In the time that followed, the market caught up with rosé, and the rosés of the East — including New York and Pennsylvania — are better and more abundant.
Recently, I participated in a virtual tasting with two leading Finger Lakes wine producers, Billsboro and Red Tail Ridge, both on the west side of Seneca Lake, featuring rosé from the 2018 vintage. Both wineries ship to Pennsylvania.
Red Tail Ridge was co-founded by Nancy Irelan, who was one of the top production officials at E&J Gallo before setting roots in the Finger Lakes. Red Tail Ridge Finger Lakes Pinot Dry Rosé shows a hint of mint with a slightly herbal note and a creamy, fresh strawberry character with a tight acidity. $21. ♦♦♦♦
Red Tail Ridge Cab Franc Dry Rosé bursts with cranberry and rhubarb on a very light, refreshing structure. $21. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Vinney Aliperti and his wife, Kim, own Billsboro. He cut his teeth making wine at top wineries in Long Island and the Finger Lakes before acquiring Billsboro.
Billsboro Seneca Lake Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah smells herbal with flavors of orange rind and fresh strawberry, and it finishes with a tight acidity. $19. ♦♦♦♦
Billsboro Seneca Lake Rosé of Pinot Noir is a straightforward wine with cherry and honeydew and a soft finish. $19. ♦♦♦ 1/2
Pinot noir and cabernet franc grow well in cooler climates, and those rosés often excel. And I have to put in a word for chambourcin, an underappreciated hybrid grape that also makes excellent rosé.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦
David Falchek executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week. Contact: email@example.com