What’s all the Hype about the Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé?
If you don’t know much about rosé, or haven’t heard about the Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé, we forgive you. Many of us at Sheldrake Point, myself included, first fell in love with this wine style through our experiences with the Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé—long before we worked here!
So, what’s all the hype? For one thing, we really know what we are doing. Sheldrake Point has been making Dry Rosé continuously since 1997, longer than any other Finger Lakes winery. Winemaker Dave Breeden continued the tradition when he joined the team, and never looked back. Fox Run Vineyards gave it a try in the 1990s, but their Winemaker, Peter Bell, tells me it was a tough sell, as wine drinkers then just didn’t understand how pink wine could be dry! Now, almost 20 years later, Dry Rosé has become the fastest growing category for Finger Lakes winemakers, is certainly Sheldrake Point’s best seller, and is a wine that many of us simply can’t get enough of.
Blushing for Dry Rosé
Is it a rosé or is it a blush? Technically speaking, neither term has a legal definition, unlike many of those used on wine labels. For example, there is a law stating that to label a wine varietally, the wine must contain at least 75% of that grape. So, how do you tell the difference if there are no rules to naming a pink wine?
My recommendation is, generally, if the bottle is labeled “Blush,” the wine will likely be sweeter. By labeling “Dry Rosé,” the winemaker is telling you that it is a dry wine. Overall, choosing to label as “Blush” vs. “Dry Rosé” is either a matter of marketing, or indicative of the production process: blush often meaning a blend of red and white wines, and rosé meaning red grapes processed as white grapes, with some skin contact. Many in the industry differentiate blush and rosé by those production processes. But note, this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
The most common method to make rosé, and the method used most in the Finger Lakes, is to soak the grapes in contact with the skins for a short amount of time, then press off the juice; this is known as maceration.
The best way to find out what you prefer is to taste both styles, and ask how the wine was produced. In the wine shop, check the back of the bottle to look for a sweet-to-dry scale and buy according to your tastes. Or, ask for a recommendation.
So Much More Than Pink Wine
Rosé production is believed to have been started as a byproduct of red wine production, where winemakers would bleed off juice during fermentation, and, instead of discarding this half-fermented pink juice, would finish it in another fermentation tank. This method, known as saignée, is the traditional Old World method of making rosé.
At Sheldrake Point, we used to crush and destem the grapes, pour into bins, and cold soak for three whole days. After hearing that some neighboring Finger Lakes winemakers were using significantly shorter maceration periods, Dave Breeden did side-by-side trials with our Cabernet Franc, and determined that the fruit flavors were nicer after a 12 hour cold soak. Additionally, even though the juice was much darker from the longer maceration, the resulting wine was the same color as after a 12 hour cold soak, since all the color precipitated out during fermentation.
Why a “cold soak” at all for our 100% Cabernet Franc Dry Rosé? We need to keep the temperature below 55 degrees to prevent spontaneous fermentation, while at the same time extracting color (and a tiny bit of tannin). Finally, the juice is pressed off, inoculated, and then fermented like white wine.
By Popular Demand
Back in 2002, we were producing approximately 400 cases of Dry Rosé, sold exclusively out of the Tasting Room. Today, one-third of our entire production is dedicated to making the Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé.
In 2013, we made 800 cases. In 2014, we doubled production to 1,600 cases—and sold out by May 2015, within a few months of bottling. So we increased again, producing 2,300 cases of the 2015 Dry Rosé…and sold through that vintage by September 2016.
Harvest 2016 gave us 45 tons of Cabernet Franc grapes; 5 tons went to making a red varietal and Ice Wine, and the remaining 40 tons went to making 2,750 cases of the Sheldrake Point 2016 Dry Rosé. That is more than triple what we produced just three years ago.
You might say that we’re giving it everything we’ve got. We are constantly thinking about how to increase the Cabernet Franc crop to meet the demand for our Dry Rosé.
Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé in a Glass Near You
Dry rosé usually makes us think of summer. And, why not? The fragrances and flavors certainly do evoke days lounging under the sunshine, but you don’t have to wait until summer! The French don’t wait, and we have been moving our Dry Rosé to market earlier each year; whereas we used to release it in late spring, we have come to understand that the Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé is desperately needed in the depths of a northeastern winter. In other words, NOW!
We prefer for you to decide for yourself what you taste and smell, but—SPOILER ALERT— here is a quick preview from our 2016 Dry Rosé Tasting Notes and Spec Sheet: Crushed fresh herbs interweave with white cherries and strawberries on the nose. A creaminess adds weight to the mid-palate, with a long finish carried by raspberries and cranberries.
The Sheldrake Point 2016 Dry Rosé is finally in the hands of our distributors, and likely to be available now in your local wine shop. (Don’t see it on the shelves? Ask for it!) Or, come by the winery or order online for your preview of summer.
Want to try more Finger Lakes Dry Rosés? Mark your calendar for:
Rosés of the Finger Lakes, at Sheldrake Point Winery, May 13, 2017.
Rosé Soiree, happening on Linden Street in Geneva, New York, June 3, 2017. It’s a favorite event of ours, and we’d love to see you there!