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Winery Blog


Brandon St.Martin
May 21, 2013 | Brandon St.Martin

2012 Chiara Rosé (Is Your Rosé Saignée or Nay?)

Do you ever just wanna flip out trying to discern, or worse, annunciate all the European wine-speak? Well, you’re not alone, mon frère. It’s intimidating, even for the nerdiest wine nerd. Let’s tackle two French words ubiquitous in the wine world: Rosé (easy) and Saignée (not so much).

Rosé (aka Rosado, Rosato, Blush, Yada Yada): In all reality, the Ancients were drinking Rosé before any other type of wine. Red and white grapes were often crushed together, where wild yeast fermentation yielded very low alcohols of say 3 to 5 percent. Crude practices and low alcohols meant very little pigment and tannin extraction from the grape skins, which netted pink-ish wines of varying hue and opacity. (Basically, they didn’t know what they were doing. Inebriation was the goal. And Rosé was born...)

Today, Rosé wines are a universe unto themselves, elevated to a serious “art form” in the Mediterranean. I encourage all to play around with the famous orange-hued Grenache Rosés of Tavel, or the bone-dry Cinsault Rosés of Bandol in Southern France. They will rock your world (and some of them will kick your butt and take your lunch money – a real Rosé is NOT a wimpy wine).

FYI, legit makers of Rosé enter the growing season and winemaking effort with the end game of creating a Rosé and no other style of wine. This means you grow specific varietals with particular tannic structure, acidity, and pigmentation. Then you harvest the crop at lower sugars and lesser maturation, to ensure the brightness, delicacy, and layering in the finished wine. Upon crushing, and cold-soaking, the grape must is left in contact with skins for as little as 4-5 hours, only to be pressed off into tanks or barrels for final fermentation protocols.

Saignée (French for “bleeding”) – If a winemaker’s wishes to embolden a red wine (ie: Zinfandel) with greater structure, tannin, pigmentation and density, a technique commonly employed is “Saignée.” Very simply, after a short period of skin-contact, a small percentage of the freshly crushed grape juice is bled out of the holding vessel, in order to leave the remaining juice in contact with all the grape skins, pulp, pips. This serves to concentrate and fully transfer most all tannins and polyphenols (flavors, pigments, aromas – all the stuff that makes a wine interesting). The Saignée run (bled-off juice) retains a pink-ish hue, due to its very brief skin-contact. This wine goes through barrel or tank fermentation for several months prior to bottling.

We employed both press run and Saignée run techniques in crafting our 2012 Chiara Rosé, blending the two differently finished wines together right before bottling. You’ll first notice (and come to love) a natural light-pink “haze” or “glow” to our Rosé – it’s more translucent than transparent, with suspended particulates in the wine. We utilized old-world, red wine vinification processes to make our Chiara Rosé, including no filtration and no fining. In short, we’ve left all the good stuff in the wine, as Bacchus intended, versus modern clarification efforts designed to remove micro-elements – harsh processes that potentially rob a wine of its natural essence and personality.

50 percent of the 2012 Chiara Rosé wine was aged in neutral French oak for several months, 50 percent in steel barrique. This combines the best worlds of soft, rounded approachable Rosé with bright, lively, refreshing Rosé. Put them together and you’ve got a  summertime charmer that "floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee."

The 2012 Chiara Rosé of Zinfandel is very dry with a killer, svelte, nimble build…this wine is  a roadster, not a sedan. This wine will snap you right back to summer sunsets, watermelon by the slice, grenadine cocktails, green apples, and fields of tall grasses...

Fellas, you won't disappoint the ladies going with the 2012 Chiara Rosé of Zinfandel. And ladies, this wine is like Sinatra in his prime; it’s a charmer that will win over even your mother-in-law. Plus, the Chiara Rosé pairs wonderfully with the following: 1) anything; 2) anyone; 3) anytime. So, get it while it's HOT.

Ciao, Y'all!

- Brandon

Brandon St.Martin, CWP CS | Winery Sommelier

Time Posted: May 21, 2013 at 2:29 PM
Brandon St.Martin
April 10, 2013 | Brandon St.Martin

2012 Chiara Bianco (Like No Other, Brother)

Who’s ready for the coolest, smartest, wine of the summer? Line up and get it while you can, friend. Like Burt Wonderstone, this stuff is gonna disappear...

Named for Michael's mother, this "Chiara Bianco" from Chiarello Vineyards promises to be our best white wine ever made. Tune into any wine aficionados and they are all waxing poetic about 2012 as “California’s vintage of the century.” On top of that, from a wine grape standpoint, the coolest kids in school right now are the varietals Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano. Guess what? This Chiara Bianco is a trifecta: a 2012 vintage comprising two-thirds Ribolla and one-third Tocai.

Ribolla Gialla and also Tocai Friulano (same grape as Sauvignonasse or Sauvignon Vert) hail from the most northeastern wine region in Italy, known as Friuli, where most all rock-star Italian white wines are born. Friuli is mostly serious, independent, mom-and-pop winegrowing, not unlike Napa Valley.

Chef Michael always champions “versatility” as an attribute of a great wine. It’s no secret that Chef loves the Giana Zinfandel because it pairs so famously with myriad dishes in all seasons. With versatility in mind, Michael brought into being our Chiara Bianco. It works wonderfully well as a “winter-white” that stands up to hearty dishes by fireplace hearths. Conversely, it makes for “the perfect patio pounder” for summertime cookouts, as assistant winemaker John Giannini attests (love it!).

The first cool thing (and WOW factor) you’ll discover about the Chiara Bianco is its natural “haze” – old-world in style, more translucent than transparent, with suspended particulates in the wine. We utilized a RED wine vinification process to make our WHITE Chiara Bianco. With reds, you leave the wine in contact with all the grape matter, lees, and oak, so as to add scope and scale to a wine. In short, we’ve left all the good stuff in the wine, versus modern filtration and fining designed to remove micro-elements – harsh processes that potentially rob a wine of its natural essence and personality.

To add character, structure, dimension, weight, mouth-feel, and a little “versatility” to the 2012 Chiara Bianco, we de-stemmed, cold-soaked, pressed-out, punched-down and fermented about 15% of this wine in contact with the grape skins for a period of 18 days, much as one might with red wine production. Fatty acids, proteins, delicate tannins, pigments, and flavor compounds (phenolics) are thus transferred from the grape skins and pulp into the wine. A majority of the wine was aged in neutral French oak for several months, sans filtration or fining along the way. We want our Italian-varietal Chiara Bianco wine to mirror the food-flexibility of say a barrel-aged Semillon or Chardonnay, while also remaining true to its original Friulano wine heritage.

This 2012 Chiara Bianco reminisces of white peach, pear, honeydew, plantains, papaya, kiwi fruit, allspice, and subtle floral notes on its nose and palate. Wonderfully balanced acidity and alcohol work in tandem to refresh and restore the palate for the next course or next conversation.

Score some of this seductive, liquid gold for yourself and your friends, and enjoy it over 2013 and 2014, as it continues gains in complexity. A wine for all food, all people, all occasions, and all seasons – a wine like no other, brother!

Ciao Y'all!

- Brandon

Brandon St.Martin CWP CS | Winery Sommelier

Time Posted: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:16 AM