Wine Review: 2015 Gramercy Cellars Olsen Vineyard Rosé

19 07 2016
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Think pink.  And WA State.

This is the first time in a long time that I’ve sat down to write about a wine just because I wanted to.  I love (and am continually amazed by) the opportunity this blog has afforded me to try new bottles and attend incredible tasting events, but every once in a while it’s nice to step back and recalibrate and share the experience of a wine for the sheer joy of doing so.  And since there are few things that give me more joy in this world than opening a bottle of Gramercy Cellars (my favourite producer and a winery that currently occupies about 15% of my cellar), and since I’ve been waiting for this bottle of rosé to land for months now, this is definitely the wine for the task.

The story of Gramercy Cellars is the story of America’s youngest Master Sommelier, who went from serving, then sourcing, wines for some of the pinnacle dining establishments in various major US centres to making his own in rural Walla Walla, Washington, drawn to the desert in the Pacific Northwest by the potential he saw in the area’s Syrahs.  After graduating from Cornell University, Greg Harrington attained the Master Sommelier designation at age 26 (he was until recently the Chair of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas and is now on the Board as a Chair Emeritus) while working in New Orleans for famed chef Emeril Lagasse.  Stints for Wolfgang Puck in Las Vegas and the B.R. Guest Restaurant group in New York followed, but a chance tasting of Walla Walla Syrah in NYC led to a trip out to Washington State, which very quickly led to Greg and his wife Pam quitting their jobs, uprooting their lives and fast forwarding a far-off retirement dream of making their own wine to the here and now.  For me at least, Gramercy is one of a small group of Washington producers that is unwrapping the state’s wine potential in real time, turning out nuanced, textured and ageworthy wines that turn New World stereotypes on their heads.

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This particular Gramercy bottle (54% Cinsault, 24% Grenache and 22% Syrah) always seems to show up in Calgary in midsummer and always leads me on a frantic search for more within weeks of my grabbing some.  The grapes hail from the Olsen Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley, which was planted in my birth year (1980) and is well known for Rhone varietals.  Gramercy has been sourcing grapes for rosé from here for years, although its use of Cinsault to drive this blend is sort of a Plan B:  they were initially going to use this Southern Rhone grape as a minor blender in its Third Man Grenache-based red Rhone blend, but a moment of epiphany after a particularly remarkable bottle of rosé from Provence turned their thoughts pink and they never looked back.

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Cork Rating: 5.5/10 (For some reason, no vintage year on the cork ends as per usual.  Design shift?)

The 2015 Olsen is a gorgeous deep salmon colour, vivid without being lurid.  There is a distinct muskiness to the aromas and an underlying meaty tang, like cantaloupe / honeydew and the prosciutto often wrapped around them, filled in by fresh roses, watermelon Jolly Ranchers and strawberry leaves.  However, the story of this wine to me is a textural one:  the creamy yet buoyant mouthfeel on the soft, inviting attack, leading to a notable heft of body as the wine sits in your mouth, and then suddenly kicking into gear and sharpening itself to a fine point riding a torrent of finishing acidity that scours the tongue clean, a dramatic and powerful shift from its gentle, lulling entrance.  Golden raspberry, strawberry, florals, banana Runts and fresh basil almost taste sweet to start but are honed to mineral clarity by the time you swallow.  The acid, hidden at first by the generosity of texture, fires on all cylinders by the end and draws out the wine’s finish substantially.

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$40 Washington State rosé — hell, $40 ANYWHERE rosé — is never going to be an easy sell, but pink wines seem to be losing some of their stigma and picking up steam in this market, so maybe we are starting to be ready to accept that a well-made, complex, serious rosé can be just as valuable and worth your investment as a well-made white or red.  Add that the rosé is WAY better for drinking out on your back deck on a July night like this, and that Gramercy has never let me down over 5 years of buying and drinking (many, many of) their wines, and the deal starts to sound pretty good.  Find out for yourself.

91 points

$35 to $40 CDN

 

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