Wine Review: 2019 Amulet Rosé

18 04 2020

By Peter Vetsch

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

What better exemplifies the highly bizarre combination we currently face — our relieved celebration of the actual arrival of spring (I hope) after an astoundingly long winter, plus our enhanced need for vinous companionship amidst the eternal stress of a global viral pandemic — than a gigantic magnum of rosé?  And of the gigantic magnums (magnii?) of rosé to choose from, what one better exemplifies the resourceful spirit and brave acceptance of  supervening realities that we need to emerge from the other side of our immediate world health catastrophe than the 2019 Amulet Rosé?  (Also, what better time in our world history to clutch any kind of amulet as close as humanly possible, especially ones that you can drink?)  This is the defining wine for our times.  Let me explain.

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I initially tasted the inaugural release from Amulet Wines, winemaker Dwight Sick’s Rhone-focused side collaboration with Dylan and Penelope Roche, this past November.  I was highly intrigued by the red and white 2018 Amulet offerings, the former of which was anchored in the Grenache grapes from the Okanagan Kiln House Vineyard from which Sick had previously grown and bottled the first Canadian varietal Grenache wine ever released, and I looked forward to the 2019 release the next fall.  Instead, I received it in February, very shortly after the 2018s had landed and scant months after the grapes had come off the vine.  And instead of a red and a white, the 2019 vintage featured a double-sized pink:  magnums only, and a mere 258 bottles produced.  Why?

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Well, Grenache is a late-ripening, heat-loving grape, normally requiring a long and scorching growing season to show itself fully.  That’s why it is most often found in the south of France, or central Spain, where heat, dryness and mild autumns combine to give it all the time it needs to get ready.  In Canada, significant work in the vineyard is necessary to allow Grenache to ripen at all, and it’s a labour of love even in ideal conditions.  2019…did not feature such conditions.  Continual September rains slowed ripening and threatened the grapes with disease at the exact time when they needed to start making their final push towards ripeness.  Then the Kiln House Vineyard received an unwelcome visit from a family of bears who used Grenache as their primary food source for the better part of a week in early October, which eliminated 40% of an already smaller and struggling crop.  Waiting further to harvest would likely have meant condemning the remaining 60% of the Grenache grapes to a similar grizzly fate, but harvesting immediately meant picking a crop that was not yet ready to turn into red wine.

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The solution?  When life hands you lemons, make rosé.  The lower ripeness and higher acid in the early-harvested grapes aligned perfectly with rosé’s standard crisp, fresh profile, and Grenache-based rosés are a staple in pink wine’s spiritual home of Tavel and other rosé hotspots around the globe.  Grenache’s thin skins help ensure a measured level of colour extraction, and its tendency to accumulate sugar quickly enhances the body of the finished wine.  As for the magnums, I interpret this (without any inside information that this is actually true) as a sort of middle finger to the series of circumstances that led to this change of course and a defiant statement that Amulet would carry on despite it all.  The wine for our times, as I said.  But could this accidental pink Amulet, assembled under duress, succeed in carrying forward the vision of this nascent brand?

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2019 Amulet Rosé Magnum (~$60)

The remainder of the 2019 Kiln House Grenache, 72% of the overall rosé blend, was assisted in this endeavour by 28% Syrah from Sunrise Vineyard in Oliver.  Each varietal was harvested by hand in mid-October (probably without bear spray for the Syrah) and then handled slightly differently in the winery:  the Grenache was whole-cluster pressed with very limited skin contact, while the Syrah was destemmed and lightly crushed, with only free-run juice allowed into the fermentation.  The entirety of the wine’s colour was derived from these crushing and pressing steps as opposed to any further maceration.  After the resulting juice settled for 48 hours, it fermented at cool temperatures in neutral French oak, then rested on its lees for two and a half months, with regular batonnage (lees stirring), before being bottled a mere three months ago, in January 2020.

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Amulet Rating: 9.5/10 (The closure is a plain transparent Vinolok, but this is the star of the show.)

The wildlife-approved 2019 output of the Kiln House Vineyard exhibits an impressive level of colour given its delicate winemaking processes; as the transparent bottle displays to the world, this rosé is a piercingly bright, brilliant salmon colour that invites further exploration.  Eager blood orange, rock salt, Meyer lemon and frozen watermelon greet the nose, with stray traces of cardamom, chlorine, and Bazooka Joe dust constantly circling and a biting mineral streak lending the necessary measure of austerity.  Bone dry on the palate (literally, at 0.8 g/L of residual sugar), it strikingly resembles a white peach with all of its sugar strained out, fleshy but crystalline, quartz and Tums seesawing with sour raspberry candy and rose petals.  The acid is measured, but the wine’s pervasive chalky structure makes it seem livelier; the lees-aided texture surrounds the tongue and remains throughout a lengthy finish.  Screw September rains, and bears, and viruses, but raise a glass to the human spirit.

90 points


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