You know the feeling: You’re in an unfamiliar wine shop, say you want a good rosé for a picnic, and the salesman shows you to a nearby shelf, which has a grand total of six offerings. You don’t recognize a single bottle, so you ask for a suggestion, and the guy just points to the most expensive. Now you’re at sea, because he appears to know very little about any of the bottles. What to do? How to pick? This happened to me just recently, except that I had one additional piece of information: The shop, which is called the Oxbow Wine Merchant and is situated near downtown Napa, is owned by Peter Granoff, a master of wine and master sommelier with an astonishing depth of knowledge. And it’s a very classy store, with a fabulous cheese counter, a tasting bar, and an appetizer kitchen.
So even though Granoff’s salesman wasn’t much help, Granoff’s own spectral presence encouraged me to take a risk—and not on the $32 bottle, either, in part because that was too obvious, and in part because it wasn’t right for my occasion. I was just going to a casual picnic, and I didn’t want the wine to feel like a big deal.
I grabbed the absolute cheapest rosé on the shelf, priced at $13. My theory was that Granoff simply would not offer so few rosés without making sure that every single bottle was a good find.
Goodness, what a lovely wine! And what a lovely glow it gave to an evening picnic with my sister, her family, and my parents—who, incidentally, had brought a rosé from yet another retailer (and importer) one certainly ought to trust. That would be Kermit Lynch, and his terrific summer picnic wine is described below.
Peter Granoff’s Bottle: 2007 Floresta Empordà
Grapes: 50 percent Garnacha, 42 percent Merlot, 8 percent Tempranillo
Producer: Pere Guardiola, Catalunya
Alcohol: 13.5 percent
My Tasting Notes: Darker in color than many French rosés, this wine jumps into your nose with berries (in a good way, I mean), and has a racy mineral finish. It was sensational with all the random charcuterie I brought to the meal, the duck rillettes and pâté and so on.
Kermit Lynch’s Offering: 2007 Mas Champart Saint-Chinian Rosé—Languedoc
Grapes: 60 percent Syrah, 20 percent Mourvèdre, 20 percent Cinsault, all from steep, terraced hillside vineyards in the western Languedoc
Aging: Cold-fermented in stainless steel, then aged on the lees for 90 days
Alcohol: 13 percent
My Tasting Notes: Much paler than the swarthy Spaniard above, this is all about crisp fruit and warm evening shadows. Not much of it out there, unfortunately: Fewer than 300 cases were produced.