Rosé Soirée: Like Fight Club, but with Pink Wine

The first rule of Rosé Soirée, is that what happens at Rosé Soirée stays at Rosé Soirée… until everyone shares it on Instagram.

The Rosé Soirée is a night dedicated to one type of wine, Rosé! Despite having a rough past due to its association with the ill-named “White Zinfandel”, a pink sugary grape drink, Rosé has increasingly become the darling of winemakers and aficionados. The soiree celebrates this dry, complex, and highly variable wine that now is found at nearly every winery in the Finger Lakes.

Rosé Soirée takes place in the middle of Geneva, NY. Linden Street, home to some of the more popular drinking and eating establishments, is blocked off and lined with tables covered by pink linens. Between the tents dedicated to wineries, there are food vendors and live music that you can enjoy whilst sipping away at the many different types of Rosés. Limited tickets were sold, and guests were invited to wear pink, creating a stunning sea of pink people drinking pink wines. The funds raised from the event are distributed to different groups in Geneva support arts, cultural and children’s activities.

In total, 28 wineries were represented from various Finger Lakes, and each had one to two different types of Rosé. Guests moved from tent to tent, sampling the various offerings, then returning to the crowds at the middle to compare notes, maybe take a quick food break, or dance away to the amazingly talented tunes of the Lipker Sisters.

Oh So Many Rosés

Here’s the challenge with a Rosé festival… my tasting notes are nearly identical, and its hard without directly tasting one against another to really flesh out the nuanced differences.

The majority of Rosé wines have notes of cherry, strawberry and watermelon to varying degrees, so instead of just mentioning the same thing over and over, I’m going to share a few of my highlights and the interesting notes that set them apart.

Anthony Road 2016 Rosé (Made from Cabernet Franc): Along with the expected zing of cherry, there were notes of red pepper and citrus, balanced out by a bright acidity. We were big fans of their 2015, and are even more excited about this new vintage.

Wicked Water 2016 Rosé (Made from Cabernet Franc): This wine varied from the others with stronger notes of strawberry, citrus, and a cleansing effervescence (slight bubbles). Crisp, refreshing and light.

Kelby James Russel 2016 Dry Rosé (Made from Cabernet Franc): This was one of the more herbaceous and fresh, with hints of something that reminded us of dill that balanced out the strawberry and cherry. It was also one of the most striking for its bright pink color!

Barnstormer 2016 Sangiovese Rosé (Made from Sangiovese): It was interesting to try something that wasn’t the traditional Cab Franc or Pinot Noir, and the wine definitely had a meatiness not present in others. Citrus, sour cherry, and a great minerality provide a contrast to the lingering tannin and weightiness.

Hosmer Brut Rosé NV (Made from Pinot Noir): Made using the “champagne method”, this sparkling was a nice break from the still wines we were sampling. It had pleasant floral notes, a little acidic raspberry, and a nice lingering bread-like taste. This was one of two wines that I went back to for another taste.

Red Tail Ridge, Billsboro Winery and Hermann J. Weimer were also among my top favorites, but since I’m visiting the wineries in the next couple weeks I’ll save my tasting notes. I was also a fan of Barry Brothers, Wagner, Atwater, McGregor, Point of the Bluff and Sheldrake Point… but I tried them later in the night so my notes are as complete. I will clearly need to re-try them. There were also many I didn’t get to try, with over 30 options, I missed out on some wineries like 240 Days, Zugibe, Ravines, Knapp, Dr. Frank and others.

Food Break

A key element of surviving a wine festival is making sure to drink water and take food breaks throughout. And when Christopher Bates is serving up the food, you make sure that eating is a priority. For dinner, we split two delightful treats prepared by Bates as part of his mobile FLX Weinery station: The Soiree, chicken fried in lard with homemade zucchini pickles and watermelon, and his interpretation of Frito Pie, cheesy, chili goodness mixed into a Frito bags with loads of chips. The two spicy options went great with the bright citrusy wines (not surprising given that Bates is a fantastic sommelier).

With our palates cleansed by chicken fat goodness, we were able to return to the wine tasting refreshed and ready for round two.

In Sum… Drink More Pink Wine

What you really learn from doing a festival devoted to a single type of wine, is that there is so much diversity and so many different ways of doing things- which is great since everyone has their own perfect rosé. Multiple times throughout the night, I found myself in conversation with people who were head over heels for Rosés that were not my favorites. This is one of my favorite parts of wine tasting, trying the same wine as someone else and having a completely different experience. Some people prefer more acid, some more tannin, some like sweeter, and some dislike specific flavors. Having the wine diversity mixed with the diversity of palates made the conversations fascinating and fun. And it isn’t just an event for wine nerd or winemakers, its for everyone!

I also found that after having so much Rosé, the ones that stuck with me and I wanted more of were the oddball ones that had strong notes and stood out, rather than the ones that were most typical to the varietal. It will be interesting to go back and re-try these when I’m having a single glass of pink wine rather than many.

My one criticism of the event, was that even though we got there before people were allowed entry, all of the tables were reserved by people who had brought massive feasts. It did take away from the event knowing that you wouldn’t be able to sit down all night. The benefit of that is you burn off the calories you’re consuming, but it did make eating dinner a little challenging.

Overall, I’m looking forward to exploring more Rosé around the Finger Lakes, and I’ll see you at the Rosé Soirée next year… I’ll be the one dressed in pink.

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