In spring, the bloom is on the rose


Rose is an ideal warm weather wine. Combining the refreshing qualities of a white wine with some of the fruit flavors customarily found in red wine, it is remarkably food friendly, typically pairing well with summer fare. Most roses are light and easy drinking, best served while young and very chilled. But when we are in the mood for a more complex and richer rose, we often reach for one from Tavel.

Located in France’s southern Rhone valley, Tavel is the only appellation that produces exclusively rose wines. A favorite of kings, popes and Ernest Hemmingway, among others, the roses from Tavel are blends of mostly grenache, cinsault, syrah and mouvedre, with a few other grapes often added for additional support.

Roses are usually made by minimizing the grape skin contact with the juice, since all the pigmentation comes from the skin. Saignee, the French word for “bleeding,” is another technique whereby some of the lighter juice is poured off to make a rose, allowing the remaining juice to become more concentrated. Blending white and red wine to create rose is proscribed in France.

Tavel roses derive their intensity by keeping some of the juice in contact with skins longer and then blending that with lighter juice. In contrast to other roses, their flavors are more intense and complex, their alcohol content is higher and they do not have to be drunk while young but can be aged for several years.

One of Rhone’s finest wine producers is Domaine Lafond-Roc Epine, an organic winery whose portfolio includes a kosher Tavel rose. Its kosher Tavel Rose 2010 ($25) has currant and raspberry aromas with deep red fruit flavors and noticeable minerality on a medium frame with terrific balance, complexity and length. Not a rose for the meek nor to sip solo, rather this beauty should be paired with grilled foods.

Spirits-wise, even though it is Passover, we thought we’d tease those still pining for liquid chametz by thinking back to “Rabbi Antine’s Fourth Annual Guys Night Out & Seder Summit,” held April 6 at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac.

The event featured a tasting of 50 different whiskies and some awesome barbecue beef ribs and fried chicken. Although all the whiskies were solid, one of the real standouts for the night was the 18-year-old Glen Elgin bottled under the excellent Single Cask Nation label by the always reliable Jewish Whisky Company. To buy its excellent booze, one must first join their Single Cask Nation private members society – we are both founding members and encourage everyone to join as well (check out for details). Membership includes one full-size “welcome bottle,” and then, of course, membership entitles you to buy more. So join, and, before it is sold out, buy the following:

Single Cask Nation, Glen Elgin 18 year old, Bourbon Cask (54.9 percent abv; price tbd as of this writing but likely around $150; just 277 bottles): sweet, malty, cereal nose with lovely floral accents, and hints of citrus, peach and honey; with time (and a few drops of water) these open wide and deep, with peach gaining strength, giving way to some intriguing tropical notes (like ripe to overripe pineapple), with oddly complementary pine tree creeping in. Warm and creamy, yet somehow light and fresh, on the palate, with more of that lovely malty and cereal sweetness, a touch of ginger and white pepper, and some light yet discernible tannic oak notes that give way to both vanilla and an intriguing nuttiness. The short, yet mouth-watering, finish leads inexorably to another dose.

Overall, this is a complex, absorbing, rewarding and extremely satisfying whisky.


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