No wine pairs better with a Hamptons summer than a cold bottle of Wölffer Estate Rosé. Iconic and perfectly suited to East End foods, beaches and boats, it was also among the first Long Island wines to have a wide distribution. To this day you’ll find it on wines lists across Long Island and in Manhattan. I even drank a bottle at a small bistro in Burlington, Vt., back in 2005.
Winemaker Roman Roth makes some of Long Island’s best and most-celebrated wines, but he also makes a lot of rosé. A lot. In 2015, he produced more than 25,000 cases of the orange-label estate wine, 12,000-plus cases of his newest rosé, “Summer in a Bottle,” and almost 1,200 cases of Grandioso Rosé.
Without counting his sparkling rosé or the late-harvest, dessert-style rosé that he’s made before, Roth made more rosé in 2015 than many Long Island wineries make wine overall in any given year.
When Roth introduced the Grandioso bottling in 2008, he did so to showcase the more artisanal side of the estate. Sophistication was the goal.
“At Wölffer we are always working hard to improve quality and make wines with character and style,” he said. “We have an amazing following for our Estate Rosé and for the Summer in a Bottle Rosé. On the other hand, we are also well-respected for our high-end White Horse “Reserve” white and red wines.”
Roth wanted to make a rosé that lived up to that reputation — and he has succeeded.
When people think of “Reserve Wine” they often think about bigger, bolder or even oakier. But according to Roth, “That would be the last thing that we want a Wölffer rosé to taste and look like.”
To capture and preserve vibrant fruit aromas and fresh acidity, the grapes for Grandioso are picked on the “early side” of the ripening curve. The resulting juice is then fermented in 8-year-old French Barrique that is old enough not to impart any oak-borne flavors. If you notice nuttiness or caramel notes, Roth attributes this to a hotter fermentation and the four months the wine spends on the lees —spent yeast cells and other precipitates in the wine. Stirring of the lees, a process known as batonage, gives the wine a richer, creamier mouthfeel than it would have otherwise.
“Over the four months, these two opposing traits — the fresh and vibrant fruit and the rich and creamy barrel fermentation character — melt together and form this amazingly complex rosé with lots of character and layers,” Roth says.
Like his other rosés, Grandioso is a blend of red and white grapes, with 49 percent merlot, 25 percent cabernet franc, 24 percent chardonnay and 2 percent gewürztraminer.
“I do like blended rosés versus single-variety ones. My goal is to make a wine that is complex and pushes on all cylinders and not just ‘Push one button!’ ” Roth says.
When asked what Old World wine he likes to compare Grandioso to, Roth doesn’t mention Provencal rosé, like you might expect. With its texture and that lees-derived character, he says, “I would say it follows more in the footsteps of a Muscadet Sur lie or a great Grand Cru Chablis.”
With its combination of creaminess and freshness, Grandioso is just as versatile as wines like those — perhaps even more so. Cooler (make sure you don’t over-chill it), it is bright and peachy, with juicy citrus notes and a subtle herbal quality. But as it warms to nearly room temperature, it develops a bit more heft and breadth, leaning almost into light red wine territory.
“It is our most versatile wine,” Roth says. “I think it can go with almost everything from shellfish to steak.”
When pressed to name a single dish he enjoys best with his most elegant rosé, Roth says, “I do love it with wild mushroom risotto. I think it brings out the best of the Grandioso.”