Need Help Choosing a Rosé? | GSM Rosé Showdown


It is that time of year again. Time to get outside and enjoy the weather. What better way then with your favorite bottle of Rosé? But wait, let's say you don't have a favorite bottle...or you are new to Rosés and don't know the differences between them and want to learn some more about them, well then you have come to the right place. Since there are so many different kinds of Rosés (blends, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Sangiovese, Cinsaut, and that's only distinguishing them by varietal) we decided to narrow it down to three specific kinds of Rosés. All domestic, all from California.

To make it fun we decided to call it out little GSM Rosé Showdown. Of course like a Rhone-blend, we tried to choose three single varietal Rosés; one Grenache, one Syrah and one Mourvédre.

Before getting started on tasting our little lineup we had to look into a few things to satisfy our intellectual curiosity. To start off how do these styles of Rosé tend to differ? That's a good question to start with, but a broad one. We decided to do a little research to see what we could find out about Rosé wines made with these different varietals. Let's try and put a short list of answers together, here goes nothing!

Here is some general information about Rosés. There is a whole realm of styles of Rosés. These different styles can be fruity, savory, floral, dry, sweet, and of course can be made through different methods of wine-making. On the far left side of the spectrum, they can be light and fruity with some crisp acidity. This style of Rosé wines typically are fruity in nature as well as being a bright ruby red. Switching to the far right side of the spectrum. Rosés on this side can be savory with some herb or gamey elements. Depending on where the Rosé is from (France vs USA etc) can also lead to specific styles the Rosé could be made in, such as a light elegant or fruity Rosé to a more serious fuller and more complex Rosé. We experienced quite a broad spectrum in just the three we tried. Let's look at some differences between what is usually expected from these varietals and then how ours turned out. Take a look below to see what we mean, starting with the Grenache Rosé.

Grenache Rosé:

What is a Grenache Rosé? From doing a little research online it is hard to find a definitive answer to this question. Trust us this is not an easy question either with a short and quick answer, but it can easily be broken down into multiple parts. Here are just a few we are trying to figure out: What types or styles are there of Grenache Rosé? Do different regions specialize in a specific style of Grenache Rosé? and What are some general characteristics that differentiate Grenache Rosés from other Rosés?

Let us start with taking about Rosés from different regions. For example with Grenache Rosés there are a couple main regions that are known for making Rosés out of Grenache or using Grenache in their blends. The first one is Provence in France which is located in South Eastern France. In Provence, France they are known for making dry, crisp, refreshing, clean and bright Rosés. Staying in France there is another famous Rosé wine region called Tavel, which is located in the Southern Rhone Valley, just South West of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Lirac. Rosés out of Tavel, France are known to have a dry palate, complex nose with citrus notes and red fruits that develops further into some slight savory notes and spices. France is not the only country that produces Grenache Rosé, Spain produces a quite a few out of Navarra and another country is the United States which generally makes a sweeter style when it comes to Rosés. There is a short (very short) preview into what can be offered with Grenache Rosés. Let us check out the other two varietals we are looking into before the Showdown begins, next on the list is Syrah Rosé!

Syrah Rosé:

We have similar questions to what we had for Grenache Rosés. Why Syrah, and how does it differ from Grenache?

Typically Syrah Rosés are savory in nature, deep ruby pinks and bring out some of the unusually notes that you can get from the full range of Syrah wines such as; pepper, red fruits, olives etc. Truly some interesting notes on the nose. Usually a Syrah Rosé is one of the fuller bodied Rosés. There are no regions that specifically focus on making single varietal Syrah Rosés. Some regions that do produce them range from the Rhone Valley in France, Languedoc, France, Rapel Valley in Chile and of course Washington and California. Our Rosé for the tasting was completely different mainly due to the fact that there is a white varietal known as Muscat which is a white wine varietal. Characteristics from Muscat can be the aroma of honeysuckle and apricots, as well as a slight sweetness on the palate. Let us see what we can find out about the last varietal of the GSM Showdown.

Mourvedre Rosé:

What are some common characteristics of Mourvedre Rosé? Do any regions specialize in making Mourvedre Rosés and how do they differ?

Last in the GSM acronym is Mourvedre. Usually Mourvedre Rosés have lots of floral and fruity elements, which can range from gardenia to lavender on the floral front and lychees to dark berries on the fruity fruit. In our experience we found that they are very rounded, have moderate to high acidity and have medium bodies compared to some of the other varietals used to make Rosés. As for any specific region that specialize in making Mourvedre Rosés, there is one that stands out. One sub-region in Provenance, France called Bandol. Bandol is one of the only regions that predominately uses Mourvedre in making their Rosé wines. These Rosés are usually have some wet stone elements, tropical fruits, light and delicate. Very similar to the one we tried today.

One last side note, before getting into these beautiful Rosés! Above we briefly mentioned different wine-making techniques that can be used, well what does that mean? There are two main types of wine-making methods used for making Rosé wines. The first method is widely used in the United States and is known as the Saignée Method, which bleeds off some of the juice from the production of red wines into a separate container for making a Rosé. Using this method will tend to create a Rosé with a lot of red wine characteristics and concentration. The second method is Maceration Method which is most commonly used in areas such as Provence. The Maceration Method is when grapes are crushed and cold soaked with the skins for anywhere from two to twenty hours prior to fermentation. This is done to add the pink color to the wine and some of the aromatic effects from the skins. A great source to learn more about this is from Wine Folly.

If you want to find out more about the different styles and types just do a quick google search and see what some other wine writers have found it, there are some really interesting articles out there!

Now for the goods! Starting off the tasting we have the M of the GSM Rosé Showdown, the 2015 Tercero Wines Mourvedre Rosé. Check out our note.

2015 Tercero Wines Mourvedre Rosé Vogelzang Vineyard

Background Information:

Brand new bottling of the Tercero Mourvedre Rosé from the Vogelzang Vineyard. If we are correct, we believe this was just bottled at the end of February. The Vogelzang Vineyard is located in a newly classified AVA in Santa Barbara County called the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, which was classified as an AVA in November of 2009. Very interesting name to say the least. The name Happy Canyon comes from a legend during the Prohibition Period when folks would “take a trip up to Happy Canyon”. Definitely seems like an appropriate name given this killer wine. This vineyard is located on south-eastern corner of the Santa Ynez Valley which gives it a distinct micro-climate. This micro-climate brings in a morning fog that quickly leaves and gives the vines extended periods of heat during the day until the sea breeze blows over cooling down the vineyard. Additionally the vineyard is made up of a gravely loam soil mixed with some rocks and rubble to help with irrigation. Larry Schaffer particularly likes this vineyard for his Rosé since the Mourvedre does not get too ripe which makes for this perfect Mourvedre Rosé.

What about some more specifics about this wine? This is a single varietal Rosé made up of 100% Mourvedre. Larry stomps the grapes himself and leaves them on the skins for around an hour before dumping them into the press. This is how Larry gets the beautiful light color and texture in his Rosé. A lot of manual labor and hard work goes into making this beautiful Rosé. As for aging this is aged for four months in older french barrels. Only 6 1/2 barrels produced, super small production! His inspiration comes from the Mourvedre-based Rosés of the Bandol region of Provenance.

Tasting Note:April 29, 2016

First Rose of the tasting is the Mourvedre Rose from Tercero Wines. Absolutely beautiful in color, completely different than the Two Shepherds and the Scalon Cellars. Bright, clear and light orangey pink, almost like peach or beige. Nose was coated with white and tropical fruits such as guava, white peaches, lychee, and some light green apples. So much going on but a lot more complex than just the clean fruits. There was also a slight dirty fruit side accompanied with some light wood chips and wet stones as it warmed up. Strong acidity with a crisp, tangy, beautifully tart and refreshing body. Started out with guava and lychee on the palate that definitely brought out some additional tartness in the white and red fruits. As it opened up there were some slight savory notes with a little wet grass like right after a rain storm. Very refreshing. Long and lingering finish. Was a little tight to start but by the end we were very impressed! Cannot wait to try more of the wines made by Larry. Highly recommend.

Drink Dates:

2016 till 2022.


92 points.

Price Point:

$$ – Sample provided by the Estate. Can be purchased from the Estate for $25.00.

2014 Scalon Cellars Syrah Rosé

Background Information:

This Rosé comes from the Scalon Vineyard in Coombsville, Napa Valley which is located west of downtown Napa Valley. This bottle is comprised of 75% Syrah and 25% Muscat. Of course with the Muscat we were expecting a little sweetness to this Rosé compared to the others. Additionally is was the highest of the three in alcohol content with 14.0% compared to the 12.5% for the Tercero Mourvedre and 12.1% for the Two Shepherds Grenache. We were also able to find out that this wine was aged for five months in stainless steel tanks and there were only 50 cases produced.

Tasting Note:April 29, 2016

Second Rosé of the tasting is the Syrah Rosé from Scalon Cellars. Beautiful and bright pink in color, completely different than the Tercero Wines and a shade lighter than the Two Shepherds. Nose started out with some strawberries, red berries and some light vanilla. As it opened up over the evening it developed some rose petals and light white floral notes. Beautifully crisp and refreshing. Slightly sweet with a good amount of white and red fruits such as strawberries and white peaches on the palate. Moderate acidity (6.5/10) and smooth body. Long crisp and off-dry finish.

Drink Dates:

2016 till 2020.


91 points.

Price Point:

$$ – Purchased through the Estate for around $30.00 but we believe it is sold out right now.

2014 Two Shepherds Wines Grenache Rosé Ceja Farms

Background Information:

This is only the second Rosé produced by William Allen of Two Shepherds and the first from the Sonoma Coast. This Sonoma Coast bottling is from the Ceja Farms Vineyard in Sonoma Coast which is actually owned by one William’s peers, Sheldon Wine. This was not the first time that William has used the fruit from Ceja Farms. Since he was familiar with the vineyard and the quality of the grapes he decided to pick one ton early to be used for a Rosé since he does not use the Saignée method for any of his Rosés. This wine is made of 100% Grenache, and aged for five months in both neutral oak and stainless steel. Only 60 cases produced. After trying this Rosé by William we are definitely going to be out on the hunt for more of his small lot wines! He also told us that even though his production is up to 1500 cases a year that all his wines are small lot wines as he usually makes about 15 different bottlings all under or around 100 cases a piece. Some really exciting stuff that we cannot wait for!

Tasting Note:April 29, 2016

Third Rosé of the tasting is the Grenache Rosé from Two Shepherd Wines. Absolutely beautiful in color, completely different than the Tercero Wines and a deeper and darker color than the Scalon Cellars. Definitely showing that William’s decision to leave the crushed grapes on the skins cold soaked for 48 hours. This Rosé was a deep rose pink almost magenta pink. Nose kept changing over the evening and even the next day. Straight out of the glass this wine attacked with strawberries and some white cherries. As it opened up there was a savory twist to it, very appealing for us. Moderate acidity (7/10), slightly less than the Tercero but was nicely balanced and in line with the moderate plus body. Beautiful texture and complexity. Acidity gripped the sides of your mouth mid palate and left you with a slight puckered feeling. Slightly dry finish that felt like it would not end. We enjoyed it best above fridge temperature, but give it a chance to warm up a little, the complexity continues to grow. Completely agree that we need to grab a few more of these before they are gone!

Drink Dates:

2016 till 2021.


93 points.

Price Point:

$ – Purchased for $22.36 from Weygandt Wines in Washington, DC.

Well….How were they? Any final thoughts?

To be completely honest, these wines were all completely different as you can see from the tasting notes above. It would be easy to pick up any one of these and have a perfect day outside in the sun! Yes, the Two Shepherds had the highest score, but doesn’t mean it was our number one favorite. Confusing right? Let’s sum it all up. Each of these Rosés can be perfect just depending on your mood. The Scalon Cellars Rosé was definitely sweeter with lots of red fruits and vanilla on the nose and palate. Great acidity which was probably a lot higher than we felt but the sweetness obscures. For the Tercero Rosé, it just kept changing and developing more complex flavors of tropical, citrus fruits. Additionally it had some perfect acidity accompanied with a crisp dry finish. Same with the Two Shepherds Rosé in relation to the complexity of flavors, but these were full of herbs and savory notes. All stunning Rosés and highly recommended! We know that people say Rosés should be had when they are only a year or two old, but these have the acidity and backbone to last a little longer, not much but a little.

Hopefully you enjoyed learning about some of these Rosés and estates as much as we did and hopefully you find some of these to try in the near future! If you do, shoot us an email or a comment and we can talk some more about it! We always want to see other people’s opinions!

Where are they located? 2445 Alamo Pintado Avenue, Suite 104, Los Olivos, CA 93441

Do you need an appointment? No, they have a tasting room that is open Thursday through Monday from Noon until 5:00 PM.

Winemaker: Larry Schaffer

Price Ranges: $25.00 to $50.00

Recommend: We have heard a lot about Larry’s Rhone varietals, we are definitely going to try and get some to review in the future. As for now, Rosé is highly recommended.

Where are they located? Private address in Coombsville, Napa Valley

Do you need an appointment? Yes, contact Tim Goodwin at

Winemaker: Prior to 2015 the winemaker was Marbue Marke, now it is Julien Fayard.

Price Ranges: $30.00 to $85.00

Recommend: Absolutely beautiful estate and wine cave, highly recommend visiting especially for their flagship wine, Cabernet Sauvignon. If you do visit you can also taste Caldwell Vineyards and Moone-Tsai Wines in the same wine cave.

Where are they located? 7763 Bell Road, Windsor, CA

Do you need an appointment? Yes, contact William Allen at, call 415-613-5731 or schedule one online. Tastings are $15.00 but waived with purchase.

Winemaker: William Allen

Price Ranges: $22.00 to $40.00

Recommend: Second wine we have had from Two Shepherds Wines and we are actively looking for more to try! Stunning wines, highly recommended.