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As summer approaches, some of our favorite fuller-bodied, more "serious" roses are starting to arrive. These wines generally get a longer maceration with the skins, take longer to finish fermentation and receive longer aging before being bottled - offering more complex aromas and flavors with a bit more structure on the palate, making them great pairings for grilled foods this summer, and some will age beautifully as well.
We'd like to lead off with Peio Espil at Domaine Ilarria in Irrouleguy, who produces one of the world's most delicious and distinctive full-bodied rosés. Made from Tannat and Cabernet Franc grown on shist soils, the wine is deep and full-bodied, fairly dark in color, and is a unique accompaniment to full-flavored fish dishes like grilled tuna, charcuterie, white meats, grilled pork and lamb and the cheeses of Southwest France. It's one of Eric Asimov's favorite rosés, we quote him from his article "A Rosé Can Bloom in Winter" - "Who wouldn’t want a rosé like Domaine Ilarria any time of the year? This wine, a shimmering, translucent garnet in summer sun or winter snow, comes from Irouléguy in the Basque country... As fierce as rosés ever get, it’s made of tannat and cabernet franc, and it tastes like liquid rock, combined with iron and blood. I love this wine, and it was terrific recently with roasted duck and wild rice." Eric will have to change his tune for the 2020 however, as the "fierce" quality is softened by gorgeous ripe red fruits and a velvety palate making this immediately and fabulously enjoyable, with food or just sipped by itself.
We need to interrupt this rosé email as Peio's brilliant organic no-till farming produced superb wines in 2018 from tiny yields of only 15hl/ha. The Irouleguy Blanc is 55% Petit Manseng and 45% Petit Courbu grown on limestone - it's incredibly complex, dense and distinctive with unique herbal and mineral flavors that make it a great pairing with a full flavored fish or white meats in sauce. The 2018 Irouleguy Rouge is 40% Tannat, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, also on limestone - it's a great vintage for this unique wine, being a bit rounder than usual and quite delicious for current drinking. While packing a punch of dark flavors with plummy fruit, cured meats, and green herbs, there is also a signature lifted elegance to the wine.)
Languedoc and Cahors
One of our very favorite rosés each year is the wild and wonderful Coteaux du Langedoc by Mas Jullien. This is a saignée rosé made from juice that is bled off the skins of red grapes from Jullien’s vineyards on the Terraces du Larzac, made from Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvedre. While the high percentage of Cinsault brings a certain lightness and delicacy, the Carignan and Mourvedre bring a fabulous complexity of earthy, spicy red fruits and a firm structure making this wine a great food pairing for anything grilled this summer and a lamb or pork stew in colder weather. From the nearby Coteaux du Salagou comes the delightful Mas des Chimeres Rosé made by the amiable Dardé family - it shares the ripe, spicy fruit character of the Mas Jullien but in a softer style with good acidity and minerality in the finish, and it's a great value as well. A roundabout route to the northwest brings us to the rugged limestone terraces of Cahors, land of Malbec, home of the smiling Julien Ilbert and his vibrant wines of terroir. His refreshing fruit-bomb rosé translates as "The Splendid Antidote to the Heat of the Causse" and indeed this will really enliven your summer cookouts and casual meals...
Bandol and Cassis...
The great roses of Bandol originate from eroded limestone, sandy marl and sandstone soils on hillside vineyards above the Mediterranean, often built into terraces ("restanques") which preserve water and limit erosion. There are many local variations - Chateau de Pibarnon, for example, set out in a natural amphitheatre, is on an older Triassic limestone, rich in fossils, "which explains the aromatic delicacy and elegance of Pibarnon's wines" according to their website. The slow ripening Mourvedre is the predominant grape in this hot dry climate, usually blended with Grenache and Cinsault for the rosés with Clairette and Ugni Blanc sometimes added as well. We're happy to have three 2019s to offer as the tannic structure of Mourvedre can make Bandol rosé a bit tight when young - give the 2020s a few hours open or decant them for best results. The estates on offer today, Le Galantin, Chateau de Pibarnon, Domaine de la Tour du Bon and Domaine la Bastide Blanche all farm with organic methods (only Bastide Blanche is certified) and produce wines of great elegance and subtle complexity, we hope you try them all!
Just to the west we come to the very chic seaside village of Cassis with a long sloping hill of clay/limestone soils leading down to the sea. Here Mourvedre is permitted, but more frequently Grenache and Cinsault dominate, bringing a fresh and more delicate style to the wines. The Domaine du Bagnol has been certified organic for many years and uses Biodynamic methods as well - their 2020 Cassis is the epitome of an elegant and superbly refreshing Provencal rosé!
Now we'll head north to find two of our favorite lighter-bodied French Rosés, first stopping in Seguret, in the Rhône Valley, at the Biodynamic estate of our enthusiastic friend Pablo Hocht. Here, Pablo makes his simply delicious Domaine du Creve Coeur Côtes-du-Rhône "Rosé du Coucou" a direct-press rosé from Grenache and Cinsault which is silky and supple with pretty raspberry fruit and a very refreshing finish - $13.99! Continuing north to the Beaujolais we come to Charnay, home of Jean-Paul Brun's Domaine des Terres Dorees, where Jean-Paul makes his light and vibrant "Rosé d'Folie," from 100% Gamay - it's a wonderful melange of floral red fruits that is a perfect summer thirst-quencher!
And Back in the US...
The Broc Cellars 'Love Rosé' from California is finally here, and it is everything we hoped for! On the darker end of the rosé spectrum, this wine drinks almost like a light red, with just a bit of tannin, and bright, juicy red fruit notes. For something more serious and savory, check out the La Clarine 'Alors!' Rosé. This wine is their ode to Domaine Tempier and they spend two years crafting it. It spends a year on the lees developing a rich, creamy texture and savory saltiness, and then it spends another year in bottle before its release for the flavors to mellow and integrate. A beautiful, food-friendly rosé!
"This is one of my favorite rosés" said Eric Asimov in the NY Times and for good reason, as this beautiful blend of Cabernet Franc and Tannat is a vibrant and refreshing wine that pairs well with salads, seafood, white meats and grilled foods all year round. Domaine Ilarria practices superb organic, no-till farming with the goal of creating living soils that provide needed micro-nutrients and natural defenses to the vine. This is evident in al the estates wines which have a remarkable brightness and saline mineral character balancing the vibrant fruit. The 2020 Rosé shows a dark pink/garnet color and ripe, sweet aromas of red currant, black cherry, pomegranate, rose, citrus and earth. There is luscious deep cherry, red currant and raspberry fruit on the palate which is sapid and round with earth, mineral and citrus flavors that continue in the very long ripe and juicy finish. This full-bodied rosé is more forward and lush than usual and is drinking beautifully now - it will evolve gracefully for three to five years, but it's insanely delicious now so why wait? Only a small quantity reaches the US, be sure to grab some of this rare treat for the summer or for the cellar. Highly recommended! David Lillie
From organically certified vineyards, 1 ha dedicated to Petit Manseng and 1 ha to Petit Courbu, permaculture-pioneer Peio Espil offers a very unique interpretation of Irouléguy Blanc as he is one of the few growing grapes on Trias limestone, a soil so hard he had to use dynamite to plant the vines. No tilling, use of ewes to graze the spontaneous vegetation and compost the soils leads to balanced yields of very concentrated grapes. Harvested almost at the same time despite the fact Petit Courbu is usually an earlier ripening grape than Petit Manseng (Petit Courbu has usually dense cluster and thinner skin berries, but not at Ilarria thanks to the farming), both see some skin maceration (6 hours or so for the Petit Courbu, 12-14 hours for the Petit Manseng) in order to extract aromatic compounds and structure, the musts are blended right away, and fermented spontaneously, with malolactic always occurring, something very rare for the region! Long fermentations are preferred for texture. A little bit of sulfites are used after the fermentation when the wine needs to be racked from inox to demi-muids from tonnellerie de l’Adour. Then the wine stays untouched on its fine lees with racking if needed. The wine is aged up to 18 months, and doesn’t need to be filtered before bottling. Sulfites are adjusted at this time for a total round 45ppm. The 2018 has a bit more depth and roundness but retains the intense mineral/herbal backbone that makes this wine so unique. It has a surprising density with so many layers: a very complex nose of passion fruit, chamomile, yellow plum and smoked salt, the palate is very savory with a saline quality, and more dried hawthorne and thai basil leaves. It is a salivating wine with so much to give, that you want to sip on it little by little. Enjoy it today in large Burgundy glass or keep it for 10 years. For pairing, a rabbit agnolotti with dried sage or a cauliflower panna cotta with crab meat flesh and grapefruit segment.
In the French Basque hills, enveloped by Spain, Peio Espil tends his family’s estate with impressive care. Peio, after careers in both Sauternes and Jurancon, returned to Irouleguy to work sustainably, and received complete organic certification in 2008. Here he strictly adheres to a Fukuoka-inspired way of organic farming, with biodiversity in the vineyards and no plowing, with the overall health of the soil being his number one concern. The 2018 Rouge is 55% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc and it's a great vintage for this unique wine, being a bit rounder than usual and quite delicious for current drinking. While packing a punch of dark flavors of plummy fruit, cured meats, and green herbs, there is also a signature lifted elegance to the wine. This has been attributed to Peio’s commitment to vineyards of limestone, which is unique in a land known for iron-rich soils. On the table, this red would do well with Mediterranean lamb or pork dishes.
(Arrives Friday 6/18) Olivier Jullien is one of the brightest lights in the Languedoc. His farming and cellar work are meticulous and his wines express their terroir beautifully. His 2020 rosé, a blend of Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvèdre, combines ripe fruit. wild savory notes with an incisive minerality. Dark pink robe and midweight on the palate with aromas of watermelon, raspberry, spice, and garrigue on the nose. Good density and drive with deep ripe watermelon, red fruits, limestone, salt flavors on the palate. More gourmandaise than glou glou, but compelling and an excellent companion to bitter salad greens with salumi and Parmigiano Reggiano.
The Dardé family makes this unique rosé from Cinsault, Mourvedre, Terret Gris and Merlot, grown in the red soils high in iron and basalt of the Coteaux du Salagou. The wine shows ripe spicy strawberry and raspberry aromas with a supple, full palate that is refreshing as well, with a long finish of vibrant fruit and mineral flavors. This is a great rosé to serve with grilled foods this summer from tuna to grilled chicken and pork chops - and it's a sensational value!
100% Malbec (known in Cahors as Auxerrois). The vines are 40 years old, grown on clay and limestone soils at an elevation of 320m. Fermentation and aging take place in small tanks."The Splendid Antidote to the Heat of the Causse" is the amusing and appropriate name of this refreshing rosé. (The Causse is the high limestone plateau around Cahors, which gets brutally hot in the summer.) The wine shows a pretty pink/orange color and aromas of ripe cherry, raspberry and cassis with citrus and spice. There are creamy cassis, raspberry and citrus flavors on the palate which shows lovely ripeness and density, with hints of orange peel, earth, smoke and brown spice that continue in the long finish. This is quite delicious and a great value - as are all the wines from Jean-Pierre and Julien Ilbert at Combel-la-Serre. DL
(Arrives Tuesday 5/24) We love rosés from Cassis - a great location and terroir for wine despite the chic little town and hordes of tourists! In a vineyard dating back to the 13th century, situated a few hundred metres from the Mediterranean, the Domaine du Bagnol produces one of the most elegant of rosés. Part Grenache, giving structure and weight and part Cinsault, giving delicate red fruit and spice aromas, this pale salmon-colored wine is a refreshing treat!
Domaine Le Galantin in Bandol is based in Le Plan du Castellet and practices organic farming (not certified), fertilized by sheep, with manual and mechanized weed control and only organic treatments. The 2019 Rosé is approximately 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Cinsault and 20% Grenache, from vines planted on southwest facing hillsides, with clay/limestone soil. The grapes are hand-harvested, after which the bunches are cooled down for a two day cold soak to extract fruit, color and aromatics. 10% of the wine is saignée, the rest comes from grapes treated as for making white wine. Classic Provençal rosé with a pale robe, delightful tree-fruit, melon, and citrus notes (peach, nectarine, grapefruit) and a crisp finish. Structured and complex, with citrus and red fruit on the palate with a fine core of minerality. Enjoy with tapenade or vegetables on the grill.
The 2020 Pibarnon Rosé is drinking gorgeously now and will improve even more over the next few years - grab some now as the 2021 will be $41.99... This wine has a wonderful ability to combine elegance, power, class, and distinction. A blend of Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Grenache, the wine shows peach-y and stone fruit notes on the nose, mingling with the savory earth and iodine character of good Bandol Rosé. The palate offers silky textures, a certain voluptuousness, and a lovely balance of acidity to full ripe fruit.
"100% Mourvèdre, from the highest altitude and oldest vines of the estate; 50+ year old vines; indigenous yeasts; Fermented and aged in 50% 3000 L Stockinger oak barrels and 50% terracotta amphorae; Aged for 1 year before release; This is a rare, small production “Grand Rosé” from the highest altitude vineyards in all of Bandol. A complex and serious rosé that will age gracefully for decades." The wine shows a very pale pink/onion-skin color with intriguing aromas of peach, red currant, earth, citrus and stone. The palate is dense and very mineral with hints of stone fruits, red currant, brown spice and citrus, quite complex and elegant. This will benefit from long decanting or a few years in the cellar.
The magnificent Bandol appellation, known for its powerful reds and structured, elegant rosés, borders the Mediterranean Sea. Half a mile inland on a hillside near a tiny village called Le Castellet, Domaine de la Tour du Bon is quietly making some of the best wines that the appellation has to offer. The terroir here is a clay-limestone mix with a red subsoil. The 12 hectares of vines form a natural amphitheater overlooking the sea, and with abundant sunshine and very little rain, this is the hottest area in the appellation. Their beautiful rosé is made from Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, and Clairette. Lovely aromas of red currant, cherry and raspberry with citrus and herbal notes. The palate is round and expressive, but backed by good acidity. Quite long with lingering ripeness and minerality. Serve with grilled tuna or chicken or enjoy by itself and think of the Mediterranean....
(Arrives Friday 5/20) A reserved Bandol rosè, primarily Mourvedre with Cinsault, Grenache, Clairette and Ugni Blanc. The Mourvedre is pressed and run off directly, the Cinsault and Grenache undergo 24 hours of skin contact. Certified organic grapes from the Bronzo family vineyard in Le Castellet. The 2020 has a coppery, salmon-colored robe. The nose, initially backward, offers an array of stone fruit and savoy herb notes, with garrigue and ripe peach aromas vying for attention with aeration. The palate offers peach skin, orange oil, and earthy flavors leading to a long, persistent, sapid finish. This will benefit from a decant or some time open - drink now and over the next three to five years.
The young Pablo Hocht makes beautiful wines at his Biodynamic estate in Seguret (southern Rhone) - his "Rosé du Coucou" is a refreshing direct-press rosé made with old vines of 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault. The 2020 shows a very pale pink skin color with floral aromas of raspberry, peach, citrus and stone. The palate is very light, silky and elegant with subtle raspberry fruit with hints of melon, orange rind, spice and earth, finishing with nice length of mineral flavors and refreshing acidity. This is a very lovely wine at a great price! David Lillie
Jean-Paul Brun releases small quantities of this Beaujolais rosé each year, and it's always a treat. Strawberries, bright red fruit, and a tangy side that contributes to its joyful drinkability. The finish is mineral and crisp, with a very subtle tartness that keeps the impression of a flavorful but overall dry rosé. Perfect with chicken and pork dishes all year, and it's a great aperitif outdoors in the summer... Eben Lillie
Before becoming winemakers, Hank and Carole were enamored with the wines of the Southern Rhône and Provence, especially of Domaine Tempier in Bandol. This 100% Mourvèdre rosé feels like a love letter to Tempier. Grown organically on volcanic soil from the Sumu Kaw vineyard pressed as whole clusters into tank and puncheon. It goes through natural fermentation and full malo, and rests on the lees for almost a year before bottling, where it ages for another year before its release. This is a rich, savory rosé with notes of white cherry, apple blossom, and sweet, savory quality that reminds me of sautéed onions in the best way. Michelle DeWyngaert
Chris Brockaway makes a wide range of California wine but the common denominators are that they must be made without additives (other than a small amount of SO2 as necessary), always fermented with indigenous yeasts, using grapes from vineyards that do not use synthetic chemicals (many of them certified organic), and of course they must be delicious. The blend comes from the Ricetti, Rosewood, and Wirth Ranch vineyards in Mendocino and Solano Country Green Valley and is 85% Valdigue, 14% Zinfandel, and 1% Trousseau. The grapes are foot-stomped and left on the skins for twelve hours and then fermented/rested in stainless steel tanks. Notes of ripe raspberry and cranberry, and touch of red apple skin tannin on the palate. A darker rosé that is a perfect balance of tart and juicy. Michelle DeWyngaert