Back in 1999, we made the bold decision to add a third wine to the Tablas Creek lineup. To the Blanc (white) and Rouge (red) that we were making, we added a pink wine that we called Rosé. It was really my mom who deserves the credit for encouraging us to make a rosé at all. She declared that it was crazy that we were growing these grapes that make such wonderful pink wines in the south of France and not at least making a little to enjoy ourselves. So, in that 1999 vintage we made two barrels of a rosé from a block of vines in our nursery, whose percentages (51% Mourvedre, 35% Grenache, and 14% Counoise) were the proportions of that co-harvested and co-fermented lot. We did indeed drink much of it ourselves, but also released a few dozen cases into the local market.
The next year, we were pleased to get questions from local restaurants and retail shops asking when our Rosé would be coming out. And bit by bit it developed a loyal following. Robert Parker called it "the finest California rosé" and "amazing stuff". We sold hundreds of cases by presale in the California market. We built events around its release in our tasting room. And our production grew to nearly 1500 cases in the 2010 vintage, and only declined in 2011 because we realized that with the frost-reduced crop if we made 1500 cases of Rosé we'd sacrifice too much red production.And it wasn't just us. From such modest beginnings many other rosé-loving producers also started making and promoting small productions of dry rosés, and in a decade we saw a wonderful burgeoning of the American rosé movement. No longer are we one of America's only producers of dry rosé; at this March's Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting, rosé lovers will have some 40 different rosés to choose from.
The American rosé market is not the only thing that has gotten more complex in the fourteen years since we made our first two barrels of Rosé. Our own marketing model has grown and morphed. The names Blanc and Rouge are long gone as we have tried to make our names richer and more descriptive, and from the 2012 vintage we'll end up bottling some twenty-five different labels. One of the drivers of this increased diversity is the Patelin de Tablas project. The Patelin wines are sourced from other top Rhone vineyards in Paso Robles, many of which are planted with our own cuttings, and all of which are producing exciting fruit. We debuted the Patelin de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas Blanc in 2010, and the wines' fresh, approachable style and $20 price found them an enthusiastic audience.
Last spring, my brother Danny suggested that if we were to produce a Patelin de Tablas Rosé at the same price as our other Patelin wines it would find an equally receptive market. We'd been toying with the idea anyway, because doing so gave us the chance to work in a different idiom, to make a rosé based on Grenache and with minimal skin contact, in the model of the pale salmon, ethereal Provencal rosés that have driven much of the category's newfound popularity. I described the process we're using to make the 2012 Patelin de Tablas Rosé in a blog post last September. It is tasting great, and will be released nationally in April.
The challenge: that with two rosés we couldn't really call one of them simply Rosé unless we wanted to immediately, and continuously, be asked "which rosé?". So, we started to brainstorm a name that would distinguish our deeper pink -- almost fuchsia -- tones and richer flavors of our Mourvedre-based estate rosé. Enter Dianthus. Dianthus is a genus of flowering plants known for the deep pink color of their blooms. The family includes 300 different species, including the carnation, and is colloquially referred to in the flower world as "pinks". Voila. So, it is our pleasure to introduce the 2012 Dianthus as the successor to our much-loved estate Rosé. The inaugural vintage will go into bottle week-after-next and be released to our VINsider Wine Club in mid-March as part of one of my favorite shipment lineups ever. Look for it in our tasting room, and in limited release around the country, in April.