It’s almost the season again for those three magic words: rosé all day. Or, as Chateau d’Esclans winemaker Paul Chevalier taught us, there’s no right or wrong season for the increasingly popular drink. In his words “You drink champagne in winter, right? Why not rosé?”. As a big fan of rosé in the summer months, it didn’t take much to convince me that I should be following this advice.
Almost as if to prove his point, the weather on the day of the tasting of four Chateau d’Esclans rosé at the Willard Intercontinental was frigid and blustery, with remnants of DC’s only snow of the season still on the ground. Chevalier led us in a discussion of wine and food, dispelling all of our pre-conceived ideas of what rosé should taste like what foods you can pair it with.
To accompany our journey up the mountain, Peter Laufer – the Willard’s Executive Chef – prepared four dishes that perfectly accompanied each wine.
Wine #1: “Whispering Angel” 2016 (paired with oysters with lemon and a grapefruit caviar)
I’m not a huge oyster fan, but even I thought that this was delicious. We were instructed to eat the oyster, then take a sip of the wine. The pairing brought out the flavor of each, without losing the flavor of the other. The wine is a crowd pleaser and a good introduction to those who haven’t enjoyed rosé much before.
Wine #2: “Rock Angel” 2015 (paired with seared scallops over Israeli couscous)
Here’s where we really started learning a lot about rosé. “Rock Angel” tasted unlike any rosé I’ve had before. 50% of the juice is aged in barrels before being bottled. I wish I had the video of Mr. Chevalier demonstrating the difference between how “Whispering Angel” and “Rock Angel” feel in your mouth (there were hand motions and sounds). Chef Laufer paired this with a scallop seared in butter over an Israeli couscous with mint. Once again, the pairing couldn’t have been more perfect. This was one of my favorite wines of the four, I think due to the uniqueness of having some of the wine aged in barrels. Rosé is typically thought of as being light in flavor, but this definitely packed in a lot.
Wine #3: “Les Clans” 2015 (paired with a risotto with crispy duck prosciutto)
Full disclosure: the waiter tried to take my unfinished bowl of risotto away before I was finished with it and I had to grab it back from him. This dish was that good – I wasn’t missing one bite. Mr. Chevalier and Chef Lafeur were here to dispel all your preconceived thoughts on rosé, including the idea that rosé should be paired with seafood and other light dishes. The right bottle can be paired with richer and heavier foods as well. Again, Chateau d’Esclans ages the “Les Clans” in barrels before bottling. This lends a much richer flavor to the rosé, giving it the opportunity to pair with the richer risotto. Also, let’s note the above picture – Laufer scooped out a well into the wheel of cheese and poured the creamy risotto into it, then served us straight from that. I can see why Chrissy Teigen asked for a wheel of cheese from John Legend for her birthday.
Wine #4: “Garrus” 2015 (paired with beef tenderloin grillades served on brioche toast with bearnaise sauce)
The grand finale. “Garrus” is produced with grapes from a nearly 100 year old vineyard, again aged in oak barrels. As Mr. Chevalier called it, it is “champagne without the bubbles”, an exclusive rosé with only about 20 barrels produced. Matthew Jukes, a British wine expert, just bestowed a rating of 20/20 on the 2015 vintage. After having waited an extra hour for the wine to be delivered due to our final burst of winter weather last week, I can tell you that it was well worth the wait. Equally as impressive was its ability to pair so perfectly with red meat. Chef Laufer’s beef tenderloin was tender and delicious and we were all left wanting more of it.
All in all, I came out of this knowing more about the “water of the Hamptons” than I ever thought I’d know.
Does all of this wine and food sound great to you? Are you wishing that you could enjoy it too? Well, you can! On April 1st, The Willard Intercontinental will be hosting its inaugural Rose Romp, in partnership with Chateau d’Esclans. The event is an official part of the Cherry Blossom festival and will take place on the hotel’s terrace, featuring an “Art Walk”, all you can eat and drink dining, and real cherry blossom trees. Get your ticket while you can!