Perfect Pairings Is Brought To You By Unwined
Story + Recipe by Brian Acton of Unwined
A good rosé is hard to find. As summer wanes and fall looms, I find myself reaching for rosé more and more—though not the pale pink tart cherry water that has become a lifestyle brand for all intents and purposes. That’s the stuff of peak summer (if one must indulge in it at all). No, the evenings are beginning to become slightly chilly as they turn to night, but their beginnings are still warm enough to grill. Here is the space for a richer rosé, one that blurs the line between a dark rosé and a light red. This is the province of your Cerasuolo d’Abruzzos, your saignée rosés (rosé made by bleeding juice from a red wine) or your Bandol rosés.
What we now think of as a rosé is heavily influenced by the clever marketing efforts coming from Provence and, oddly enough, the Hamptons. It wasn’t always thus, of course. Rosé has gone through a few different makeovers. The earliest known wines would have been rosés of sorts—field blends of white and red grapes, tread by foot, then watered down. The ancient Greeks considered it uncivilized to drink undiluted wine, the habit of barbarians. While Phocaeans were the first to make the light pink wines of the Mediterranean famous, catching the eye of the Romans, it wasn’t until the advent of the modern wine press in the 19th century that what we now think of as the Provence style rosé began to take shape. Even then, rosé would have to defeat one final opponent before it could become fit for celebrity branding: the Lancers-Mateus-White Zinfandel hydra.
Now, I think rosé is poised to have another identity shift. Now that the natural wine movement has challenged our conception of what a red wine is by championing chuggable co-ferments of white and red grapes and shifting red winemaking philosophy from extraction to infusion (think plunging your teabag up and down with a spoon vs simply letting it steep undisturbed, but with grape skins), the stage has been cleared for darker, richer, more complex, more food-friendly styles of rosé. One such stunning example is the 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Hirsch ($52).
Hirsch Vineyards was planted by David Hirsch in 1980 in the extreme Sonoma Coast in what would become the Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area. Hirsch Vineyard is located on the second ridge in from the Pacific Ocean at about 1,500 feet of elevation, above the summer fog line. David Hirsch is a visionary who followed his inner light on a quest to find his own Eden—a quest that took him from hitchhiking across the country while a student at Columbia, to working on an iron ore boat, then becoming a broker of handmade Afghan wares and hippy throw pillows, to producing some of the most sought after Chardonnay and Pinot noir grapes in California and finally, in 2002, becoming a producer of such wines.
The 2021 Hirsch Rosé is made from fruit from four of Hirsch’s vineyard blocks picked at almost the same time as the grapes destined for red wines. The grapes were left to macerate overnight before being pressed into barrel, 20% new, for fermentation (fairly nonstandard for rosé). The wine was aged for 10 months in barrel on the fine lees and another 10 months in bottle before release. Give the wine a decant to allow it to open up and serve it a little below cellar temperature. You will be rewarded with gorgeous red berry notes, mint, citrus peel and a distinct salinity that makes this wine almost feel like Chardonnay. To pair, I’d recommend grilled tuna with an olive tapenade. The savory tapenade will make the berry notes pop and the grill flavors will match the notes of new oak before that saline citrus-inflected finish prepares you for your next bite.
GRILLED TUNA STEAKS RECIPE
• Tuna steaks, about 6 to 8 oz each (1 1/2 to 2 inches thick)
• Vegetable or canola oil
• Kosher salt and black pepper
• 1/2 lb pitted olives of choice
• 2 anchovy fillets (rinsed if packed in salt)
• 1 clove of garlic
• Capers (to taste)
• Juice from half a lemon
• 2 tbsp olive oil
Prepare the tapenade. Pulse ingredients four through nine in a food processor until a coarse paste is formed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed. Refrigerate the paste until you're ready to use it.
Prepare the tuna. Prepare your charcoal grill for indirect grilling or set all the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Allow the grill to preheat for at least five minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.
Grill. Dry your tuna steaks with paper towels and brush them all over with oil. Then, season them with salt and pepper. Cook the tuna for one to two minutes per side. Medium rare should be your target doneness. If the fish is difficult to turn, allow it to cook a touch longer until it releases from the grill or stove. You can also use the tines of a grilling fork to lift the fish from below. Serve. Slice the steak, top with the olive tapenade and serve.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Brian Acton, Wine Educator + Buyer, Unwined
Brian is a cautionary tale of an accountant with a passion for food, wine, and travel who happened to have the right bottle of wine at the right time.
It sucked him in; couldn't be helped really.
Though Brian is a wine geek by disposition, he's equally happy helping you find that rare bottle you didn't know you were looking for, or just picking out something tasty to go with dinner.
When he's not trying to figure out exactly how much Pigato or Pinello is too much for our market, you can find Brian at home playing with his daughter, cooking dinner, and hanging with his wife. They are probably drinking Champagne, Riesling, Nebbiolo, or Syrah.