Villa Gemma a uniquely refreshing rosé

Masciarelli Villa Gemma Rosé Cerasuolo D’Abruzz

The summer of 2016 has turned out to be my summer of fabulous rosé.

I’ve tasted at least two dozen different bottlings from all over the world — even Israel — and each one has left a positive impression. They’re light, fruity, dry and exquisitely refreshing.

Everyone who makes wine seems to be getting in on the game, and for good reason. Americans are waking up to leisurely, food-friendly and inexpensive rosé. It’s popular at parties, as an aperitif, and for relaxing after a day at work.

If you haven’t tried a rosé, there’s still plenty of time left this summer.

Recently, I tasted a unique rosé from Italy’s Abruzzo region, which stretches from east of Rome to the Adriatic sea. Here’s where the native grape Montepulciano d’Abruzzo hits its peak in many desirable wines.

• Masciarelli Villa Gemma Rosé Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo 2014, $15 —
Sadly, innovative winemaker Gianni Masciarelli, 54, died in the prime of his life eight years ago while reviving this historic Masciarelli Tenute Agricole estate in Chieti. He had the good fortune of knowing a good business partner, his wife Marina Cvetic, who’s directed all the business operations since 1987 and took over as winemaker in 2008. Gianni’s focus in the vineyard and on the fermentation process improved the quality of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo varietal and raised its profile worldwife. Under Cvetic’s management, Masciarelli has continued to excel and expand with four lines of wine products.

Villa Gemma rosé is 100 percent Montepulciano and shows Cvetic’s’s attention to detail even in crafting an easy drinking, inexpensive wine. Unlike most light-colored rosés, Villa Gemma is a slightly darker shade of watermelon rouge. The color is produced by leaving the white-pressed juice in contact with the red skins for 24 hours — a bit longer than for most rosés. The extraction of aromas and flavors is also enhanced. What you get is a rosé with all the fragrance and feel of a Sangria and yet it’s fruity-dry. Fresh, bright tastes of pomegranate, dark cherry, orange rind and watermelon flow smoothly. Because Villa Gemma has a slightly boosted mouthfeel, I believe it will pair well with an assortment of medium-weight dishes, including grilled chicken, meat pizza and even a hamburger. Don’t hesitate to drink this now. While the suggested retail price is $15, it’s selling for $10.99 at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover and New Hampshire State Liquor Outlets.

Kirkland Signature 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee De Natys
Kirkland Signature 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee De Natys

Pop goes Costco’s $25 Chateauneuf-du-Pape

If you’re a Costco warehouse chain cardholder, you’ve probably seen its exclusive Kirkland Signature brand of wines sold only in the store.

They’re produced at the Kirkland winery in Healdsburg, Calif., located in Sonoma County.

Kirkland’s domestic and foreign wines usually sell for $20 or less and are decent for every-day drinking.

One of the best in the portfolio, however, is the Kirkland Signature 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee De Natys, a southern Rhone Valley red that is absolutely sumptuous. It’s a Grand Cru selling for $25 a bottle.

You can hunt far and wide, even travel to France, but it’ll be difficult to find a Chateauneuf-du-Pape of this quality for less than $40.

The Kirkland Signature blend was featured in a recent Wine Enthusiast review, receiving 90 points and named an “Editors’ Choice” selection.

If you’ve never tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which by French law can be a blend of up to 14 grapes (including five white varietals), this is your chance to experience a rich, powerful, ageworthy wine at a workingman’s price.

Grenache is the dominant grape in the southern Rhone (Syrah takes the lead in the northern Rhone) and supplies the backbone to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Winemakers select from a palette of 14 approved grapes to create a fragrant (lavendar, violets), full-bodied and distinctively fresh dark berry taste filled with complex spices. While the finish is long and dry, the wine yields a fascinating soft and “sweet” impression. Some call it a combination of Kirsch and cassis.

When paired with grilled meats, especially thick steaks, Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be utterly divine — and it probably should be. The wine comes from an historic commune of the same name whose roots date to the 14th century line of Roman Catholic popes who resided in nearby Avignon. Chateauneuf-du-Pape translates to “The Pope’s New Castle” which John XXII began building in 1317 at the very top of the village. (Today, the castle sits in ruins and is a popular tourist destination.) The pope encouraged local winemakers to improve their skills — guided by the Church — and, well, the rest is history.

The vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape thrive despite barren climate conditions: little rain, high summer heat and strong Mistral winds that threaten to dessicate the grapes. Yet nearly every year, the miracle of the vine delivers gorgeous fruit. The land itself is the key: nutrient rich soil of limestone, sandstone, clay and galets (small round pebbles of galacial debris that sit on the surface and reflect the sun’s heat onto the plant).

The Kirkland Signature 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee De Natys consists of six red Rhone grapes — Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Vaccarése, Counoise and Mourvedré — and represents a perfect way to get started on a lifetime enjoyment of this special wine. It’s available only at Costco stores.