The rosé juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down, especially in a city that drinks more rosé per capita than anywhere else in the country. Washington is awash in rosé, from a waterfront rosé garden to restaurants with tasting flights. But wine lovers also increasingly have the option of drinking rosé made in their own backyard. Virginia wineries have long offered pretty pink wines, but Maryland vineyards have started coming into their own. Even Washington’s two wineries have released rosés this year, though both bring grapes from California — City Winery from Mendocino, District Winery from Madera — before fermenting the juice here.
With this rosé renaissance, we thought it would be fun to have a blind rosé tasting with rosés from the District, Maryland and Virginia, with testers rating wines on both flavor and how much they’d enjoy drinking it on a summer day. We also decided to add a bottle of inexpensive grocery store rosé in the mix to see if our testers could tell the difference.
A note about the results: We intended to include a rosé from a prominent Northern Virginia winery in this tasting. However, after opening the bottle — which was purchased off the shelf at a well-known Washington wine shop — we realized that something was wrong, and the wine was probably oxidized. Because the tasting was underway, we didn’t have time to replace it, and we decided it wouldn’t be fair to the winery to include the low scores in the results. We’ll make it up to you, Virginia.
Fourth place: District Winery 2018 Dry Rosé
The second vintage from the winery on the banks of the Anacostia won plaudits for its aroma: One tester said it “smells peachy/nectarine-y” and “pleasant,” while another summed it up thusly: “smells like summer.” The taste, though, didn’t get as much praise. “It’s really light — a little bit medicinal,” said one, while others detected “bitter” notes. The wine’s “citrusy tones” and dry finish were noted, but the overall opinion, according to one expert, was “I would have to be very thirsty and this would have to be very, very cold.” $20.
Third place: Charles Shaw 2017 Organic California Rosé
“Sweet” was the most common adjective used to describe the “infamous” $3.99 organic rosé from Trader Joe’s. “It’s sweet, like grape juice from my middle school vending machine,” wrote one taster. “It tastes like strawberries and a bit like fruit punch,” opined another. “Does this come in a juicebox?” Several participants also noticed the lack of aroma — it’s “oddly odorless,” one wrote — and how pale and thin it seemed in the glass. Testers seemed very middle-of-the-road about this wine. As one tester wrote, “I like how fresh it is overall, so better for warm weather sipping — but it’s like wine water?” Indeed. $3.99.
Second place: 2018 City Winery Rosé de Syrah
“Looks like a rosé! Tastes like brunch!” The first rosé produced at the Ivy City winery made a distinct impression on tasters. “This is genuinely refreshing,” one noted. “I would serve this to someone I am trying to impress.” It received positive marks for the flavor (“melon,” “slightly cheesy,” “nice pear notes”) and the “decently pleasant pink color,” though it was also knocked for the “kind of sour taste.” Another tester said they were “not really sure what flavor this wants to land on.” Still, the reviews were positive: One taster called it “pleasantly dry. I would enjoy this with some pâté and water crackers.” $18.
First place: Old Westminster Farm Fizz Rosé
Old Westminster’s Farm Fizz is not your average wispy, millennial-pink rosé. “This is abnormally pink,” wrote one incredulous tester. “Is this actually Hawaiian Punch? Is this a trick?” Another said they “would feel a little sheepish to have this in my glass — it’s so pink!” (“Fuschia-adjacent” was also used to describe the luminous cherry-pink color.) This dry, slightly effervescent rosé comes from Maryland’s Old Westminster Winery, which uses wild yeast to ferment its grapes, and then doesn’t filter or fine the wine, leaving it cloudy or hazy. But the combination of funky, fruity notes brings extra depth to the rosé: Its “full flavor” was described by multiple tasters as “really lovely” and “crisp and refreshing” for summer. Some testers compared it to wine-flavored soda and said it had a “nice mouthfeel at first, but then it gets sort of syrupy and Robitussiny” as it warmed. If you’re looking for an inoffensive brunch rosé, this isn’t it. But if you want to be the hit of your next weekend gathering, bring a couple of 12-ounce cans of Farm Fizz. $10 (12-ounce can).