Wine of the Week: Red Car 2014 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir


Carroll Kemp was lured into the field of winemaking one bottle at a time.

“It wasn’t a sonic boom or a single bottle that rattled my cage,” explained the president and winemaker of Sebastopol’s Red Car Wine Co. “It was more like a slow, inexorable march toward finding my life’s purpose.”

Kemp is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Red Car 2014 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir at $28.

This is a striking version of rosé. It’s rich, with a silky texture, and it has bright fruit coupled with crisp acidity. Best of all is its wild strawberry finish.

This lush yet crisp rosé is somewhat of an enigma, and it can’t be easy to craft. But somehow Kemp managed to and it’s a rock star.

Right now the 2014 rosés are rolling onto the market, so fans consider it rosé season.

“More rosés are certainly coming on the market these days as our wine drinking culture matures and begins to think of wine as an important part of lunch and dinner,” Kemp said.

He said what makes him a good winemaker is his “wholehearted respect for nature,” and what makes producing rosé a good fit for him is his reverence for it.

“To me, rosé is not an afterthought in the cellar,” he said. “It demands and receives an enormous level of care from bud break to bottling.”

Rosé s are made by lightly crushing red grapes and leaving them to soak on their red skins for a few hours to a few days. Then the juice is separated from the skins (called must) and fermented in tanks. The longer the grapes soak on the skins, the deeper the pink.

Rosé isn’t a varietal but rather a type of wine made in a certain way. It’s made from blends with varietals like pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese and syrah, and producers include France, Spain, Italy and America, according to the “Wine Bible,” a book by wine writer Karen MacNeil.

Kemp said his goal is to make a vibrant rosé because he believes the best incarnations ride on crisp acidity rather than sweet dessert wines.

“We grow most of the grapes in this wine and put just as much attention to detail as we do our $70 bottlings,” Kemp said.
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or

This week’s blind tasting


Red Car, 2014 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir, 12% 28. ★★★★
This is a striking version of rosé. It’s rich, with a silky texture. At the same time, it has bright fruit, coupled with crisp acidity. Best of all is the high-speed chase of its wild strawberry finish. This lush, yet crisp rosé is a bit of an enigma, but it’s a rock star.


Endless Crush, 2014 Inman Family Russian, River Valley, Sonoma County Rosé of Pinot Noir, 12.8%, $25. ★★★1⁄2

A lovely dry rosé with bright fruit and crisp acidity. Generous with notes of strawberry and watermelon, with a hint of pomegranate. Balanced. Nice length.

Poe, 2014 Sonoma County Rosé Wine, 12%, $22. ★★★★

This rosé’s bright fruit plays well to its crisp acidity. This is one of the most refreshing rosés in the lineup. Bravo.