Toast summer with bright, refreshing Virginia rosés
Virginia has steadily been gaining a foothold in the wine world and is now home to 312 wineries. The state’s diverse climate allows growers to cultivate 28 varieties of grapes on more than 4,000 acres, from chardonnay and merlot to lesser-known varieties like petit manseng.
While producing award-winning reds and whites, many Virginia vintners also offer a popular in-between option—rosé.
Made from single grapes or complex blends, rosés can be sweet or dry, sparkling or still. Delicate hues ranging from a soft blush to deep salmon are reminiscent of warm days spent outside.
“Rosés lend such a beautiful shade to the table,” said Dr. Beth Chang, Virginia Cooperative Extension enology specialist. “Their versatility is extremely appealing. They can be consumed on their own or paired with many cuisines. From a wine production perspective, they can round out a portfolio nicely due to their intermediate body.”
Southwest Virginia rosé named for its coal country roots
Hills once powdered with coal dust in deep Southwest Virginia have been reclaimed by MountainRose Vineyards’ 10 acres of grape-bearing vines.
In tribute to the region’s coal-mining heritage, the Wise County winery’s Darby Blush rosé was named for a coal seam on the reclaimed mine lands. Made with straight chambourcin grapes, the blush is a hit with locals and wine connoisseurs alike.
“Our Darby Blush has some residual sugar, so it’s a semi-sweet,” said Suzanne Lawson, MountainRose Vineyard owner and sales manager. “Rosés in general are good for someone who wants a more full-bodied and flavorful wine than a white, or for people who are not red wine drinkers. White-wine lovers often begin enjoying red wines by first trying rosés, as they have some of the flavors and aromas of red wines without the tannins, making them a great crossover from white to red wines.”
Southwest Virginia wineries are not as well-known as those in other areas of the state, but MountainRose Vineyard is trying to change that.
Its chambourcin grapes are grown in neighboring Russell County at a second site called Grace Vineyard. Its lower elevation affords a layer of protection against late spring frost, creating a mesoclimate of warm days and cool nights.
“This makes our wines different from other wines in Virginia,” Lawson said.
Darby Blush won the 2008 Wine of the South silver award, and its tasting notes include grape aromas followed by strawberry flavors, with a crisp, clean green apple-candy finish.
Lawson said their rosé is best paired with any kind of seafood.
“Blushes are perfect with seafood, so I think in Virginia that contributes to their popularity,” she mused. “It’s light enough to have with chicken, and it has a little more versatility with food pairings than reds or even some of the whites.”
Northern Neck is home to dry rosé wines
Established at the historic Buena Vista Plantation on the Northern Neck, The Hague Winery’s tasting room overlooks a picturesque manor home, vineyard and farmland. The converted 1930s barn offers an intimate space to enjoy the peaceful landscape with a glass of crisp rosé.
The winery’s French-style dry rosé made from cabernet franc grapes leaves out the sweetness many associate with pink-hued wines. Hints of strawberry accompany floral notes, giving it a unique complexity—something Steve Madey aims for in his rosés.
“I like a little bit of fruitiness at the outset and some kind of mid-palate richness,” said Madey, who owns The Hague Winery with his wife, Cynthia. “And then a finish that trails off. I’m looking for something that isn’t just one note.”
Winemaker Mark Misch makes rosé using the maceration method— crushing the deep red grapes and leaving the skins to soak for 12 hours to overnight, “just enough to get color in it.”
“You ferment it like a white wine in a tank that you can keep cool,” Madey explained.
The Northern Neck’s warmer winters, blustery winds and well-draining soil are ideal for cultivating grapes. Positioned for maximum sun, Madey’s 5 acres of vines are hand-tended throughout the season.
There’s a flexibility in making rosé wines, he explained. The grapes don’t require the same amount of precision like they do for a red. He can choose to harvest early and make a rosé if bad weather presents threats of rot or diluted grapes.