Branding Le P’tit Paysan as a fresh, friendly Rosé

TalesoftheCork Wine Reviews

Ian Brand continues to produce top shelf wines in Monterey, San Benito Counties

While a personal family crisis has shuttered much of my creativity this summer, it did not prevent me from seeking out and purchasing great Rosé bottles to drink poolside or enjoy with summer, backyard cuisine.

Today’s weekend wine choice for a hot August day was suggested by Fresno’s Stan Kato of The Grape Tray. In fact, Tim Fish of Wine Spectator mentioned the bottle in his July 22, 2013, 17 Pinks from California, article.

Ian Brand moved and is raising his young family in Monterey County to work its challenging vineyards, including the Spur Ranch Vineyard in San Benito County.
Ian Brand moved and is raising his young family in Monterey County to work the challenging vineyards, including the Spur Ranch Vineyard in San Benito County.

I’ll often shop at The Grape Tray because Stan takes the time to learn the taste preferences of both his Internet and local regulars and will alert me to bottles that may be of interest. So this week, instead of just picking up an old standby French Rosé to enjoy while I soaked in the pool, I purchased a bottle of Le P’Tit Paysan. Stan said why purchase another French when a California pink would “knock my socks off.”

And he was right. But I would add, “Ian Brand knocked my socks off.”

Normally, the epicenter of a good Rosé is found in the South of France; however, increasingly quality pink wines are found coming from growers and vintners of central California. Personally, I love the smell and taste of watermelon and strawberry and historically wines with a higher percentage of Grenache, Syrah or Mourvedre produce some of the best dry Rosés.

According to Jeanne Howard of MC Weekly, Ian Brand is the winemaker and driving force behind seven boutique wineries in Monterey County and consults with four other labels. Yet it is his Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre San Benito County Rosé Pierre’s Pirouette 2012 that got me pouring today.

California’s 2012 vintage continues to create a buzz and Brand’s dry French-style Rosé is one of the best I have tasted this season in a state that has produced a plethora of outstanding examples. And winemakers are creating some outstanding pinks with Cinsault, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir.

In fact, I find myself scouring wine shelves looking for that perfect balance between fresh fruit aromas and a dry, crisp, light, refreshing taste. I also want to keep most of my Rosé purchases around $20 or less.

The 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre had hints of rhubarb, blood orange but the dry Rosé shone its salmon hue and minerality much like its French counterparts.
The 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre had hints of rhubarb, blood orange but the dry Rosé shone its salmon hue and minerality much like its French counterparts.

Tim Fish agreed with Stan when he wrote of Brand’s San Benito County gem: “Who needs French Rosé when California can make them this good?” I agree with Fish when he wrote Brand’s Le P’tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette is a “winning blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache that tastes like a pink from the Southern Rhône.”

Wine Enthusiast named Brand a rising star among winemakers in the April 2013 issue. To me his Rosé is a star which tops a great year of pink wine in 2012.

In my glass, the 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre Rosé showed a beautiful salmon hue that complimented the subdued strawberry and apricot aromas. I grew up in the Northwest and enjoyed a hint of rhubarb before the dry taste of watermelon took over. Finally, the finish lingered with blood orange. I appreciated how Brand kept the flavors in check, including a noticeable but lovely minerality. The wine is balanced, full and ends with a soft spice. I drank a full pour (maybe two) while sitting in the steps of the pool. Later, I finished the bottle with a plate of charcuterie. While his Rosés may improve with another year in the bottle, Brand’s Le P’Tit Paysan wine can be enjoyed immediately.

Brand believes his Rosé’s success comes because his vines have difficulty growing in the Spur Ranch Vineyard over the limestone seabed, white rocks and fossil shells. The struggle creates thicker skins and stronger flavors. The scraggly vineyard is not only tough grow in but to work with as well.

Ian Brand moved to Monterey County and works in San Benito County on purpose, seeking out untapped potential in the rocky, limestone, old seabeds and shale soils.
Ian Brand moved to Monterey County and works in San Benito County. He is seeking out untapped potential in the rocky, limestone, old seabeds and shale soils.

“I moved to Montery County and work in San Benito County on purpose,” Brand said. “I love working there, seeking out untapped potential in the rocky, limestone, old seabeds and shale soils. I believe the climate and soil is perfect for the vine’s growth on the south-facing Chalone Peak to ultimately produce my style of Rosé.”

The San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné says 2013 may finally have brought a perfect storm of rosé and it is the hottest thing in wine now. He calls rose a “serious enough wine to be crafted with care, made from grapes dedicated to that purpose.” I am excited to say that Brand’s 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre Rosé made Bonné’s list of wines that won’t disappoint. Check out
Think pink – a bumper crop of rosé this year for more information.

For those who act quickly, you still might be able to purchase a few bottles of this Rosé gem. Only 85 cases were produced and are selling for around $19.

The 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre Rosé can be purchased in select small wine shops. Two local spots are The Grape Tray and Nick’s Wine Corner. Both can take orders over the phone and/or through their websites.

Be sure to check out Brand’s posts on the Le P’tit Paysan Facebook for more information.

If this wine does not seem to fit your fancy, Wine Folly’s Madeline Puckette will help you get in the know why and what kind of Rosé is right for you.

For more information on Le P’Tit Paysan visit the website or call Ian Brand at the winery: 831.212.3660 or through email: info@LPPwines.com. He is also on Twitter: @ptit_paysan.

For those who missed my latest posts, check out Calistoga: Brannan’s Grill for lunch or Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa 2012 Rosato.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Calistoga: Brannan’s Grill for lunch

WIth large plantation windows facing the street to the right, Brannan's Grill is a comfortable, upscale spot for lunch, dinner in Calistoga.
With large plantation windows facing the street to the right, Brannan’s Grill is a comfortable, upscale spot for lunch, dinner in Calistoga.

My wife, Geena, and I were fortunate to enjoy lunch at Brannan’s Grill in Calistoga, California, in late June. There we met a friend, local resident Peter Stetson. As we entered, a hostess greeted, smiled and led us to a booth in front of one of the large plantation-style windows overlooking Lincoln Ave.

Brannan’s decor creates anticipation and an expectation of a top-flight meal. The main space is wide open with wood beams and a pitched wood-planked ceiling. An elk trophy hangs above the large stone fireplace at the back of the raised center dining room. Large area photographs and drawings help create a historical tie to the the 19th century western town made famous by spas and the 1976 Paris Tasting. The large mahogany bar can seat at least 12 and its staff carried on lively conversations with locals and walk-ins alike.

Our meal started with a couple of roasted artichokes. They were braised, had great smoky flavor on their own, but the bed of pesto aioli was to die for. I love artichokes and Brannan’s version kept me thinking of an old Lays potato chip commercial: “Bet you can’t just eat one.” I confess, I ate more than my share.

We enjoyed a bowl of mussels
A glass of Sonoma County Iron Horse Pinot Noir Rosé complimented a bowl of lightly seasoned mussels.

The waiter suggested an Iron Horse Pinot Noir Rosé from the Russian River. The Sterling family out of Sonoma County creates wonderful wines and this one was perfect. This rose petal pink version is a bone dry, 11.8% alcohol, delicate Rosé. After an initial taste, the nose was watermelon and strawberry with a hint of lime. However, in the mouth, green apple became prevalent, but not overpowering the crisp watermelon flavors. This wine is perfect for lighter fare, including our artichoke and bowl of lightly spiced steamed mussels. The perceived sweetness of the Rosé, its low alcohol and structure helped cut through the pepper flakes and spice of the bouillon and fish. A nice foil for the lunch dishes.

The seasoned mussels had chopped tomatillos, Anaheim chilies, feta cheese mixed in a light salsa. The bowl was just big enough for four to enjoy as an appetizer, especially since we had already picked clean the artichokes. Corn tortillas were also provided, but I choose to fork out my share of the seafood.

I must say the poor reviews listed on Yelp did not materialize on our table. The hostess, waiter and staff were pleasant and quick to check on refills. After making suggestions, the waiter delivered our two appetizers to table, allowing us to finish one of the two artichokes before bringing the next one, still warm. The mussels arrived before the second ‘choke was gone. Water glasses were refilled and the waiter seemed genuinely happy we chose Brannan’s for lunch.

Local resident Peter Stetson, left, and Brannan's owner Mark Young share personal passions and stories of Calistoga during lunch.
Local resident Peter Stetson, left, and Brannan’s owner Mark Young share personal passions and stories of Calistoga during lunch.

Perhaps the staff was extra attentive this day or maybe they were “on their game,” but I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the company of one of the two owners, Mark Young. Mark was wandering through, chatting with the patrons and stopped to say hello to Peter. Evidently though, he is often in the restaurant doing much the same.

Mark quickly became warm and friendly and he chatted about the town, restaurant, day spas and mud baths and recreational opportunities in the area. In fact, he began to share his passion for a once-a-year trip to the desert of Black Rock Nevada called Burning Man. It’s a city in the desert, dedicated to radical self reliance, radical self-expression and art. His passion for community, sharing gifts unconditionally and self discovery was impressive. He was quick to share via his iPad and I learned much about his fervor for living as a restauranteur and community spokesperson.

Just before we finished the mussels, our entrees arrived. Mine was one of the specials of the day: Cioppino. The seafood soup (bouillabaisse) consisted of clams, mussels, salmon and shrimp. I must say I was impressed not only with the Cioppino but with the toasted garlic sourdough bread as well. My wife was surprised I went back to a seafood dish but I heard the San Francisco-based famous seafood stew was special here. The lightly spiced, tomato bisque was gorgeous. Be sure to check with the server as to what the chef includes in this dish as the best Cioppino always relies on fresh ingredients.

WIth a spiced tomato bisque base, I used all my toasted garlic sourdough bread to soak up all of the San Francisco-inspired Cioppino.
With a spiced tomato bisque base, I used my toasted garlic sourdough bread to soak up all of the San Francisco-inspired Cioppino.

While my visit was during lunch, call the hostess a head of time or find out if Brannan’s Grill is featuring a local artist or musician during the dinner hours. This touch adds class to a weekend date. Often Saturdays are smooth jazz nights and other evenings may include local guitarists.

The buzz on the way out from a couple of bar patrons stopped me. “Have you tried a Carlos Lemon Drop? – the best in NorCal!” I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. I should have known to stop at the bar first.

“Not yet,” I answered. “I’ll have to wait until my next visit.”

Brannan’s Grill is located at 1374 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, California 94515. They can be reached via their website, Brannan’s Grill, via phone: 707.942.2233 or by email: mark@lcrestaurants.com. Social media folks can catch them through Facebook: BrannansCalistoga or through Twitter: BrannansGrill.

For my previous post, check out TalesoftheCork.com and the Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa 2012 Rosato.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.