I Fell for a Shameless Hussy

Wallet-Friendly Wine

Our hunt for great-tasting affordable wine.


[Photographs: Wes Rowe]

It appeared obnoxiously, flamboyantly, a flashy watermelon-red standing out sorely in a lineup of otherwise demure, gentle salmon hues—like that brazen temptress who dares to wear red at an elegant afternoon wedding.

I sat with a group of wine professionals, tasting a lineup of rosé wines blind, and we balked at the scarlet letter. "You've got to wonder what they were thinking when they made this," a fellow taster chided.

In general rosé wines are made one of three ways. The first is by blending a little red in with white juice. The second, more common method, lets red grape skins sit for just a brief period of time on the freshly pressed juice (which, even in red grapes, is usually white), leaching red skin-color into the juice before straining the skins away. The longer the juice sits on the skins, the more pink (or, ultimately, red) it gets. Leave it for many days, and you'll have full-blown red wine. The third method is called "saignée" and drains away a little of that pinkish juice into a bonus rosé wine, so that the ratio of skins to juice is higher in the red wine you're making, giving it more oomph in the form of color and tannins.

Whichever method this little red devil employed, it went long. The color was nearly as concentrated as a red wine, almost glowing fluorescent red. I confess, I found it rather beautiful, if not shocking.

We tasted through the flight, each wine showing off varying shades of elegance and restraint, some softly peachy, others more cherry-imbued or definitively minerally and saline. Then came the black—er, red—sheep. The scent wasn't loud at all, more perfectly ripe strawberries with a pretty cranberry undercurrent. I took a sip, expecting a saccharine dose of something that may as well be Kool-Aid.

My eyebrows shot up. I glanced around at the other tasters, stealthily...did they show any indications of the same surprise pleasure I was experiencing? The strawberry and cranberry flavors were succulent and satisfying. They highlighted a refreshing swoosh of acid that made my mouth water like it was hit with a squeeze of lime. Then, just enough of a tannic grip dried out my mouth before a sour watermelon finish brought the curtain down. I scribbled a tasting note: "Huh?! Freaking delicious! Want. More."

And I certainly wasn't alone. The others, too, were surprised once they tasted it: perfectly refreshing, quite delicious thanks to the full fruit and great acidity. It was nothing serious, but damn if it wouldn't be delicious on a sunny day in the park or a warm evening with barbecued chicken. "I love it. I want to buy multiple bottles of it," I declared confidently. "We're probably going to reveal it, and it's going to be something ridiculous, and I'm going to be ashamed."

The tasting moved on, we finished the flights, and the bottles were finally revealed. I quickly scanned over to Wine Number 12, that scarlet letter:

2012 Shameless Hussy from Hard Row to Hoe, Columbia Valley, Washington

Shameless Hussy!!!

Pretty sure my face turned the color of the wine. But hey, man. You can't eat your own words. Blind tasting doesn't lie. I'll own it. I fell for a Shameless Hussy. And I'll buy multiple bottles of it. Shamelessly.

2012 Hard Row to Hoe Shameless Hussy
The Grape: Primitivo and Syrah
The Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Retail Price: $18

About the Author: Stevie Stacionis is a wine writer and Certified Sommelier based in San Francisco. She's currently drinking her way through the 1,368 varieties included in the new Wine Grapes tome. Follow her on Twitter @StevieStacionis and check out her snobbery-free wine videos at A Drinks With Friends TV.