A Fine Bouquet

I tried a new cocktail the other night, at home with L, and it made me think about the relationship between sight and smell and taste. I’d been sent, for tasting purposes, the makings of a custom-conceived cocktail from Domaine Carneros, the producer of, among other things, fine Napa sparklers. Domaine Carneros has recently released a brut rosé “Cuvée de la Pompadour,” a pink sparkler that retails for about $35.

Made mostly in the traditional way, by leaving the Pinot Noir juice in contact with the skins long enough to pick up a little blush and tannin, it also has a little Chardonnay and an additional dab of Pinot Noir added to adjust color and flavor down the line. The result is not mind-blowing, but is still very, very good. The light hand with the Chardonnay means it doesn’t have the tart green-apple quality that California blanc de blancs sometimes do—at least in my limited experience. It’s a tartness I don’t personally like. Instead, this wine has a frothy, minerallike quality and enough balance between tartness and milder raspberry and cherry flavors to be drinkable glass after glass. I’ve had it several times now, and each time it has grown on me, and become more something I’d gladly turn to.

But now to the cocktail. Flush with excitement about this new wine, Domaine Carneros has commissioned a cocktail to celebrate it: the Bouquet of Rosé, in which 3.5 ounces of the brut rosé get 1/2 ounce of Sence rose nectar (a pleasing, nonalcoholic, lightly sweetened rose-flavored beverage and mixer), a spritz of rose water, and a sprig of fresh lavender. Mixing this one up with L, after work one night, I was struck by the following: There’s nothing roselike about the wine, except the pink color. And even the color only reads as “roselike” because of the presence of the French word rosé, which means pink, and doesn’t have anything to do with the flowers we know as roses. But the mind behind the cocktail—a hired gun named Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, a.k.a. the Liquid Muse—appears to have looked at the wine, looked at the name, and thought of flowers. The result is a curious cognitive dissonance: all this admittedly elegant rose flavoring (these are modest, tasteful flavorings, and the drink is surprising in a fine way) apparently inspired less by the wine’s flavor profile (though there’s no clash here) than by the wine’s color and name, its symbolic association with roses by the dozen in fabulous hotel rooms. Drinking the Bouquet of Rosé, this disconnect left me unsettled, as the experience happening in my mouth and nose and happily buzzed self felt increasingly out of sync with the experience provoked in the conscious mind. In other words, there’s just something weird about a drink mix inspired not by the taste of its primary ingredient but by the color and name. If you get a chance to try this cocktail, I’d almost recommend it, just to share the curious effect and the thoughts that effect provokes. My stronger recommendation, though, is to get your hands on the wine itself, and savor it on a no-big-deal night when you want something bright, delicious, and uplifting.

Photograph by Evan Friel

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