Conor McCormack is a patient man who has grown accustomed to waiting. Whether it's the four-six day journey before his West Coast grapes arrive in D.C., or the 23 months that his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes must ferment in barrels before bottling, he knows that waiting is the name of the game in the wine world. But his patience is about to pay off as he is preparing to release the first wine made entirely in D.C. this weekend at District Winery. And luckily for the pink wine lovers out there, it's a dry, crisp rosé.
McCormack began work on his first D.C.-made rosé the very day after he and his team had celebrated friends and family opening night last fall. Before he had even made it home from the party he got a call from his grape delivery team saying the grapes had arrived early, but he told them he was done for the night and would see them first thing in the morning. While it was the first time he -- or anyone else-- would be producing wine within the District, nothing else about the process would be a first for McCormack. He had selected Grenache grapes from a vineyard in Madera, California, from which he had been sourcing grapes for four years.
"This vineyard is special because it was planted in the late 1940s," said McCormack. "I look for older vineyards, because it almost self-regulates the crops. They may not be producing as much fruit, but the fruit produced is really intense. And I want to pack a lot of punch, a lot of flavor, a lot of complexity in my wine, but still have it be very easy to drink."
Unlike with red wine, after rosé grapes have been destemmed they are run through the crusher so they are macerated with the skins. The color of a rosé wine, which can drastically vary, is determined by the length of time the grapes are in contact with the skins -- the longer the contact, the deeper the pink hue. McCormack prefers a lighter color rosé so this batch only soaked for 24 hours, but his harvest crews were still working around the clock, 24-7 for about six weeks to make sure they were on hand to check the wine every step of the way.
While the choice to launch District Winery's locally-made offerings with a rosé may seem like millennial pandering, it was merely about timing. Red wines typically take two-and-a-half to three years to produce grape to glass, whereas his rosé only took seven months.
"Rosé is meant to be drunk early and young, it's not a wine meant to age 20 years," says McCormack. "I usually get the grapes by October, the wine is drinkable by March or April, and I want my cases gone by September or October. We sell out every year, and that's the way I want it to be."
McCormack has several varieties of white wine (Muscat, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc) ready to roll out after the rosé debut, but it will be a while before he has D.C.-made reds to showcase. At least two of the red grape varieties he brought in last year (Merlot and Petit Manseng) were from Virginia winery Bluemont Vineyard, so look for those in 2021/2022.
District Winery will celebrate the release of their first D.C.-made wine this Sunday, April 22 with ticketed parties from noon-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. You can get your tickets here and use code DCREFINED25 for $25 off your ticket.