Wedding venue: check. The dress: check. Wedding planner: check. Photographer: check. I had all the primary wedding checklist items ticked off, but as my October wedding at Meadowood Napa Valley approached, there was another big to-do list item on my mind: the wines.
Not only were the wines important because it was a wine country wedding but also because wine is such a big part of my (and my fiancé’s) life. I not only write about wine, but I’m also the founder of The Rosé Project, a rosé-paired dinner series based in New York City.
Meet the Expert
Kristin Tice Studeman is the founder of The Rosé Project, a rosé-paired dinner series based in New York City.
What Is the Rosé Project?
The Rosé Project was born with the mission of bringing a different rosé experience to the table through multicourse dinners (by talented chefs such as Dan Kluger of Loring Place and Marc Murphy of Landmarc) featuring rosé pairings. The wines (hailing from producers all over the world) are selected first and then the meals are built around the rosés. It sounds like a pretty basic concept, but at that point when we launched, rosé had not been given that sort of treatment in such an official setting. Ideally, people walk away from a Rosé Project dinner having learned a little something about good rosés and, maybe, even a discovery that many of the stigmas surrounding rosé—like “rosé season” and the “ideal” hue or “right” way to make rosé—are false.
Needless to say, the expectations were high when it came to the wines for my wedding—and rosé was 100 percent going to be a part of it. Interestingly enough, in the year leading up to my own wedding, I attended multiple friends’ weddings where they served great wines, but not a single rosé was to be found. This observation baffled me.
Interestingly enough, in the year leading up to my own wedding, I attended multiple friends’ weddings where they served great wines, but not a single rosé was to be found. This observation baffled me.
Serving Rosé at Weddings
The pink stuff has witnessed an incredible rise in popularity as a wine category in the past decade, and it is hugely popular with the exact age group typically getting married—20- and 30-somethings. “More and more of our brides and grooms are choosing to serve rosé at their wedding these days,” Monica Zanotti, the estate sommelier at Meadowood Napa Valley, told me over the phone as we collaborated on the rosés for my wedding. She added: “But we are in wine country and there are, of course, more options here. So that might not be the case across the board.”
Rosé is truly the perfect wedding wine. There are many styles that are super-refreshing and crushable (perfect for hours of drinking); rosé is generally a good value (excellent for wedding budgets); it’s stain-friendly (if someone spills their rosé on the dance floor, it’s not going to damage clothing like a glass of red); it’s incredibly food-friendly, meaning it will taste excellent with both the roasted chicken and the New York strip steak entree options at your reception; and, despite what many people might think, rosé drinking season is not limited to just the summertime. Not to mention: “It’s lower in alcohol, refreshing, and allows for guests to drink more without consequences over an extended period of time,” says Kashy Khaledi, owner of Ashes & Diamonds in Napa and maker of an excellent rosé that we served during our wedding weekend. “Let’s be honest, there’s only so many gin and tonics you can have before you’re dancing on the bride’s table.”
I might be biased, but I couldn’t think of a single reason not to serve rosé at my wedding. My fiancé and I (and our amazing planner, Lisa Vorce) worked with some of Napa Valley’s top chefs, restaurants, and wineries to bring our wedding weekend vision of serving truly amazing food and wine at every event come to life. Rosé, in particular, was a crucial part of the weekend. Our weekend of festivities included a welcome dinner at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant, the rehearsal dinner at Inglenook (the oldest winery in Napa and currently owned/run by famed director Francis Ford Coppola) catered by legendary Bay Area caterer Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events, and the wedding at Meadowood Napa Valley. As for the rosés, we served up Azur, Ashes & Diamonds, Lorenza, Red Car, Kanpai, and Schramsberg, and I worked closely with the wine directors and culinary teams for each event to pick rosés that fit each moment perfectly.
I might be biased, but I couldn’t think of a single reason not to serve rosé at my wedding.
During this process, I noticed that many venues and wine directors will not immediately offer you a rosé as an option, so make sure to just ask if you don’t see it listed initially. If you are doing a tasting, making sure to do this before the tasting session so they can prepare and have the rosé there for you that day of the tasting. Also, if you don’t know the wines on the list, ask to speak with the sommelier or wine director directly and see if they can cater to your needs, tastes, and preferences based on the format of your wedding and the food you will be serving.
How to Incorporate Rosé Into Your Wedding Celebration
I was pleased to see just how many guests drank rosé throughout all of the festivities. I had a few people tell me that “no one would want to drink rosé in the fall in Napa,” but I went with my gut. Cabernet Sauvignon might be king in Napa Valley, but it was rosé that was the MVP during the course of our three-day festivities!
Below, some tips and tricks to help you serve rosé on the big day.
Make It Personal
No matter what wines (or beverages, in general) you are selecting for your wedding, you should always try to inject a personal touch. If your first big trip together was to Tuscany, maybe include a nod to your love story with your favorite wine (or several) from the region. Or, perhaps you two have a certain wine you love to drink at home together as your curl up on the couch and watch movies. If you have a favorite grape, for example, you love Pinot Noir, look for rosés made from Pinot Noir. Share it with your guests!
In our case, we selected some of our favorite local rosés from Napa Valley with slightly different taste profiles and grape varietals to share with our loved ones.
Know Your Audience
You’ve read the tip above and now you’re probably wondering: How do I make it personal and cater to my audience all at once? Great question. Many of the somms I have worked with on The Rosé Project and for my wedding events have shared stories with me about couples ONLY focusing on what they want to drink. For example, if you two only drink super-funky, natural wines, definitely serve one natural rosé that you love but don’t do entirely funky wines throughout the whole event or you will alienate some of your guests. Instead, opt for something classic and crowd-friendly like a pale-hued Provencal or Napa Valley rosé, plus some of your picks.
If you happen to be getting married in a wine-producing region, like the Loire Valley or the Willamette Valley, drink local rosés! While the general wine-drinking public is still under the impression the only good rosés come from Provence (I can’t tell you how many times I have had to dispute this myth), think again. Rosé can be made from so many different types of grapes, meaning that if a region is making wine, they can most likely make rosé. Particularly if your wedding is a destination wedding like mine was, you want to give your guests a taste of that region in the short window of time they will have to explore it. In my case, we were in Napa Valley, home to so many stellar rosés, so we gave our guests a tour of some of Napa Valley’s greatest rosés during the course of the weekend.
Play With the Format
Think about the setting, time, and season of your wedding, and then consider your options. If your wedding is a super-casual, beachside affair, consider a canned rosé. Or, if it’s a really big wedding, consider buying magnums (or even bigger) for your party.
What Rosé to Serve for Every (Different!) Moment
From a getting-ready glass to after-party drinks, the way to drink rosé varies depending on the time of day. Here's how to drink it throughout your wedding events.
In the Bridal Suite
Spend a little extra here and get something really special to pop open while you get ready with your bridal party on your big day. People aren’t going to drink a ton of it (no one wants to get too tipsy before the ceremony, after all), so you won’t need a lot. I opened up a few of my favorite rosés for festive moments on the morning of the wedding, including Krug Rosé Champagne and Ruinart Rosé Champagne.
For Pre-Ceremony Cocktails
“Many of our brides and grooms are choosing to serve rosé to their guests as their pre-ceremony wine instead of your classic Champagne,” Zanotti, the estate sommelier at Meadowood Napa Valley, told me as we collaborated on the rosés for my wedding.
Instead of Champagne, which can add to the bill quickly, try either light and refreshing rosé or sparkling rosé, such as Schramsberg Brut Rosé (around $35 per bottle), as your welcome drink. You can get a really great rosé (still or sparkling) for under $50 per bottle, and not to mention, the color looks particularly festive in photos.
At Cocktail Hour
"A rosé at cocktail hour is a must,” says Nancy Parragué, senior account executive at Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events. “It is so food-friendly and pairs nicely with many of our passed hors d’oeuvres. I would say there are more yes-yeses than no-nos when serving rose.”
We worked with Parragué and her team to dream up the perfect wine country, California-style meal highlighting local, seasonal ingredients for our rehearsal dinner at Inglenook, where we served some of our favorite Napa Valley rosés, such as Ashes & Diamonds (around $35 a bottle) and Lorenza (around $20 a bottle) during the cocktail hour and the meal. For our wedding cocktail hour, we continued serving more of our beloved Napa Valley rosés, such as Schramsberg Brut Rosé and Azur Rosé, which paired beautifully with Meadowood’s passed bites.
For a Buffet-Style Dinner
There are a couple of different ways to approach the wines for your reception dinner. If you are doing the dinner buffet-style, you'll want wines that are versatile and pair well with just about everything you are serving, from the mains to the veggie sides. Cue: rosé! Rosé wines, in general, are some of the most food-friendly wines out there and work so perfectly for this scenario. “If there is a buffet, you're in luck as dry rosé goes with everything on the plate, as it really is so versatile,” says Michele Ouellet of Lorenza Rosé, which she runs with her mom Melinda Kearney. “Chicken, beef, or vegetarian? Rosé does the trick.”
Our welcome dinner at Ad Hoc, for example, we wanted the vibe to be laid-back and casual so we did stations that night. The main reason you go to Ad Hoc is for their famous fried chicken, so I was focused on a rosé that paired nicely with that. We served Kanpai "Hi No Tori" Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Rose 2018 (around $25 a bottle, with most of the proceeds going to Napa Fire Relief), by the very talented Steve Matthiasson.
“Rosé, in general, is extremely food-friendly due to its bright, crisp acidity,” says Ad Hoc general manager Justin Eddy. “So that acidity, along with its fruit notes, creates a wonderful contrast with the skin and spice of the fried chicken.”
For a Seated Dinner
Rosé is also a great option if are serving a lot of courses during the dinner portion of the evening and you either, a) want to mix it up and serve something in between the white and the red or b) don’t want to transition to red at all. (If your wedding is in the height of summer and it’s 100 degrees out, for example, it’s safe to say most guests won’t be wanting a big, full-bodied red—or any red for that matter.)
It’s important to not overcomplicate things at dinner, especially if your wedding is big, so keep the wines fairly edited to keep the service smooth and not confuse your guests. (Your guests and staff will thank you later!) We had one rosé option—Red Car Rosé (about $25 per bottle)—throughout the dinner, in addition to a Cabernet Sauvignon and a white Burgundy, that paired well with both the salmon and the rib-eye main courses.
“I think one of the great things about rosé is that you can tell a lot just by looking at it," Zanotti says. "Very light pink rosés are going to be very dry, crisp, and higher in acid. Darker rosés are going to have a bit more weight on the palate and fresh, ripe fruit flavors and be able to stand up to dishes with a bit more heft or spice to them. So if you are serving fresh, light dishes, a light, bright rosé would be the right match. If you are talking about a composed dish, a rosé with a little more color and thus more flavor would be a good pairing.”
A sparkling rosé or a demi-sec are safe bets when it comes to pairing with wedding desserts. “In general, dry wines are not a good match for desserts and that is true with rosés as well,” says Zanotti. “If a dessert is sweeter than the wine, the wine will taste bitter or sour. Something that would work well, if you can find it and are feeling adventurous, would be a Bugey-Cerdon, a sparkling rose produced near the Alps in eastern France. It is generally low in alcohol, fruity, and has just a touch of sweetness to ensure it isn’t overshadowed by the dessert.”
At the After-Party
A good rule of thumb, if you are being cost-conscious, is to swap to the slightly cheaper wines for the after-party. Most likely, your guests will have enjoyed a few glasses by the time they get to this point, so they might not be as discerning as they were when they first arrived hours prior. This does NOT mean swap to garbage wine! There are plenty of amazing, very affordable rosés out there, such as Hogwash Rosé (around $15 per bottle), that fit the bill for any wedding budget.
“There are great options for rosé in the $15 to 20 range,” says Ouellet. “Ask for dry, low alcohol (under 12 percent is ideal), bright acidity rosé made with intention and choose a gorgeous shade of pink! My advice would be to go to a great wine shop, buy five different bottles in your price range and have a wedding tasting with your partner. Once you’ve decided on your favorite, why not contact the winery directly to make shipping arrangements?” They may even give you a special wedding price if you ask.