Pey-Marin brings Marin Count rose full circle

Isn’t it about time for some lightness? A little frivolity to counterbalance all the seriousness as of late? Jonathon Pey of Pey-Marin Vineyards thinks so. To celebrate their 20th harvest, Pey-Marin is introducing their 2019 Marin Water Rosé. Or rather, reintroducing it.

“In 2003 we made a rosé from Marin County grown grapes. I had lived in France and Susan [his late wife] had lived in Italy, so we knew rosé,” says Pey. “The 2019 harvest was our 20th harvest, and I thought it would be kind of fun and different to bring back a rosé that we had made for one or two years that people are still talking about.”

Typically, rosé wines can be made three different ways. All three methods utilize red wine grapes. The “saignée” method essentially “bleeds” off some light red wine juice before dark color can be transferred from the skins to the juice. This concentrates the red wine’s flavor and also creates a separate rosé wine. “Blending” is adding in some fully colored red wine to the uncolored white wine after vinting is completed (done often in sparkling rosé wine). The third method is considered a “purpose made rosé.” Meaning that the intention all along was to make a rosé wine. This type of rosé is made by either direct pressing the grapes and removing the skins right away, or by limiting the amount of time the skins have in contact with the juice.

“It’s a very frivolous label,” says Pey. “But it is quite a serious wine. The grapes were very specifically farmed and picked and vinted to make a dry rosé.”

Pinot noir was the grape of choice and is nothing new to Pey-Marin. Specifically, dry farmed or non-irrigated pinot noir. “We’ve been making pinot in West Marin forever,” says Pey. “It’s really fringe winegrowing because of the climate. Even pinot noir struggles out there. It’s so cold that the vine makes very small clusters with very small berries. The flavors are great, there is just not a lot of quantity.”

Pey-Marin typically makes about 700 cases of their pinot noir (by comparison, Pey’s other label, Forager, produces about 5,000 cases of wine in total). “This is dry farmed pinot noir in West Marin that has a very low yield,” he says. “Completely hand pruned and hand-picked. It’s very serious winemaking.”

Marin Water is a 100 percent stainless steel fermented, no malolactic wine which sees no oak at all. It comes in at 12.1 percent alcohol and exhibits a bright tangy combination of rosey honeysuckle, jasmine tea and strawberry. It is somewhat reminiscent of Pey-Marin’s cult favorite “Dry” Riesling, but with very different fruit and flowery notes.

“We try to make wines with balance. Pey-Marin Riesling is really bright and crisp. It’s 11 percent alcohol, which is really unheard of on the West Coast and it’s got this great following of devotees who really dig it. But the average person who wants a sweet German Riesling doesn’t even understand our Riesling.”

The average person should, however, understand Marin Water rosé, a very European style dry rosé.

“When you are making rosé, you are picking at a different ripeness,” says Pey. “This is going to be less ripe, because you want it to be a little fresher, a little brighter, with a little less alcohol.”

Pey claims to have made the very first Marin County rosé back in 2003. And this newer version pays tribute to that wine as well as to his late wife Susan, who passed away in 2016.

“Sue helped me found this business. She brought a lot of expertise on tasting (she was the corporate director for wines for the Il Fornaio restaurant group) to the table. She was a really big influence on the blend and the style. Since Sue passed, I’ve continued to do it, and to carry on what she wanted to do. My three daughters are helping a little bit and we are still fighting the good fight.”

Marin Water’s label design was driven by those three daughters. “You can imagine that the design sensibilities of three women in their twenties are a little more contemporary than those of a 58-year-old man,” he says. “That is why this label looks a little more contemporary.”

The Peys have undeniably helped put West Marin wine making on the map. Marin Water is sure to uphold that family tradition. This limited release rosé is more than reasonably priced at $25. But it’s extremely low production of 200 cases virtually guarantees it will sell out quickly.

“Here’s some great grapes with a fun label for Marin people to enjoy over the summer,” says Pey. And it quite possibly could not have come at a better time.

Online ordering and more info can be found at: