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Wine of the week: Steele, 2012 Lake County Cabernet Rosé

Joy Merrilees said her alias is “Crazy Chick in the Rubber Boots,” and it just so happens this crazy chick is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner: the Steele, 2012 Lake County Cabernet Rosé.

This tangy rosé has a big personality with bold, ripe fruit. It's focused, with notes of strawberry, mineral and spice. The dry rosé has a crisp finish and it's a steal for the price.

Merrilees said she's a good fit for producing rosé because she's an all-out fan.

“I love drinking it,” she said. “It's the perfect balance between white and red, and pairs with oh so many things.”

Merrilees said what the uninitiated don't know about rosé is that “men drink pink ... Rosés are delicious and most of them are not the sweet style that consumers expect. This one is dry and refreshing.”

At Steele Wines in Kelseyville, Merrilees is the assistant winemaker. She has a degree in plant sciences from Humboldt State University, and has taken additional classes at UC Davis.

What Merrilees finds most fascinating about winemaking is the progression from grapes to bottle.

“There are so many small choices to make along the way that can make a big effect in the long run,” she said.

Sometimes making rosé can be a bit daunting for her, like when she wakes up in the middle of the night worrying if the color is just right. That said, she finds it exhilarating when she reels in all the flavors she wants.

Merrilees considers herself an accidental winemaker, of sorts.

“Well, they don't teach you that you can have a job in alcohol in high school,” she joked. “I fell in love with wine by accident, as most of us do. It was while in New Zealand and I had Peregrine Pinot Noir 2001. It knocked my socks off, and I've been chasing the dream ever since.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.

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