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Don’t Judge A Rosé By Its Color, And Other Tips

Rosé wine picnic. iStockphoto / Mark Swallow

Rosé wine picnic. iStockphoto / Mark Swallow

It’s summertime and in the wine world that means one thing: Rosé!

With so many Rosé choices out there, picking one can be as daunting as choosing a white or red. So, for the sake of the Zester Daily faithful, I took it upon myself to go through a plethora of pink, to present to you some of the best out there now.

For those starting out on the pink path, here are some tips:

  1. Don’t judge a rosé by its color — dark or pale says nothing about the quality or how fresh or dry the wine tastes. Most important, dark color doesn’t mean sweet.
  2. Speaking of sweet, the days of cotton-candy cloyingness are almost over (though there are still some around). Dry is definitely the way to go, especially with food.
  3. Rosé is great by itself … but don’t forget it to have it with meals. Not just salad and salmon, either, but charcuterie, BBQ and a huge variety of seafood. Some even say it’s the best wine for Thanksgiving.

There’s no real order to the following list as all are good for a certain occasion, some are easy to find and others are in short supply — but all are worth a tipple.

2012 Broc Cellars rosé

2012 Broc Cellars rosé. Credit: Louis Villard

2012 Broc Cellars, Santa Ynez Valley: $20, available online, also at the Village Market in Oakland and many restaurants throughout the Bay Area.
Broc Cellars is making some very interesting wines out of Berkeley. This rosé uses Counoise and Cinsault grapes and is one of the lighter styles. It would go great with a BLT!

2012 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: $20, widely available
Brooks is the only Oregonian in this motley crew of rosés. Made from Pinot Noir grapes, it is a very gentle and soft-style rosé, yet has some zip; it would go perfectly with a salade niçoise or even a lazy Sunday afternoon tuna sandwich.

2012 Campovida – Rosé di Grenache Riserva, Russian River Valley: $34, available at Campovida Tasting Room in Hopland (707) 744-8797, or at the Campovida Tasting Room in Oakland, 510-550-7273. Campovida is such an interesting project. There are 13 acres of gardens with fruits and vegetables and even beehives. This Grenache rosé is very crisp, so if you like that acidic bite, go for it. It would be sublime with a goat’s cheese or feta salad.

2012 Vallin, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley: $30, available at The Winehound and K&L Wines. Vallin is the collaboration of three sommeliers and a winemaker. A blend of Rhône grapes, it has an amazingly fresh palate backed with lovely berry fruit and a perfect amount of acidity to cut through most dishes. This is a very food-friendly wine that will stretch the definition of a “Rosé dish.” Have it with a creamy seafood pasta dish, roast quail or even pork belly.

2012 Lieu Dit, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley: $28, available at The Winehound and K&L Wines. A delicate Rosé, some flavors of pink grapefruit, wild strawberries and watermelon with a lovely kick of acidity keeping it fresh. It’s an homage to the Sancerre Rosé in the Loire Valley of France from winemaker Justin Willet of Tyler and sommelier Eric Railsback, formerly of RN74 in SF.

2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Mondeuse Rosé, Bien Nacido Estate Plantings, Santa Maria Valley: $15, available online and at the Au Bon Climat tasting room in Santa Barbara, 805-963-7999. Jim Clendenen has been making wines under his Au Bon Climat label, seemingly since the dawn of time. Here, he’s using the not so common variety of Mondeuse. This wine was probably the most delicate of all the wines tasted, so elegant and soft yet with some bite of acidity, a very approachable wine, perfect with the classic prosciutto and melon pairing.

2009 Inman Family, Endless Crush, Brut Rosé Nature, Sonoma County: $65, available at winery website. A dazzling sparkler from Sonoma County, full of crisp, crunchy cranberries and raspberries — and did I say crisp? If you like your sparkling on the dry side, this is the one. It’s perfect by itself, but why not crack it open for brunch with some creamy scrambled eggs on toast and an extra helping of smoked salmon?

NV Blason de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy: about $8.99. If you don’t want to splurge on sparkling wine from France, find this guy at Trader Joe’s. It’s an easygoing bubbly that’s refreshing and a great bargain.

2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley: $22, available at the winery’s site. Fresh and aromatic Rhône variety rosé, fresh berries, cotton candy (but it’s a dry wine!) and zippy acidity. Have it at your next BBQ with some grilled chicken, or give a tip of the hat to South African winemaker Ernst Storm and try it with some South African sausage, boerewors.

2012 Gioia, Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley: $24, available at the winery’s site
If you like the heavier style rosé, go for this one made by Castello di Amorosa, a quite jolly mid-summer tipple, that would be perfect with an insalata tricolore, with extra creamy buffalo mozzarella and an extra lashing of olive oil.

2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch: $28, available at the winery, also at Little Vine in San Francisco. Strong flavors of orange peel backed by Fernet Branca-like bitterness, made from over 100-year-old vines in Mendocino County, a rare wine. Medium bodied but very concentrated flavors could put this wine with heavier dishes like rigatoni and sausage — or if you’re up for it, some boudin noir.

2012 Miraval, Côtes de Provence: around $23, widely available.
If you have not yet heard of Château Miraval, you soon will: This is the Brangelina wine, made at their winery in Provence with help from the family of famous Rhône winemakers, Perrin. The presentation here is exquisite, the bottle itself is almost as memorable as that now-famous Jolie Oscar leg shot. The wine too is very nice indeed, soft fruit flavors and despite the initial hype is now widely available. Have it with a showing of Mr. & Mrs. Smith — without that movie, this wine would not exist.

2012 Mounts Family Winery, Grenache Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County: $16, available at the winery. Such a light color but with such a fragrant nose, it’s like smelling a bowl of freshly washed red berries. Very well balanced and delicate at the same time, a perfect wine to have with a watermelon salad.

2012 Cameron Hughes Lot 349, Napa Valley: $9.99 available in most Southern California Costco stores. Cameron Hughes‘ Rosé is sourced from Napa and uses mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape not always used for pink. This is quite a juicy little number and has enough backbone to have it with your next barbecue. It would go perfectly with grilled shrimp and, if you’re up for it, lobster!

2012 Piedrassi, PS Rosé, Santa Barbara County: $18, available at the winery. Made from the Chianti grape, Sangiovese, but in the fresh Beaujolais style, this wine is walking the line of light red, color-wise, but don’t let that fool you. It is full of crunchy cherry flavors and very vibrant on the palate – it’s also made with no sulfur additions. Have it with Margherita pizza, but it could handle a spicy salsiccia as well.

2012 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, Santa Cruz: $16, widely available. Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker at Bonny Doon, has been making this Rosé for a while now, using a mix of Southern Rhône varieties. Made in Santa Cruz, this wine should be popped into your bag (dutifully chilled) for your next beach trip. It’ll go great with the lovely sea air and the picnic goodies you bring.

NV Croft Pink, Porto, Douro Valley: about $19, widely available in the U.S. Here’s something completely different, a Rosé Port. The wine has quite a bit of body, with caramel and raisin flavors. Don’t let the high alcohol fool you, this wine is quite refreshing. Perfect by itself, it’s just as good on ice with sparkling water as a spritzer!

Top photo: Rosé wine picnic. iStockphoto / MarkSwallow

Zester Daily contributor Louis Villard has spent the best part of his life traipsing through the vineyards and wineries of Europe and California. He has gone from being a cellar rat at the Rusack Vineyards in his hometown of Santa Barbara to an assistant winemaker at Domaine La Sauvageonne in France's Languedoc region to a sommelier at London's Savoy Grill for Gordon Ramsay. He regularly contributes to the Santa Barbara News-Press and Edible Santa Barbara and also writes for Decanter Magazine, Imbibe and