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Warmer nights call for a dry Rosé



 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Christina Kelly The Spokesman-Review

As spring reveals longer days and the deck becomes more inviting to stay and linger into a warm, dusky night, I love the taste of a cold, frosted glass of dry Rosé wine and simple foods for hotter weather.

This is the time of the year when big, tannic red wines become too heavy in hot weather and don’t particularly complement the lighter fare served on patios and decks. The best wine to complement a cold pasta salad and a gorgeous sunset, as the day weans from direct sunlight to that amber glow of the evening, is a dry Rosé wine.

This isn’t the pink or “white” Zinfandel that many consumers associate with light, cloyingly sweet pinkish wines. And, the problem with marketing a dry Rosé is that white Zinfandel drinkers think it is too dry, and many serious wine drinkers scoff at a “salmon-colored wine” as being too sweet and lacking any character or oomph. It is a tough wine to sell because the mainstream American palate has not embraced this wine for summer sipping.

The first time I tasted a very good dry Rosé was produced by Domaine Tempier from the Bandol region on the sun-drenched coast of Southern France. I was a late bloomer, having tasted that wine in 1998. Prior to that, my idea of a “pink” wine was wine coolers, or the sweet white Zinfandel or “blush” wines (white wines with just a tiny bit of pink color) that are so fruity and sweet you could not pay me to get near the bottle, let alone taste it.

The Domaine Tempier and several Spanish producers of Rosé gave me hope that more U.S. winemakers were watching what Europeans drank in hot, Mediterranean climates.

Fortunately, some serious winemakers in Washington, Oregon and California paid attention. You can find more sophisticated Rosé wines that are exactly what they should be — youthful, fresh, crisp and complex enough to satisfy consumers who want more than a monotone wine, while still offering the refreshing light and lean flavors of a white wine.

One Washington winemaker dubbed a dry Rosé, “summer in a glass — the great equalizer for red and white drinkers — it takes a real wine drinker to know this wine.”

Rosé is the French word for “pink.” The wine is made from red grapes, but the skins are removed early in the process, resulting in a light pink color. Rosés can be produced from just about any grape, including Grenache, Zinfandel, Merlot, Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and grape blends, such as Grenache, Syrah and Viognier.

Look for flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and even plum, with some spice, a light complexity of flavors and a balance of acidity that works very well with food. Rosé wines should be consumed within two years — don’t age these wines or you will lose the fruit. Drink them young and serve them chilled, but not iced.

One of my favorites is the 2003 Belle Pente Cuvee Contraire, from Oregon. This wine can be found, but you have to search around for quantity. Another good Oregon Rosé is Territorial Rosé, 2003. Most of these wines are priced between $7 and $15, so they tend to be great bargains.

Washington has a few delightful dry Rosés and they can be found locally and under $15, with several under $10. They include the 2002 Cirque du Rosé, from Snoqualmie Vineyards, the 2003 Rosé of Sangiovese from Barnard Griffin, the 2002 Preston Cellars Gamay Noir Rosé and Zefina, a new winery producing a terrific 2002 Rosé. I recently had the Zefina Rosé with barbequed London broil on my deck and it was scrumptious, with aromas of strawberry and even watermelon. I highly recommend it if you have never tasted a dry rosé.

Other producers include Yellow Hawk, McCrea, Maryhill (Rosé of Cabernet Franc — also very good) Harlequin (Syrah Rosé) and Syncline Wine Cellars (Cabernet Franc and Grenache Rosé). Check your favorite Northwest winery to see if they produce small quantities of dry Rosé wines. These wines are generally released in the spring and are sold out by summer, due to limited production.

Kay Simon, winemaker for Chinook Cellars, makes a Cabernet Franc Rosé and will release the 2003 next month.

“There seems to be a Rosé renaissance going on — more people seem to be looking for those wines,” Simon said.

Bottom line is to ask for a dry Rosé from your local merchant. Tell them you don’t want the pink, cotton candy stuff — you want the dry, complex wine, and if they don’t have it, ask, “Why?”

Barrister wins big in LA

Barrister Winery, a small boutique winery in Spokane, recently won the Best of Wine Competition, Limited Production, in the 2004 Los Angeles Wine County Fair. USA Today named the LA Wines of the World Competition one of the top 5 wine competitions in the country. Barrister won the overall competition in the small, limited category (under 2,500 cases annually). The winery produces limited amounts of Cabernet Franc — one of the best in the Northwest market. The winery will expand its production to include Syrah later this year.

Premiere wine event comes to Spokane

Taste Washington, sponsored by the Washington Wine Commission, is bringing its premiere event to Spokane from 5 to 8:30 p.m., June 13, in the Davenport Hotel.

This is the third year for the Spokane event, featuring more than 60 Washington wineries and nearly 30 regional restaurants. It’s an opportunity for the state to showcase its wines and a chance for consumers to taste exciting new wines, or revisit some of Washington’s most steadfast pioneers in the wine industry.

The regional restaurants were sent samples of wines to match with food. Some of the ideas seem pretty far-fetched until you try unique combinations of chocolate and red wine or spicy food with certain white wines.

A silent auction will be held, featuring large format Washington wine bottles. Ticket proceeds benefit the Davenport District Art Board. The auction proceeds benefit the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program and the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management.

If you only attend one wine event the entire year, this is it. Tickets are $75 for an evening of food and wine and the opportunity to talk with the winemakers. You can purchase tickets at Vino’s and Niko’s in Spokane, or go online to www.tastewashington.org.

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