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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rosé rising: Refreshing pink wines perfect for spring

Rosé season has arrived. The pretty pink wine is perfect for patio sipping and pairs well with foods such as fruit, cheese, salads, prosciutto, ham, chicken, fish and turkey. Pictured here is the rosé and charcuterie board from Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyards. The winery’s downtown tasting room opened Feb. 1. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Rosé season has arrived. The pretty pink wine is perfect for patio sipping and pairs well with foods such as fruit, cheese, salads, prosciutto, ham, chicken, fish and turkey. Pictured here is the rosé and charcuterie board from Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyards. The winery’s downtown tasting room opened Feb. 1. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Spring is springing, and that means it’s time for plucky pink porch wines.

Rosé season has arrived.

With its beautiful blush, increasing complexity and overall approachability, rosé pairs with just about anything – and anybody.

Wine steward Matt Dolan likes to think of rosé as a bridge, uniting the most robust red wine drinkers and tart white wine drinkers. Rosé lets them meet in the middle.

“They’re a real crowd-pleaser,” said Dolan, who selects the wine for and leads weekly tastings at Rocket Market on Spokane’s South Hill. “White wine people tend to like them, and red wine people tend to like them. To me, rosé is a perfect bridge for bringing them together.”

Rosé’s drinkability and affordability make it doubly accessible. Rosé is generally available at a pleasing price point – anywhere from about $10 to about $22. Its signature color – so pretty in pink – is an added bonus.

It’s inherently a warm weather sip, one that isn’t meant to be aged, but enjoyed right away. Rosé – best served chilled – is refreshing.

And, perhaps best of all, at least these days, it’s typically dry or off-dry. Long gone are the days when rosé was the super-sweet stuff in Grandma’s glass.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, American rosé “wasn’t very sophisticated,” Dolan said. “It was simple.

“Now, the wine is sophisticated, and the drinkers are sophisticated. It’s a reflection.”

Rosé began gaining popularity in the U.S. about 12 to 15 years ago, when more and more American winemakers – particularly those in the Pacific Northwest – began producing dry, bright, fresh, fruity vintages like those historically made in the south of France.

“The world-class benchmark comes from Provence,” Dolan said. “They’re the world leaders in rosé, so most winemakers try to make rosé like they do there.”

Wineries typically release their vintages anywhere from Valentine’s Day through early spring – and are sold out by the end of summer.

Rocket Market began getting rosé shipments in early April, Dolan said. “We’ve got more on the way, too – from France, from Italy, from Spain.”

Red wine grapes used to make rosé vary from region to region. “The grenache and syrah blend is most popular out of France, followed by tempranillo and grenache from Spain, to some of the more fuller-bodied and zesty – I call them zesty because they’ve got some oomph – varietals from Sicily and southern Italy such as negroamaro or aglianico,” Dolan said.

In Washington state, winemakers tend to use syrah, merlot and sangiovese, he said.

The current top-selling rosé at Rocket Market, he said, is made from 100 percent cabernet franc grapes. It comes from Isenhower Cellars in Walla Walla and offers floral notes as well as hints of citrus zest, beeswax and tangerine.

In Spokane, the rosé from family-owned Bridge Press Cellars in downtown is probably his favorite. It’s crisp and dry, made from cab franc and merlot varietals. “I love what they do,” Dolan said.

But, “If you’re looking for sweet,” Dolan said, “Latah Creek. They even make a huckleberry rosé. It’s truly remarkable for its style.”

In addition to Huckleberry d’Latah, Latah Creek Wine Cellars produces a Spokane Blush and a Rosé of Malbec with aromas of dragonfruit, ripe red berries, rose hips and apple.

Dolan is also a fan of the rosé from Regal Road, a boutique winery in Spokane. “It’s a good one,” he said. “It’s really interesting.”

It’s made with a blend of pinot noir and pinot gris grapes, and pairs well with barbecued chicken and salmon or shellfish and salads.

“It’s also a very nice wine to enjoy on a lazy summer afternoon all by itself,” said Regal Road owner Steve Schaub, who grows his own wine grapes on an 80-acre hillside ranch 2 1/2 miles south of Spokane.

Rosés are made from the juice of red wine grapes. Restricted contact with grape skins – usually less than 24 hours – gives the wine its rosy color and more structure and tannin than a white wine.

So, “They’re more complex than an average white wine,” Dolan said.

Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard released its off-dry 2016 rosé in late January so it would be available for its Feb. 1 tasting room opening in downtown Spokane as well as Valentine’s Day. But, co-owner and winemaker Keith Pilgrim said, “Rosé is always my favorite first glass of wine on a warm day. It’s an awesome wine for matching with some of the lighter foods – cheese and fruit on the patio or out on the deck, fish and chicken.”

Rosés are also “a natural match” for prosciutto and ham, he said. And the season lasts longer than one might think – through Thanksgiving. “Rosé pairs well with turkey.”

Ten of Spokane’s best rosés

Bridge Press Cellars Rosé – This crisp, dry rosé is made from cabernet franc and merlot varietals. 39 W. Pacific Ave. (509) 838-7815.

Regal Road Winery Rosé – This blend of pinot noir and pinot gris grapes make for a “lively” dry rosé, said owner Steve Schaub, noting, “You’ll detect hints of rose petals on the nose with soft, full fruit flavors on the palate including strawberry, cherry and kiwi, ending with a tingly finish.” 8224 S. Regal Road. (509) 838-8024.

Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard Arch Terrace Rosé – Grapes – 64 percent sangiovese and 36 percent cabernet franc – are left on their skins for only about four hours, giving this blend hints of raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and white peach. 926 W. Sprague Ave., Suite 100. (509) 340-9140.

Robert Karl Cellars Rosé of Cabernet Franc Released May 1, the 2016 vintage features a bright and fresh acidity and a flavor profile with hints of strawberry and raspberry. 15 W. Pacific Ave. (509) 363-1353.

Va Piano Vineyards Rosé of Cabernet Franc – This dry, medium-bodied rosé carries notes of tropical fruit such as guava, mango and watermelon. Va Piano is located inside the Historic Davenport Hotel, 10 S. Post St. (509) 838-0236.

Arbor Crest Cellars Cliff House Blush – This semi-sweet pink wine features a blend of sangiovese and riesling varietals. 4705 N. Fruit Hill Road. (509) 927-9463.

Cougar Crest Estate Winery Estate Grown Grenache Rosé – This refreshing blend pairs well with Thai and spicier foods. It’s made from 80 percent grenache and 20 percent viognier grapes and offers just a gentle hint of spice along with flavors of fruit. 8 N. Post St., Suite 6. (509) 241-3850.

Latah Creek Wine Cellars Spokane Blush – “Berry, honeysuckle and arugula linger long after the wine is swalled,” according to the website, which also describes its Asian pear and floral notes as mingled with honeydew and tropical fruit. 13030 E. Indiana Ave. (509) 926-0164.

Townshend Cellar Brut Rosé – This sparkling crisp rosé, crafted in the traditional Méthode Champenoise, features 85 percent pinot noir grapes and 15 percent chardonnay grapes. 8022 E. Greenbluff Road, Colbert. (509) 238-1400.

Mountain Dome Winery Brut Rosé – Townshend Cellar, which bought the label in 2011, is almost out of this sparkling and vibrant dry rosé.

Honorable mention: Maryhill Winery isn’t located in Spokane yet. But it’s slated to open a new tasting room in Kendall Yards in autumn and the owners, Craig and Vicki Leutholds, maintain a home in Spokane. Maryhill Winery Rosé of Sangiovese is crisp with a vivid pink color and, according to its website, carries “aromas of fresh strawberry, peach, watermelon and honeycrisp apple throughout.”

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