In the pink for summer

Summer arrives later today for most of the country, so it’s Rosé Season at my house. (A week of 100-degree-plus temperatures has only amplified that.) There’s plenty out there to choose from, but with the abundance of choices should come an equal abundance of caution.

Now that rosé is officially trendy, everyone seems to be making one. But competition isn’t keeping prices down. To the contrary, prices have been edging up. I see lots of California rosé, for example, that’s pleasant enough, but it costs $30 or more. I get that you would be able to charge $50 a bottle if you used those pinot noir grapes for a red wine, but that still doesn’t mean your rosé is worth $35. There are some wonderful rosés that are worth that kind of money, but they’re few and far between.

I’m also seeing another annoying trend that isn’t really surprising. Now that we’ve gotten past the idea that rosé doesn’t have to be sweet, a la white zinfandel, many pink wines are indeed getting sweeter. A touch of sweetness can round out the finish and/or keep a rosé from being too austere, but some of these new bottlings are downright cloying. But considering the number of sweet reds and whites (often not labeled as such), sweet rosé was a natural.

But I digress. What follows are some recommendations from my tastings over the past few months. I’ve used a price cutoff of $25 per bottle.

Rosés have long been popular in the south of France, where the wines are often dominated by grenache. During a visit to the southern French region of Languedoc this spring, I tasted (and drank) a number of rosés, although I’m having trouble finding many of them in the States. One with good availability is the 2016 Château de Lancyre Pic St. Loup Rosé ($15), which is quite aromatic and floral, with racy red fruit and a hint of apple. The 2016 Domaine Clavel “Mescladis” Pic St. Loup Rosé ($12) is very refreshing but may be harder to find.

A couple more southern French rosés I’ve liked are the 2016 Côté Mas “Aurore” Rosé ($11/1 liter), which displays racy strawberry and enough structure to stand up to food, and the 2016 Fleur de Mer Côtes de Provence Rosé ($17), with its bright cherry, raspberry and lemon flavors.

Grenache also figures prominently in some California rosé blends. Bonny Doon Vineyard was an early promoter of serious pink wines in California, with its Vin Gris de Cigare. The latest version, 2016, is pretty and refreshing, with delicate strawberry, lemon and cranberry. The blend includes a couple of white grape varieties.

Paso Robles produces a number of pink wines made from Rhone grape varieties, including the 2016 Halter Ranch Rosé ($24), with its bright cranberry and cherry and persistent finish; the racy, fresh 2016 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé ($25); and the pretty, bargain-priced 2016 Chronic Cellars Pink Pedals Rosé ($15). All are based on grenache.

Pinot noir is a popular grape variety to use for rosé. Three good ones I’ve tasted recently are the racy, persistent 2016 Presqu’ile Pinot Noir Rosé ($22) from Santa Maria Valley; the 2016 Rodney Strong Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25) from Russian River Valley, with its hint of spritz; and the pretty 2016 Ponzi Pinot Noir Rosé ($22) from Willamette Valley.

Benessere, a Napa Valley winery specializing in Italian grape varieties, produces the 2016 Benessere Rosato di Sangiovese ($22) from its St. Helena estate vineyard. The wine displays bright cherry and cranberry with nice snap.

From Washington state, I liked a couple of slightly unusual rosés. The 2016 Julia’s Dazzle Pinot Gris Rosé ($20) from Horse Heaven Hills is a pink wine made from a grape usually reserved for whites. However, pinot gris, a mutation of pinot noir, has some color in its skins and can be used for rosé. This one is round and a little creamy, with white flowers and stone fruit. The 2016 Three Rivers Rosé ($14) is an unusual blend of syrah, sangiovese and cabernet franc from Columbia Valley that’s lean and refreshing.

Spain can be a good source for tasty, inexpensive rosé (rosado), usually made from tempranillo or garnacha (grenache), but I haven’t tasted many of those recently.

Finally, a word about the 2016 Butternut Rosé ($15). The brand name brings to mind buttery, sweet chardonnay but, lo and behold, the rosé was good! This 50-50 blend of tempranillo and syrah is, in fact, lean and racy with cranberry, watermelon, green apple and a hint of apple peel. It’s also fairly low in alcohol (11.9 percent), which adds to its refreshing profile. Sadly, I fear the name may be off-putting to consumers looking for a dry rosé.

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