People are risk-averse. Weirdly so where wine is concerned. They fear what they aren’t familiar with and worse, they tend to make the very incorrect assumption that stuff that’s more expensive is that way because it’s better. Folks: up to a certain tipping point that can be true, especially in the sense that it costs more to grow and make and distribute wine that’s made in small quantities and under strict and high standards. But I have sad news: Cabernet and Chardonnay command Ginormo prices because they can get away with it because they have dominated the market for decades. If you think it’s the “best” wine and that the more expensive it is the better it must be you are, to be blunt, what is known as a “fashion victim.” (Ask a Merlot producer. Again, more on that later.)
One place where some of the Le Snoot factor can be shunted aside is in the Eternal Casual Friday zone where pink wines dwell. You can make rosé wines from any red wine grape (some blends are primarily white varietals with a little red splashed in; also valid) and you can do it in a number of ways, of which the most common is simply limiting skin contact with the juice because that’s where the pigment (and much of the tannic acid) in red grapes lives. Depending on varietal(s), skin time, and other factors, you can have a wine with ghostly, barely-there colors, electric cherry-red and everything in between. Degree of color might but very much might not correlate with degree of intensity in the wine so don’t assume a boldly hued Tempranillo will be assertive and an ethereal-looking Grenache will be demure because you could easily be wrong.
Rosé Road Rules (lay level; I am assuming you are not a master sommelier)
•Pink wine is best enjoyed chilled. That and its general light and juicy nature make it seem “summery” and indeed it is, but so is a big inky Zinfandel, and it’s not like your white shoes that you are supposed to put away after Labor day. I Rosati are always in season. Always. Always. Thank you.
•Pink wines are, with few exceptions, easygoing companions to all kinds of food and also delightful aperitifs, which is French for “you drink it without bothering with solid food calories.” Along with dry sparkling wines they are in this wine-geek’s opinion the most versatile class of wines on the planet.
•Les Pinks tend to be of lower Le Pricepoint than their red counterparts. Don’t believe for un minuto that this means “wine equivalent of sausage meat.” They are largely less expensive because they don’t take up valuable real estate in expensive oak barrels for several years. They are probably often a little less spendy because of what I noted above: The peanut gallery effect. Because rosé does feel quick and casual it is perceived as less important or like a byproduct. (Oh, occasionally it is a byproduct! Sometimes that can be a fine thing, like how bread pudding or chawan mushi or, yes, sausage is a repurposing-oriented food. Sometimes it’s Beringer White Zinfandel, which damn near ruined the whole category for anyone who attended a wedding in the 1980s and has never forgotten the vicious hangover they suffered.)
•While, as I said you can make pink wine from any red wine grape (as well as a few grapes that are naturally pink versus purple to black), some wines seem especially born for low-skin-contact expressions and some are relatively touchy about being treated like that. Some of the most commonly-awesome rosé grapes are: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Carignan and Sangiovese (and although you’ll be hard put to find it, if you do come across a pink Nebbiolo grab it.
•The Mount Olympus of pink wine is Provence, France. But it’s made everywhere wine is made and trust me, it doesn’t have to be French to be awesome.
Following are 52 rosé wines to try. Please note I have not called out vintages. That stuff matters with long-aging wines but you’re not aging this stuff. In fact, to quote Ser Alliser Thorne yelling sarcastically at his recruits in Game of Thrones: “What you waitin’ for? Summer?” In just about all of these cases, the currently available vintage is the one I’m talking about and if it’s a wine that has a tendency to be really different year to year, I’ll mention it. Otherwise: Grab, Chill, Apply Corkscrew, Bottoms Up. Dig?
A to Z Wineworks Rosé (Oregon, $12)
The Pacific Northwest is the “Land of The Rules Don’t Apply to Me,” and that can be a good thing. This is a brash but somehow still approachable wine with a vivid color and extreme juiciness. Citrus, plum, a little pomegranate. There’s even a touch of hibiscus, which is funny because this stuff looks a lot like the “Jamaica” hibiscus agua fresca at your local taqueria. In fact, I’d call it a very sane choice for pairing with good Mexican food. Big personality, a little eclectic. Very tasty.
Alpha Estate Rosé (Greece, $21)
You’ve never heard of Xinomvaro? That’s okay: It’s good. In this case it comes in a liquid-strawberry color and that’s the dominant note on both nose and palate, along with fresh roses. Juicy, refreshing, pleasing finish. Winemaker suggestions for pairing include light tomato-based pasta dishes but I’m going to disagree on that one (hey, we like what we like) and make the oddball counter-suggestion that this wine would pair beautifully with lamb if that is a thing you eat. If you don’t, I’m sure it wouldn’t mind hanging out with a wide range of foods especially if they are of Mediterranean descent.
Angels and Cowboys Sonoma Rosé (Sonoma County, $16)
The 2017 release is, like its predecessors, a Grenache-fest made in the dry and light Provence style. Vegetarians and lovers of shellfish take note, this is a wine that will pair with some of the more difficult-to-pair veggies (and spices!) but it handles simple stuff just fine too. Ethereal, delicate, acidity in the “racy” or “zippy” range balanced with strong mineral presence. Tangerine, pomegranate, a ghostly floral note that might be almond or peach blossom. Epic deliciousness.
Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato Isola dei Nuraghi (Sardinia, $15)
This rosato is composed of four Sardinian grapes that are ideally suited to rosé styles. Cannonau (one of many aliases for Grenache) and Monica lend strawberry fruitiness, while Carignano and Bovale Sardo bring freshness and aroma. Serra Lori is a beautiful rosy-pink wine full of juicy, vibrant raspberry and alpine strawberry flavors. It’s vivacious and affable and while it can certainly stand on its own, it’s a wine that’s happiest paired with a bunch of friends and a nice dinner party. It is a fan of outdoor cookery, and will hang out happily with grilled veggies, oily fish-it has enough body and structure to hold its own with grilled meats of the red variety.
Artner Blaufrankisch Rosé (Austria, $14)
As always, I try to concoct these lists without too many wines that are difficult to locate; this is probably one of the more obscure ones, but it did pop up on the wine list at my local pizza joint. And (again) this is where we all give thanks that there is this Internet Shopping Thing. Blaufrankisch (Lemberger, if you’re in Germany) is a tasty grape that makes very aromatic and spicy wines. This one has a blushy rosepetal hue, fairly light body but with enough tannin that you notice it. The nose is predominantly black cherry and spring flowers, and on the palate, there is a spicy overlay on a strawberry jam character, with strong minerality and lots of backbone. One of those “But seriously, pair it with anything” wines, it also stands its ground as an aperitif. Fairly high acid, in a good way-it’s bracing and fresh.
Bairaktaris Monolithos Rosé (Greece, $17)
I’ve said it before: France may rule the wine scene in many situations, but back when it was called “Gaul” and was the most godforsaken armpit of the Roman Empire, Greece already had centuries of viticulture under its belt. This delectable Greek rosé comes from Assyrtiko and Agiorgtiko grapes, and has an eye-popping clear cherry-red color. It’s a great addition to a summer meal, providing both refreshing fruit and fuller structure that pairs excellently with fruits and grilled meats. The nose emits intense aromas of cherry and strawberries. Gentle tannins provide structure in the mouth, and the finish is full and fruity. This family-operated winery is very sustainability-focused, as well, for those who care about the footprint of their wine (arguably this should be everyone). This is one of the planet’s most ancient and venerable winemaking regions-take advantage of centuries of knowhow at a fantastic price point.
Banshee Rosé Pinot Noir (Mendocino, CA $22)
My mega-crush on Banshee has not ended. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. Biodynamically-farmed pinot noir is blended with Barbera, Grenache and Syrah. The result is a peachy-pink wine with complex layers of floral notes including rose petal, violet and almond blossom, followed by deep yet subtle red plum core with traces of ripe melon and nectarine with a tiny hint of marzipan. Vivid acidity, lovely structure, and just incredibly good. This is one of my favorite wines for white pizzas, especially if there is truffle oil involved. But like most self-respecting rosés, it is a generalist and will enhance virtually anything (it’s also equally well-suited to company and solitude). Happiness in a bottle.
Belguardo (Tuscany, Italy $14)
A Sangiovese-Syrah marriage from the Maremma region of Tuscany. They’re kind of an odd couple, but as we all know, sometimes those are the relationships that have staying power. This is an example of a wine whose light, soft color will trick you into thinking you’re drinking something delicate-nope! This is an intense one and a bit of a cherry-bomb, with a strong mineral streak indicative of its limestone soil origins. One thing that can sometimes be a rough pairing with pink wines is a dish with lots of tomatoes. But this one would probably enjoy it.
Beronia (Rioja, Spain $12)
Tempranillo with just a few hours of skin contact. Bright pink with an intense strawberry-cherry tone and fairly full-bodied. Long, quite punchy finish. If you do not like the shy and retiring type, pull the cork on this guy. It’s unabashedly fruity and juicy and fun.
Bieler Pere et Fils “Sabine” (Provence, France, $13 )
Classic Provence. Pale but concentrated with a lovely balance of floral, herbaceous, fruity and earthy notes, and a slightly creamy texture-a “fruit salad” wine in all the right ways, with intriguing layers of peach, cherry, citrus and apricot with lingering mineral notes and a long dry finish. This wine wants to hang out with shrimp or other members of the crustacean family.
Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare (Central Coast, California, $17)
I am a novelty-seeker and will gravitate toward wines I have never tried – usually. This is an exception: If you don’t want an unpleasant surprise, you’re never going to get one from the original Rhone Ranger. The Vin Gris de Cigare is a genre-defining and yet genre-defying little minx with a pale-salmon tone behind which there is an almost dizzying, but still elegant, array of continuously unfurling aromatics. Bergamot and green tea, something almost smoky, something marine, and a base of alpine strawberry and chalk. It is a lithe and vivacious wine with a very firm grip. I cannot think of a single food that would disagree with this stuff. And it’s in the $15-20 range depending on where you encounter it. This is a wine with serious moxie, epic wit, and a lot of layers. Always correct, always absolutely fab.
Center of Effort 2014 Pinot Noir Rose (San Luis Obispo $18)
I love these guys, who hail from what I think must be the single most marine-climate AVA in California-there’s not a vineyard more than five miles from the Pacific and the climate is so temperate that sometimes the vines have to be induced to go dormant. It’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay paradise, and also home to a range of other aromatic whites. Their pink pinot is a nice blend of sweetness and salinity, with some spiciness and a lot of cherry on the palate. Rock-solid, medium bodied, and the intriguing stoniness that seems to unite the wines of this area. Will not disappoint.
Charles & Charles Rosé (Washington) $14
Charles Smith wines are, by and large, exceptionally high quality for the price point, and this Syrah-based pink blend is made to be approachable and party friendly. If you like your rosé fruity, this is your guy. A salmon-to-rose colored blend, this wine is vibrant and not one to hold back. Red fruit, red fruit, red fruit, with a little hint of lavender, a soft grassiness and a bit of stone. Relatively low acid, high vivacity. A great backyard party wine. Pair it with a poolside chaise longue and a patch of shade.
Chateau D’Aqueria Tavel (Côtes-du-Rhône, France, $20)
Anything labeled “Tavel” is a Grenache-based Rhone blend. Vivid salmon color. Full bodied and super dry, with good earthiness and raspberry notes. A little bit of lemon and some herbaceous subtones. Really good food wine, though certainly holds its own as an aperitif. Excellent foil for cream-based sauces, grilled meat, goat cheese, and… well, dinner.
Chateau d’Esclans 2014 Cotes de Provence “Whispering Angel” ($20)
According to the producer, the best rosé in the world. Huh. Well, I love this stuff, from the voluptuous bottle to the beautiful barely-there pink color to the lovely, balanced dry yet juicy palate-palette, which leans toward strawberries. Super light, a guaranteed crowd-pleaser on a hot afternoon, just an all-around great go-to bottle. This is the kind of very restrained, refined, elegant rosé that defines “drinkable.” It’s a people-pleasing Grenache-Syrah-etc blend with a soft approach, predominantly strawberry and citrus notes, and a lovely berry bouquet. The world’s greatest rosé? That’s not my call. Worth putting into the shopping cart? Always.
Chateau de Fontenille Bordeaux Rosé (Bordeaux, France, $12)
Cabernet Franc’s lighthearted side. Soft and subtle, citrusy and fresh. Primary aromatics are floral; primary palate notes mineral, with a through line of redcurrant, lime and grapefruit. This is a fabulous sushi wine but it certainly doesn’t have to be, you can pair it with anything or let it stand on its own, which it does with grace.
Chateau Minuty Rosé (Cotes de Provence, France $17)
A pleasure, starting with the voluptuously curvy Burgundian bottle. Blended from Grenache and Cinsault, this frosty-pale pink wine does a beautiful balancing act between fruit and flower, acid and stone. Dominant notes are nectarine and ripe oranges, along with some white-flowers action. A can’t-go-wrong wine from a pretty ancient estate and your friend no matter what’s for dinner.
Clean Slate Pinot Noir Rose (Mosel, Germany, $18)
Spätburgunder, if you’re drinking in German, means “Late Burgundian” in reference to Pinot Noir’s late-season ripening. The words “crisp” and “refreshing” are used relentlessly in the description of white and pink wines so I’d love to be able to tell you this wine was “insouciant and diffident” or something but the truth is, it’s crisp. And… refreshing. Your new BFF for spicy stuff is a noseful of raspberries and alpine strawberries, and the youthful acidity and wet-rock finish are lovely.
Clos Pegase Rosé (Napa Valley, CA, $22)
Bright pink, highly perfumed, very nuanced. Expresses a lot of nifty herb notes (I get chamomile and fennel), blood oranges, and tart cherries. Dry yet juicy, great mineral finish, balanced acidity. Totally solid.
Cote Mas Rose Sud De France Aurore (Languedoc, France) $11
A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah (destemmed and vinified separately in coated cement vats, then blended before bottling), this expressive wine is pale salmon-tinted in the glass; the nose is not pale, it’s complex and quite fruity. Cherry and strawberry jam notes kind of jump out of the glass at you. It’s smooth, well-balanced and richer than its pale hue would lead you to believe. On the palate, ripe red fruits dominate, but are tempered by the chalky minerality that lets you know the stuff came from the limestone soils of the south of France.
Like almost all pink wines, this will pair with an extremely wide range of foods, but I’d probably be inclined to serve it with light, hot-weather-friendly dishes like salads (poultry would like it, too). Festive, friendly, unfussy, and screw-capped, reminding you that it would be happy to follow you to the beach or hang out in the panier of your bike on the way to the park.
DeLille Cellars Rosé (Washington, $25)
Salmon to tangerine color brought to you by Mourvedre. Red berries for days: Grenache. Hint of watermelon? Cinsault. This is a traditional rosé trio for a reason, guys. Juicy, bright, fruit-forward, with whippy acidity and a nuanced finish. This wine’s ideal pairing is the beach. But you’ll enjoy it wherever you are.
Domaine de Millet Rosé (Cotes de Gascogne, France, $15)
A Syrah blend from Gascony with a striking, violet-tinged pink color. Expresses a lot of cherry notes and a hint of strawberry. Pleasantly mineral on the finish. Another good draft pick for highly spiced dishes, but it certainly doesn’t require them.
Domaine de Triennes 2014 Rose ($19)
A pale Cinsault-driven wine, this is a pretty classic expression of Provence pink. In addition to the fairly ubiquitous strawberry tone, there is a lot of white floral on the nose here, and a soft, rounded, creamy hint of vanilla. It’s restrained and elegant and very, very drinkable.
Donnafugata Lumera (Sicily, $14)
Maybe I don’t get out much, but I think this might be the only rosato of Nero d’Avolo grapes I have ever had, and it’s got quite a personality. Bright pink-really bright pink. And has a lot going on, with an attention-grabbing bouquet (violets and alpine strawberry mainly) and a mixture of floral and red fruit notes on the palate (I get quite a lot of pomegranate). This stuff is a good candidate for drinking quite thoroughly chilled and it’s a friend to seafood and vegetable dishes. This wine is not on the sedate and dignified end of the spectrum; it’s playful.
Erath Rosé of Pinot Noir (Oregon, $12)
Pale and delicate looking. Don’t be fooled. There is an intense rosepetal and ripe peach nose, and a very full-bodied and decidedly tropical array of fruit notes (I admit it, I don’t typically expect bananas to pop out of a Pinot!). Melon. Lots of melon. And a note I’m having a hard time identifying but I’m tentatively going with gooseberry. This is a complex, expect-the-unexpected wine and the kind of thing I might have a glass of while sitting quietly outside by myself. Or… editing something. But that’s not to say it’s not a food wine; you seldom meet a rose that isn’t.
El Coto Rosado 2015 (Rioja, Spain, $12)
Rioja is one of Spain’s major-league wine regions, and their signature grapes are Tempranillo and rosé superstar Garnacha (Grenache). El Coto’s Rosado is a blend of the two, with a clear watermelon tone and a spicy, herbaceous nose. Cherries dominate on the palate. High altitude vineyards give this wine a unique character. It’s light-bodied, juicy, a bit tangy, and very clean on the finish. Really ideal for hot weather, and a good companion for anything from a light salad to a feisty Thai curry. Will wake up a tired palate. I think this is a great party wine and worth buying in quantity. Rosés don’t age indefinitely but you don’t have to worry: You’ll polish it off before that ever becomes an issue.
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé (Cotes du Rhone, France, $18)
Exuberant? I think that’s the word. The Guigal family have been making wine for a long time, and they pretty much know what they’re about. This lovely pink has a certain “bursting out of the glass” juiciness and assertive red-fruit aromatics. It’s full-bodied and has a long, raspberry-and-rock kind of finish with a little whisper of citrus. Take it on a pique-nique.
Figuière Magali Rosé (Provence, France, $18)
Figuière aims for tight wines that express the unique terroir of coastal Provence. Magali Rosé is a medium-bodied rosé with aromas and flavors of strawberries, orange peel and white flowers. The wine shows bright and refreshing acidity and salinity thanks to the influence of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Barely-there coral-pink color, delightful minerality. Any Mediterranean dishes in your repertoire would be happy to find themselves on the table with this wine.
Figuière Premiere Rosé (Cotes de Provence, France)
Holy schist? Some winemakers are influenced by the tiniest specifics of the soil composition in their vineyards. Some are driven by it, and this is an example of that. Marine notes come into play too, but this is really a stony character. The nose is resinous and herbaceous (lavender and lemon thyme) with white florals and peach notes mid-palate and a decidedly mineral finish with a light savory salinity. This wine’s also moderate on the alcohol content spectrum, which is a plus in warm weather because in addition to being “crisp” and “refreshing” wine is also ultimately “dehydrating.” Any food from any culture that puts a toe in the Med is your companion for this bottle. When I tasted it my first thought was actually falafel. But oily fish, herby grilled veggies, potato salad dressed in good olive oil? Sure, and keep going. It’ll take a while to find something that argues with this wine.
Gorman “Rosey” Rosé (Washington, $15)
If you like your wine to have a slightly edgy sense of humor, look into Gorman. Their pink blend is a Cabernet-Syrah-Merlot situation sourced from a range of vineyards and it’s not a shy one. Actually it’s a bit of a “check me out” type, but you won’t mind because it’s a pleasure to check out. Racy-type acidity, full body, highly aromatic. Lots of cherries. A bit of citrus peel. Some plum. Flitting florals. Dry finish. It’s got a pretty big personality but also doesn’t take itself overly seriously, which is always nice.
Gundlach-Bundschu Rhinefarm Rosé (Sonoma CA, $25)
Mmmmmmmmmm. OK: I can never resist throwing at least one or two “it’s an adventure” wines into large lists, and here’s one: It’s only available at the winery or for members of the wine club. I’d disqualify it on those grounds except that I happen to think if you’re looking for a wine club to join, Gun-Bun is a very sound choice. And then you can get this yummers Rosé, in all its pale-violet-pink aromatic awesomeness. This Pinot-plus blend is a saignee wine, and that is a method controversial in some circles. Basically, the world has been saddled with quite a bit of bad wine made in this fashion, but these guys prove it can be done well. The blend, which can include Gewurtztraminer, Merlot, and other interesting players, varies a bit year to year but the result is consistently nuanced and layered. The current release has a white flower and plum thing going on, with a honeyed note (though it’s very dry) and some peachy tones alongside black cherry and strawberry notes.
Horse and Plow (Sonoma, CA, $20)
I buy this old vine, organic Carignan a lot when I’m not sure which direction to go. My local market always has chilled and it’s always rock-solid. That said, it might be one of the slightly tougher wines on this list to find outside California, so consult your local Internet. It has a lovely orange-zest character, with strawberry and watermelon accompaniment. It’s never disappointing. Ever. Very summery, very light, very sensuous. Worth seeking out if you are not a lucky person like me whose shopping cart it just falls into.
Justin 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé ($20)
So those nearly-colorless, whispery wines you can get from, say Grenache? Cabernet doesn’t do that. Pink cabs often look like Kool-Aid. Do not be fooled. It is very light, super refreshing, and very layered. I love the aromatic herb notes in this one – violets, chamomile, lavender. Cherry and plum flavors predominate. Lingering finish.
Leyda Rose of Pinot Noir (Chile, $14)
Pinot Noir just loves beachfront property. This wine comes from vineyards just a few kilometers from the Pacific, and expresses all the lovely subtleties of cold-climate pinot: Strong acidity, but a surprisingly creamy texture. Subtle aromatics with an emphasis on herbaceous notes (is that rosemary?) and red fruits (cherry and strawberry mostly). There’s some citrus on the finish as well-I get blood orange. Lingering finish. This is a restrained and subtle pink with good structure and it’s really refreshing. Pair it with whatever you want-I find it’s attracted to smoked fish, BBQ, roast chicken, and herbed potatoes, for example. You’d honestly have a harder time finding a bad pairing for this stuff.
Long Shadows “Julia’s Dazzle” (Washington, $20)
Okay, I admit I was guilty of prejudice against this wine at first because entre nous the name bugs me. Then to complicate things I really disliked the first vintage of this wine I tried (I think it was 2014). This is a younger wine that was going through some growing pains: The last two vintages have been eminently drinkable. Terrific, in fact. This unique Rosé of Pinot Gris is named after Allen’s granddaughter, Julia (no offense, Julia, it’s the “dazzle” that lands weird for me), and is sourced from a special block from The Benches Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills. Pinot Gris usually makes white wines, but the grapes have a significant enough tint that they will produce a colored wine if you give them time. These grapes were left to hang until they developed a bright hue, then gently pressed and the clarified juice slowly fermented at cool temperatures to retain the wine’s intensely vibrant aromatics and flavors. Lively, though voluptuously ripe and slightly off-dry, this has concentrated aromatics of ripe strawberry and melon; brisk acidity saves the finish from any potential flabbiness. It’s richer than some rosés, but clean and not heavy. Try it with seafood dishes, or eggs (I’d pair it with a goat cheese soufflé in a hot second). It’s substantial enough to stand up to meat as well, so don’t take it off your BBQ-companion list.
Los Dos Grenache / Cabernet Sauvignon (Spain, $8)
This is a pretty suave wine for eight bucks, I have to say. Grenache and Cabernet don’t hang out all that much, generally speaking, so it’s interesting to see what happens when they do. There’s a significant raspberry situation here, with some tangerine and an unexpected (to me, anyway) lychee note. Long dry finish, nice balance, texture in the “silky” range. This is a good option for large summer gatherings. It is wide-ranging in its food affinities, a likely crowd-pleaser, and a very approachable price point.
Maculan Costadolio Rosato Breganze (Veneto, Italy, $15)
100% Merlot, light pink with violet notes. Intense fruity bouquet, plum-heavy but also apple and white peach. Medium-bodied and on the intense side. Pleasantly bracing acidity and great structure. I would be inclined to pair this with shellfish or grilled chicken. Also a pleasure to drink solo. Veneto is a great region for warm-weather-friendly wines and this is a great example at a great price.
Masciarelli Villa Gemma Cerasuolo (Abruzzo, Italy $16)
I always need a cheat-wine on these lists just to show off a couple of weirdos that are worth your attention but maybe not on your radar because they’re not a well-known varietal, and my draft pick for pinks is Villa Gemma’s “rose-oid” Cerasuolo. This wine looks like a rosé, it acts like a rosé, but it’s actually a fun example of a red wine that happens not to have much tint. This complex wine is a deep cherry pink, offering an exquisite floral bouquet with hints of thyme, pomegranate and walnuts. With a palate that is balanced and fresh with subtle tannins and boasting flavors of red fruit, this wine is bold, elegant and a perfect pairing with lighter fare.
Mastroberardino “Lacrimarosa” Irpinia Rosato (Irpinia, Italy, $17)
“Lacrimarosa” means “pink tear” but this wine is anything but sad or melancholy. I don’t find a lot of pink Aglianico in California so this was a great one to be introduced to. Pale ballet-pink in color, it has a delicate but distinctive array of stone fruit, berry and flower notes (strawberry is prominent but not flying solo, there’s white peach, raspberry, and a touch of orange blossom honey in there). It’s unusual to meet an Italian wine that isn’t built for food and you’re not getting an exception here. Pair it with anything. Pasta with some good olive oil and grilled summer veggies would not be a bad place to start but you have my permission to run with this one.
M. Chapoutier Vignes de Blia-Haut (Pays d’Oc, France $11)
A flower-fest from Laguedoc, with sweet wildflowery notes including clover, rose blossom, linden, and… I get wisteria? Palate is fruity but not plush-ripe-fruity, it’s more on the tart redcurrant, grapefruit and lime rind side of things. Whispery, delicate, pleasant finish.
Michael Mondavi Family “Isabel” Rosé (Los Carneros, CA $20)
First of all, it’s really what’s in the bottle that matters, but may I just note that this is a really pretty bottle of wine? This rosé, made by vintner Dina Mondavi, is produced in a Provençal style, but with mostly Napa Cabernet fruit (Barbera and Muscat Canelli make up the rest). Cabernet Sauvignon is not a drag-and-drop varietal for rosé and it can have unpleasant results. Not so in this case. Accessible and friendly, with a salmon tint in the glass, this wine exhibits fresh aromatics (cranberry, strawberry and a touch of Comice pear). Strikingly light-bodied for a Cab, Isabel has a pleasant acidity and a long, lingering finish. This is a straightforward and quaffable wine that will pair with most anything you can think of.
Novelty Hill Spring Run Rosé (Washington, $18)
I’ve never had a wine from Novelty Hill that I didn’t like, and this one has the additional good-guy factor of $2 of the bottle price supporting the restoration of salmon runs. It’s vividly strawberry-forward and slightly spicy, with some lightly tropical notes (I feel weird saying I taste starfruit but I think I do) and raspberry on the finish. Bracing, super-fresh acidity. High tastiness factor. Eco-conscious. What more do you need?
Quivira 2014 Dry Creek Valley Rose ($24)
Seriously, they don’t pay me. Some wineries just get you, and to me these are some of the best wines in the region. Starring Grenache with judicious additions of Cunoise, Syrah and Mourvedre in supporting roles, this wine is a medium pink, rounded, with great acidity and a dreamy array of cranberry, strawberry, melon, sour cherry notes. One of those “Happy in a Bottle” bottles you will want to have a few of for special occasions. And by special I mean “Oh look: it’s 5:30!”
Pico Maccario “Lavignone” Rosato (Piemonte, Italy, $12)
A rosato of Barbera with what I have to say is an extra-pretty tone, luminous and slightly salmony. Some of the aromatics are typical pink-wine standards (watermelon and strawberry) and some are not (hay or grass-in fact if you like the grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc this is a wine to look for, it’s a similar feel). Blackberry and tart cranberry play on the palate and there’s a pronounced wet-stone finish. And as always, if it comes from Italy you can almost 100% bank on it being easy to pair with almost anything you’re eating. It’s just like that with Italian wines, especially pink ones.
Portugal Ramos Vinhos Vinho Verde Rosé (Portugal, $11)
So a few months back we talked about the traditional grapes of Portugal’s Douro region, whose superstar is Touriga Nacional. Here it’s blended with a couple of local natives, macerated briefly and left to think things over in stainless steel vats to preserve its youthful acidity and brightness. Limpid bright pink in the glass, it’s a fairly nuanced wine but the main notes you’ll notice are strawberry, watermelon and orange. There’s a little bit of quince on the nose too, which makes me think this would be quite appealing with a round of finger-foody appetizers, like some Marcona almonds, a few olives, and some manchego cheese with membrillo.
Pursued By Bear “Blushing Bear” Rosé (Washington, $25)
Dunham Cellars and Kyle MacLachlan (yes, that Kyle MacLachlan) collaborated to create Pursued By Bear, which produces small runs of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and this beauty, which is blended from Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault. Bandol thinking, Washington terroir. A little hard to come by (these wines sell out, meaning literally they all get bought, not the other kind of sellout, which they are not remotely) and not the most inexpensive rosé in the world but if you’ve ever spent time in Washington in June, you might have experienced the kind of psychedelic beauty of the solstice in a latitude where there’s a hell of a lot of summer evening to enjoy, and the sun just seems to hang there in suspension forever, and flowers are going nuts and bees are drunk and birds are in love and the sky is pale and clear and perfect. This is that. In a bottle.
Round Pond Rosato di Nebbiolo ($24)
Nebbiolo is the grape that is used to make Italian Barolo and Barbaresco wines. You seldom see it planted in California, and until a visit to Round Pond I had no idea there was such a thing as a rosé version. (Even in Piemonte they are unusual.) I try to restrict myself to wines you can find without a sherpa on these lists. This one is a rarity but I include it because it is soooooo worth it to seek it out (The Internet has no ZIP code; hit up the winery!). Salmon color, red berries and an intriguing note of herbes de provence, primarily lavender buds but other little herbaceous tones too. It’s a small production run and you’ll have to work for it a little more than some of these bottles, but isn’t that true of much of the good stuff?
Saved Magic Maker Rosé (California, $20)
In the “hella cute” category, this might actually be one of the few times I call something “a chick drink,” though regardless of your identification your inner chick will dig it. (I was gifted a bottle that included a talismanic rose-quartz pendant for keeping bad vibes at bay, but I think the wine does that already). A blend of Pinot Noir, Grenache and Cabernet Franc, this is a bone-dry wine and on the rich side, with an aromatic and flavor profile that leans toward peaches and nectarines, but also has discernable traces of apples and mandarins. Pour a glass and stare at the label for a while. It’s quite symbolically rife, and very eye catching. This is a very fun bottle to bring with you to a dinner get-together, because it’s a drag and drop food wine and because everyone will want to gaze at the label art.
Seven Hills Winery Dry Rosé ($16)
From Washington’s Columbia Valley, this rosé is pale, heavy on the aromatic florals, and quite brisk, with notes of peach and citrus zest, largely grapefruit. Herbaceous and mineral tones on the finish. Really approachable and nicely balanced.
Sonoma-Cutrer Rosé of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, about $25)
Beautiful pale rose-pink hue, crisp acidity-an ultralight wine. The nose is fruity (strawberry upfront but raspberry, cherry and hibiscus are present. Juicy, approachable, perfect for a hot afternoon. This is a delicate wine in the somewhat austere style characteristic of the Cote de Provence.
Viansa Sonoma Rosé (Sonoma County, CA, $18)
Some of the wines on this list are really wine-geek wines. Viansa isn’t. It’s a people-pleaser: Accessible, year-round-appealing, Everyman kind of stuff. Crafted to be shared around a table of fresh food with family and friends, Viansa Sonoma’s Rosé is an elegant, pink-hued wine with bright citrus, raspberry and lychee aromas that arouse the senses. Crisp acidity and pleasant, refreshing finish. Goes with everything. No secret handshake required.
Yamhill-Carlton Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir (Oregon, $21)
The Gran Moraine Vineyard gets those nice cool afternoon breezes that Pinot Noir grapes happen to love, and that’s the main source for the fruit in this whole-cluster-pressed dry pink, which has a lot of personality. Assertive acidity, aromas of pinapple, roses, mandarins, marasca cherry and honeysuckle, and some unexpected mid-palate supporting players like almonds, lemongrass, kiwi, watermelon and something earthy-tart that might be tamarind. The finish is long and lemony. Certainly food-friendly but this one’s got a complex enough personality that I think I might like it best on its own.