May 18, 2006
Think pink

The really warm evenings lately have had us eating just one kind of food - salad - and tasting one kind of wine - pink.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, salads and wines can go together quite well, especially if the dressing isn't too vinegary or too lemony. As for a warm-weather wine regardless of entree, a light, bright, fruity and well-chilled rose accommodates meal and palate more refreshingly than any other style, except for maybe gewurztraminer or riesling.

What's more, roses are showing signs of new respect and popularity, with more labels arriving on store shelves and restaurant wine lists. We opened three recent releases last night, and they showed just how varied roses can be, even when their bright hues all more or less run to cranberry red tinged with purple and orange.

The Red Bicyclette 2005 French Rose ($11) was the lightest of the three, but it's solidly structured, with just a touch of residual sugar and a pleasantly complex fruitiness running to fresh strawberries and a trace of chalk. A blend of syrah (60 percent), grenache (36 percent) and cinsault (4 percent), it should be easy to find, given that 27,000 cases were produced.

The Folie a Deux 2005 Menage a Trois California Rose ($10) also should be relatively easy to find, with 10,000 cases produced. A blend of merlot, syrah and gewurztraminer, it was the most aromatic, plumpest and sweetest of the three, with enough weight and backbone to stand up to even grilled ribs, provided their sauce isn't too thick and cloying.

The most unusual and intriguing of the three - and also likely the most difficult to find, with just 390 cases made - was the Ceago Vinegarden 2005 Del Lago Clear Lake Syrah Rose ($18). It shows just how refined and multi-faceted a rose can be when the fruit (90 percent syrah, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon) is handled with precision and imagination (15 percent of the wine was aged briefly in oak barrels). The result is a medium-bodied dry rose with suggestions of strawberries and oranges in the flavor and a whiff of smoke in the smell. There's also a kind of rare earthiness to this rose that makes it seem more European than Californian, and which I like to think is a byproduct of the biodynamic techniques that winemaker Jim Fetzer uses in farming his vineyards.

If hamburgers are about to come off the grill, this rose has the framework to stand up to them, but if you're sticking with salad it will be equally as fitting.

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