Rosés for Summer

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Welcome to National Rosé Month! Or so it seems, to scan the wine section of any newspaper in June. Wine writers treat rosés like Emily Post treats white shoes: dusted off for Memorial Day, retired on Labor Day, perfect for summer but verboten from September to May. Even as they tout the growing popularity of rosés among both consumers and winemakers, the once-a-year rosé roundups rarely appear in any month but this one, making drinking pink synonymous with the reappearance of Speedos on Dolores Beach and speedboats on Clear Lake: a drink for vacationland and summer shares, poured poolside, lakeside, out on the deckside.

And with good reason, frankly: while a good rosé is worth drinking any day of the year, there’s no denying that their strawberry hues and Jolly Rancher bouquets are best enhanced by long, sunshiny afternoons that postpone the twilight until deep in the evening. Like a summer romance, these are wines of instant enchantment, capturing the bliss of a moment. There’s just something kissable about a rosé, something that makes you want to pucker up, put the glass to your lips, and laugh.

Fresh, light, a little racy, with a jazzy red-fruit profile that dips from strawberries to cherries to thirst-quenching watermelon: that’s your typical Mediterranean-ready rosé, and the type I like best for my summer sipping. For one like this, look no further than Domaine de la Fouquette’s Cuvee Rosée d’Aurore ($16.50), made in Provence from a blend of 65% grenache, 35% cinsault, and 5% rolle grapes. Pale salmon in the glass, it balances its watermelon bounce with a smooth white-linen crispness that keeps it fresh and pleasing from sip to sip.

Jeff Diamond, owner of Farmstead Cheeses and Wines in Montclair and Alameda, drinks rosé at home all year round. “85% of the time, if I come home and my wife’s got a glass in her hand, it’s going to be a rosé,” says Jeff, pointing out her particular favorite, the Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel ($28).

Tavel, of course, is an A.O.C. region in southern France where nothing but rose is made, and the grapes for this wine are not just grown in Tavel but grown biodynamically by what Diamond dubs “the best Rhône producer on the planet.” The end result? A supple, meaty rosé, nearly magenta, that’s a smooth, suave dinner-party companion to grilled lamb or salmon. It’s a rosé to convert even the hardiest of red-wine drinkers. “In our house, we probably go through 7 or 8 cases a year of this,” notes Diamond. (More for weekday drinking is the Domaine de la Mordoreé’s Cotes du Rhône: light and balanced, a very nice food wine, and at $18, ten dollars further down the splurge scale.)

“For the stores, we stock up on rosés for the summer, but we sell them all year around. It’s exceedingly versatile; it goes with all the things whites go with, and some of the things reds go with,” especially anything that teeters between salty and sweet, like ham. The shop’s selection can range from a dozen up to 20 different varieties, generally all European-made. Right now, the best-seller is Domaine Sorin Terra Amata another grenache-dominated, good-value blend from the Côtes de Provence.

At Heart wine bar on Valencia, the menu offers not just one but two pink sparklers. Trying strenuously to veer away from its Sex & the City implications, the writeup for Wilfrid Rousse Chinon Rose de Saignée warns “Call it blush and get smacked. And it’s DRY.” For the German Gilabert Rose Cava, it’s “Champagne-Snobbery+Girliness=Rose Cava.”

And while I wouldn’t agree that only snobbery stands between real French Champagne and Spanish Cava, if you’re going to drink pink bubbles in a place that serves their wine in jam jars, you might as well stick to cava.

Looking for something a little more grown-up? Head over to Maverick and order a glass of Donkey and Goat Grenache Gris Rosé, made by a Berkeley winemaking couple from Mendocino grapes and a delectable match to their Baltimore crab fluffs or buttermilk fried chicken in black-pepper gravy.

At Piccino, the neighbors in Dogpatch will be toasting Dad by drinking pink for the restaurant’s annual rosé fest, on Sunday June 20th from noon-5pm. As always, there will be numerous rosés to try, matched with a pink-friendly menu. (Expect some seafood to go with the usual pizzas, contorni, and salads.)

At Farmstead Cheeses and Wine, there will be a special tastings of rosés at the end of the month, in the Montclair store on June 25 from 5:30-7:30pm and in Alameda on June 26th from 2:30-4:30pm.

Even the posh Bordeaux lovers over at Emeryville’s Premier Cru loosen up a little come summertime. But not so much that they lose their European focus. Writes James Gillerman,

Yes, I have had very pleasant rosé wines from Sancerre (pinot noir), from New Zealand, from Napa, from Bordeaux (cabernet sauvignon and merlot primarily), from Marsannay in Burgundy (pinot noir again), but I always seem to return to the wines of Tavel and Bandol, perhaps a few other southern Rhone appellations for the most reliably satisfying examples.

Right now, the shop is offering several roses from the south of France, including Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose ’09 ($24.99), the classic rosé lover’s rosé. Writes Gillerman, “I like this release vintage after vintage. Consistently one of the best roses out there on the market. Primarily Mourvedre, with a smattering of other grapes thrown in.” Also on the shelves are two affordable summer quaffers from Provence’s Chateau Paradis, Terre de Provence Rosé ($11.99) and Terres des Anges Rosé ($13.99), both made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah.

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About the Author ()

Stephanie Rosenbaum Klassen is a longtime local food writer, author, and cook. Her books include The Art of Vintage Cocktails (Egg & Dart Press), World of Doughnuts (Egg & Dart Press); Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food (Williams Sonoma); Honey from Flower to Table (Chronicle Books) and The Astrology Cookbook: A Cosmic Guide to Feasts of Love (Manic D Press). She has studied organic farming at UCSC and holds a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. She does frequent cooking demonstrations at local farmers’ markets and has taught food writing at Media Alliance in San Francisco and the Continuing Education program at Stanford University. She has been the lead restaurant critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian as well as for San Francisco magazine. She has been an assistant chef at the Headlands Center for the Arts, an artists' residency program located in the Marin Headlands, and a production cook at the Marin Sun Farms Cafe in Pt Reyes Station. After some 20 years in San Francisco interspersed with stints in Oakland, Santa Cruz, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, she recently moved to Sonoma county but still writes in San Francisco several days a week.