It's the end of the day in the middle of a heat wave, and the heat hasn't lifted. There's dust in my hair and dirt under my nails. My arms are seared from working in the sun, and I drive toward the ruby western sky needing a refreshing reward. Would a guy work this hard for an aluminum can of carbonated piss-water? Hell no. I want something ice-cold, crisp and clean, with the thirst-quenching character of strawberry and rose petals. Shout it to the world: Gimme some pink wine! Yeah! Say it like this to better convey the guttural gusto: pink wine—yeaaaaargh!
Incongruous? Better known by their French moniker, rosé wines just don't get the cred here that they do in nations where men wear pink shirts with no fear. Rosés have got a lot of press lately (even from us, see "Rosé Rising," Feb. 6), and wine shops and specialty groceries carry an improving variety. Unfortunately, the chilled-and-good-to-go section in the supermarket is not pretty in pink. In fact, the situation is not pretty at all—it's still a white Zin world.
Being no wine snob, I grab the stumble home and Sutter Home ($3.99)—or vice-versa. A nancy wine of merely 9 percent alcohol, it's not bad with a couple of ice cubes. The problem with cheap white Zinfandel (well, among the, etc.) is that, quantity being the primary concern, grapes are cropped for maximum tonnage, resulting in weak flavors augmented with sugar. Quite the opposite with many North Coast rosés, made from grapes harvested at ripeness for premium red wine. Winemakers separate, or "bleed off," a portion of the pink juice to concentrate the red even more. The result is flavorful quaffs—in short supply. Par exemple, the 2007 Scherrer Dry Rosé ($14) is a nicely priced fringe benefit of its excellent Pinot Noir.
No wallflower wine, Malbec lends muscularity to 2007 Belasco de Baquedana's Rosa de Argentina ($15), which shines like a pale ruby and is so dry it could almost use steak sauce. A great choice for the grill, like many of the better pink wines today, it's enclosed with a handy screwcap top. (In curious counterintuition, the Sutter Home's corked.) Also easy to break out of its graphically intense prison, Big House Pink ($8.99) is rich with chilled stewed strawberry flavor, and has weight and balance on the palate. Now that's a refreshing, tasty beverage.
Grasping my stemware with pinky extended, I toss back a swig and shake my head in a raw enjoyment of times like these. Beads of sweat fly in every direction as the South Australian swimsuit team parachutes into the scene.
Among retailers that offer a great selection of rosé wines, try Traverso's Gourmet Food & Liquor, 106 B St., Santa Rosa. Open Monday–Saturday, 9:30am–5:30pm. 707.542.2530.