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Reviews : Rosé of Pinot Noir

Everything's Coming Up Rosé : A Pink Primer For Manly Men

Gabe Saglie, Santa Barbara News Press
02/14/2012

Gentlemen, it's about to happen again. We're about to take that painful hit in the wallet, what with those prices for a dozen roses inevitably blooming as we head toward Valentine's Day. It's a hit we won't like, but it's one we'll take anyway. We're in love, after all. I don't blame the corner florist, of course. I'm all for capitalism, and I'd be counting the days to Feb. 14, too. Like plucking petals off a blossom.

But the good news is that what a rose might cost you, a rosé might save you.These delightful pink-prone wines are among the most affordable in the market. And if we look beyond the price tag, it's value we'll be getting. Value in what we pour into the glass, since the smells and flavors of a quality rosé can be downright alluring. Value in what we have to show for it, since the visuals on a rosé can be downright pretty. And value in what we get out of it, since the response from the woman we love can be downright delicious.

No doubt, rosés have been gaining renewed respect in the last few years. They're no longer eschewed as flimsy, feeble, fragile wines. More of us now know they can be complex, layered and satisfying.And guys, don't let the pink factor here scare you away. One of my wife's favorite fancy wear outfits on me is a textured pink shirt adorned with a paisley pink tie; the combo is already dry cleaned, pressed and earmarked for whatever plans we make on Cupid's big night.

Similarly, admitting that you really like a nice, full, chilled glass of rosé does not undermine your masculinity. I say it embraces it, buoys it, enhances it.What's more, I'm using pink as a convenient equalizer. Just like the type of rose you pluck, the rosé you sip can range in hue from salmon to crimson. It just depends on how long skin touched juice, and you can conjure your own double entendres from there.

Here are five affordable rosés that I've shared with my wife in the last few months that are sure to bring a smile to the lips of the one you love and, thereby, to yours.

Hitching Post Pinks Dry Rosé 2010
Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley (two very manly men) made this wine, and it's featured by the glass at Ostini's Hitching Post II restaurant in Buellton (a haven for seekers of all things meaty). The label embraces all that is wonderful and delicious about pinot noir, and this rosé does the same, with the blended-in enhancement of valdiguie (a red grape prevalent in the wine growing regions of southern France). Lots of strawberry here, both on the nose and on the tongue, with a lip-smacking finish. Consider discovering it during the Hitching Post II's 25th Celebration, which features a three- course dinner menu through Feb. 12. $15.

Fontes & Phillips Panky Rosé 2009
Tell the gal you love you're ready for a little Panky, and it's bound to raise an intrigued eyebrow and generate a naughty smile. What else can we hope for on Valentine's Day? The whimsical name correlates perfectly with a playful, flirty wine that shows off a brilliant pink color and vibrant aromas of young, plump fruit. This is a classic rosé; it reminds me of the stuff I saw quaffed with abandon on the glistening shores of Marseilles during a youthful journey many years ago. Winemaker Alan Phillips (who runs the label's boutique Los Olivos tasting room with wife Rochelle Fontes) made this wine using equal parts grenache, cinsualt and syrah from the admired Camp 4 Vineyard in Santa Ynez. His artistic knack has delivered a delicious, dry, quenching wine. $15.

Presqu'ile Rose of Pinot Noir 2010
This is one of the newest residents of Santa Maria wine country (and one you'll learn a lot more about in this column in two weeks). The Murphy family, natives of Mississippi, turned a once-flourishing gladiola farm into a nearly-200-acre vineyard. Some of the first available pinot noir off the land was used to make this all-pinot rosé by pressing whole grape clusters (rather than bleeding off the juice, as is readily customary). The result is a beautiful, floral wine that is not over- extracted, yet brimming with fresh flavors of apple and berries and aromas — get this — of actual roses. Winemaker Dieter Cronje aged this wine for seven months in stainless steel. $18.

Summerland Winery Grenache Rosé 2010
This wine proves that the grenache grape can be a wonderful source for a rosé. This release by winemaker Etienne Terlinden is complex and interesting while maintaining the bright, crisp character we seek in a rosé. There are layers on the palate here, from raspberry to orange rind, and subtle doses of tropical fruit. And just like in any great relationship, there's balance here: The generosity of fruit flavors is met with fresh acidity that makes you seek a second sip before the first one's done. This wine can stand to food beyond the standard light or appetizer fare typically paired with rosé. The fruit for this wines was sourced from Paso Robles. $16.

Tercero Mourvedre Rose 2010
Winemaker Larry Schaffer uses 100 percent Santa Barbara County mourvedre grapes to create a quintessential southern France-style rosé. This is another complex wine, but with a wonderfully crisp mouth feel and a vibrant finish. There's wonderful cherry and berry ingrained here — bright fruit — but very subtle notes of herbs give it a soft, sexy backbone and the refreshingly clean minerality shuns heaviness on the palate, making it super lively and super easy to go back for seconds. This rosé stands up to a varied array of foods, especially the finger-friendly variety that inevitably forces the one you love to scooch closer. The rest is up to you. $20

Happy Valentine's Day!

Those of you who've read my wine columns over the last several years have often found references to our family dog, Merlot. This beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog loved unconditionally and fought bravely against cancer for almost a year until, a few days ago, he opted to move on to that big vineyard in the sky, instead. Like the wine that inspired his name, he only got better with age and will continue to inspire toasts in our household for years to come.Gabe Saglie is senior editor for www.travelzoo.com. His column appears every other week in the Food section. Email him at gabesaglie@yahoo.com.