I'm Feeling Pink: International Rose Day

By Dana Pickell

Folks, I am busting at the seams with anticipation and excitement. Take note, fellow wine geeks, come August 14th, my squeals of delight will be heard from coast to coast and continent to continent. My ode to winemakers the world over will resonate as loudly as a wannabe Spice Girls karaoke champion. International Rosé Day is upon us... looming in the distance, she’s been waiting an entire year to gallop in on her golden pony and lay the smack down on red and white wines, if only for one glorious day. And I can’t wait.

That’s right, August 14th is the second annual Winegeeks.com-declared International Rosé Day. And while celebration equates the relaxed enjoyment of the greatest pink beverage known to man and beast, a taxing decision will weigh on me for the next few days: of the many I have known and loved, which ones are worthy of sipping and slurping on our special day? I thought a regional rosé breakdown appropriate here, and what with the abundance of incredible summer foods available right now, a bit of menu planning would suffice as well.

The international tour begins in the United States with well-built rosés from Washington State’s Columbia Valley. In a medium-bodied world, these are rosé heavyweights, sauntering into the ring bearing dark fruits and spicy attitude. Washington rosés are made of varietals ranging from Sangiovese to Syrah, and tend to be a bit higher in alcohol than some of their worldly counterparts. No matter. Big rosés have their place on the table, saddled up next to blackened catfish or spice-rubbed pork ribs. Keep an eye out for Barnard Griffin’s 2005 Rosé of Sangiovese, which displays lively raspberry and black cherry notes, with a slightly tindered accent. A bit of sugar on the finish helps keep this big guy from feeling overly hot on the palate.

Further south in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon rosés come out to play, dancing in the rolling fields of the Willamette Valley and beyond. And as you may have guessed, the Pinot Noir varietal still wears the crown, but in a much more princely fashion than the reds produced from the same varietal. Ranging in color from pale salmon to springtime pink, variety is the key word in Oregon. Some of the greats, such as Russ Raney’s Evesham Wood Vin d’une Nuit Pinot Noir Rosé 2005 give off characteristic strawberry and peach notes, while Jay Sommers’ J. Christopher Cristo Irisito 2005 demonstrates what Pinotphiles love about terroir-driven earthy wines. Rosés of Pinot Noir beg for cedar plank grilled salmon and roasted vegetables. Summer wines with summer foods.

A foray into California rosé is a mish-mash of flavors and varietals, covering everything from robust Cabernet Sauvignon all the way to the lesser-known Carignan. And while rosé production doesn’t stop traffic in California, you can count on the well-rounded 2005 Rosé from Elyse Winery... a veritable mix-and-match of nine varietals that add herbaceousness, earthiness and zip to your glass. If big and bold doesn’t make you reach for a bottle of pink, try something a bit more playful with Toad Hollow’s Eye of the Toad rosé, a fruit-packed rascal made from well-handled California Pinot Noir. A bit more voracious than it’s Oregon counterparts, the Eye of the Toad will stand up to meatier grilled options, such as whole stuffed chicken or pork sausages.

If you get your fill of rosés from the aforementioned parts of the west, a recommendation to head south is an order. Warm climates, such as Argentina and Australia, produce surprisingly lush rosés. They can be more unpredictable and unique, so if you run in a rosé-fond crowd, try this one on this summer. Susanna Balboa, one of Mendoza’s foremost winemakers, takes the darling varietal, Malbec, to new heights with her unbelievably stunning 2005 Crios Rosé. Flavors range from slightly roasted to caramelly and the wine has a bright, yet viscous mouth feel. This rosé would be weak in the knees at the thought of a slightly rare steak. And it’s worth making this lady weak in the knees. Australian rosé generally comes in the form of Shiraz, which carries spice and rich fruit on the palate. A word to the wise: beware of examples that display out-of-balance alcohol or wood characteristics. When it comes to rosé, there is such a thing as overdone.

Across the pond in France exists a rosé lover’s fantasy. It’s the thing dreams are made of, really. Prissy. Pompous. Poopy. From Champagne to Beaujolais. From the Loire Valley to Burgundy. From the Rhone to Provence. Pink is the national color of France come summertime. It’s the new white and it’s telling red to step aside. The 2005 Château de Puligny-Montrachet sets a striking example with a Burgundian rosé of status and follow-through. The Pinot Noir in this rosé is a 'tween... not a baby, but not quite ready to drive alone, with creamy citrus flavor dominating the bone-dry palate. Sear a few pork chops with a pistou accompaniment and this wine will sing. Pencil lead and strawberry wrestle it out in an exemplary rosé of Pineau d’Aunis, the unsung hero of Loire Valley red varietals. Produced in 2005 by Clos Roche Blanche using 100% organic viticulture and winemaking, this rosé catches all who dare by surprise. The color shows the faintest shade of pink, but the body is weighty and serious, and does extraordinarily well with roasted meats. Further south in France, rosé hunters will trip over numerous examples from Tavel in the southern Rhone Valley and charming, inexpensive bottlings from Provence and Languedoc. These rosés pair well with hearty fishes, such as tuna, and lighter fare, such as olives. Salade Niçoise, anyone?

France’s neighboring country of Italy may not be bursting at the seams with rosé production, but it certainly does its part to contribute to Old World summer wine consumption. While the king and queen wines of northern Italy, Barbaresco and Barolo, quietly hibernate in barrel, rosés from nearby Alto-Adige are ready to be enjoyed. Alois Lageder produces a lovely gem of a wine made from 100% Lagrein, a varietal that shows its true nature as both a red and a rosé. Looking for minerality and acidity? You’ve found a great match for summer pastas and abundant garden salads in a northern Italian rosé. Further a field, a true rosé lover ought not miss one of the finest of all pink wines –- Cerasuolo from the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. Of all the standouts of the 2005 vintage is the Torre de Beati Montepulciano Cerasuolo. Rich raspberry and herbaceous notes dance the two-step with a rather lively mouthful of earthiness and acidity. And meals from portabella burgers to homemade pizza love this wine.

And what, with all the giddiness in a glass, why not go for the gusto and try this: pink bubbles. Can it get much better?! I think not. Producers the world wide, from Oregon to France, from California to Spain, have found that fizzy rosé is worthy of its own celebration. Champagne rosé, with its biscuity strawberry creaminess is a brilliant summer aperitif with aged goat cheeses. And Cava rosé from the Penedes region in Spain wants a seat at your patio table, accompanying tapas of roasted peppers, sharp manchego cheese and salty anchovies wrapped lovingly around marcona almonds. Sparkling rosé of Pinot Noir from Oregon and California have an earthy edge dredged in strawberry mist. Keep your eyes out for sparkling rosés from Agrapart in Champagne, Jané Ventura in Cava, Gruet in New Mexico and Argyle Winery in Oregon.

With all that said, now I'll need to settle on which shade of pink best suits me this year. Which bottle gleams most from the shelf? Which wants to tantalize my palate and make my head reel in goofy wine-loving joy? And with so many choices abound, it's a bit like standing in the middle of a rare gem gallery: each wine is unique and unusual in its own way, shines in a certain light, and often turns heads. And the most difficult decision is choosing the right one. Each of the bottles is whistling "Drink me… sip me and admire me on International Rosé Day. Pick me." And my choice? I still don't know. It could be a bottle of Champagne Rose collecting dust in my wine closet, or at the end of a long day at work as a wine steward, it could be the first bottle I grab off the shelf on my way out the door heading home. Oh, and, I forgot about the three bottles already chilled down in my refrigerator, waiting for their moment to shine. Regardless of which pink I indulge in on August 14th, it will be sipped and enjoyed, shared with friends, and even giggled about. It is pink wine, afterall, and what a perfect day to celebrate.