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Rediscovering Rose

Really learning to love wine is, well, a journey.

I know how clichéd that sounds, but it's true. We begin with simple wines from wineries that are as accessible in our stores as they are to our wallets.

Somewhere along the way, or tastes change, our interests shift, we wake up and -- while we find pleasure in those simpler wines -- our palates now demand something with more elegance.

In this column, we'll take the journey together, tasting wines, meeting wine industry folks and even sampling an occasional distilled spirit or great beer.

My journey began in the mid-1970s, when California wines were just finding shelf space in Eastern markets and accessible wines came from France and Italy. Among those early California wines were limited examples fruity, sweet Rosé.

They were the wines many of us honed our palates on, and today, remember those tastes with less than fond memories.
However, I'm jumping on the soapbox to declare this the summer of Rosé; new, bright, dry Rosé that is refreshing, elegant and as easy to quaff as it is to pair with summer foods.

Here's a trio of suggestions:

- Turkey Flat Vineyards 2007 Rosé: This top-notch Barossa Valley wine maker shows off the brilliant color of its Rosé in a custom bottle that, despite its 750 ml standard size, feels and looks much smaller - and much more elegant. But this Rosé doesn't stop with good looks - it's got the legs to compete in the flavor race as well. The wine, a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Dolcetto, delivers big aromatics that lead into a dry-style Rose packed with savory character and a very sophisticated finish. I adore Barossa Valley wines - and this Rosé is no exception.

- Routas 2007 Rosé Rouviere: Wanna sip with all the best families in Provence are tasting during the summer? Try this French blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault (a blending grape known for its added aromatics). The bright red fruit flavors of this Rose get an added bonus from partial aging in oak. Half of the Syrah and half of the Grenache are fermented in neutral oak barrels; the remainder ferments in stainless steel. The remarriage of these two fermentations creates a refreshingly crisp Rose that is parable with a variety of foods - like my favorite choices of grilled chicken, fish or pork.

- Copain 2008 Anderson Valley Rosé: This Healdsburg, Calif, winery delivers a blend of 95 percent Pinot Noir and 5 percent Grenache is this lively, dry-styled Rosé. Up front aromas of wild cherry, strawberry, and watermelon rind brace the palate for a hint of unexpected smokiness. I tasted this again two other Rosés - and Copain walked away a clear cut winner. It's equally good as a drinker or paired with food.

I recently poured one of these wines for 15 casual wine drinkers, all of whom told me they did not like Rosé. They all left the tasting as converts, with half saying that Rosé would be their favorite summer wine versus a Pinot Gris or a Gruner Veltliner.

This summer, give Rosé a chance - I think it's a wine you'll return to time and time again.

Until next week, cheers!

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