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Rosé wine: It’s a first kiss, a warm summer night, or fresh fruit salad with vanilla ice cream. Rosé pairs with everything or nothing — it’s good simply on its own, for sipping or enjoyed between nibbles of creamy soft cheese or spicy meats.

Rosé, however, lacked a happy childhood. As recently as 10 years ago, thoughtful wine drinkers equated rosés with jugs of sweet pink, the kind of wine one’s parents sipped during poolside brunches. 

Today, rosé is a contender. Not only do serious consumers sip it, more and more winemakers produce rosés to serious accolades.

From Red Grape to Pink Wine

While any red grape varietal can be made into a rosé, the most common grape varietals used are pinot noir, grenache, syrah, mourvedre, cinsault or zinfandel. Reds frequently combined are syrah and grenache, and in the South of France, cinsault and grenache dominate rosés.

Typical rosés are produced via one of two methods. “Direct press” means that red grapes harvested specifically for a rosé are left to soak on their skins for mere hours, giving the wine a blush of color, before the juices are pressed into tank or barrel for aging.

The other method is called “saigneé” — using red grapes that were harvested for a red wine but bleeding off (saigneé is French for “bleed”) some juice after the grapes are pressed.

And yes, winemakers occasionally blend the juice of white grapes into a rosé (see the varietal description for Larner, below)

Winemaker Brittany Zotovich produces her label Dreamcôte with business partner Anna Clifford, and terms rosés “a great addition to any tasting lineup,” especially for their food pairing functionality.

“They’re versatile — I’d argue they’re as versatile as pinot noirs when it comes to food and wine pairing — perhaps even more so in the warmer months,” Zotovich explained.

Rosés typically spend as few as seven months in barrel, as winemakers herald the return of spring with a wine to celebrate warmth and sunshine, the Memorial Day holiday in particular.

Here are five of my favorite rosés, including varietal and vineyards or AVAs where applicable:

» Andrew Murray Vineyards 2013 Esperance Rosé: This Curtis Estate Vineyard blend is mostly cinsault and grenache, with a touch of mourvedre and syrah, and is fresh and fruity.

» 2013 Alta Maria Vineyards Rosé: Santa Maria Valley pinot noir has a classic essence of fresh strawberries.

» 2013 Blair Fox Cellars Haylee’s Rosé: This blend of Fox Family estate Grenache, syrah and a hint of zinfandel is named for one of Blair Fox’s daughters and is elegance and structure in a bottle.

» Dragonette Cellars Rosé: Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. Blend of grenache and mourvedre from Vogelzang Vineyard, with 5 percent of syrah. Radiates caramel, peaches and ripe honeydew. Heads up: it’s almost sold out.

» 2012 Dreamcôte Cellars Rosé: Blend of cinsault, syrah and mourvedre, Camp 4 and Zotovich vineyards. Creamy but lean.

Six more absolutely worth sipping:

» 2013 Kaena Wine Rosé: Grenache from La Presa Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley

» 2011 Larner Vineyard & Winery Rosé: And older vintage of Larner estate syrah, grenache, mourvedre and the white grape malvasia bianca

» 2013 Longoria Wines Cuvee June Rosé: Just released, a blend of 50 percent each grenache and tempranillo named for the Longoria’s granddaughter

» 2013 Riverbench Vineyard & Winery Rosé: Estate pinot noir, Santa Maria Valley

» 2013 Samsara Wines Rosé: Grenache from Windmill Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley

» 2013 Tercero Wines Rosé: Mourvedre from Vogelzang Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara

But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Jump in; the water’s warm and the pink wines are fine.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via winecountrywriter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are her own.

Laurie Jervis

Laurie Jervis, Noozhawk Columnist

Laurie Jervis can be reached at winecountrywriter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are her own.