Rosés are kind of like the mood ring of wines. The range of color pink, pinker, pinkerer is all over the map (somewhat literally), and the style can be anything from a serious pour to almost frivolous. And this time of year, with the warm weather's torpor unabated, you can liven things up when you drink pink.

Rosé reaches its pinnacle with wines of Provence, Tavel and some regions in Spain, but American wines are doing some nice things in the less serious spectrum. Bonny Doon's Vin Gris de Cigare's Grenache-based blend ($15) is fresh and zesty, with palate tones of blood orange. Pali's Sunset Rosé ($15) is a tad more floral, with cranberry and lime tones. Pietra Santa's Rosato, from the Cienega Valley, is 100 percent Dolcetto, fresh, vibrant and full of character. Navarro's Rosé ($16.50) continues this house's quirky but stylish rep with a Grenache/Carignan blend that is light and crisp with a hint of spice.

My favorite rosé of this summer is the downright cheap Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45 ($8 less at the big box stores), a Grenache/Syrah blend from the Cote du Rhone. Its dark garnet color is inviting, with a payoff of plum and black currant. This is as fine as an aperitif as it is an accompaniment for grilled sausage or pork.

Here are a few more rewarding ways to think pink this season:


  • Robert Skalli Reserve AOC Cotes de Provence ($20): Deceptively bright pink, but pleasantly tart, tasting of red currant and white peach. Pair it with almost any grilled fish and grilled or stuffed vegetables.
  • Maison Bouachon Tavel La Rouvier ($17): From Chateauneuf de Pape in the traditional style, a medley of stone fruit with an almond-like finish. Grilled salmon is made to order here.
  • Navarra Red Guitar Old Vine ($10): A simple quaffer from Spain in the lighter cherry/raspberry vein. Wean your holdout white-zin friends with this fairly perfumed pour.

One more word about rosé: Though counterintuitive, the darker the wine, not necessarily the drier the style. Many of the nearly reds are quite sweet and, to my mind, to be avoided.

New and Recommended:

Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2007, $32: This may be the new benchmark in sauvignon creamy, slightly floral and focused but true to type. If you ever needed convincing on this varietal, this is the wine to do it. Grade: A

Orfila Vineyards Viognier Lotus Lot 67, $29: From, of all places, San Diego County, a Viognier/Marsanne/Roussanne blend with both backbone and finesse. Grade: A

Vale do Bomfim 2006, $12: The house of Dow makes this zippy dry red for Portugal's Douro Valley, but it is not at all a port style. It has an easy elegance, but with bright fruit and spicy aromas. Perfect for the grill. Grade: B