(This column appeared in the 2/11/05 issue of Dan’s Papers)

Wine That’s Pink… But Not What You Think
Let me just come out and say it. I don’t drink white Zinfandel. I’ve tried several and always found them to be syrupy sweet and one-dimensional. And, for years, I let these candy-in-a-bottle wines skew my image of any blush, pink wine or Rosé, regardless of name or origin.

I was guilty of the very wine snobbery I campaign against whenever possible.

But I’ve since learned that, when done right, a Rosé can be crisp, nuanced and absolutely delicious. Quality Rosé is the perfect wine for sipping with friends all spring and summer long, by the pool, at the beach, wherever.

With spring still a month away, let me suggest another time to enjoy a top-notch Rosé: Valentine’s Day.

With food-friendly acidity and light berry fruitiness, these wines are great with a wide variety of foods. I wouldn’t serve one with filet mignon or venison, but most anything else is fair game. More importantly, is there anything more romantic and fun than a pink wine?

So, where should you look for Rosé that’s “done right”? Bonny Doon in California makes a great one. So do several producers in France. But why look so far away when one can find supple, decadent Rosé right here on Long Island?

I, along with a dozen or so friends, tasted 14 different Rosés from 12 Long Island wineries and one from the Finger Lakes. To help us avoid any winery-bias, we covered each bottle with a brown paper bag and numbered them, a practice often referred to as “blind tasting.” Tasters, whose wine experience ranged from complete newbies to aficionados, were asked to give every wine a letter grade, A through F.

Martha Clara’s 2002 Cabernet Franc Rosé ($14) was the group’s clear favorite, getting a solid B overall. Pale salmon in color, I enjoyed this wine’s cranberry and strawberry flavors. I gave it a B-minus.

The 2003 Domaines CC Rosé ($15) from Corey Creek Vineyards and Pellegrini Vineyard’s 2003 East End Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) both received average scores of B-minus from the group, tying for second favorite amongst the 14 wines.

Offering gentle strawberry flavors with blueberry notes, I gave the Corey Creek bottling an A-minus. I really loved its well-balanced, mouth-watering acidity.

Pellegrini’s offering, meanwhile, received my highest grade of all the wines, garnering an A for it’s bright, crisp taste filled with ripe berries and a smooth finish. A new favorite.

My other top-graded wines included an A-minus for Wolffer Estates’ 2003 Rosé ($13.50) and three B-pluses for Raphael’s 2003 Saignee ($15), Macari Vineyards’ 2003 Rosé ($12) and Laurel Lake Vineyards’ 2001 Lake Rosé ($10).

If you enjoy a little sweetness with your berries, I’d recommend Paumanok Vineyards’ Vin Rosé ($15) a delightfully off-dry wine from a popular producer or Atwater Estates’ Somerset Blush ($8), a sweet but extremely well balanced Finger Lakes blend of Cayuga and Catawba grapes. Both are charming alternatives to White Zinfandel.

Try a few of these and find one you like. Buy a case to enjoy this summer. And drink pink this Valentine’s Day, too.

Lenn Thompson is a contributing writer for Dan’s North Fork. Email him at lenn@lenndevours.com