Pretty in Pink

Summer weather is heating up in the Bay Area, so it’s time to slide a bottle of rose’ into an ice bucket, find a shady spot and discover the pleasures of California wines that live in limbo between red and white.

My interest in pink wine percolated a few weeks ago when I tasted a delicious rose’ from Scherrer Winery at the Pinot Days event in San Francisco. It was a pure shot of pleasure, and a great change of pace from all of the serious pinot noir wines featured at this event, which I wrote about in my last blog, Pursuing Perfect Pinot.

When my friend Bob uncorked a couple bottles of the same Scherrer rose’  at a Fourth of July barbecue, I was hooked on this uncommon wine. It’s a blend of zinfandel and pinot noir — varieties that don’t usually come together in a bottle — but this combination works great in the hands of Fred Scherrer. It’s available from the Sonoma County winery at $15/bottle.

I’ve mostly avoided pink wines in the past, but what we are talking here is good wine, at a good price, that goes down smooth and isn’t too sweet and cloying. This is definitely not your mother’s white zinfandel!

Blushing in Oakland

I started looking close by for some similar wines to taste and locked into two winners at J.C. Cellars and Dashe Cellars in Oakland. The two wineries, which share space near Jack London Square, have earned reputations for mostly red wines like zinfandel and syrah, but both also make a small amount of blush wines for summertime sipping.

Dashe & JC Cellars

Dashe & JC Cellars

I enjoyed the Dashe vin gris and the JC Cellars rose’ of syrah. Both sell for $14/bottle.

The vin gris is a bit lighter on the palate. It’s a three-way blend of syrah, petite sirah and zinfandel grapes. Dark rose colored in the glass, the nose wasn’t anything special, but the taste was smooth and it went down easily with a chunk of cheddar cheese and a bit of country ham perched on a slice of pita bread.

The JC Cellars rose’ was darker than the vin gris and it tasted great, edging closer to the flavors of a full-blooded red wine. This rose’ is made using the saignee method, in which some of the juice is removed from the tank before it picks up any deeper color from the red grape skins. The result is a blush colored wine that drinks like syrah “light.”

The Dashe and JC Cellars tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There’ s a $5 tasting fee, but it’s waived if you buy a bottle.

Cal-Ital Twist

I wanted to try something different in a rose’, so I stopped at my local wine bar — Alameda Wine Co. — to see what was available.  Owner Karen Ulrich turned me on to another pink wine, Uvaggio’s barbera rose’ ($8.50), a dark pink color with tangerine highlights. It makes for a decent quaffing wine — served really cold — and has enough backbone to stand up to dishes like grilled seafood or cioppino.

Barbera is the third most popular wine grape in Italy, but it is not widely planted in California. Grapes for the Uvaggio rose’ came from Lodi, where the vines thrive in the Central Valley climate.

Coming Up

Alameda Wine Co. celebrates its first anniversary with an open house next Tuesday (July 14) featuring barbecue, music, magic and $3 wines-by-the-glass. The address is 2315 Central Ave., right next door to the Alameda movie theater. The event runs from 4-8 p.m.

Rosenblum Cellars, also in Alameda, hosts its annual summer open house from 1-5 p.m. July 25-26 at the winery near the Alameda Ferry Terminal. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door.

Looking Farther Ahead

The annual East Bay Vintner’s Alliance is holding its fourth annual tasting event on the grass in Jack London Square next to the Oakland Ferry Terminal on August 8. Each of the 16 participating wineries — including Rosenblum, JC Cellars and Dashe — will be paired with a local restaurant serving food to complement the wines. Advance tickets are $45 and $60 at the door.

The Family Winemakers of California 19th annual tasting is scheduled for August 23 at Ft. Mason in San Francisco. This non-profit advocacy group puts on a great tasting featuring hundreds of wineries, including a few big family-owned companies you know by name alongside a lot of mostly smaller wineries that don’t usually share the public spotlight. Tickets are $50 in advance, $60 at the door.

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