I decided to go with something a little bit different for this week’s winesday: a rose wine. For a long time now, roses have been regarded as second-rate wines. Wine connoisseurs felt that rose wines lacked the complexity found in red and white wines and were therefore not worth taking seriously. Only people with really poor taste in wine would be caught drinking a rose! As usual, what was once unpopular is now becoming hip. These days, people are slowly starting to rediscover rose. Previous misconceptions about rose – that it is too simple, too sweet and poorly made – are being rejected by today’s wine enthusiasts. It is really only a matter of time before rose wine becomes downright trendy.

Rose wine is made pretty much everywhere that wine is made; particularly delicious roses come from France, Spain and the United States. There are several different ways to make rose, but the most commonly used method entails using red wine grapes but allowing the grape skins to be in contact with the juice for a very short amount of time. The end result is a wine that is closer in many ways to a white wine but that has extra body and a subtle hint of red wine flavor. Rose wines are light, crisp and refreshing. Because of this, they are often called summer wines. One of the brilliant things about rose wines is that they are able to be paired with practically any food. They are great wines to take to a picnic. Another plus? Rose wines tend to be very affordable.

My rose wine of choice for this week comes from my own home state of Washington: Chateau Ste Michelle 2006 Nellie’s Garden Dry Rose. I first learned of this wine while watching Wine Library TV’s video podcast. This podcast is hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk, a young guy whose goal is to make the world of wine fun & accessible to everyone. He is a little bit hyper and might rub some people the wrong way, but he definitely knows his wine! In each podcast, Gary tastes 3 or 4 wines. He doesn’t usually go too in-depth into the history of the wines or terroir or other such topics that typically bore casual wine aficionados. Instead, he really focuses on the tasting of the wines, thoroughly describing the aromas and the flavors. This is something I am trying to develop more in myself so I find it to be very helpful. And, the nice thing about it being a video podcast is that you get to actually see the wines being tasted. I can’t tell you how many times I have read or heard about a delicious sounding wine only to be unable to recall the name of it in the store. Seeing the label in the video really helps cement it in my memory.

As I mentioned above, rose wines are sometimes called summer wines. I decided to continue with this summer theme by making one of my favorite hot weather dishes: Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad.) For this dish, I cut a baguette into 1-inch cubes and briefly toasted the cubes in the oven. Then I tossed the toasted bread with fresh basil, kalamata olives and some beautiful yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes. For the dressing, I whisked together red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt. Super easy! On the side, I served dandelion greens from this week’s CSA box. Dandelion greens, like rapini or mustard greens, are bitter so they are best served slightly cooked. You can sauté them, but it is very common to see them wilted with hot oil or bacon fat. I decided to make a hot garlic and red pepper oil. I made sure that my dandelion greens were well washed and dried and then I tossed them with the warm garlic-infused oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. By the time I served dinner, they were slightly wilted with just a trace of remaining bitterness.

The Chateau Ste Michelle rose was absolutely delicious. I fell in love with this wine after just one sip. This is one of those wines that really lingers on the palate, and it has such a wonderful flavor that you don’t want it to ever leave. It smells slightly floral and sweet, but the flavor is completely dry. Everything I have read about this wine mentions cranberry, and I think that is a fitting description for both the color and the flavor. It is pretty dark and full-bodied for a rose; imagine a very light pinot noir (although this wine incidentally is made from syrah grapes.) Rose may be a summer wine, but, I could easily see myself drinking this rose in the fall with roasted butternut squash and apple soup or wild rice pilaf with dried cranberries and hazelnuts.

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