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By Any Other Name: Once reviled as the beer drinker's wine, rosés have made a splashy comeback.

Think Pink

Structure, fruit and minerals make the roses of today essential summer drinking.

By Christina Waters

WE'VE COME a long way since those youthful picnics with a trusty bottle of introductory wine in the form of Mateus or Lancers Rosé. Nonetheless, when the weather gets warm there's no denying the appeal of pink wine. Rosés have been with us since the post-war era of easy-sippin' outdoor dining. The theory was that if some like red wine and others like white wine, hopefully everybody would enjoy a wine that appeared to be somewhere in between. And today's blush wines--rosés--actually are able to hold their own equally well with seafoods, ripe cheeses and barbecued pork.

Practically synonymous with summer sipping, rosé can be wildly iconic, as in French Bandol or Tavel, whose plush mineral tones are both aromatic and crisp. It can also be relatively inexpensive and easy to like. Enjoying a resurgence, today's rosé is out to prove that it's more than simply a prom night fling, a starter wine for people who would really rather have a beer. Increasing numbers of premium California wineries are adding rosé to their inventories.

The sheer beauty of the product is one big reason. Ice cold and poured into a graceful goblet, rosé conjures liquid dawns and intimate parts of a lover's body. With alcohol able to cross the 14 percent threshold and go mano a mano with any Camembert on the planet, contemporary rosé can be made from any red grape whose skins are left on the juice just long enough to impart the delicate rosy hue. Rosés made from Rhône grapes--syrah, grenache, et al.--offer much to like. Their fruitiness (namely essence of strawberry, plum and raspberry) combined with salty minerality adds to the versatility of this vintage summer romance. Here are a few of our current favorites, including two from Santa Cruz area producers. Try these with feta, fresh or aged goat cheese, green olives or chile verde.

Made from a grenache-intensive blend that also includes cinsault and roussane, the effortless pleasure of Bonny Doon 2005 Vin Gris de Cigare is a bargain at $13. Pink peppercorns and strawberry fill the initial impression, with titanium and salt in the center and playful grip to finish. Playful. Yes, just what we'd expect from winemaker Randall Grahm, who long ago espoused the virtues of "pink wine."

A to Z 2005 Oregon Rosé ($13) is another variation on shades of rosé, this time made from sangiovese and hinting of cherries and geranium. Gorgeous medium pink hue and the perfect match for alfresco dinners.

The 2008 Aura Syrah Rosé from Big Basin Vineyard ($22) is a deep plum hue and drenched in minerals and strawberries. This lovely wine is created through the saignée method. In concentrating the flavors and tannins of a red wine, in this case a syrah, some of the freshly pressed juice is "bled" off after brief skin contact. The essence of the syrah grape remains, yet in a subtle, aromatic expression. The juice with less skin time is lightly tinted, and lighter in impact, without sacrificing any structure.

For the entire month of July, Soif Wine Bar is engaged in a vigorous and daring campaign to enlighten wine lovers. The entire by-the-glass listing--at least 45 wines--will showcase biodynamically produced grapes. That means that the grapes used to make these lively wines have been grown according to the sustainable and organically sensitive methods first documented by eco-pioneer Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. As Soif oeno-spokesman John Locke puts it, "They are consistently delicious, distinctive and easy on the home planet." Stop by Soif and see what your palate thinks. (105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.2020)

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