A sun-soaked, 75-plus degree afternoon for the Rockies' home opener. Buds blooming on the trees outside our terrace. Flip-flop adorned feet everywhere we look. Seems it's been an age since Denver enjoyed a springtime as warm and inviting as this one -- and the early onset of balmier temps has brought along with it the sooner-than-normal arrival of another sure-fire sign of spring: the official start of rosé drinking season.
Pink wine addicts like us actually quaff the stuff practically year round, but it's usually May before our recycling tub is littered with empty rosé bottles. Not so in 2012, as we'd already fallen head over heels in love with five truly superb (and unique) pink wines before we'd flipped the calendar page to April. With an even more gorgeous weather forecast ahead, we felt obligated to share this love so that you, too, can get into the rosé wine groove ahead of schedule. Read on for our picks on which killer pinks to pour right now:
Cruzat Larraín Rosé Spumante NV ($17): Ever on the lookout for the untried versions of the magical manifestation that is our all-time favorite libation (aka pink bubbles), we are seriously feeling this wine. The Cruzat bubbly racks up all kinds of cool points: It's from Mendoza, Argentina -- a completely under-the-radar sparkling wine producing region; it spends more than five years in cellar (where it's treated to labor-intensive hand riddling); and the production quantity is so limited, it's practically cult-worthy. Super fresh and full of rich, luscious strawberry creamsicle flavors, this Méthode Champenoise blend of 90 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay might have you thinking you're drinking something much, much spendier. Given that it's just $17, consider it a serious contender to become our house bubbly -- you might want to make it yours, too.
Allendorf Spätburgunder Rosé 2010 ($14): First of all, how much fun is it to say the word "spätburgunder?" But if you're still trying to figure out WTF that term even means, relax: It's just Germany's word for pinot noir. This lovely, petal pink sipper is what we call "rosé perfection" -- which is to say, classic, old world rosé winemaking that showcases everything that makes them ideal for sipping all summer (make that all year) long, at any time of the day or night, with or without food. They're high in acid (read: mouthwatering) and full of ripe -- but not sweet -- berry fruit. If you've only enjoyed rosé from here in the U.S., give this one a shot for a delightful study in style and balance. Drink it with everything from chicken wings to tuna Niçoise salad.
Sofia Rosé 2010 ($19): We've had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Sofia (named for winemaker / auteur Francis Ford Coppola's daughter) rosé over the years, so we weren't exactly jumping for joy at the sight of our host pouring out a glass for us to try. Color us pleasantly surprised to find that the latest release, a juicy blend of 75 percent syrah and the balance, grenache, to be a helluva lot more tasty than we'd expected it to be. This vintage delivered amped up acidity -- something sorely lacking in previous incarnations -- along with a veritable depth charge of strawberry and black cherry flavors. Plus, the wine bottle and label designs are as strikingly beautiful as the wine itself.
Arnot-Roberts Touriga Nacional Rosé 2011 ($23): We knew something was up when we were surprised with glasses of this gorgeous, guzzle-worthy rosé at two different Best of Denver award winners (Table 6 and twelve restaurant, respectively) within the span of two short weeks last month. This particular pink's a bit of a head fake, because you've got touriga nacional (a red grape variety indigenous to Portugal) produced by a pair of pedigreed Healdsburg winemakers known for their boutique cab sauv and syrah bottlings. No matter: All of those elements have combined effortlessly to create a singularly exuberant, lively glass of rosé that will convince even the most steadfast pink wine hater to consume it constantly. At once, the wine is delicate and feminine, yet nearly bursting with bright ruby red grapefruit, wild strawberry and hints of watermelon on the palate. Sure, it's a little spendy, but in our book, the value of getting to experience what summer in a glass tastes like? Priceless.
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Epoch Rosé 2010 ($N/A): Our feelings about this rosé can be summed up with six words: Can't wait for the next release -- which we understand attendees of the winery's upcoming TAG dinner will be treated to. You'd be wise to keep your eyes peeled for these grenache-heavy bottlings too, if you're a fan of pink wines that go down like a decidedly grown-up version of Kool-Aid. Don't take that to mean this isn't some elegant, well-made juice, because that's exactly what it is: Layered with the kinds of fruit that tend to show up in summertime crisps and crumbles (peach, strawberry, rhubarb and the like), there's plenty of streamlined acidity to keep things nicely balanced. We polished off a bottle in no time flat, pairing it with a light meal of apple-kissed butterfish and bone marrow -- heaven never tasted so good.