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Five pink wines we really, really hope will end up in Elway's Cherry Creek rosé flight

Men like Elway's sommelier Aaron Foster know it's cool to drink pink.
Men like Elway's sommelier Aaron Foster know it's cool to drink pink.
Lori Midson

It took everything we had not to start giggling uncontrollably.

We were browsing e-mail on our iPhone (in a very public place) when we got the news, so we knew we needed to check ourselves -- but for a moment, things were a bit dicey. That giddy reaction we had such a hard time containing? Our positively visceral response to hearing about the Pink Patio Party at Elway's Cherry Creek, which promised the chance to sample the best rosé wines of the season. And not just sample them, but rate and rank said rosés, offering input that sommeliers Aaron Foster and Todd Rocchio would consider when picking an all-pink wine flight for Elway's this summer.

After all, when was the last time you were asked to weigh in on a restaurant's wine list? Yeah, we thought so: Never. So our excitement level was hovering somewhere between giddy and twitterpated when we landed on the back patio of Elway's shortly after 6 p.m. last Tuesday, fanning ourselves in a vain attempt to stave off the sticky, lingering heat of the 90 degree day.

We found ourselves giggling again -- out loud this time -- at the sight of Foster fully pimped out in a shockingly bright, fuschia-and-black striped, um...zoot suit. "Note to self," we murmured to our companion. "Next year, we rock all-pink attire." Lots of other guests clearly had gotten the sartorial memo and were attired in all manner (and shades) of rose-colored clothing, including one particularly dedicated woman who was wearing pink polka-dotted pumps that matched her dress. She was not fooling around.

Pink wines awaiting judgment.
Pink wines awaiting judgment.

And neither were we -- there was a ton of pink wine to taste, and we intended to sample every single bottle in order to come up with our five favorites. After shotgunning a refreshing shot of gazpacho topped with a nugget of perfectly chilled crab for sustenance, we got busy. Our plan of attack was simple: Power through all 31 wines in chronological order, arranged as they were at four separate tables around the space. We figured we'd try and select one winning wine from each grouping; top honors would be reserved for the most lip-smackingly delicious bottle of the night, and that would represent our fifth (and favorite) pick of the entire lot. Ready, set, drink [pink]:

 

Bieler Père et Fils "Sabine" Rosé 2011: Tangy, fresh, delicious.
Bieler Père et Fils "Sabine" Rosé 2011: Tangy, fresh, delicious.
Kendra Anderson

"This is gonna be tough," we thought as we surveyed the lineup. Because staring back at us from their raspberry linen-lined ice baths were a half-dozen bottles of some seriously rocking rosé. We'd long been fans of the Muga Rioja Rosé 2011 from Spain, a truly unique pink that combines red and white (grenache and viura) grapes to juicy, fruity effect. Same with the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé 2011, a lean, somewhat austere wine that's a dead ringer for an old-world offering despite its Santa Cruz, California provenance. The one pink we tasted that was so damn good we couldn't bear to spit it out? The Bieler Père et Fils "Sabine" Rosé 2011, which featured stunningly floral aromas and mouthfuls of tangy cranberry and cherry flavors.

Pink sangiovese from Australia? You betcha.
Pink sangiovese from Australia? You betcha.
Kendra Anderson

Moving on to table two, we found that, interestingly enough, the top pink pick from last year's party, Chateau Peyrassol, failed to tickle our fancy (despite the fact that it was being poured into guest's glasses from a ginormous double magnum by a man in a hot pink suit). Instead, we swooned for two classic Provençal pinks (which we generally prefer) along with one from Australia, made not from the shiraz you might expect but from sangiovese. We'll start with the weird one: The Robert Oatley Rosé of Sangiovese 2011 kinda blew us away with its bright burst of strawberry and cantaloupe and immediately had us craving anything with bacon to pair with it. The first of the two Frenchies, the Chateau Valcombe Costières de Nimes Rose 2011 delivered just what we expect from the region that makes the best rosés in the world: All kinds of enchantingly delicate raspberry and strawberry flavors, along with plenty of zesty acidity to make it ideal for summertime fare. Just when we thought we'd found our best-of-table pick, we laid eyes on a label that was so modern in its design, we found ourselves squinting at the fine print to make sure it really was from France. Indeed, the AIX Vin de Provence "Saint Aix" Rosé 2011 was as French as frog's legs and, in a word, fantastic. This is a pink wine that every pink wine lover (and every hater, for that matter) will want to purchase by the case. Instead of our usual tasting note full of wine jargon, we found ourselves scribbling the words "perfect" and "wow" in the tiny space next to the name of the wine.

 

The Curtis Winery "Heritage" Rosé 2011: Juicy GSM from Cali.
The Curtis Winery "Heritage" Rosé 2011: Juicy GSM from Cali.
Kendra Anderson

Resisting the urge to stash a bottle of the AIX in our purse, we soldiered on to the next batch of wines for judging. Another five French offerings awaited, but they failed to rate compared to the previous table's bounty. Well, all except for one: The Chateau Puech-Haut 'Prestige' Rosé 2011 (pronounced "pooz-show") intrigued us with its near-translucent shade of salmon pink, then sealed the deal by serving up a bushel basketful of ripe-to-bursting berry and stone fruit (think nectarines) flavors. Next to thrill us, another Californian entry that showcased Rhône varieties -- the Curtis Winery "Heritage" Rosé 2011, a syrah-dominant blend completed by equal parts of grenache and mourvedre to make up a characteristic GSM combo. Intrigued by a contrast of lush new-world fruitiness and brisk citrus elements, we were reminded of a glass of strawberry lemonade (albeit one full of alcohol and therefore superior). Then we spotted it: the sole Colorado entry of the night (and one of our best-loved pinks of 2010): Guy Drew Vineyards Rosé 2011. This year's mashup of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is nothing like last year's cab franc version -- unless you count the fact that they are both unbelievably delicious and make you hungry for one of Elway's delectable Smashburgers. Loved. It.

Only one wine earned our praise at the final table (although to be fair, by that point a combination of serious palate fatigue and heat exhaustion was taking a toll). That wine was the Artazuri Garnacha Rosé 2011 from Navarra, Spain, and if ever there was a pink wine that any man could be proud to be caught drinking, it's this one. Made completely from garnacha (the Spanish grape equivalent of grenache), it packed a wallop of bold berry fruit, tongue-gripping tannins and some major minerality (which our drinking companion aptly compared to "a mouthful of Flintstone vitamins"). In short, this ain't no girly rosé.

The winning pink: AIX Vin de Provence "Saint Aix" Rosé 2011.
The winning pink: AIX Vin de Provence "Saint Aix" Rosé 2011.
Kendra Anderson

Two and a half hours had elapsed. Worn out from so much wine and starving to boot, we surveyed our notes and tallied the scores. Below, our picks for the rosés most deserving of a spot in Elway's pink wine flight, plus the winning pink of the night:

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Elway's Cherry Creek

2500 E. 1st Ave.
Denver, CO 80206

303-399-5353

www.elways.com


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