Get ready to run for these five winning rosés

We knew something was up when we noticed Denver-area wine shops stocking up and tasting customers on the 2010 rosés a good four weeks ago. And by "something," we mean the notion that maybe -- just maybe -- dry rosés have finally kicked that monkey of pink wine-prejudice off its undeserving back. Long maligned by the American wine drinking public for reasons unbeknownst to us, it seems rosé is finally, officially getting its groove back. And while it might not feel balmy enough outside to enjoy these typically warm weather sips, we encourage you to embrace rosé season as a state of mind, rather than a specific temperature on the thermometer. And so, in anticipation of the upcoming weekend's Kentucky Derby festivities, we present to you the first running of the 2011 rosés.

First, a few guidelines on what to look for from this season's crop of pink juice:

1. Rosés should be easy. As in, easy to drink, not overly fussy or fantastical. Easy to pair with foods from all over the globe, with a flavor profile simple enough to sum up in fewer than a dozen words. If you need a thesaurus to describe the flavors in the glass, you're trying too damn hard. 2. Rosés should be fresh. Although some rosés can certainly be enjoyed beyond their release year, there's no good reason to be drinking anything older than a 2009 vintage at this point. By definition, these are meant to be the freshest wines of the year, so seek out 2010 bottles whenever possible 3. Rosés should be cheap. We know there are a few of you that define "cheap" as being south of $7, but let's get real. The right price to pay for a perfectly delicious bottle is somewhere between $10 and $20, with the exception of a few rare outliers. Think of that bottle of rosé the way you would that halter top from Forever 21: no need to spend a fortune on something you're only going to enjoy a handful of times before you move onto something new.

And, now, what to drink:

Bodegas Alma Negra Sparkling Rosé of Malbec 2009 ($15): Folks, meet your new favorite pink bubbly. Push past your skepticism at finding not just a decent sparkling wine from Argentina, but a fabulous one. Intriguing tropical aromas of pineapple and citrus transform into soft-as-a-whisper strawberry shortcake flavors in the glass. A perfect summertime party starter (or finisher, for that matter), whatever the occasion.

St. Roch Les Vignes Côtes de Provence Rosé 2010 ($14): For the rosé purist, this wine offers every standard pink wine amenity. Nearly translucent, salmon pink color? Check. Faint, delicate scents of tart berry fruit? Check. Juicy acidity and finish that's both fresh and clean? Double-check. Close your eyes and find yourself immediately transported to Saint-Tropez. Classy, restrained and elegant, c'est un vin trés bien.

Bodega Virgen Blanca Navarra Viña Sardasol Rosé 2009 ($11): In a word, sexy. Made from garnacha, this wine positively oozed seduction with its mouthful after mouthful of über-ripe strawberry and raspberry jam, plus a not-so-subtle dose of spice to keep things lively. Miraculous when paired with coastal Mediterranean fare like salt cod brandade, moules et frites, or anything with anchovies. Bring this wine to every picnic you attend this summer and watch it disappear well before that boozy bottle of zinfandel.

Mas de la Dame Les Baux-de-Provence Rose du Mas 2010 ($16): You know how you know you're drinking a damn-near perfect rosé? When it pairs flawlessly with allegedly "impossible to pair with" foods. Neither oysters on the half shell, grilled artichokes, or asparagus with hollandaise could outfox this mouth-filling blend of classic Provencal varietals, especially when served about ten minutes after pulling it from the fridge.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem Rosé 2010 ($19): We were a bit skeptical that local wine maestro Ben Parsons could replicate the runaway success of his 2009 rosé, but even though the color is a shade less intense than the nuclear-waste neon pink hue of the earlier bottling, this year's batch proved just as lip-smacking and tasty as the wine that stole our hearts last summer. With a nose reminiscent of Twizzlers and a porch-poundingly quaffable palate of bright strawberry and raspberry fruit, we can hardly wait to guzzle this wine with everything from fried chicken to seafood risotto this summer.

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Kendra Anderson