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Rosé for Summer Quaffing

Oregon's Summer Must Have Wine

By Jean Yates

As spring reveals longer days and the deck becomes more inviting to stay and linger into a warm, dusky night, I love the taste of a cold, frosted glass of a dry Rosé wine and simple foods for hotter weather.

This is the time of the year when big, tannic red wines, my favorite throughout the late fall, winter and early spring, become too heavy in hot weather and don’t particularly compliment the lighter fare served on patios and decks throughout the late spring and summer. The best wine to pair with a cold pasta salad and a gorgeous sunset, as the day weans from direct sunlight to that amber glow of the evening, is a dry Rosé wine.

This isn’t the pink or “white” Zinfandel that many consumers associate with light, cloyingly sweet pinkish wines. And, the problem with marketing a dry Rosé is that white Zinfandel drinkers think it is too dry, and many serious wine drinkers scoff at a “salmon-colored wine” as being too sweet and lacking any character or oomph. It is a tough wine to sell because the mainstream American palate has not embraced this wine for summer sipping.

Rosé is the French word for “pink.” The wine is made from red grapes, but the skins are removed early in the process, resulting in a light pink color. Rosés can be produced from just about any grape, including Grenache, Zinfandel, Merlot, Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and grape blends, such as Grenache, Syrah and Viognier.

The wines have flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and even plum, with some spice, a light complexity of flavors and a balance of acidity that works very well with food. Although I am a fan of aging wines, Rosé wines should be consumed within two years or less—don’t age these wines or you will lose the fruit. They should be consumed young and chilled, but not iced.

Check out the recipes at the end of this article for some foods to serve with Rosé wines

Oregon's Insider Summer Must Have Wine

Oregon Pinot noir makers have produced "pink wine" from Pinot noir for years for their own consumption. It was typically made from the "free run" juice that comes off the grapes first. Winemakers rewarded their workers with bottles of the wine, or kept it for themselves. What you might not know is that many Pinot makers' preferred summer wine, served cold, is a dry Oregon Rosé, often their own.

Gradually, winelovers have caught onto this "insider" wine, and a few wineries release their "pink wine" for sale. This year, for the first time, Mike Etzel is offering his own Rosé, the Belle Soeurs Rosé 05, and its availability has started a run on all the few good Oregon Rosés available. Beaux Freres is best known for their $75 Estate Pinot noir that has received 95 points from Wine Spectator for the last three vintages. When Mike offers something new, people all over the country stand up and listen.

Dry Oregon Rosés offer fresh fruit flavors of strawberries, cherries, raspberries, with hints of ruby red grapefruit, watermelon, and spice flavors like thyme, cinnamon or ginger. A good rosé will have a nice acid balance with delicate fruit flavors. The clean, fresh flavors are followed by a crisp mouth feel. Rosé wines are best served slightly chilled, similar to a white wine. A cooled wine focuses the flavors and keeps this wine crisp and refeshing.

Rosés are excellent food wines due to the balance of acidity and fruit and a light to medium body. They are a great companion to shrimp, scallops, crab dishes, cold meats and meat salads, chicken salad, pasta salad, barbecued chicken, grilled halibut, pan-seared fish, paella or salmon in parchment paper. In the South of France, rosés are famously associated with salads, especially salad nicoise from the Cote d’Azure. This is one of the few times you will find a wine paired very successfully with a salad.

They go fast. Carpe diem. Grab them while you can.

Three Methods of Making Rosé

Maceration Method: After the grapes are crushed, they're moved to a large stainless-steel vat, where the juice stays in contact with the grape skins. After the desired color is achieved, the juice is drained off the skins into another vessel to ferment. Thick-skinned grapes, such as Syrah, Cabernet, or Zinfandel, have shorter skin contact time, while thinner-skinned grapes, such as Grenache or Pinot Noir, are left on the skins longer. The longer the maceration time, the more color, flavor, and character are imparted to the finished wine.

Saignée, or "bled" method: Saignee, pronounced “sonyay”, is a French term meaning “bled” and this relates to the running off, or bleeding, a certain amount of first-run juice from red grapes.The grapes and skins -- usually a blend of dark-skinned, intensely flavored grapes that would make a big, powerful red wine--are crushed and left in a large, stainless-steel vat. After an hour or two, a certain amount of juice is drawn off or "bled," and fermented into a delicate rosé (the juice that stays behind is made into red wine). Saignée allows a winemaker the option of making a delicate rosé wine from intensely flavored grapes (it also concentrates both the color and the flavor in the juice that remains with the skins). The resulting rosé will be complex and flavorful, but lighter than the resulting red wine would be.

Blending red and white wines together: Blending is the way rosé Champagne is often made, and in France, that's the only time blending red and white wines is legal.


Here are three classic summer recipes that are traditionally served with dry Rosé.

Classic Bruschetta

This is the most wonderful appetizer during fresh tomato season. Try it and you'll be hooked!

10 plum tomatoes, diced (seed these if you prefer less liquid)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
French or Italian bread slices

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except bread; set aside. Toast slices of French or Italian bread. Serve tomato mixture, room temperature in a bowl with a spoon and lots of toasted bread slices.

Salmon in Parchment

This recipe uses sweet local onions to caramelize and currents for color, texture and added sweetness. These small parchment paper packets, once filled with fish, are called papillotes.

1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup dried currants
2 large sweet onions such as Walla Walla or Vidalia
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
four 24- by 16 1/2-inch pieces parchment paper
four 6-ounce salmon fillets – King salmon if you can get it
1/4 cup dry white wine

In a small saucepan warm brandy over moderate heat and add currants. Remove pan from heat. Let mixture stand, covered, 20 minutes.

° ° Halve onions lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a large skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes more. Add currant mixture, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool. Caramelized onions may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

° Preheat oven to 475°F. Fold each parchment piece in half crosswise and cut each piece to make a large rounded heart shape. (Folded piece should be at least 2 inches larger all around than salmon fillet.) Open a parchment "heart" and put a salmon fillet in middle of one side. Sprinkle fillet with 1 tablespoon wine and salt and pepper to taste.

° Spread one fourth caramelized onions on fillet and fold other side of parchment over. Beginning at bottom end of center crease, in overlapping 1-inch segments fold edges of parchment, crimping as you go, to form a tight seal. Make 3 more papillotes in same manner. Papillotes may be made up to this point 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

° Put papillotes on a large baking sheet and bake 9 to 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted through parchment and into fish slides out smoothly. Serve papillotes immediately, cutting them open at table. Makes four servings.

This recipe comes to us from the Winslow Way Café on Bainbridge Island WA and was inspired by Joyce Goldstein of the long defunct Square One, in San Francisco.

Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad

Arrange this classic south-of-France salad on one large platter. Accompany it with crusty French bread and a lively Rosé.

Here is what you need:

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pound fresh tuna steaks, cut 1-inch thick
(you can use two 3 oz. cans of
chunk tuna or albacore instead – preferably oil-packed)
1-1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes,
cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 ounces green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups sliced romaine lettuce or one large head
of Boston-lettuce leaves, washed and dried
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata or nicoise-type olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
4 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
optional: 2 Tbs. capers and
one small tin of anchovy fillets.

° In a screw-top jar combine balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, the 1/4 cup olive oil, the mustard, and garlic; cover and shake well. Season to taste with sugar, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

° Place fish in a shallow dish; set aside. Pour 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette over fish, turning to coat. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes, turning fish once. Drain fish, discarding marinade.

° Meanwhile, in a saucepan cook potatoes in a small amount of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, adding green beans for the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and cool slightly. Place potatoes and beans in a bowl and toss with olive oil. Spread vegetables in a single layer in a grill basket.

° Lightly grease the rack of a gas grill. Preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish and basket of vegetables on the grill rack directly over heat. Cover and grill until fish just flakes easily when tested with a fork and vegetables are tender, turning once halfway through grilling. (Allow 8 to 12 minutes for fish and about 10 minutes for vegetables.) Remove from grill. Cut fish diagonally into 1/4-inch slices.

° In a large bowl toss together romaine, cherry tomatoes, olives, and red onion. Divide among 4 dinner plates. Arrange the fish, potatoes, beans, and eggs on top of romaine mixture. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle with tarragon. Makes 6 servings.

° To cook fish and vegetables on a charcoal grill, prepare as above. Place fish and basket of vegetables directly over medium coals. Cook as above, turning once. Serve as above.

Note: You can use salmon for this salad to lend a Pacific Northwest note to the dish. It will take you about 20 minutes to marinade the fish and 10 minutes to grill it. Assembly is really quite quick. Lay a bed of lettuce down and layer the hard-boiled eggs, ripe red tomatoes, green beans and black olives and dressed on the top with tuna.


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