It’s OK to be pink
Summer means white zins, roséss
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
The state of American dining has been in decline for decades.
Not the food; that’s actually getting better. Fresh local foods are the rage. Fusion cuisine, foams and desserts that look like something out of The Jetsons are everywhere. But so are the chains. They serve decent food at lower than haute cuisine prices. Most of the time.
What’s declining is the reverence we had for dining out. Decades ago a trip to the restaurant, and I mean one with a table cloth, required dressing up in your Sunday best and talking softly. You ate food like Chicken Cordon Bleu and Beef Stroganoff. Today, people eat out more often, there’s less cooking at home and the atmosphere is more casual. People view most restaurants as an extension of their kitchens. And in a surprising twist, when people do cook at home it’s usually something grand, like the food we used to only be able to get in fine restaurants. Meatloaf has moved out of the home kitchen and into the restaurant, and Beef Satay, flan and Veal Osso Bucco have come home to roost.
The reason for my infatuation with dining is the meal I had in an out-of-state chain that was weird. The prime rib had a chemical taste. The salad was a wedge of iceberg lettuce and the coffee was lukewarm. But the experience, which was like being in a home kitchen, was nice. It was an anniversary party for a close friend. She and her husband are successful, generous, intelligent and funny. And it was worth the airfare and four-hour layover to celebrate with them. But when it came time for drinks this successful world traveler, this newly appointed college dean, this Ellie Saab-clad totally fit woman ordered: white zinfandel!
Let me say right now, I like white zinfandel. It just surprised me that someone who could afford a 1999 Jean-Michel Gerin Cote Rotie “Les Grandes Places” ($175) — presents the scent violets and a superb finish of smoke, cinnamon and currant with blackberry flavor riles running through it — would order white zinfandel. But I joined her in a glass.
Now a good white zinfandel or rosé is heaven, but a bad one is harsh and tannic like vending machine coffee or raw crabapples. This will be about a few of the good ones.
Pink wine and champagne comes from red or black grapes, or red and white grapes blended. The pink comes from the dark grape skins, which are left in the crushed pulp and juice to impart a little flavor and color.
Rosé or blush wine have acidity that makes them good with summer foods. The acid pairs well with fresh fruit, gazpacho, salads, cheese and hotdogs. They go well with all smoked or processed meats, especially sausage. They are thirst quenching and lively. But they don’t have intense structure and that’s OK. They are a sophisticated version of adult soda pop.
• Talus White Zinfandel ($4.99) from California. A bit leaden on the first sip. Some lemon verbena flavors and a good finish. Pleasant but not challenging. Something you’d take to your eight-year-old’s Little League game or a free band concert on the town green.
• 2006 Turkey Flat Rosé ($21.99). The great thing about Australia is they take their wine seriously and they keep re-inventing themselves. Shiraz, the workhorse of the Australian wine industry, can now be found in sparkling shiraz and late harvest dessert shiraz. This rosé is fun and tannic. It begs for food, but the taste is layered — a kiwi here, a cheery note there. And just so nothing goes to waste it’s made from a blend of shiraz, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and dolcetto, the sweet little cherry-like Italian grape.
• 2005 Beringer White Zinfandel LVS (Limited Vineyard Selection) ($8.99). Nice. Even though white zin’s still a huge seller, it hasn’t had a specialty winery embrace it and craft a boutique rosé. This comes close. Lemon, grapefruit and a hint of strawberry.
• 2006 Artazu Artazuri Navarra Rosado 2006 ($9.99) from Spain’s Navarro region in the north. Pleasant with Volvic water flavors. Minerals, minerals, minerals. Great with tomato and bean dishes like Pasta Fagioli.
• Mulderbosch Rosé ($14.89). This South African wine is made from cabernet sauvignon grapes and is intense with a hint of candy apple sweetness on the finish. I wish more vineyards would add a rose product and really take it seriously.
• Rosé Mas De Gourgonnier ($13.99). From Provence, France, the home of pink wines. Light and almost bubbly with a hint of raspberry flavor.
• 2004 Tavel Rosé, Chateau de Trinquevedel ($23.49). Made from seven different grapes. Mostly Grenache. This is crafted and nice but the vintage might be a little weak. Would like to try the ’05 or “heatwave harvest” ’04. Lots of French rosés and pink wines have Tavel or Bandol on the label.