Any good blogger knows the importance of frequent postings to gaining loyal readers. I just checked the date on MY last post, and am embarrassed to say it was weeks ago. Since then, Memorial day has come and gone and American fashionistas have been wearing their white summer shoes for over a week now.
No question, summer is nigh. Baseball season is in full swing. Summer attire is in short supply. A new wave of graduates is taking the job market by storm. And grapevines are in a frenzied growth phase that will last until harvest. Ahhhh, summer. The perfect time for rosé wines!
Just now, upon reading the words "rosé wines", many readers left to find an article on "serious wines", probably doing so while whispering some derisive comment under their breath. These poor souls go through life operating under the mistaken notion that all rosés are like the White Zinfandel they tried that one night in College.
I am glad such people dismiss rosé without a thought. It leaves more for us. And since good rosés are produced in quantities barely sufficient to exceed the Winemaker's own consumption requirements, this is an important consideration. I find it difficult to imagine a happier summer experience than a bottle of chilled rosé, a cold roast chicken and a shaker of sea salt. This is simply heaven, and I'm afraid I lose any vestige of manners when this combination is set before me. Consider yourself warned.
But such was not always the case. I vividly recall my own rosé epiphany. It occurred long ago at a harvest party hosted by a well-respected winemaker. The thermometer was pushing 100 and frankly, I craved an ice-cold beer over the robust red wines this winemaker was known for.
As the party made its inevitable migration into the kitchen – the center of every party no matter how hot it is – the winemaker suddenly appeared with four well-chilled bottles of PINK WINE which he proudly introduced as his rosé of Sangiovese. I was shocked and disappointed – a winemaking hero lost to the dark side.
What would you do in my situation? Turn up your nose and say “no thanks” to a cold glass of rosé offered by a respected winemaker you’d been dying to meet? Or do as I did, accept his offer with feigned enthusiasm, then slowly approach the pale pink stuff with great trepidation? If so, you’d likely have been as surprised as I by the pleasure this glass provided, and then banishing your White Zinfandel nightmare to your closet of outgrown phobias, begun to realize the number of years it had prevented you from enjoying dry rosé.
The winemaker, seeing he had just served his rosé to an avowed “anything-but-pinkster”, was happy that his wine had been a..., let’s see..., “surprise” is too tame a word, “flabbergast” too flippant, but he could tell his wine had deposited me somewhere in that range of disbelief. This was really good wine! And the perfect wine to serve on a hot summer evening.
I have found that, as with mot professions, Winemakers come a wide variety of personalities. I tend to gravitate towards those who make interesting wines AND feel that wine is an enthusiasm to be shared. This was just such a winemaker, and he spent no small amount of time sharing with me his enthusiasm for dry rosés while his party guests mingled behind us.
He explained that White Zinfandel rode to popularity on the back of a 7% residual sugar level, appealing to a nation raised on soft drinks and Kool-Aid. But dry rosé (with sugar levels generally between 0% and 2%) had long been the summer wine of choice in the fashionable South of France. He then described the multiple ways one can produce a rosé – the most common being Saignée – the French word for the act of bleeding off a percentage of red wine juice after minimal skin contact – but that the best rosés come from grapes grown and harvested specifically with rosé in mind.
These are just such wines.
Kalyra - 2004 Cabernet Franc Rose $9. This dry blush wine is perhaps the perfect intersection of aromatic white wine and red wine body. Cabernet Franc is the grape used in the famous rosés of the Loire, and Winemaker Mike Brown must have enjoyed his share of them as he developed the profile for this wine.
Buttonwood - 2004 Syrah Rosé Was $16 now $12. Two cases left! More than any of the wines Buttonwood produces, this is the one that reminded me of the blush wines from France, stylistically somewhere between the famous rosés of Syrah from Provence and the delicious rosés of Cabernet Franc from the Loire.
Tudor Wines Radog 2005 Rosé of Pinot Noir $16 A serious wine that doesn't take itself too seriously. Not much made, not much left - a popular wine among sommeliers in some very posh restaurants.
This is one of the recipes included in our June shipments to subscribers and also complements richer white wines. It is dead simple, inexpensive and easily prepared in about 30 minutes. It is contributed by our friend Mabel Galdamez, to whom we will die indebted for her unending kindness.
- Catfish fillets, one for every two people (they tend to be large and easily divided down the center). A note on catfish – many people are squeamish about bottom feeders, and many others about farm-raised fish. But unlike most farm-raised salmon, farm-raised catfish are both sustainable and guaranteed a healthy diet, thus belying both prejudices. Try this and tell me if you don’t like it. Even our three-year-old loves this dish, though she has somehow learned to like it without the wine accompaniment)
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- Coupla Tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Coupla shakes of ginger powder
- 1 Tbsp butter
- Red and Green sweet peppers, seeds removed and sliced into strips
- Several green onions, cut into 3-inch sections
- Half of one lemon
- Sesame Oil – I know this is not an ingredient found in every kitchen, nor is it an inexpensive one, but sesame oil LOVES being paired with wine, and a few drops on each filet assures happy diners!
Prepare all ingredients and set aside. Wash filets, pat dry and set on a wide platter. Season with salt and pepper, minced garlic and olive oil – rub all ingredients over both sides of fish. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and no more than a few hours.
When you are ready to begin cooking this dish, you are just five minute away from sitting down to the table (7 minutes, if cooking on electric burners)! First, heat a large pan over medium-high heat for about two minutes, melt the butter in the pan and let heat until golden. Lay filets carefully into the pan and let cook on one side until just golden. Flip the filets, add the peppers and green onions and squeeze juice of half a lemon over the fish, cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let sit for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. Serve with a few drops of sesame oil on each filet.
Serve with a side of steamed beans or broccolini or peas and carrots. Being of Celtic descent, I can’t imagine this dish without potatoes, though my wife’s Black Japonica Rice is always a hit as well.