It's taken a while, but more Pacific Northwest wineries are getting serious when it comes to thinking pink.
Fortunately, the gold standard for rosé wines in the United States has been set in Richland, by Barnard Griffin Winery.
Earlier this year, Rob Griffin's 2011 Rosé of Sangiovese was voted the best rosé at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It is the largest judging of American wine, and that result is no fluke.
"One of the things I like to say about this is it's a wine you can enjoy casually, but we're deadly serious about how we make it and the effort we put into it," Griffin said.
Judges across the United States have applauded his rosé for years. Griffin has won a gold medal -- or better -- for his rosé in the competition for the past seven years.
"If you are going to make good rosé, you have to start out planning to make rosé," Griffin said. "Don't take grapes that were going be red wine and turn them into rosé, nor do you bleed out 20 percent of the juice of some overripe Cabernet or Sangiovese or anything else to concentrate a red and make rosé out of the difference."
Griffin is a big fan of using Sangiovese for making a pink wine.
"It has uniquely interesting aromatic qualities of strawberry and pomegranate, really wonderful fruit that in normal red vinification would just sort of bubble out the top of the tank and something else would develop. But when we capture those esters using white winemaking techniques, they are there in the wine to enjoy."
Griffin likes rosé for outside summer dining.
"It's refreshing. It's clean. It is dry, so it wants to go with food or appetizers, but I think it's enormously versatile."
Properly cellared, Griffin said he's enjoyed his rosé up to four years beyond its vintage, but he recommends consuming it within hours of purchase.
"In reality, it's a young, fresh product, and we like to see it all gone in six to seven months."
Those who want to further explore rosés should attend the 10th annual Rosé Revival at Ray's Boathouse in Seattle. Tickets are $35, and proceeds benefit Ryther League, which works with mental health and addiction treatment in children and teenagers.
Here are a few more rosés we've tasted in recent weeks:
Abacela 2011 Grenache Rosé, Umpqua Valley, $15. The inviting brilliant pink color is followed by a nose of strawberry, apricot and marshmallow, followed by bright cherries, more strawberries and a big bite of fresh peach. Its texture is akin to peach skin, and the cranberry acidity, gives it endless food-pairing possibilities.
Indian Creek Winery 2011 White Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley, $9. The aromas are reminiscent of strawberry/banana yogurt along with boysenberry, pineapple and apricot. Flavors follow through with more strawberry, pineapple and black cherry.
Wind Rose Cellars 2011 Rosado, Washington, $18. The Italian varieties for this rosé:, Barbera, Primitivo and Dolcetto, are pretty in pink. Aromas of bubblegum, strawberry/rhubarb jam, pencil lead and minerality funnel into brisk flavors of cherry and apricot.
Jones of Washington 2011 Rosé of Syrah, Columbia Valley, $12. Aromas for this brilliant pink wine are reminiscent of cherry vanilla ice cream with hints of apricot, burnt caramel and a bit of meatiness that one often gets from this variety. It's a fun drink of strawberries, cherry lemonade and Jolly Rancher watermelon candy.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.