Rose-Colored Glasses

by CHRISTINA KELLY & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & y mid-June, summer is waking up -- really, it is -- and it's time to sip light wines that are perfect for picnics, barbeques and the thirst-quenching quaffer: ros & eacute; wines.

Summer is a good time for ros & eacute;s, since they tend to be served cold, and they pair well with the food we think of as summer dishes -- pasta salads, grilled meats, cold roast pork, shrimp/seafood salads, hamburgers and potato salad. And ros & eacute;s are far from being cloyingly sweet cloned versions of "pink" or white zinfandel: Now you'll find ros & eacute;s made from a full range of varietals, with alcohol content ranging from 10 percent to a whopping 15 percent. Look for those wines in the mid-range between 13 percent and 14 percent -- they will work better with foods, have a mouth-popping liveliness, and won't taste so alcoholic.

The wine's color comes when the grapes are crushed and the juice is bled away from the skins before much of the red color is transmitted, prior to fermentation. The longer the juice is with the skins, the darker the color.

Most ros & eacute;s are neither cellar-worthy nor deeply complex, although some have a few elements of complexity. They are not lofty wines, but rather cool beverages with acidity and flavor to complement seasonal foods. With so many to choose from, ranging in rainbow hues from salmon to bright ruby red to dark garnet, and sugar levels from sweet to off-dry to bone dry, it takes experimenting to find the ones suitable to your palate.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ike their darker red cousins, ros & eacute; wines can be based on either a single red grape varietal -- you'll find ros & eacute;s of grenache, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah, sangiovese, merlot, pinot noir and even lemberger -- or a blend.

When selecting a ros & eacute;, a good rule of thumb is to choose one made from a grape that you like in its full red glory. If you are a fan of syrah, for example, you might like a ros & eacute; based upon that grape. The ros & eacute; version will have a little of syrah's black-pepper spice and berry flavors, only lighter and more effervescent, with fruit less weighty than black currant. A good recommendation with this grape is Saint Laurent Estate's Syrah Ros & eacute; ($15), a wine that will make barbecued chicken squawk with pleasure. I would also recommend Columbia Crest's Two Vines ros & eacute; ($8), made mostly from Syrah, and the tasty ros & eacute; of syrah from Canyon's Edge.

If you like the full throttle version of cabernet franc, with its floral violet notes mingled with cherry and plum, try the ros & eacute; version -- it's invigorating and often has light fruity flavors of strawberry, raspberry and even rhubarb. Ash Hollow offers a 100 percent cabernet franc ros & eacute; ($18) that has a bit of earthiness and white pepper and would brighten up a mushroom ragout. Robert Karl Winery in Spokane offers a lovely cab franc ros & eacute; out of their tasting room.

A number of wineries make ros & eacute; from merlot, one of the best grapes grown in Washington. Sagelands Vineyard's ros & eacute; of merlot, made in the saign & eacute;e method -- vintners crush grapes for red wine then bleed off some of the juice to also make ros & eacute; -- is the color of grenadine, and flavors include watermelon and peaches. Go for a Hawaiian pizza with this wine.

One of the best and most consistent Washington state ros & eacute;s comes from Barnard Griffin, whose award-winning ros & eacute; is made from sangiovese. The 2007 version has floral notes with hints of peach and apricot, but when it hits the mouth, there is a fruity explosion of raspberry, strawberry and other sweet fruits with great acidity to accompany food. If you have never had a good, dry ros & eacute;, this is the one to try first with cold pasta salad.

A good semi-dry offering comes from Olympic Cellars' Working Girl series: the recent vintage of Ros & eacute; the Riveter, made from lemberger grapes. With aromas of strawberry, rose petal and lemon/lime acidity, this is a perfect wine for turkey or ham cold cuts.

Basel Cellars blends cabernet sauvignon and syrah for its ros & eacute; offering, with flavors of cranberries and pomegranates that perk up smoked Italian meats and cheeses. Right in Green Bluff, Townshend Cellars has a nonvintage T3 ros & eacute;, blending cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet Franc in a glassful of watermelon and strawberries. You'll find a sparkling version of pinot noir ros & eacute; at Mountain Dome.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ecause of their simplicity, ros & eacute;s should not command big prices. The average price hovers around $10 to $20, and good values can be found for less than $10. Generally, you want to avoid ros & eacute;s that are more than three or four years old, since most of these wines will have lost their freshness.

With the long winter and cool wet spring, sales of ros & eacute; in the Inland Northwest have been sluggish at best. There are plenty on the market right now, though, hoping to capture your attention and add a refreshing element -- that cool spark -- to summer meals. With so many choices, you have the entire summer to enjoy these pink beauties. Not all the wines are great, so you'll have to kiss a few frogs to find the keepers, but there is much fun in finding them.