At one time in California, ros?meant blush wine, pink and sweet and often unappealing.
As wine and food in America have become more sophisticated, so have the ros?, which today are more likely to be dry, offering the crisp acidity and refreshing aspects of a white wine with the weightier texture and color of a fine red.
Ros? come in a range of colors from a range of grapes, reflecting the delicious diversity of all we can grow here, from pinot noir and grenache to sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon.
All they require is an outdoor patio and a light nibble.
Here are some favorite spots for outdoor sipping.
<CF114>Blackbird Vineyards:</CF> Blackbird's just-released 2012 Arriviste is a Napa Valley ros?made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, dry and touched with acidity. The grapes come from some of the finest vineyards in Napa, from Stagecoach and Hudson to Crocker & Starr, a prime home for cabernet franc. All of Blackbird's wines may be enjoyed from Ma(i)sonry, a historic stone tasting room in Yountville with private tasting salons, art galleries inside; lawns and fire pits surrounded by ancient olive trees outside. Open daily by appointment.
</CF><CF114>Esterlina Vineyards & Winery:</CF> The only winery in the tiny Cole Ranch appellation, overlooking Mendocino's Anderson Valley, Esterlina makes a dry and delicious ros?of pinot noir, enjoyed from its hilltop stop, open by appointment only. The ros?is resplendent in shades of strawberry, watermelon and pink lemonade, with stand-up acidity that'll nicely accompany the picnic lunch the winery encourages you bring.
<CF102>1200 Holmes Ranch Road, Philo, 895-2920, esterlinavineyards.com.
</CF><CF114>Kokomo Winery: </CF>Kokomo pours its wines at Timber Crest Farms, across the street from the Dry Creek Valley-based Pauline's Vineyard where winemaker Erik Miller sources the grenache tended by winery partner and fourth-generation grower Randy Peters. The result is a dry, strawberry-delicious ros? Kokomo's 2012 vintage will be released at the end of April during Passport Weekend. Open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
<CF102>4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 433-0200, kokomowines.com.
</CF><CF114>Muscardini Cellars: </CF>From its new spot along Highway 12 in Kenwood, within the Red Schoolhouse building, Muscardini has recently released its 2012 Alice's Vineyard Rosato from Sonoma Valley, a dry rosato made from sangiovese grapes that's a crisp combination of wild strawberries and watermelon. When the weather's nice, enjoy al fresco tasting on the outdoor deck in full view of looming Hood Mountain. Wine Down Fridays on Friday evenings (5 to 7 p.m.; $10) include wine, music and light appetizers, or come on select Saturday afternoons (1 to 3 p.m.) for Oysters and Bubbles. Open daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
<CF102>9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 933-9305, muscardinicellars.com.
</CF><CF114>Swanson Vineyards: </CF>Rutherford's swanky Swanson is always a fun place to visit, so why not make its dry, layered rosato the draw? Swanson's 2011 is a blend of 60percent sangiovese and 40percent syrah. Patently perfect salmon in color, it has a distinct taste of Bing cherry and strawberry, full-bodied enough to go with a range of foods. Swanson offers two types of tastings — the Salon or the Sip Shoppe. The more formal, luxurious Salon is a by-appointment seated tasting of wine, chocolates, caviars and cheeses for up to eight people; while the Sip Shoppe, a self-described "candy store for adults," pours varied wine flights (Thursday-Monday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $25).