Two fun cocktail wines

Springtime means we lighten up our drinking. Out with the holiday rum drinks, in with the cocktail wines. These can be light and lively or they can be substantial, stand-on-their-own wines, the kind that can substitute for dinner when quaffed with heavy hors d’oeuvres.

I came across two such wines when I went through a horizontal tasting of new releases from Deep Sea by Conway Family Wines. They’re a study in contrasts: the first a very light rosé, right, and the second a chewy red table wine. One of the main things I liked about these was their serious backbeats. The rosé was bone dry and the red had gutsy tannins. Both were priced so reasonably that you can buy them in volume and serve at your next dinner party.

Most Americans see pink and think sweet, but Europeans get dry rosé—it’s a wine to drink in warmer weather that has more substantial fruit than light whites but without the heaviness of a red. Vintner Jonathan Médard was born in Champagne so his take on Rosé is a serious one. His Sea Flower Dry Rosé 2009 ($14.99) smells beautiful in the glass with loads of strawberry and a backdrop of peach. It’s a saignée of grenache and syrah that finishes extremely dry; you’ll keep wanting another sip. It would play deliciously with seafood in a creamy pasta sauce—think Cal Pizza Kitchen’s tequila fettuccine with shrimp instead of chicken—or any salad with fresh fruit or prosciutto with melon. It’s really tasty on its own, but I could also imagine it as a girly cocktail with a splash of St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, garnished with a strawberry, cherry, or a single blueberry—it’s just what you might do with a decent blanc de noir Champagne.

Deep Sea’s Red Central Coast 2008 ($19.99) blends syrah, petite sirah, lagrein, merlot, and mourvedre for a bold mix that’s simultaneously juicy and brambly—the petite and lagrein kick in for a delicious stemminess. I’d serve it with strong cheeses such as blues and sharp American cheddars. And it definitely would be a go-to wine during barbecue season. It’s so good you’ll find yourself drinking anything left over from your party on weeknights. It would go great with a big slab of barbecue chicken pizza.—Anne Valdespino


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