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Murray: Get in the pink with your wines this Valentine’s Day

POSTED: February 17, 2008 5:05 a.m.
/For The Times

Habersham Winery's Cherokee Rose, a semi-dry wine with about the same sugar level as most white zinfandels, is made from French-American hybrid grapes seyval blanc, vidal and chambourcin.

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Writing about wine is a dirty job. But, somebody has to stand up and embrace the responsibility.

I take that responsibility seriously.

I’ve been writing and teaching about wine for more than 25 years. Has it really been that long? But as the frog says, "Time’s sure fun when you’re having flies."

Or something like that.

While I do view wine and all the good things connected with it with some seriousness, I do like to have fun with it. The title of my wine course, "Wine Without Pretense," offered at Brenau University’s Learning and Leisure Institute, reflects that.

Americans are far more wine savvy than they were 25 years ago ... even 10 years ago. America has established itself as one of the world’s great wine producers, and you will find wineries in every one of the 50 states — including in Northeast Georgia, where some truly good wines are made.

One more personal note: I froth at the mouth over wine writers who tempt and tantalize with reviews of the latest boutique wines costing way too much money, and which never make it more than five miles from the winery because only 56 cases were produced. Whenever possible, the wines I write about can be found locally ... or close to it.

I’m looking forward to using this column to open up some doors to the world of wine, which has become far more accessible and informal in the past two decades.

And I would like to hear from you; feel free to contact me with questions about wine.

Right now, however, let’s check the calendar. Valentine’s Day, another faux celebration nurtured by greeting card companies and candy makers, is nigh. And since the color of choice for this holiday is pink, let’s explore a variety of pink wines that might warm your loved one’s heart.

By the way, I will list prices, but expect variations from store to store.

Sadly, in this white zinfandel-conscious society, we too often associate "pink" with "semi-sweet." In truth, you will find some fine wines that are pink — and dry.

Combine "pink" with "Champagne" and you generally get a heart-melting sipper that’s wonderful with food.

One example is the gorgeous Piper Heidsieck Rose Sauvage, a peachy pink Champagne made predominately from the pinot noir grape. Looking for a bubbly to impress the love of your life? Here it is — lovely to look at and a great food wine, matching up well with all sorts of red meats, white meats, poultry, cheeses, etc. Look to pay around $40.

A domestic sparkling wine that has impressed me is the Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour, a brut-style rose made from primarily pinot noir, with a tad of chardonnay in the mix. It’s not bone dry, but, coming from the California arm of the famed Taittinger Champagne house, it is well-balanced and smooth. It, too, is a fine food wine. Price tag is about $35.

Those looking to serve pink bubbly to large numbers of folks, or who are watching the budget, might check out the Korbel Brut Rose, another California product. Pinot noir is the main grape, but some chenin blanc and French colombard are added. It’s crisp and dry and is priced around $13.

Steve Gibson, general manager of Habersham Winery outside Helen, offers a pair of pink sippers for the holiday. First is Habersham’s Cherokee Rose, a semi-dry wine with about the same sugar level as most white zinfandels. It’s made from French-American hybrid grapes seyval blanc, vidal and chambourcin. The last is a red grape that provides color and body to the wine. Gibson told me that last year Georgia Trend magazine voted the Cherokee Rose the best blush wine in Georgia. It’s nonvintage and is priced at $12 in the tasting room.

Have a hankering for a sweeter pink wine? Check out Habersham’s Belle Blush, made from white Muscadine (native American) grapes with a splash of the chambourcin for color. Price, $11 at the winery.

Habersham wines also are available at selected retail outlets throughout the area.

Pinot grigio is the most popular white wine in the country. Now the Italian producer Folonari offers a pink pinot grigio. How? The skin of the pinot grigio grape has a reddish tinge. When the grape juice is fermented in contact with those skins, the wine develops a light pink blush. And it is quite flavorful. Folonari’s Pink Pinot Grigio is $6-$7.

White zinfandel, made in the same style as the Folonari but from the zinfandel grape, changed how America looks at wine. There are some well-made white zins, and one of the best comes from Teldeschi Winery, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley, an area that produces some of the finest red zinfandels in existence. The 2006 Teldeschi White Zinfandel is one of the best of its kind and sensibly priced at around $9.

When I served the lovely Jean-Luc Colombo Rose de Cote Bleue in my wine class, folks were greatly impressed. It comes from the beautiful area in Provence, along the French Mediterranean once painted by Cezanne.

It is 40 percent syrah, 40 percent mourvedre and 20 percent counoise. This pink wine is quite dry and made to be served with food. You’ll have to look for this one, but expect to pay about $13 when you find it.

And for a European-style dry rose, pop the cork on a Carlos Basso Cabernet Sauvignon Rose from Argentina. You can taste the traditional cabernet flavors with hints of strawberry. Nice luncheon wine for about $12.

There you have it, boys and girls. Head out to your favorite retail store, supermarket or winery and do your Valentine’s Day shopping from the heart.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident.



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