Time to get in the pink! We’ve fallen in love with rosé in all its many forms, and we aren’t alone. Suddenly, wine stores and restaurants are awash in the pink stuff, but beware — as wineries worldwide try to hop on the rosé bandwagon, not all of it is of equal caliber. The ones we love most are the Provençal-style rosés, wines with character and some minerality that pair well with food but are still eminently quaffable. These are not the sweetish white zinfandel or Mateus rosé of the past, and good riddance. These are delicious grownup wines that just happen to be pink.
“Rosé certainly has taken on a life of its own,” says Sandeep Ghaey, owner of Vinic Wine in Evanston. He’s seen a huge increase in rosé sales over the past few years. Every summer season, they have set up a table of still rosé wines in the store, which was initially greeted with “skepticism and apprehension.” Ghaey feels that many of his rosé sales were primarily made to customers with a taste for wines they had enjoyed in Europe. But now, he tells us, he has to fight for allocations on affordable rosé because of crazily increased demand.
“Certainly the refreshing qualities of dry rosé have pushed this humble beverage into its own cultural moment, with every kind of variation from brosé to frosé (the masculine and frozen alternatives),” shares Ghaey. “There are certainly rosés that are better suited to fall, winter and spring, and those haven’t really taken ahold in the same way. We drop down to just a handful after Labor Day, and I think that rosé will have really made it when we are drinking it year round.”
Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has a front-row seat to Millennium Park, Lake Michigan and all things Chicago summer from its perch overlooking Michigan Avenue. To Sterling Knight, Cindy’s sommelier and assistant general manager (and owner of the coolest name ever), this provided the perfect backdrop for a serious rosé program.
“Our view calls for a glass of rosé and some oysters,” says Knight. “The food that’s coming out of [chef Christian Ragano’s] kitchen, the seasonality of it, just screams for a beautiful glass of rosé. And it’s not just for the ladies; gents like it, too. I want to expand people’s minds a little bit. The flavor profile can be completely different from bottle to bottle … it’s not just pink wine.”
So you’ll find at least five rosés by the glass on Cindy’s summer wine menu, with another four or five gorgeous bottles of vintage rosé champagne, including the vintage Perrier Jouet ‘Belle Epoque’ Rosé Champagne 2005. Knight also highly recommends the Domaine Maestracci Niellucciu/Sciaccarellu, Corsica 2015, which presents flavors of red fruits, white flowers, fig and chamomile. It’s a wine that reflects the terroir of a Mediterranean island, with its rocky soil and ocean breezes. The grapes must struggle to survive, and it builds character in the wine, the result of which winds up in your glass — and makes for a delightful dinner companion.
“I personally drink rosés all year round,” says Knight. “I think it’s fun to find how one is completely different from the next, and maybe you can’t judge a wine by its color. A fuchsia-colored wine can be herbaceous, light and fresh. I’m constantly going through the Rolodex in my mind thinking of best pairings. For instance, with a rosé champagne, the fattier the better! It’s amazing with fried chicken.”
Cindy’s is also featuring a rosé popsicle from pastry chef Jove Hubbard, as well as a rosé-based cocktail, the “Howl at the Jun,” devised by “Spirit Guide” Nandini Khaund. It’s a blend of Beefeater gin, “jun” kombucha (fermented from raw honey), and grapefruit, topped off with sparkling rosé.
They aren’t the only restaurant that’s all about that rosé life. Publican Quality Meats tells us that their frosé slushie, which combines rosé wine with lemon simple syrup and ice, is crazy popular this summer, and you’ll find a more fruit-forward version of the frosé — made with mixed fresh berries, citrus juice, and rosé — at River North’s Celeste. Ella Elli, which opened this spring in Lakeview, offers a refreshing Rosé Sangria made with pampelmousse, lime cordial and fresh summer fruit.
The recently renovated (and now open!) Arun’s has stepped up their cocktail game significantly with the hiring of bar director Brian Garvens, and happily, he’s a rosé fan as well. His Summer 75, composed of Bombay “Sapphire East” gin, ruby red grapefruit juice, house-made spiced Thai syrup, gingerade kombucha and sparkling rosé (and garnished with a Pama float, lemon peel and Thai basil), is a masterpiece of balance and flavor. I am pronouncing it the perfect summer sip.
So drink pink! Whether it’s still or sparkling, rosé has the power to unite. And if you’re thinking of dipping your toe into rosé mixology, may I suggest you start with my Rhubarb-Rosé Sangria? It’s the perfect gateway tipple to a rosier existence.
More from Make It Better:
- Best of 2017: Dining
- End-of-Summer Treat: Rosé Popsicles
- Local Women Make a Healthy Margarita Mix That Also Gives Back
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.