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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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A rosé and a sauvignon blanc for the longest days of the year
Solstice sensations

What can't rosés do? These wines, which range in color from austere orange to vivid fuchsia, are perfect for June's strawberries and peas, but remain strong contenders at the backyard barbecues of July. Light bodied and delicately flavored, rosé is some of the most food-friendly juice there is, and it's especially great with the dips, potato salads, hamburgers and hot dogs we associate with this time of year.

A chilled bottle of pink is a festive way to begin a summer evening - and most available locally also offer tremendous value. From May through September, they're my go-to bottles for pleasurable, inexpensive sipping.

Out of the field of good blushing pours this year, I've been riveted by the 2011 California rosé from Zepaltas ($17). This wine, made by Ryan Zepaltas for his own label (he's assistant winemaker at Siduri and Novy - and originally hails from Eau Claire), is what is called a tank bleed rosé, or what the French call saignée, meaning "to bleed."

The grapes, piled high after harvest, crush and ooze juice under their own weight. The juice flowing from the bottom of the tank is then poured off to make the wine.

I find the process poetic and elegant in its simplicity, and it results in what I think are the best wines. The Zepaltas is a 41% Mourvedre, 41% Grenache, 18% Pinot Noir blend and it is far and away my favorite rosé of the season: pure strawberry and watermelon.

If you're burned out on rosé already, there's another bottle that's ideal for these long summer days of picnics and last-minute invites to friends' porch parties. Half bottles of Domaine Girard Sancerre 2009 are playful and mobile.

Crisp and herbaceous, with flavors of stone fruits and honeysuckle, this little bottle is a big crowd pleaser. At $12 for a half bottle, they're fun to split with someone over dinner, or bring two or three to a party.

If you're pairing this little beauty with food, try avocado or even cucumber. It's great with the last of the season's asparagus. This flinty, minerally, Loire Valley sauvignon blanc blossoms epically well with goat cheese, and is also delicious with West Coast oysters or grilled salmon. Bring it along as a party favor with an easy dill cream cheese spread, and you'll delight everyone with pure cooling freshness.

These wines can be found at all Steve's locations, Cork & Bottle, as well as other local shops. Call to check availability.

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