Now that the spring sun has finally fought back the rainclouds we turn our attention to warm weather wines. While there is an endless supply of refreshing options nothing screams “light the barbecue” quite like rose'. Though southern France seems to claim a trademark on the category, pink wine is produced just about everywhere grapes are grown. Allowing the juice of red grapes to briefly macerate on their skins infuses a bit of color and extracts just the essence of the grape variety. The category fell deeply out of favor in this country with the albatross that was white zinfandel but these days it is darned near fashionable again, and this time of the year there are many quality options available.

Since the 2002 vintage, Chrystal Clifton has crafted one of the most satisfying versions. She calls it “Botasea,” Venetian dialect for “little barrel,” and Clifton is indeed a petite package of energy and enthusiasm. As with all wines produced at the Santa Barbara County winery she owns with husband Steve, this rosato is produced from Italian varieties grown in top local vineyards.

For Botasea, Clifton employs the 'holy trinity' of Piedmontese grapes; Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo (and a dash of Sangiovese for a Tuscan touch). The grapes are picked relatively early to maintain freshness and avoid high alcohol content. The result is an amazingly expressive combination of red fruit aromas and flavors that drinks like a bracing white wine. Dolcetto provides a burst of tart fruit, Barbera warmth and texture, and Nebbiolo a hint of tannin and a whiff of wild mushrooms. Above and beyond your tactile pleasure this wine is serving another noble purpose. A percentage of proceeds from sales of Botasea each year are donated to the Susan B. Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. The 'feel good wine' of the coming summer? I would think so…

The 2009 Botasea Rosato generally runs for around $18.00.

David Rosoff is the GM at Osteria Mozza.

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