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California Wine: Watermelon Rosé

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Spring is finally here in Los Angeles and with it arrives the time -- and the need -- to drink rosé.

As can be expected, the majority of rosés you will encounter are predictably and historically French. Salmon-hued ballerina-weight wines from Provence sit perfectly perched on white linen tables in fish-shaped bottles. Countering that, there are rich ruby representatives from Tavel, grasped at the neck by barbeque guests as they head back to the grill. And of course there are rosés from Spain both frugal and full of fleshy fruit, at times with more emphasis placed on great graphic design then gracefully made wine.

However, there is no need to travel ten thousand miles to find great rosé. There are wonderful rosés from California as diverse as the population of the state.

One stunning example of well-crafted rosé made here is the 2011 La Clarine Farm. Pleasantly pink with just a slight haze reminiscent of a Venice Beach morning, it is a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre that is bottled unfiltered and unfined. I picked this dusky gem up from the Elvino wine shop on Abbot Kinney and promptly headed out with the bottle in one hand and a fresh watermelon in the other.

Rosé may be a long awaited addition to the season but just as welcome is the arrival of watermelon. Watermelon is pure hot weather happiness and outside of its complementary color, a surprisingly apt accompaniment to rosé. Arriving home I sliced up the melon and plated it with just a sprinkling of alder smoked salt. (If you have not experienced salted watermelon, stop reading and go do it now.)

The La Clarine Farm, now chilled and in the glass, delivered lovely red fruit and floral notes as would be expected. On the palate it has a seductive savory note, most likely from its leesy lack of filtering. This made the wine an even more perfect pairing for the seasoned melon. Bright refreshing acidity coupled with a low 12.7% alcohol and a screw-cap closure makes this is a great wine for the water bottle cage on a beach cruiser. Not that I would suggest such a thing.

This rosé has a balance of fruit and sapidity that is complete and delicious on its own, but if you have the good fortune to sip it with salted watermelon it will make the day feel warmer and its memory last longer.

The 2011 La Clarine Farm Rosé retails for about $17 a bottle.

[Photo of watermelon by Flickr user Kirti Poddar.]

Los Angeles resident Michael Newsome, a wine buyer for Whole Foods and a Certified Italian Wine Specialist, joins us every Tuesday for an exploration of California wine. See his previous posts here.

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