There is an inconvenient truth about spring in western Washington. It’s just not very spring like!

A recent look at the daily temperatures here serves as a case in point: high of 50, low of 46. Day after day after day after day. When I asked a friend recently what the next day’s weather was going to be he said, “Raining but it’s supposed to be warmer!” with hopeful anticipation.

Rather than cloudy and overcast with a chance of rain the forecast should just say “Dreary” with an unhappy face. The weather people should all be given nine month furloughs – really.

There is the occasional sign that warmer weather is on the way. One is the beautiful, fleeting emergence of the cherry blossoms. This is, of course, before the rain mercilessly knocks the flowers to the ground like so much confetti. Another is wine store shelves lined with rosé.

To me, the release of rosé always seems like a cruel joke. It is akin to clothing stores selling shorts in the midst of February. Who wants to buy rosé when the heat is still on and the fleece is still out?

Somebody does. But who are these people?

Sure as you’re born, most of the rosé is snapped up long before the weather calls for it. Perhaps there is a mulled rosé recipe somewhere that I am unfamiliar with?

Personally, I tend to think that it is a sign of western Washington’s desperation at this time of year. People think that if perhaps they stock up on enough warm weather wine, friendlier temperatures must surely follow. Poor souls. They have lived here too long. Their brains are permanently rain-soaked.

So here we are in spring 2011 with the weather cold and rainy and a new vintage of Washington rosé upon us, destined to disappear in the blink of an eye.

Before delving into the particulars, let me first say a few words about rosé. Rosé can be made from most any grape. This is not to say, however, that it should be made from any grape. A recent experience on a tasting panel at the Seattle Wine Awards serves as a case in point. Among a flight of somewhat depressing wines was a Cabernet Sauvignon rosé and a Merlot rosé. Yuck and yuck. Another rosé was even oaked. Yuck!

What’s the deal?

There are different ways of making rosé. One is called the saignee method where a winemaker takes the fermenting juice and bleeds some off to make rosé. This has the dual effect of creating immediate cash flow and also concentrating the remaining fermenting must which will be turned into red wine. This is why one often sees rosés with alcohol levels of 14.5 to 15 percent (yuck) similar to the final alcohol of the red wine it is made from. It is also why one sees grapes that are not traditionally used for rosé, such as the aforementioned Cabernet and Merlot. The latter would not be so bad if the wines were priced more accordingly. Most often they are not. Another method – less frequently done – is blending some red wine with white wine grapes.

Some grow grapes for the explicit purpose of creating rosé. The picking decisions come a bit earlier to retain freshness and acidity. The winemaking techniques change a bit. While this isn’t necessary, for me, the best rosés are often created with the grape growing in mind.

One thing to keep in mind is that rosés can have varying levels of sweetness, with some bone dry and others treacley sweet. This is somewhat of a personal preference depending on whether one is looking for your grandmother’s porch pounder (off-dry to sweet) or a mouthwatering summer sipper (dry). Unfortunately there is usually no way to tell the style from the label so caveat emptor (the wines listed below are all dry with the exception of the Kaella).

Perhaps the most exciting thing about rosé is the rainbow of different colors. Of course rainbows require the sun to see them so please look outside of the Pacific Northwest. Rosés range from copper to salmon, pale pink to strawberry red. Note that the color only speaks to the amount of skin contact and not to how dry or sweet the wine may be. Even the aromas can be deceiving with some showing so much fruit that it seems like the wine must be sweet when in fact it is bone dry.

On to this year’s crop. What follows is a list from what I have sampled this year (more to follow). Of particular note is the 2010 Tranche Cellars Pink Pape, a new offering from this winery and the first wine released from the winery’s estate vineyard, Blue Mountain. Only 168 cases of this Rhone varietal based blend were made so it is destined to be short-lived but is definitely worth seeking out.

Syncline Wine Cellars, who often produces a rosé that I dream about – literally, this year created a wine boasting a healthy dose of Pinot Noir. This would seem a sure sign of last year’s cool and challenging growing season. Wait. Or was that this year?

Let’s be clear. 2010 is gone and warmer days are surely ahead in 2011. So stock up on rosé before the warm weather gets here. Because by then, all of this year’s rosé will surely be gone.

Here’s to warmer times and climes.

Syncline Wine Cellars Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $18
Rating: * (Excellent) Pale salmon colored. A moderately aromatic wine marked by spice, watermelon, strawberry, and sour cherry. Fleshy and full feeling on the palate while retaining extremely crisp acidity on this bone dry offering. This is a red wine drinker’s rose with a level of complexity seldom seen in domestic offerings. 33% Pinot Noir, 17% Grenache, 17% Cinsault, 15% Carignan, 9% Mourvedre, and 9% Counoise. Celilo, Underwood, Milbrandt, McKinley Springs, Coyote Canyon, Alder Ridge, Ciel du Cheval, and Heart of the Hill vineyards.

Tranche Cellars Pink Pape Dry Rosé Walla Walla Valley 2010 $16
Rating: * (Excellent) Pale copper with a touch of salmon. A lightly aromatic wine with faint whiffs of strawberry, spice, and melon. The palate has abundant citrus notes and orange peel flavors. Almost imperceptible (drinks dry) but just the slightest touch of sugar to carry the fruit along and balance out the acidity. Beautifully drawn out with mouthwatering acidity and a lingeringly finish. An extremely enjoyable, well priced wine. 0.8% RS. TA 8.8g/L. 12.9% alcohol. Aged 7 months in stainless steel. 168 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese Washington State 2010 $12
Rating: * (Excellent) Light cherry red in color. An aromatic wine marked by wild strawberries, melon, and spice. Crisp, dry, and clean on a palate loaded with fruit flavors matched by mouthwatering acidity. A perfect summer wine at a can’t-be-beat price. This is a case purchase summer wine if ever there were one. Van Batavia, Balcom & Moe, and Gunkel vineyards. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 12.4% alcohol.

Waters Winery Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $18
Rating: * (Excellent) Pale salmon color. An aromatic wine with mineral, strawberry, floral notes, and spice. Incredibly tart with delicious, mouthwatering acidity. 65% Syrah, 30% Viognier, and 5% Grenache. Forgotten Hills and Old Stones Estate vineyards. 12.9% alcohol. 240 cases produced.

Sleight of Hand Magician’s Assistant Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $17
Rating: + (Good) A very pretty light salmon color. Aromas of strawberry, melon, and light spices. Bone dry on the palate with crisp, incredibly fresh fruit flavors. An extremely enjoyable wine with great acidity. 100% Cabernet Franc. Black Rock and Chelle den Millie vineyards. 13.7% alcohol. Recommended

Fjellene Cellars Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $20
Rating: + (Good) Light cherry red color. Abundant strawberry, cherry, and light bubble gum notes. Crisp and tart with bright acidity with just the suggestion of sugar (0.89 g/L). 100% Syrah. 12.5% alcohol. 100 cases produced.

Trust Cellars Rosé of Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2010 $16
Rating: + (Good) Pale salmon colored. Intriguing aromas of pepper, strawberry, and spice. Palate has mouthwatering acidity and is absolutely loaded with spice – particularly pepper and cumin – on a fascinating flavor profile. 13.2% alcohol.

Vinyl Wines R3 Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $15
Rating: + (Good) Bright pink colored. An aromatic wine with cherries, strawberry, and other red fruit along with bubble gum notes. Palate brings more fruit flavors than are often seen in rose along with well balanced by acidity with just a suggestion of Residual Sugar (0.4) that carries the wine across the palate to the finish. Alcohol shows through at times. 13.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Milbrandt Traditions Syrah Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $13
Rating: + (Good) A pretty pale pink color. Aromas of bubble gum, marshmallow, and light strawberry. Very dry and tart on the palate with mouthwatering acidity. 100% Syrah. 12.9% alcohol.

Kaella Winery Rosé of Sangiovese Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2010 $17
Rating: + (Good) A very pretty light cherry red color. Spice, strawberry, sour cherry, and bubble gum aromas rise up from the glass. The palate is off dry and has a full feel with crisp acidity and a spice note on the finish. 13.2%. 1.65% Residual Sugar. 50 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

El Corazon Winery Red Frog Syrah Rosé Columbia Valley 2010 $15
Rating: . (Decent) Pale pink. Aromas of strawberries, cashews, spice, and melon. The palate comes off as fat and fleshy, needing a bit more acidity to hold it together. 14.5% alcohol. 60 cases produced.