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Rosé comes out of the closet, with Nico's stellar pairing menu

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OK, I'll admit it. I once drank "white zinfandel." That sweet, pinkish wine made a fortune for Sutter Home, but put a curse on rosés that's lasted for years. If you were caught drinking pink, you might as well have been sipping and swirling KoolAid, for all the grief you'd get.

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Now things are changing. Rosés are getting some respect--and they deserve it. If you're looking to sip a cool, summery glass of sophisticated pink pleasure, there's no better destination than Nico, in San Francisco's Laurel Heights neighborhood. Beverage Director Maz Naba tasted through 200 bottles from around the world before choosing a list of 17 worthy to accompany Chef Nicolas Delaroque's seasonal, modern French cuisine. Delaroque has some impressive kitchens on his resumé, by the way, including Manresa, Atelier Crenn, Luce and Coi.

The pairing menu changes daily, but count on five courses, with wines that might hail from California, Oregon, Washington, France, Austria, Germany, Italy or Portugal. There's even an offering from Lebanon. Most of the rosés are produced using the vin gris method, where red grapes are pressed with their skins, but the skins aren't left to macerate with the juice.

At a recent pairing dinner, Naba took me and my companions on quite a trip, pouring wines that ranged from the palest "onionskin" pink vin gris to jewel-toned saignées (rosés "bled" off from red wine that is macerating with the must).

Here's a sample of what you can expect:

  • CUCUMBER SOUP sea water, levain
  • 2013 GRENACHE BLEND ROSÉ FRONT PORCH Russian River Valley
  • HALIBUT English peas, radish, roe
  • 2013 CINSAULT ROSÉ CLOS BEYLESSE Cotes de Provence
  • WHITE SEA BASS little gems, green tomato, corn
  • 2013 MOURVEDRE BLEND ROSE ́ VESPER ‘Rancho Guejito’, San Diego County
  • RABBIT haricot vert, curry, orach
  • 2012 PINOT NOIR ROSÉ ANALEMMA Columbia Gorge, Washington
  • PLUM financier, goat cheese
  • 2013 SPARKLING GAMAY ROSÉ PATRICK BOTTEX Bugey Cerdon, Savoie

Because the menu and pairings vary, so do the prices. But the value will always be good, I'd wager. Naba's pairing choices were some of the best rosés I've ever tasted, expertly matched to Delaroque's dishes. If you're looking for a meal that's the perfect expression of summer, Nico is the place.

And--I kid you not--Naba has even boldly included a zinfandel rosé on his list. Sutter Home? No way! This baby's a Turley.

Nico, 3228 Sacramento St., San Francisco; 415-359-1000; dinner served Tuesday-Saturday; closed July 1-5.

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