The next time you're tempted to roll your eyes on the topic of White Zinfandel, consider this: it was meant to be a bone dry wine with distinctly Gallic pretensions.
In 1972, Bob Trinchero made a truly white wine from Zinfandel, according to Sutter Home. He called it "Oeil de Perdrix," a florid French term for such wines. It was not a success. In 1975, the wine ended up sweet, and the rest is history—it really is: an original bottle sits pink and pretty in the Smithsonian, along with the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay. Sounds like a party in there.
Sutter Home 40th Anniversary California White Zinfandel ($6) This starts off on a note of powdered raspberry and strawberry, finishing up with lightly fruity flavors of watermelon and raspberry. Low pH keeps the medium-sweet sugar profile in check, and at just 9.5 percent alcohol by volume (abv), it's a reasonably refreshing rosé you can knock back without much harm done.
Buehler 2014 California White Zinfandel ($10) Bold and unafraid is the Napa Valley Cabernet producer who also makes White Zin, truly a misnomer for this bright pink version. With sweet notes of dried cranberries and raspberries, this gets to the bottom of what the Sutter Home only hints at: maraschino cherry. Simple, irresistible and just sweet enough to wake up that sleeper sweet tooth you didn't know you had and make it clamor for another sip. Keep away from the grill master if you don't want your burgers burnt. (11 percent abv)
Pedroncelli 2014 Dry Creek Valley Dry Rosé of Zinfandel ($12) Although the winery has been making pink Zin since the 1950s, Pedroncelli has sought to distance itself from White Zinfandel in more recent years by emphasizing a "dry" style in both name and practice. This deep pink wine is indeed dry, and signs off with a little grip on the palate, but I wish I could find the fruit in the haystack of its aroma. (13.9 percent abv)
Bucklin 2014 Sonoma Valley Rosé of Old Hill Ranch ($20) A different approach to rosé of Zinfandel: throw it in a blend (28 percent) with the classic grapes of Southern Rhône rosé. From a vineyard renowned for its field blend of old-vine Zin and other varieties, this has a pale salmon hue, not pink, and might be described in more mineral and floral than outright fruity terms—try getting your White Zin sipper interested in something that smells like "crushed rock." Although subtle, flavored with mere tinctures of orange raspberry, nectarine and strawberry, this is not lacking: it's all about texture, deriving a sweet, creamy sensation, not from residual sugar, but likely from a generous portion of Grenache (33 percent), a famously fleshy grape in such blends. (12.8 percent abv)