A Rosé by any other name

Lil' sis gets 'spinny' at a taste for wine

"There are wine snobs — probably right here in this very establishment," I warned my sister Allison. "Who might throw you off this balcony if you order White Zin."

Allison looked perplexed.

"It would be like going to Bern's and ordering mac 'n' cheese," I continued. "It makes people think you're a rube."

She stared blankly. I pressed on. Her husband Chris smiled knowingly.

"The very existence of White Zin is highly offensive to the wine connoisseur," I said. "Drink White Zin at home with the shades drawn, but not in public — especially not at a place like this. Those pleasant-looking people inside are more vicious than they appear."

"Fine," Allison said.

My other sister, Elizabeth, is, well, a lovable lush and knows better than to order White Zin. Beth dressed as The Wine Goddess and polished off an entire jug of vino last Halloween. She goes to school in Fort Collins, Colo., a college town with three microbreweries and a saloon on every corner, and is well acquainted with all of them.

Allison, on the other hand, is pretty much a teetotaler. She didn't have her first sip of alcohol until she was 24 years old and celebrating her marriage to Chris. About three years have passed since. She's graduated to the very occasional glass of Champagne, Riesling or White Zin.

The White Zin had to go.

That was my goal last Saturday when sister Allison, her hubbie Chris, brother Joel and I met at A Taste for Wine, a choice drinking room in downtown St. Petersburg. We were at the right place to wean Allison off the white trash stuff. But it had to be a selection that smacked of sugary sweetness or she wouldn't be able to down it. I knew this and wanted my sister to enjoy her beverage — heaven forbid I scare her off wine for good.

We sat out on the New Orleans-style balcony that overlooks Central Avenue and soaked up the blues skies, sun and brisk breeze. We watched a homeless man pick through a garbage bin beside two women on the patio who were also trying to enjoy the finer things of life. It was nice to be above the fray for a change.

I perused the menu and found a glass of '05 Silver Lake Roza Rosé ($6). Granted, White Zin is, technically, a rosé. But if I got Allison in the habit of ordering rosés instead of White Zin, she'd be better off, more cultured and such. It was worth a try, I figured. "Like sipping fresh, chilled strawberries," read the description. "Full and round on the tongue, with candied notes."

"Sounds good to me," Allison said.

When our well-informed server Rochelle returned to our table she directed my coffee-loving brother Joel to the Kostritzer Schwarzbier ($4.25) because it had "smooth coffee flavors." Chris ordered a 22-oz. bottle of Lost Coast Brewery Raspberry Brown ($8) because it's described as "dessert in a glass ... chocolate and real raspberry linger in mildly sweet beer."

Chris isn't much of a drinker. Considering he's married to my sister and an altogether good guy, I can't fault him too much for ordering a "dessert beer." After all, I ordered my sister a rosé and myself a white wine, an '05 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($5.50). It's described as "A wakeup call for the tongue!" Which was just what I needed following the previous day's 12-hour booze marathon that found me imbibing from happy hour until the dark hours of the morning on account of it being my bro's birthday night.

"That made my eyebrow go up," said my sister after sipping from her husband's beer. She looked like she'd just chewed on a fistful of Sour Patch Kids. Allison didn't like Chris' or my brother's drink, and she despised my wine.

"It tastes like vegetables," she said. "Like peas."

But she loved her rosé. Five minutes after it arrived she had gulped it down. "Very yummy," she said.

Chris and I exchanged concerned glances. Allison got giddy, a tad silly, which she is more than capable of even when sober. She made funny faces and teased my brother about smoking cigarettes. And then she got quiet. The rest of us gossiped about the family members not present, my drunkenness from the night before and how we were going to order an appetizer, perhaps a plate of cheese, before meeting my parents for the big birthday dinner at the barbecue joint my brother chose.

"Wow," my sister blurted before Rochelle returned with our plate of food. "I feel spinny!"

For the next hour-plus, even after the plate of cheese, the slabs of beef and several glasses of water at dinner, Allison could still feel the rosé.

"You have to sip, slowly, next time," I explained. "You downed that glass like a sailor."

"I know," she said. "It just tasted so good — I kinda forgot it was wine."

At least she wasn't drinking White Zin.

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