Aw, shucks The Northwest nearly got skunked in this year's West Coast Oyster Wine Competition. Not a single wine from British Columbia or Oregon made the top 10, and only one from Washington did: perennial favorite Snoqualmie Vineyard's $9 sauvignon blanc. Five of the nine placed California entries were also sauv blancs, with a couple of dark horses coming in among former winners: Robledo Family Winery of Sonoma scored with its very first release, an '02 priced at $12, while the top bargain was Barefoot Cellars' nonvintage bottling at just $6. Experts queried about the pallid showing of Northwest wines cited a number of possible causes, among them the extremely warm '02 and '03 growing seasons, which encouraged fruitier (and hence less oyster-friendly) vintages. With California submitting more than 100 wines for consideration versus Washington's 25, Oregon's 16, British Columbia's three, and just one from Idaho, sheer statistical dominance may have biased things, too. Sorting out wines to pair with oysters at all is somewhat paradoxical: The better you like oysters, the less likely you are to want to wash them down with anything that might blur their cool brininess and metallic tang. But there must be plenty of customers who disagree; making it onto the Oyster Wine Top 10 assures a vintner sizzling sales. Rosés of spring Rosé wines have got a bad rap in the U.S., and for good reason. For many years they were cloying, pallid-tasting pop wines with little to recommend them but pinkness. But there's no reason rosé can't be well made, crafted to extract just the right amount of pigment (and tannins) from red-grape skins to produce a flavor profile quite different from either straight reds or whites. The robust, cedar-scented rosés of Tavel in the southern Rhône and the strawberry-bright wines of Spain's Cigales are both made primarily from grenache grapes, but winemakers here and abroad are experimenting with other varieties, including nebbiolo, cabernet franc, and sangiovese. A rare chance to sample the full spectrum occurs this Monday at Waterfront Seafood Grill on Pier 70, when more than a dozen Washington wine­makers present their individual takes of rosé beside others from California and Europe in a benefit for FareStart. Tickets for the event, which runs from 5 to 7:30 p.m., are $25. Get this! Regular readers of this column know that the author firmly believes that viognier, the white-grape variety of France's northern Rhône valley, has what it takes to be Washington winemaking's Next Big Thing. The best argument yet in support of this contention is Brian Carter's '02 Bridgman viognier, a wine of true nobility: fragrant, fruity, full-bodied, with a fine, lingering finish. It is superb wine, and a bargain at its current price, about $13.

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