Spring. Too early to haul from the recesses of the closet the white pants and the white shoes, but not too early to start stocking the refrigerator with bottles of pink wine.
A recommendation: the Sorelle Winery 2011 Lodi Sogno Dolce Sangiovese Rosato.
That's a mouthful, and with so much of it in Italian it calls for translation. "Sorelle" translates as "sisters," for Kim Scott and Melissa Scott Ulmer, daughters of Mike and Joanne Scott, who founded the winery three years ago along Highway 88 just east of Stockton.
"Sogno Dolce," or "sweet dreams," follows the family's practice of tagging an Italian proprietary name on its wines, which in this case can be taken as a clue that the wine contains some residual sugar, enough to be evident but not enough for the wine to come off thick and sticky.
"Sangiovese" is the black Italian grape from which the wine is made, while "rosato" reinforces that this is a blush or pink wine.
The first major wine competition of the year was the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition on the grounds of the Citrus Fair in Cloverdale in January. It drew some 5,500 entries. The fat, lightly oaked and breezily refreshing Sorelle Winery 2011 Lodi Sogno Dolce Sangiovese Rosato was named the best pink wine in the show.
The smart buzz among judges during the sweepstakes round turned out to be not so smart; some had the wine pegged as another rosé of sangiovese by Barnard Griffin Winery in Washington state, which had won best-of-show for pink wines the previous two years. Judges at least recognize consistently that sangiovese is yielding some mighty fine rosés these days.
Inspired by Joanne Scott's Italian heritage and by the quality that the family was finding in California wines made with grape varieties traditionally associated with Italy, Sorelle is concentrating solely on Italian varietals. Its lineup includes a 2012 muscat canelli whose sweetness and spice make it another splendid choice for the warming days of spring; a smoky and zesty 2010 barbera; and a bright and vital 2010 primitivo. (A 2009 primitivo from Sorelle won a gold medal at last year's Chronicle competition). Sorelle is so Italian-oriented that family members repainted their German-made grape press in the colors of the Italian flag.
Sorelle had its genesis in 2007 when Stockton native Mike Scott fulfilled a longtime dream to buy a historic 4-acre parcel along the Calaveras River commonly known as "the old Dodge place."
Just behind 1 1/2 acres of sangiovese and barbera that the Scotts planted after they pulled out a walnut orchard stands a looming white house that Jonathan Holt Dodge built in 1866. It's in fine shape, now used primarily as a staging area for special events on the grounds, such as weddings.
Dodge was a San Joaquin County pioneer. A Vermont native living in Illinois when he got word of the California Gold Rush, he made his way to Sacramento and the diggings along the south fork of the American River via St. Louis, New Orleans, Panama and San Francisco.
For all that effort, he had little luck in the gold fields, but California agreed with him, and rather than return east he began to farm in the San Joaquin Valley.
He married, settled into a log cabin believed to be the first house built in San Joaquin County, donated land and helped build the one-room Calaveras School in 1866, and that same year constructed the home still on the site. (In 1976, the Calaveras School was moved to Micke Grove Regional Park in Stockton.)
The site was historic even before Dodge used his spread to grow grains, plant one of the first vineyards in the area and raise thoroughbred horses, cattle and sheep. Two plaques in front of his 1866 residence note that the spot was used as a campsite on March 26, 1844, by Gen. John C. Fremont and his expedition scout Christopher "Kit" Carson.
Behind the house, in a similar style, the Scotts built their winery and tasting room. Mike Scott, who made his money as the owner of an industrial supply company that provided materials for the wind- turbine industry, refinished the thick Douglas-fir shelves from a century-old warehouse in downtown Stockton for the handsome interior walls of the facility. A large window separating tasting room from cellar also comes from the warehouse.
Ron Justice, Kim Scott's fiancé, oversees daily operations, while Chad Joseph, a consultant for several wineries in Lodi, is the consulting winemaker. They make about 2,000 cases of wine a year.
"Our goal isn't so much to produce a lot (of wine) right off the bat, but to make a product people can enjoy. We want people to come here to enjoy a family experience," said Justice.
If the setting alone doesn't do it, a glass or bottle of the sangiovese rosato should help.
Sorelle Winery 2011 Lodi Sogno Dolce Sangiovese Rosato
By the numbers: 13.5 percent alcohol, 200 cases, $16
Context: The Scott family especially likes pairing the rosato with pastas finished with a light red sauce, but it has just enough sweetness to enjoy as an aperitif.
Availability: Nugget Markets is starting to carry Sorelle wines, which up to now have been available only at the winery.
More information: The tasting room at Sorelle Winery, 9599 North Highway 88, Stockton, is open noon-6 p.m. Fridays, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The Scotts also are opening a second tasting room at 7 N. School St. in downtown Lodi, to be called Wine Social.
Wine critic and competition judge Mike Dunne's selections are based solely on open and blind tastings, judging at competitions and visits to wine regions. Read his blog at www.ayearinwine.com and reach him at email@example.com.