Rosy-Cheeked

An unexpectedly delicious picnic wine

It isn't every day that you stumble on the ideal picnic wine.

But when Sam and Jessica Bilbro, of the fledgling Idlewild Wines, bought a historic vineyard in Mendocino County, they discovered 100-year-old vines bearing a pink-skinned mutation of Grenache called Grenache Gris.

Don't call their newly released 2012 Gibson Ranch Grenache Gris ($27.50 for 750 ml at Little Vine) a rosé. It's more of a deep, appetizing russet hue.

In the Languedoc, where this grape variety is more common, Grenache Gris is normally used to make white wine. Amid the havoc of their first harvest, though, the Bilbros ended up crushing the grapes by foot and leaving the juice on the skins for three days.

The result is a curious creature, more tannic than a rosé but more delicate than most orange wines. Whatever its taxonomy, the wine is delicious: sweet-scented as a ripe tangerine, but with a sharp edge.

The Grenache Gris' versatility makes it a great match for picnic food like sesame noodles, cold fried chicken and watermelon.

Dining out? Try a glass ($13) at the San Francisco A16, where wine director Shelley Lindgren suggests pairing it with the ricotta-zucchini pizza, or the squid-ink tonnarelli with braised squid and Senise peppers.