On Valentine’s Day I love to cook a special dinner. Hence, I generally choose the wines more or less according to what I am planning to cook. I also like to choose something a bit different. Perhaps something that we haven’t tried before, perhaps something that I know my husband loves but we haven’t tasted in a while, or, maybe just the new vintage of a favorite wine – just some little special detail to mark the occasion.
If you really want something French, but less expensive than Champagne, I would suggest trying some of the Crémant styles from Alsace, Burgundy or the Jura. I have been particularly impressed by some Crémant de Jura wines tasted lately. One such is Domaine Hubert Clavelin Brut-Comté Crémant du Jura Chardonnay NV and at $20 it is not just tasty, it is another savvy buy.
Dry Rosé Wines
I usually don’t start my rosé consumption until about April, when the new releases are generally available. However, I know that there are many who love to drink pink for Valentine’s day. My only word of caution – make sure you choose a wine that was made to last more than a year – as many rosé wines are made to be consumed within about six months of release.
Here are two that I heartily recommend. First up is the 2000 Lopez de Heredia "Viña Tondonia" Gran Reserva Rosado Rioja $24. No, the year 2000 is not a typo, this is the current release of this wine. It is truly a rosé like no other. This wine is aged for four years in American oak, and further bottle aged before being released. Therefore it is driven by a multitude of wonderful complex tertiary aromas and flavors rather than youthful primary fruit. Not everyone’s cup of tea but if you want to try a truly unique, aged, age-worthy rosé then this Gran Reserva is for you.
If you would prefer something more typical I would suggest the 2009 Terre Nere Etna Rosato from Sicily, $17. I am a big fan of all the Terre Nere wines and this rosé is no exception. It is fairly full-bodied, rich and well structured. Not fruit driven but it has lots of plummy, dried cherry and wild red fruit flavors against a savory, earthy backdrop.
Another excellent option is the 2009 Decoy, Sonoma County Chardonnay, $20. This wine is deliciously bright and crisp with a small amount of well-integrated oak adding subtle hints of vanilla and spice. Delightful texture on the palate, rich but not heavy and well balanced with the core of lively fruit. An excellent example of the more restrained Chardonnays now coming out of California.
It is February, we are still in the depths of winter, so I am likely to cook something heartwarming, requiring a hearty red – maybe a blend, something spicy and ‘Rhone’ like perhaps? On my shortlist are the 2006 Bonny Doon “Le Cigare Volant” from California, $26. This is a delicious blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Warming, spicy, juicy and smooth with hints of smoke, leather, game and earth. I see a nice beef or venison stew on my horizon.
Back to the old world and France, I recently came across the 2006 Chateau Montus from the Madiran appellation in South West France, $27. This is a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Fairly medium bodied with nice firmish tannins. Lots of ripe, earthy black fruit flavors, spices and hints of smoke.
It is time for that ‘decadent’ chocolate pudding or soufflé that you’ve been waiting for. I am thinking of the ‘Soft Chocolate Mini Cakes’ dessert from Sara Kate’s new cookbook, which she cooked for us last week-end. We enjoyed it with a deliciously sweet Blandy’s 5 Year old Malmsey Madeira. While a bottle of Madeira can be pricey, it is pretty much indestructible and will last forever, even when opened. The sweeter Madeira wines have a particular affinity with chocolate.
Alternatively I would go for a red VDN (Vin Doux Naturel) such as Banyuls or Maury or if you prefer something from the US, how about a late harvest Zinfandel from California. Two delicious examples that I have tasted this year are from Dashe Cellars (the 2008 Late Harvest Zinfandel costs $24 for a half bottle) and Rosenblum Cellars (their 2007 Désirée Chocolate wine, which is a blend of mostly Zinfandel with some Touriga Nacional costs $20 / half bottle). Both will pair wonderfully with rich chocolate deserts.
These are but a few suggestions, intended just as a guide, to help you navigate the sea of wine choices being marketed for Valentine’s Day. Whatever you choose, keep it true to who you and your loved one are.
Until next week, and enjoy Valentine's Day!
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She hold the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Mary Gorman)