Ok, it's Valentine's Day.
And like everyone else in America (except for you REALLY slick people), you're scrambling to put something together for your spouse/love/like/crush.
I'm not big into the "Hallmark" holidays, as I like to call them, but I do like Valentine's Day because it's a great opportunity to take some time out of your crazy schedule to show someone that you care.
If there's a wine-lover in your life, I'm going to offer you three suggestions for wines to either give as a gift or have with dinner (which really, in my opinion, should be enough of a gift, but then again I'm low maintenance in the gift arena, much to M.C. Ice's delight).
The bonus of giving wine: it's an awesome last minute gift. If you've got a good wine shop around, you should be able to find any of these great wines easily and in a variety of prices (as an FYI -- the labels listed below are for illustration purposes only, so you can see what to look for. With the exception of the Darioush, I haven't reviewed any of these wines).
A great white option: Viognier (Vee-ohn-YAY)
I'm kind of embarrassed that I haven't reviewed one of these on the blog because they are so luscious and delicious, but c'est la vie (the grape is native to the Northern Rhone, so I feel the gratuitous use of this cheesy phrase is warranted). This is a good way to ingratiate yourself to a white wine lover.
Why this wine? Although I love wines that are like a bowl of acid and minerals, I think that may send the wrong message on Valentine's Day. An austere wine may make the recipient feel like you're calling him/her an icy, cold, and acetic person. Everyone reads into stuff, so spare yourself.
For Valentine's Day something floral, fruity, and sensual are much more appropriate. Viogner fits the bill -- it tends to be full-bodied, rich with peach, apricot and honeysuckle flavor, and like liquid silk in your mouth. It's a fragrant, happy, forthcoming wine in flavor and texture and your sweetie will definitely appreciate the idea that a wine with this exuberant a profile reminds you of them.
If you're going out to dinner or cooking dinner, there is no better match for any cheese (except bleu) than Viognier. It also pairs well with salads, appetizer courses, and pasta with cream sauces. It's so aromatic and delicious, that it's a great wine for pre-dinner imbibing too!
Price Ranges: Options range from a California or Australian version for around $10 to the really expensive stuff for $90 from Condrieu, at the far north of the Northern Rhone Valley in France.
BTW--My advice for this wine and the suggestions that follow would be to pick a price point commensurate with your pocketbook, AND with the seriousness of the relationship...don't go overboard for a new love, friends. But this is not a romance column, so let's get to pick #2... ______________________________________________________________
Options within an Option: Valpolicella
Italian is such a romantic language, that I think just giving something from this country of the language of passion and love will score you major points. Valpolicella (val-pole-ahh-CHELL-ah) or, if you want to spend the coin, Amarone (am-a-RHONE-eh) are two great picks.
Why this wine? There are so many styles and flavors depending on the type you get, that this seemingly simple wine can have layers of intrigue...a very romantic concept, no? Made of a blend of Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella grapes native to the Veneto (near Venice) region, these are multi-faceted wines, to say the least. Here are your options:
Valpolicella Classico: If you want to keep things light, here's the way to go. This is a pretty simple wine but full of red berry and floral aromas. It tastes very fruity with just a hint of acidity for balance -- it's not such a serious wine, but it's a pretty fun one.
Food: If you don't like white wines this can be a good substitute -- it's great for vegetarian dishes, especially those with an Italian influence.
Price: Generally below $18
Valpolicella Classico Superiore: A much more serious wine than the Classico, this one may have done some time in oak barrels or been through the Ripasso method, where the wine is passed over skins and seeds from dried grapes to give it some extra tannins and mature flavors. If it's been in oak it has mouth-drying tannins and a healthy dose of vanilla and wood flavors added to the fruitiness of the grapes. If it's done Ripasso style, expect raisined flavors, a slight bitterness from the skins and seeds, and a fuller, more complex variety of things going on in the glass.
Food: This wine is a big step up from the one above (consider your messaging, and don't give it to the person you're breaking up with tomorrow!). Mushrooms, hearty meats, and stews would be a good match.
Price: From about $14 - $95 depending on quality level.
Amarone: You better be in love to give this version. This wine is made from grapes that have been set aside in attic rafters until late in the fall to dry and concentrate their sugars and soften their acids. It's then fermented dry (no sugar is left in the wine) and the result is a very intense aroma and flavor. Black cherry, plum, chocolate, earth, and raisin are common flavors. The word Amarone, comes from "amaro" or bitter, so expect a tinge of that in the wine too...just like love, it's a little bittersweet (although it's not sweet, just fruity but go with me on the cliche please). It's high in alcohol too -- usually upwards of 14% so drink lots of water and grab a taxi if you're having this out!
Food: I always like to pair wines from a region with cuisine from that region, so think Northern Italian fare -- pork and salami are popular in the area, so think along the "salty meat" lines for pairing.
Price: These wines START at around $60, hence the comment at the beginning of the description...
A "my heart beats for you red": Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
Why this wine? Well it's the King of red wine and it's the wine with the most prominent and revealing flavors. This wine doesn't hold much back, so if you're trying to make a proclamation of love, here's a great bet. Napa Cab works best because it's fruity, it's not very difficult to understand or appreciate, and it's got smells and flavors that are bold, powerful, and delicious. Blackberry, black currant, black cherry, tobacco, oak, vanilla, chocolate, and healthy tannins and acids make this choice a "heart-on-the-line" declaration of strong feeling.
If you're going out to dinner or cooking dinner, the food better be show-y or bold. Braised meats, game (venison, buffalo, etc), prime rib, earthy vegetable dishes (with mushrooms, eggplant), duck, and lamb can handle this big-ass wine. Lighter foods, anything with a sweet sauce, or "green flavored" things (asparagus, artichoke, herbal seasoning) will make the wine go over like a ton of bricks so caveat emptor.
Price: All over the map...from $15 to $500! For good, solid choices expect to spend $35. I have a ton of producers listed on the blog from both Napa and Sonoma (if you want to save a little money, go for something from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma).
Whatever you do today or tonight, enjoy it and even if you don't have a hot date, make sure you spend some time with the ones you love...and that includes yourself!
February 14, 2011
Ok, it's Valentine's Day.