We always have found Valentine’s Day a bit galling. Steeped in mythical interpretations, it is a holiday cleverly marketed by greeting card companies, florists, chocolatiers and restaurateurs who are happy to help you express your love with dollar signs. Why do we have to spend a wad of cash one day of the year to express my appreciation for someone? OK, we need to get over it. Valentine’s Day should be fun; it doesn’t have to be expensive.
With about half of marriages ending in divorces, there are obviously a lot of people who didn’t show enough appreciation for their spouses. So, maybe you should be really showing your loved one with a lot of attention on Feb. 14. No matter how much you spend, it will be cheaper than a divorce.
Since the holiday is soaked in everything red, we suggest a pink or red wine to mark the occasion. Rosé champagne, still rosé, a smooth pinot noir or a complex cabernet sauvignon can set the tone of an evening in a restaurant or over candles at a home-cooked dinner.
Champagne’s bubbles excite the senses and symbolize elegance and luxury. If you can afford it, consider French rosé champagne – Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon, Henriot, and Nicolas Feuillatte. American producers make luxurious sparkling wine too – Domaine Chandon, Iron Horse, Domaine Carneros, Schramsberg, J Cuvee and Domaine Mumm are solid choices.
Provence rosé is a great way to start a dinner and a versatile wine that can go with a lot of food, including fish. Likewise, pinot noir is a sexy wine to complement elegant dinners of salmon, pasta and duck. If you’ve got pasta on the menu, consider an Italian montepulciano.
If your dinner plans include beef, turn to cabernet sauvignon.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Chateau Peyrassol Cuvee de la Commanderie Rosé 2018 ($20). This is a charming blend of cinsault, grenache, syrah, rolle, mourvedre, cabernet and carignan. Strawberry and raspberry notes dominate the wine with a hint of citrus. It would complement salmon, chicken and even pasta.
- Bonterra Rosé 2018 ($16). With a commitment to sustainability and the environment, Bonterra continues to make excellent wines across the board. This rosé has fresh red berry fruit and lively acidity.
- Raeburn Winery Rosé 2019 ($20). This may be the first rosé from the 2019 vintage to be released. Fresh off the press! Pinot noir, grenache and zinfandel are blended to create a floral bouquet and strawberry notes.
- Domaine Anderson Estate Pinot Noir 2015 ($40). We liked the bright and fresh fruit character of this cool Anderson Valley pinot noir. Floral aromas with cranberry and raspberry flavors. This cooler region isn’t always hospitable to the ornery pinot noir, but the cooler temps are perfect for the grape variety.
- The Prisoner Wine Co. Eternally Silenced California Pinot Noir 2017 ($55). The Prisoner has become an iconic name in zinfandel-based blends, but this is the first pinot noir it has released. Drawing grapes from five wine regions, it has created a rich and aromatic pinot noir with black cherry and clove notes. Nothing in the title suggests love, so maybe this is for couples who want to end a relationship!
- Knudsen Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2017 ($70). This delicious pinot noir from the Dundee Hills appellation of the Willamette Valley strikes a great balance between fruit and acidity. Fragrant cherry, earthy aromas give way to fresh red berry flavors with a dash of mushroom. It is more akin to a burgundy style than the fruit bombs of California. Long finish, full body and a soft mouthfeel. The grapes come from four blocks using different clones.
- Calera Central Coast Chardonnay 2017 ($25). Using grapes from several Central Coast vineyards, including the revered Bien Nacido Vineyard, winemaker Mike Waller has crafted a great chardonnay at a reasonable price. Apple notes with hints of anise and vanilla.
- The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon “Allomi” Napa Valley 2017 ($34). This is a very dark deep and intense Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Classic cherry, cassis elements produce a very satisfying red wine that can pair with the boldest cuisine.
- Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selection DOCG 2014 ($41). Made only in exceptional years, this Ruffino Chianti Classico is crafted from 85 percent sangiovese grapes with the balance merlot and colorino. Aged for a combination of 3 years in a combination of various woods and concrete, this delicious expression of Tuscan sangiovese exhibits classic dried and ripe cherries with herbal notes. Nothing says love better than a bowl of pasta and Italian wine.
- Chalk Hill Estate Red Blend Chalk Hill, Sonoma County 2016 ($70). This blend of 47 percent cabernet sauvignon, 37 percent malbec, 9percent petite verdot and 7 percent merlot was aged entirely in French oak barrels of which 55 percent were new. This is a very deep and rich red wine that is complex and round in the mouth featuring cherry, blackberry, licorice, and mocha elements in a seamless package. A truly amazing wine that should age effortlessly.
- Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Vineyard Chile 2015 ($125). This is another amazing example of a top-tiered wine that justifies its impressive price tag. A frequent presence on the Wine Spectator’s top 100 list, it attests to Don Melchor’s frequent praise from wine consumers and critics alike. Big assertive and bold but still balanced, this fruit-driven red wine is accented with mineral elements that add to the textural complexity.
- Inman Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017 ($68). Kathy Inman makes a series of phenomenal pinot noirs in the Russian River Valley. Her OGV and Vine Hill are complex and serious, but we liked the forest floor notes and elegance of the simple Russian River Valley wine. Cherry, strawberry notes with hints of rosemary and mushroom. Long, minerally finish.
- Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2016 ($30). This is a tasty and well-structured blend of sangiovese, colorino, canaiolo and merlot grapes. Forward red berry fruit with fine tannins, good complexity and long finish.
- Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano DOC 2017 ($17). Medium body, forward and vibrant fruit dominate this delicious blend of sangiovese and merlot.
- Dow’s 10-year-old Tawny Port ($37). Aging tawny Ports can come at a steep cost with 25 percent of the original volume of port lost to evaporation over just 10 years. Dow has a reputation of making slightly drier port than other port houses and this example is no exception. Bright, cherry fruit accented with notes of licorice and some dried fruits create a memorable tawny port at a great price. It would be a great way to cap a Valentine’s Day evening.
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Tom Marquardt (email for questions) and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They’ve traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Tom lives in Florida with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, Md.