Sweet or savory

Wine is perfect to celebrate Valentine’s Day

February is the month synonymous with Valentine’s Day, and what better way to celebrate than sharing a bottle of wine? Some of you will analyze and re-analyze every detail of your day and evening, making sure the wine, flowers, menu and music are perfect. Many of you will forget all about Valentine’s Day until it’s too late and try to call a restaurant at the last minute. I have news for you: every fine dining restaurant will be booked easily two weeks in advance. If you fall into the latter category and can’t get reservations, don’t freak; I have some ideas.

If you happen to be a wine newbie (and really even if you are not), you’d most certainly enjoy a lightly sweet Brachetto d’Asti, the red, sparkling wine from Northern Italy’s Piedmont region. The bubbly is simply luscious, and it’s like a gateway wine. Start here, and work your way up to an Italian Barolo or a California Cabernet Franc, which is one of my absolute favorites. Try Rosa Regale ($20) or La Romantica ($15) – aptly named for Valentine’s celebrations. Staying in the sweet wine vein, a wine that no one should miss – ever – is a bottle of Sauternes. It’s a honey-laced, golden-yellow-colored wine that is an absolute treasure from France. It’s a wine that everyone loves, from the amateur to the oenophile. The wine is perfectly balanced with notes of vanilla, creamy pineapple and apple. The most famous Sauternes wine is Chateau d’Yquem, and a bottle will set you back about $500. You might want to skip the roses with that purchase. However, you can buy a half bottle of lesser known, but still famously delicious, Sauternes for $20 such as Chateau Guiraud. Half bottles are a smart choice because the wine is viscous and sweet.

If you did miss out on a restaurant reservation, or if that’s not your thing, bundle up under the covers with a good movie and wrap yourself into a hearty bottle of red. Conn Creek makes a racy Cabernet Franc for $40 that will make you oh-so-happy with its notes of toasted spice, raspberry and chocolate flavors. Seriously, it’s a mouth-watering wine that drinks well with fire-roasted pizza, roasted Brussels sprouts or a homemade Bolognese! I’m making myself hungry.

Another longtime favorite red wine of mine is Chappellet Mountain Cuvee ($32). This one is a Bordeaux blend from a pristine mountainside vineyard in Napa. The blend varies from year to year but generally contains Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. That’s a classic Bordeaux blend, by the way. Sometimes Merlot gets a bad rap (think the movie “Sideways”), but it’s actually a critical grape for blending (and lovely on its own), and the best Merlots drink more like Cabernets. The Chappellet is aged in French oak barrels; it’s very rich and enticing.

You want to know which wines pair best with chocolate, right? The best bets would be a Vintage Port or Cream Sherry, Madeira or the aforementioned Brachetto d’Asti. Hearty reds work, too, just don’t go too light with a red or a white; they will end up tasting bitter and washed out by the chocolate.

Go get a good bottle of wine, some flowers, – oh, and jewelry is a good idea, too. Have fun on this holiday with your sweetie!

Carmen McGee holds the Court of Masters Sommeliers certification and is general manager and wine director at Joseph Decuis restaurant in Roanoke, Ind.

First appeared in the February 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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