International Wines to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

On February 14 many boxes of chocolates will be given, jewelry will be exchanged, flowers will be received. Restaurants will be crowded with couples and groups celebrating love and friendship. Certainly, couples do not have the corner on Valentine’s Day celebrations. Singles will be celebrating the day as well, on their own or with friends. We will wear pink or red and wear our hearts on our clothing. It can be a relaxed and enjoyable experience or one fraught with pressure and expectation. I much prefer the former to the latter and bet you do too. The right wine can go a long way toward creating a relaxed and enjoyable experience and we are here to help with that.

We received this collection of wines as tasting samples, we’ve made notes and enjoyed them with a variety of food. There is a wine for every occasion in this group. Whether you gather with friends over dinner or are planning to cook at home (I vote for this option) we have a wine for you. If you’re planning light snacks and wine, we have wine for that too. No pressure, just wine enjoyment.

Toso BrutPasqual Toso Brut NVpale yellow in the glass with persistent, small bubbles. Aromas of red-skinned apples and toasted almonds are generous. Flavors of bruised apples, marzipan and citrus zest gain complexity with hints of toast. The bubbles are mouth filling and creamy on the palate. The finish is medium + in length. 12% abv. SRP $12.99

This is a sparkling wine made in the Maipú region of Mendoza in Argentina. We’ve not tasted too many sparkling wines from South America, but this one is very nice. 100% Chardonnay is made as a still wine and then blended with French yeasts and sugar to produce the second, bubble-producing fermentation in large, pressurized, stainless steel tanks. The second fermentation is complete within about three months and the wine rests in bottle for another three months before release.

This relatively quick process results in a wine with delicious fruit flavors that are balanced with nice acidity and plenty of bubbles. Enjoy this wine with soft cheese, charcuterie or shrimp salad. It is a delicious way to start the evening.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut RoseSimonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé 2015pale salmon in the glass with many persistent bubbles. Generous aromas of blackberries follow into the taste along with, slate minerality, crisp acidity and a bit of earth in the background. Pinpoint bubbles keep this flavorful sparkling wine light on its feet. The finish is long and clean. 12.1% abv. SRP $24.99

Each sip of Simonsig Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is a sip of both South African wine history and the Malan family history. Jacques Malan came to the the Cape from France in 1688. In 1971 the late Frans Malan was the first to produce a sparkling wine in South Africa made using the traditional method (as in Champagne). By 1992 the term Méthode Cap Classique was established along with production regulations.

The second bit of history that is so interesting about this wine is that it is a blend of 63% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinotage, 2% Pinot Meunier. How fitting it is that this blend, from this historic producer, should include South Africa’s own grape variety – Pinotage. This cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault was developed in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University.

This bright, flavorful sparkling wine will be perfect with appetizers (we enjoyed it with cheese, charcuterie and bread with dipping oils), but don’t overlook its potential to pair nicely with spaghetti alla carbonara. And, the color of the wine is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling2015 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Vineyard Rieslinglight yellow in the glass with generous petrol and white flower aromas. Tart pineapple, petrol and dusty minerals combine for a very complex and rich flavor profile. The flavors, along with juicy acidity and a bit of roundness in the mouth make this Riesling irresistible. 12% abv. SRP $39.99

We have a very positive association with the wines of Western Australia, but it has been some time since we have tasted any. Our first taste came many years ago at a tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River. We were very impressed. Again, we are very impressed by this Riesling from Frankland Estate in Frankland River. The aromatics are beautiful and the flavors so complex. And, really, for those of you with a wicked sense of humor, who could resist pouring a wine from the Poison Hill Vineyard on Valentine’s Day?

If your Valentine’s Day plans include crab cakes, crab salad or chicken paprikash, this Riesling is just the thing. Or, just sip it on its own; it is a remarkable Riesling.

Georges Duboeuf SaintAmour2015 Georges Duboeuf Château de Saint-Amour, Saint-Amourlight ruby-violet in the glass with delicate aromas of red fruit and dusty earth. Red cherry and cranberry flavors have notes of green peppercorn, dried alfalfa and dusty earth behind them. Tannins are drying and persistent in this light to medium-bodied Beaujolais. 14% abv. SRP $21.99

For years we always passed over Beaujolais due to a less than stellar experience with Beaujolais nouveau. We don’t recommend you do that. Instead look for Beaujolais from on of the 10 Crus. The flavors are less tutti-fruity and more serious.

The name Georges Duboeuf is well known in Beaujolais and Saint-Amour is the most northern of the Beaujolais Crus. This wine is a bit restrained, but would make a very good dinner partner for roasted chicken and pork. It was delicious with a warm mushroom salad (be sure to add applewood-smoked bacon to the recipe.) And, for those of you without a wicked sense of humor, how could you resist pouring a Saint-Amour for Valentine’s Day?

Two Angels Petite Sirah2015 Two Angels Petite Sirah, Red Hills Lake Countydense ruby with violet at the edges in the glass. Generous aromas of ripe blueberries and crushed flower stems set up the flavors that follow. Ripe blueberry and plum flavors have notes of chocolate and cedar in the background. Tannins are grippy and the finish is medium long and the body is medium-plus. 14.3% abv. SRP $26.99

This 100% Petite Sirah is just as rich and tannic as you would expect a PS to be. The grapes are grown in the volcanic soils of the Red Hills Lake County AVA southwest of Clear Lake in northern California. Only nine months of French oak aging, 20% new, yields pure fruit enjoyment.

Petite Sirah is not high on my list of red wines to sip on their own, but it is a great food partner for roasted or braised dishes. The Two Angels Petite Sirah was dynamite with both lamb shanks and short ribs. And, look at that label — it shouts Valentine’s Day.

We wish you a happy Valentine’s Day celebrated in the manner that makes you happy. Above all, we hope your day includes a glass of delicious wine.


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