I'm on wine probabtion. A few months ago I went on a reckless wine-buying spree that left our checking account looking a little hollow, and my wife placed me on wine-probabtion. Because of that, I normally buy wines for everyday consumption that are in the $15 and under category, and usually much under! Valentine's Day will give me a brief reprieve, however, and I'll be able to get a much better bottle than I normally would without getting into trouble. I've already been thinking about what to get!
Setting the mood: Pink Bubbles
I think Valentine's Day is the perfect time to break open that bottle of Sparkling Rose, and before you say I don't drink Rose, they are all too sweet, keep in mind that most Rose's are very dry! The French drink more Rose wine than white wine after all! The sight of the wine in the glass is appealing and the flavor is perfect, just slightly fruity, but with excellent balance. It's light enough to enjoy on it's own, but crisp enough to accompany a meal or light hors d'oeuvre.
My current favorite comes from Willamette Valley, Oregon, the Argyle Brut Rose. It is comprised mostly of Pinot Noir, which Oregon is so famous for, and Pinot Meunier which is a close cousin. Both are traditionally used in Champagne production. I was lucky enough to be able to taste this wine with the winemaker, Rollin Soles, who is as cool as his name sounds. He reminded me of Sam Elliott, and if you are picturing him in your head right now, you really aren't that far off. Big handlebar mustache, folksy western mannerisms, the whole thing. The 2010 vintage is a bit older than you would normally age your summer-drinking,poolside-sitting Southern-French Rose, and it shows on the nose. Slightly dusty, with raspberry and crisp minerality when you taste. Incredibly complex and utterly enjoyable to drink.
The Main Course: Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Far to the south of the Rhone Valley in France, in a place so beautiful that a French Pope decided to live there rather than move to the Vatican, lies a small commune that is known for producing incredibly complex and smooth wines out of Grenache and up to 22 additional blending grapes. It is also one of my favorite places in the world for good wine. The wines are soft and comforting. Not too brash and tannic, or overly fruity. They are a good blend of flavors, red cherry and spice, potpourrie, slightly gamey and with just a kiss of acidity. It is a wine that you can sip by itself with your love or enjoy it with a romantic meal.
My current favorite has got to be Domaine de la Janasse. Although they have only been producing wine since 1967, they have been producing some tremendous wines in the past decades. It is also the favorite of the Wine Advocate's Robert Parker, who is known as an expert on the wines of the Rhone Valley. At $68, this wine isn't cheap, but still far less than paying for a even a mid-range Bordeaux or Burgundy!
If the idea of dropping $93 for a bottle of wine doesn't intimidate you, the single vineyard "Chaupin" from Janasse is also excellent. The grapes come from a cooler vineyard site to the north of Chateauneuf, and the wine is a little lighter, more elegant and a touch more crisp than the other.
Although, if you are like me in that bringing home even a $50 bottle of wine would have you sleeping on the couch instead of being romantic with your significant other, then I have a wine for you as well! Janasse owns a tract of land that technically extends past the boundaries of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and so it goes from having that prestigious (and unpronouncable) name to just "Cotes-du-Rhone", and it goes from costing $68 to just $19.49. The grapes are the same, the climate and terroir are the same, the winemakers are the same,it just doesn't have the name. It's a wine that makes me feel like I'm splurging without violating the terms of my probabtion! But which ever wine you decide to go with, have a happy Valentine's Day!