by: Barret Kepfield, Wine Buyer
Surely it is no coincidence that in the midst of winter’s icy, barren grip, we experience one of the most profound, personal, and pleasant holidays of life and renewal – Valentine’s Day!! Forget for a moment the tacky greeting cards and syrupy sentiments Valentine’s Day instead witnesses the power of love and romance to bring life, warmth, and light to dull desolation. In other words, it’s perfect for an Iowa February. This occasion, therefore, deserves a special measure of celebration. What better way to express joy in another person’s presence than sharing a sumptuous meal and an elegant bottle of wine?
Following the theme of romance, several wines come to mind. For reds, the most obvious choice is Romance itself, a delightful medium-bodied, dry cabernet/malbec blend from Argentina. Ruby red, tasting of plum and dark berries with cocoa hints, it is an excellent choice for any red meat meal. If pasta and red sauce is your choice, then nothing could be better than Irma la Tage, a silky smooth California blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petit Sirah. Irma is a staff favorite, with its lush red berry taste and vanilla notes, a wine with a taste as sensuous as the label. Another red that is sure to please is the humorously titled “Love Grass” from d’Arenberg winery of Australia. The name refers to the native grass that grows among the vines with its tendency to enmesh itself in and cling tightly to the worker’s clothes. A big-bodied, bold Shiraz with a warm peppery nibble, Love Grass will certainly heat up your evening and cling to your tastebuds. Finally, a very special night with a very special person also calls for a very special wine–Cornerstone 2002 Cabernet. From a Napa California vineyard producing only small quantities, Cornerstone Cabernet has a wild berry and blackberry body with subtle licorice/anise hints, and offers the perfect companion to a well done steak. Powerful and complex, this is a notable California New World style wine. Remember to uncork this Cab several hours in advance for it to open up and breathe, and for a remarkable taste experience later on, sip a glass with a bite of dark chocolate (I suggest Chocolove 65% dark.).
White wines too have their place at a Valentine’s dinner. Tiamo, meaning “I love you” in Italian, is a refreshing, dry Pinot Grigio. Produced with organic grapes from small Italian cooperatives, Tiamo will go well with any baked or grilled fish. It is especially good with shellfish or white sauce pasta and aged goat cheeses. If spicy Asian fare is your choice, then pair off with Snolqualmie Naked Reisling. With ripe pear and apricot and a slight sweetness to cool the palate, Snolqualmie revives and refreshes. An excellent Valentine’s choice, Snolqualmie, also uses organic grapes because, as the vintners say, “some things just taste better in the buff.” I think that says it all.
Finally, as the meal winds down, pour a glass of chilled Villa Jolanda Moscato rose. Sweet and bubbly, tingling and vivacious, it is the liquid embodiment of comfort and coziness. A lovely pairing for any dessert, such as cake or cheesecake, and it will certainly contribute to a memorable evening.
No Valentine’s Day would be complete, however, without the traditional gift of chocolate to go with the wine. This year, combine them–Chocovine. French Cabernet is blended with fine Dutch Chocolate. Chocovine must be tried to be believed. Rich, thick, velvety and almost a cordial, Chocovine’s creamy texture tantalizes without being overly sweet, and offers a sensational taste experience.
Winter doesn’t seem so bad anymore, now does it?