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What To Drink, and Give, Now: Valentine’s Day

Romance is in the air, along with a bit of a chill, so if you need to warm your heart and that of your sweetie’s here are a few ideas to give this Valentine’s Day. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

grande siecleBubbles are always a good call for Valentine’s and for this special occasion splurge a bit, both if you are giving or just drinking, with classic Champagne. Though I am always a fan of a Cava, Cremant or Prosecco, special days require special bottles, like a great Champagne.  The House of Laurent-Perrier was founded by André Michel Pierlot in 1812, taking the name Vve Laurent-Perrier when Mathilde Emilie Perrier, the widow of Eugène Laurent, expanded the business and combined the two family names. The Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle is the quintessential expression of the Champagne House, combining elegance with sophistication, balance with panache. A gorgeous bottle to enjoy on any occasion. I toasted this bubbly with friends right after my engagement and continue to open this special selection each year to celebrate – special, consistent, memorable and always delicious. Available for $170 at Goody-Goody stores.

I drink a lot of Chardonnay and love the continued trend towards allowing the fruit and the land to shine in the wine we are seeing from many California wineries. There is a bit of a debate going on Napa Valley over The Judgement of Paris in 1976 and the wine that really helped put California Chardonnay on the international map. Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was the winning wine in the blind tasting conducted in Paris putting a handful of California wines up against an elite group of French wines, with some of the finest French palates in the world critiquing whose was best. Montelena, owned by Jim Barrett with winemaker Mike Grgich, celebrated this winning wine. Today, there is some debate over who actually should receive credit for this winner, winery or winemaker. From where I stand, Montelena is the obvious winner as it was their fruit, facility, etc. But, lucky for us the consumer, both options prove to be tasty wines, and wines with a great story which makes the gift giving that much more fun. And, though both are Chardonnay they are definitely not the same wines.

montelena 40th_cutoutChateau Montelena 2011 Chardonnay ($50), which is celebrating their 40th vintage with their current release, is filled with white flowers, melon, wet stone and light apple notes from fruit grown on the winery estate and aged for 10 months in French oak, of which only 8% is new, adding roundness to the wine without really affecting the flavor profile.

Grgich Hills 2011 Chardonnay ($42), from estate fruit grown in Carneros that is aged 10 months in French oak, of which 40% is new, is a much fuller bodied, rich wine with lemon curd, stone fruit and toasted vanilla notes with just a hint of crushed stone, creating an ideal wine for sipping when it is cold outside and you need something to warm you. Both wines are available via their website or locally at Pogo’s.

Perhaps the most difficult to grow grape is Pinot Noir…making every bottle something special.  The finicky, frustrating, flavorful beauty haunts winemakers all over the world because it is so susceptible to problems. However, when it is done well, with skilled hands bringing out the richness, elegance and delicate notes of the wine, it is a thing of greatness. I have many favorites that would make ideal gifts for your Valentine, including the wines of Etude in Carneros, Mac McDonald’s Vision Cellars in Sonoma, Siduri sourcing fruit from all over California and Oregon, Paul Hobbs and Crossbarn from Sonoma, Craggy Range and Cloudy Bay from New Zealand, Adelsheim, Soter, Domaine Serene and Stoller in Willamette Valley, and will enthusiastically enjoy a bottle of Henri Boillot Clos Vougeot from Burgundy at any moment I possibly can, and at $170 a bottle it meets that very special occasion gift guideline (available through the link above for about $140.) Each of these wineries are making unique, terroir driven Pinot Noir with freshness mingling with earthy notes, fruit mingling with cedar and spice.

masutThird generation winemakers, vintners and brothers Jacob and Ben Fetzer, recently introduced their 2012 Masut, meaning “dark, rich earth” from estate fruit grown in Mendocino county, California. The small production wine is made from a blend of three Dijon clones and aged 10 months in partially new French oak, resulting in an approachable wine with juicy red berry notes, balanced and bright acidity and a long finish on the palate. $40 available via the winery website.

The Italians are known for their incredible style, grace and sophistication, traits that happily carry over into their wines. Amarone, Italy’s rich, dried fruit and spice filled wine, goes through a lengthy, detailed process to create their lush, refined wines. Grapes are harvested then laid on mats or wooden trays in the sun to dry and dehydrated a bit like raisins before pressing, creating a highly concentrated, dried fruit flavor. Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone Selezione, made in this process from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Croatina and Oseleta grapes, is aged for two years in small French oak barrels on the lees (yeasts) which are stirred once a month for the first year to create a full bodied, nicely rounded viscosity in the wine layering flavors of dried black cherries, dried blueberry, musty earth and spice. $45 available at Jimmy’s Food Store.

ladera stile blocksA Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is always a great gift for any wine loving guy or girl. Ladera Vineyards, high atop Howell Mountain creating robust wines from estate fruit grown in red volcanic soils, prove how special wines of this region are. Their new release, Ladera 2010 Stile Blocks Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Howell Mountain fruit, hand sorted and fermented using both native and commercial yeasts, then aged 20 months in French oak, of which 52% is new. The resulting wine is luscious, bold and very drinkable filled with black cherry, blackberry and spice notes with a velvety smooth palate from the minute the bottle is opened now, or has the ability to age nicely for many years. A speak wine from one of the most beautiful places in the Napa Valley. $50 available via their website.

Also up on Howell Mountain is the Dancing Bear Ranch Vineyard, a special piece of property growing robust fruit, which Cakebread Cellars makes their Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a touch of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and/or Petit Verdot, depending on the vintage. Over a recent dinner, with winery President Bruce Cakebread, we shared a bottle of his 2006 blend at the end of meal paired with a simple atisanal cheese plate made by producers with dried fruits and spreads.  The richness of the wine balanced with the tart, dried fruit flavors of cherries, figs and currants while melding with the sharp and creamy flavors from Cowgirl Creamery and Point Reyes. The current vintage is 2010, available by limited quantities through the winery.

A bottle of single malt Scotch or incredible artisan Bourbon may be the perfect present to make your sweetheart swoon. Thankfully, Texas is making one of them incredibly well, and for Scotch going to the motherland is always best.

Glenmorangie The Lasanta 12 year Single Malt Scotch starts out aging 10 years in American oak barrels before moving to an additional two years of aging in previously used rich Oloroso Sherry barrels, creating a scotch filled with spiced tangerine, toasted vanilla and honey.

garrisonFor Bourbon lovers, Garrison Brothers in Hye, Texas were the first whisky distillers in the state and have done it with the highest quality and attention to detail since they began. Made from an artisan blend of corn, using American oak barrels and pure water, the distillery creates their Texas Bourbon Whisky filled with layers of creamy caramel, toffee, orange, toasted marshmallow and molasses. An ideal sipping Bourbon, great on its own or over one cube of ice. Now available throughout the state, and expanding to other markets across the country, for around $80 a bottle.

And, if you are looking for a reason to make Valentine’s Day last beyond just one day, Monday, February 17 The Landmark Restaurant in the Warwick Melrose Hotel partners with Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery for a special holiday dinner filled with love and romance. Buena Vista, best known for their classic California style Pinot Noir wines, was founded in 1857 making it one of the oldest wineries in California, today owned by Boisset Family Estates. The evening will feature special pairings from with winery matched with classic dishes from the Landmark Restaurant in the hotel, like Pork Belly Salad paired with 2010 Buena Vista Merlot; Tuscan Lamb Chop with Balsamic Rosemary Drizzle paired with 2012 Buena Vista Sonoma County Red Wine, Legendary Badge; and Passion Fruit Crème Brulée with 2012 Buena Vista The Count Founder’s Red Wine. Reservations are $95 a person and available here.  Finish the night with a drink at the Library Bar to hear the soulful voice of the lovely Jennifer Perryman on the piano.