Great Wine Buys for Valentine's Day
A survey of wine buyers at some of the nation's top retailers yielded the following selections:
2005 Quady "Elysium" $14.50
This small family winery has made a name for itself with its sweet dessert wines. This one's made with black muscat and is simply heaven paired with dark chocolate, like the Diner Double Dark or 'Lil Devil chocolate cake or the original deep, dark brownies at Baked. Its aromas of rose and litchi whisper romance in anyone's ear.
Tonya "Lenell" Smothers, founder of LeNell's Ltd. in Brooklyn, New York, www.lenells.com
NV Renardat-Fâche Vin du Bugey Cerdon "Méthode Ancestrale" $17
This aperitif comes from the Bugey appellation, halfway between Lyons and Geneva, which produces some of the world's most obscure wines. Semi-dry and pink, it's made from a blend of gamay and lesser known poulsard grapes through spontaneous, but incomplete, fermentation. It reaches about 8 degrees of alcohol and retains a fair quantity of its original sugar. Its strawberry jam nose, touch of sweetness, and light alcohol works magic with fresh fruit tarts or chocolate cake.
Dominique Noel, wine buyer at PJ Wine in New York City, www.pjwine.com
Ferrari Brut Rosé, Sparkling Non Vintage $25
I love champagne, but there are tremendous sparkling wines being made all over the globe. Ferrari's Rosé is one of the best. This dry sparkler is deeply flavored (strawberry, biscuit, and almonds) with a crisp finish, making it an ideal pairing with chocolate-covered strawberries.
Efrain Madrigal, wine director at Sam's Wines and Spirits in Chicago, www.samswine.com
Philippe Gonet Brut Reserve Rose Champagne $30
Made entirely from estate-grown pinot noir from Vertus, Champagne's southernmost premier cru, its flowers and strawberry notes come to my nose first with a lovely pinot savor beneath. It would go perfectly with a light milk chocolate.
Clyde Beffa Jr., co-owner of K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, Calif., www.klwine.com
2003 Ch La Tour Blanche Sauternes $33 (half-bottle)
It can be hard to find just the right occasion to enjoy one of these sweet treasures from France's Bordeaux region, but Valentine's Day seems just right. The classic food pairings are foie gras and roquefort cheese, but it would also work great with a fruit tart or apple pie.
Phil Bernstein, wine buyer at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC, www.bassins.com
G.H. Mumm Brut Rose $45
Reasonably priced for a champagne from premier cru vineyards, this classic is made from 75 percent pinot noir and 25 percent chardonnay grapes, giving it a bright pink color and aromas of fresh strawberries and cherries, with a crisp, dry finish. I'd sip it between bites of Amedei Napolitains Chuao, made of 70 percent cacao.
Steve Wallace, chairman of Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles, www.wallywine.com
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Rose Sauvage $45
An intense deep pink, it has a strong aroma of red fruit, dominated by morello cherry and followed by citrus fruits. It's based on a blend of about fifty different crus, and develops during a long 30-month maturing process in the Piper-Heidsieck cellars. It can be drunk as an aperitif, used to prepare fish and chicken, or served with desserts based on red fruit.
Shawn Lightfoot, wine buyer at Applejack Wine and Spirits, Wheat Ridge, Colo., www.applejack.com
Bollinger Special Cuvée $46
This is my favorite nonvintage champagne. Made from 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay grapes, it's complexjust like love itself. One gets flavors of hazelnuts, toast, and fruit. My favorite food pairing would be caviar, gravilax, and smoked salmon. (Save the dark chocolate for a great banyuls.) But I would be happy to drink it by itselfor by myself.
Mary E. Bussell, wine consultant at K&D Wines and Spirits in New York City, www.wineaccess.com/store/kdwine
Nicolas Feuillatte Rose Champagne; $50
One my favorite for the price, the feuillatte has a luscious, full body. Strawberry and raspberry dominate the aroma, while the palate is a refreshing balance of fruit and acidity. I like it with Joseph Schmidt chocolate truffles.
Michael J. Osborne, founder of wine.com, www.wine.com
2000 Allegrini Amarone $70
This Amarone della Valpolicella, one of northern Italy's classic reds, is made from grapes dried in the air for months. The result is an intense dry red with a rich, slightly raisiny flavor. I like it with either a good piece of Parmigiano Reggiano for a cheese course, or a plate of dark chocolate truffles (not too sweet) dusted with cinnamon."
Dave Pohl, wine buyer at Northside Wine and Spirits, in Ithaca, New York, www.northsidewine.com
Krug Grand Cuvée NV $130
Krug is a legendary house that's famous for the richness and depth of its champagnes. The Grand Cuvée is (uniquely for such an expensive bottle) a nonvintage champagne, meaning that the grapes that make it are sourced from numerous vintages. The resulting wine is extraordinarily round and luxurious. If you're going to treat your special one this Valentine's Day, this one's worth it!
Stephen Bitterolf, Director of Fine Wine Writing at New York City's Crush Wine and Spirits, www.crushwineco.com
More on Wines:
• Uncork the Lowest Prices (Dec. 11, 2006)
• Great Wine Buys: An Expert's Picks (Dec. 1, 2006)