Holidays are often a great time to treat your Special Someone with a bottle of wine. Valentine’s Day is particularly notable for romantic dinners, and the right wine can highlight a memorable evening. Several wine professionals in Chicagoland wrote to me with their recommendations along with some of their philosophies about how you and your Number Two can make the most of this special day.
Here is some advice from Aaron Sherman, Sommelier and Assistant Manager of Park Hyatt Chicago. He starts out with an obvious point that, still, is easily forgotten: “The best wine to serve on Valentine’s Day is the one that your significant other likes best. Valentine’s is about making that special someone feel special themselves.” He adds that “It is nice to choose something that is familiar, but not too familiar. It is nice to venture just a touch off the beaten path, but you don’t want to stray too far for fear of ending up somewhere wildly unexpected (could be great, or not.”)
“While Pinot Noir is very popular these days, I am particularly fond of Cru Beaujolais. A great Beaujolais will be similar in weight and texture to many Pinots but will lean towards berries and flowers. In the cold of winter, there is something wonderful about the fresh aromas of these wines.” “The husband-and-wife team behind the wines of Pierre-Marie Chermette make some of the most gorgeous Beaujolais out there. The 2009 Fleurie (the village) “Les Garants” (a single parcel) is stunning: light in body but velvet in texture, with a glass filled with aromas of dark berries, violets, roses, and soft baking spices. It has wonderful intensity for a wine that is not overwhelming in tannin and alcohol, but the structural elements are incredibly harmonious.”
My local “Wine Dude”, Gregory Fulham of Binny’s Hyde Park, gave me several great choices, ranging from the delicate, (Emeri Pink Moscato – a sweet, sparkling Moscato from Australia) to the middle of the road, (Botani Moscatel Seco 2009), to bold and powerful (Ridge Three Valleys 2008 or 2009). Excellent choices if you are negotiating more that one date (wait, strike that!)
Kristin Savino is the proprietor of Vino di Savino, a company which organizes private wine tastings for individuals and businesses. She’s began her wine career at the former Sam’s Wine & Spirits and is certified through the International Sommelier Guild. She recommends the Soter Vineyards 2005 Vintage Brut Rose sparkling wine from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
“This sparkling wine is love in a glass. It not only is the color of love, a beautiful pink partridge-eye color, with fine bubbles, but it also tastes heavenly. I love the fact that it is rather dry, as opposed to many sparkling wines that are just a bit too sweet to go back for a second glass. Because it is a Brut with less dosage than many other Bruts, or Extra Dry for that matter, I can drink several glasses of this with a meal or appetizers, or even on its own. I would pair this with light, white meats or fish, salmon or lobster would be good pairings, as well as other shellfish.”
Lauren Levine is a charming server at Eno, a wine bar located near Millennium Park. Her choices reflect the Snowmegeddon which recently hit Chicago. “In honor of our recent snow storm, Travaglini’s Gattinara. It’s from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, overlooking the Alps. A Nebbiolo to warm the hearts and souls of cold Chicagoans! It also is bottled in an out of the ordinary shape. A bottle AND wine to remember Valentine’s 2011! Also, much lighter and for those looking for a rose, Coppola’s Sofia, named after his daughter is quite a sentimental wine. The bottle presentation is just as romantic and lovely as the idea behind it. An elegant, less expensive treat!”
Erica Witte, co-owner of The Poison Cup, pledges her love to the often-overlooked Syrah: “If Syrah were a day on the calendar, indeed it would be Valentine’s Day. The vine itself is voracious and grows with wild vigor yet…it produces refined, small clusters of handsome sweetness and coquettish acid. The wine produced from such vines reliably doesn’t disappoint with flavors of spicy black raspberry and satin-like red currant.”
Jill Pienta of Pastoral Artisan recommends not overthinking the day: “I am a believer that when you open a special wine, that is the special day- not waiting for a special day to open a special wine. While it is great if you open a special wine on a special day and it is delicious, it is just that sometimes, the wine isn’t as great as you expected and it would then ruin two occasions that might have been wondrous if you just didn’t hype up the wine as much.”
“So with that being said, I would open Rose Champagne on Valentine’s day. Not only is it color appropriate, it is bubbly, romantic and goes with a large variety of foods that will certainly please your palate. Enjoying wine has a lot to do with your company. If you don’t like the company, the wine will not taste as good. But if you are with someone you really enjoy, even basic table wine will be delicious.”
Aaron Sherman reminds us, that a memorable dessert is also the best nightcap to Valentine’s Day: “You can’t plan a wonderful meal and then fizzle out at the very end. Every good meal needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Dessert is just as important as the main course. My sure-fire winner for Valentine’s Day is simple: I pick up some dark chocolate truffles, bring out two champagne flutes, and uncork a half-bottle of Brachetto d’Acqui.”
Thanks for all the suggestions! Please write in with -your- go-to choices for February 14!