Vintages for Valentines: Wine lends rich choice of hues, tastes to romantic meal
Pink blush on a cheek is perfect for Valentine’s Day.
So is pink blush in a glass — a rosé wine is one of Patricia Novo’s favorites for Feb. 14.
“Depending on what grapes they’re made from, they can be a pale pink, they can be a salmon color, they can be the color of the sunset,” said Novo, who co-owns the Crush and Cask wine and spirits store in Saratoga Springs with her husband, Jeff.
“I like dry rosé because they match a lot of foods that nothing else matches. Some spicy cuisine, some Mexican cuisine. I’ve had dry rosés with Mexican — when I’m not having a margarita.”
Margaritas may be out on Thursday — men and women planning romantic dinners for Valentine’s Day are probably thinking about the proper red, white or even rosé to serve friends and lovers.
Making a choice
“People ask me, ‘What should I get, what should I get?’ ” said Novo, who earned a culinary degree from Schenectady County Community College before opening her business. “I’m a huge fan of really nice Russian River Valley pinot noir. It’s a good choice if you’re buying for me because that’s my favorite. For your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or significant other, if you know they have a particular wine they love, a nice bottle or even a couple of bottles would make a very lovely Valentine’s Day.”
Some people may decide that red — like red hearts and flowers so prevalent in early February — is the smart selection. “They’re high in anti-oxidants, so they’re good for your heart,” Novo said. “I guess that would be a good choice for Valentine’s Day.”
People don’t have to settle for red or white. They can settle for both.
“Sometimes on Valentine’s Day people will pull out more culinary stops than they would for a normal meal,” Novo said. “Say there’s lobster for your first course and maybe filet mignon for your second. You can start with a white. With lobster I would do a Chardonnay to match the rich texture of the lobster with the richness of some of the buttery Chardonnays. For a red, for me it would be pinot noir; for my husband, Cabernet.”
A sparkling rosé is great for color, taste and mood. “You get the romance of the bubble, but you also get the pink, which is a little bit prettier on the table,” Novo said.
For a brand name on the bottle, Novo can recommend the pinot noir rosé “Lucy,” from California’s Lucia Vineyards & Winery. “Since pinot noir is such a food-friendly grape — it just has characteristics that match well with a variety of cuisines — it goes particularly well with things with a hint of earth in them,” she said. “Pinot noir in and of itself pairs very well with dishes like filet more than a ribeye, in my opinion. Filet is a little more delicate — ribeye I would go more with a robust red.”
The “Lucy” rosé also has a story behind the label. The winemakers donate $1 from every bottle sold to breast cancer research. “We sell a lot of bottles of ‘Lucy’ to people who have had mothers, sisters, relatives and friends who have been breast cancer survivors,” Novo said. “We also sell a lot of bottles to people whose mothers are named Lucy.”
For an Italian meal, Novo likes an Italian red wine. So Luce Della Vite’s “Lucente” is another favorite. She added that favorite wines can be paired with favorite times.
“Even a wine you served at your wedding,” Novo said. “Anything that is evocative of a romantic memory is perfect for Valentine’s Day.”
Anthony “Toby” Strianese, a professor of culinary arts at Schenectady County Community College who teaches a popular Wines of the World course, said people considering vintages for Valentine’s Day can make the job easy.
“You’ve got that special bottle you’re saving — open that one up,” said Strianese, former chairman of the SCCC culinary arts program. “This is that special day, open it Thursday. Don’t wait, because it could spoil.”
Light and sweet
People who do not often drink wines might want to stick with light, sweet wines.
“A nice, light sweet wine is called Prosecco,” Strianese said. “It’s Italian, it’s light in alcohol and it’s lightly sparkling. It’s a white wine.”
Moscato is another light, sweet wine that Strianese says has a place on dinner tables this week. Like Prosecco, it must be served chilled. “They’re relatively affordable; you don’t have to take out a loan to buy them,” he said.
More experienced tasters may want to consider sparkling wines. “I’m a big proponent of the moderate range of New York State sparkling wines,” Strianese said. “Two examples — Chateau Frank and Glenora.”
Big spenders can become big shots with big names.
“Let’s go big,” Strianese said. “You really want to impress somebody, you get a French champagne. It’s Veuve Cliquot.”
Veuve Cliquot’s prestige product is La Grande Dame. Recent vintages are all over $100 a bottle. “It’s their best champagne,” Strianese said.
Some people will follow culinary suggestions — white wine with fish and fowl, red wines with meats. Champagne is a great choice if oysters are being served. “We talk about champagne and oysters, how they go together and they really do because oysters have a very, very salty taste and champagne has a lot of acid in it. They complement each other.”
Strianese said people should consider wine with perennial Valentine favorite chocolate.
“You’ve got that great dark chocolate — not milk chocolate but dark chocolate,” he said. “If you want something to drink right away and make it a combination, I love Joseph Carr — that’s the brand name, Cabernet Sauvignon. A lot of people don’t know it, but red wine goes extremely well with chocolate.”
“That’s moderate — let’s go big now,” Strianese added. “The Italian red wine, Barolo, and the vintage 2001 — out of 100 points it’s 95 points from the Wine Spectator [magazine]. It’s so good because of the great vintage year, all the conditions were ripe.”
Kelsey Whalen, manager at the Saratoga Winery and Tasting Room in Milton, is also a proponent for red and white.
“When choosing wine for another person, I would recommend purchasing both a sweet white and a dry red,” Whalen said. “This offers a nice variety and covers most tastes. It’s always a safe bet to ask what a store’s most popular wines are, or personal recommendations of people who work there.”
Whalen said the winery’s “Whitney’s White” — a semi-sweet fruity blend that features flavors of fresh pear — is popular. It’s similar to a Riesling, a white grape variety of wine that originated in the Rhine region of Germany.
Like Strianese, Whalen believes in mixing grape and cocoa. “It depends on how dry or sweet the wines are,” she said. “For example, certain dry reds pair better with dark chocolate. A sweeter white you would do with a white or milk chocolate.”
Wine rules do not have to be followed at dinner.
“It really kind of depends on your personal preference,” Whalen said. “I think it’s more important to go with what you like and you’re going to enjoy it more.”
Strianese agreed. He believes a Valentine’s drink can come with foam and an amber color.
“Sometimes, the best wine in the world is a nice, great glass of beer,” he said. “If you like that, nobody is going to disagree with you.”