As I reviewed our list to see what I wanted to Feature for this upcoming Valentines Day weekend, I kept returning to some old standbys. These are wines (and an ale) that turn our hearts toward love...oh, and that go with chocolate. I’ve included them because, you know, there’s no love like an old love. But I’ve also got some new wines that we’re really excited about. So whether you’re into new love or celebrating the cushy warmth of an old flame, we’ve got some treats that should be on the little table that’s right at the end of the love-seat.
I’ll start with the old and then introduce the new.
Young's Double Chocolate Stout (Bedford, England) $4.80, 16.9oz (.5 L “English Pint”)
Sure, Valentines Day is supposed to be about chocolate, but chocolate beer? If you're imagining a blend of Budweiser and Yoohoo, I agree...yucky! This brew is way better than that. Traditional draught beer has been produced on the site of the Young's Ram Brewery in Wandsworth since 1581, which makes it the oldest site in Britain on which beer has been brewed continuously. The "double" of this Chocolate Stout is that chocolate malt is used in the brewing of the traditional dark English ale, then dark chocolate essence is added. This gives a brew that is dark in color, with a creamy head. The finish is like mocha coffee, deep, alluring and very grown up. The half liter bottle is the perfect size to share with a friend. It’s also very tasty in stews and meat dishes (like Chef Yvonne’s Carne con Chocolate) or as the liquid for a chocolate cake. That’s a lot of yum in a bottle.
Peirano "The Other" Red (Lodi, California) Regular $14.85/ Feature Price $12.63
The “Others” are always a draw for special occasions of love. At first “blush” it’s the label – a sensuous line drawing of the back of a naked seated woman. The back label describes the wine as "tastefully seductive," a blend of This (60% Cabernet Sauvignon), That (30% Merlot), and The Other (10% Syrah). Inside the bottle is a delicious wine - ripe, rich and full-bodied. The wine goes great with red meat or dark chocolate. It’s sophisticated enough for the serious wine drinker and approachable enough that it has become a customer favorite. Be seduced!
Peirano "The Other" White (Lodi, California) Regular $14.85/ Feature Price $12.63
This luscious "Other" white is a blend of This (70% Chardonnay), That (20% Sauvignon Blanc), and The Other (10% Viognier). It really does have a sensuous mouth feel, and its long complex finish will remind you that true love really is forever.
Sant'Evasio Brachetto D'Acqui (Monferrato, Italy) Regular Price $19.95, Feature Price $16.96
Pour a couple of glasses of this shimmering ruby red sparkler and watch how its brilliance catches the candlelight...and the eyes of your companion. I know...I gush. But this wine is so perfect for Valentines Day that I get to.
The grape is Brachetto, and it's from around the Piedmont town of Aqui (thus "bra-KET-toe DA-kwee"). Its Valentine red color, its fruit aromas of strawberries and raspberries, its effervescent sweetness and the fact that it is a superb pairing with dark chocolate make this the quintessential Valentine wine. It also comes in a voluptuous bottle with red foil on the top. Come in and purchase a bottle at our Feature Price to take home and toast your loved one. (Limited Supply)
Of course, we’ve got other sparklers, too. From the sweet Annalisa Moscato D’Asti to the elegant and dry Saint-Hilaire Brut or Laurent-Perrier Champagne. Bring home a bottle of bubbly for Valentines Day and you’ll get more than style points. We’ll help you choose the bottle that’s right for your taste and budget.
Now for the introductions (drumroll).
Four Vines Naked® Chardonnay 2009 (Santa Barbara County, California) Reg. $15.85/ Feature $13.48
If you’re celebrating this season with a special “Valentine,” you may have the opportunity to get naked...never mind the continued cold weather. If the cold weather puts you off, or if you’re not within reach of an intimate someone, you can still get naked - Four Vines Naked® Chardonnay.
The folks at Four Vines are mostly Zinfandel people, and you may be familiar with the ever-popular Four Vines “Old Vine Cuvee” Zin. But you can’t be making wine in Santa Barbara County without having a Chard. So rebellious winemaker Christian Tietje relented. But he was not going to make an ordinary California Chardonnay. He was going to make his Naked® - and he even registered “Naked” as a trademark. Only in California!
Tietje’s description of the wine gives you a feel not only for the taste of the wine, but for its fine California Attitude, as well:
Step away from the barrel! This Chardonnay was fermented in 100% stainless steel and has not seen any oak, nor does it want to. This is crisp, concentrated Chardonnay with all its natural acid (no malo). Naked exhibits apple, white peach, and pear, finishing long with hints of citrus and mineral. Made to go with food rather than compete with it like those buttered lumberyards masquerading as Chardonnay. Eat oysters and drink ‘Naked’ often!! Share with a friend...
Viticcio Bere (Tuscany) Reg $17.50/ Feature $14.88
One of the most common romantic images of people of my generation is the “Bella Notte” in which Lady and the Tramp share a plate of spaghetti and meatballs while the Italian chefs play accordion and mandolin (if you’ve forgotten the doe-eyed gleam in a cocker spaniel’s eye you can, of course, see it on YouTube). There is no wine on the table, but it is implied by the candle holder that drips on the red and white checked tablecloth - an empty bottle of basket Chianti.
No basket here, but the wine, a “Super Tuscan” made for American tastes, is certainly romantic and delicious. You will recall that the Super Tuscan designation is for wines made in the Chianti region which don’t qualify as “Chianti” because they have less than the required 85% Sangiovese. This one is 50% Sangiovese, with 25% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Fattoria Viticcio (vee-TEACH-yo) lies midway between the cities of Florence and Siena, in the heart of Chianti Classico region. Viticcio means "tendril" in English and is symbolic of the company’s cautious and steady growth, emulating the tendril continually grappling its way to new heights. The Landini family, at the heart of Viticcio, is comfortable enough with their superb reputation as Chianti winemakers of the first order that they easily put together Bere to show what outstanding wine they can produce as a Super Tuscan. The wine spends 8 months in oak barrels and an additional two years in bottle before release.
“Bere” (BARE-uh) means “drinking” in Italian, and I can think of no more straighforward way of saying what this wine is for...it’s for drinking. Ciao!
Vega Montan Mencía 2008 (Bierzo, Spain) Reg. $19.50/ Feature $16.58
If you’ve been reading these blogs for any time, you know that one of my greatest loves is the wines of Spain. So you know I was very excited when I tried this one a few weeks ago.
The wine is made of 100% Mencía, a grape that is indigenous to the tiny and little know wine area of Bierzo (bee-AIR-so). Bierzo is tucked up next to the northern border of Portugal, between the mountains of Castlla y Leon and Galicia. It used to be thought that Mencía was an offshoot of the Cabernet Franc grape, but recent DNA studies have shown that it is just what its local purveyors say it is - a local original. I like the story that Bierzo, having been for centuries a way station on the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route, had many taverns for the refreshment of weary peregrinos. Some of those pilgrims brought their own vines, either from central Europe or the Black Sea region, planted them in the magic soil, and they evolved into the Mencía grape of today.
Whatever the origin, I can see why people thought it was Cab Franc. That’s because the wine has a light body (13.5% alcohol) and refreshing acidity like Cab Franc or Pinot Noir. It’s beautiful and transparent red in the glass and will go extremely well with a wide range of foods. Don’t all the Spanish wines do that?
New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov wrote about wines from Bierzo in 2009: “Tasting through 25 bottles of Bierzo, we found some wines that offer the Mencía largely unadorned, in all its exotic fruit, wildflower and mineral glory. These wines tend to be light-bodied and refreshing.” Though Vega Montan was not one of Asimov’s 25, his description fits the style perfectly. Wine & Spirits magazine gave this wine 90 Points and rated it a “Best Buy” and one of the “Top 100 Wines of 2010.”
Try it with your best dinner menu (or come in to Back Bay Cafe and pair a bottle with Chef Yvonne’s lovely cuisine). You may find un amor nuevo.