Around this time last year, I posed the question: “What Would St. Valentine Drink? Well—that incurable romantic, I thought, would put together some kind of love potion that include the likes of roses, kisses, candy, bubbles, passion, and pop! So, voila!! Sparkling Rosé wine!”
For 2011, I thought it would be lovely to up-date that Valentine Wines column with some sparkling new commentary and a fresh array of wine recommendations.
So again, the scene is set: “The glowing copper-pink rosé effervescently graces the height of your crystal flutes glimmering from nearby candlelight, flowers sprawled across the table, and the intoxicating presence of your lover and your sparkling wine.” Whoa!—did we just hear one of Cupid’s arrows whiz by again this year?
Champagne and sparkling wine get a lot of press over the holidays and New Years—and, rightly so, but it’s time now to clear off the wine bar, re-stock, and re-decorate it pretty in pink for the official Day of Romance.
Just the word Champagne evokes beautiful wine imagery that includes the launching of ships, the toasting to new-borns, emotional memories, and celebrating like its 1999. Make it a rosé sparkler and not only is love in the air—it’s in the bubbly and beating warm through our hearts.
And what wine lover doesn’t readily admit that Rosé Champagne or Sparkler in a wine glass or flute is definitely the most alluring vino to behold. The wine’s sexy shades range from warm copper to what seems almost a pale rouge, through a muted salmon-orange, to a pearlescent pink. You may even find one robed in Day-Glo pink!
One big reason for these hues is the winemaker’s heartfelt decision to allow the white base wine to ferment longer than usual with the red-pigmented grape skins. The traditional match-made-in-heaven Champagne recipe is the liaison of the red Pinot Noir and white Chardonnay. With a blush sparkler, the Pinot Noir grape skins are in the mix a little longer for that desired rosé sunset tinge. Also, let’s mention the ménage a trois going on when the vintner occasionally invites red Pinot Meunier grape into the mélange.
Of course the other less romantic method out in the wine world is simply to pour a little tasty red wine into a brut (dry) Champagne or sparkler. Now that gets the heart thinking—what stops us from trying that out! For a fun and inexpensive blending experiment drop a dollop or so of a California Syrah or Merlot into a flute of brut Spanish Cava. Watch, taste, and fine tune your own colorful concoction!
Sparkling wines from that famous region of France have the exclusive right to call themselves “Champagne”—so too, they get to run with “Rosé Champagne” when they blush it up. But a good rosé sparkler by another other name would taste as tangy.
Vineyards and wineries around the globe are now producing various types of rosé sparklers using all kinds of white wine as the base and red wine grapes doing the tinting that range from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel—that would be a “sparkling white Zinfandel” in everyday parlance. And yes, Concord grapes do make a sweet rosé sparkler from out of the Finger Lakes region of New York.
The character of the wines varies also, from crisp and austere to rich and luxuriant. Even an uncomplicated rosé still sings sweet notes of fondness as long as there is a balanced acidity. To re-coin a Sarah Lee phrase, “Nobody doesn’t like Rosé Champagne”.
Exquisite alone as an apéritif, it can be drunk through every course of your Valentine’s dinner as it goes with all types of food and is flavorful enough to stand up splendidly to foie gras, veal, duck breasts with cherries, and roast garlic chicken atop roasted heart-red beets.
VALENTINES’ WINE RECOMMENDATIONS.
If your pocketbook didn’t take a hit during the recession and you insist on a Rosé Champagne to put you in the car in the romance department, I guess you’d be grabbing the NV (non vintage) Krug Brut Rosé Champagne refulgent with raspberry, black currant, and touches of citrus with ginger. Complex with great balance, it carries the great price of around $300.
For the rest of us still insisting on pink French bubbly, the best buys for the price would be a Charles Heidsieck’s elegant Brut Rosé Reserve NV at around $75, and, the Brut Rosé Champagne Rose Top NV from Heidsieck Monopole for about $45.
Those enjoying love affairs with California Rosé Sparklers have a good thing going. So many tasty and reasonably priced bottles that include: Mumm Napa Brut Rosé Napa Valley that’s rich, fresh, and lively with strawberry, cherry, crisp apple and vanilla, $24; NV Domaine Chandon Rosé is making their best pink in years, “a distinct cherry presence with enough pastry-crust aromas to evoke a cherry turnover. It’s focused and energetic .” $22; NV Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rosé, woodsy notes with dark stone minerality that underlines cranberry, tangerine and pear flavors, creamy vanilla notes on the finish, $27; and NV Scharffenberger Mendocino County Brut Rosé “soft and subtle with fresh apple atop creamy strawberry—a proper food bubbly” $23. What lovely wines to speak of—let alone drink!
Valentine’s Day welcomes not only the warm desert weather but our local wine purveyor’s wine suggestions as well:
Paulette Wright, PS Wine, 118 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs 760.322.4411, tells us of a “fun” sparkler from Chile. It’s called Fresita. It’s made from premium Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes and is “infused” with hand-picked strawberries—all natural. “It comes in both a cute little 5-pack of 200ml bottles and regular size bottles. A perfect Valentine’s brunch wine!”
Dan Sullivan, Dan’s Wine Shop, 73360 Hwy 111, Palm Desert, 760.674.0305, is carrying a delicious deal with a rosé French bubbly, NV Veuve Ambal. It’s not a Champagne but a Cremant de Bourgogne i.e, a sparkler from Burgundy. A great buy at around $10. He also has the famed Schramsberg Mirabelle—like berries on toast—for around $20.
Jennifer’s Kitchen, 70-255 Hwy 111 Rancho Mirage, 760.324.3904, regularly puts on wonderful evening wine tastings featuring 5 or 6 wines for only $20. For Valentine’s Day, famed winemaker Mike Grgich and his premium wines are on hand for a fabulous food & wine pairing dinner. Call for reservations. Also check out her website, www.jennifersfinefoods.com.
And Larry Bitonti, the beloved owner of The Naked Grape Wine Bar, 242 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760.325.5551, is getting a heart and head start on the Valentines partying. He alerts, “We are doing free champagne and chocolates all day. Bring in your loved one and celebrate with uson Sunday February 13th.”
Here’s to love. Cheers!