A few weeks ago, the fine folks at Quintessential (a Napa-based family owned importer and marketing group) emailed me and asked if I would consider reviewing a few of their wines that they felt were particularly well-suited for the upcoming Valentine’s Day “holiday.”
While I agreed to sample the wines, I immediately wondered how I was going to write about the wines since Valentine’s Day does not ignite whatever romantic embers I may have in my being. It was not always that way (I am pretty sure), but being married to a wonderful woman for seventeen years who happens to think that Valentine’s Day is a marketing ploy, well, one does not tend to circle February 14th with any red marker of significance.
I decided to approach each of these wines first on their merits as a wine and then its potential to be a catalyst to reverse the general malaise reserved for Valentine’s Day in our household, a factor that I call the VDQ (Valentine’s Day Quotient)–the higher that number, the more potentially “romantic” the wine.
The first four wines this week are sparkling wines, and given that my personal motto is “If it doesn’t sparkle, it doesn’t matter” sparkling wines are inherently more “romantic” than still wines.
Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut Argentina: Retail $13. 100% Chardonnay. Estate grown fruit from one of the more respected winemakers in Argentina, this wine is quite fruity (lemon and green apple) out of the bottle with an active sparkle. On the palate this comes off as a tad sweet, with plenty of white peach and tart apple. There is no doubt that this will be a crowd pleaser, and the host will enjoy the modest tariff. Very Good. 87-89 Points. Last year, I travelled to Argentina, where just about every Argentinian I met talked about how passionate the citizens are. I figure there must be some of that in the bottle. VDQ: 6/10
2016 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz South Australia: Retail $18. I do not have a ton of experience with sparkling reds, but that is certainly due to the fact that there are not that many. In fact, I honestly believe that this is only the second sparkling red I have ever tasted (the other being the Mumm Napa Sparkling Pinot Noir). Inky dark, with a concealed sparkle–it was only really visible on the top–with oodles and oodles of cassis. On the palate, this is a big red wine: again, tons of big red fruit with ample acidity and a touch of depth. This is a paradoxical wine–fruity, fun, effervescent–but also challenges notions of sparkling wines. Very Good. 87-89 Points. Sparkling deep red wine? Yeah, that has to be sexy. VDQ: 8/10
NV Vino dei Fratelli Prosecco DOC: Retail $12. 100% Glera. Ever since my exposure to DOCG Prosecco, I have generally eschewed the lesser appellated wines from the region. Why? Generally, they lack depth and are overly nutty. Not this wine—it is fun, fruity, balanced, and well-made. Yellow apple, white peach, and a flinty minerality characterize this wine from the first pour to the last drop. While there is a bit of residual sugar (15 g/l), it melds in nicely with the laser-like acidity. This might be the finest DOC Prosecco I have tried. Outstanding. 90-92 Points. Like Argentinians, Italians are known for their healthy libidos. Add in bubbles? Look out. VDQ: 7/10
2015 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Cap Classique Brut, South Africa: Retail $24. 53% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier. Simonsig was the pioneer with Classic Method wines when they introduced Cap Classique to South Africa in the early 1970s. Granny Smith apple, white peach, and freshly baked baguette transported by a fine trail of bubbles provide the introduction. That vibrant sparkle persists onto the palate and it is joined by a lively tart apple, a few mineral notes, and fleshy peach at the end. I do not have a ton of experience with Cap Classique, but this is clearly one of the better wines that I have tried: rich, vibrant, joyful, fun. What else does one need in a sparkling wine? Outstanding. 90-92 Points. Based on the email, I think that Quintessential meant to send me the Simonsig Rosé, which for some reason is sexier than non-rosé. Why? I have no idea, but the only request my wife ever makes for Valentine’s Day is that we drink rosé. This is certainly a sexy wine, but it pales a shade when compared to rosé (see what I did there?). VDQ: 6/10
2015 Georges Dubœuf Château de Saint-Amour, Saint-Amour: Retail $22. 100% Gamay. I like to think that I was a fan of Beaujolais before it became a cool, hip wine (as my kids will gladly attest, I am far from cool and even further from hip). About 15-20 years ago, Burgundy was relatively inexpensive, but in the decades since, those prices have approached the stratosphere. Thus, I have been increasingly looking toward Beaujolais to scratch my Burgundian itch. Yes, the fine folks from the Côte d’Or dispute with the Beaujolais as to whether the region directly to the South of la Côte is actually part of Burgundy. And yes, the reds are made from different grapes (Pinot Noir to the North and Gamay to the South), but there are similar characteristics: Cherry fruit, wet rock, great acidity, a hint of tannin. This is a wine for relatively short-term consumption, within 3-5 years, but boy is it tasty. Very Good. 87-89 Points. The French are no slouches when it comes to romance, and this wine literally has the French word for “love” in the title. Twice. Yeah. VDQ: 8/10