Today is the first of our two-part series this week in search of great wines for Valentine's Day. Meghan and I love our own dinner served with great wine in our own dining room, though we'll prepare you whether you've decided to stay home or hit the town this Sunday. Kait Oglesby from She Flew South prepared a great hors d'oeuvre menu for a party, (she and Meghan say this is a great way to celebrate "Singles Awareness Day"). Kait will cover the food in a separate post, but since Wine:Thirty Flight made the wine pairings, we'll take those on here.
Our goal here was to select wine choices that were both interesting and delicious, novel yet also representative of wines one might be able to find elsewhere. For example, if our choice of bubbles excites you, but you can't find this specific Slovenian sparkler at your local wine shop, try looking for something similar to get the job done.
Kait's menu, for some context, was as diverse as it was delicious (she takes you in depth with cooking tips and recipes for these):
- Korean Fried Chicken Wings
- Greek Flatbread with Feta, Lamb and Tzatziki
- French Cheese Plate
- Dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in candied bacon
- Cake pops of the Birthday Cake, Strawberry Chocolate, and Red Velvet varieties
Vinska Klet Rebula Peneča (non-vintage sparkling wine from Slovenia)
This brut sparkling wine worked out well. The nose is super clean, and the mouth feel is soft yet lively. Bubbles are a lot about feel, so if your local wine purveyor isn't stocked with this unusual Slovenian offering, try instead a similarly soft Prosecco. More traditional Champagnes, while very nice, weren't what we were going for here. This paired nicely with soft creamy cheeses, both the birthday cake and the red velvet, and the bacon wrapped dates stuff with goat cheese.
The Furst Gewurztraminer 2013 (white wine from Alsace, France)
Alsatian Gewurtz is one of our very favorite whites, but The Furst was full of surprises this time. We originally selected this to pair with the Korean BBQ wings (Gewurstraminer is a famously good partner for spicy Asian food), but found the tangy sweetness of the wings to clash the austere sweetness of the wine. Avoid this pairing and instead pair this wine with curry based dishes. Otherwise The Furst does splendidly on its own, with a bit more mellow a gold color than what we've seen from other Alsatians, and notes of apple and pear that make you think of springtime.
Albonee Winery Traminette (non-vintage white wine from Missouri, USA)
Similar in concept to the Gewurztraminer, this wine comes from the Albonee Winery in the not exactly known for its wine Kansas City, MO area. Our sense talking recently with the winemaker is that he is somewhat trapped between a desire to make sophisticated wine and the taste for sweeter offerings that many of his customers still seek. This Traminette sits astride those competing interests: nice for folks who actually want to pair the correct wine with a spicy dish, and equally desirable for drinkers seeking a sweet easy drinking white. Though the nose when we first opened it was a bit wet for our taste, we ultimately found that this wine stood up better to the Korean BBQ wings than the Gewrztraminer did, offering the taste of granny smith apples without the tartness. We also found that it paired bizarrely well with the bacon wrapped goat cheese stuffed dates. Though a Missouri Traminette is likely hard to find unless you live, well, in Missouri, the take away here is that a white in the Gewurztraminer or Traminette ballpark (sweet, but not sickeningly so) will fit the bill.
Louis Latour Marsannay 2013 (red wine from Burgundy, France)
Thought by most in our group to be the best wine at the party, we chose this Marsannay because we felt the always-pleasing bright red cherry of a Burgundy tempered by a subtle bit of rusticity would pair nicely with the feta, lamb, and tzatziki flatbread. Though the dish slightly dulled the brightness of the wine, the pairing ended up working quite well. This wine was also a winner with the strawberry chocolate cake. Point of connection for the uninitiated, when you see red "Burgundy", think "Pinot Noir". While there are some legal asterisks (for another time) concerning the use of other grapes such as Gamay in a red Burgundy, fundamentally we're talking about Pinot Noir here.
João Portugal Ramos Vila Santa 2014 (red wine from Portugal)
We've lately been serving this as a house red wine with an unbeatable price in the $9 range. We through it in the lineup for the tasting because we thought that it would nicely complement the lamb in the flatbread. We also found it to pair well with the dates, and finally as a great pair with the aged gouda. Were it not for having been in the same lineup as a sparkler from Slovenia, the Vila Santa would have hands down won the prize for most interesting pour of the night. A blend of 35% Aragonez (Tempranillo), 35% Trincadeira (often used in Port), and 30% Castelao, we find its easy drinking yet rustic wine to be a winner every time we pull a new cork. Portuguese wine is highly underrated, so if you're looking for an impressive bottle at a great price, look no further.