Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine In a Glass

Some people ask, "what's a good wine for Valentine's Day?" It's an odd question, really. It does more or less make sense to ask about good Thanksgiving wines because you know what foods will be served for most people. But Valentine's Day? Sensible or not, plenty of people have strong thoughts about this.

I think most people who think about these things really are wondering, what would make the occasion special without getting extreme? Well, you can forget about most of the "value" wines that we wine bloggers write about so much. It's not the time for them. You want a bottle that will make you feel that the evening, with your sweetie, is special. You want something that feels like a wonderful, sensual experience that will inspire more sensual experiences a little later.

We had beef last year and a terrific cab, but this year it was shellfish. I decided on chardonnay. I know, I know. So many wine people love to dis California chards that few would consider them special, or even a worthy match for most food. I don't drink chard that often, but there are some awesome ones out there. At about $40, Newton's unfiltered chardonnay is truly delicious. The 2001 we opened last night was just great, lush and rich with apple pie and pineapple aromas that go on and on.

This is a wine that gets a lot of time in oak, but the flavors are fairly well integrated. It is not necessarily a great wine for food, but its creamy texture and vanilla nose made it a seductive glass to linger over by itself between bites. While appreciating its distinctiveness, it made me recall that one of the first Valentine Days my wife and I ever spent together, almost 20 years ago, was accompanied by a Silverado chardonnay that really opened my eyes. It was $3 more a glass than the house stuff, and I figured I'd splurge -- Mr. big spender! Though not a real top-of-the-line chard, the Silverado was a step up and it nonetheless knocked me out with its big buttery flavors.

It was a revelatory moment -- extraordinary tasting experiences are out there if you take the time to explore and spend a little more. It started a fascination with big chards that would last a few years and would morph eventually into a love of great wines of all kinds. Oh yeah, and the date went pretty nicely, too.

I remarked about the memory to my wife, who recalled the event and promptly tried to correct my recollection of the year. It occurred to me that the Newton had done its job nicely. Despite a faulty detail or two, the memories added another enjoyable layer to the evening -- made possible by the simple act of lifting up a glass of fine wine to one's nose and going where it led.


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