Sunday, January 31, 2016

Romantic Valentine’s Day Wines

With Valentine’s Day following the caveman jubilee and hog fest known as Super Bowl the weekend before, many of us will be ripe for some romance.

These tips may not be quite enough to take someone’s heart by storm but they’re sure to kick-start a wonderful evening. After all, it’s the company and the sentiment that count, right?


This New Orleans shopkeeper keeps the love vibe going all year round.

It’s the bubbles
Champagne may get dissed as a Valentine’s Day clich√© but let’s face it: Nothing spells romance like Champagne, from the uncorking ritual to the pour. Bubblies deliver a full-on sensual and sensory experience, starting with the eye-catching streaming perlage to the prickling sensation on the tongue, the brioche-like aromas on the nose and finally, those first scintillating sips. If Champagne isn’t in your budget this year, or even if it is, look to Spanish cava (made also in the traditional French style), consistently excellent American sparkling wine producers (Schramsberg, Scharffenberger, Roederer Estate and J Vineyards in California; Argyle in Oregon) and even to South America. We like the Antucura Fleurie sparkling ros√© of Pinot Noir so much, we’ll be serving it at our Valentine’s Day five-course food and wine pairing dinner at Cooking with Class.

Drop acid and go for aromatic
Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and other high-acid wines marry beautifully with many foods, from goat cheese salads to simply grilled fish in lemon-butter sauce – lovely, but not exactly sentimental favorites. Hold off on wines that deliver tang and zing, opting instead for wines with captivating floral aromas and those that deliver weight on the palate. V is for Viognier this Valentine’s Day – we like just about all the different Viogniers made by Yalumba over the past five years. The gently priced Y series (2014) is available in the desert at many locations, including grocers. 

For reds, do like Rob Thomas: smooth
Wine professionals sometimes joke about the overriding appeal of smooth wines. But hey, smooth is good and on Valentine’s Day, smooth is also sexy. Even if your usual wine taste veers toward austere, give your palate a party on the 14th with a fuller, more zoftig wine. Instead of lean or cooler-climate reds, treat yourself to a hefty Syrah (nothing says sexy better than Syrah and while Alban takes the cake, the Shafer Relentless is just that); a mouth-coating Merlot (Washington’s Northstar is a perennial favorite while Chile’s 2012 and 2013 Santa Ema Merlot are bargain standouts); or a not-so-young Cabernet (notable exception: the 2012 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Double Lariat Cabernet from Napa Valley is drinking surprisingly well now, available at Dan’s Wine Shop in Palm Desert). A high-alcohol Zinfandel might put the kibosh on your romantic plans so perhaps steer clear of Zins pushing 15% or more ABV. Dan’s Wine Shop featured the 2010 Lake Sonoma Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, a steal at about $10. Others worth a sip are the Trentadue La Storia 2013 Zin from Alexander Valley and reliably excellent Zins from Ridge, William Selyem and Novy.



Be a sweetie
Somm tip: Save the after-dinner wine for after or instead of the dessert, not alongside it. Valentine’s Day desserts tend to be extra-sweet or over-the-top, which can make even a very sweet dessert wine taste off or unexciting. For a classic pour, go with a Port with all its dark-fruited creamy sensuality and spice. The outstanding 2011 vintage Ports are too young to drink now but plenty of choices and bargains abound in 2007 late-bottled vintage (abbreviated LBV on the label) Ports. Try the Quinta do Crasto or the savory Quinta do Portal. Show some panache after a chocolatey or fruity dessert with a Banyuls, the Grenache-based fortified wine from southern France. M. Chapoutier is a reliable producer.

Romance the place
If your sweetie is of Italian, Canadian, Spanish or another ancestry connected to a winemaking country, consider choosing a wine that acknowledges that heritage. Match your beloved to a fine Canadian ice wine, an aged and noble Brunello or Tempranillo, an Australian late-harvest Muscat or whatever wine best reflects that ancestry.


Pick and choose from these suggestions or go full-throttle with one of each. Now that’s amore.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Seen, Sipped and Savored at SommCon

The first SommCon was a red, white and sparkling success. Held November 19-21, 2015 in San Diego, the convention for sommeliers offered education, tastings and networking galore. Sessions offered tooth-staining sips, speed blind tastings, big-picture presentations and in-depth panel discussions that satisfied a range of interests and expertise levels. The three-day event ended in grand style with a huge trade tasting that featured exhibitors, food and beer tastings, music and an auction. Spotted pouring wine along with a presenter roster top-heavy with Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers were iconic winemakers such as Randall Grahm and John Concannon.


Sis gave San Diego Union-Tribune readers a virtual tour that captured the event's madcap energy. Here, a few images of this memorable, inaugural conference with hopes for a bigger, better SommCon next year.



It’s 8 a.m. at SommCon – ready for some wine?


Emerging Mexico panelists, Tru Miller, owner of Adobe Guadalupe (left) and enologist Camillo Magoni.


Georg Riedel introduced wine lovers to his family’s Riedel Coke glass.


Chic, helpful tradespeople delighted tasters in the exhibit hall, here with wines of Australia.


At Friday’s Grand Tasting, wine shared the limelight with beer, cheese, artisan breads and more.


Wines from Morocco made an impressive showing at the Grand Tasting.


Randall Grahm shares his thoughts at the Bonny Doon tasting booth.


Dan Morgan Lee poses with one of his excellent Santa Lucia Highlands wines.


A memorable appetizer at Bottega Americano in San Diego’s East Village.


The chalkboard salumeria menu at Bottega Americano reads “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well without having eaten well.”