By Rick Riozza

The vino mantra of all time is probably “red wine is good for the heart.” No arguments here, as we’ve been writing on the comforting red wines—first from Italy, and then last week’s comfy Californians. In the coming weeks, I’m sure we’ll be on to the French and the Spanish—and wait for it: the Chileans. But since the universal day of love is right in front of us, let’s find some romantic St. Valentine’s Day recommendations.

For bubbly starters, we can keep it simple, economical, with the ability to grab a bottle at your local market. Mumm Napa Brut Rosé ($14). The bottle itself bespeaks romance with its eye-catching pink coral color label. This California sparkler is fresh and lively, yet rich, with strawberry and spicy yeast aromas and lush, ripe flavors of cherry, vanilla and crisp apple. Versatile, food friendly and gorgeous bubbles in the glass.

And while we’re at it, consider the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige ($14). These days we don’t have to have a pink bubbly to say “I love you”. As opposed to the strawberry and cherry notes of the Brut Rosé above, this Napa bubbly is an ideal choice for its ability to pair well with everything from sweet to savory, with notes of citrus, apple, and toasty baking spice.


Indeed, Mumm seems to be the word when it comes to cherishing California bubbly. We may as well mention the Mumm Napa NV Blanc de Blancs ($14) This is the “driest” of the three mentioned here and is made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Gris. It offers an impressive commingling of preserved lemon, burnt orange peel and apricot, meeting crisp acidity and floral undertones along the way. Light and bright, it makes a great aperitif and meets up well with all your meals.

The other big bubbly brand produced here in our state is Chandon. Chandon California Brut Rosé ($14) is both fruity and refreshing. Created using the same three noble grape varieties used in Champagne, it’s a love story between delicate, crisp Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, picked at greater ripeness for intense fruit flavor and gorgeous pink hue.

For those wishing a special treat for the day of love, we recommend the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé ($79). If one were to film a French romance movie, your mise-en-scène would definitely include this bottle situated on the table or emptied somewhere along the bedside.

Wine Spectator writes of the Billecart-Salmon: “A lovely rosé in an almost vinous style, with mouthwatering acidity and a fine, lacy mousse carrying appealing flavors of ripe raspberry, white cherry fruit, star anise, mandarin orange peel and honeysuckle; lightly chalky on the lasting finish. Enjoy with food. Drink now. 93 points.

And Robert Parker states, “the new NV Brut Rosé from Billarcart-Salmon has turned out nicely, mingling notes of red berries and plums with notions of peach, dried flowers and orange rind. Medium to full-bodied, pillowy and elegant, it’s bright and charming, with a generous core of fruit, racy acids and a pinpoint mousse. Giving and demonstrative, it’s already drinking well.

With probably over a thousand great red wines to pair with your Valentines dinner, I’ll just close my eyes, turn about, and pick this one: Oh!… very nice, and so reasonably priced: 2017 Luce Della Vite Lucente ($24). Yeah—it’s Italian, and there’s a good chance that even Santo Valentino enjoyed a Sangiovese wine from time to time. So why not take your romantic pasta night to the next level with this super delicious Super Tuscan.

The Reverse Wine Snob says, “This Lucente wine begins with wonderfully strong and enticing aromas of blackberry and raspberry plus leather, spice and licorice. The wine tastes rich and luscious with tons of delicious ripe, juicy fruit countered by dusty tannins. A fabulous long, dry finish ends the love fest and you’re left with lasting fruit notes and wistful memories. In other words, this is a silky-smooth wine with wonderful flavors.”

For those of you requiring an alluring Pinot Noir, The 2018 Belle Glos Clark & Telephone ($49) is excellent. Ring! Ring! The color is a deep, scarlet red with lush aromas of blackberry, bramble, nutmeg, and a hint of caramel. This wine combines some of the best attributes of the grape variety with flavors of ripe raspberries, dried leather, and wood; would be great with game birds.

Both meal-wise and dessert-wise, we’re suggesting the Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Viognier ($32) It’s vibrant, crisp bodied, with notes of white flowers, green apples, lemon, peach and summer stone fruit, honeysuckle, ginger and almonds; this aromatic wine will liven up your taste buds. Try it with your favorite chicken dish, seafood or shrimp cocktail. Since Viognier is so aromatic—chilled up, it can be served as an aperitif, or, used as a loving touch to end a meal and on to the movie.

A little Madeira my dear? What a considerate and romantic gesture to bring an under-the-radar dessert quaff to a lovely evening. Rare Wine Co. New York Malmsey Special Reserve Madeira ($54). Dessert wine enthusiasts have written on this wine as, “Rich and spicy, with a creamy texture and plenty of buttery notes with dried apricot and roasted pineapple flavors along with figs and gingerbread. Balanced with lively acidity there’s a long, fleshy, lusty, generous spiced plush finish.” Wow! This sounds like it would work beautifully with rich desserts and loving gastronomic foreplay. Here’s to love! Cheers!