The Üllo Team never passes up an opportunity to celebrate and with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we put together our favorite wine picks for this egregiously commercialized holiday. It’s obvious that we love wine at Üllo, but we love it so much, that we recommend forgoing the chocolate and cheap candy altogether to make room for, well, more wine. Before we dive into our recommendations, we want to alert our dedicated followers and supporters of one thing not to buy: ChocoVine (www.chocovine.com). ChocoVine is an abominable alcoholic beverage of such epic proportions that we felt it our duty to warn you that drinking it with your significant other will result in immediate and serious relationship problems. It is to be avoided at all costs.
Now, without further ado, our top 5 wines for Valentine’s Day.
Pinot Noir – the sexiest grape of all?
Arguably the most aromatically intoxicating and texturally appealing wine, pinot noir may take the cake as the most alluring and sexy wine in the world. While the grape is known for being particularly difficult to grow, talented winemakers who can tame its eccentricities are rewarded with a complex wine that is both intellectually stimulating and delicious. As Susan Sokol Blosser, cofounder of Sokol Blosser Winery in Oregon, has said, “When [Pinot Noir is] done well, it is absolutely sublime. My favorite thing to say is that it’s not a wine that’s going to hit you between the eyes. It’s not a wine that’s going to knock your socks off. It’s going to seduce you and slip your socks off.”
Pinot Noir is grown all over the world, from Burgundy in France, Oregon and California, and New Zealand, though you’ll also find this most finicky grape producing stellar wine in northeastern Italy, Tasmania in Australia, South Africa, and beyond. Our favorite pick for relatively affordable pinot noir? Check out Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where small producers like Illahe and Division Wine Co. are producing top-notch bottles at affordable prices.
The Sultry and Sexy Red from Italy: Amarone
If pinot noir will slip your socks off, then Amarone will blow them away from the first sip. Amarone wine hails from the Veneto region in northeastern Italy and undergoes a unique winemaking process that includes partially drying the grapes before they are made into the wine. During this process, the grapes lose 30-40% of their liquid weight, which causes the flavors to intensify and concentrate and the sugar levels to increase. The resulting wine is typically dry, rich, flavor-packed with high alcohol and incredible depth of flavor – the perfect combination for an ambitious Valentine’s Day evening. This juice ain’t cheap though, usually running $40-50 at a minimum, but it’s all the booze you will need for the entire night.
Pink and Red Bubbly – How can you go wrong?
Who doesn’t like a good glass of bubbly to celebrate with? If you want to impress and money is of little concern, start your Valentine’s Day evening out right with the finest pink bubbly in all the land, rosé Champagne. While all Champagne is not created equal, it is generally delicious and you can usually find a great bottle for $40-50. Save the restaurant markup by downing the bottle with your boo before you go out. It will give you an extra spritz in your step sure to last the whole night.
If true Champagne is too pricey for you and you still want to impress with a touch of European charm, check out the undervalued area of Lambrusco in Italy. Lambrusco used to create a lot of plonk pink wine in the 1970s and 80s, but the region has undergone a revolution in quality and is now producing great bottles of sparkling wine for $20. If you need a specific bottle, the Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Secco Del Fondatore is a great introduction to the high quality, magenta-colored fizz that the region is now producing.
To Pair or Not to Pair with Chocolate: Syrah is the Answer
If chocolate is a must for you on Valentine’s Day, then Syrah should be your companion. Many sommeliers recommend pairing dark chocolate with a darker, dessert wine, such as Port from Portugal, but we say screw that. Go with Syrah! Most Syrah wines complement the flavor components of high quality dark chocolate better than any other varietal. Our favorite Syrah wines are characterized by dark, jammy black fruits. We recommend finding a bottle from the northern Rhone region of France (Domaine Faury is a good producer), Washington, USA (check out Fausse Piste), or California (Stolpman Vineyards in Ballard Canyon is a good bet).
Sweet Libido – Quady’s Deviation Dessert Wine
If you or your partner has a penchant for sweets, this unique and eccentric dessert wine from California may be the right choice for a long night of, well, lovemaking. This bottle from Quady is an orange muscat wine infused with Rose Geranium and Damiana, an herb from Central American with aphrodisiac and libido-enhancing properties. Dominated by a potent nose and tropical citrus and fruit flavors on the palate, this is sure to entice. If straight dessert wines are not your thing, this could also be a delicious cocktail ingredient.
What wines will you be drinking for Valentine’s Day? Please let us know at facebook.com/ullowine.