Monday, February 7, 2011

Top Ten Sweet Wines For Your Sweetie

Ah, Valentine's Day. A wonderful Hallmark holiday; the chance to show someone how much you care by the offering of material goods. Personally, I find it's an opportunity to purchase half-priced heart-shaped candy on the 15th. Although I have to say, my sweetie wasn't impressed when I showed up a day late to hand her a half-eaten box of chocolates with a clearance sticker on it. This year I'll remember to take off the price tag. For those of you looking for something a little more daring than chocolates, I've put together a list of the top ten sweet wines for your sweetie, along with a few pairing suggestions.

1. Michele Chiarlo - 'Nivole' Moscato d'Asti - Piedmont, Italy 2009 - $15 (375ml)
When it comes to sweet wine, Moscato is a fan favorite here in the United States. People love the fresh flavors and bubbly sweetness of this wine. The best Moscato's from Italy come from the Moscato d'Asti DOCG (quality Italian wine region) in Piedmont. What I like about Michele Chiarlo's 'Nivole' Moscato d'Asti is that the fruit is fresh, rather than syrupy like you sometimes experience in other sweet bubblies from the region. This refreshing Moscato paired with a heavenly slice of Tiramisu is proof that God wants us to be happy.

2. Rosa Regale by Banfi - Brachetto d'Acqui - Piedmont, Italy 2009 - $24
Brachetto: the grape. Acqui: the region. Love: the word I use to describe this wine paired with chocolate covered strawberries. The Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG is a region of Piedmont not far from Asti. I feel like Vigne Regale by Banfi just waits each year for February 14th. All of their marketing for their delicious sweet, red, frizzante (semi-sparkling) is designed to persuade consumers to pair their Rosa Regale with a romantic evening. If you're looking to fall in love this Valentine's Day, pick up a glass of this wine and smell the fresh berries on the nose. With just one sip you'll realize you didn't really know love until you met Brachetto d'Aqcui.

3. Poet's Leap by Long Shadows Vineyards - Riesling - Columbia Valley, Washington 2009 - $20
This German-influenced Riesling from Washington's Columbia Valley is a perfect balance of fruit, acid, and sugar. Pair this poetic white with an apple dessert, and you'll find yourself finally understanding the word utopia. Long Shadows was founded by former Stimson Lane (Chateau Ste. Michelle) executive Allen Shoup. According to the company's website this wine is "inspired by the greatest wines of Germany and crafted by one of Germany's most highly acclaimed Riesling producers, Armin Diel, proprietor of the renowned Schlossgut Diel." Truly a wonderfully balanced Riesling at a great price.

4. Pacific Rim - Gewurztraminer - Columbia Valley, Washington 2009 - $11
While my heart was literally broken after legendary winemaker Randall Grahm (owner of Bonny Doon Wines) sold Pacific Rim winery to Banfi, this is, never the less, a great little wine for the price. The Pacific Rim Gewurztraminer is loaded with fresh fruit aromas of grapefruit and lychee nut, along with a wonderful floral component. Gewurztraminer is continuing to see sales growth in the US. If you thought this grape was one-dimensional, keep exploring with dryer styles from Alsace, France. Enjoy the Pacific Rim Gewurz with a lychee-topped dessert and a dimly lit room.

5. Inniskillin - Riesling 'Ice Wine' - Niagara Peninsula, Canada 2007 - $75 (375ml)
The Canucks take Ice Wine very serious. With many great Canadian Ice Wines to choose from, usually at a hefty price, it was Inniskillin's pivotal role in the advancement of Canadian wine that made me choose this producer over another. Inniskillin was founded by Don Ziraldo, one of Canada's greatest publicists, and Karl Kaiser, a highly respected oenologist. Hugh Johnson explains in the World Wine Atlas: "Their real break has been the discovery that Ice-Wine comes naturally to them. In 1991 Inniskillin’s Vidal Icewine won a Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. Now almost every winery makes Icewine – the best of astounding luscious freshness.” Pair this golden, sweet treat with some Créme Brulée to experience lust in food and wine form.

6. Castello di Brolio by Barone Ricasoli - Vin Santo del Chianti Classico - Tuscany, Italy 2004 - $52 (375ml)
Vin Santo is a red or white passito wine that may be sweet, semisweet, or dry. This particular treat by Baron Ricasoli is sweet, and makes for a great pairing to any nutty dessert. Or, for a little less sugar, try it with an almond biscotti. Barone Ricasoli explains, "According to Family Business, the leading American magazine that deals with the world classification of family businesses, Barone Ricasoli is the fourth longest-lived company in the world and the second in the wine sector.Barone Ricasoli is therefore the oldest winery in Italy." Whatever the case, they make a delicious Vin Santo for you and your special someone to enjoy on heart day.

7. M. Chapoutier - Banyuls - Languedoc-Roussillion, France 2007 - $27 (5ooml)
When I think poached pears, I think Banyuls. Banyuls AOC (quality French wine region) is the most southerly appellation in France. It is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, which produces fortified sweet wines, locally called Vin Doux Natural. While Vin Doux Natural translates to "Naturally Sweet," it is truly anything but. These wines are produced in a fashion that resembles port - a spirit is added to arrest fermentation. What you are left with is a sweet, high-alcohol wine. M. Chapoutier uses eco-friendly winemaking techniques and produces a killer Banyuls for the price. You, a bottle of Banyuls, a poached pear dessert, and Barry White. Oh yeah, and your significant other...better get two bottles.

8. Blandy's - 5-Year-Old Alvada - Madeira, Portugal NV - $15 (500ml)
When most people think pecan pie, they think Thanksgiving. I think Blandy's Alvada Madeira. This wine, as it's name implies, comes from the Portuguese island of Madeira. What makes it so special is the way in which it's produced. The wine is deliberately heated to replicate the accidental maderization that occurred at equatorial temperature during the voyages of old. Blandy's is a fine producer for the price. The Blandy's flavor profile could be described as liquid pecan pie. No wonder the pairing is so good: I'll take a slice of pecan pie with a side of pecan pie in a glass, please!

9. Emilio Lustau - 'East India Solera' Sherry - Jerez, Spain NV - $23
I've heard it too often: "I hate Sherry." But most don't know that there are two distinctly different styles of Sherry. Dry Fino style Sherry could be equated to drinking seawater. But the sweet Oloroso style is delicious and rich, and makes for a great pairing to chocolate. Like Port, Sherry is fortified. But unlike Port, the spirit is added at the end of fermentation. Emilio Lustau is arguably one of the country's most notable producers and makes a range of products. For the price, I'm a big fan of the East India Solera, which is full of nutty toffee and caramel characteristics. So here's a V-Day plan: Open the box of chocolates, bite into each one and set the toffee ones aside to enjoy with this Sherry.

10. Fonseca - Bin No. 27 Finest Reserve Port - Douro, Portugal NV - $19
Last but not least we have a delectable bottle of Port. According to Fonseca, "The Bin No. 27 was created over a century ago for family consumption, and only released commercially in 1972. Blended from reserve wines selected for their intense fruit character and depth of color, Fonseca Bin No. 27 spends four years in large wood vats prior to bottling. Although it may improve slightly with bottle age, Bin No. 27 is ready to consume when bottled. It does not require decanting, as a cold precipitation prior to bottling prevents any 'crust' from forming." What I like about this one is value for the price. That and it's a great pairing for stinky cheeses and chocolate, especially dark chocolate. I can't promise you a night of passion with your significant other, but crack open a bottle of Fonseca, serve up a plate of dark chocolate treats, and I promise you'll be head over heels.

No matter who your sweetie is, you're sure to find a wine to make your Valentine's Day special. Skip buying one of the over eight billion cliche candy hearts that are produced each year; a bottle of wine with a beautiful bouquet are sure to impress. And if there's no sweetie for you this year, just think of it as more for you.

For more information about me, more fun and interesting wine information, and for delicious food and wine pairings, check us out online at Cru Wine Online. Our very own chefs from across the country have created original recipes just for you, and each day we pair them with the perfect wine and a little humor to bring you an entertaining video short.

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Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director


Nicolas said...


the other "Nicolas" here, general manager and winemaker at Pacific Rim. Never fear, Randall does not own Pacific Rim anymore but the Mariani familiy are serious wine folks. Our team is staying in place, so no changes in the winemaking team.

Cru Wine Specialists said...

I am really looking forward to our podcast interview coming up on Friday, February 25th. To hear this log on to Podcasts are available for members only. Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

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