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Wines to Inspire Romance

After the Super Bowl, Seattle was awash in beer, Champagne corks and happy people. Something tells me the maternity wards in the Emerald City may be busting at the seams in November.


Meanwhile, Seattleites and everyone can party at the Super Bowl of Romantic Evenings on Feb. 14th. During the annual homage to love, wine is a perfect pairing.


With all the joy in Seattle, I tapped Chris Horn, beverage director at the Purple Cafés in Seattle and Bellevue for predictions on what wines would shine during Valentine’s week. But when I phoned, he postponed or chat. The Super Bowl parade had passed by the restaurant and now hungry partyers were pouring into Purple Café. Horn was busy icing down beer.


But Horn was already prepared for Valentine’s Day with his wine list for lovers.  When I saw his first wine by-the-glass pick, Buty Blanc, a white blend from Buty Winery in Walla Walla, Wash, I asked Horn if people mispronounced the name. He laughed and said, “We hear everything from “booty” to its real name, “beauty,” and more.”


A sense of humor, I added, was essential for every relationship, even with a winery.


Some names jump out for the day, proposed Horn. “We always put Napa Valley’s Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon and Washington’s Long Shadows Pedestal on the bottle list. And of course we note Arnaud Briday’s Beaujolais from Saint-Amour, France, “Domaines des Chers Vieilles Vignes.”


Back in Mudville, some of us are still in recovery from the 49ers championship loss to Seattle, but it’s time to get enthused for Valentine’s. I’ve started daydreaming about wines that expressly evoke romance.


Perhaps it was the superficial things like the lithesome shape of the bottle and sound of the name that initially attracted me to the new Eroica Gold riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen. But in reality a riesling can only capture my heart through a combination of acidity and a slight sweetness. Eroica Gold hit the mark.


But it may be time to raid my wine cooler for a lovely bottle of Coup de Foudre, a Napa Valley red blend crafted by Kent Jarman. The vintner is John Schwartz who partners with Heidi Peterson Barrett in his other wine, Amuse Bouche. The name, coup de foudre, means bolt of lightning in French. This, says Schwartz, is how he felt when he met his future wife.


Coup de Foudre label

Easily peeled off, the front label is a perfect accouterment for Valentine’s romance. The reverse side provides a fill-in-the-blanks diary of your dining experience with a place to write Who you were with, Where you were, When and Why it was special. Compared to an ephemeral Instagram shot, here is something worthy to frame, or perhaps place in a box with a special ring?


Chris Horn will stock extra sparkling for Feb. 14th, and bubbles are on my mind, too. JCB No. 69 is a no-brainer in the sassy category. But look closer into vintner Jean-Charles Boisset’s explanation, and you discover that 1969 is the year of his birth. Boisset calls No. 60, a Crémant de Brougogne Brut Rosé, “Flamboyant and sensual, a wine that entwines masculine and feminine.” I call it drinkable.




Sticking with the French, who supposedly know their wine and romance, I gravitated to a wine from Vin de France, the new we association  that exports accessible brands sourced from France. Of the several brands produced, L’original French Kiss caught my attention at their San Francisco tasting in October.


Of several L’original French Kiss bottles, I would reach for the well-rounded Chardonnay on the 14th, but to-date the wine is distributed mainly in the South. At home I have a Rosé from Southern France which looks quite alluring from Gerard Bertrand, a 2012 Pays d’Oc Gris Blanc Rosé.


But I keep circling back to sparkling and specifically Sonoma bubbles. My traditional Russian River go-to sparkler is J Winery Brut Rosé. There is something about the wine that transports me to Champagne. Maybe it’s the salmon color or the creamy texture with a brioche nose. Another point about the J is that many of my “Champagne-only” friends request a second glass.


I also enjoy Kathleen Inman’s well-balanced and food-friendly Sparkling Brut Rosé from Inman Family Wines in Russian River Valley. The story behind her Rosé of Pinot Noir also caught my eye. As the winemaker for in the family, she was in the middle of crush one year when she suddenly remembered it was her anniversary. As a nod to romance with a bit of role reversal, she named the rosé “Endless Crush” in honor of her husband.


Another happy Valentine’s tale resides across the Mayacamas Mountains in Napa. Vintner Leslie Rudd of Rudd Winery yearned to make a wine for his wife Susan. He purchased a vineyard on Mt. Veeder and planted Susan’s favorite white Bordeaux grapes there. This iconoclastic decision raised Napa eyebrows; the elevation of Mt. Veeder is normally reserved for fine reds. Rudd persevered and invited Jean-Bernard Delmas, Haut-Brion's recently retired estate manager and winemaker, to support the project. The result is Susan’s Blanc, a Semillon-based blend. And to cap off Rudd’s emotional bottling, the cork spells romance.


One might think these choices would be enough to keep me vinously satisfied for several Valentine’s Days. But wait, there’s more.


I already know and enjoy crisp and fruity Holman Ranch Pinot Gris. As I perused the online site of the Carmel Valley winery, I noticed several sassy labels: Virgin Chardonnay (unoaked) and Rosé of Pinot Noir Blushing Bride. These labels fit with the promise of romance from the tasting room and also at the Holman Ranch hacienda, guest house and event center where they host many weddings.


By chance I discovered that Chateau Julien in nearby Carmel recently launched a label called French Kiss. But after speaking with the winery, I learned they also sell a red blend called Royalty Red. With abundant room in the market for more bisous, the winery is running a full-on Valentine’s promotion pairing both wines with the tagline: "Treat them like royalty, end with a kiss."


What more can I say? Let the romance games begin.


Susan's Blanc corks


Rudd Winery photo credit: Morgan Bellinger












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