9 Ways To Woo Your Special Oenophile
Master sommelier (and closet romantic) Chuck Furuya shares his wine picks for Valentine’s Day.
Photo: Steve Czerniak
With Valentine’s Day in two weeks, it’s never too early to grab a special bottle of wine for that special oenophile in your life. We asked master sommelier Chuck Furuya of Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar to suggest a few vints perfect for romance.
Prosecco, Gregoletto “Sui Lieviti” (roughly $26 a bottle)
Italian prosecco has really caught on across the country, that’s for sure. How can one not love the tastiness, the lightness on the palate, the flirtatious bubbles and the reasonable pricing? Because of this category’s meteoric growth in popularity, there is now a whole slew of different bottlings popping up on store shelves. A word of caution: Beware of buying based upon price and pretty, eye-catching packaging. To show you what prosecco can be, in terms of profile and quality, this is an inspiring, authentic rendition. This family-owned estate has been voted as SLO Foods Winery of the Year, which speaks loudly of its heritage vines and real sustainable approach to both grape growing and winemaking. It may be somewhat challenging to find a bottle, but it is certainly worth the search.
Sparkling Rosé, MauiWine “Lokelani” (roughly $25 a bottle)
For this wine, we strongly suggest supporting local. MauiWine owner Paula Hegele is an incredibly energetic dynamo, whose passion and drive for this nearly impossible task has persevered for more than 42 years. One of my co-workers at Vino felt, after an earlier visit to ‘Ulupalakua this year, very strongly about us serving this very pretty, delicious, wonderfully pink bubbly by the glass. She insisted it was the right thing to do. Hopefully, you will too.
Brut, J. Lassalle “Cuvée Préférence” Premier Cru (roughly $42 a bottle)
This small, family-owned domaine is today run by three generations of women. They own and farm their vineyards and make and bottle their wines. We love how elegant, divinely sheer and nuanced their Champagnes are and with such tiny, titillating bubbles. The price is a real bargain, when one considers what is captured in each bottle, all done with such loving, nurturing care.
2015 Moschofilero, Domaine Skouras (roughly $18 a bottle)
Moschofilero is an indigenous grape variety to Greece. We highly recommend it, especially for Valentine’s Day, because of its enticing perfume and lush, somewhat tropical mouthfeel. These kinds of wonderfully aromatic, crisp white wines can really enhance foods at the dinner table, just as fresh herbs do. In addition, this wine way over delivers quality for the dollar.
2014 Scheurebe, Hans Wirsching “Estate” (roughly $20 a bottle)
Here is another stellar example of a wonderfully aromatic, remarkably light and crisp white wine for the dinner table and for a myriad of foods it will work with. This one comes from Franconia, Germany, where this family has been toiling in their vineyards and winery for 14 generations and still are so highly revered for their work and expertise. Just so you better understand the value this wine offers, get a few friends together and sample this wine along with a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, an Italian pinot grigio or any other white wine in the same price range, for that matter. I think then you will better appreciate this wine and what it offers and become a fan forever.
2016 Beaujolais Villages Rosé, Château Thivin (roughly $19 a bottle)
Pink wines are definitely in. And pink is the chosen color for this day for most. This is the one we have chosen to represent the category. This highly revered domaine has perennially produced some of the very top red wines out of the region since 1877. The matriarch was, in fact, featured in an early-on Saveur magazine piece because of her stellar wines and her mastery in the home kitchen. I have been carrying her red wine since the early 1990s after having visited the winery. It was, however, beginning with the 2010 vintage that I felt the family really got in the groove with their rosé. And, remarkably, this bottling seems to get better and better with each subsequent vintage since. The 2016 is amazingly pretty, ethereal and wonderfully delicious—a perfect wine to share with a loved one.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, CF Wines “Santa Barbara” (roughly $19 a bottle)
In today’s world, it is quite the challenge to find a really good Californian cabernet for under $20 a bottle. Here is one, and something done with a very different approach. The grapes mainly come from Stallion Vineyard, an organically farmed site right outside of the Happy Canyon appellation with 5 percent of the merlot coming from the iconic Bien Nacido Vineyard farther north. The wine is then crafted by world-class pinot noir master Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, resulting in a rendition much more elegant, suave, refined, classy, well textured and thankfully un-heavy. Furthermore, it certainly delivers the quality, especially for the dollar.
Vin du Bugey-Cerdon, Patrick Bottex “La Cueille” (roughly $22 a bottle)
I would venture to say the name of this wine would turn off most wine drinkers. What does it all mean? I would suggest, however, if you are looking for a wine to end the meal and/or the evening, this is that wine. To make it more understandable, let’s just say it would be like ending the meal with a sorbet—something refreshing, very uplifting and fizzy. Just so you remember, this wine comes from the Bugey appellation in the foothills of the French Alps at high altitudes. It is truly one-of-a-kind wine, produced from two red grape varieties, hence the dark pink color. I love watching peoples’ faces when they end the meal with a sip of Italian moscato d’asti or, now, with this wine. They always smile in a joyous way.
2015 Banyuls, Domaine La Tour Vieille “Rimage” (roughly $26 for a 500ml bottle)
This is yet another wine to end the evening with. It is rich, sun-kissed sweet, lush, velvety and so smooth. We love it served well chilled, just as they do in the region. I would also suggest you have it with chocolate desserts or even foie gras specialties. Banyuls is a small wine appellation in southwest France, near where the Pyranees Mountains dive into the Mediterranean on the French/Spanish border. Grown on wind-pounded, steep, rocky hillsides, the vines eke out some pretty unique juice, which this couple fortifies to stop the fermentation and at the same time capture its true magic. This also is one of those very special and unique wines of the world, meant to be enjoyed.