Valentine’s Day presents a unique opportunity for wine lovers. Although there are many excellent options for a Valentine’s wine, there is one slam dunk. And that would be bubbly. Throughout its many iterations—Champagne, cava, Prosecco, crémant, domestic sparkling, etc.—bubbly brings the sparkle to the party.
That isn’t to say you couldn’t swing and miss with a mediocre bubbly, but superb sparkling wines are abundant. There is no good reason to strike out. These five, across a broad range of price points, are sure to carry the day.
I begin with one of my favorite Champagnes, the Bruno Paillard Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, France, $70. This boutique Champagne house sets a very high bar, producing some of the most elegant and stunning Champagnes in the region. At one time, Paillard was the house Champagne at Joel Robuchon’s Michelin-starred L’Atelier restaurant in Paris. You will not be disappointed.
For those who fancy a Champagne to pair with chocolate (not what I would recommend but a popular Valentine’s Day pairing nonetheless), the J Vineyards Brut Rosé, $45, delivers the bright raspberry aroma and strawberry note that can make this match work. It’s also one of the finest brut rosé bubblies made in the United States and beautiful to sip on its own.
Domestic sparkling wines are often compared to Champagne and sometimes found wanting. Not so with the Domaine Carneros by Taittinger 2014 Vintage Brut, $36. Eileen Crane has been making stylish sparkling wines at Domaine Carneros for a few decades now, and she has it nailed. The 2014 brut shows notes of citrus and brioche, with a fine mousse and impressive length on the palate. It’s beautifully done, and a great price, too.
If your preference in bubbly runs toward Prosecco, one of the finest is the Caposaldo Brut Prosecco DOC, Italy, $16. Beautifully balanced, with an exquisite combination of richness and structure, this is a Prosecco to remember. And buy!
Finally, I would suggest the Marqués de Cáceres Brut Cava, Spain, $13, as my best value in crowd-pleasing sparkling wine for that Valentine’s party. No need to take out a second mortgage to throw a great Valentine’s Day bash!
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
William Hill 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($50): The past few vintages from William Hill have been nothing short of stunning, and the 2016 is no exception. What makes this even more impressive is the price. Though certainly not cheap at $50, the William Hill cabernet is considerably below market when it comes to Napa Valley cabernet of this quality. The 2016 is richly layered, showing aromas of cassis and blackberry with nuances of cedar, graphite, and oak vanillin. In other words, it’s a classic Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Rating: 96.
Oak Farm Vineyards 2018 Malbec, Estate, Lodi ($35): The Lodi region east of Napa continues to evolve in a good way, and Oak Farm Vineyards is fast becoming one of the district’s shining stars. The warm climate has long produced red wines that offer richness, but lately, it has been safe to ascribe elegance to the wines. This beautifully structured malbec from Oak Farm is a good example of the potential of Lodi. With a slightly floral nose, this wine is seductive start to finish, showing ripe aromas of blackberry and boysenberry, a hint of mocha, and a generous dose of wood spice. It was a platinum award-winner at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition in San Diego. Rating: 95.
Hawk and Horse 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Block Three, Red Hills ($50): Winemaker Mitch Hawkins is producing some of the finest cabernet sauvignon ever made in Lake County, in the hills northeast of California’s Napa Valley. His 2016 Block Three is yet another stunning cab, on par with those of more famous wineries in neighboring Napa. This vintage is rich and dense, with aromas of blackberry and spice, a note of graphite, and beautifully integrated tannins. It won a platinum award at the 2020 San Diego winemaker challenge. Rating: 96.
J. Lohr 2017 Pure Paso, Paso Robles ($27): When J. Lohr is firing on all cylinders, it usually means there is exceptional value in the offing. So true with this 2017 Pure Paso blend of cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, and merlot. It’s rich and dense, with impressive length on the palate. Pure Paso delivers a complex array of red and black fruits, a healthy dose of wood spice and smooth, supple tannins. It’s pure deliciousness! And a platinum award-winner at the San Diego winemaker challenge. Rating: 94.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Email Robert at email@example.com. Copyright 2021 Creators.com