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Dave DeSimone

The Wine Cellar: Don't overlook these wines for a meal with your sweetie

Dave DeSimone
| Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

If you're dining out on Valentine's Day, revel in the excitement and bustle of the crowds.

If you and your sweetie celebrate by dining in, enjoying a terrific wine or two can help create a little excitement of your own.

Set the tone perfectly with sparkling rosé. The beguiling pink color creates a festive mood, while the frothy bubbles quickly engage the senses while melting away any lingering distractions.

Try NV Château du Petit Thouars Crémant Brut Rosé, France (Luxury 46316; $19.99). Winemaker Sébastien du Petit Thouars relies on cabernet Franc fruit harvested from fully mature vines planted in 1975 by his parents, Yves and Marguerite. The sunny, but relatively cool, climate and the local “tuffeau” limestone enable the grapes to ripen with juicy fruit balanced by refreshing acidity and elegant tannins.

This delightful sparkling rosé's deep-salmon color, laced with persistent beads of fine bubbles, offers enticing floral and berry notes with light, yeasty accents. Frothy berry flavors layer seamlessly through the dry, elegant finish. Highly recommended.

No red surpasses the 2012 J.L. Chave Sélection Côtes du Rhône “Mon Coeur,” France (Luxury 48097; $21.99) for combining sheer pleasure, quality and value. Winemaker, Jean-Louis Chave lives and operates out of the decidedly unpretentious village of Mauves in the northern Rhône Valley. He carries on a centuries-old family tradition of growing syrah on estate vineyards.

For this terrific wine, however, Chave set up long-standing contracts to purchase fruit from southern Rhône vignerons who share his quest for producing outstanding quality. The fruit comes from ancient villages, such as Rasteau, Cairanne and Vinsobres, where grenache, syrah and mourvèdre vines have held sway since the Roman era. Chave named the wine Mon Coeur — My Heart — reflecting his passion for creating an easy-drinking, but reliably outstanding wine at a marvelous price.

Chave's trademark of beautiful balance shines through. The dark color unfolds spicy black-fruit aromas with smoky, earthy nuances. Juicy, delicious black-fruit flavors open with a touch of sweet black licorice. Elegant, firm tannins and ample, fresh acidity provide backbone.

Pair the wine with grilled classic steak au poivre — pan-seared ribeye steak, encrusted with crushed black peppercorns — and serve with a sauce of French mustard, shallots, demi-glace, cream and cognac. Highly recommended.

Moving to dessert, the delightful Les Vignobles de Constance et du Terrassous Rivesaltes Vin Doux Natural “Ambré Hors d' Âge 6 Years,” France (Luxury 45104; $24.99) comes from grenache blanc grapes grown in France's Roussillon region. This section of French Catalonia embodies a grape-growing paradise. Cool nights follow hot, sunny days. Diverse, stony soils create complex fruit, and persistent winds curtail molds and vine parasites common in other regions.

For this distinctive wine, perfectly ripened fruit partially ferments before the addition of neutral spirits — a process called mutage. This leaves the wine with a kiss of sweetness and alcohol of 16 percent by volume. After patiently aging for six years in large, neutral barrels, the wine emerges with a striking amber color, amazing freshness and complex aromas and flavors wrapped in richness.

Vibrant citrus and honey notes unfold in the glass. Fresh, fruit flavors of zesty citrus, honey and toffee notes balance elegantly through the off-dry finish. Pair it with cinnamon ice cream with topping. Highly recommended.

For another exotic dessert wine, try the delicious Blandy's Five Year Malmsey Madeira, Portugal (Luxury 29744; $23.99). The wine hails from the remote island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean. After carefully sorting the grape harvest, fermentation occurs in stainless steel with natural yeasts. Fortifying the wines with natural grape spirits raises the alcohol level to 19 percent. Madeira's trademark style then emerges through the traditional “Canteiro” process.

“Our wines age in American oak barrels left in the heat in our lodges at high temperatures for 5, 10, 15 and even 80 years,” says seventh-generation CEO Chris Blandy.

Slow evaporation develops tantalizing concentration. But because of Madeira's cool maritime climate and mineral-laden soils, the wine retains refreshing acidity and a distinctive tang.

This wine's ruddy color offers dried fig, vanilla and toffee aromas. Bright acidity balances the medium-sweet finish. Pair it with dried apricots, walnuts and dark chocolate. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media.

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