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Valentine's Day Advice: Bubbly!

Robert Whitley on

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, getting it "right" is top of mind for many. A box of chocolates would be nice, though flowers might be better. As the big day draws near, and you are overtaken by a sense of doom, I have a bit of advice. Don't panic. There is one gift that is sure to win the day: a bottle of nice bubbly!

There is an ocean of fine sparkling wine to choose from, but I have narrowed it down to five favorites over a range of prices.

Prosecco, for example, is the fastest-growing segment of the sparkling wine market. This frothy bubbly from northern Italy is a delicious celebration in a glass and even the best proseccos are relatively inexpensive. The prosecco region has upped its game in recent years as it has shifted more production to the drier brut style. Caposaldo ($15.99) is currently on a roll and recently earned a platinum award and best prosecco title at the Winemaker Challenge in San Diego.

California's Gloria Ferrer is another sparkling wine producer on something of a roll. At the same Winemaker Challenge, Gloria Ferrer entered four bubblies and took gold or better with each one. Most impressive was its Sonoma Brut ($22), which earned a platinum medal. This is an elegant yet inexpensive bubbly that delivers creaminess, exceptional finesse and impressive complexity, with a subtle touch of brioche on the finish.

Another California producer, Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, offers one of the most consistently satisfying rose sparklers this side of Champagne, the delicious and affordable Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rose ($37). With a gorgeous mousse and aromas of red berries, this is a stylish brut rose that never disappoints.

Champagne, of course, is the epitome of all sparkling wines, and the house of Bruno Paillard is the epitome of elegance in Champagne. Bruno's non-vintage Rose Primiere Cuvee ($59) is a stunning rose Champagne, primarily pinot noir based with a splash of chardonnay. Elegant, but with remarkable power and depth, it is an exquisite option for dinner, pairing beautifully with roasted game birds or grilled salmon. The price, compared to other Champagne of comparable quality, is as stunning as the wine.

It's only a small step up to vintage Champagne at reasonable price if you go for the readily available Moet & Chandon 2009 Grand Vintage Brut ($65). Moet's 2009 at 10 years of age shows uncommon freshness and richness, with notes of brioche and baked apple, a hint of citrus and outstanding length, with an exquisite finish. You won't find a better deal in vintage Champagne anywhere.

Best Value

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.

 

La Valentina 2017 Pecorino, Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT, Italy ($16) -- Though this obscure Italian white-grape variety is fermented in stainless steel tanks, it offers a distinct note of nuts and spice along with aromas of peach and apple. Fresh and clean on the palate, it finishes with a lingering spice note. Outstanding for the price. Rating: 90.

Morgan 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey ($18) -- Morgan's sauvignon is made in the manner of Bordeaux blanc, with aging in French oak barrels that imparts a level of complexity and spice that is missing in many California sauvignons. This vintage shows aromas of white peach and tropical fruits with a touch of vanilla on the finish. Rating: 90.

Tasting Notes

Tablas Creek 2016 Esprit de Tablas, Adelaida District ($60) -- It's an ongoing mystery that domestic red Rhone-style blends are not more popular, particularly given the remarkable success of Tablas Creek. The Paso Robles winery has an impressive track record with the Rhone grapes, i.e., syrah, grenache, mourvedre, etc. The epitome of each vintage for Tablas is typically its Espirit de Tables blend, and the 2016 is a beauty. This vintage is heavy on the mourvedre (46 percent) with syrah, grenache and counoise in support roles. This brilliant wine exhibits exceptional fruit purity with notes of sweet red currant, plum and spice. A gentle savory note adds complexity. Ready to drink now but built to last, I wouldn't hesitate to cellar this wine another five to eight years. Rating: 95.

Siduri 2016 Pinot Noir, John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills ($55) -- The beauty of the wines from the Sta. Rita Hills is the concentration of aroma, and the complexity that is inherent on cool-climate vineyards that allow for long hang time and maximum flavor development. Siduri's 2016 from the John Sebastiano Vineyard is a meaty wine that offers complex savory and sweet fruit aromas, particularly cherry, raspberry and strawberry. On the palate, the wine displays impressive weight without sacrificing its elegance, and the finish has exceptional length, with a spice note that begs another sip. Rating: 92.

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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 www.creators.com. Email Robert at whitleyonwine@yahoo.com.

 

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