A romantic bottle of Château Calon Ségur sets the mood.By Elin McCoy
If you're shopping for the perfect bottle of wine for Valentine's Day, we've got a trio of luscious red varieties that will win your lover's heart, listed here from priciest to more affordable.
2004 Château Calon Ségur
Region: Bordeaux, France
Grape: 60 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet franc
Serve it with: Duck, roast lamb
If you want a wine on the candlelit table that will trumpet your affection, this Bordeaux with a big heart on its label can't be beat. The 2004 Calon Ségur is medium weight, succulent and elegant, with sweet currant and earth flavors and plenty of fruit aromas. A delicious classic that's ready to drink right now, it's also a serious wine that will age well, which makes it a fitting symbol for long-lasting love.
The château, with extensive gardens and a vineyard mostly enclosed by stone walls, lies in the appellation of Saint-Estèphe in the northern part of the Médoc region on Bordeaux's Left Bank. Saint-Estèphe once had the reputation of producing brooding, rustic, tannic wines. But in recent years many producers have been trying to make a more supple, approachable style of wine, and have been increasing the percentage of Merlot in the blends. The formidable Madame Denise Capbern-Gasqueton, who presides over Calon Ségur, preserves a traditional style of winemaking that's hardly high-tech, but the wines are sophisticated, with a wonderful purity of fruit.
Because 2004 was not a year that got a lot of buzz, this wine, like others from the vintage, is a good value for money -- it costs about half the price of the powerful Calon Ségurs from 2000, 2005 and 2009.
In China and Japan, giving this wine is a romantic gesture, no matter the day of the year. For a grand finale, enjoy the last glass with a bite of dark, not-too-sweet artisanal chocolate.
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Looking for the perfect dishes to include in a romantic Valentine's dinner date?
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2008 Lasseter Family Winery Amoureux Malbec Red Blend
Region: Sonoma Valley, California
Grape: 66 percent Malbec, 26 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Merlot, 3 percent Cabernet Franc
Alcohol: 14.7 percent
Serve it with: Beef, lamb or veal stew
Another great Valentine's Day pick is the rich, full, velvety red blend 2008 Lasseter Family Winery Amoureux from Sonoma. What could be more in keeping with the day's romantic sentiments than a wine whose French name means lovers and whose label features a bee sipping nectar from a red rosebud? Its backstory has an appropriate dose of romance too.
The wine's bold blend includes about two-third Malbec, a fair amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, and small dashes of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Hollywood couple John and Nancy Lasseter, who bought their estate on the outskirts of town of Glen Ellen a decade ago, say they selected the wine's name because they first discovered and fell in love with Malbec while honeymooning in Northern California wine country.
If the Malbecs you've tasted have mostly come from Argentina, be prepared for a different kind of style. To me, Argentine examples are often just big and red, with bland, smooth-fruit flavors, but not much character. Most of the single varietal California Malbecs I've sampled don't have much complexity.
Amoureux is much more interesting, with spice and raspberry aromas from the Cabernet Franc, some structure and tannin from the Cabernet Sauvignon, and a seductive plush texture partly from the Merlot. Like the 27-acre estate's other wines -- I'm also a fan of the Enjoué Rose -- it's more Old World than New.
2009 Veramonte Reserva Pinot Noir
Region: Casablanca Valley, Chile
Grape: 100 percent Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 14 percent
Serve it with: salmon, tuna, veal stew
It's hard to find a good cheap Pinot Noir. Most under-$20 examples are just light but dull reds or over-charged fruity plonk -- either way, they lack the seductive style that makes the classic grape of Burgundy so appealing.
That's why the 2009 Veramonte Reserva Pinot Noir grabbed my attention. Tart, fresh and succulent, with a balance of scented aromas, soft fruit and silky texture, this is a drink-me-now bottle that could be mistaken for a top-class bourgogne rouge.
Chile isn't the first region that pops into mind when the subject of Pinot Noir comes up. Some 20 years ago, Veramonte pioneered the country's cool Casablanca Valley area, which is warmer than New Zealand's major districts but cooler than most of California's Pinot spots. Clearly, they were on the right track.
This isn't a wine you study, it's one you drink with pleasure, preferably on the cool side from large goblets. Grilled salmon fillets, tuna steaks, roast chicken, veal stew and soft aromatic cheeses are all perfect partners for this food-friendly red.
You don't have to study the price tag either. For the cost of a fancy oh-so-precious label from Burgundy's Cote D'Or, you can get half a dozen bottles of this screw-topped bargain for your wine rack, and feel smug when you swirl a glass.