Valentine’s Day Wine Experiences

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

Valentine's Day wine line upLast week I gave you some recommendations for the wines to serve on Valentine’s Day. Now, let’s see if I followed my own recommendations.

Of course the plan was to start the evening with the Champagne – and then there was a … but. I recently got my hands (told you many times before  – I love my friends) on the very interesting sparkling wine from UK. What was the most interesting for me even before I tried the wine is that it contains one of the extremely difficult to find, rare grapes called Schönburger. As I mentioned last time regarding my quest to complete all the grapes in the original Wine Century Club application, Schönburger was one of those “last standing”, extremely difficult to find grapes – and the Carr Taylor Brut was the only wine containing Schönburger, which Wine-Searcher was able to find pretty much anywhere. In case you are curious, Schönburger is a rose grape created in 1979 in Germany as a cross of Pinot Noir, Chasselas and Muscat Hamburg, As an added bonus, the Carr Taylor Brut contained another grape I never heard of, another cross from Germany called Reichensteiner.

Okay, now that I provided a full disclosure, let’s talk about the wines. NV Carr Taylor Brut Sparkling Wine, England (12% ABV, $35) was an excellent start for the evening. Fine bubbles, very intense, very reminiscent of Champagne. Hint of toasted bread on the nose and may be a touch of almonds. The palate had all the toasted and yeasty notes, packaged together in compact but bright way – the wine had no sweetness, but nevertheless was perceived as a fuller body than a typical Champagne. I would gladly drink this wine again any time – if it would be available in US. Drinkability: 8-

Now it was the time for Champagne – Pierre Peters “Cuvée de Réserve” Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (12% ABV, $55) – very classic, a hint of brioche on the nose, and nice toasted notes on the palate. Quite honestly, after the first sparkling wine, I wanted a bit more life in the glass – this was clean and fine, but more of the usual. Drinkability: 7+

Our next wine was a white Burgundy. Considering my limited experience with Burgundy, I was concerned if 10 years old wine would hold well (all of you, Burgundy buffs, please stop laughing out there – I’m still learning), so the Valentine’s Day seemed to be quite a good occasion to find out. This 2005 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard La Romanee, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, France (13.5% ABV, $65) was outright delicious – beautiful nose of fresh apples, and then apples and honey on the palate – full bodied, supple, with perfect lingering weight in the mouth – this was really a treat. Too bad it didn’t last – but this was definitely an excellent wine. Drinkability: 8

Time for the reds, don’t you think? Remembering the pleasure of the Antica Terra Ceras Pinot Noir (here is the post in case you missed it), I wanted to try another Pinot Noir from Antica Terra – this time it was 2011 Antica Terra Botanica Pinot Noir Willamete Valley (13.2% ABV, $75). The nose was very similar to the Ceras – cranberries, touch of forest floor, lavender, bright and intense. On the palate, this wine had much bigger shoulders than Ceras. Ceras Pinot Noir need no breathing time – it was ready to drink from the moment the bottle was opened. Botanica needed a bit of time. After about 20 minutes in the glass, it showed its structure, dark concentrated fruit, touch of coffee, earthiness, all with a perfect balance, and again, finesse. Drinkability: 8

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And then there was Opus One. 2001 Opus One Napa Valley (14.2% ABV, $250). Quite honestly, when I learned that we will be opening Opus One, I was a bit concerned. Yes, this is one of the legendary California Cabernet Sauvignon wines, and yet when I tasted it before, I was not blown away. And when you are not visually excited about $250 bottle of wine, you feel that something is wrong with you, don’t you think? Bottle is opened, and wine is poured in the glass. Based on the color, the wine looks like it was bottled only yesterday – dark, very dark garnet. On the nose, the wine was somewhat muted but pleasant – touch of black fruit and eucalyptus. On the palate, the wine was simply closed – and aggressively tannic, with a touch of green brunches on the finish. Well, to the decanter, of course. After about an hour in decanter, the wine definitely changed for the better, showing touch of cassis and coffee notes on the palate – the tannins still stayed, but reduced, and the finish became spicy, peppery if you will – still not leading to the “wow” which you want to find in the bottle like that. Oh well. Drinkability: 7+

As we were waiting for Opus One to come around, another bottle was pulled out – 1996 Robert Sinskey Vineyards RSV Stag’s Leap District Claret Napa Valley  (13.9% ABV, $55). This wine amply compensated for the Opus One shortcomings – in a word, it was delicious. Perfectly young appearance in the glass was supported by the fresh fruit on the nose. And the palate had cassis, touch of mint, mocha, sweet oak, silky smooth tannins, perfectly layered and perfectly balanced. This was Napa Valley Cabernet at its peak, and it was not afraid to show it. Drinkability: 8

Logically (Valentine’s Day!) we had to finish on a sweet note. This was my first experience with Austrian dessert wine, and it was also a first experience with Kracher – I only heard the name before, but never tasted the wines. 2011 Kracher Auslese Cuvée Burgenland, Austria (12% ABV, $22) had everything you want in the dessert wine and nothing you don’t – delicious light honey notes, lychees, vibrant acidity, lemon peel – it was an outstanding way to finish the evening. Drinkability: 8

That is the story of our Valentine’s Day wine experiences. Well, I can’t leave with the wines alone – the food was delicious too, so let me at least share some pictures – I spent time working on them, you know. Here we go:

And we are done here. So, what were your Valentine’s day wine highlights? Cheers!


  1. February 19, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    The wine, the food everything looks and sounds amazing. I would be very disappointed/upset about the Opus wine. Not that every expensive bottle of wine is excellent but they should be or darn close. A great Valentines Day experience.

    • talkavino
      February 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne! Well, this is the thing with the expensive wines – price is no guarantee of enjoyment 🙂

  2. February 19, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    What a great selection of wines and the food looks outstanding. I am most intrigued by the NV Carr Taylor Brut; sounds delicious. I too have been disappointed by Opus One, not because it was not good but because it did not blow me away. I prefer Joseph Phelps Insignia for an iconic Napa cuvee. I think I would like to spend next Valentine’s Day with you and your friends!

    • talkavino
      February 20, 2015 at 8:00 am

      Thank you, Michelle. Consider yourself invited for the next year’s celebration – come on over!

  3. February 19, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    The food looks very delicious, Anatoli!
    I’d love to try a sparkling wine from England. They are hard to come by here in Munich and it sounds quite nice.

    Sorry to hear that Opus One was not as good as hoped. I rarely find satisfaction in these very pricy wines like Caberlot, Opus One and Sassicaia. They are good but usually don’t meet my exceptions.

    If you want to dive into the world of Austria dessert wines then I can recommend Eiswein from both Welschriesling and Zweigelt. Very interesting expression of Eiswein – especially if its a Zweigelt Eiswein. Cheers!

    • talkavino
      February 20, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Thanks, Julian! The only reason I was able to taste Carr Taylor is because I have a good friend who lives in UK and visits US from time to time – there are no UK sparklers in US stores.
      I think the problem with the wines like Opus One is that they are rarely made to be consumed right away – and you never know when they will hit the right spot. However, I would like to take an exception on Caberlot – in the last few years I was able to taste 5 or 6 different vintages and I loved them all – didn’tyet have a Caberlot I wouldn’t enjoy… And thank you for the dessert wine recommendations – Zweigelt Icewine sounds very intriguing!

  4. February 20, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Great food and wine pairings (and delicious photos!). A perfect day! Looking forward to trying some new wines. 🙂

    • talkavino
      February 20, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Thanks, Shana – we definitely had fun!

  5. February 20, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    What a wonderful feast, you guys!!! I am still bummed that I missed it!!!
    Loved to read about it though – particularly about the wines. Sounds awesome, although I am surprised about the Opus One: 14 years of aging and it still was so aggressively tannic? Wow. Sorry it did not shine as you were expecting. I would have still loved having a glass with you guys, though! 😉
    Take care my friend – see you tomorrow!

    • talkavino
      February 20, 2015 at 11:33 pm

      Thanks, Stefano! Well, there is always next opportunity 🙂 And yes, looking forward to your “experiment”!

  6. February 20, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    How fabulous Anatoli… a food and wine extravaganza! 🙂

    • talkavino
      February 20, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      Thanks, Margot! It was a great evening in the great company 🙂

  7. February 23, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    You make most of look bad, with your choices for one evening. What a great romancer you are. A beautiful evening.

  8. January 29, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    The wine and food- OMG! Amazing!

    • January 29, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you, Shanna. Will see what we will do this year…

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