By Jenn Ward
Cocktails are amazing. There is literally a cocktail out there for everyone, and for every mood. Here is my list for Valentine’s, no matter when in the day you celebrate. All that being said, sometimes you just want a good, easy bottle of wine to go with whatever you are enjoying. Here are my eight picks from eight great California wineries. Each winery produces exceptional wine across their whole line, but these are my personal favorites:
This one is my favorite “every day” bubbles. Fruity and fall like on the nose, juicy and a touch nutty on the pallet, this works for everything from a straight glass to a Kir Royal, and pairs with foods ranging from creamy and rich to mild and sweet.
This is my tiny splurge bottle. With a dessert-like nose of pears and pastry and a brighter fruit flavor on the tongue, every time I sip this I’m instantly happy. Add in an extraordinary amount of bubbles, and this is a perfect special occasion bottle without being ungodly expensive.
Viogniers are lovely, often misunderstood wines. While they tend to have a bit of tart to them, this one is well balanced between its green apple pucker and its ripe stone fruit sweetness. A big fruit bouquet on the nose makes this one of those wines that you want to savor, but also have another glass.
Most folks here see riesling, and think it’s going to be so sweet that their teeth will fall out. Not the case here. The dry riesling that Trefethen puts out hints vaguely at sweet, but brings a touch of minerality to make this a great wine next to most foods, from tacos to Phở to lobster tails. A finish of bright tart makes your mouth look forward to the next sip and bite.
This is the wine that got me on the rosé train. Fruity and faintly herbaceous on the nose, strawberries, and complex tropical fruit flavors, this is a wine that wakes you up and makes you notice it. Excellent next to seafood or light desserts.
On the other end of the spectrum, this is a light, almost vegetal rosé. Young spring raspberries and early blooms in the aroma, light fruits in flavor but a luscious mouthfeel, this is another wine great next to fish.
Big, bold, raucous red blend that takes the best of the grapes in it and demands more. Lots of jammy dark fruits, hints of lavender and chocolate, this goes excellent with steak or intense desserts like chocolate pot de creme.
I blame zinfandels for my enjoyment of wine. Dark, complex, fruity, with a touch of spice, this is like curling up next to the fireplace in a glass. This one especially goes well with everything from appetizers to dessert.
No matter what wine you pick to have next to your meal, try to purchase directly from the winery. Between the fires of 2018 and 2019, and the loss of sales from restaurants and bars in 2020, wineries around our state are hurting. If you can’t buy directly from them, make friends with a small independent bottle shop near you. Often they are able to get more interesting, less available wines and spirits because they work directly with those producers, and often at prices that compete with the large alcohol retailers and supermarkets. Either way, your money stays in your community, helping support your neighbors and friends.