- Valentine's Day
Make This Valentine’s Day One to Remember with These Exceptional Wines and Restaurants
Nothing screams cheesy quite like a heart-shaped pizza and pasta dish at restaurants decked out in pink and red streamers and balloons on Valentine’s Day. And it doesn’t get more cliché than scarfing it down with a bottle of Champagne. Bubbles are festive, but aren’t you tired of spending the holiday of love and romance the same way every year?
Valentine’s Day should be an authentic celebration of the love and joy shared between two people, and there are plenty of ways to convey this without reaching for that same old yellow-label Champagne or eating from last year’s prix-fixe menu.
“Cultivating an experience where both people are discovering something new together is a great way to spend the holiday,” says Samantha Hohl, a sommelier in Boston.
“Getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new, whether it’s food or wine, is a fun way to get close to your person. I always like to find a place where my partner and I can sit down and go on an adventure together,” Hohl continues.
The key to success on Valentine’s Day is opting for off-the-beaten-path restaurants with wine lists as exciting and extensive as dinner menus — otherwise, spend the evening at the restaurant with a thoughtfully curated wine list and take it from there. Look for farm-to-table establishments, where dishes are created with local delicacies and intention, or restaurants that focus on small plates for sharing with a partner. Restaurants with serious wine programs that offer wine-pairing menus can provide an enchanting date night experience by giving dinner guests a chance to experience a journey through the glass and on the plate.
“My husband and I like to go to restaurants with wine pairings with their tasting menus, like Le Cirque, inside the Bellagio Hotel,” says Las Vegas sommelier Maria Valetta. “It’s a very classy restaurant, but it’s not stuffy. The sommeliers there are so knowledgeable and entertaining, and they always have great stories about the pairings for each course. To have that special wine with every dish — like pairing foie gras with Sauternes — is an exciting and mind-blowing experience to share with a partner.”
And never underestimate the power of simplicity.
“Alcove in Boston” is a really fun restaurant with an awesome wine list separated by different adjectives. The food program is straightforward and focused on New England coastal dishes, but the wine list is so fun and approachable. You can order wines under categories like ‘crisp and refreshing,’ ‘mineral driven,’ or ‘advanced textures,’” says Hohl.
Of course, restaurants are always necessary to enjoy an evening of romance. Sometimes all you need is your favorite takeout and the cozy comforts of home to set the mood, and wine can undoubtedly come in handy for those intimate moments too.
“Opening up a bottle that you love and sharing it with someone you care about can make for an extraordinary moment and celebration of love,” says Grace Hood, a sommelier in San Diego. “Your whole mood changes after you open a special bottle. It sets a nice mood, an elevated ambiance that can really play up the romance.”
Hood adds, “Not to mention, wine makes a great gift.”
Valetta recommends looking for bottles that can amplify the loving theme of Valentine’s Day, like the vibrant and thirst-quenching “Love You Bunches'' carbonic Sangiovese by Santa Barbara winery Stolpman Vineyards or Jean-Louis Chave’s fruit-forward and peppery ‘Mon Coeur’ Côtes du Rhône, which translates to “my heart.” Want to go the expensive route? Château Calon Ségur makes one of the most recognizable bottles of Bordeaux with a heart-shaped label. However, more affordable options help crank up the heat, too, like Slow Down Wines’ Lovehammer Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
Another fun option could be Gerard Bertrand’s Cote du Roses Rosé, which comes in a beautiful bottle with a rose design. “I would love for someone to show up at my door with five of those bottles turned upside down and wrapped with a bow like a rosé bouquet,” says Valetta.
“Playing around with different wines and looking for bottles with a special meaning or name that centers on love, joy, and companionship could make for a unique Valentine’s Day wine lineup,” Valetta continues.
For more helpful wine tips and recommendations download the CorkRules app and keep up with the CorkRules Sommeliers on Instagram: Maria Valetta @mariathewineblond, Grace Hood @wines_with_grace, Grant Wood @decant_with_grant, Alexis Rogers @alexiphanic, Samantha Hohl @sam__hohl