Feb 9, 201212:32 PM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

The Vagaries of Valentine's Day

Image courtesy of greenchild, stock.xchng, 2006

Don’t put yourself in a negative relationship posture entering the height of the Carnival season. If you are like me, you can find plenty of ways to disappoint and annoy the one you love. I know, it’s not supposed to work that way, but there you are. It does.

During the course of a year, there are plenty of opportunities to screw up (technical term). Birthdays, anniversaries, special events, holidays, and moments lost when some suitable remembrance is a proper recognition or response, all have the capability of being wonderful times, bringing you and your love closer together. Or they can go the other way. Don’t ask me why.

Coming up next week is Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, Feb. 14, and you can tell yourself all day long that it is a contrived holiday foisted on Western culture by greeting card manufacturers, eager to again line their pockets after a profitable holiday season. If you buy into that rationale, you are already one foot down the road to unhappiness, usually accompanied by a total lack of peace or physical contact. You won’t get to choose one. You’ll experience all of it.

The holiday can be especially tough when you don’t have a special someone at the moment, but that does not mean you have to suffer, even a little bit. Surely you yourself deserve good times and pleasure. You deserve to know how special you are. You deserve beverages that will make you happy just to be alive.

And keep in mind, all of you, that while the rest of America thinks they are special just because they heeded the notices contained in newspaper inserts produced by drug store chains, we here in New Orleans are involved in the Carnival Season. One week after Valentine’s Day is Mardi Gras. Tell me that ain’t cool. Then tell me using the term “cool” isn’t cool. Okay, I got it.

Here are few carefully chosen and researched ideas for adult beverages (yes, once again I have made the grand sacrifice and done the heavy lifting for you) to be enjoyed with the one who makes your life whole, which can, in some cases, be you. We won’t comment further.

Champagne

At the risk of being obvious, this has to be the adult beverage at the top of the meant-to-impress list. Has there ever been a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine opened that was not special? Didn’t think so.

You may choose to go all the way with Perrier-Jouet, Roederer or Taittinger, truly wonderful wines from France’s Champagne region. Not only are these absolutely yummy (another technical term), but the mere fact that they cost considerably more than just about any beverage on this list should gain you some important points with your chosen partner.  

There are always nice alternatives, however, and those would be sparkling wines from California. These top-of-the-line products are quite tasty and are not at the price of true Champagne. Some of these sparkling wines are made at outposts of Champagne houses, so they have unique insights into how to make a special wine. Domaine Carneros from Taittinger, Roederer Estate from Roederer, Chandon from Moët & Chandon all are excellent choices.

At an even lower end of the price scale, but not a bad rating on the taste scale, are the cavas from Spain and proseccos from Italy. Carefully selected, these wines can provide a nice drinking experience, and also may be used as the base for a quality cocktail. When you do approach these lower-priced sparklers, stay with the brut designation, unless you seek out sweet results on your palate.

White Wine

There are some special wines out there that maybe you would not think about in other circumstances. Most of us have a default wine that always does a good job.

On this occasion, stretch out. Look around for something that you would not otherwise pick up. Who knows? Maybe you will find something new that will become your new, favorite “romance” wine.

Check out the albariño wines from Rias Baixas in northwestern Spain. Nora, about $17, is an excellent choice, as is Martin Codax, $15.

I just had a wonderful marsanne from Bello in Napa Valley. Marsanne is French, a northern Rhone grape usually used in blending, particularly around the area of Hermitage. It’s bright fruit and acidity make it a great match with cold seafood, like ceviche or fresh shrimp. It's a bit pricey at $35 a bottle, and there may be others that are just a tad less expensive. This one is worth it, however.

Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape, made a big splash around these parts a few years ago, and then seems to have died out. The wine did not change and I’m guessing that just a few folks purchased the wines because most consumers were not familiar with this seductive grape. There is a delightful wine, Grooner, attractively priced and offering a lot of pleasure.

Possibly you don’t think you like sauvignon blanc, because you find them too forward, way too spicy and oddly scented. Check out the wines from the Loire Valley in France, particularly around the town of Sancerre. They will have you rethinking your attitude towards this grape. The sauvignon blancs from Sancerre are subtle, elegant and very hard to keep from gulping down. Chateau de Sancerre is a solid choice, usually about $22.

Red Wine

Ah, yes, red is the color of love. But for this special day, maybe you’ll want to dial back a bit on the huge, black fruit bombs, loaded with alcohol and tannins, which are probably not going to be ready to drink for a number of years, if ever.

Approach something more elegant, a bit more subtle, with some softness and velvet. C’mon, I’m talking about the wine here. Not your soul mate or the appropriate clothing for Valentine’s night.

Pinot noir immediately springs to mind, and not those syrah-like heavy wines that say pinot noir on the label but are leather in disguise. See, there you go again.

If you must drink a pinot noir from the United States, try something from Santa Barbara, California or maybe the Willamette Valley in Oregon. These cherry-colored-and-tasting wines bring the fruit to the party, and also allow the acidity of this fickle grape to peek through.

But why don’t you really switch gears and uncork pinot noir from Burgundy, France? The wines from the Nuits-Saint-Georges region present the beauty of this grape in a powerful package. Yes, you can see through the wine to the bottom of the glass, but it’s a beautiful garnet hue, delivering something strong and wonderful, not wimpy.  

Along those same profile lines are the barolos from northern Italy. These wines derive from the nebbiolo grape, and are a particular expression of the grape when grown around the town of Barolo. The wines are approachable, have power and are ripe and juicy, reflective of Italian styles and bouquets. The labels can be confusing; however the name of the wine, barolo, is always prominently displayed.

Rosé wines are just about ideal for Valentine’s Day. Dispel all notions about quality rosés, such as that they are sweet and flabby. Rosé today is one of the “hottest” categories of fine wine, and they are gaining new supporters every day just because they are such pleasant, structured, full-bodied wines. Big boys, and wines, don’t shy away from pink.

Rosé can be made from a wide variety of red grapes, notably syrah, pinot noir, grenache and carignan. The wines are usually completely dry and are terrific slightly chilled. They go particularly well with lighter foods, or just for sipping and gazing dreamily into each other’s eyes. Hey, fella, eyes. Eyes, I said. Look up just a bit.

To score the ultimate Valentine’s Day trifecta, why don’t you consider a single red rose, a small box of quality fine chocolates, and a cava rosé from Spain, or if you choose to shoot the moon, a sparkling rosé from Champagne?

I’ll bet it will turn out to be a very good evening when coupled with a wonderful dining experience at one of our great New Orleans restaurants. Lucky for both of you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

about

In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go-to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and Happy Hour blogger for myneworleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, winetalknola.com; all in addition to his weekly hosting duties on "The Wine Show," a radio program entering its second decade of broadcasting in New Orleans. "The Wine Show with Tim McNally," is on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every Friday at 5 p.m.

Over the years, Tim has proved to be a master interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

Tim’s love of wine came about many years ago from his wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

The couple was instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major, well-regarded festival of its type both nationally and internationally. Tim and Brenda both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now more than 20 years old.

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, FL Wine Festival Competition, U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

You can reach Tim by email at timideas@bellsouth.net.

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