Whether you are pie-eyed in love, a few decades married, or deplore this holiday, we all agree Saint Valentine’s Day is made for sparkling wine. Whether you’re toasting to years of relationship strength or the joys of single life, don’t do it with Korbel or Cook’s. Get a sparkling wine worthy of your celebration—or cynicism. I’m going to pop the cork on tasty Champagne this Feb. 14 with Charles Heidsieck 2006 Rosé Millésime from Envoyer Fine Wines in Irvine, and Marc Hebrart Brut Blanc de Blancs NV available at both Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa and Wine Exchange in Santa Ana. I’ll probably pair them with popcorn after delving into my kids’ chocolate stash.
I’m always curious what those who drink for a living choose for a special occasion, so I tapped Nancy Milby of LCA Wine and Roger Richards of Wine Lab (both have wine shops in Costa Mesa) for their Valentine’s Day pours:
What sparkling wine will you personally open to enjoy this Valentine’s Day?
NM: I love a good cremant—traditional method sparkling wine from France other than Champagne. Most cremant is a bit more fruity because it doesn’t see quite so much time on the lees, and they are also half the price (or less) of Champagne. This year it’ll be Chateau de Leoube Sparkling NV from Provence for $40—100 percent cabernet Franc. It’s actually “vin de France” because Provence is one of the few French regions without an AOC for sparkling wine. But stay tuned! I think it will be coming soon.
RR: Splurging with real Champagne, Louis Roederer Carte Blanche for $50, because it is not as dry as most Champagne and therefore a good aperitif.
Or, maybe you’ll skip sparkling and enjoy a different wine?
NM: Beyond that first bottle of sparkling, I’ll likely open an aged Chateauneuf du Pape to go with the rack of lamb I’ll be cooking for my sweetheart. I’ve got a bottle of 1998 Chateau du Beaucastel that’s calling to me.
RR: Depends on my relational status! 😉 But, seriously, I dislike the over-commercialization of holidays so I try to celebrate as non-commercially as I can get away with.
What bottle of sparkling is perfect to impress the novice or connoisseur wine lover?
NM: Eugene Carrel Cremant de Savoie Brut Rosé—100 percent Gamay, which is one of the main red grapes of the Savoie. It sells for $21 and definitely over-delivers. For the novice, it’s clean and fresh, light on the palate, with nuanced savory elements from the lees. For the connoisseur, proof that excellent sparkling wine exists outside of Champagne.”
RR: I love Franciacorta from the Lombardy region of northern Italy. It’s under the radar and delivers super-quality for the price. The rosé versions are even better, such as Berlucchi Franciacorta Rosé for $35.”
“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy—and when I’m sad”—Lily Bollinger