Best Wines for Valentines

Romance is in the air, and the day of love is  upon us!  What better way is there to celebrate with your special someone, than with a romantic dinner and a specially picked bottle of wine?

Special menus call for special bottles, and here are a few of my top picks for Valentine’s Day Romance depending on what menu is on your radar.

Classicly Romantic Chocolate Covered Strawberries…

Each year I test my artistic pastry chef skills and make a batch of Chocolate Covered Strawberries.  There is something classically seductive and romantic about this special treat.  They are a great reward if you are single too!  Something this special deserves a wine equally special to go with it.  My personal favourite is Rosé Champagne:


Bollinger Brut NV Rose Champagne – $107

A classic Aphrodisiac, this is one bottle that you don’t have to save for dessert.  The complexity of balanced savoury and fruity flavours in a bottle of Rosé Champagne will compliment your entire meal.  And frankly, this wine is too special to save for just dessert.  Take your time, sip and savour your wine and each other.  Your glass will be brimming with classic red berry fruit, and bright acidity that is classic for the occasion, though admittedly not actually the ideal chocolate pairing.  But really, who cares?  Is there anything that says Valentine’s day more than a festive glass of pink Champagne?  I think not…

Best wine for the box of Chocolates…

Red Wine and Chocolate go classically hand in hand.  But the truth is that not all wines are a great match!  Milk Chocolate and sweet filling can throw off your wine if it does not have enough residual sugar.  If you plan of diving into a box with an assortment of caramel and fruit filled assorted treasures – a bottle of Vintage Port is your best bet.


Quinta do Noval – Silval 2005 Vintage Port – $83

Vintage Ruby Ports usually explode with rich red fruit character, and offer just the right ammount of sweetness to balance out milk chocolate and caramel.  These wines are only made from the best years, similar to Vintage Champagnes.  Unlike Tawny Port, they do not see extended oxidation maturation in oak, and are instead largely matured in bottle.  Because of this they will be much fruitier in flavour than their Tawny cousins.  They are also a classic standout with blue cheese.  So if a cheese plate, and box of chocolates are on your radar – this is a sure winner.

Classic Steak or Filet Mignon wrapped with Bacon?

Special dates call for special cuts of beef.  If you are thinking of impressing your sweetheart with a decadent steak dinner, simply prepared on the grill, or basted in butter with salt and pepper, then a Syrah from the Northern Rhone or high quality Australian Shiraz is your ideal bet.


Domaine Yves Cuilleron – 2011 L’Amarybelle Syrah, St. Joseph $53

Your Northern Rhone selelctions from areas such as St. Joseph will offer a beautiful smokey complexity to them that are a perfect compliment to grilled flavours in lean cuts of beef, especially classic Filet Mignon wrapped with peppered bacon.  Full of rich red fruit character, smoke, and pepper this is a perfect choice.  Less smokey, and more fruit forward are your quality Shiraz offerings from the Barossa Valley in Australia.  These will be nice and peppery and full of jammy blackberry and cherry flavours.

Lobsterfest Anyone?

If crab legs or lobster tails are on your radar this Valentine’s Day, one of my favourite pairings with these dishes is Saumur.  Try this:


Bouvet Ladubay – Brut Saumur NV – $25

Saumur is a Sparkling Wine Appelation in the heart of the Loire in France.  These festive bubbles have crisp acidity that will cut through the rich butter, and a unique smoky nose that will bring out the delicate sweetness of the crab or lobster meat.  They are also exceptional with fruit based desserts.  Saumur offers extreme value, and this wine is a great choice if you already splurged on a Valentine’s day gift.

Fondue for Two?

Whether it be Cheese, Meat, or both topped off with Chocolate Fondue for dessert, there is something extrememly romantic about sharing fondue for two.  With many sauces and flavours, I recommend going with a refreshing, complex, but slightly neutral wine.  Pinot Gris is a natural choice.  My top pick:


Domaine Zind Humbrecht – 2011 Rotenberg Pinot Gris – $68

This treat from Alsace France is bursting with crisp citrus, and stone fruit, and almond ntoes.  This wine has full body and tonnes of nutty texture thanks to lees treatment.  Refreshing, with a strong mineral backbone, this wine compliments all of the rich sauces, cheese, and variety of flavours associated with Fondue.

No matter what your menu, or choice of wine, the most imporant thing is to remember to take time out to celebrate your relationship.  Make it special!


– Kathryn


Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs

Cold days have us craving comfort foods with hearty glasses of red wine!  There is something about sitting down to a braised meal that warms the soul.

Meaty and decadent, braised short ribs are the perfect pairing to many hearty red wines.  I recommend giving this recipe a try with a bottle that offers up a nice balance of fruit and spice, with mouth watering acidity such as JL CHAVE SELECTION 2015 Côtes du Rhône Mon Coeur. Continue reading “Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs”

Warm up with Orange Scented Mulled Wine

Snow is falling, and there is nothing that says warm and cozy quite like a hot cup of mulled wine.  An often forgotten tradition, I have one recipe that will warm you from the inside out when Jack Frost starts to bite.  And while this is not a recipe to pair so to speak, it goes perfectly with cold nights, snowball fights, and gathering with friends.

A refined version of the traditional Mulled Wine, pre-toasting all of your spices adds a nice extra depth of flavour and allows them to open up before steeping them.  I recommend using a fruity, low tannin wine like an Australian Shiraz, Ripe Californian Merlot, Russian River or Central Otago Pinot Noir, or Lodi Zinfandel.

This is a great make-ahead- recipe too if you are entertaining.    Feel free to infuse the wine a day before serving it.  Then remove the spice sachet before storing it. When you are ready to enjoy it, gently reheat the wine over low heat and add the brandy, Grand Marnier, and vanilla.

Continue reading “Warm up with Orange Scented Mulled Wine”

Ghoulishly Good Wines for your Halloween Goodies

Muahhhahahahaa…  we hope that your celebrations are Spooktacular this week!  If not, we at least hope that you you are finding a small way to enjoy Hallo-Wine, I mean Halloween!

There is nothing quite like being stuck at home, answering the doorbell repeatedly every 45 seconds to make a person want to pour themselves a glass.

And in my best effort to save you from some nasty flavour interactions as you steal your kids chocolates and skittles, I have come up with a great little list of wines for practical Halloween Pairing.

Continue reading “Ghoulishly Good Wines for your Halloween Goodies”

Ultimate in comfort food… Ham & Cheese Gnocchi

In our home one of my favourite things to roast on the weekend is a ham shank.  I then always look forward to the many meal options I can make with the leftovers!  Split pea and ham soup, ham sandwiches for days, and my favorite comfort food… This Ham and Cheese Gnocchi – Paired with my favourite Viognier!


Why does this pairing work so well?

Both pork and oak contain Lactones, which makes a Viognier that has seen a little oak treatment a fabulous choice that matches the intensity of flavors and molecular structure of the meat.  Smoked pork in particular has a fantastic way of bringing out the apricot and stone fruit flavors found in Viognier.

Because of this, Ham works well with Viognier, particularly rich new world varieties that offer up lots of stone fruit, floral, and mineral characteristics.   While the old world French options are delicious, I find that they are more mineral/terroir Continue reading “Ultimate in comfort food… Ham & Cheese Gnocchi”

Creamy Sundried Tomato and Chicken Pasta

Rustic and hearty with bright sundried tomatoes, this is one dish that can be a little tricky to pair with wine.  The creamy/tomato base can pose a bit of a challenge.  It is a dish that will require a bright, medium bodied wine with juicy acidity to not only match the bright flavours of the tomatoes, but cut through the creamy richness.

For us this dish goes beautifully with bright, fruity and acidic Barbera D’Alba or Barbera D’Asti from Northern Italy!


Try it with Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne and enjoy a little escape from the comfort of your own kitchen!  With a rich nose and palate of sour cherries, and a hit of baking spices, and light oak, it is a wine with enough balanced earthiness and acidity to compliment the dark meat in this easy pasta dish.

Continue reading “Creamy Sundried Tomato and Chicken Pasta”

Wine & Pumpkin Pie? OH MY!

Leaves are changing, and the flavours of fall can be found in abundance at Farmer’s Markets and at your local grocery store.  Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and for many that means a Turkey Dinner Feast with those we care about, and crowning the evening with Pumpkin Pie!

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie recipe has been known to send many back fro seconds… or thirds.  And while it is special on it’s own, pairing it with an equally as delicious dessert wine tends to elevate the entire evening to OUTSTANDING!

So what do you pair with Pumpkin Pie?  My personal favourite…

Arnaud de Villeneuve – Rivesaltes Ambre 5yr.  At usually around $25CAD for a 750ml bottle, this is great deal for a bottle to serve a crowd of 20!  Locally it can be found at Bin 905 Wine & Spirits, and select Calgary Co-op locations.

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, and Grenache gris, it is a smooth dessert wine that begs for pumpkin pie.  With notes of marmalade, toffee, toasted nuts, and baking spices it compliments many of fall’s ideal desserts.

Need a great Pumpkin Pie Recipe?  Try Grandma Rudd’s:

Continue reading “Wine & Pumpkin Pie? OH MY!”

Roasted Lemon-Ginger Chicken

At first glance, the thought of roasting an entire bird may seem like something you would reserve for the weekend or a special dinner.

But this no fuss recipe makes enjoying a roasted chicken easy and delicious.  It is a recipe that you really just throw together in a pot, and tastes incredible!

When paired with a high mineral/lime peel flavoured, cool climate Riesling like Charles Smith Wines – Kung Fu Girl Riesling, this bird sings!

Riesling and ginger are exceptional together, and each in this combination pull out the best of all worlds.  If you are going to try and pair an alternate Riesling, be sure to steer clear of the sweeter choices usually labelled under 10% ABV, and if it is a German variety, look for one that is designated Kabinett from the Mosel.

These wines will be lighter in flavour profile and style than their Spatlese and Auslese siblings, as they are made from grapes picked earlier in the harvest when sugar levels in the berries are lower.

Continue reading “Roasted Lemon-Ginger Chicken”

Roasted Chicken and Garlic Scape Gnocchi

Little potato pillows from heaven… that is what our son calls Gnocchi.

With plenty of fresh produce making the rounds at farmers markets,  we happend upon a creative and exceptional dish to make use of the beautiful pea shoots and garlic scapes we were given.

This is one plate of gnocchi that is sure to please the most discerning palate!

Now it is important to note that this dish contains an item known to be a notorious ‘wine pairing killer’ – Asparagus.  There are very few wines that work well with Asparagus, however it is a perfect match for Roero Arneis – a grape native to Northern Italy.  The best of the best, and most historically significant Arneis is produced by Vietti.

For your perfect pairing, and to taste a glass of history, we recommend Vietti Roero Arneis.

Continue reading “Roasted Chicken and Garlic Scape Gnocchi”

Garlic Crusted Salmon with Watermelon Relish

On a hot summer day few things beat fresh watermelon, seafood, and a glass of Riesling on the patio!  Before the summer sun fades, I recommend picking up a bottle of Synchromesh, Tantalus or 8th Generation Riesling  and giving this recipe a try!

Quick enough for a weeknight meal, and extremely healthy – you will have just elevated your weeknight dining game to a 10!

4 skinless salmon fillets
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp cracked pepper
2 tbs paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 tsp lemon juice or lime juice
1 tsp lemon or lime zest
1 tbsp olive oil
For Skillet:
2tbs Butter
Whisk garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, lemon/lime juice, zest and olive oil together in a small bowl. Rub salmon fillets evenly with the garlic oil mixture and let marinate for 35 minutes. While marinating, begin preparation of relish.
Tomato- Watermelon Relish
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup diced fresh watermelon
1 avocado diced
1/2 Cup corn kernels
1.5 tsp lemon or lime zest
2 tbs lemon/lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch fresh pepper
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
Preparation: Mix all ingredients, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with the salmon


Cook the Salmon:

Heat a skillet on the stove on med/high heat.  Melt butter and transfer salmon fillets to skillet.  Cook each side until brown crust forms, flipping once in between.  Remove when browned but fillet is still moist and flaky inside. *Timing will vary based on the thickness of your fillet.

*Tip: to test salmon for “doneness” – insert a cold knife briefly into the thickest part of the fillet – remove quickly and feel the knife – if it is still cool to the touch, the salmon needs more time.  You will likely be able to take a quick peak as well to see if the colour of your fish has changed – but do not do this too often!

Top Salmon with 1/2 cup of Relish (or more!) and enjoy with a side of rice!


–  Kathryn

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