Daze of Wine and Roses: An Indulgent Pairing of Chocolate Truffles and Sparkling Wine for Valentine’s Day

It’s no secret I love February — it may still be winter, but at least for me it is a short month filled with a whopping three big holidays of ultimate feminine spoiling: my birthday, Valentine’s Day, and my wedding anniversary all happily fill this month of love. February is cozy, sweet, dreamy, and I love all 28 days of it! 🙂 In the same way Christmas lights and decorations help lift the gloom of dark December, so Valentine’s

Gettin’ ready for Valentine’s Day with premium chocolate

Day (in all its cheesiness) makes February more fun and gives us a great excuse to enjoy some chocolate and drink some wine! Although none of us here NEED an excuse for that. 😉

But the world of chocolate and wine pairing, though. Yikes. It’s like stepping into a flavor minefield if you don’t have good direction. A pairing can either send your taste buds into flavor ecstasy or quickly banish them to foul pairing hell. So what to do if you would actually like to try and achieve flavor bliss?

First, think of your food and drink like paints on a palette or musical notes — you are composing specific “works” based on the combined qualities of your ingredients. In a nutshell, food and wine can either create complementary pairings (where the weight, textures, and flavors complement or agree with each other) or contrasting pairings (where the weight, textures, and flavors have opposite characteristics and create  exciting dynamics through contrast). An example of a complementary food and wine pairing would be ribeye steak with Cabernet Sauvignon (heavy, rich, full-bodied). A contrasting example would be pad thai with Riesling (both light, but spicy against acidic and sweet). 

But for now, let’s just keep it simple with a delicious complementary pairing that will delight both wine noobs and experts alike.

You’re just too good to be true… can’t take my eyes off of you….

Let me introduce you to Banfi Rosa Regale, an Italian sparkling red wine from Piedmont, Italy. It is made from a red grape known as Brachetto. Yes, it is sweet and bubbly like soda pop, BUT it offers great structure, fine perlage (tiny bubbles equal higher quality in sparkling wines) and enough acidity to make it elegant and sophisticated and oh so enjoyable. The aromas of red berries, orange, and rose are hypnotic, and the sweet but slightly tart flavors of strawberry and raspberry that unfold on your palate with drive you crazy and keep you coming back for more. I first tried this wine at a business networking event when I worked at a chamber of commerce, and it was pretty much all I could think about that evening — how utterly amazing this wine is! I still feel that way, and that is why I think you should get thee to Total Wine (or wherever you can find it – wine.com has it, too) and stock up for Valentine’s Day!

(goes to pour herself another glass because it’s too… freaking…good…)

Heaven, I’m in heaven…

Now, that wine was amazing on its own, but wait, things are about to get even better when it meets its sweet match! This wine will get along VERY well with milk chocolate. I would personally applaud your choice of Seattle Chocolate Milk Chocolate Truffles (which is what I paired with) but you could also have great success with other brands of milk chocolate you enjoy. The creamy sweetness of each are tantalizingly divine together. I literally taste vanilla whipped cream. Wow! 

Speaking of chocolate, the aforementioned Seattle Chocolate Company has some of the best-tasting chocolate in the world (prove me wrong) and they have a great factory tour which is a fascinating education in all things chocolate. I even got to touch fresh, raw cacao fruit before the beans get roasted. Since I especially love exploring subtle flavors and aromas in wine, I really enjoyed blind tasting through several of their delicious chocolates and trying to guess the flavors and ingredients. Their store also carries a number of fun pairing ideas of their chocolates matched with various Washington wines. Do check them out if you’re in the greater Seattle area!

So there you have it: milk chocolate with Brachetto for the Valentine’s Day win!

Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet readers! ❤ 

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La Dolce Vino: Valentine’s is for Lovers (Or Anyone, Really)

Valentine’s Day is most commonly attributed to romantic lovers, but really? What about all the other forms of love out there? Love of family, best friend, neighbor, children, pets, etc.

How sweet it is! Rosa Regale... your perfect Valentine's Day accompaniment.

How sweet it is! Rosa Regale… your perfect Valentine’s Day accompaniment.

Aren’t we just as entitled to celebrate these forms of love as highly as romantic love? If love is blind, then those responsible for commercializing this holiday need to start embracing a little more affirmative action in the love department. Love doesn’t fit under just one label!

Here is a wine that is not only bubbly, fruity, flirty and sexy enough to drink with your lover on Valentine’s Day; it’s perfect to enjoy with a friend or relative (though I would advise against a child or pet… don’t take me too literally, folks), even to bring to an Anti-Valentine’s Day party (aka getting wasted, binging on bonbons, and performing voodoo on stuffed teddy bears). Hey, equal opportunity!

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui is a sparkling dolce red wine that is usually under $20. As the Italians say, “Questo rocce!” This rocks! It’s like Martinelli’s for adults, but way better… molto meglio.

From the tasting notes:

“This rare Brachetto, a semi-dry, red sparkling wine cherished by the courts of Europe over two centuries ago, owes its reincarnation to Banfi. Rosa Regale is created in one of Italy’s smallest production zones, the Brachetto d’Acqui Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, commonly referred to as DOCG. It is crafted from 100% Brachetto grapes grown exclusively at the La Rosa Vineyard in the town of Acqui Terme located in the Piedmont region of Italy. The label features a single red rose, representing the wines origin from this single vineyard La Rosa estate.

Rosa Regale has a delicate bouquet of rose petals and offers sensuous flavors of fresh raspberries and strawberries. Its effervescence is softer than that of champagne, yet it yields a persistent and delicate pink froth. Its lively garnet color makes other sparklers pale in comparison. Served chilled and with a low alcohol content, it serves as the perfect partner throughout the entire meal, beginning as an elegant aperitif, moving to a savory appetizer and ending with a sweet dessert. No wine pairs better with chocolate than Rosa Regale. The bright fresh berry flavors complement the sweet velvet of the chocolate. Rosa Regale is a seductive red sparkler that turns any occasion into a celebration.

Legend also has it that both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony presented Cleopatra with several gourds of Brachetto. The empress then had her lovers drink the wine in order to unleash their passion.

Rosa Regale is produced using the Charmat process or Metodo Italiano (Italian Method). This method forces the second fermentation to happen in large stainless steel tanks prior to bottling, rather than in the bottle like the traditional méthod champenoise. This process is best used on sparkling wines that are meant to be enjoyed young and relatively fresh.”

I had this wine one February when I organized a Business After Hours event at two next door businesses: a flower shop and wine bar. We wandered happily back and forth between each adorable shop. Once I had a sip, I was smitten and could not stop drinking this. Oddly enough, the flower shop was pouring this, not the wine bar.

Since it’s a sweet wine, I think it’s plenty good on its own. Of course, pairing it with dark chocolate truffles or a lava cake would be a decadent Valentine’s Day gorge fest or an extra special treat on your anniversary or birthday. It also makes an elegant gift… perfect for a holiday like, oh, I dunno, let’s think here, maybe, Valentine’s Day?

However you choose to enjoy this sparkling wine, and however you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, do it wholeheartedly and with love!

How sweet it is! (It’s Valentine’s Week… we gotta start the cheez early).

Break Out the Bubbly Without Breaking the Bank: Sparkling Wine 101

Bust out the bubbles, it’s time to celebrate!

Ah, champagne… flying corks, foaming bottles, glittering crystal champagne flutes, hearty dinner toasts brimming with pomp, glamorous soirees swirling with evening gowns, tuxedos, and string quartets. These are the usual images that come to my mind when I hear the word “champagne.” For many of us, champagne seems elite, unknowable, and seldom appropriate. In our minds, it is reserved only for extremely special occasions (for whatever reason) or it seems too complex and distant to be enjoyed. I aim to change your thinking! Champagne is within your reach and you might be surprised by its potential once you start exploring it more.

For the record, champagne is not truly champagne unless it is produced and bottled in Champagne, France. Anything else is technically a sparkling wine. “Champenoise” refers to the method and style in which champagne is made. If you’d like to read more about this specific process of “methode champenoise,” read here.

I haven’t had much opportunity to try true champagnes, so if you’re reading this and you feel it upon your heart to expand this wine blogger’s horizon into the elevated world of fine French champagnes, be my guest and send me a bottle!

This time of year there is no shortage of graduations and accompanying festivities, honoring those who have completed their educations, be it victorious triumph or barely skating through (also a feat worthy of celebration!). It’s a highly-charged, emotional time, both for the graduate and the loved ones who have supported the graduate along the way, and such occasions call for fine food and drinks to make the celebrations memorable and meaningful. It’s also summer (theoretically, in Seattle) and therefore an opportune time for a chilled, fizzy alcoholic beverage like sparkling wine.

Mumm Napa Valley Cuvee is a fine sparkling wine whose price won’t cause a heart attack and whose quality won’t leave you with a raging headache. I find this wine smooth, refreshingly drinkable and with interesting flavors. It even works well in a mimosa (sparkling wine and orange juice). My husband and I got some as a housewarming gift when we purchased our first home. Nothing makes you feel more grown up than buying a house and being given “champagne” to boot!

The tasting notes are so romantic and poetic, I have the urge to put on a Jane Austen movie and throw a tea party: “Cuvée M is a modern, slightly sweet sparkling release. Light peach rose in the glass, aromas are elegant, rich and complex, showing fresh white and yellow stone fruits with subtle hints of wild strawberry. A heady touch of fresh brioche, with hints of vanilla and honey add to the wine’s complex bouquet. Flavors of peach and pear combine with a creamy caramel character, on a long, satisfying finish. Great for champagne cocktails or as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres. Cuvee M also matches up beautifully to creamy desserts [and] spicy entrées. Enjoy.”

So far this year I have been to two graduations. One was a very moving high school graduation, for a private high school with six graduating seniors in the class, all of whom had overcome major obstacles in their education. The other was for a friend who obtained his master’s degree from a large public university, with English not being his first language. His mother traveled across the globe to be with her son on that day. I wanted to share the beautiful toast she spoke at his graduation dinner: “For the music in our souls! Let the music in our souls always sound for those we love and care for and those who love and care for us.”

I could not end on a more perfect note. Cheers!