February brings colder weather which makes us want to snuggle up with that special someone with a glass of red wine by the fireplace. And then comes Valentine’s Day - an evening when we wine and dine our significant others. For such a romantic holiday, there are so many choices to make - which restaurant to go to, what to order, what to pair our meal with. Or you are like I am with my wife, and stay home and prepare a really special meal. I keep the decision making simple by calling it tradition. I always make surf & turf (a really nice marbled steak and lobster tail paired with sparkling wine because it pairs with so many flavors), so my decision making was complete years ago! But for those of you without a Valentine’s tradition, you have some decisions to make. So for this blog, we are going to talk about wines that pair with traditional Valentine’s Day meals - this will be a good guide for you whether you are dining in or if you are selecting an amazing local restaurant to take that special someone to.
So for starters, I usually go with a rosé. The words appetizer and rosé go hand in hand. I honestly cannot think of a first course that does not pair with rosé. From charcuterie and cheeses, to salty fried food and healthy salads and even dishes with a bit of elegance - rosé always seals the deal. Our rosé is quite affordable at Williams Gap and is sure to wow your significant other as you pair courses with wine by the glass at home. A rosé from France is sure to do the trick, as well, if you do not have the Williams Gap Rosé on hand.
For the main course, let’s start with seafood! I love mussels, especially when they are steamed with white wine. This is a staple at many restaurants on Valentine’s Day and if you are cooking at home, it is super simple. They are so easy to make, and just look completely gorgeous. Lots of crunchy bread in attendance to sop up the juices makes this dish perfect. And pairing it with wine, takes it to the next level. If you are going the shellfish route, a light-bodied, high acid, crisp and dry white wine works beautifully. So for those of you who know our lineup, Vidal Blanc would be perfect. The lemon and lime notes that bounce off of the acidity play perfectly with all types of seafood.
If you are ordering at a restaurant, Albariño is a great second choice, if they have one. Albariño is exactly what you want to drink when you’re having seafood like mussels, a platter of oysters or even fried seafood. The good news is that there’s amazing Albariño coming to the US from Rías Baixas in northwest Spain as winemakers get serious about region-specific bottlings. Rías Baixas has the perfect climate for producing vibrant wines, thanks to its craggy soil and proximity to the Atlantic. Cold ocean breezes preserve acids in grapes and even give the wines a little salinity. Fun fact, we have Albariño growing on site at Williams Gap, however at the time of writing this blog, the vines are too young to produce wine.
What is more romantic than pasta? Lady and the Tramp anyone?! My uncle makes this incredible Browned Butter Fettuccine Alfredo and this summer, we paired it with the Williams Gap White Blend and it was divine! I took every bottle of wine we produced at WGV on this trip and this pairing was everyone’s favorite. The fruity components of apricot and peach play beautifully with the nutty, rich flavors of the browned butter sauce. This dish is super indulgent and the wine just livens everything up a touch.
The Italian restaurant that you are taking your husband to doesn’t have a Browned Butter Fettuccine Alfredo? No problem - I am sure they have a cream sauce that would be very similar. And if you didn’t take a Williams Gap White Blend to have opened at the restaurant, stick with the Italian vibe and go Pinot Grigio. That being said, it is easy to pick a Pinot Grigio that is on the sweeter side and if you want to steer away from that, ask your server or sommelier for a wine from the hilly regions that are in the northeast. This is the area of Italy that is by the Dolomite Mountains. Part of what makes this region better for these grapes is that the mountains help to protect the vines from winter’s harsh winds. The breeze that comes in from the Adriatic Sea is warm and this also helps to encourage the grapes to ripen quicker. The most popular white wine grapes come from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, the Veneto region (this actually stretches from the Dolomite Mountains all the way to the Adriatic Sea), and the Alto Adige region. The Pinot Grigio wines that are produced here are characterized by a crisp texture, fruity aroma, acidity and also possess a light to medium body. This is exactly what you want.
Going Asian-inspired for Valentine’s Day this year? Go with a Spicy Tuna Roll to pair with Petit Manseng from Williams Gap. You could go with heart-shaped sushi, but hand rolls are hands down a lot faster to make, and every bit as delicious. The spice from the Thai chiles, shaved radish and ginger that are mixed in with the tuna are quite hot but that’s where the Petit Manseng comes in to save the day and cool everything down. Sushi a bit ambitious for your culinary skills or palate?! Go with a spicy Thai dish like Tom Kha Kai or Pad Thai. But what is similar to Petit Manseng that you could order out? A Vouvray or Riesling would be comparable. Just ask your server or sommelier for a wine with a bit of residual sugar that is off-dry. Off-dry Rieslings and Vouvrays have a touch of sugar. Not enough to make the wine sweet like some dessert, but enough to give it body and make the fruit jump out and to help it pair with many hard-to-pair foods, like spicy Asian cuisine, or richer dishes. So all three choices here will do wonders for spicy dishes.
When it comes to red wines, most of our current lineup at Williams Gap currently is light to medium bodied. This includes the Mountain Valley Red, the Round Hill Red, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. So with the lighter styles, I would go with a red sauce pasta or pork dish. Or you could do both with a Pork Ragu - this dish is extremely flavorful and makes exceptional leftovers. We serve our ragu at home over a bed of pappardelle, but you can choose any pasta you like, or even polenta! I love making a Braised Pork Ragu Pappardelle because it really is pretty simple and to top it off pork shoulder is pretty inexpensive, so buying a couple pounds won’t break the bank! But say you do not have one of our light to medium bodied reds on hand to have uncorked at the restaurant of your choosing, there are some good options out there that compare. Great pork and red sauce pairings would include Pinot Noir, Grenache, or Barbera for lighter styles. If you are looking for something with a little more oomph, go Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, or Nebbiolo.
Finally, let’s talk about big behemoth reds. For us at Williams Gap, those are the Red Blend and Fieldstone. We are talking dark fruit, complex flavors, full bodied, heavy tannin and lasting finishes. These are steakhouse wines - perfect with a beautiful cut and your favorite side. At home, these can be seared in a cast iron on the stove or grilled. Those tannins we talk about so often - those are molecules found in red wine that soften fats in the meat, helping to release the taste of beefy goodness. The fat, in turn, softens the astringent qualities of the wine, helping to mellow the beverage and produce a juicier, more fruit-forward flavor. So the wine benefits the food and the food benefits the wine. If you are forced to deviate from the Williams Gap big reds for dinner, I would go with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Syrah.
We have talked about a lot of wine and food in this blog and how to pair the typical Valentine’s Day meals with our wines here at Williams Gap, as well as wine from around the world. Even if you aren’t serving a meal at home for Valentine’s Day, there are a lot of restaurants that will allow you to bring your own wine for a small corkage fee. Some will even waive the fee if you present a Virginia winery receipt. We partner with a restaurant group that offers this service and their restaurants include Magnolia’s at the Mill, Tuskie’s, and Fireworks. Wherever you are visiting for Valentine’s Day, make sure to call ahead and ask if you can bring a bottle from a local winery to enjoy with your meal and then you can have your favorite wine with an incredible meal. Reading this on Valentine's Day? No problem, we are open from 12pm - 7pm. Drop by and pick a few bottles up!
Happy Valentine’s Day and we hope you have an incredible time no matter what you are eating and drinking! Cheers, friends.