As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, I have been thinking about love and all the different types of love there are in the world. Obviously, this holiday centers on romantic love, or eros, but there are many other types of love to celebrate. There is agape love, or unconditional love, usually applied to parents’ love for their children. Another important type of love is philia love, or brotherly love seen in friendships. I am not sure what category of love my affection for wine would fall under, but as I reminisced about the wines I have truly adored drinking this year, I realized that each one was somehow related to a person for which I care deeply. Coincidence? I think not. Here are the wines I have truly enjoyed this past year and the special people I love who shared the wines with me.
Vueve Clicquot Brut: Purchased in a split, this was the bottle my husband and I enjoyed last year on Valentine’s Day. We were actually staying in a hotel; however, not in a romantic endeavor for the lover’s holiday, but because we were on a two-day road trip for our son’s basketball team. We tucked away two bottles of wine to enjoy when we were finished watching basketball, and this Clicquot was one of them. Acidic and yeasty with lots of orange citrus on the palate, we toasted each other, our children, and our love of twenty-five years.
King Estate Pinot Noir 2006: After our bubbly toast, we moved on to one of my favorite grapes from one of my favorite regions, a Pinot Noir from Oregon. I love the paradox of the delicate wine with a robust flavor. Light bodied but filled with black and red fruits, a hint of eucalyptus mint, and perfect acid, the aromas seemed to last forever, and so did the finish. We drank a glass of this by itself, but it would be a wonderful food-pairing wine for multiple foods. Always better in great stemware, my spouse and I routinely carry stemless Riedel glasses on our travels for moments just like this.
GH Mumm Champagne: I love sparkling wines for all occasions, true Champagnes included. However, special occasions scream for a quality Champagne, and this event was one such time: our daughter’s college graduation. As very young parents, the culmination of twenty-two years of dreams for our child was very special…for child and parents. I didn’t take any formal tasting notes on this wine; I just watched as the server uncorked the bottle and poured the beautiful bubbles into flutes. Then I enjoyed every last sip, toasting the graduate, her BFF and fellow graduate, our family, and her friends. An extraordinary moment, it was commemorated with a lovely glass of bubbles.
Le Cigare Volant 2009: The next special wine relates to our youngest child, a senior in high school. My hubby and I have spent years following our son’s sports career and have enjoyed every second of it. In November, this athlete played in his last football game, a tough loss in the state semi-finals. Though he wasn’t involved in the drinking of the Bonny Doon bottle, his father and I poured ourselves a glass when we returned home from the game. We sipped together, mourning the loss in our own way, which was really about mourning the passing of time on our parenting. For a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) blend, it was robust without being overpowering, fruity without being sweet, and tannic without being bitter. A balanced wine, we enjoyed it when we sipped before purchasing from the tasting room outside of Santa Cruz and enjoyed it again after this parenting moment.
Cartograph Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012: I’ve already stated that Pinot Noir is my personal favorite grape…especially when made into special wines. This summer, my family visited Cartograph Winery in Healdsburg, California, including meeting winemakers Alan and Serena. I joined the wine club after tasting their amazing wines and seeing some grapes were sourced from Mariah Vineyards, spelled just like my only sister’s name. I opened this bottle to pair with the annual murder mystery dinner a group of friends and I have made our New Year’s tradition. Strawberry and cherry with earth and a bright chokecherry color, it was the perfect pairing for a slightly spicy jambalaya as main course. It was an even better pairing with wonderful friends with whom I love to spend time!
Williams Selyem Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011: Another winery my family visited this summer, the facility is awe-inspiring, to say the least. I bought several bottles, some to cellar and some to enjoy on special occasions. My forty-first birthday seemed like a good enough reason to break out this bottle, sourced from the also prestigious Hirsch Vineyard in northern Sonoma, an absolutely beautiful wine in color, smell, and flavor. It was another wine I merely enjoyed, instead of formally evaluating, while eating a steak and shrimp supper with my husband and son, basking in the blessings that aging has given me.
Williams Selyem Heintz Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2010: I wish I could claim ownership of this William Selyem wine, but I actually stumbled upon this by accident. A friend of mine was given it from her father-in-law and almost gave it to her child’s teacher as a Christmas gift. I selfishly told her to save it for herself, me, and a Chardonnay-loving friend. We opened it to relish a sip on a random day while we enjoyed each other’s company, three girls giggling and laughing over a glass of vino! Just a hint of butter on both the nose and the palate, this wine was packed with fruit flavor and perfect acid. Truly, the best California chard I have experienced, made even better by the company shared while sipping it.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2013: A fairly simple bottle of dry Riesling, I grew an emotional attachment to this wine region when I visited after the death of my father. I enjoyed the area and the visit to this important and beautiful Finger Lakes winery. After making the bottles of wine I brought home and got from a short-term wine club last over a year, I was so surprised to find this wine at a small-town liquor store in Wyoming (read about that lucky break here); I have returned to that store on several occasions to keep a bottle on hand. I have a great appreciation for the Riesling grape, especially quality, dry Rieslings. This reasonably priced wine smells of fruit and flowers, with a hint of stone. On the palate it is a perfect representation of the flavor of a Riesling, just without the sugar that often overpowers these nuances in American examples.
Though it is incredibly difficult to categorize my feelings for wine, it was not challenging to choose my favorite wines of the past year. They were all outstanding wines, but they were all also paired with great people—special people—at significant places during important occasions. Being with the people I love while drinking these wines made the wines that much more extraordinary, that much more meaningful. I loved these wines, each in unique and different ways, for both the wines themselves and those sharing with me. That is love…of children, of spouses, of friends, of memories…of wine.