Valentine's Day is traditionally one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants and and also one of the most stressful for both staff and dinners. A room full of two tops has the kitchen seeing 50 tickets for two people all at one time instead of the usual 25 for four which stresses the system, the front of the house staff is facing a room where every table is a special occasion and want special attention. And Valentine's Day comes right after all the very spendy holidays when consumers are feeling their poorest. While we can't offer any quick fixes for our industry colleagues —stay strong, you have a whole year before this happens again — for our diner friends who are looking to impress their crushes without completely crushing their wallets, here are some sage and tasty recommendations from some award winning sommeliers, for fiscally-friendly Valentine’s Day vinos, all under $25.
Scott Clime, Wine & Beverage Director for Passion Food Hospitality – Washington, DC Metro Area
Gruet Rosé, New Mexico ($17.99) is a garnet-colored wine with a floral bouquet of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. On the palate, it is rich and fruity with a hint of Brut-style dryness. It’s a festive sparkler, but at only 5,000 cases per year – don’t miss out! Argyle Riesling, 2010 from Willamette Valley, Oregon ($18.99) carries an aroma of fruit and spice with hints of citrus and spice. Made entirely with Riesling grapes, this romantic white finishes on a nice, sweet note. From Mendoza, Argentina, the Vina Cobos, 2010 ($16.99) is an enticing red with aromas of dark berries and anise. On the palate, intense, pure flavors unfold in velvety layers. Exotic notes of ginger balanced with white pepper blend perfectly with firm tannins and finish with a hint of cedar.
Moez Ben-Achour, Sommelier for Marcel’s – Washington, DC
The best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is with Champagne or a sparkling wine such as the Thibaut-Janisson “Fizz” from Faber, Virginia ($10-25.) Slightly less fizzy than Champagne, this sparkler carries aromas of crisp apples and leaves a light, lingering finish. Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé Fougeray de Beauclair, NV ($20-25) from the Burgundy wine region is a uniquely dark rosé that carries a robust bouquet with notes of vine-ripe strawberries, toasted bread and mandarin orange. From its alluring hue to its complex aromas, this rosé would enhance any romantic occasion. The best value for a red on the market is the Rhône Vacqueyras, Xavier 2009 ($18.) This full-bodied Syrah and Grenache blend is concentrated and powerful, but is balanced with a slight tartness and acidity that appeals to connoisseurs and novices alike!
Dusty Frierson, Beverage Director for Purple Parrot Café – Hattiesburg, MS
For bubbles, the Von Schleinitz Secco Dry Riesling, Mosell 2011 ($14) is a really fun example of what Riesling can be in dry form. It also comes with a crown [think beer cap] closure that keeps it casual. Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris, Corbieres ($18) is a rosé with a pink hue that is perfect for Valentine’s Day. It’s a great value for a French wine, and its interesting blend appeals to both white and red fans. The perfect red is Tir Na N’og Grenache, McLaren Vale, 2008 ($23) for its lush fruit notes and velvety texture. It is also soft, with no abrasive tannins, which works for just about everyone. For a nice touch of Valentine’s Day sweetness, pour the Domaine Weinbach Cuvée Personelle Gewurztraminer, Alsace 2010. One of its primary characteristics is that it smells like roses – a perfect bouquet for the occasion!
Cory Bahr, Executive Chef and Owner of Restaurant Cotton – Monroe, LA
For some sparkle, serve a glass of Cara Mia Prosecco ($25.) If there’s any left over in the morning, you can continue the celebration by mixing it with peach juice for a Bellini! The Ste. Christopher Riesling, Auslese, Germany, 2011 ($25) is a real standout. A light, fruity white, it’s a perfect companion to a sweet meal with your sweetheart. Millbrandt “Traditions” Merlot, Columbia Valley 2009 ($16,) is a great Merlot with lush flavor and should not be considered taboo! Hints of mocha, caramel and vanilla give it its quintessential garnet hue.