Wines to warm the heart on Valentine's Day
Wines only? No way. Red wines, dark chocolate and flowers are the requisite for a happy, rewarding evening extending into the rest of the week.
Briefly first, being a horticulturist since my teen years, I'll address flower color and
variety. Red is the winner with red roses having the greatest impact. Save the money you would spend on a dozen red roses, and get a single red one instead, accompanied by a bottle of Serralunga d'Alba Barolo DOCG 2013.
This is absolutely one of the smoothest, dry, velvety, red wines I've ever tasted. It goes beautifully with Italian food — especially spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or any red meat-based meal. It is also a hit as an after-dinner choice with the right company and conversation, around which the pedigree of this wine can be discussed.
It comes from the Fontanafredda winery which produces 800,000 bottles from vineyards with grass growing between the rows and no chemical fertilizers or herbicides used since 2010; the estate has earned the designation of an "integrated farming estate."
If your true love wants something sweet, give her a box of quality chocolates to follow up.
Willamette Valley Vineyards has an interesting history; it was started in 1983 by Oregon winegrower and Oregon native, Jim Bernau, when he purchased an overgrown pioneer plum orchard, ripped out the old trees and began planting pinot noir in Salem Hills.
The vineyard name, Willamette Valley Vineyards, was grandfathered into federal law when the American Viticultural Area (AVA) was federally founded. Also unique is the fact that Jim brought one of his fervent beliefs into a reality by building his winery from "crowd funding" — community ownership — to more than 9,000 enthusiast owners. Through this collaboration with area winegrowers, the quality of his pride-and-joy-finished products, such as pinot noir and chardonnay, are assured.
One of the winegrowers is the 2015 Estate Vineyard that is planted on south facing volcanic flow media topped with well-drained soils reaching a depth of one and a half to 6 feet. With about 90 percent of the destemmed berries remaining intact, the wine has a very distinct and lively fruit forward taste characteristics; it pairs well with seafood.
The other wine from Willamette Valley Vineyards is the 2016 Whole Cluster pinot noir. Fermentation takes place with whole clusters of uncrushed grapes, giving the wine a fresh fruit taste characteristic of the varietal. This wine is an outstanding go-it-alone sipper, with aged cheeses, or spicy BBQ dishes.
Willamette Valley Vineyard's pinot gris, a clonal selection of pinot noir, has very tasty, crisp flavors that make an excellent aperitif, and goes well with seafood like grilled salmon. Another blessing: the suggested retail price is just $17.
Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.