Confession: I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. My birthday occurs around the Hallmark holiday, so as a nerdy and awkward teenage girl, I never had a boyfriend on this particular day which meant my birthday was also less than stellar.
I had high hopes once I made my way to college, then the Air Force, then to Japan, courtesy of the Air Force, my luck would change. It didn’t. My personal theme music for this time of year was The J. Geils’ classic, “Love Stinks,” and you often found me playing multiple rounds of golf to avoid the romantic celebrations of all my coupled friends. After I made my way to Del Rio, Texas (also not the best place for a girl who wore combat boots herself to find her happily-ever-after Prince Charming), I had resigned myself to being the fun single friend who was invited to both bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Thankfully, I met my future husband in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, and he was sweet enough to gift me with the best Valentine’s Day gift…a proposal (and a Playstation 2 as I was headed off to Iceland for a month long trip…the ring came later.) Finally! I could actually celebrate this particular day AND enjoy my birthday. As I prepare to recognize and celebrate my 50th trip around the sun, I am also really looking forward to spending time with my main squeeze of the past 22 years (and officially 20 years this April.)
The ‘Rona has hampered our original plans for this year of celebrations and milestones…I had wanted to go to France and introduce my husband and son to Normandy and Brittany (and of course, checking out the local wine scenes in France and Italy…I hear they make some good ones) and he wanted to take me to Ireland, where much of my family originates from, as a surprise. Alas, it isn’t meant to be, yet, so we will make the best of the lemons life has presented. So, that means splurging on a treehouse bed and breakfast in Evergreen, Colorado, which is right next to a fun little local winery and restaurant, Creekside Cellars.
For our 20th trip around the sun together, we will be hitting the Strip in Vegas (where we honeymooned!) But, I know not everyone is ready to travel or perhaps cannot due to the crazy realities we all face in this Covid world.
So, allow me to offer some suggestions that could make your Valentines, or, if you are the circa 1985-2001 me, Love Stinks Day, or anniversary celebrations a little more fun, different, and unique. These are the wines, seltzers, beers, and mead (plus food) that I will be tasting with Mandy Connell on our new regular segment, #ThirstyThursday, on her radio show on 850AM KOA out of Denver, Colorado. If you want to hear our thoughts on these choices, plus the food I will be serving, please tune in at 2pm Mountain or check out her podcast on iHeart!
So, I made a discovery this week. After a wonderful hike with my family in beautiful Colorado weather (it was muddy and a little snowy, but absolutely gorgeous nonetheless), we stopped off at a local brewery that we absolutely love. If you are ever in Monument, Colorado, be sure to check out Pikes Peak Brewery. My husband loves the Devils Head Red and I enjoy their Little London. However, this week, I tried their Grapefruit Seltzer. Now, I have tried other hard seltzers (I actually do consider it breaking a law when drinking a Claw…because, eww. Not my favorite. Sorry, no offense. I tried one that my sponsor cadet had left behind in our beer fridge and I was not a fan.) But, then the beermeister brought me this gorgeous gem. My husband tried it. “Is that alcoholic?” Why, yes. A mere 5% ABV but this drinks like your nonalcoholic grapefruit sparkling water, which makes this dangerous for someone like me. I texted Mandy. She asked, “Is it like Fresca?” Why, yes…but with ZERO aftertaste from fake sugar. It is light, refreshing, and until you stand up to head to the restroom, you may even forget you are drinking alcohol (so, please, drink responsibly.) This is the kind of seltzer that begs you to float down a Colorado river on an inner tube with it or perhaps poolside while you work on your vitamin D intake (which you should, because the ‘Rona.) This will be what I use to wake up our pallets. And it will be glorious.
Up next, we will be checking a fun alternative to your usual bubbles. Now, Champagne will always be super special in my heart. Remember the visit to France I wanted to do for my 50th and 20th milestones? The houses of Champagne were on the list to visit and I had already started my coordination with distributors to set up tours (one of the benefits of being in this industry.)
Now, I also had hopes to visit the Loire River Valley as well, just for the historical significance, but also for the gorgeous wines produced there…especially, wines of the Vouvray. Producers of Chenin Blanc, this appellation can often get lost in the language of wine, French, and unknowing restaurant wine buyers. Many assume that when they see the term “Vouvray,” that they are enjoying a specific varietal. Located near Tours (one of the historical reasons for me wanting to visit), Vouvray is known for its Chenin Blanc. You can find still, bubbly, and sweet versions of this lovely little varietal, that presents itself with notes of honeysuckle, apple, orange blossom, pear, and ginger (with the sweet, or “Moelleux” style, these notes may be even more pronounced. If you see the word, “boytritis,” then know you are purchasing a sweet, dessert wine.) Our sparkling Vouvray we are sampling today is a traditional method Brut, or dry sparkling wine, from Francois and Julien Pinon and is a very reasonably priced yet equally eloquent and delicious alternative to Champagne. I will be pairing it with multiple options for our tasting…pan seared scallops and shrimp in a white wine and bacon reduction, caviar “blinis,” and a local brie.
I would be remiss if I did not include a wine meant for fondue…for me, fondue is my go to for Valentines and my birthday. It is the ultimate indulgence and as far as romance…well, fondue just begs to be enjoyed with your significant other. And if you are single, it is a wonderful way to treat yourself. I usually enjoy a Aprèmont from the Savoie (Jacquère grape) of France but I decided to go rogue a little and try another beloved white wine from the same region, the Roussanne varietal. Stone fruit, with notes of honey, make it a perfect alternative for fondue if you cannot find the Aprèsmont (as a wine purchaser, I actually know how challenging it can be to find unique wines from small regions…it is always good to have a back up.)
Up next, we will be sampling a gorgeous Pét-nant (the ancient method of making sparkling wines) from right here in Colorado. Carboy Winery, which has multiple locations, is one of my favorite local wineries. I love their charcuterie plates and the wines they are producing, both from the Grand Valley AVA here in Colorado, and grapes sourced from around the world, are lovely. Today’s selection is there Native Fizz Sparkling Rosé, which is a limited edition but still available (if you are local, call ahead to make sure they have it…they have a limited quantity of this wine.) It is a gorgeous rosé that will pair with your heavier fish dishes and lighter proteins, such as lamb. Today, I am pairing it with both caviar and a washed rind bloomy cheese from MouCo, which is out of Ft. Collins, CO.
We will then be splurging on a GORGEOUS Italian red, or Rosso, wine from Umbria. From winemaker Paolo Bea, the “Pagliaro” Sagrantino di Montefalco Secco is made from the Sagrantino varietal and harvested from the small hill on the Bea farm known as Pagliaro. With notes of licorice, cocoa, leather, and tobacco, I will be pairing this wine with some sautéed tri-tips to represent the classic steak dinner. I would normally add in Portobello mushrooms, but Mandy can’t have those anymore, so we will stick with just the beef (and wine!) I will also be pairing this wine with locally produced salumi, a bison Bresaola from Carboy (made in house and freaking GOOD! Ask for it on your charcuterie plate…) and this little delight, also from Colorado, a juniper salami from il Porcellino. The Wine Gallery in Colorado Springs also carries this delicious salumi. If you would like to learn more about Italian salumi (of which salami is a style), please take a look at this useful reference. We will also be trying some of The Chocolate Therapist’s wine pairing chocolates as well, because what says Valentines more than wine and chocolate together?
We will shift from the wines over to our two very unique options on today’s tasting. Made from honey (both a romantic moniker and delightful sweet), mead is seeing quite a revival thanks to the interest in Viking history and heritage. Interestingly enough, mead is considered one of the oldest fermented products, referenced in Veda writings of early Hindu spiritual leaders in India (Veda writings also are a major reference for modern day yoga teachings.) Our mead on today’s tasting has been infused with hibiscus (again, a flower that reminds me of love) and hops which play off the sweetness the honey brings to this mead from Dansk Mjod. We will be pairing it with some of our spicier choices, including Springside Cheese Shop‘s Pueblo Jack, but it would also make an excellent end of meal drink.
And finally, from Untitled Art, we have Pixie Me Fruit Punch. Labeled as a beer and seltzer, this fun little brew will take you back to your childhood of summer afternoons and Kool Aid. When I sip on this, I expect to see the Kool Aid Man (OH YEAH!) bust down the brick wall at any point (oh, wait…that will be the Kansas City Chief’s coach, Andy Reid, this Sunday in the Superbowl). I don’t plan to pair this with anything except a good time. Just like my childhood drink of choice. If you are choosing to observe Love Stinks holiday, then this may be the perfect drink for you. Be warned, like it’s inspiration, this is a sweet one!
That concludes today’s tasting notes…I do hope you get to tune in live today or catch this segment on Mandy’s podcast. As always, if you have any questions, drop me a line here or head over to my website and connect with me there.
I will also be relaunching my podcast, The Wine Yogi, this month, so please be on the look out for that, too!
Until next time…Cheers and Namaste.