Two red wines for an unforgettable Valentine's Day

Pinot Noir and Cabernet make Valentine’s Day special (photos from the brands)

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with gift-giving. Still, we often forget that the most profound appreciation comes from sharing- time together, a quiet dinner, or a fabulous bottle of wine. Or, in this case, two! For true romantics, nothing tops a toast, arm in arm, to the one you love, except making that toast with a decadently luxurious and velvety red wine.

This year, you can upgrade your experience by selecting a bottle of 2019 Etude Pinot Noir or 2018 Behringer Private Reserve Cabernet. You won’t need to show off the price tag to recognize the superior quality of these voluptuous vintages, as their charms are evident from the moment you pour. Although they are significantly different in style, you won’t make a misstep selecting either, as they both ranked near the top of their class- The Etude received a 94 from James Suckling, and the Behringer scored a 98, making them well worth the cost and the effort to find them.

Etude Winery is a relative newcomer, established by winemaker Tony Soter in 1982 in California’s Carneros region, considered by many as the premier Pinot Noir terroir in America and, arguably, the world. Benefitting from cooling fog and maritime breezes that result in slower leaf development, the grapes grow more slowly, increasing optimal sugar concentration and balanced acidity. It’s hard to argue with the science, as Etude has a history of producing the highest-rated wines from their earliest vintages.

The 2019 Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir is no exception, garnering accolades and awards that rank the vintage as one of their best. A classic in every sense, with its gorgeous ruby red color, the wine opens with aromas of fresh berries, notably blackberry and cherries, but with an earthy fullness, plus hints of allspice and black tea. On the palate, it’s fresh and lively but nicely balanced with a juicy mouthfeel. Flavors start at the fruity of the spectrum- strawberry jam, dark berry pie filling, and some citrus in the background, along with more hints of tea, oak, and maybe a distant note of fine Italian leather. The moderate tannins are balanced and structured, offsetting the initial fruitiness nicely. Letting the wine rest for an hour dramatically opened the profile, so this wine could easily lie down for another 2-5 years. This would unequivocally upgrade any Valentine’s Day celebration, with or without food- although this would make an excellent accompaniment to a dinner of veal, lamb, or wild game!

Looking to elevate your Valentine’s Day to legendary status? You can’t miss with a bottle of 2018 Behringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Behringer’s storied history is a lexicon of Napa wine history. As one of the longest continually-operating wineries in America, they’ve seen, in many cases, pioneered much of California’s modern winemaking methods. Founded by Jacob Behringer, a German emigree’ who started as cellar foreman for Charles Krug, the winery has been making quality wine since its 1876 debut harvest.

This bottling received raves from many of winedom’s big guns, scoring 95-98 points, so I opened it with shivering anticipation. I was rewarded with a glass of juice nearly black in appearance. I used to call these “writing wines,” as you can use them instead of ink in your fountain pen! The nose carries all the classic Cab attributes: cassis, ripe blackberries, tobacco, leather, and oak, with the fruit more prominent. The mouthfeel is gigantic- round with tightly balanced tannin and acidity. Surprisingly fruit forward, cream of cassis is evident, along with jammy dark fruit, stewed plums, savory spices, tobacco, cedar, and hints of flint. The afterglow reveals more tannins, juicy dark berries, cocoa, and cypress leaves. Perfectly drinkable, it could also last another ten-plus years in the cellar.

Whatever your Valentine’s plans this year, you can’t miss making it a night to remember with either (or both) of these opulent wines. Whether with a quiet romantic dinner or sitting by the fireside, it’s sure to make your Valentine love you even more!