By Zak Kilson, Chien de Vin
February is a fun month, full of exciting events. It all kicks off with Super Bowl 50, then there’s Valentine’s Day, and for good measure, it’s a leap year. Bonus day! In between moments of talking about how NFL referees are the worst, and our ever-changing weather, take some time for a few deep breaths. Love is in the air, and it smells like wine.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk a bit about what you should be drinking this February. First, throw out any rules you might have picked up from stuffy waiters, or wine publications over the years. Have some fun, and experiment a little with some new varietals or regions. Now that we’ve gotten rid of the vintage charts, critic scores, and pretense, let’s find you some fun wines to sip on this month.
Let’s start in Austria. The 2014 Tegernseerhof Rosé of Zweigelt. Pronounced exactly how it looks (assuming you have an extraordinary knack for languages) this rosé is exactly the right wine for any occasion. The Zweigelt grape is a crossing of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch. It is now the most widely-grown red grape variety in Austria.
When winemaker Martin Mittelbach set out to make this wine, his goal was clearly defined. Make the best rosé from an indigenous grape – in this case, Zweigelt. What resulted is a wonderfully delicate wine with scents of raspberry and cherry, herbaceous notes and hints of lavender that dance on the palate. This rosé makes a wonderful accompaniment to sushi – as do most Austrian wines (white or red). For those of you looking for a truly delightful experience, pair it to fried chicken and waffles. Thank me later. Tegernseerhof Rosé is a very quaffable $13/bottle.
Next, let’s go to France, specifically the Rhône Valley. Rhône wines are wonderfully diverse, and provide some of the best value French wines offer at almost any price. February is a little chilly, and sometimes requires a wine that pairs well with being lightly bundled up near a fireplace. Queue the 2013 Domaine les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône ‘Carmin’. This wine is showcased by dark fruit flavors that mingle with deeper earthy notes and a light perfume. Not unlike the subtle new scent you might be considering for your partner’s Valentine’s Day gift. A word of advice – gift this wine instead. $17/bottle and it will pair beautifully to hearty late winter dishes, grilled vegetables, or can be consumed on its own while sitting by the open flame of a fire pit.
From France, we travel back stateside to Oregon. The 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir. As one of the driest years on record for Oregon, the 2012 vintage provided growers with the most consistent temperatures they’ve seen in Willamette Valley for some time. The vintage is described as epic, and for good reason. Try this wine, and it will all make perfect sense. The 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir is soft and appealing, yet wildly expressive. This wine has really come into its own after a little time in bottle. It is representative of what Oregon Pinot Noir can be, and moreover, should be. Pair this Pinot to a seared duck breast served over a mushroom risotto with a port wine reduction sauce. This would be my death row wine pairing. When you try it, you’ll understand why. It’s pure perfection. $33/bottle.