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A Valentine's Bouquet of Wine

by Jeff Harding
January 2013

For Valentine's Day we're throwing stand-bys out the window. Instead of giving flowers or perfume, we suggest you share a floral wine with your sweetheart. With a little help from sommeliers around the country, we've arranged a wine-lovers bouquet redolent with the aromas of orange blossoms, roses, elderflower, and lavender. These wines make wonderful aperitifs, but, once again, we're all about breaking the rules—pair those notes of acacia flower with barbecue, do dogwood blossoms with Tex-Mex, or try honeysuckle with Pad Thai. The choice is yours—do what you love.

Justin Amick, beverage director at The Spence – Atlanta, GA

I love the Jorge Ordonez "Botani" Moscatel Secco from Sierras de Malaga, Spain. It has an intense florality of crushed potpourri, orange blossoms, and fresh rose. Its lively acidity and strong tropical nose remind me of a mix between Albariño and Torrontes. (approximately $12 retail)

Albariño is also one of my favorite floral grapes. Try the La Cana or Pazo Señorans (both in Rías Baixas, Spain). Albariño always demonstrates more of a blossom type of florality, with tangerine and citrus blossoms, alongside the classic peach and orange sorbet notes combined with a saline and mineral backbone. ($11 and $13 retail, respectively)

Bill Summerville, managing director/owner at La Belle Vie – Minneapolis, MN

Elio Perrone's Moscato d'Asti "Sourgal" is low in alcohol, mildly effervescent, lightly sweet [and light notes of violet]. Great at the end of a meal to refresh the palate and is so versatile. ($11)

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Winn Roberton, sommelier at Bourbon Steak – Washington, DC

I love Domaine La Grange Tiphaine's Clef de Sol Rouge. It's a Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend from the Loire Valley, really gorgeous wine. The Clef de Sol couples bright red and pink floral aromatics from the Cabernet Franc with plummy richness from the Malbec. Tart red fruits make this drinkable with just about anything but fatty red meat. This would pair beautifully with braised veal cheeks with goat cheese-stuffed pasta, sauced with veal jus. ($20)

Keuka Lake Cabernet Franc from Finger Lakes, New York, is great also. It ventures into the spicy side of flowers like nasturtiums. Very light bodied, I'd love a glass of this with raw fatty tuna. ($16)

Joe Campanale, beverage director and co-owner - dell'anima, L'Artusi and Anfora, New York, NY

Floral wines [like Gewurztraminer and Moscato] are awesome! But on this list I'll go with Fiano. A lot of sommeliers are discovering this native Italian grape from the Campania region. On volcanic soils and high elevations it gives elegant, nuanced wines that you might not expect from such a southern wine-growing area. I love the Romano Clelia Fiano di Avellino for its distinct minerality and crisp acidity. It reminds me of freshly picked spring Lilies of the Valley that still have some dew on them. ($17)

Something that is softer and even more floral and round is the DeConcilis Fiano "Donnaluna." The floral notes here are deeper and riper, like Gardenias in early summer. It is a beautiful aromatic Fiano that is also an outstanding value. ($21)

Sean McClure Mixologist, New York, NY

The 2009 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling is full of floral character—from the aroma straight through the palate. Delicate white flowers and chamomile come to mind. Notes of pear and honey are also present. [A] must have with foie gras torchon. ($25)

I haven't had the La Spinetta 2005 Biancospino Moscato d'Asti in a while, but it is among my favorite wines to surprise people with. It is full but not too full, something that works both as an aperitif or with a fruit-focused dessert. The aroma is full of peach notes, while on the palate you get a lot of elderflower and vibrant bubbles. Nice and fresh, perfect with a sweeter brunch! ($19)

Gros Menseng and Courbu grapes come together in Clos Uroulat's 2003 Cuvée Marie, Jurancon Sec. Aromas include stone fruits and hints of chamomile and chrysanthemum that carry over to the palate. Light to medium body, good acidity, a great cheese wine. (not widely available, but approximately $20)

Jason Hopple, beverage director at the North End Grill, New York, NY

[I like] the Cowhorn Viognier, 2011, from Applegate Valley, Oregon. Definitely a wine for guests who don't want the sweetness or high fruit notes that are associated with Riesling. We have found this wine works well with our sea-faring items like scallops, turbot, and black bass. ($30)

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Zack Kameron, sommelier at A Voce Columbus, New York, NY

J.L. Colombo's Viognier/Roussanne blend, La Redonne from Côtes du Rhône has a bouquet of a white flowers, honeyed citrus, and lavender. This wine is a true example of a romantic nose. ($16)

Gravner's "Breg," a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling in Friuli has hints of toffee, caramel, and passion fruit. The perplexing mixture of aromas is only matched by its flavor on the palate. ($53)

Pieropan's Soave Classico, "La Rocca," is classic Soave: up front with its citrus and wildflower on the nose that slowly relents into a subtle nuttiness. ($24)

Chuck Furuya, wine director of Vino, Honolulu, HI

With the growing popularity of fusion foods, there is thankfully a growing demand for wines produced from aromatic grape varieties. When done well, these aromatic, often floral-scented grape varieties can enhance and uplift a food pairing just as basil chiffonade would.

With contemporary Asian foods, for instance, the Rudolf Fuerst Muller Thurgau is one of our "go to" wines. Fuerst is one of Germany's true masters of dry wines, done with incredible purity, transparency, finesse, and sophistication. The estate is located in Franconia and his vineyards are comprised with a compelling red sandstone soil. Although he is most renowned for his Pinot Noir, he also grows and produces some stellar Riesling and has very small lot of Müller Thurgau. His wines feature a riveting minerality along with wonderfully perfumed floral nuances: truly amazing and light on their feet. Also, because of their lower alcohol levels, his wines really work well with a myriad of Asian inspired foods. ($24)

For our VINO restaurant and its more earthy, rustic Mediterranean-style food, we again like to work with aromatic grape varieties when pairing wines with the foods. Some of our "go to" wines include the Fillaboa Albarino from Rias Baixas, Spain ($12), the Bolognani Moscato Giallo from Trentino, Italy ($18), Punta Crena Mataossu from Liguria, Italy ($22) and a relatively new discovery for us—the Virgona Salina Bianco ($25) from an island which lies between Sicily and the mainland of Italy in the south. In each case, these wines lift our foods' earthy, more rustic character. Furthermore, these wonderfully perfumed, surprisingly light, delicious white wines are a pleasure to drink in warm climates like Hawaii.

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