With Valentine's Day approaching, romance is in the air, so I've included two wines in this week's recommendations made by vintners currently planning their weddings. They include an outstanding chardonnay from California's Central Coast and a quirky sparkling red wine from Virginia. A modestly priced champagne and two classic zinfandels round out the selection.
Oceano Chardonnay Spanish Springs Vineyard 2016
Central Coast, California, $38
Oceano is the project of Rachel Martin, executive vice president of Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Virginia, and her fiance, Grammy Award-winning music producer Kurt Deutsch. It's an impressive debut wine, sourced from a vineyard just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean near San Luis Obispo. There's a lot going on in the glass, as waves of citrus and tropical fruit flavors compete for attention. Just sit back and enjoy each sip. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.
Frog's Leap Zinfandel 2015
Napa Valley, California, $33
Frog's Leap has never been a winery to shift in the adverse winds of a consumer trend. When zinfandel producers began to favor the more powerful, extra-ripe style, Frog's Leap stood firm with what some call a "claret" style of zin, more like a classic Bordeaux in its balance, weight and alcohol level. The 2015 is a classic "field blend" of 79 percent zinfandel, 19 percent petite sirah and 2 percent carignan, delicious with red berry fruit and a deep sense of earth. And though they don't tout it on the label, Frog's Leap has long been a leading proponent of organic viticulture. Enjoy this with any dish you'd pair with red wine. If you're pairing with chocolate, look for the savory, nutty type. ABV: 13.6 percent.
Chateau Montelena Zinfandel 2014
Calistoga, Napa Valley, California, $38
Montelena's zinfandel is another in the classic "claret" style. It's a blend of zinfandel and primitivo. The latter is now recognized as a clone of zinfandel, and wineries are beginning to distinguish them; I'm not sure consumers can at this point. Raspberry and cranberry with some savory herbs characterize this beauty. ABV: 14.5 percent.
Champagne Trouillard Extra Selection Brut
Champagne, France, $36
Trouillard offers classic champagne at a reasonable price for its quality. It's crisp and refreshing, with hints of red berries. Enjoy it for a toast and the first course of your Valentine's dinner. ABV: 12 percent.
Casanel Vineyards Red Spark 2015
This is a novelty wine, and it's easy to see that Casanel winemaker Katie D'Souza, who is engaged to Boxwood winemaker Tyler Henley, has fun making it. It's 100 percent Norton, Virginia's irrepressible red grape, fermented in the traditional champagne method. Think of Lambrusco, only fruitier. Just thinking about it makes me hungry for a dense chocolate torte with raspberry coulis. ABV: 13 percent.
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(Three stars exceptional, two stars excellent, one star very good)
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Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.