Share some liquid love this Valentine’s Day with a delicious, but thoroughly unique bottle of wine – one that hails from an emerging wine region or a showcases a lesser-known varietal. Consider Albania, a white American heritage grape cultivated in Missouri. Some winemakers get inventive with intriguing and unorthodox blends, such as Dave McGee at Monochrome wines, who brings together sauvignon blanc and chardonnay with deliciously amazing results. And then, we have the wines that just don’t get noticed as much but are decidedly world-class in taste—South African Cabernet, Portuguese Touriga Nacional and Spanish Monastrell to name a few. Happy drinking.
TerraVox Chateauneuf du Platte, 2021: This one’s for the Heartland—cultivated by winemaker Jerry Eisterhold who has dedicated himself to working almost exclusively with indigenous North American grape varieties that he grows at his Missouri winery. It’s a juicy rich blend that pulls from various plots of American heritage grape varieties growing in Missouri’s Loess Hills. It’s soft, bright and juicy with notes of pepper and savory cherry. Make a bold flavored stew for Valentine’s Day and share this one together. $42
TerraVox Albania, 2021: Crafted from a white American heritage grape, Albania, this wine gets a short fermentation followed by extended skin contact–which lends it a distinctly aromatic nose, and a palate of ripe apple laced with lemon zest. Bracing and racy, Eisterhold recommends drinking it with steamed mussels or French fries. $27
Monochrome Wines, Sense out of Place, 2021: Winemaker Dave McGee delights in pushing the boundaries of what wine can be—and I especially love this blend of two distinctly unique varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Explains McGee, “In ancient times (say, pre-2010), many people thought white wine consisted of either Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. Nowadays, at least in California, winemakers have more freedom to create innovative, complex white wines that do not conform to the traditional norms. We took full advantage of that to create this wine, which pretty much breaks all the rules.” Break the rules it does, and in delicious fashion with a juicy palate followed by a ripe, sensuous finish.
Madrona El Dorado Cabernet Franc, 2018: Grown along the sloping hillsides of California’s lesser-known El Dorado appellation—which is less than two hours from Lake Tahoe—this juicy, rich red brings world-class balance and structure at a great price. Black cherry, spice, notes of violet, and silky tannins make it a great option for sipping, cellaring or enjoying with a roasted chicken dish.
Starfield Vineyards Sparkling Brut Rose, 2020: A terrific sparkling from the El Dorado appellation, this is a blend of grenache, counoise, and mourvedre crafted in the traditional method champenoise style with 17 months of barrel aging before disgorgement. It’s a classic rose bubbly with pretty wild strawberry notes, racy mineral and peach notes on the palate. This is their first bubbly, and a great one at that.
Glenelly Lady May Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, 2014: Crafted from fruit grown on some of the highest and coolest slopes in Stellenbosch, this wine’s silky tannins, elegant structure and layers of black cherry fruit conspire to make it world-class example of cabernet sauvignon. It already has some age on it, so this is a pop and pour wine—great for a romantic Valentine’s Eve.
Parajes del Valle, Monastrell, 2021: Grown in the Jumilla region of Spain, which is home to Europe’s single largest collection of 90-year-old ungrafted bush-vines, this organic wine is made from 100% Monastrell fruit. The palate brims with bright, savory red fruit and the finish leaves freshness and a bit of tobacco and spice.
FitaPreta Vinhos A Touriga Vai Nua, 2021: Crafted from 100% sustainable Touriga Nacional using a method called carbonic maceration to better retain this wine’s bright and juicy fruit qualities. It’s grown in Portugal’s Alentejo region in southeastern central Portugal where the climate yields wines of freshness and structure. Ripe and juicy notes of blue-black fruits, some spice and floral notes. Wonderful finish.