St. Valentine’s Day – Sparkling Wines That Will Delight You


Happy Valentine’s Day from Corks & Cake!
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I’ve done some research for you, dear Corks & Cakers, just for you.

Yes, tasting sparkling wines from around the globe.  Some one has to do it, no?

Here we have 5 sparklers to recommend for Valentine’s Day (or any day) that will delight you without causing you pain and regret in your pocketbook. (Not that I ever regret Vieuve Clicquot, mind you.)

These wines from Germany, Spain, France, Washington, and California are delicious and not expensive.  They are not too sweet or sour (like some inexpensive wines are) and will easily match with your Valentine’s day treats, whether they be salty or sweet.

Sparkling Wines

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

NV Schloss Biebrich Sekt, Germany

A remarkably drinkable wine at a STEAL for $3.99-5.99 depending on your Trader Joe’s location. Bright and floral, modest apple aroma, warm pear flavors.
Great to drink by itself or to buy by the case and have a mimosa or bellini party for a crowd.  
I recently saw a brunch idea in a magazine where the hostess set out crystal pitchers of assorted fresh juices on a tray:  orange, blood orange, cranberry, peach, pomegranate and guests could mix their own custom mimosa.  Fun!
Vintage valentines

Vintage valentines are awesome.

Michelle Brut from Chateau St. Michelle


From the winery’s tasting notes: This sparkling has delicate flavors of apples and citrus and lively acidity. Try it with spicy fries, artichoke or cheese dips, calamari, salty snacks.
Yum!  Sparkling wine does go well with salty snacks and I like to pair a good bottle with humble and easy crunchies like popcorn, potato chips, salted peanuts, or (my fave combination), Fritos!  Try it.

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut Reserve

$10.99, Trader Joe’s
Made in France from the same varietals used to make Champagne and produced in the champenoise methode. For the quality and the price, Crémant is hard to beat. Elegant and flavorful, pear, apple, bubbles easy to drink and light on the tongue.

Biutiful, Cava Brut Nature

Lively acidity and flavors of toast, apple, pear, and citrus.  Try it with goat cheese-stuffed dates or dates wrapped in bacon and broiled.
I love tulips more than roses for Valentine's Day. Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I love tulips more than roses for Valentine’s Day.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée



The most expensive of the bunch, but priced well under French champagne, Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée is an award-winning wine from California that can hold its own against the French. “Festive and vibrant with bright aromas of fresh cherry and lemon, raspberry, pear and crisp mineral. Drink now”.

91 Points, Wine Spectator: Domaine Carneros, 2006 Brut Vintage Cuvée – November 2009

Best U.S. Sparkling Wine – Food & Wine Magazine, October 2009

This is the wine I would savor as an apéritif with an elegant smoked trout or smoked salmon paté on a cracker.

Cheers and happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy  Valentine's Day! Photo credit:  Allison Beuker Photography

Red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting would be a perfect treat for your Valentine.
Photo credit: Allison Beuker Photography



Around the World in Six Bottles of Ros&#233

Lovely ros&#233s from France, Spain, and Italy (left to right.)

Lovely rosés from France, Spain, and Italy (left to right.)

We’ve been drinking a lot of rosé this summer.  It has been so hot and humid, with 90° plus days.  Stifling.  That can put a damper on your outdoor enjoyment and definitely a damper on outdoor entertaining.  But rosé can help.  So can sitting by a pool.

With Joe and most of our neighbors’ children participating on the same swim team, we’ve had many swim meet nights battling the heat (and sudden thunderstorms), sharing our potluck food offerings under an umbrella table and tasting many different rosé wines from around the world.

Rosé is finally overcoming its bad rap in the States (a rap deserved because of the ‘pink’ and ‘white’ zinfandels marketed here).  Americans have discovered what the French, Italians, and Spaniards already knew:  rosé made with great grapes, served well-chilled with some light food on a sweltering evening is a great way to spend time with friends (even while sweating!)

Not all rosés are going to be loved by everyone.  They can range from super-fruity, raspberry Kool-Aid to peppery, suck-the-saliva-right-out-of-your-mouth bone dry.  And price is not an issue:  3 of our favorites came from Trader Joe’s in Virginia and were less than $8 a bottle.  Here are our favorites from the summer that struck the right note and made us happy.  (Not included: the one that I ended up pouring out on the ground at a casual picnic it was so undrinkable.  And yes, it was one that I purchased for $12.99. Ouch.)

Picnic, empty rose bottles

Since I am not a wine writer, I’ve taken the tasting notes from the winemakers’ own web sites.  There are 3 here that are private label Trader Joe’s (under $7!) so the winemakers are unknown to us.  For those I quote the descriptions from Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.

Château Pey La Tour 2011



Translated from the French: “Château Pey La Tour rosé is pale pink in appearance. The blend combines the aromatic freshness and structure of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (red currants, black currants and blueberries) with typical Merlot finesse. Fruity and well-balanced, the wine is wonderfully refreshing on the finish.”

Frédéric Bonnaffous, Estates Director

Borsao 2011



“Red luminescent colour with warm glows. Has a strong aroma of berries and sweets. Very young and fresh in the mouth, well balanced with its acidity, rich in floral nuances and spices.”

Rebecca’s Note:  I really loved this one from Spain.


Bricco Dei Tati 2012



“This is a young, fresh, lively Barbera with a persistent and attractive bouquet of black cherries and a bit of spice on the palate. It has few tannins which is typical of the Barbera varietal, and a medium finish. Delightfully approachable, it is great with medium to strong cheeses, barbecue and game.”

Light and airy horseradish spread on water crackers.  Perfect with rose.

Light and airy cream cheese-horseradish spread on water crackers. Perfect with rosé.


Three more lovelies from Italy, Napa Valley, and France (left to right.)

Three more lovelies from Italy, Napa Valley, and France (left to right.)

Incanto Rose Vino Frizzante


$7.99 (Trader Joe’s)

Raboso is a grape variety typically produced in Veneto, the growing area surrounding Venice.  Our winemakers produce this Raboso in a modern, pleasant style, vinifying it as a Rosato and refermenting it to a Frizzante effervescence that greatly enhances the appreciation of its fruity aromas.  Serve well-chilled as an apertif or as a refreshing summer drink.

 Rebecca’s Note:  This one has a little fizz which is fun.  The bottle did not list a vintage but I’m sure it must have been young (2012.)


Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Rosé 2012

Napa Valley 2012

$5.99 (Trader Joe’s)

Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Napa Valley Rosé comes to us from a very famous Napa Valley winery – they make super wines that tend to be quite expensive. Yet Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Rosé is a mere $5.99* a bottle. Part of the arrangement is that we’re not allowed to tell you who they are. We’re okay with that kind of anonymity when it comes with a value like this and a wine that’s refreshing, crisp and dry, with fresh berry flavors and a hint of spice.


Quinson Côtes de Provence 2012


$5.99 (Trader Joe’s)

The Provençal know their rosé, and we know a good value in Côtes de Provencal Rosé when we taste one. Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé is just that. Hailing from the area of southern France from Marseilles to Nice, Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé is a fetchingly dry rosé with a characteristically light pink hue. Its nose of ripe red berries and spices leads to amply fruity flavors on the palate.


Cheers!  Stay cool outside with friends and a well-chilled rose.

Cheers! Stay cool outside with friends and a well-chilled ros&#233.


Special cheers go out to Cork & Cakers, Chris and Adrienne Harrington, for introducing us to our new three favorite rosés!

Three Favorite Reds

Try these.  You'll like them.

Try these. You’ll like them.


We like the idea of having a house red wine.  That would be the one you’d always have on hand, your go-to, go-with-everything wine that you find supremely delicious.  Since it would be always at the ready for an impromptu dinner party or for taking as a hostess gift, it should also be somewhat affordable.  Not expensive and not too cheap, but right in the $12-15 price range that allows you enough choice among vineyards and countries and should guarantee you that there is enough complexity and flavor  to satisfy your taste buds.

We also like variety and trying new things.  So here are our latest favorite three reds for you to try.  All Cabernet Sauvignons, two from northern California and one really incredible one for the price from Washington state.

I pulled the wine flavor descriptions from the vintners’ sites because I don’t write professionally about wine and would tend to be facetious, meaning I might make fun of pretentious wine liner notes and use insouciant words like ‘bovine’ and ‘flatulent.’  (These wines are neither of those; they are delightful.)

(Prices quoted from Montgomery County Liquor Stores.)

Cabernets go great with sharp artisanal white cheddars.

Cabernets go great with sharp artisanal white cheddars.

Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2011


Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay

This Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits flavors of black cherry, dark plum and a hint of coffee. Rich, yet approachable tannins provide a long, smooth finish.

Casual glasses for wine, oui!

Casual glasses for wine, oui!  Photo by Rebecca Penovich


Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


Paterson, Washington


This bold medium-bodied wine delivers aromas of cherry blossoms and rose petals, with a perfect balance of earth, mineral and deep berry flavors leading to a soft tannin cocoa finish.

Juan Munoz Oca, Winemaker


Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

$17.99 (it’s often on sale for $14.99)

A deep, saturated color leads to lifted aromas of blackberry, cocoa, and herby black-currant, followed by a rich, layered mouthfeel, loaded with juicy black cherry, cedar, and crème de cassis, and structured with ripe, mature tannins.

Corks in old French copper pot.

Corks in old French copper pot.


There you have it.  Try one of these this Memorial weekend with a grilled ribeye steak or a hand-formed cheeseburger with lettuce and onion and you will be happy.

Do you have a house red?  Share your favorite ones in the Comments section.