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Rose Vineyards and Winery Rosé 2018

Rose Vineyards and Winery Rosé 2018

North Branford, $25

Perched atop a hill in North Branford is Connecticut’s newest winery, Rose Vineyards and Winery, run by Jon and Ellen Rose, the 12th generation to farm this land. A nascent winemaking operation — their first grapes were planted in 2016 — the Roses bring in grapes from other regions to produce their current selection of wines. They are planning to bottle their first estate-grown grapes later this year.

The family name and eye-catching Rorschach-esque rose label are a romantic introduction to Rose Vineyards Rosé, produced with 100 percent barbera grapes from Suisun Valley, California. Five hours of maceration have created a vibrant strawberry-bubblegum hue. The nose is brim with red fruit such as watermelon, strawberry jam and candied red apples. The attack is bright and tangy, quickly evolving into a pleasant roundness in the mouth. The strawberry notes are echoed on the palate, along with cherry, cranberry and a pinch of plum. Although this pink is dry, the overall impression is one of sipping strawberries and cream. Barbera’s trademark acidity is evident throughout, including on the finish, which is both fruity and tart. Enjoy with a date-night dinner of French onion soup topped with Gruyère, and roasted Cornish hens.

The bottle offers a good dose of eye candy, as well as an eminently imbibable wine, for its $25 price tag. Currently, it is only available at the Rose Vineyards tasting room.

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Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2016

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2016

Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $40

Pinot noir just might be the sexiest grape in the world. In addition to intoxicating floral and fruity aromatics, mature examples of pinot noir take on enticing earthy aromas. This bewitching berry is also described by its texture, which is often compared to silk, taffeta and voile. And a recent study found that pinot noir has an aroma similar to the male sex pheromone androstenone. As if we needed one more reason to prize this prince among grapes.

Thirty years ago, Domaine Joseph Drouhin, the well-known Burgundian winery, established a vineyard in Dundee Hills, Oregon. Domaine Drouhin Oregon Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is an Old World wine wrapped in New World clothing. The lush, crushed black raspberry hue delights the eye, inviting consideration of a nose replete with violets, cassis and raspberry linzer torte. As if enrobed in silk, this pinot both begins and ends with finesse, its crescendo transpiring on the mid-palate, where tannins are revealed as oolong tea notes over a core of raspberries, stewed cherries and Vietnamese cinnamon. Hints of Szechuan peppercorns tingle the tongue before subsiding on an elegant finish. Pair with intimate dinners for two such as seared salmon with lemon-pepper butter, roast duck with root vegetables, figs and rosemary, or pork medallions with mushroom risotto.

The $40 price tag allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds for your romantic occasion.

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Quady Elysium Black Muscat 2016

Quady Elysium Black Muscat 2016

California, $27

In 1983, the closing of a California church left a local grape grower with a bounty of black muscat grapes that had been destined for sacramental wine. The grower had the good sense to bring the grapes to Anthony Quady, a local winemaker who had great success with recently rediscovered orange muscat grapes. Quady took in the homeless grapes and, upon fermenting them, found that the winery was filled with the heavenly scent of roses. The intoxicating aroma inspired Quady to choose the name “Elysium,” which means “state of eternal bliss,” and adorn the bottle with an artist-drawn heart label.

Quady Elysium Black Muscat is a sweet, lightly fortified dessert wine, the color of ruby slippers. On the nose, this elixir effuses a captivating combination of fresh lychee and rambutan fruits, rose oil extract, and plum pudding. Sweet but not syrupy, notes of lychee repeat on the palate, bolstered by sour cherries, red currants and blueberry honey. The finish is multilayered and lingering, and leaves you craving another sip. A versatile pairing partner, the wine is ideal with cheese, especially blue, as well as a diversity of desserts. It would truly shine with Valentine’s Day classics, such as molten lava cake, exotic truffles and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

For $27, this 15 percent-ABV ruby nectar will provide a sexy beginning, interlude or end to your evening.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appeared in the February 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.