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Broc Cellars Love Red 2018

North Coast, California, $22

Chris Brockway, owner and winemaker at Broc Cellars, is completely transparent about the wines he creates, adopting a philosophy of little to no intervention during both the winegrowing and the winemaking processes. The “Love Wines” are meant to be more affordable options among Broc Cellars’ lengthy lineup that still represent the winemaker’s ideals. And if you’re planning a Valentine’s Day wedding, Love Wines can be purchased in convenient single-serving cans.

Broc Cellars Love Red is composed predominantly of the lesser-known native Spanish grape, carignan, supported by a soupçon of valdiguié and syrah. The clear glass bottle allows the candy-cherry red color to shine through, beautifully juxtaposed against the appealing black label art. Floral aromatics and a hint of spiciness are first to greet the nose, imbued with the subtle savor of dried clay. The attack is silky, with spice subsiding on the midpalate to make room for abundant blueberries and the heady scent of violets. Plums permeate the exceptionally crisp finish, where silkiness transforms on the tongue to a more textured feel. The experience resides somewhere between a pinot noir and a merlot, making this wine a versatile pairing partner for bold fish dishes like pan-seared mackerel with tomato salsa, as well as lighter meat-based meals, such as pork ragout gnocchi.

Easy drinking yet engrossing, this $22 wine deserves a permanent spot on the date night roster.

The Chook Sparkling Shiraz NV

South Australia, $17

The Chook (Aussie-speak for chicken), for which Alexia Roberts is the winemaker, is a regional brand of the Galvanized Wine Group. Grapes for these wines are sourced from several South Australian vineyards, with a focus on the well-regarded McLaren Vale subregion. Shiraz is king here and is most often found vinified as a big, bold, still red wine. However, the lesser-seen sparkling expression of this grape, produced in the méthode champenoise, makes a dramatic addition to a night of romance.

The Chook Sparkling Shiraz is made entirely from shiraz. An animated red-purple mousse shimmers for several moments, then melts into the mulberry-hued wine. The nose is slightly muted, due in part to the cooler temperature at which the wine should be served (slightly chilled), but a deep dive reveals dried cranberries. Fruit is more apparent on the palate, where a profusion of fresh cranberry and black currant notes are found. To the uninitiated, the wine is deceptively dry. This dryness carries through to the finish, joined by gritty tannins on the tongue. This bubbly is straightforward and a delight to drink. There will be an urge to pair it with chocolate, and if you must, choose one with no less than 70 percent cacao. It’s also a great mate for cheese (not blue), or roasted duck with a savory-sweet fruit sauce.

The Chook’s wines are for bringing people together. Enjoy this with your Valentine for only $17.

Flowers Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2018

Sonoma County, California, $55

Just over 30 years ago, Pennsylvania plant nursery owners Joan and Walt Flowers made a leap into the uncharted territory of the rugged first ridgeline of the Sonoma Coast and purchased land for what would become Flowers Vineyards & Winery. Current owners Huneeus Vintners, along with head winemaker Chantal Forthun, continue the Flowers’ commitment to reflecting the true nature of this land in their wines, crafted from cool climate-loving chardonnay and pinot noir.

Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is produced with 100 percent pinot noir from both estate and surrounding family-owned vineyards. The wine glows a medium shade of ruby in the glass. A rich potpourri of allspice with an added dash of cloves dominates the nose, eventually relenting to notes of raspberry. The wine’s spicy wood notes persist on the palate, taking on a more supportive role to warm, cooked flavors of savory cherry compote and spiced cranberry sauce. The acidity is pleasingly tangy, and the tannins are supple throughout. Tobacco leaves are joined by a distinct graphite minerality on the finish. This ample pinot noir can be enjoyed upon opening or after it has mellowed from aeration, whatever your preference. Pair with spiced pork with cherry-thyme sauce, Parmesan and wild mushroom risotto, and salmon with red wine sauce.

For $55, give your Valentine some Flowers you can enjoy together, all evening long. 

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 appears in the February 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.