We have all been there at one time or another. You have just been seated at your favorite restaurant with your wife or current girlfriend, and the wine steward hands you the wine list, book or if your lucky, the “wine iPad”. As you open it and start gazing at the extensive list of red, white and sparkling wines, you ask, “What do you want to drink with dinner, white or red?” What quite often follows this is an uncomfortable silence. Then, “I don’t care, why don’t you pick?”
The options available to you are endless, and I suppose that you could just ask the wine steward for a recommendation, if the easy road is what you want. But that option may not color you the way you want, especially if this is a new “someone special”, and it’s time to impress. That being the case, there are ways to ensure that your choice is the best one for her. In some restaurants there is the availability of a page or more, devoted to premium wines by the glass. If so, you might want to try a wine first before dinner, and if you both agree, choose to purchase a bottle.
One word of shall I say, advise, on ordering wine by the glass. If in fact it is a premium wine being offered, you are well within your rights, to ask to inspect the bottle, and have a taste poured for you, just like with any bottle. That way, you can become aware of an opened bottle that is past its prime, and can ask for them to open a new bottle.
In your selection for the lady, you might ask what she favors for dinner, red meat, fish, pasta, etc. Although your choice can have an effect on whatever you are choosing for dinner, more important is ordering a wine that will taste good to your lady, that she will enjoy. To make things simple, especially if celebrating, you can always order glass of sparkling wine if available, and if she likes it, a bottle can usually pair with almost any dinner. The sweet thing about a glass of sparkling wine, if available to sip on before dinner, it gives her a chance to decide on what her dinner choice is.
If she tells you that she is going to order red meat or pasta, then certainly ask if she likes light or heavy reds. If she tells you heavy reds, then you are safe with a great Cabernet Sauvignon, like a Sonoma, California Beringer Knights Valley Reserve. This wonderful full body rich Cab brings deep blackberry flavors, mild pepper, soft firm tannins, and a velvet long finish. When the lady combines a bite of filet mignon with a sip of this beauty, that long, deep moan will be heard and you will know you have struck gold.
If she tells you that she prefers a lighter red, then by all means, take a look at what Pinot Noir is offered on the list. Now in all fairness, I did suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon from California, where in my opinion, the best are produced, especially from the Russian River and Sonoma wineries. But for a light, pleasant Pinot Noir for your lady friend, you have to go to the Oregon section, if available. After attending the International Pinot Noir Conference in 2012, tasting Pinot from California, Oregon and France, my opinion is Oregon 1st, France 2nd, and California third. The fact is, they all have uniqueness of region, reflected in their wines.
So I say, why not order a great Pinot Noir from the Oregon Willamette Valley, like one from Sokol Blosser in the Dundee Hills. This winery consistently produces a winner Pinot Noir, and is found on most really good restaurants. Another well-known producer of Pinot is Argyle Vineyard, who also produces a Sparkling Wine good enough to be sipped in the White House.
If she is ordering fish or shellfish then by all means be safe, and order a nice lighter white wine. You pretty much can’t go wrong with a bottle of creamy Chardonnay, and to be really safe, get one created in stainless steel, not oak if possible. Many wineries are at least making some Chardonnay in oak, and also S.S. If you in some way disagree with that statement, by all means leave a “comment”, and I will be happy to discuss it. Just remember, I am suggesting wine that will not offend the lady, and are easy on the palate.
Another white that is more and more becoming popular with the wine public, as well as myself, is Sauvignon Blanc. I have developed a sudden craving for this wine, not only with meals like crab, lobster and halibut, but also on their own. Up until recently, my all time favorite has been Kim Crawford, from New Zealand. Now don’t take that statement wrong, if you see it on a wine list, order it, you won’t be upset. The flavors and crisp acidity, leaning to ripe fruit, like melon and citrus, will complement lighter dishes. This I believe is what Sauvignon Blanc should taste like.
Now let me explain why I said “up until now” about Sauvignon Blanc choices. I have two local wineries that each in their own way, are now producing Sauvignon Blanc that tastes at least as good to me, and Kim Crawford. One is Reustle Vineyards in Roseburg, and the other Melrose Vineyards also in Roseburg. Melrose Winemaker, Cody Parker spent quite some time in New Zealand last year, learning secrets to their wines, and bringing home New Zealand clones for their wine. What he learned, and after his own “tweaking”, in my opinion Cody is producing a winner here in the United States. Look for this wine.
So there are my suggestions for what you should put in your ladies glass. The bottom line is put a wine that she will like in it, especially if she’s new to wine. A simple good experience today, will lead to a great wine experience tomorrow.