Valentine's Day Wine Pairings

Valentine's Day means doing something special for the one you love. In Seattle, that means pairing a stellar Washingtonian wine with a dinner made from locally sourced ingredients. With outstanding producers from Puget Sound, the Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Columbia Gorge and Lake Chelan, pairing wine with any meal, from casual to decadent, is easy.

Vegetarian

Vegetarian preparations have as much "pairing power" as any meat-based meal, and you don't have to resort to the old standby of pasta, either. With flavor profiles that include umami-rich and floral, aromatic and spicy, piquant and earthy, vegetarian dishes hit all the flavor notes you want with your meal.

Pair spicy Asian dishes, such as Sichuan-style eggplant flavored with ginger, garlic, Chinkiang vinegar and chili broad-bean paste, with a crisp chardonnay from the Columbia Valley. Match aromatic Middle-Eastern entrees, such as a turmeric-laced Persian zucchini frittata, with a Gewurztraminer from the Columbia Gorge.

Meat

Quality meat stands on its own. And when you use lamb or beef from one of Washington's certified organic and certified humane farms, your meal needs little more than a well-paired wine to be complete.

For the utmost extravagance, prepare a chateaubriand made from crossbred Japanese wagyu and Washingtonian Black Angus. This pairing gives the beef both an abundance of marbling and hearty flavor. Pair with a Washingtonian Bordeaux blend, such as the Andrew Will Winery Sorella 2007 from the Columbia Valley.

For a casual meal that has all the qualities of four-star fare, try lamb "lollipops" sauced with a rosemary-infused olive oil vinaigrette. Serve roasted new potatoes and caramelized cippolini onions on the side. Pair the dish with a malbec or a syrah produced in the Walla Walla Valley.

Fish

No rule says you should always pair white wine with fish and seafood. Although you find more fish-friendly whites than reds, it doesn't mean reds are off limits.

On the casual side, try fish tacos and a pinot noir from the Puget Sound or Columbia George. Elegant doesn't mean complicated. One whole roasted fish stuffed with herbs and aromatics (veggies like onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic or even ginger) makes a glorious meal for two. A 5-pound arctic char stuffed with wild mushrooms, a lush sea bass packed with herbs, tomatoes and peppers, or a red snapper filled with parsley, shallots, thyme and butter pairs masterfully with a host of red and white wines.

If your dish calls for a mild, flaky fish, such as sea bass and flounder, pair it with a sauvignon blanc from the Columbia Valley. Match medium-textured fish, such as red snapper and arctic char, with a dry riesling.

Chocolate

Chocolate and wine pairings can be tough, even for experts. But don’t let that steer you away from this romantic treat. Start with a quality dark chocolate between 46- and 70-percent cacao. The wine needs more sweetness than the chocolate, so avoid chocolate brands labeled only "milk chocolate" without a percentage of cacao, as they typically have too much sugar to pair well.

  • Pair milk chocolate (46-54% cacao) with dessert and fortified wines, such as port and sherry.
  • Match smooth dark chocolate (54-60% percent cacao) with riesling, sparkling wine, vintage port and pinot noir.
  • Pair medium-dark chocolate (54-60% cacao) with shiraz, Chianti and merlot.
  • Pair extra-dark chocolate (60-70% cacao) with cabernet sauvignon, malbec and Bordeaux.

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